Psychology Research Seminar Series
The School of Psychology hosts an exciting international range of visiting speakers from universities around the world, giving students and staff the opportunity to find out about the latest advances. Details of each talk can be viewed in the abstracts below.
Seminars take place on most Wednesday afternoons between September and March, from 16:00 to 17:00. A question and answer session will follow immediately after each talk.
These seminars are not open to the general public but are for staff and students of the University of Plymouth and associated institutions. 
Seminar organiser: Dr Julie Ji 

Previous seminars this semester

26 April 2023 16:00, Dr Mila Mileva, University of Plymouth, Multimodal Person Evaluation: First Impressions from Faces, Voices, and Names 
  • We cannot help but form a first impression every time we meet someone unfamiliar to us. These impressions are quick, consensual and could have important social consequences, from political elections to court sentencing decisions. While the existing literature has almost exclusively focused on facial impressions, we know from our everyday experiences that other aspects of the person can also inform the social judgements we make. Here, I use a data-driven approach by collecting over 40,000 spontaneous first impressions to reveal the underlying structure of first impressions attributed to human voices and personal first names as well as those based on multimodal information (face, voice and name). Instead of the traditional 2-dimensional structure, I find four key first impression judgements – approachability, confidence, intelligence, and social class. Focussing on multimodal first impressions only, I then explore the relative contribution of facial, auditory and first name cues for these dimensions. Despite the prominent role of faces in the literature, voice cues seem to guide all important first impression judgements. This pattern of results persisted even when the presentation order of faces, voices, and names was systematically manipulated, providing further evidence for the remarkable role of voices in the formation of first impressions.
29 March 2023 16:00, Professor Tim Hollins, University of Plymouth, The roles of guessing, curiosity and satisfaction when learning new information
  • When learning new information – such as new general knowledge facts – it is better to incorrectly guess an answer and then be corrected, rather than simply to be told the answer. This is the pre-testing effect. After briefly reviewing some of recent research on this topic, I will turn my attention to one popular account: that pre-testing increases curiosity, which drives learning. Finally, I introduce the topic of satisfaction with an answer, and look at the effects of guessing, curiosity and satisfaction together in a novel re-analysis of a large published data set.
8 March 2023 13:00, Professor Jackie Andrade, University of Plymouth, The Role of Imagery in Temptation & Will Power
  • Theories of motivation often pit ‘willpower’ against ‘temptation’. I’ll argue that these concepts can be better explained in a single cognitive theory. In the Affective Imagery Theory of Motivation (AIToM), image-based elaboration of a goal embodies the positive emotion associated with that goal, delivering momentary feelings of reward or relief that amplify desire and attract cognitive resources. Comparison of this goal imagery with a perceived deficit triggers a search for potential behavioural solutions to the deficit. Through elaboration, the goal and deficit become increasingly tied to a solution. For example, a general feeling of fatigue (deficit) or desire for a break from work (goal) is transformed through increasingly vivid imagery to a need for some coffee and motivation to visit a café. When goals conflict, behaviour selection involves a competition between the relative affective strength of competing motivations at that moment. Familiar short-term rewards have an advantage in this competition because they are easy to imagine vividly. I will present evidence consistent with AIToM and show how these ideas have led to improved behaviour change interventions.
1 March 2023 16:00, Dr Nerissa Ho, University of Plymouth Torn Between Two Worlds
  • One key function of the brain is to construct mental models of the world for guiding behaviours and for survival. The brain does this by switching focus dynamically and spontaneously between the external and the internal world. This process also results in the generation of trains of thought that seem to be random and diverse, and yet structured. This seminar will take you on a journey for exploring how & why the brain struggles between these two worlds, starting with the study of mind-wandering, leading to a better understanding of the brain’s principle in guiding the flow of information across the cortex, as well as how to apply such knowledge to examine neuropsychological conditions.
8 February 2023 13:00, Dr Bruce Rawlings, Durham University, To copy or create: individual group and species differences in imitation and innovation
  • Dr Bruce Rawlings did his undergraduate degree here, then a master's degree in cognitive neuroscience at the University of York. He then took several research assistant projects examining chimpanzee and capuchin monkey social learning and social dynamics, including doing research in Piaui, Brazil (capuchins) as well as Edinburgh Zoo and Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage, Zambia (chimpanzees). He then did a PhD in Evolutionary Anthropology at Durham University where he studied social learning and innovation in children and chimpanzees (housed in Texas). His research uses developmental, cross-cultural, and comparative methods to study cognition, with a particular focus on the psychology of cultural evolution. He is currently particularly interested in studying the development of tool innovation from cognitive, social, and comparative perspectives. He also studies the factors influencing the development of imitation and overimitation in children.
25 January 2023 13:00, Professor Jon May, University of Plymouth, Some of the wonderful things a psychologist can do in the Health Lab
  • Over the last few months we have been setting up some psychophysiology and exercise equipment in Link 217, as a dedicated Health Psychology Lab. I will introduce you to the Measurement Pod, the Pain Cuff, the Lode Ergonometric Bike, the Polar H10 heart rate monitors, and the BioPac kit for measuring skin conductance, heart rate, ECG and respiration. I will review the use of the equipment in psychological experiments and give examples of using the kit to measure dependent variables and in manipulating independent variables. I hope to convince you that the opportunities are many and varied and limited only by our creativity. Panopto recording
  • Jon has been at Plymouth since 2007, having previously worked at the University of Sheffield, the MRC-Applied Psychology Unit in Cambridge, St George's Hospital Medical School, and the University of Exeter, where he also obtained his BSc and PhD. In between times he spent three years working in industry in Germany. His research has drifted from studying creativity, blending experimental tasks and psychometrics, through cognition and emotion to human-computer interaction, and now he tries to focus on mental imagery, motivation and behaviour change. When an undergraduate, his tutor told him to avoid psychophysiology and EEG research as it was really tricky to get clean data, but having run out of other paradigms he's prepared to give it a go.

Previous seminars

14 December 2022 13:00, Dr Sonja Heintz, University of Plymouth 
  • This talk will explore several on-going studies and preliminary findings that combine perspectives from positive, humour and personality psychology. The aim is to provide a better understanding of the variety of positive traits and how they can be fostered, as well as their impact on positive experiences. One research strand focuses on how acting according to specific personality aspects can impact wellbeing in a discussion task. The second line of studies investigates how humour can help in coping with adversities and stress. The third research programme focuses on the role of flexibility and character strengths in work-related wellbeing.
  • Dr Sonja Heintz has been a Lecturer in Psychology at the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth since March 2020. She has completed her BSc and MSc studies at Saarland University (Germany) and her PhD at the University of Zurich (Switzerland). Her study background is in clinical and social psychology as well as personality and assessment. She then developed an interest in positive psychology, and conducted her PhD research on the assessment of humour styles and their and relationships with wellbeing. Her research focuses on individual differences and assessment of positive psychological and humour-related traits.
7 December 2022 13:00, Dr Alastair Smith, University of Plymouth
  • Individuals with alexithymia experience difficulties interpreting emotional states in self and others, which has been associated will interoceptive impairment. Current theories are primarily based subjective and conscious measures of interceptive sensitivity as heartrate detection, but it is unclear whether similar observations would be found for objective or implicit psychophysiological measures. I will discuss an exploratory study that assessed the potential of a novel assay through the use of adaptive immersive architecture [ExoBuilding]. Participants were screened for alexithymic traits and representative subsamples were placed within ExoBuilding and asked to match their respiration to its movement. Findings suggest that alexithymia extends beyond conscious interoceptive activities, and is also observed in immersive contexts that usually exert psychophysiological effects on typical occupants. These initial findings highlight the importance of considering both conscious and implicit measures of interception, and I will tentatively suggest ways in which theories of alexithymia might benefit from capturing this distinction.
  • Dr Alastair D. Smith is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth. He received a BSc in Psychology from the University of Birmingham, and a PhD from the University of Bristol, where he then worked as a Research Fellow. He took up a lectureship at the University of Nottingham in 2008, and moved to his current role in 2017. Alastair runs the Spatial Behaviour Laboratory at Plymouth and is also a Lab Head in the Brain Research and Imaging Centre (BRIC). His work focuses on the cognitive and neural foundations of human spatial abilities and he has published research on typical and atypical function using a variety of empirical methods. Alastair doesn't like writing biographies.
23 November 2022 16:00, Dr Helen Lloyd, University of Plymouth, Routes to wellness: co-designing mental health peer support for refugees 
  • In this seminar we share our experiences of navigating the complexity and creativity in gaining funding and creating partnerships to set up a co-designed and peer led mental health intervention for refugee and asylum seekers. This project is funded by the NIHR HSDR (National Institute for Health Research, Health Services Delivery Research), for 30 months with the aim of co-designing the model and testing it in Plymouth and Gloucester. Our experiences so far have involved managing uncertainty, being open to and questioning our own prejudice and assumptions, power relationships, and remaining agile to change and adaptation. This is the nature of participatory action research where emergent properties define the shape of the project. We will talk through the knowns and unknowns of working in this way and provide an overview of the philosophical underpinnings that govern our project, our methods and our progress to date.
  • Associate Professor Helen Lloyd is a mixed methodologist who has uses participatory action and design informed research to create health and social improvements for marginalised, seldom heard or stigmatised groups. She is particularly focused on transcultural psychology, and understanding how socio-political contexts interact with group identity to influence health behaviour, the experiences and outcomes of care and health inequalities. Dr Hoayda Darkal is a multidisciplinary researcher with expertise in qualitative and quantitative methods interested in household economics, social resilience, and forced migration. Her research focus includes family and care; SGBV and forced migration; Syrian refugee artisans and Entrepreneurship; and co-designing a peer-led community approach to support the mental health of refugees. Dr Wen-Yu Wu conducts research in the areas of migration and refugee studies, youth, education, humanitarianism and ethnographic methods. She commits to a reflexive approach to research. Her PhD project investigated im/mobilities, waiting and hope in students’ expectations and pursuits toward higher education in the case of Syrian refugee students in Lebanon and Jordan.
9 November 2022, Dr Alyson Norman, University of Plymouth, Supporting the needs of those with acquired brain injuries and their families in the community
  • Individuals with acquired brain injury (ABI) experience long-term disability as a result of their injuries. The knowledge and understanding of health and social care professionals about the needs of those with ABl long term (and their families) has been found to be relatively poor, especially in relation to hidden disabilities associated with executive impairments. In this talk I will discuss a new NIHR-funded grant to understand the barriers to improving brain injury education for social workers and the development of an e learning package for these professionals. I will also talk about another NIHR-funded grant due to commence next year that involves understanding the role of story telling in supporting the psychological needs of family members
  • Aly Norman is an Associate Professor in the School of Psychology and programme lead for the MSc and MPsych in Clinical Psychology courses. She completed her PhD is the field of visible difference. She still specialises in developing psychosocial interventions for individuals with visible differences, but has worked for the past 10 years in the field of brain injury. Her research focuses specifically on the long-term impact of brain injury on individuals and their families and improving the knowledge base of health and social care professionals in the community. Outside of the University, Aly is heavily involved in several brain injury groups. She is a trustee for Headway Somerset, a member of the research committee for the British Association of Brain Injury Case Managers, and is Deputy Chair of Anchor Point, a group for families after brain injury.
2 November 2022, Dr Julie Ji , University of Plymouth, Emotional mental imagery: individual differences and functional implications
  • Mental imagery-based cognition can powerfully impact our emotions and motivate goal-directed behaviour. In this talk I will present my work on
    a) depression-linked individual differences in mental imagery generation; b) methodological implications of individual differences in mental imagery generation for measuring anhedonia; c) the role of flash forward mental imagery and self harm behaviour in young people. The talk will also discuss key theoretical questions concerning the functional impact of mental imagery on motivated behaviour that will be the focus of my current research.
  • Julie recently joined the School of Psychology as a Lecturer. She completed her PhD with Professor Emily Holmes at the Medical Research Council Cognition & Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, in 2018. Prior to Plymouth, Julie held positions as a post-doc at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville with Professor Bethany Leachman, and as a research fellow at the University of Western Australia, with Professor Colin MacLeod. Her research seeks to understand the functional impact of mental imagery based future thinking on motivation and behaviour.
19 October 2022, Dr Julien Besle, University of Plymouth, Functional parcellation and characterization of human auditory cortex: A multimodal imaging approach
  • The functional organization of human auditory cortex is still poorly understood. In this talk, I will present combined data from several MRI modalities (functional, structural and diffusion-weighted) to (1) localize functionally-distinct regions of auditory cortex and (2) try and understand the role of each area in auditory perception.
  • Julien recently joined the School of Psychology as a lecturer. He completed his PhD in Lyon, France and previously worked as a post-doc at Columbia University in New York and at the University of Nottingham, and as an assistant professor at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. He is interested in the neural underpinnings of sensory perception and has studied several sensory modalities (hearing, vision and touch) using a range of neuroimaging techniques, from EEG, MEG and intracranial EEG to structural and functional MRI.
12 October 2022, Dr Sean Fallon, University of Plymouth, Striving for Balance: How does dopamine modulate the effect of motivation and emotion on cognitive control
  • In this talk I will highlight the three main strands of my research. Firstly, I will outline my work on how cognitive control (principally working memory) goes awry in neuropsychiatric populations. Particular emphasis will be put on my work highlighting the promises and pitfalls of improving these deficits with pharmacological substances. Secondly, I will talk about whether we can use reward (or motivation) as a substitute for pharmacological compounds to exert beneficial effects on cognitive control. Finally, I will outline ongoing work on the role of happiness as a mnemonic enhancer and its possible dependency on dopamine.
  • Sean completed his PhD at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (MRC-CBU) in Cambridge, working on the genetic basis of cognitive impairment in Parkinson's disease with Professor Adrian Owen. He then moved to the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging (DCCN) in Nijmegen to carry out post-doctoral research on pharmacology of cognitive control with Professor Roshan Cools. More recently, he moved back to the UK to work with Professor Masud Husain on the pharmacology of cognitive deficits in Parkinson's disease. He then spent some time at the University of Bristol, fell in with a bad crowd (epidemiologists) and conducted neuroimaging studies at the Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC).
27 April, Stephen Minton, University of Plymouth, Greenland's stolen indigenous children: lived experience of a Danish neo-colonial 'experiment' and its aftermath 
  • My friend and colleague Helene Thiesen was one of twenty-two Inuit children (of whom six are still living) who, in 1951, were taken from their families in Greenland to be ‘re-educated’ as ‘model Danish citizens’, and after a year-and-a-half’s schooling in Denmark, were to return to Greenland as ‘Danish cultural bearers’. However, on returning to Greenland, Helene and the others were not permitted to re-join their families, but instead had to live at an ‘orphanage’ (which had been built by the Danish Red Cross whilst the children were away), where they were forbidden from speaking Greenlandic, and forced to adopt Danish language and customs instead. It was only in 1996 that the author Tine Bryld broke the news to Helene that she and the others had been part of a social and educational ‘experiment’, and what has since been recognised as a neo-colonial attempt to forcibly assimilate Indigenous children via means of education. Helene published her account of her childhood experiences (in Danish and Greenlandic) in 2011. In this seminar, I will focus on (i) telling Helene’s childhood story in some more detail; (ii) tracking the course of our (mine and Helene’s) collaboration on translating and publishing her autobiographical work in English (currently in press, with Routledge); and, (iii) Helene and the other survivors’ decades-long battle for recognition, restitution and a full state apology.  
  • Panopto recording
23 March, Jackie Andrade, University of Plymouth, How to make your research make an impact
  • What counts as research impact outside of academia, why does it matter, and how can it be achieved efficiently? I’ll answer these questions using examples from 4* REF2014 impact case studies, my own misadventures into impact, and the impact case studies that the School of Psychology has submitted to REF2020. I’ll argue that, as a School, we can generate impact most efficiently by nurturing serendipity while actively targeting funds, time, and support at projects with a clear pathway to impact.
  • Panopto recording
16 March, Noam Siegelman, Haskins Laboratories, What can statistical learning tell us about reading, and what can reading tell us about statistical learning: Lessons from studies of individual differences
  • In recent years, the study of reading has become increasingly grounded in theories of statistical learning. As a result of this paradigmatic shift, many now view reading acquisition as an exercise in statistical learning, where children gradually become attuned to the complex quasi-regular associations characteristic of their writing system. In this talk, I will examine the implications of this perspective for explaining individual differences in reading. In a nutshell, I will present a series of studies that examine how individual differences in reliance on different types of regularities during reading are associated with emerging reading skills among early readers of English. Together, the results of these studies suggest that better literacy skills are related to efficient utilization of the writing system's structure, with increased reliance on more reliable regularities (e.g., print-speech and print-meaning regularities) and lesser reliance on arbitrary cues (e.g., semantic properties of words). I will conclude by discussing how these findings inform statistical views of reading, and what they tell us about statistical learning abilities more broadly.
  • Panopto recording
9 March, Benjamin Evans, University of Sussex, Vorsprung durch Biologie: Biological convolutions improve DNN robustness to noise and generalisation
  • Deep Convolutional Neural Networks (DNNs) have achieved superhuman accuracy on standard image classification benchmarks. Their success has reignited significant interest in their use as models of the primate visual system, bolstered by claims of their architectural and representational similarities. However, closer scrutiny of these models suggests that they rely on various forms of shortcut learning to achieve their impressive performance, such as using texture rather than shape information. Such superficial solutions to image recognition have been shown to make DNNs brittle in the face of more challenging tests such as noise-perturbed or out-of-distribution images, casting doubt on their similarity to their biological counterparts. In this talk I present some of our recent work, where we demonstrate that adding fixed biological filter banks, in particular banks of Gabor filters, helps to constrain the networks to avoid reliance on shortcuts, making them develop more structured internal representations and more tolerance to noise. Importantly, they also gained around 20–35% improved accuracy when generalising to our novel out-of-distribution test image sets over standard end-to-end trained architectures. I take these findings to suggest that these properties of the primate visual system should be incorporated into DNNs to make them more able to cope with real-world vision and better capture some of the more impressive aspects of human visual perception such as generalisation.
  • Panopto recording
2 March, Mark Holloway, Head First, The Research and Reality interface: Acquired Brain Injury, making a mess of theory and practice. Give up and take your ball home, or reach out to new friends?
  • People with an acquired brain injury die unnecessarily, in the chronic phase, in the UK, in 2022, because the condition is not better understood by health and social care professionals. What needs to be understood to change this situation? The tension between competing philosophical and methodological approaches to concepts of knowledge and knowledge creation is age old. This is most certainly the case with acquired brain injury, neurorehabilitation and the assessment of functional outcome from injury. What we measure, how we measure it and what this means, can sit very uneasily with lived experience, with clinicians/practitioners, with professional training, with service design, with policy makers, with the “court of public opinion” and with the law. But if we do not attempt to “measure”, how do we know what is happening and what works? When resources are finite and people’s lives, quality of life and participation is at stake, when there are other demands upon resources, how do we square circles? This talk aims to utilise 3+ decades of experience of working with people and families affected by an acquired brain injury to link practice to academia and to link academia to practice. The roles of academic and clinical psychology have an important part to play in this process. Tensions remain between competing positions but bridging tensions, creating a feedback loop and seeking useful and (neuro) functional answers that can be applied is perhaps the goal of the whole professional and academic endeavour? The alternative is to take your ball home and give up, a moral and ethical standpoint which bears no scrutiny.
  • Panopto recording
23 February, Steven Brown, University of Plymouth, Developing a population-based health psychology service for cancer survivors: Research strategy and priorities
  • This seminar describes the development of a psychological service for survivors of uveal melanoma, a primary cancer of the eye. The service is relatively unique in that it has been designed with a population and prevention focus, rather than within a traditional clinical psycho-oncology paradigm. In terms of promoting patient well-being and well-considered decision-making, I describe the development and initial outcomes of a research programme to support our approach. In particular, I describe how we situate psychological theory within this new context by using mixed methods to select, test and implement competing ideas. The potential benefits and problems for our approach to research and service development are discussed.
  • Panopto recording
16 February, Gabriella Vigliocco, University College London, Language is multimodal, efficient and predictive
  • The ecology of human language is face-to-face interaction, comprising cues, like prosody, co-speech gestures, eyegaze and mouth movements. Yet, this multimodal context is usually stripped away as studies focus on linguistic processing only. Here, I question this dominant paradigm and present evidence for why we should study language learning and processing as multimodal. I will start by briefly describe how speakers use multimodal cues in dyadic naturalistic interactions with children and adults. Next, I will provide computational evidence that communicative efficiency is a general principle underscoring how speakers encode multimodal utterances. Finally, I will provide electrophysiological evidence that listeners engage in multimodal predictive processing when processing language. 
  • Panopto recording
9 February, Gavin Buckingham, University of Exeter, Grasping the virtual world
  • In the last few years, immersive virtual reality (iVR) has become a significant part of the entertainment industry. In parallel, there has been a significant uptake in iVR for training in the context of sports, medicine, and dangerous industries. It also has exceptional potential for cognitive research, allowing for the strict control of sensory inputs in ecologically-valid tasks. In this talk, I will give an overview of some of our recent research in the context of perception and action which uses iVR to (1) alter environmental statistics, (2) put visual and tactile cues in conflict with one another, and (3) examine the consequences (for better or worse) of wearing a VR headset for sports.
  • Panopto recording

15 December 2021, Matthias Gamer, University of Würzburg, New Methods for Detecting Concealed Knowledge – Promises and Perils

  • More than 50 years ago, the so-called Concealed Information Test (CIT) was developed as an alternative to the heavily criticized polygraph that is still frequently applied in criminal investigations around the world. Instead of detecting lying, the CIT aims at uncovering memory for crime-related details. Traditionally, measures of the autonomic nervous system were used for this purpose but in recent years, a wide variety of different behavioural, oculomotor and neuroscientific methods has been applied in scientific research on the CIT. I am going to summarize these novel applications and I will specifically focus on the possible advantages and drawbacks that are associated with these methods. Instead of searching for the application that yields the highest predictive validity in detecting concealed knowledge, research should focus more strongly on the cognitive and affective mechanisms that underlie the CIT and can be uncovered by a strategic combination of different research approaches. This would allow for improving the construct validity of the CIT and may help to facilitate the well-informed choice of methods for specific applications in criminal investigations.
  • Panopto recording available

1 December 2021, Justin Kueser, Purdue University, Do Children with Developmental Language Disorder Prefer “Corn on the Cob” or “Corn on the Tray”? A Look at Frequency Effects at Three Levels
  • The effect of frequency on language acquisition and production in children with typical development (TD) has been of great recent interest. Work has shown that frequency exerts effects across a variety of language phenomena, often producing faster, more accurate, and more efficient learning and processing of frequent compared to infrequent words, phrases, and constructions. In this talk, I focus on how frequency affects the language production of children with developmental language disorder (DLD). Children with DLD have difficulty understanding and producing language that cannot be explained by hearing impairment, intellectual disability, or other overt neurological/cognitive impairments. I describe three studies that examine whether 4-5-year-old children with DLD differ from children with TD in their overall response to frequency in language production tasks at three different levels: the single-word level, the multiword level, and the paradigm level. I relate the findings to different models of frequency response, asking which best explains how children with DLD use frequency at these different levels. I end by asking whether these patterns might point the way toward other ways to examine the contribution of frequency to language disorders and their treatment.
  • Panopto recording available

24 November 2021, Alex Sel, University of Essex, Inducing and measuring brain plasticity in the human brain with non-invasive brain stimulation
  • Over the last decade, there has been a rapid development of new forms of non-invasive brain stimulation that allow direct examination of the influence that one cortical area exerts over another anatomically connected area. These techniques, often referred to as paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (ppTMS) techniques, involve the application of pairs of TMS pulses over two brain areas at short intervals. When this is done repeatedly over a period of time, it is also possible to selectively manipulate associative neural plasticity between the two brain regions, strengthening or weakening the physiological influence of one brain area over the other. The evoked effects have been defined as Hebbian in nature. In this talk I will present a series of investigations that have used ppTMS alone, and in combination with neuroimaging techniques, to directly examine the relationship between neural plasticity, functional connectivity and frequency coupling within areas of the motor and visual human cortices.
  • Panopto recording available

17 November 2021, Chi-hsin Chen, University of Plymouth, The Dynamics of Early Word Learning
  • Young children learn about the language(s) they hear at an astonishing rate. An intriguing question that has attracted much attention is how infants and young children learn novel words. Most researchers have been trying to answer this question from one of two different perspectives -- one from the child’s side and the other from the parent’s side. Numerous studies have focused on young learners’ abilities to process or use different types of information to learn the meanings of novel words. Another line of research focuses on the linguistic input provided by parents in early learning environments. In this talk, I will take a dyadic view and present studies using head-mounted eye-tracking techniques to investigate how parents’ and children’s individual and joint behaviors in real-time interaction contribute to early word learning. I will also discuss how children’s sensory experience influences the dynamics of interaction and affects word learning.
  • Panopto recording available

10 November 2021, Shelley McKeown Jones, University of Bristol, Youth as peacebuilders: promoting constructive societal engagement and social change
  • Youth can play a central role in promoting positive intergroup relations and tackling social inequalities in conflict and divided societies. The peacebuilding potential of youth, however, remains relatively under-explored in the research literature on social change and collective action. Drawing on theoretical models including the empathy-attitudes-action model, social identity theory and intergroup contact theory, I will present an ongoing programme of research that focuses on understanding more about how, when, and why youth engage in or demonstrate positive intentions towards constructive actions- at the interpersonal, collective, and structural levels. In doing so, I consider the importance of individual and contextual factors in promoting constructive action amongst youth as well as reflect on the implications of this research for current scientific understanding and practice.
  • Panopto recording available
3 November 2021, Panos Athanasopoulos, Lancaster University, Language-mediated representation of time in human memory: The case of duration
  • Time provides essential structure to human experience. People tend to talk about time using spatial concepts of distance and quantity (Casasanto & Boroditsky, 2008). This tendency exhibits considerable crosslinguistic variation. In English and Swedish, distance metaphors are typically used to convey duration (i.e., long time/lång tid). In Greek and Spanish, duration is commonly expressed through quantity metaphors (i.e. poli ora/mucho tiempo, ‘much time’). Previous research shows that these language-specific tendencies to talk about time as distance or quantity affect the psychophysical experience of duration in speakers of these languages (Casasanto, 2008). The current set of studies tests the scope of such effects of language mediation. Results from a psychophysical duration estimation task, where stimulus duration conflicted with its physical growth, showed that when reproducing duration, Swedish speakers were misled by stimulus length, and Spanish speakers were misled by stimulus size/quantity. However, language interference was confined to difficult discriminations (i.e., when stimuli varied only subtly in duration and growth), and was eliminated when linguistic cues were removed from the task. Critically, Spanish-Swedish bilinguals performing the task in both languages showed different interference depending on language-specific contextual cues, and individual differences emerged as a function of frequency of language use and age of onset of bilingualism. These findings, interpreted under an associative learning account, reveal the malleable nature of representation as part of a highly adaptive computational system, where language can serve as a powerful cue in transforming humans’ experience of time.
  • Panopto recording available

27 October 2021, Anđela Šoškić, University of Belgrade, Exploring the garden of forking paths in ERP research: transparency, comparability, and adherence to publication guidelines
  • In fields such as electroencephalography (EEG), in which experiments result in rich datasets, with thousands of data points, there are infinite acceptable ways to process and analyze this data, resulting in an enormous 'garden of forking paths'. In this talk, several questions that arise from this issue will be explored, on the example of two studies - a systematic review of methodology decisions and reporting in N400 experiments, and a multiverse analysis of the same N400 dataset using 14 different analysis pipelines. While we will focus on one subdomain of EEG - event-related potentials, and more specifically the N400, similar issues have been observed in other fields of EEG, and neuroscience more broadly. The questions we will discuss include: (1) how good are researchers in describing their path through the garden of forking paths to the degree that other researchers can replicate their procedure; (2) what are the points where improvements in reporting are necessary; (3) how much are the processing and analysis pipelines found in literature comparable to each other when similar approach can be expected; (4) what are the points of divergence in methodological decisions and what information we can use as a basis for a priori decisions in future studies; (5) can these diverse pipelines lead to different study outcomes when applied to the same dataset; (6) how often do researchers deviate from published guidelines for good practice; (7) what are the decisions where deviations from the guidelines are the most common?
  • Panopto recording available

13 October 2021, Robert Lurz City, University of New York, Investigating belief simulation in chimpanzees
  • Recent studies show that chimpanzees expect others to search for objects of interest where others think (correctly or incorrectly) the objects are hidden. According to prevailing models, chimpanzees make such predictions by metarepresenting others’ beliefs. In my talk, I discuss a recent study we conducted with chimpanzees that investigated the simpler belief-simulation model. In this model, chimpanzees predict where another agent will search for an object of interest by simulating (imaginatively adopting) what the other agent believes about the location of the object. The belief-simulation model predicts that chimpanzees should behave as if they share the other agent’s belief about the object’s location, even in cases where the other agent’s belief is false. We tested this by giving chimpanzees a novel search paradigm and measured where they searched for buried food. Our results show that chimpanzees display a bias in their search behavior predicted by the simulation model and may use belief simulation, rather than metarepresentation, when predicting where others will search for objects of interest.
  • Panopto recording available

12 May 2021, James Close, University of Plymouth, Pandora’s Loot Box: how video game developers unleashed a box of psychological tricks
  • Loot boxes are purchasable content in video games with randomised rewards, which have come under increasing media scrutiny, grabbing BBC headlines such as 'ban kids from loot box gambling’ and ‘the kids emptied our bank account playing Fifa.’ Deploying variable ratio reinforcement (VRR) schedules, it has been established that loot boxes share many structural and psychological similarities to gambling, and are consequently coming under increasing international legal scrutiny. Funded by Gamble Aware to conduct a comprehensive package of research into loot boxes, we present our emerging findings. First, our systematic review establishes robust correlations between loot box engagement and problem video gaming and problem gambling behaviours. Second, our secondary analysis of open source data establishes that high spenders on loot boxes aren’t high earning individuals, as attested by game developers – instead, these ‘whales’ are over-represented by problem gamblers. Third, our in-depth qualitative work with gamers establishes how loot boxes are just one of the so-called ‘dark nudges,’ where developers have re-purposed psychological science for monetisation purposes: the gamers becoming invested via endowment effects; urged into purchasing through ‘fear of missing out’ on limited time offers; costs obfuscated via in-game currencies, price anchoring and random rewards. Fourth, our preliminary survey screen, involving over 14,000 UK gamers, reveals that specific cohorts spend larger proportions of their income on loot boxes – including males, younger people, lower earners, and those with lower educational attainment. Finally, we include the results of our own in-depth survey, utilising a battery of tools to investigate the drivers of loot box purchasing and relationships with psychological wellbeing. With imminent government action on loot boxes looking likely, we discuss the implications of our research for the UK policy trajectory.
  • Panopto recording available

5 May 2021, Magdalena Sliwinska, Liverpool John Moores, Does the non-dominant hemisphere matter? TMS investigation of the left hemisphere involvement in facial expression recognition POSTPONED

28 April 2021, Kayleigh Wyles, University of Plymouth, Turning the tide on plastic waste – How Psychology can help tackle marine litter
  • Plastic waste is a growing global issue. There is a wealth of evidence on its impacts on wildlife, yet the human dimension is typically overlooked. Unlike other environmental issues, plastic waste and marine litter more broadly is 100% caused by human behaviour. Humans make this material, use it, and are solely responsible for its disposal. Consequently it is necessary to involve the psychological perspective to not only understand the issue, but also contribute to the solution. Dr Wyles will overview some of her recent work that has involved examining 1) the social cost of plastic waste (the direct and indirect impact it has on individuals), 2) the behaviours behind the issue (how our behaviours contribute to the problem), and more optimistically, 3) the solutions needed to help address this global socio-environmental issue (successful behaviour change campaigns).
  • Panopto recording available
21 April 2021, Antonia Misch, Ludwig-Maximilians- Universität, How children use linguistic cues to infer group membership
  • From early on, children face the challenge of navigating an incredibly complex social world, which consists of multiple layers of social groups and categories. Often, social groups are not visibly marked or explicitly labelled, and therefore children have to rely on other, more subtle cues to infer others' group membership. Language, in particular the use of certain personal pronouns such as "we" (collective pronouns) vs. "I" (individual pronouns), can be a valuable indicator for social identity and belongingness, but no experimental research has investigated whether children infer others' social affiliation based on incidental pronoun use. In this talk I will present current research on children’s use of incidental pronoun use to predict others’ group affiliations and belonging, as well as potential consequences.
  • Panopto recording available
24 March 2021, Tomás Lejarraga, Universitat de les Illes Balears, Experimenting with Rationality
  • In 1967, Peterson and Beach reviewed more than 160 experiments about people’s statistical intuitions and introduced the view of “man as an intuitive statistician.” Tversky and Kahneman (1974) rejected this conclusion and proposed that people use heuristics that are prone to bias. With that, they introduced the heuristics-and-biases program, which has profoundly altered how the behavioural sciences view the mind’s competences and rationality. How was this radical transformation possible? We analyze 604 experiments and conclude that the heuristics-and-biases program established a new experimental protocol with a strong emphasis on described scenarios that replaced the prior emphasis on learning and experience.

17 March 2021, Mehdi Khamassi, Sorbonne Université, Online coordination of multiple decision-making systems in humans and animals

  • The model-free reinforcement learning (RL) framework, and in particular Temporal-Difference learning algorithms, have been successfully applied to Neuroscience since about 20 years. It can account for dopamine reward prediction error signals in simple Pavlovian and single-step (instrumental) decision-making tasks. However, more complex multi-step tasks illustrate their computational limitations. In parallel, the last 10 years have seen a growing interest in computational models for the coordination of different types of decision-making systems, e.g. model-free and model-based RL. Model-based here means that the subjects try to learn an internal model of the statistical structure of the task (like a cognitive map in spatial tasks), and can plan based on mental simulations within such a model. Computational models for the coordination of multiple decision-making systems enable to explain more diverse behaviors and learning strategies in humans, monkeys and rodents. They enable to explain shifts between different modes of deliberation (fast responses versus long deliberations before responding). They also enable to clarify the differential roles of dopamine in different decision-making systems. I will illustrate this line of research with a didactic presentation of simple models, and then show a variety of behavioural results in different paradigms (navigation tasks, instrumental learning tasks, working-memory tasks, social interaction tasks).
  • Panopto recording available

10 March 2021, Giorgio Ganis, University of Plymouth, Neuroscience in the real world: An overview of mobile electroencephalography

  • With few exceptions, traditional human neuroscience methods have been limited to studying still participants in the laboratory. In many fields, including applied ones, this raises important questions about the generalizability to more ecological scenarios that allow free movement, ideally in the real world. Mobile electroencephalography (mobile EEG) is a set of new methods and techniques that allow the recording of brain activity in these less constrained situations. In this talk I’ll provide an overview of mobile EEG, covering examples of its uses, key technical challenges that need to be overcome, and some potential solutions.

3 March 2021, Elsa Fouragnan, University of Plymouth, Neuromodulation with transcranial focused ultrasound

  • To understand brain function and treat neurological and psychiatric disorders, we need to be able to modulate neuronal activity in very specific part of the brain. Current methods of neuromodulation incur a trade-off between spatial focus and the level of invasiveness. Transcranial focused ultrasound (TUS) is emerging as a non-invasive and safe neuromodulation approach that can target precise regions, even deep in the brain. In this talk, I will present findings from non-human primates’ studies investigating the causal role of specific brain regions related to decision making and learning. In addition to causal brain mapping, the spatial focus of TUS opens new avenues for treatments of neurological and psychiatric conditions, which I will discuss.
  • Panopto recording available

24 February 2021, Patricia Kanngiesser, University of Plymouth, Social norms

  • Norms structure social life by determining how one ought (or ought not) to behave. They are what some call “the grammar of society”. In this talk, I will first explore the developmental foundations of normative behaviours, focusing on recent cross-cultural work. Second, I will illustrate how the power of norms can be leveraged to promote ethical behaviours in adolescents.

17 February 2021, Sarah Schäfer, Universität Trier, How to Create a Network of Importance: a (non-social) Investigation of the Adaptivity of the Self-concept

  • Undisputed is the effect of stimuli which are anyhow related to one’s personal self: my name, my home town, a picture of my favourite pullover…each of these things can hardly be ignored by me while they are completely irrelevant for others. However, we do not yet understand, how exactly such stimuli affect us, or, in other words, in which way they influence our cognitive processes. Embedded in a variety of research aiming at a deeper understanding of how self-related stimuli influence cognitive processing, we set out to investigate the way stimuli become self-related. Thus, we conducted various studies to test how stimuli can be associated with the self, whether these self-associations are simple or rather complex, whether they can also be prevented once the to-be-associated content could be negative for the self and whether the building of self-associations can be located in the brain. The results of these studies will be integrated to try to give a definition of a particular component of the self and conclusions will be discussed about what this can tell about the way self-related stimuli influence cognitive processing.

3 February 2021, Simona Monaco, University of Trento, The role of the early visual cortex in action and perception: beyond visual processing

  • In this talk, I will present a series of research projects that fill a niche in action and perception by investigating their relationship with other forms of cognition, such as motor imagery, and by putting emphasis on the top-down aspects of neural processing. Specifically, I will review fMRI data from three experiments that span three conceptual themes of my ongoing research interests. First, I will present evidence that tactile exploration of shapes in the dark activates not only the retinotopic location of the shape, as expected for visual explorations, but also the foveal cortex, corresponding to central vision, even though the stimulus was unseen. Second, I will show that action intention can be decoded as early as in the primary visual cortex even before participants start to move, and that predictions about the visual consequences of an impending movement and motor preparation differentially modulate the activity pattern in early visual and somatosensory-motor areas. With the third project, I will explain how the neural representations for planning vs. imagining hand movements rely on overlapping but distinct neural substrates. In sum, I aim to show that action is not only a product of the motor system, but rather the unitary output generated by a cascade of neural mechanisms that encompass the perceptual, motor and cognitive domains.
  • Panopto recording available


9 December 2020, Fritz Renner, University of Freiburg, Prospective mental imagery and behavioural activation in depression

  • One important treatment target in depression is to increase engagement in potentially rewarding activities. Cognitive behavioural therapies draw on activity scheduling/planning (i.e. working with individuals to schedule potentially rewarding activities) to achieve such experiences. However, low energy levels, fatigue and poor motivation can act as barriers. A complementary, more emotional than cognitive-rational, route to engage individuals with rewarding experiences might be to encourage individuals to “pre-experience” future planned behaviours and the accompanying emotional consequences via mental imagery. In this talk I will provide an overview of the literature on prospective mental imagery, i.e. future-directed imagery-based thought, and its impact on reward processing (i.e., anticipation or experience of reward) and reward-motivated behaviour in the context of depression.
  • Panopto Recording available

2 December 2020, Jan Woike, University of Plymouth, The Transmission Game: A paradigm for testing the effectiveness of behavioural interventions

  • Behavioural science currently experiences a deluge of working papers and studies addressing the spreading novel coronavirus. The vast majority of studies uses simple surveys to study adherence to counter-measures or the effectiveness of hypothetical interventions. Here, we propose a novel paradigm that captures central elements of the crisis in an incentivized, deception-free behavioural game. The "Transmission Game" is played in groups of 100 players and simulates the spread of a disease. Players face a social dilemma trading off risk and monetary outcomes. We show simulation results and test five different interventions aimed at fostering safe behaviour and discuss their relative merits (N=600).
  • Panopto Recording available

25 November 2020, Alberto Acerbi, Brunel University, Cultural evolution in the digital age

  • In my talk, I will discuss how cultural evolution can provide a useful framework to understand how information is produced, transmitted, and selected in contemporary online, digital, media. I will illustrate this general program with two pieces of research. The first examines the spread of online misinformation, focusing on the idea that some cultural traits can be successful because their content taps into general cognitive biases. Misinformation, being less constrained by reality than true information, can be manufactured (consciously or not) to appeal to these cognitive biases. As such, online misinformation can be characterised not as low-quality information that spreads because of the inefficiency of online communication, but as high-quality information that spreads because of its efficiency. The difference is that `quality` does not denote truthfulness but psychological appeal. The second concerns the concept of cumulative culture, i.e. the idea that culture increases in complexity and efficiency from one generation to another, drawing on past innovations. I will discuss how the diffusion of online digital media increases the availability of models to copy from and the fidelity of transmission, thus possibly boosting the potential for cultural cumulation. I will examine, as a case study, how this process unfolds in online fan fiction. 
  • Panopto recording available

18 November 2020, Olivia Guest, UCL, How computational modeling can force theory building in psychological science

  • Psychology endeavors to develop theories of human capacities and behaviors based on a variety of methodologies and dependent measures. We argue that one of the most divisive factors in our field is whether researchers choose to employ computational modeling of theories (over and above data) during the scientific inference process. Modeling is undervalued, yet holds promise for advancing psychological science. The inherent demands of computational modeling guide us towards better science by forcing us to conceptually analyze, specify, and formalise intuitions which otherwise remain unexamined — what we dub “open theory”. Constraining our inference process through modeling enables us to build explanatory and predictive theories. Herein, we present scientific inference in psychology as a path function, where each step shapes the next. Computational modeling can constrain these steps, thus advancing scientific inference over and above stewardship of experimental practice (e.g., preregistration). If psychology continues to eschew computational modeling, we predict more replicability “crises” and persistent failure at coherent theory-building. This is because without formal modelling we lack open and transparent theorising. We also explain how to formalise, specify, and implement a computational model, emphasizing that the advantages of modelling can be achieved by anyone with benefit to all.
  • Panopto recording available

11 November 2020, Mattias Gruber, Cardiff University, How curiosity enhances hippocampus-dependent memory

  • Curiosity – the desire to seek new information – has been praised as a critical ingredient to optimise learning in daily life. However, only recently a fledgling new field of curiosity research across psychology and neuroscience has begun to shed more light on how curiosity affects learning and memory. In my talk, I will present evidence from neuroimaging and behavioural studies that show how curiosity elicits activity within the brain’s dopaminergic circuit and thereby enhances hippocampus-dependent memory. In particular, I will show evidence of (1) how curiosity and related constructs affect memory differently in childhood and adolescence, (2) how dopaminergic-hippocampal regions interact with higher-level brain networks such as the control network and the default mode network in support of curiosity-enhanced memory, and (3) how states of curiosity affect memory for incidental information that is encountered during such states. I will present evidence from a series of behavioural experiments using epistemic and perceptual curiosity that help to understand the mechanisms and generalisability of curiosity-enhanced memory for incidental information. Finally, I will discuss how our recently proposed Prediction, Appraisal, Curiosity, and Exploration (PACE) framework, which synthesises current ideas on the mechanisms underlying curiosity, can guide future research in psychology and neuroscience to further elucidate the mechanisms underlying curiosity and curiosity-based memory.
  • Panopto recording available

28 October 2020, Tracey Platt, University of Sunderland, The Psychology of Humour: The State of the Art. Linked to Well-being or a Moral Dilemma?

  • Ask a layperson if they have a “good sense of humour”, and they will often report in the affirmative, with more than 90% claiming that their humour is actually “above” average. Yet, as a scientific discipline, even defining what a good sense of humour is, or more fundamentally, what we mean by humour, is an ongoing task for humour scholars and for psychologists interested in humour in particular, as they require to measure it. The aim of this lecture will explore the state of the art in the Psychology of humour and argue why understanding it is more important than ever, not only for our well-being but for our collective moral good of society.
  • Panopto recording available

21 October 2020, Raymond Mar, York University, Canada, Stories and Siblings: Influences on adult mental-inferencing abilities

  • The idea that stories might promote empathy, mentalizing, or other forms of social cognition has long been theorized. Over the past two decades empirical evidence in favour of this idea has steadily begun to accumulate. In the first half of my talk, I will present a research framework that formalizes the theorizing around this relationship between stories and social cognition. This framework describes two major avenues through which stories might promote social cognition, tied to a process versus content distinction. Stories could promote social cognition through the frequent engagement of social cognitive processes over prolonged periods of time. Or stories could promote social cognition by presenting explicit content regarding the social world and social relationships. In the second half of my talk, I shift to another possible influence on adult mentalizing ability: siblings. Growing up with siblings has been associated with improved theory-of-mind for children, but does this benefit persist into adulthood? If not, then the stereotype we hold of "only children" being at a social disadvantage would require revision, especially for adults. By the time we reach adulthood, we have encountered a myriad of influences on our social cognitive capacity, such as interactions with friends, romantic partners, and co-workers. Is any effect of siblinghood still observable for young adults? A graduate student, Ronda Lo, and myself examined this question in a sample of almost 1800 undergraduates.
  • Panopto recording available

14 October 2020, Mila Mileva, University of Plymouth, Multimodal person perception and recognition

  • Much of the research on face perception and recognition has been conducted using strictly controlled stimuli and procedures which cannot fully represent our everyday social interactions and recognition experiences. Here, we focus on two distinct areas of face research and discuss the importance of sampling natural variability and integrating information across different modalities. First, we explore social person evaluation where, over a series of experiments, we investigate the relative contribution of facial and vocal information for social judgments: dominance and trustworthiness. Our results show that information contained in both the face and the voice contributes to first impression formation. Their integration is, to some degree, outside conscious control, and the weighting of channel contribution varies according to the trait being perceived. Next, we focus on person recognition in applied settings – searching for target identities in a highly complex environment, security CCTV. We use real surveillance footage from a large city transport hub, allowing us to establish the general principles for search efficiency within this realistic context. Our findings highlight the importance of access to natural, within-person variability which contributes to our growing understanding of its role in face perception and recognition.

7 October 2020, René Schlegelmilch, Universität Bremen, A cognitive category-learning model of rule abstraction, attention learning and contextual modulation

  • We introduce the CAL model (Category Abstraction Learning), a cognitive framework formally describing category learning built on similarity-based generalization, dissimilarity-based abstraction, two attention learning mechanisms, error-driven knowledge structuring and stimulus memorization. Our hypotheses draw on an array of empirical and theoretical insights connecting reinforcement and category learning, and working memory. The key novelty of the model is its explanation of how rules are learned from scratch based on three central assumptions. (1) Category rules emerge from two processes of stimulus generalization (similarity) and its direct inverse (category contrast) on independent dimensions. (2) Two attention mechanisms guide learning by focusing on rules, or on the contexts in which they produce errors. (3) Knowing about these contexts inhibits executing the rule, without correcting it, and consequently leads to applying partial rules in different situations. We show that the model decisively outperforms the established category-learning models ALCOVE (Kruschke, 1992), SUSTAIN (Love, Medin & Gureckis, 2004) and ATRIUM (Erickson & Kruschke, 1998) on data sets from benchmark studies, including cross-validations based on trial-wise eye-movements. We illustrate the model's explanatory scope by simulating several phenomena (peak shift, instruction effects, extrapolation), which were so far unexplained (or unexplained within a single model). We discuss CAL's relation to existing accounts, and its promise in understanding the role of attention control and working memory in category learning and related domains. Manuscript pre-print:

A number of seminars after mid-March were POSTPONED due to COVID-19

29 April 2020, Dr Tom Stafford, University of Sheffield, Bias and Blame: investigating implicit attitudes with open science methods POSTPONED

22 April 2020, Isabell Richter, University of Plymouth, GCRF Blue Communities: Application of psychology in international and interdisciplinary realms POSTPONED 

25 March 2020, Alex Sel, University of Essex, POSTPONED

18 March 2020, Lorna Hardy, University of Exeter, Cues, cost discounting or negative affect - what underpins addiction? POSTPONED  

4 March 2020, Professor Derek Perkins, Royal Holloway, University of London, Sexual homicide: research, clinical and legal issues

  • Sexual homicide cases present some unique challenges for researchers, clinicians and experts in court proceedings, which this talk will consider. First, the absence of a victim, who could give an account of the offence independent from that of the perpetrator, requires assessors to rely on collateral information - such as crime scene analyses and pathology reports - as well as on assessment of the alleged perpetrator. Secondly, the wide-ranging manifestations of the sexual element within sexual homicide cases present challenges to clinical case formulation, risk assessment and treatment planning. Thirdly, the understandable horror that these offences generate can affect the way in which prosecution and defence choose to present their cases at trial, how experts are involved within this process and how the jury deals with the facts, experts’ opinions and their own feelings.
  • Panopto Recording

26 February 2020, Nadège Bault, University of Plymouth, Asymmetry between reward and punishment learning during aging

  • The ability to adapt to new decision environments and to learn from feedback declines with age, resulting in sub-optimal decision-making in elderly. Previous studies found conflicting results concerning potential impairments during decision making with normal aging. Learning and decision-making do not rely on a unitary system, but instead require the coordination of different cognitive processes; therefore, it is possible that some cognitive modules will be affected before others. There has been much debate on whether older adults lose their ability to learn from negative feedback while learning from positive feedback remains intact. During learning in a specific context, the reward system tunes to adapt to the range of rewards or punishments previously encountered in that context. This value normalization theoretically allows for better discriminating between the values of currently available options. In addition, it can explain the asymmetry between learning from positive and negative feedback. Thus, we propose that rather than a specific deficit in punishment vs. reward processing, older adults might be impaired in value normalization. Here I will present the results of a study in which younger (age range 18-53) and older adults (63-86 yo) performed a reinforcement learning task. We tested a model of choice that embeds separate modules for value normalization and learning from counterfactual information. We hypothesized that sophisticated computations such as value normalization and counterfactual thinking are affected by aging.
  • Panopto Recording

19 February 2020, Professor Klaus Kessler, University of Aston, Using behavioural experiments, MEG, and transcranial stimulation, to investigate the embodied basis of high-level social and spatial cognition

  • In this talk I will provide an overview of our research into the embodied basis of visuospatial perspective taking. While some aspects of social and spatial cognition are shared between humans and other species, other aspects are not. The former seems to apply to merely tracking another’s visuospatial perspective in the world (i.e., what a conspecific can or cannot perceive), while the latter applies to perspective taking in form of mentally “embodying” another(’s) viewpoint. Our initial behavioural research indeed supported this notion by means of posture manipulations, suggesting that a simulated rotation of the body schema could underlie perspective changes in social and spatial contexts. Our Magnetoencephalography (MEG) and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) studies (including theta vs. alpha TMS entrainment protocols) further pinpointed theta oscillations (3-7Hz) in the right posterior temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) as the major network-code and -hub for embodied perspective taking in contrast to mere perspective tracking. Most recently, TPJ’s involvement was further corroborated using anodal HD-TDCS and the social relevance of theta oscillatory networks was confirmed by contrasting typically developing adolescents with those with an autism spectrum disorder. Currently we are expanding our understanding of embodied cognition using Virtual Reality (VR) experiments. Pilot data indicate, for instance, that vestibular inputs (head movements) supersede proprioceptive inputs (body posture) in their relevance for embodied perspective transformations.
  • Panopto Recording

5 February 2020, Professor Adrian Taylor, University of Plymouth, Developing and evaluating physical activity interventions to improve mental health and wellbeing.

  • I have led or co-led the design of 9 RCTs over 27 years to test the effects of a physical activity (PA) intervention which focuses on improving mental health or well-being to some extent. Over that time, there has been increasing requirement to ensure the intervention is more transparent to facilitate replication and interpretation. With appropriate resource, interventions components are mapped to specific health behaviour change techniques and underpinning theory, to maximize design fidelity, and offer the best chance they will be effective. The talk will begin with a presentation of a framework for understanding efficacy and effectiveness evidence for the effects of PA on mental health and well-being, then focus on a series of studies in which we have targeted people with low levels of physical and mental well-being and, with input from the target population, psychology theory and evidence on behaviour change techniques, we have co-produced interventions to maximize uptake and sustainable engagement in physical activity. Interventions have required the development of a training manual, and the training and supervision of Physical Activity Facilitators in primary care, Psychological Well-being Practitioners in IAPT services, Health Trainers in the community, and the development of on-line behavioural support. In each case we have tried to balance the facilitation of a sufficient dose of physical activity to have health benefits with the challenge to ensure support to foster a sense of Competence, Control (autonomy) and Companionship (relatedness), nicknamed the 3 Cs, drawing on Self-Determination Theory and principles of motivational interviewing. The findings from some of these studies (i.e., BAcPAc and e-Motion, e-coachER, EARS and TARS, and STRENGTHEN) will be briefly presented, together with attempts to understand intervention fidelity (e.g., drawing on recorded Health Trainer sessions with over 500 participants).  


11 December 2019, Dr James Tonks, University of Exeter, Neuropsychological outcome for children aged 6-8 years without cerebral palsy, who were cooled for neonatal encephalopathy.

  • Neuropsychological functions (memory, processing speed, general intellectual function, etc) are vulnerable to early brain injury associated with neonatal encephalopathy (NE) following perinatal asphyxia/ hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy (oxygen starvation and or lack of blood supply to the brain during birth), even in children not developing cerebral palsy (CP). Therapeutic hypothermia (TH), or inducing controlled hypothermia in new-borns, has become the standard treatment for NE. The incidence of CP is reduced but the impact on neuropsychological functions, and subsequent development has been relatively unexplored. Longer term follow-up of apparently unimpaired children is lacking. In a series of studies that I present here, we aimed to determine level of function (cognitive, motor and behavioural) in TH-treated survivors of NE, without CP, compared with those of matched control children at 6–8 years. Differences were found which will be presented in this seminar. We conclude that TH is a remarkable and radical treatment that drastically reduces the effects of early life brain injury, but it is not a total fix. School-age children without CP cooled for HIE still have reduced cognitive and motor performance and more emotional difficulties than their peers, strongly supporting the need for school-age assessments. Within the presentation various neuropsychological models of infant and child brain development will be touched upon, together with clinical case material and general paediatric neuropsychology principles. The seminar should appeal to clinically interested, and/ or research oriented persons alike.

20 November 2019, Dr Trudi Edginton, City University London, Integrating mindfulness and compassion into community, clinical and workplace settings: A Cognitive Neuroscience Approach

  • Dr Trudi Edginton is a Clinical Psychologist, Senior Lecturer and Co-founder of the Centre of Excellence in Mindfulness Research at City, University of London. This talk will focus on the applications of mindfulness and compassion in a range of community, workplace and clinical settings from a cognitive neuroscience perspective. Dr Edginton will discuss her clinical research on assessing and responding to cognitive and emotional difficulties in individuals with Dementia, Traumatic Brain Injury, Hydrocephalus and Spina bifida and the development of tailored mindfulness interventions. This talk will focus on the neurobiological mechanisms that underpin the measurable physiological changes associated with mindfulness and compassion. The importance of highlighting the limitations and the wider societal implications of integrating mindfulness interventions across these settings will also be discussed. Finally there will be a focus on the development of innovative approaches to mindfulness-based interventions to address the need for improving access to mindfulness across the lifespan in a range of culturally diverse settings.
  • Panopto recording (log in required)

13 November 2019, Dr Jeremy Tree, Swansea University, How do you solve a problem like phonological dyslexia? A new approach to an old issue

  • Following brain injury, patients can present with various kinds of acquired dyslexia - and these can be particularly specific to certain kinds of letter strings. Back in the late 1970's patients were first reported who seemed to do very badly at reading nonwords (novel words) despite being very able to read familiar words of various kinds; a condition dubbed 'Phonological dyslexia' (Beauvois & Derouesne, 1979). But an issue has always remained. How does one determine nonword reading accuracy, which there may well be no pre-accepted response? The implications of this issue have dogged the interpretation of data that interrogates current model/theories of reading over the years - in some cases enabling the convenient ignoring of contrary cases (e.g., Tree & Kay, 2008). In this talk, I explain the historical approaches to dealing with this challenge and their weaknesses - and then present a case series of dementia patients tested on nonword reading that provides a new (database driven) approach. I argue that phonological dyslexia is perhaps best characterised on a continuum of severity, rather than the more binary approach of the past.
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6 November 2019, Dr Stephen Minton, University of Plymouth, Residential Schools and Indigenous Peoples

  • This seminar relates to my recently published book, ‘Residential Schools and Indigenous Peoples: From Education via Genocide to the Possibilities for Truth, Restitution, Reconciliation and Reclamation’ (Routledge, October 23rd, 2019). The book provides an extended multi-country focus on the transnational phenomenon of the genocide of Indigenous peoples through residential schooling. It brought together Indigenous and non-indigenous authors from Aotearoa / New Zealand, Australia, Greenland, Ireland, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States in telling the stories of what happened to Indigenous children, who from the late nineteenth century were removed from their families and communities in order to be ‘educated’ away from their ‘savage’ backgrounds, into the ‘civilised’ ways of the colonising societies, in the residential schools. The book examines the immediate and legacy effects that residential schooling had on Indigenous children and peoples; how such systems of education were legitimised, and positioned as benevolent, by the colonising societies; and the possibilities that exist now for Indigenous and non-Indigenous agency in processes of truth, restitution, reconciliation and reclamation. In the seminar itself, we will focus on the collaborative processes involved in writing the book, and outline the principle findings. Like the book itself, it is anticipated that the seminar will appeal to academics, researchers and postgraduate students within the fields of (especially developmental and social) psychology, sociology, Indigenous studies, the history of education and comparative education.
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30 October 2019, Dr Cesco Willemse, Italian Institute of Technology, Genova, Robots as an opportunity to study social cognition in humans

  • In our team’s research, we use humanoid robots to examine factors that evoke specific features of social perception and attention. We follow a novel approach that combines naturalistic interactions with an embodied humanoid robot, whilst utilising methods of experimental psychology and social cognitive neuroscience. This approach ensures excellent experimental control while interacting with an embodied partner; thereby increasing ecological validity of the tasks relative to screen-based experiments. In this talk, I will firstly present example experiments from our group. For example, we generated gaze-contingent eye-movements in the robot. Participants were free to choose one of two laterally presented objects with their gaze, after which the robot followed their gaze or looked at the other object. We operationalised the latency of the return-saccades from the objects back to the robot’s face as a measure of attentional engagement. Intriguingly, our results show that this engagement depended not only on whether the robot followed the participants’ gaze in a given instance, but also on whether the robot usually did so. In addition, I will give a practical account of the challenges and opportunities associated with adopting humanoid robots as embodied stimuli, such as integrating mobile eyetracking in the aforementioned study. Taken together, I argue that 1) transferring methods from social cognitive science to human-robot interaction paradigms, and 2) using the resulting parameters to implement human-like behaviour in robot design, expand the knowledge of social behaviour “in the real world”.

16 October 2019, Dr Tessa Flack, University of Lincoln, Facial viewpoint representation in the human brain

  • The face conveys a variety of information to the observer, allowing you to determine key basic information such as an individual’s gender and age, but also allows you to make finer interpretations such as how the person is feeling and what they are attending to. Facial viewpoint information allows us to assess what a person is looking at or attending to, and also plays a significant role in face recognition. When we know someone well, we are able to identify them from most viewpoints and often in poor lighting conditions. However, this is not the case when we don’t know someone well. A critical aspect of the process of learning a new identity, is the integration of different images from the same face into a view-invariant representation that can be used for recognition. The representation of symmetrical viewpoints has been proposed to be a key computational step in achieving view-invariance. In this talk, I will discuss the neural representation of facial viewpoint, and the special representation given to symmetrical viewpoint directions. I will present data that shows the representation of symmetrical viewpoints in face-selective regions of the brain, is directly linked to the perception and recognition of face identity. This data provides support for the functional value of symmetry as an intermediate step in generating view-invariant representations.
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2 October 2019, Dr Alyson Norman, University of Plymouth, Behind the cloak of competence: Brain Injury and Mental Capacity Legislation

  • Brain Injury Case Managers (BICMs) work closely with individuals with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), assessing needs, structuring rehabilitation interventions and providing support, and have significant experience of clients with impairments to decision-making. This study explored the application of the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) and its guidance when applied to ABI survivors. This research aimed to 1) highlight potential conflicts or tensions that application of the MCA might pose and 2) identify approaches to mitigate the problems of the MCA and capacity assessments with ABI survivors. It is hoped this will support improvements in the services offered. Using a mixed method approach, 93 BICMs responded to an online questionnaire about decision-making following ABI. Of these, 12 BICMs agreed to take part in a follow-up semi-structured telephone interview. The data revealed four main themes: disagreements with other professionals, hidden disabilities, vulnerability in the community and implementation of the MCA and capacity assessments. The findings highlight the need for changes to the way mental capacity assessments are conducted and the need for training for professionals in the hidden effects of ABI. Limited research exists on potential limitations of the application of the MCA for individuals with an ABI. This study provides much needed research on the difficulties surrounding mental capacity and ABI.
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3 April 2019, Dr Joanne Lloyd, University of Wolverhampton, Locus of control and involvement in videogaming

  • An external locus of control (i.e. feeling low personal control over one’s day to day life) has been linked with excessive/addictive behaviours, including both ‘traditional’ addictions and a relatively novel phenomenon: problematic videogaming. In this talk, I will present the findings of a questionnaire-based study exploring the link between locus of control and gaming. The study set out to determine whether people high in external locus of control are prone to excessive videogaming simply because they have low feelings of control over their behaviour (i.e. can’t/don’t resist the temptation to play a lot), or because they are attracted to videogames because they can feel a greater sense of control over their surroundings in-game than they can in the real world. Participants (n=252, 59% males) completed a traditional locus of control scale (Levenson, 1981), alongside a modified version assessing in-game feelings of control. Multiple linear regression analyses indicated that feeling less under the control of powerful others in-game than in the real world was a significant predictor of gaming frequency (standardized beta =.31, p<.0005), while feeling comparatively more internal control in-game than in real life significantly predicted problematic gaming (standardized beta = .17, p=.02). This demonstrates that locus of control in-game can diverge from that experienced in the real-world, and the degree of divergence could be a risk factor for frequent and/or problematic gaming in some individuals. In other words, people who experience a particularly pronounced increase in feelings of control in-game, compared with their real lives, seem to be at greater risk for spending a lot of their time gaming and experiencing problematic symptoms associated with this. This talk will present the findings described above, along with some preliminary data on the impact of gaming genre preferences, and measures of gaming enjoyment. Potential positive benefits of gaming, in addition to risk factors for gaming problems, will be discussed.
27 March 2019, Professor Constantine Sedikides, University of Southampton, To Be Truthful or to Be Wonderful? The Rocky Road to Self-Knowledge

  • What do people want to know about themselves? What kind of information do they solicit from others? What sort of feedback do they remember? This talk will describe a programme of research that examines whether the self-assessment versus self-enhancement/self-protection motive constitutes the most potent guide en route to self-knowledge. The self-assessment motive refers to the pursuit of accurate feedback (be it positive or negative), whereas the self-enhancement/self-protection motive refers to the pursuit of positive feedback and avoidance of negative feedback. The research programme cover domains such as culture, religion, mind-body practices, feedback preferences in incarcerated and community populations, along with self-judgments under conditions of introspection, accountability, and relational closeness.

20 March 2019, Professor Marie Santiago Delefosse, University of Lausanne, Understanding the embodied-socio-psychological (ESP) experience of illness. An alternative approach to the bio-psycho-social (BPS) model

  • The approach focuses on human complexity, embodied in the experience of corporeality and located in a socio-political context. I propose an in-depth reflection, historically and culturally situated, on the development of the bio-psycho-social "model". The talk will show how this "model" was mainly built for political purposes in psychiatry, and how it has been used for equally political purposes to establish a new profession, that of health psychology. This talk will be based on a developmental perspective of the human being and in the field of critical psychology. The main authors come from developmental psychology and from phenomenological and neuropsychological clinical studies, but always in a committed form of psychology that recognizes the importance of the social and cultural foundations that make human beings first and foremost concrete and cultural, and whose subjectivity is embodied in their corporeity, and in the meaning they give to their actions. However, the talk will move beyond criticism to better recognize the practical, clinical, and scientific relevance of new models of complexity, of corporo-societo-psychological models of the experience of serious and/or chronic disease. I am interested in a type of health psychology that focuses on the patient's experience and the effects of the context he or she is experiencing, including in the care relationship. Cultural, economic and societal effects that in turn shape the ways of living with one's body, one's expression and the expected care.

13 March 2019, Dr Yvonne Skipper, Keele University, White Water Writers: A ‘novel’ way to enhance learning and motivation [Athena Swan lecture]

  • “White Water Writers” is a project which is based on psychological theory and research. It gives groups of people the chance to plan, write, proofread and publish their own full length novel in just one week. The books are placed for sale on Amazon with authors getting royalty cheques for their work. We also host a book signing where authors are presented with professionally printed copies of their books at an event attended by friends, family and the local press. More than 1000 people aged 8-80 have now become authors through the project. This group includes looked after children, children with SEND, young offenders and adult prisoners. The project has had a demonstrable positive impact on literacy and achievement, but also on aspiration and motivation. The process also allows writers to explore issues through their novels, which creates an innovative methodology for exploring their views of different topics. In this talk I will discuss the impact that the project has had on writers, presenting both qualitative and quantitative data. I will also present analyses of our novels and interviews with writers which suggest that writers produced novels which reflected issues which were important to them and used them as a space to explore their ideas. This suggests that the project also functions as a novel research methodology which could be used to explore a range of topics. Finally I will reflect on some of the challenges of setting up innovative evidence based projects such as this.

6 March 2019, Professor Kieran McCartan, University of the West of England, Challenges in the Prevention and management of people who have sexually offended: Are we hearing the service user voice?

  • Sexual abuse is a high profile personal, social, political and economic issue internationally. Sexual Abuse is generally framed as a criminal justice, public protection and risk management issue; which invites a lot of assumptions, myths and challenges. This seminar is going to focus on the reality of sexual abuse and the individuals who perpetrate it by examining research into: (1) the language of sexual abuse and why it matters; (2) the different “voices” in the field of sexual abuse and their perspectives; (3) the management and integration of people who have committed sexual abuse into the community; & (4) the role of the “service user” voice in understanding and developing effective Prevention, Management & Desistence strategies. The presentation will conclude by asking the question of whether we are listening to the person who has committed sexual abuse as a service user that we actively engage with, participate with and involve in their own risk management. Or are they someone that treatment, management and integration is done to, rather than do with?
27 February 2019, Professor Jackie Andrade, University of Plymouth, How to enjoy dieting: Lessons from cognitive psychology

  • This talk will show how research on substance cravings led us on a quest for ways to create cravings for healthy activities. The result was a novel motivational intervention called Functional Imagery Training (FIT). I shall explain the research that led to the development of FIT and present our recent trial data on showing that FIT led to substantial and sustained weight loss.

13 February 2019, Professor Andy Wills, University of Plymouth, Open Science and Reproducibility in Psychology: A Practical Guide

  • One of the most positive things to come out of the Replication Crisis is an increasing recognition of the importance of doing open, reproducible science. In this informal talk, I'll summarize what the Replication Crisis is, consider what led to it, and illustrate how good open science practices are beginning to solve the problems it revealed. Much of the talk will be a pragmatic 'how to' for open reproducible science, making use of good-practice examples here and elsewhere. The Replication Crisis may turn out to be one of the best things that ever happened to psychology.

6 February 2019, Professor Mark Briffa, University of Plymouth, Animal personality as a cause and consequence of aggressive behaviour

NB: Location will be PSQ Plymouth lecture theatre

  • Consistent variation in behaviour between individuals of the same species has been described in a diverse array of animals. These include examples of mammals, birds, fish, crabs and simple gelatinous creatures that lack a central nervous system. Usually described as animal personality, this type of variation is interesting for two reasons. First, if behaviour is a potentially labile trait, what constraints on behavioural plasticity prevent all individuals from expressing the full range of behaviours seen across the population as a whole? Second, if natural selection is expected optimise behaviour, why do we even see this range of behavioural phenotypes, rather than a single adaptive average way of behaving? We have approached these questions in the context of animal contest behaviour, where individuals fight one another for ownership of a valuable resource. Our experiments on fighting hermit crabs and sea anemones provide insights into what might constrain the expression of behaviour and how recent experience of aggression could explain some of the variation in behaviour that we see across individuals. In turn, accounting for personality variation can also help us to gain a better understanding of the evolution of aggression itself. In this talk, I will discuss what ‘personality’ means to a behavioural ecologist interested in crabs and sea anemones, and will touch on the statistical approaches that provide a framework for investigating animal personality. Then I will show how these animals fight other individuals of the same species, and how consistent differences in behaviour can drive the unequal distribution of critical resources.

30 January, Cosima Locher, University of Plymouth and University of Basel, Making the non-specifics specific – what we can learn from placebos to improve treatment of depression and chronic primary pain syndromes

  • Chronic primary pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia, chronic migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic low back pain, and complex regional pain syndrome pose a major problem of public health. Along similar lines, depression is a highly prevalent disorder and one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. In both cases, this is a result of the re-current nature of the burden and its excessive economic costs, mortality, and morbidity rates. Therefore, it is crucial for clinical decision making to identify which treatment strategies should be employed to produce the most favorable outcome in the treatment of chronic primary pain and depression. For both conditions, an array of pharmacological, psychological, physical and complementary interventions is available, for which previous research has demonstrated varying effect sizes with regard to effectiveness. Despite extensive advances in multiple fields, chronic primary pain syndromes and depression remain difficult to treat: adverse events are prevalent, relapse rate and chronicity are high and prescriptions of opioid medications for chronic primary pain syndromes have increased dramatically. Despite these hurdles, it should be noted that both conditions show clinically and statistically significant placebo responses. It is well known that placebo responses are related to non-specific factors, e.g., the relationship between a physician and a patient, the plausible rationale of the treatment, patients’ expectations, as well as aspects of the treatment setting and environment. Could placebo research help us to improve interventions and deepen our understanding of the mechanisms related to treatment success? In this talk, I will first present (network) meta-analytic findings regarding the efficacy of placebo compared to pharmacological interventions on the example of a migraine and depression, also with the focus on potential moderators of placebo outcomes. Network meta-analytic approaches are interesting since they allow to, directly and indirectly, compare multiple interventions with each other. Beyond that, various control groups can be contrasted: There are indications that active controls, which provide scope for non-specific factors show better effects than passive controls such as waiting lists, in which the impact of non-specific factors is negligible. In a second step, I will discuss possible ways of how to harness placebo mechanisms and thus non-specific factors in clinical practice. This is especially challenging when one bears in mind that the clinical use of placebos is not warranted since placebo administration involves deception and the violation of patients’ autonomy. Interestingly, though, some recent research findings question whether deception is indeed an unalienable characteristic of the placebo effect and insinuates the possibility of openly prescribed placebos with full transparency.


12 December 2018, Colin Davis, University of Bristol, Cracking the code with the help of subliminal priming and big data

  • A key outstanding problem in the field of visual word recognition is the quest to crack the orthographic code underlying reading. This theoretical focus has led to the emergence of multiple competing models of the orthographic code.
    A powerful tool for testing these models is a type of subliminal priming called masked form priming. In this talk I’ll offer a new account of how this type of priming works. I’ll then discuss data from large-scale priming experiments conducted across many universities (including Plymouth!).
    Testing thousands of participants allows us to achieve a high level of precision, and thereby to adjudicate between models better than ever before. These data motivate a new model of orthographic coding that can explain 99% of the variance in a large set of priming estimates. This model may have interesting implications for the relationship between reading and memory for serial order.

5 December 2018, Sue Denham, University of Plymouth, Auditory scene analysis: support and challenges for predictive coding

  • Perception seems so simple. I look out of the window to see houses, trees, people walking past, the sky above, the grass below. I hear birds in the trees, cars going past, the distant sound of an alarm. The world is full of objects that make their presence known to me through my senses – what could be more simple? Yet the efficacy of perceptual experience hides a host of questions for which we do not yet have the answers.
    Information reaching our senses is generally incomplete, ambiguous, distributed in space and time and not neatly sorted according to its source, so a key function of our perceptual systems is to discover the likely causes of our sensations. Perception as inference or hypothesis testing, formalised in the predictive coding theory, offers an attractive framework for exploring these issues. From this perspective, regularities or patterns provide perceptual systems with some traction, allowing the formation of expectations and a basis for decomposing the world into discrete objects.
    But in the dynamic world which we inhabit, object representations must be similarly dynamic and need to form and dissolve, dominate and yield, in a way that facilitates veridical perception. In this talk, I will discuss auditory scene analysis in the context of predictive coding using experimental data, exemplar models, and the phenomenon of perceptual multistability.

21 November 2018, Judy Reed Edworthy, University of Plymouth, Shut the beep up! A new safety standard for medical devices

  • We’ve known for a very long time that typical clinical device audible alarms, as embodied in a global medical device standard IEC 60601-1-8, are poor along many dimensions and are largely unfit for use.
    However, changing the content of an international standard is a very slow process with many costly and time-consuming phases and pitfalls along the way. Thus those unfit alarms have remained in the standard long after they were known to be poor. It took the lucky coincidence of the prospect of a revision of the standard due late 2019, a REF deadline of 2020 and some lucrative consultancy contracts to fuel the process of updating the standard.
    The update includes conducting the underpinning research, development, and committee work (largely in the US) which I have been carrying out since 2015. In this talk, I describe some of these studies and will talk about the progress of this new standard, and its potential to improve clinical safety.

14 November 2018, Lennart Verhagen, University of Oxford, On the future of neurostimulation and neuroimaging

  • Neuroimaging and neurostimulation tools have reshaped the landscape of psychology research. Despite, or perhaps because of, their tremendous popularity the development of core fMRI, EEG, MEG, TMS, and tCS functionality has all but halted.
    Instead, the advances of tomorrow seem to be made on a myriad of far-out fronts. In this talk I would like to present a small and humble selection of recent advances in these fields: 1) multi-band multi-echo fMRI acquisition, 2) unified cross-species MRI analysis, and 3) a novel tool to achieve non-invasive deep brain neuromodulation with high precision: transcranial focused ultrasound.
    Following the main talk, I would like to invite a discussion on the future of neurostimulation and neuroimaging, focussing both on technological advances and on opportunities created by changing culture, including open-science and machine-learning approaches.

7 November 2018, Tom Beesley, University of Lancaster, Attentional mechanisms of human associative learning

  • Attentional processing is at the heart of human learning, since there exists a very clear reciprocal relationship: as we start to learn about the world, our attention is biased in interesting ways, and these attentional biases affect how we learn in the future. In this talk I will describe recent work exploring the role of uncertainty in guiding attention and learning.
    These data suggest an important distinction should be made between "expected" and "unexpected" uncertainty. When we expect a certain level of uncertainty, we appear to be less vigilant to changes in our environment, and hence learning occurs more slowly. In contrast, the sudden onset of uncertainty appears to engage both attention and learning. I will discuss how these effects might be handled by classic models of associative learning

31 October 2018, Ellie Lloyd, University of Plymouth, Terms of engagement as a pre-context for person-centred care: theory building from qualitative data

  • This seminar will explore the role of social interaction in notions of person-centredness, drawing on the primary analysis of data from an evaluation of the Integrated Personal Commissioning programme in the South West of England. We will also explore the process of generating Realist (Baskar, 2008) and other programme theories from qualitative data
    The IPC programme is part of a movement in the NHS towards promotion of person-centred care. It aims to break with paternalistic, biomedical tradition by engaging in a guided narrative and collaborative planning process with people with long term conditions to consider ‘what matters to you rather than what is the matter with you’ and to identify what they want to achieve in social and psychological, as well as physical, wellbeing. A health budget may be allocated to achieve their goals. 
    In this study, participants did not always find it easy to express their aspirations and identify how the programme could best support them, finding ‘empowerment’ unfamiliar in this context. They engaged in discourses of candidacy and ethics and since they were familiar with a national narrative of scarcity, suspected ulterior motives of the service.
    One of the unanticipated outcomes of the process was the formation of social networks among the participants, who were identified by a health selection process as people who ‘fall through the gaps’ of care, such that the participant group itself became an unintended resource of the programme.
    The findings balance a model of ‘person’ centredness that focuses on the uniqueness of the individual, with a relational perspective that considers the person within a social context, which also includes the health professional. (Naldemirci, 2016).

24 October 2018, Elsa Fouragnan, University of Plymouth, Testing the causal role of cortical networks underlying decision-making

  • The neural basis of decision-making has recently become one of the central topics in systems and cognitive neuroscience. In this talk, I will discuss our recent progress in understanding the neural correlates of value-based decision making in humans and non-human primates.
    I will illustrate that a multimodal approach which brings together computational modelling, neuroimaging and neurostimulation can be used to identify distributed networks associated with decision making while at the same time provide causal and mechanistic evidence for the functional contribution of the brain regions comprising these networks.

17 October 2018, Charles Abraham, University of Melbourne, Behaviour Change Interventions: Design and Evaluation, Deconstruction and Implementation

  • The talk will assess how behaviour change intervention is impacting on health, health care and health policy. It will consider how we might develop behaviour change research so as to optimise applied impact. Co-creation of interventions will be highlighted in order to ensure acceptability, sustainability and effectiveness in practice.
    The talk will illustrate how better use can be made of available scientific evidence in relation to information provision, persuasive communication and behavioural regulation, drawing on the Information Motivation Behavioural Skills Model.
    It will be argued that an experimental approach to identifying modifiable regulatory process and selecting change techniques is foundational to effective behaviour change design. This will be considered in light of the reflective impulsive model of behavioural regulation.
    The importance of process evaluation of interventions will be emphasised and the use of meta-analyses to retrospectively identify modifiable processes and intervention features associated with effectiveness will be discussed. Finally NUDGEs will be briefly discussed.

10 October 2018, Dr Nicole Robinson, Queensland University of Technology, Humanoid robotics in healthcare in Australia

  • Nicole Robinson is a Research Fellow for the Australian Centre of Robotic Vision on the Humanoid Robotics project: An R&D project supported by the Queensland Government.
    Nicole will discuss the current state of humanoid healthcare robotics in health clinics and hospital services in Australia, including recent developments in humanoid social robotics that can be applied to new healthcare treatments and interventions.

03 October 2018, Dr Maggie Brennan, University of Plymouth, “We can’t arrest our way out of this”. Challenges, Requirements and “what works” in the management and prevention of online child sexual offending behaviour.

  • Research on online sex offending has documented dramatic rises in the scale and impact of Child Sexual Exploitation Material (CSEM), and related sexual offences.
    The combined challenges of offence volume and complexity has made prosecution and case management increasingly difficult. Moreover, a lack of emphasis on the integration of empirically-based good practice in the management and prevention of online sex offending has created major practical challenges for the police, courts, probation, mental health and other services responsible for risk management and treatment provision decisions.
    In 2014, the International Association for the Treatment of Sexual Offenders supported the establishment of the International Working Group on Best Practice in the Management of Online Sexual Offending (IWG_OSO). Led by Dr Maggie Brennan (University of Plymouth), Professor Derek Perkins (West London Mental Health Trust and Royal Holloway, London) and Dr Hannah Merdian (University of Lincoln), the group engaged in a in a wide-ranging review of international research, practice and policy on the management and prevention of online child sexual offending.
    Focus was given to current challenges in online sex offending, associated professional needs, and good management and prevention practice. The IWG_OSO has now completed the first phase of its work, which includes the above-described review and the results of an international Delphi consultation exercise.
    This involved offender management, mental health and therapy services, policymakers, law enforcement and researchers, from an initial cohort of over two thousand participants. In this session, we will review the major findings and recommendations of the first report of the IWG_OSO, with attention to specific challenges, requirements and good practice across offender management and prevention spheres.
    Using relevant case examples, we will discuss current challenges and possible management and prevention solutions advised by the IWG_OSO stakeholders in relation to risk assessment and treatment interventions, policing, prevention methods and research – as well as reviewing persistent barriers to change.

16 May 2018, Professor Nicola Bruno, University of Parma, Understanding Selfies: Theory, taxonomy and data

  • We live in the age of selfies, but selfies have received relatively little attention within the social cognitive sciences. Based on early work on proxemic behavior [proxemics refers to the amount of space that people set between themselves and others] and on partial results already in the literature, I will propose a theoretical framework for understanding selfies as a novel form of nonverbal communication.
    This framework proves useful to define a non-arbitrary taxonomy of the selfie genre and to spell out empirical predictions about selfie-related proxemic indices, compositional features of selfie images that can be related to communicative intentions for self-presentation by the selfie takers.
    I will conclude presenting empirical tests of some of these predictions using different types of selfie databases.
    A comprehensive understanding of selfies may have implications for theoretical accounts of nonverbal communication, for social policies, and for some technological applications.

9 May 2018, Dr Roger Newport, University of Loughborough, Unexpected Body Representations

  • The representation of the body in the brain (how our body feels to us) is built on sensory information and prior expectations, the experience of which is only accessible to each individual.
    How sensory information modifies (or fails to modify) prior expectations and vice versa – may be the key to understanding a range of body representation disorders in which the body perceived by the individual is very different from reality.
    Unexpected body representations that challenge prior expectations and/or modify sensory perception are relatively easy to induce in most healthy individuals, but can these techniques be utilised in clinical populations to help those with distorted body representations?

2 May 2018, Professor Harold Bekkering, University of Nijmegen, Exteroceptive and proprioceptive contributions to the prediction of other's actions

  • It is argued that the primary function of the brain is too minimize prediction errors about how the world will look like next. Other agents are affecting the world massively.
    In series of experiments, we investigated the contribution of exteroceptive and proprioceptive experiences on how well we can predict other's actions to shed some new light on the underlying brain circuits and early cognitive development of action prediction mechanisms.

25 April 2018, Dr Huw Williams, University of Exeter, The – usually – hidden brain injury: a target for violence prevention?

  • Neurodisabilities (NDs) have been known to be present in people in custody. The links between NDs and crime are not well understood. Crime is, of course, multi-determined with a host of risk factors.
    However, we have identified how Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a key factor in violent crime. It is linked to earlier, more violent and persistent, offending. Importantly, it can be managed. More than half of people in prisons have had a brain injury. Many with significant injury (2 in 10). Brain Injury leads people to being impulsive, poor at problem-solving, and with poor social communication skills – with increased chances of mental health and drug misuse.
    TBI is a key factor in the development of "Personality" factors linked to offending - particularly from childhood and young adulthood. We have shown that TBI in young people in custody (average age 16) is linked to suicidality.
    Various bodies in UK (YJB & MoJ, NICE, Justice Committees of Scottish and London Parliaments), New Zealand (Youth Justice), France (Ministry of Health) and USA (Juvenile systems New York) have implemented new initiatives to take account of TBI. To improve rehabilitation of offenders, and reduce crime in society.
    Initiatives include: screening for TBI; TBI Link-workers in prisons and enhanced formulation for vulnerable young people (YJB Wales). By addressing TBI and NDs it is likely that interventions may be improved."

21 March 2018, Professor Steve Strand, University of Oxford, English as an Additional Language and educational achievement in England.

  • In England there are now over 1.25 million pupils aged 5–16 recorded as having English as an Additional Language (EAL), representing over 1-in-6 (18%) of all pupils.
    Drawing on a major report he produced for the Educational Endowment Foundation (EEF), Steve will present an analysis of the England National Pupil Database (NPD) and summarise issues regarding trends, demographics and educational achievement of these young people at age 5, 7, 11 and 16.
    Both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses will be presented, controlling for a range of confounding variables. Broadly speaking pupils with EAL start school with lower achievement than their mono-lingual English speaking peers, but there is no maths gap at age 11 and a negligible gap in overall achievement at age 16.
    The presentation will tease out the particular groups and combinations of factors associated with the risk of low educational achievement and consider implications for schools, Local Authorities and national Government, including how they collect and use a wide range of data to identify, fund and address educational needs.

14 March 2018, Dr Harriet Tenenbaum, University of Surrey, Children's Reasoning about Economic Inequality

  • Two studies investigated aspects of children's reasoning about economic inequality. In the first study, children completed a Brief Implicit Association Task (BIAT) about social class.
    Child (aged 7, 9, and 11 years) were also read six vignettes in which an adult protagonist determined outcomes for children from either a lower- or an upper-class background.
    Although nine - and 11-year-old children demonstrated implicit bias, seven-year-old children did not. It was not until nine years of age, however, children were able to incorporate information about the likelihood of discrimination into account when deciding whether a class-related behaviour was unfair.
    In the second study, Participants (8, 11, 14, and 20 years) were asked to judge and reason about the acceptability of social exclusion from novel groups by children and head teachers and were assigned to one of three conditions, in which novel groups varied based on unequal economic status, location, or no reason.
    When judging a head teacher as a perpetrator, eight-year-olds assigned to the unequal economic status condition rated exclusion as worse than those assigned to the other conditions.
    In contrast, 14-year-olds assigned to the unequal economic condition rated exclusion as more acceptable than those assigned to the other conditions. 11-, and 14-, and 20-year-olds used reasoning to suggest that they accepted exclusion based on economic inequality.
    The studies converge in suggesting that with age, people accept economic inequality and do not perceive it as unfair.

7 March 2018, Dr Diego S. Maranan, University of the Philippines Open University, Haplós: Using and contributing to the cognitive sciences by designing vibrating clothing

  • Impactful, interdisciplinary collaboration – in which the sciences, arts, and humanities contribute and benefit equally – is difficult to achieve. In this talk, new media artist Diego Maranan discusses how theories and approaches from the cognitive sciences were brought to bear on a collaborative, interdisciplinary, arts-based research in wearable technology, which in turn led to novel findings and new research directions in the cognitive and social sciences, as well as potential commercial applications.
    Drawing from somaesthetic philosophy, somatic practices, and technology design, Diego's research culminated in Haplós – a novel, wearable, programmable, remotely controlled technology using vibrating motors that can increase body awareness.
    In collaboration with members of the Cravings Lab at the University of Plymouth, Haplós was also used in a controlled experiment to investigate how vibrotactile stimuli could influence food cravings.
    Haplós was also used in RE/ME, a collaborative project exploring how to manipulate the perception of one's body size and shape, and which was recently awarded a grant to enable further development at a technology incubator in the Silicon Valley.
    Other potential applications of Haplós and tentative recommendations for how to successfully drive art-science collaborations will be discussed.

28 February 2018, Dr Andrew Logan, Bradford University, Identifying Impairments of Face Perception with a Novel Clinical Test

  • Faces are amongst the most complex stimuli that the visual system processes. To quantify face discrimination sensitivity, we use synthetic faces which combine simplicity with sufficient realism to permit individual identification.
    We have developed a new clinical test of face perception which is fast (three to four minutes), repeatable (test-re-test r2=0.795) and can capture normal variability. The Caledonian face test uses an adaptive procedure to measure face discrimination thresholds; the minimum difference required between individual identities for reliable discrimination.
    A case report of a patient with suspected developmental prosopagnosia indicated that the test is highly sensitive to impairments of face perception (Z-score of -7; c.f. Z-score of -2 for existing face tests).
    An investigation of the effect of healthy ageing on face discrimination ability revealed that sensitivity to full faces continuously declined by approximately 13% per decade, after 50 years of age.
    While older adults performed poorer in every aspect of face perception, there was no effect of age for shape discrimination in an otherwise identical test protocol. This suggests that face discrimination may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of healthy ageing. Current work aims to quantify the effect of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – a leading cause of visual impairment in the UK on face discrimination ability.
    On average, AMD reduces sensitivity to full faces by a factor of approximately 1.75X. Our data suggest that AMD does not impair discrimination of all face features equally, but disproportionately reduces sensitivity to those which facilitate aspects of non-verbal communication (e.g. facial expressions).

21 February 2018, Professor Aldo Badiani, University of Sussex, Your brain on drugs: Not the same everywhere

  • Addictive drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or alcohol are often thought to be the same in their ability to produce ‘pleasure’ by activating the ‘reward’ circuitry of the brain.
    In this lecture, I will show that different classes of drugs produce unique neurobiological effects and distinctive internal states, which in turn are exquisitely sensitive to the environment surrounding drug use.

14 February 2018, Professor Howard Bowman, Universities of Birmingham and Kent at CanterburyThe Theory and Practice of Breakthrough Percepts, with Application to Deception Detection on the Fringe of Awareness

  • The brain searches the environment for salient stimuli. We argue that this process is, at least in part, subliminal, with stimuli that are salient breaking into awareness.
    We investigate this breakthrough process with Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP), in which stimuli are presented rapidly (perhaps 12 per second) at the same spatial location.
    The Fringe-P3 method combines RSVP with EEG to provide a concealed knowledge test, which we have demonstrated has high sensitivity and specificity. Importantly, we have also shown that the Fringe-P3 method is resistant to the standard counter-measures that have confounded other deception detectors.
    This is due to the rapid mode of presentation, which renders participants unable to identify the control/irrelevant stimulus. Taking inspiration from these counter-measures experiments, we have further shown that in RSVP, the evidence does not accumulate across repetitions of a stimulus, unless it breaks through into awareness.
    This provides supporting evidence for a prediction of the Simultaneous Type/Serial Token model that the representation of episodic information is a conscious process.


6 December 2017, Dr Mark Haselgrove, University of Nottingham, Making and breaking a cognitive map

  • Human and non-human animals can use information provided by the geometry of the environment to navigate towards hidden goals. Despite a relative paucity of evidence, environmental geometry has been suggested to constitute a key component of global, allocentric representations of space – The cognitive map (e.g. Gallistel, 1990). Other research, however, has emphasised the role of more local, and egocentric, representations of environmental geometry for navigation (e.g. Pearce, 2009).
    In this lecture, I will present evidence for the use of both of these frames of representation during spatial navigation in virtual environments in human participants. In particular, we examined whether navigation based on these two representational frames is susceptible to interference from other spatial information (e.g. landmarks).
    Our results indicate that both cognitive maps and more local, egocentric, representations of space are susceptible to interference effects such as overshadowing, blocking or the ID-ED effect.

29 November 2017, Dr Séverin Lemaignan, School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics, From children's free play to robot's AI

22 November 2017, Professor Kenny Coventry, University of East Anglia, Spatial Demonstratives and Perceptual Space: Describing and remembering object location

  • Spatial demonstratives – terms including 'this' and 'that' – are among the most common words across all languages. Yet, there are considerable differences between languages in how demonstratives carve up space and the object characteristics they can refer to, challenging the idea that the mapping between spatial demonstratives and the vision and action systems is universal.
    Overviewing findings from multiple experiments, I show direct parallels between spatial demonstrative usage in English and (non-linguistic) memory for object location, indicating close connections between the language of space and non-linguistic spatial representation.
    Spatial demonstrative choice in English and immediate memory for object location are affected by a range of parameters – distance, ownership, visibility and familiarity – that are lexicalized in the demonstrative systems of some other languages. The results support a common set of constraints on language used to talk about space and on (non-linguistic) spatial representation itself.
    While demonstrative systems are not diagnostic of the parameters that affect demonstrative use in a language, demonstrative systems across languages may emerge from basic distinctions in the representation and memory for object location.
    In turn, these distinctions offer a building block from which non-spatial uses of demonstratives can develop.

15 November 2017, Dr Natalia Lawrence, University of Exeter, Apps for Overeating? Using Cognitive Training to Modify Impulses towards Food 

  • This talk will summarise research suggesting that computerised tasks can be used to train response inhibition to foods resulting in reduced food intake and weight loss.
    Results from controlled lab studies and large-scale real-world studies will be presented. Findings suggest promising training effects in adults and children.
    I will briefly discuss the possible mechanisms underlying intervention effects and consider how we might be able to optimise this training in order to achieve sustained changes in eating behaviour.

8 November 2017, Dr Domna Banakou, University of Barcelona, The Impact of Virtual Embodiment on Perception, Attitudes, and Behaviour

  • Over the past two decades extensive research in experimental psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and virtual reality has provided evidence for the malleability of our brain's body representation.
    It has been shown that, under appropriate multisensory integration, a person's body can be substituted by a life-sized artificial one, resulting in a perceptual illusion of body ownership over the fake body.
    More importantly, several studies in virtual reality have shown that when people are virtually represented with a body different to their own, they exhibit behaviours associated with attributes pertaining to that body. We will explore how we exploited Immersive Virtual Reality to induce body ownership illusions over distinct virtual bodies.
    By combining the knowledge gained from previous studies in the field, we studied the extent to which people can accept as their own, a virtual body that differs significantly from their real body.
    Additionally, we examined how an altered self-representation can influence one's self-perception, perception of the environment, and implicit biases. Moreover, by exploiting the basic concepts of action perception and agency, we tested whether it is possible to induce illusory agency over specific actions that are not carried out by the participants themselves.

1 November 2017, Dr Cordet Smart, University of Plymouth, Emergent new understandings of small groups

25 October 2017, Dr Belen Lopez-Perez, Liverpool Hope University, I want you to Feel Bad: Adults’ and Children’s Motivation in Interpersonal Affect Worsening

  • Every day in their interactions, people (agents) shape and influence others’ emotions (targets). According to the hedonic approach to emotion regulation, people generally aim to increase positive emotions in friends and induce negative emotions in foes
    However, the instrumental approach has shown that adults can be driven by an egoistic motivation and make partners feel bad if they (agents) can benefit from it
    In the first study, I will show how adults can also be altruistically motivated by making others feel negative if this can be beneficial for the target’s long-term well-being and it does not entail any direct benefit for the agent of the regulation process
    In the second study, I will present some preliminary results with children (8–10 year-olds) which support the hedonic approach; Children only worsened their game rival’s mood even when worsening their game partner’s mood could help them to get a prize
    The results will be discussed in terms of how emotion-outcome expectancies may affect people’s efforts to change others’ emotions.

18 October 2017, Gavin Buckingham, Sport and Health Sciences, University of ExeterWeight Illusions – what do they represent?

  • How good are we at determining how heavy something is? It turns out that we're actually pretty poor at this simple-seeming perceptual task. Indeed, there are several compelling illusions in which various identically-weighted objects feel as if they weigh different amounts from one another
    For example, in the size-weight illusion, small objects can feel up to 50% heavier than identically-weighted large objects. Various studies seem to indicate that prior expectations cause the size-weight illusion, but the mechanisms behind this robust perceptual effect are not well understood
    I will present data from a number of studies examining real and illusory weight perception in a range of different situations and special populations which might get us (incrementally) closer to understanding the physiological and psychological factors which drive our experience of an object's weight.

11 October 2017, Dr Gunnar Schmidtmann, Eye and Vision Research Group, University of PlymouthA Novel Database of Facial Expressions of Mental States: The McGill Face Database

  • Databases of facial expressions of mental states typically represent only a very small subset of expressions, usually the basic emotions of fear, disgust, surprise, happiness, sadness, and anger.
    In order to expand the range of stimuli available for psychological and neuroscientific research (e.g. theory-of-mind), we have developed and validated a large database of pictures of facial expressions of mental states. 93 different expressions of mental states were interpreted by two native English-speaking professional actors.
    High-quality colour pictures were taken under controlled lighting and perspective conditions both in front view and side view, resulting in 372 different pictures. Results from two different validation experiments demonstrate the reliability and applicability of these stimuli. The database is available in English, French and German and is freely available for scientific, non-commercial purposes.
    In a pilot experiment, 20 healthy subjects and four patients with schizophrenia were tested with a subset of faces from the new database. The database was applied before and after a Social Cognitive Intervention Therapy.
    Preliminary results show that after the therapy the emotional states are perceived more 'strongly' than before, i.e. the patients classified the emotions more 'correctly' compared to pre-treatment performance.

4 October 2017, Dr Becky Stancer (previously McKenzie), Plymouth Institute of Education, Autism, NIHR and RDS: experiences of applying for health-related funding.

10 May 2017, Keith Jensen, University of Manchester, The Heart of Human Sociality

  • Human prosocial behaviour might be unique in the animal kingdom. The fact that we cooperate on a large scale with nonkin might be underlain by psychological mechanisms not seen in their full form in other species
    Other-regarding concerns, concern for the welfare of others, might be a core component of human sociality. While empathy might also us to know something about the feelings of others, we need to care about others so that we act.
    However, the ability to feel into others and to be concerned about others does not guarantee prosociality. We may also be uniquely antisocial, taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others and distress at their happiness.
    These concerns can motivate a range of behaviours from helping to punishment, from fairness to spite, from morality to cruelty. In this talk, I will present experimental evidence from human children and chimpanzees to suggest that other-regarding concerns emerge early in children and might not exist in our closest living relatives.

3 May 2017, Henry Otgaar, Maastricht University, Remembering and believing in the legal context

  • Memory plays a vital role in the courtroom. In the majority of criminal trials, forensic technical evidence such as DNA-samples is lacking. Legal professionals such as judges have to base their decisions then on eyewitness testimonies and statements provided by suspects.
    Since such statements contain recollections of eyewitnesses or suspects, it is of the utmost relevance that memory experts can help legal professionals in educating them about the role of memory in court. Legal cases and experimental studies have shown that people can falsely remember entire traumatic episodes such as sexual abuse which has led to wrongful convictions.
    In this talk, I will present the latest work on the role of memory in court. I will do this by presenting new work from my lab and will clarify this work with legal cases in which I was involved as an expert witness.
    Also, I will make the suggestion that in many cases, people do not remember but merely believe that an event occurred and that such beliefs are likely to play a more important part in court than memory.

26 April 2017, Chris Harris, University of Plymouth, Decisions, decisions, decisions

29 March 2017, Phil McAleer, University of Glasgow, First impressions of speaker personality from voices

  • Previous work from our group showed that the key personality traits listeners establish upon hearing novel voices can be reduced to a two-dimensional space aligned to ratings of Trustworthiness and Dominance.
    The 'Social Voice Space' shows remarkable consistency to the main personality traits found in other domains, including face perception, and is proposed to drive our decisions of whether to enact approach or avoidance behaviour.
    In this talk, I will provide a brief summation of the 'Social Voice Space' before presenting results from ongoing work that looks to establish the stability of such personality judgements across changing listener and speaker scenarios. I will conclude by outlining work exploring a proposed positivity bias in older listeners towards younger voices.

22 March 2017, Claire Braboszcz, University of Plymouth, Neuroscience of mental imagery

15 March 2017, Lisa Leaver, Exeter University, Cognition in grey squirrels: what we know and why it matters

1 March 2017, Paul Artes, University of Plymouth, Super-Vision – designing new vision tests with hyperacuity stimuli: rewards and challenges.

  • Hyperacuities are a class of visual tasks with exquisitely low thresholds, with performance approximately ten times better than suggested by the spacing of retinal receptors.
    For example, human observers can detect misalignment between two lines (Vernier acuity), or distortions of a circular object (radial deformation acuity), of the order of a few seconds of arc.
    This seminar will illuminate some new clinical applications of hyperacuity stimuli for vision measurements in clinical practice, and discuss what innovations will be needed to translate cutting-edge visual psychophysics into practical clinical tools.

22 February 2017, Daryl O'Connor, University of Leeds, Karoshi: Effects of Stress on Health and Wellbeing

  • This talk will argue that stress may indirectly contribute to health risk and reduced longevity to the extent that it produces deleterious changes in diet and/or helps maintain maladaptive health behaviours (e.g. smoking, alcohol consumption) as well as directly by influencing biological processes across the life span (e.g. blood pressure, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis functioning).
    Studies investigating the relationship between chronic stress, perseverative cognition, the cortisol response and health outcomes will be presented.
    The second half of the talk will describe recent work investigating the role of HPA axis responses to stress in suicide attempters and ideators. The importance of studying the effects of stress across the life course and developing stress management interventions will also be highlighted.

8 February 2017, Debbie Mills, Bangor University, Interactions between language experience, emotion, and executive function: ERP studies of bilingual adults

1 February 2017, Sylvia Pan, Goldsmiths, University of London, What is Virtual Reality and How Does it Work for Social Psychologists?

25 January 2017, Andy Wills, University of Plymouth, Progress in modelling through distributed collaboration: Concepts, tools, and examples

  • Formal modelling in psychology is failing to live up to its potential due to a lack of effective collaboration. As a first step towards solving this problem, the Catlearn Research Group have produced a set of freely-available tools for distributed collaboration.
    In this talk, I'll describe those tools and the conceptual framework behind them. I'll also provide concrete examples of how these tools can be used. The approach I propose enhances, rather than supplants, more traditional forms of publication.\
    All the resources for this project are freely available from the catlearn website.

18 January 2017, Lorraine Whitmarsh, Cardiff University, Behaviour change or lifestyle change? Evidence and prospects for behavioural 'spillover'

  • There is increasing acknowledgment that profound changes to individual behaviour are required in order to tackle climate change, and yet policies to achieve these changes have so far met with limited success.
    Most people are willing to make only very small changes to their lifestyle – so new ways of encouraging green behaviour which can match the scale of the climate change challenge are needed.
    The UK government and several psychologists have suggested behavioural 'spillover' might be a way to achieve this. Spillover is the notion that taking up one green behaviour (e.g. recycling) can lead on to other green behaviours (e.g. taking your own bags shopping). Ultimately, this might hold the key to moving beyond piecemeal behaviour change to achieving more ambitious, holistic lifestyle change.
    This seminar will present initial work to explore when spillover does, does not, and could, occur using: UK correlational data, a field experiment of the Welsh carrier bag change, and lab experiments to induce behavioural spillover. Planned work to explore spillover across diverse cultures will also be outlined.


14 December 2016, Iris Englehard, University of Utrecht, How does EMDR work? A dual-task approach to degrading traumatic memories

7 December 2016, Anne Dowker, University of Oxford Maths, Anxiety in Girls

30 November 2016, Laurence White, University of Plymouth, The Origins of Speech Anti-Rhythm

23 November 2016, Felicity Bishop, Southampton University, Harnessing Placebo Effects in Routine Primary Care: GPs' and Patients' Perspectives

  • Placebos are an essential tool in randomised clinical trials, where they are used to control for bias and contextual healing effects. More controversially, researchers are developing ways of harnessing placebo effects for patient benefit in routine medical practice
    In this seminar, I will describe a programme of work investigating professional and lay attitudes to clinical applications of placebo effects. Our web-based survey of 783 UK GPs showed that 97% of GPs have used placebos in clinical practice, and that so-called 'pure' placebos (e.g. sugar pills) are used rarely but 'impure' placebos (e.g. homeopathy) are used frequently
    Qualitative analysis of GPs' comments revealed that they perceived a broad array of perceived harms and benefits of placebo-prescribing, reflecting fundamental bioethical principles at the level of the individual, the doctor-patient relationship, the NHS, and society
    While some GPs were adamant that there was no place for placebos in clinical practice, others saw placebo effects as ubiquitous and potentially beneficial in primary care.
    Our focus group and survey research with patients demonstrates similarly strongly-held and diverse views about harnessing placebo effects in routine primary care
    If placebo effects are to be better harnessed to benefit patients, then patients and GPs would benefit from educational interventions to dispel myths, challenge misconceptions, and increase knowledge. I will finish by describing our current work to develop such interventions.

16 November 2016, Jonathan Rolison, University of Essex, Risk-taking differences across adulthood: A question of age, domain, and self-perceptions.

9 November 2016, Sobanawartiny Wijeakumar, University of East Anglia, 'Shining light' on visual working memory

  • Visual working memory (VWM) plays a key role in visual cognition, comparing percepts and identifying changes in the world as they occur. Previously, functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) has identified activation in frontal, parietal and temporal areas involved in VWM processing.
    There are, however, various issues with trying to use fMRI to investigate such brain functions in infancy and childhood and even in late adulthood.
    Instead, one can rely on functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to investigate hemodynamic changes in the cerebral cortex in both typical and atypical populations.
    Here, we will show a novel image reconstruction approach to move from conventional channel-based to voxel-based fNIRS activation, similar to what is obtained from fMRI analyses.
    I will validate this approach by comparing voxel-wise fNIRS results to fNIRS results from a VWM task in young adults. I will also present some evidence of using this approach to investigate VWM changes in the brain across the human life span.

26 October 2016, Bob French, University of Borgouyne

  • Games involving cognitive skills of any kind have at least one thing in common: an adult can without the slightest effort beat a five-year-old child at them. With one exception: Concentration. The game works like this
    A deck of cards consisting of pairs of various images, for example, pairs of images of various Pokemon characters: two Pikachu cards, two Charizard cards, two Gyarados cards, etc., is randomly dealt out, face down, on the table
    Each of the two players takes turns turning over two cards. If they match, they keep that pair of cards and play again. If the two cards turned over do not match, they are turned face down again in their original locations and the other player plays
    The game continues until there are no more cards on the table. The winner is the person with the most cards. Clearly this game requires two different memory skills: image-recollection and location-recollection
    Along with other researchers, we have shown that adults are very significantly better at both of these memory skills than young children
    And yet, children perform as well, and often better, than adults at this game, one that requires both image – and location – recognition! How on earth is this possible? I present a simple connectionist model that provides insight for a possible solution to this paradox
    The model suggests that no separate mechanisms are required for children to achieve their astonishingly good performance on this task. It also suggests a way for you to not be humiliated by being thrashed by your five-year-old child at this game.

19 October 2016, William Simpson, University of Plymouth, What causes the other-race effect? Evidence from classification images

2 October 2016, Graham Turpin, University of Sheffield, Books on prescription, self-help and trauma: a cautionary tale

  • Bibliotherapy and self-help are recognized features of many UK mental health services. Since the pioneering work of Neil Frude, Books on Prescription (BOP) Schemes have arisen in many NHS services through partnerships with public libraries.
    At the same time, the importance of 'Stepped Care Models' of service delivery has been stressed, whereby Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners offer low intensity psychological interventions such as bibliotherapy and self-help.
    A recent national development by a leading charity involving public libraries, the Reading Agency, has drawn these two initiatives together.
    The progress made in rolling out nationally the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme covering common mental health conditions, dementia, young people's mental health and long-term physical conditions will be briefly reviewed.
    It cannot be assumed, however, that every self-help intervention is effective in moderating symptoms and psychological problems. Research on providing self-help information to people who have recently attended hospital Accident and Emergency departments will be presented.
    Although attendees generally value being given relevant information, no evidence of the efficacy of information provision on moderating symptoms of PTSD was obtained in three independent RCTs. The implications of these studies for self-help provision are discussed.

5 October 2016, Bahar Koymen, Manchester University, Putting heads together: Children's reasoning with others

  • Reasoning is classically viewed as an individual skill enabling a person to reach conclusions based on evidence. More recent accounts, however, have highlighted that reasoning – in the more restricted sense of explicating reasons for actions or conclusions – is a fundamentally social skill enabling two or more people to produce and evaluate one another's arguments in order to reach joint decisions (Mercier & Sperber, 2011; Tomasello, 2014).
    Therefore, in making joint decisions with a partner, children must evaluate the evidence behind their respective claims and so the rationality of their respective proposals. In this talk I will present series of studies in which three-, five-, and seven-year-old children produced and evaluated reasons with their peer partners to reach joint decisions.
    The findings overall suggest that children as young as three-year-olds are able to reason with others. Children get better at reasoning in late preschool ages and eventually become very 'strategic' reasoners at school ages.
    Overall, these results support the view of children's joint reasoning as a fundamentally cooperative enterprise aimed at making jointly rational decisions.

11 May 2016, Harry Farmer, UCL, Embodiment

  • The last 20 years have seen an explosion of interest in the self within cognitive science. However, research on this topic has often been disjointed with researchers from cognitive neuroscience emphasising the importance of a bodily form of self which is formed by the integration of sensory inputs and motor outputs while researchers from the social sciences have tended to view the self as an abstract conceptual structure
    In this talk, I will present a series of studies which investigated whether bodily and conceptual forms of self-representation interact with one another and how this affected our perceptions of other people.
    I will first present a series of studies which investigated the effect of skin colour on body ownership and found that experiencing body ownership over a hand with the skin colour of a racial out-group led to more positive implicit attitudes towards members of that racial out-group and modulated their empathic motor resonance to painful stimuli on the hand of that out-group member.
    I will go on to discuss a second series of studies that examined the relationship between trust and body representation using economic games and fMRI.

4 May 2016, Nicola Byrom, Oxford University, Attending to the bigger picture; attentional breadth may be influencing how we construct models of life experience

23 March 2016, Ian Apperly, University of Birmingham, How do we take other people's perspectives, and who cares?

  • A growing literature on perspective-taking paints a complex picture. Perspective-taking may be spatial or social; automatic or controlled; and clearly depends on multiple cognitive mechanisms.
    I will describe some recent results from adults and children that suggest there is order in this chaos. One reason why we should care about this because it provides a powerful framework for investigating individual differences in healthy and pathological perspective-taking.

16 March 2016, Jelena Havelka, University of Leeds, Visuospatial bootstrapping effects in working memory

  • It has recently been demonstrated that immediate memory for digits is superior when items are presented in a meaningful 'keypad' spatial configuration.
    This phenomenon, termed 'visuospatial bootstrapping', involves the integration of verbal and spatial information in working memory via stored knowledge in long-term memory. We have recently explored the basis of this effect experimentally using dual-task manipulations, with outcomes indicating contributions to verbal-spatial binding from spatial working memory and modality-general storage (possibly within the episodic buffer).
    We have also examined the extent to which the effect emerges in different population groups, including children of different ages, healthy older adults, and individuals with mild cognitive impairment.
    An overview of this recent work will be provided, along with a consideration of current and future directions.

9 March 2016, Reinout Wiers, University of Amsterdam, Assessing and Changing Implicit Cognition in Addiction

  • Dual process models have described addiction as a combination of relatively strong bottom-up cue-related neurocognitive processes and relatively weak top-down cognitive control processes.
    In line with this perspective, we found across several studies a larger impact of memory associations and approach tendencies on behaviour in adolescents with relatively weak cognitive.
    Dual-process models have recently come under fire, but we think they can still be useful at a descriptive psychological level, while more work should be done to illuminate the underlying neurocognitive mechanisms. Moreover, dual process models inspired new interventions aimed at changing relatively automatic processes in addiction, varieties of Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM) paradigms.
    I will present work on attentional re-training in alcoholism and on approach-bias re-training which have yielded clinically relevant results. I will also present some recent studies concerning online applications of CBM and on the underlying neurocognitive mechanisms in these training studies.

2 March 2016, Neil Ferguson, Liverpool Hope University, Leaving violence behind: Disengaging from terrorism in Northern Ireland

  • This presentation explores the processes involved in leaving social movements or disengaging from terrorist activities by providing an analysis of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Red Hand Commando (RHC) transformation away from politically motivated violence towards a civilian non-military role.
    Interpretative phenomenological analysis was employed to gain an understanding of participant accounts of leaving violence behind and disengaging from terrorism. Analysis of the interview transcripts revealed the interplay of individual, organisation and societal level processes in incentivising and obstructing disengagement from politically motivated violence.
    The findings resonate with other case studies exploring the processes involved in disengagement from political violence among other terror groupings across the globe.
    The results are discussed in relation to a number of topics, including the implementation DDR in post-conflict societies, the dynamic role of collective identity in the engagement in and disengagement from politically motivated violence and the role of prison in shaping disengagement from politically motivated violence.

24 February 2016, Caroline Rowland, University of Liverpool, How do children learn grammar? Evidence from production, comprehension and explanatory models

  • Research on language development, particularly the development of grammar, has traditionally focused on debating the extent to which language learning depends on innate knowledge or environmental support.
    On the one hand, many studies, mainly on speech production (e.g. Pine et al., 1998), have suggested that children start out with pockets of knowledge-based round an inventory of item-based frames.
    This evidence supports an approach that sees grammar development as a gradual process of abstraction across specific instances in the child's input. On the other hand, a different body of work, mainly on language comprehension, suggests that children use abstract grammatical categories from the earliest age tested (e.g. Gertner et al., 2006).
    This evidence supports an approach that proposes innate syntactic, semantic or conceptual knowledge at the core of grammar acquisition, and which predicts more rapid learning. However, recent work suggests that this is a false dichotomy; children and adults have both abstract knowledge and knowledge centred around lexical items at all stages of development.
    Thus, the traditional approaches are breaking down. What is replacing them is a focus on explanatory models designed to answer a different question: 'How do the child's learning mechanisms exploit information in the environment to build mature linguistic knowledge?'
    In this talk I use recent work from our lab to demonstrate what this approach has taught us so far about grammar acquisition, focussing on work that demonstrates what kind of learning mechanism best explains developmental differences in structural priming.
    I show how this new approach requires that we factor into our models the mechanisms underlying language processing, since the results of all studies on children's language development reflect not only children's knowledge of their language, but also the processing constraints that operate when we produce or comprehend language.

17 February 2016, Sylvia Terbeck, University of Plymouth, Recent development of two topics: Music and intergroup relations and Immersive Virtual Reality and intergroup relations

  • Social psychology might benefit from a multimodal approach including insides from music psychology as well as computer science. We recently found that music and synchronised activity might enhance empathy and reduce prejudice.
    Furthermore, besides using traditional questionnaire-based methods we developed a 3D immersive Virtual Reality (IVR) paradigm to study moral and social decisions.
    We found the IVR paradigm to be superior to previous methods as "dark tirade" personality variables could predict the more realistic IVR actions but not the theoretical decisions. Using IVR might thus have great benefit to the study of psychology, and I will show you how simple *programming* could be.

10 February 2016, Kristina Suchotzki, Wurzburg University, Germany, Lie to Me – An experimental investigation of the cognitive mechanisms underlying deception

20 January 2016, Allegra Cattani, University of Plymouth, Children's first words and gestures: A cross-linguistic study

  • Word and gesture learning emerge naturally in child development. Infants learn to speak and to gesture following the same developmental milestones.
    First, a new picture naming task, with standardisation norms of over 370 English-speaking British children, assessing the lexical subcomponents of comprehension and production in toddlers between 19 and 36 months, is presented.
    This structured task is then used to examine the lexical ability and the gesture production on a sample of British, Australian, and English toddlers. The effects of cultural and linguistic differences are explained.

13 January 2016, Markus Binderman, University of Kent, Resource limits as the cause of errors in face matching

  • In face matching, observers have to decide whether two photographs of unfamiliar faces depict the same person or different people. This task is of great applied importance for person identification at airports and national borders, but it is also prone to error. In this talk, I will look at a key cause of these errors.


9 December 2015, Helen Haste, University of Bath, Civic identity, agency, positioning – and the narratives that fuel civic engagement

  • Stories are the shared memories and aspirations through which we make meaning. They give us explanations about cause and effect, and about what is important to attend to in the past.
    They position us in relation to others and other groups. Stories both shape and reflect our identity, and they fuel our efficacious engagement with social issues.
    Attitude measurement, the "gold standard" of social research, can at best only capture the superficial level of beliefs and especially of motives.
    Drawing on data from China and South Africa, I argue that we should be seeking explanations of civic and social action and civic identities in the narratives that are central to people's identities

2 December 2015, Christian Fullgrabe, MRC Institute of Hearing Research, Nottingham, Beyond audibility – Age-related changes in speech perception despite clinically normal hearing

  • Anecdotal evidence and experimental investigations indicate that older people experience increased speech-perception difficulties, especially in noisy environments.
    Since peripheral hearing sensitivity declines with age, lower speech intelligibility can often be explained by a reduction in audibility.
    However, aided speech-perception in hearing-impaired listeners frequently falls short of the performance level that would be expected based on the audibility of the speech signal. Given that many of these listeners are older, poor performance may be caused by age-related changes in supra-threshold auditory and/or cognitive processes that are not captured by the standard clinical assessment – the audiogram.
    The presentation will discuss experimental evidence obtained from clinically normal-hearing adults showing that auditory temporal processing, cognition (e.g. processing speed, attention, memory), and speech-in-noise processing (from phoneme identification to paragraph comprehension) are indeed linked and, independently of hearing loss, decline across the adult lifespan.
    These findings highlight the need to take into account these audibility-unrelated factors in the prediction and rehabilitation of speech processing across adulthood.

25 November 2015, Jon May, University of Plymouth, 'I can resist anything except temptation': a cognitive-motivational intervention to support abstinence

  • One of the biggest psychological barriers to quit attempts are cravings for the substance or activity from which people are trying to abstain. Elaborated Intrusion theory (Kavanagh, Andrade & May, 2005) explains cravings as cognitive-emotional states in which external or internal cues trigger intrusive thoughts (I need a drink) that are then elaborated, generating embodied images of the desired substance.
    These images are rich in sensory detail (the appearance, smell and taste of a drink), simulating the desired experience and conveying the pleasure or relief of the real thing. Being proximal and concrete, these highly vivid images dominate experience and drive out the intention to abstain.
    I shall review evidence from laboratory and field studies testing EI theory, and present some preliminary data on a novel motivational intervention called Functional Imagery Training, or FIT.
    The focus of FIT is on making the imagery associated with succeeding in a quit attempt richer and more concrete so that it can compete with the shorter term temptations, and help people to withstand them.

18 November 2015, Stephanie Dornschneider, Buckingham University, Whether to Protest: Evidence from the Arab Spring.

  • During mass uprisings, why do certain people join the protests against their governments, while others stay at home?
    Focusing on structural or organizational factors that contribute to political mobilization, much of the existing literature fails to address this difference in behavior. In response, this presentation draws on the literature on beliefs and belief systems to explore the reasoning processes by which individuals (fail to) decide to join political protests.
    Focusing on the Arab Spring as a particular case, it examines 121 protestors and non-protestors from Egypt – a country where the Arab Spring protests led to the fall of the president – and Morocco – a country where the head of state did not resign as a result of the uprisings. Information about the reasoning processes of these individuals was gathered through field research (ethnographic interviews) and Facebook groups.
    To construct reasoning processes from these sources, the analysis applied qualitative methods developed by Strauss and Corbin, coding the people's direct speech into beliefs, belief connections (inferences), and decisions for actions.
    To analyze these data, which consist of trillions of combinations of beliefs and inferences, the analysis developed a computational model (in Python). The model systematically evaluates the protestors' and non-protestors' reasoning processes, contributing new insight into the sources of political protest.

11 November 2015, Clare Press, Birkbeck, University of London, Mapping between action and action perception: Domain-specificity and implications for autism

  • Mechanisms which map between the visual appearance of an action and the motor codes required to perform it are crucial for a range of functions, including imitation and action control, and possibly also play a role in action perception and understanding.
    The first part of my talk will present some studies addressing the domain-specificity of underlying mechanisms. It will examine whether the mechanisms mapping motor codes to observed actions are separable from those mapping motor codes to associated inanimate events, as required for stamping on the brake pedal when we see a red light.
    It will also investigate whether action influences perception of predicted sensory consequences in a different manner from inanimate predictive events.
    The second part of my talk will present work addressing differences in action production and perception in autism, and asking which mechanisms may be functioning atypically.

4 November 2015, Fred Cummins, University College Dublin, Prayer, Protest and Football: the Puzzles of Joint Speech

  • Joint speech is an umbrella term covering choral speech, synchronous speech, chant, and all forms of speech where many people say the same thing at the same.
    Under an orthodox linguistic analysis, there is nothing here to study, as the formal symbolic structures of joint speech do not appear to differ from those of language arising in other forms of practice.
    As a result, there is essentially no body of scientific inquiry into practices of joint speaking. Yet joint speaking practices are ubiquitous, ancient, and deeply integrated into rituals and domains to which we accord the highest significance.
    I will discuss Joint Speech, as found in prayer, protest, classrooms, and sports stadia around the world. If we merely take the time to look there is much to be found in joint speech that is crying out for elaboration and investigation.
    I will attempt to sketch the terra incognita that opens up and present a few initial findings (phonetic, anthropological, neuroscientific) that suggest that Joint Speech is far from being a peripheral and exotic special case. It is, rather, a central example of language use that must inform our theories of what language and languaging are.

21 October 2015, Stephen Hall, University of Plymouth, Brain rhythms: where do they come from and what do they mean?

  • Brain rhythms or ‘Oscillations’ are neuronal network phenomena, first recorded almost a century ago. In the time since these first recordings, brain rhythms have been studied across a wide range of species, under many different experimental conditions.
    Here, I will introduce the topic of brain rhythms, through a discussion of the various cognitive and behavioural functions in which they have been implicated. I will describe some of the basic physiological principles of oscillations and how this relates to our ability to measure them. I will discuss some of the differences between evoked and induced oscillations. Finally, I will explore some of the theories surrounding the potential significance and importance of these phenomena (or epiphenomena?).

25 March 2015, Douglas Martin, University of Aberdeen, How do cultural stereotypes form?

  • We all share knowledge of the cultural stereotypes associated with social groups (e.g., Scottish people are miserly, scientists are geeky, men like the colour blue) – but what are the origins of these stereotypes?
    We have examined the possibility that stereotypes form spontaneously as information is repeatedly passed from person to person. As information about novel social targets is passed down a chain of individuals, what initially begins as a set of random associations evolves into a system that is simplified and categorically structured.
    Following repeated social transmission, novel stereotypes emerge that are not only increasingly learnable but that also allow generalizations to be made about previously unseen social targets.
    By understanding how cognitive and social factors influence the cumulative cultural evolution of stereotypes in the lab, it might be possible to gain insight into how stereotypes might naturally evolve or be manipulated.

18 March 2015, Matt Davis, MRC-CBU, University of Cambridge, Predicting and perceiving degraded speech.

  • Human listeners are better than machines at perceiving and comprehending speech – particularly if the speech signal is acoustically degraded or ambiguous.
    This is in part because we are better at using higher-level language knowledge to support perception and we are more able to rapidly learn about speech sounds, words and meanings.
    In this talk, I will argue that a computational account of speech perception based on predictive coding explains both our ability to use prior knowledge to guide immediate perception and longer-term perceptual learning.
    I will describe recent behavioural, MEG/EEG and multivoxel pattern-analysis fMRI experiments using artificially degraded (noise-vocoded) speech that are consistent with this account.

11 March 2015, Bradley Love, University College London, Decoding the brain's algorithm for categorisation from its neural implementation

  • How do we learn to categorise novel items and what is the brain basis of these acts? In this talk, I will discuss work using model-based fMRI analyses to understand how people learn categories from examples.
    I will focus on category structures that have a rule-plus-exception structure. For example, a child may acquire the rule “If it has wings, then it is a bird,” but then must account for exceptions to this rule, such as bats.
    Results indicate that the medial temporal lobe (MTL) plays an important role in both recognising and learning exception items. I will end by considering a new method that allows one to use fMRI data to decide between competing cognitive models.
    Results indicate that the basis of category knowledge is surprisingly concrete (i.e., exemplar or episodic) in nature. This technique allows one to unravel the contributions of different processes (e.g., top-down attention) in shaping observed behaviour.