Postgraduate Conference Programme 2013

We warmly welcome you to the 4th Annual Postgraduate Conference at the
School of Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast. The postgraduate
conference has been running since September 2010 with great success, as
an opportunity for Postgraduate Research Students to showcase their
research in an informal, supportive environment.
Our keynote speaker this year is Professor Aidan Moran is Professor of
Cognitive Psychology and Director of the Psychology Research Laboratory
in University College, Dublin (UCD). We are delighted that Professor Moran
has accepted our invite to attend the conference and are very much looking
forward to his presentation.
At this year’s conference we are very pleased to include an afternoon
session with two of the new lecturers who joined the school at the
beginning of the 2012 academic year. Dr Jonathan Rolison and Dr Kinga
Morsanyi have kindly agreed to present on their respective research areas
alongside highlighting their careers within academia, followed by the
opportunity for discussion.
We hope you enjoy the conference, but please make contact with one of
the conference committee below if any issues arise during the day.
Best wishes,
Clare Carty, Jemma McGourty, Kirsty Smyth and Ross Thompson
Conference Organising Committee
We would like to express our sincere gratitude
Our keynote speaker, Prof Aidan Moran
Dr Jonathan Rolison, Dr Kinga Morsanyi
The postgraduate students presenting
The School of Psychology, Queen’s University
Belfast and the Postgraduate Centre, Queen’s
University Belfast for their generous
Conference Organising Committee
Clare Carty
Jemma McGourty
Kirsty Smyth
Ross Thompson
09:45 – 10:00
Registration, Tea and Coffee
10:00 – 10:10
Dr Clifford Stevenson
10:10 – 10:30
Welcome from Postgraduate Tutor
Claire McAroe, PhD
Can fish learn place?
Lee Beattie, PhD
10:30 – 10:50
Using adaptation to examine subsecond duration perception
in the visual modality
10:50 – 11:10
Kevin Latimer, PhD
11:10 – 11:30
11:30 – 11:50
11:50 – 12:10
12:30 – 12:50
Mechanisms Underlying Time Perception
Tea and Coffee
Ciara Laverty, PhD
Investigating the nature of auditory predictors of reading
development: Maturation, Learning and Teaching
Patrick Flack, PhD
Identity Change amongst former members of loyalist
paramilitary organisations
Eoin Travers, PhD
Motor dynamics of category-based reasoning under
Michelle O’ Loughlin, PhD
12:50 – 13:10
A Cognitive Approach to Designing Audio Description for the
Visually Impaired
13:10 – 14:15
Lunch and Poster Presentations
Prof. Aidan Moran, UCD
14:15 – 15:15
Imagination in Action: Mental Practice and Skilled
Performance in Sport and Surgery
15:15 – 15:35
Dr Jonathan Rolison
The Time Horizon of Risky Choice
Dr Kinga Morsanyi
15:35 – 15:55
Mathematical anxiety reduces cognitive reflection: The road
from discomfort in the mathematics classroom to
susceptibility to biases
16:00 – 17:00
Wine Reception and Presentation of Prizes
Keynote Speaker
Prof Aidan Moran,
Professor of Cognitive Psychology
and director of the Psychology Research
Laboratory in University College, Dublin
Contact: [email protected]
Aidan Moran completed his undergraduate degree (1977) and
Masters (1978) in Psychology at UCD and his PhD and training at the
National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG, 1984). He has held
academic posts at NUIG and UCD, and has been Head of
Department twice at UCD. He has written/co-written fifteen books
and won awards for his extensive research in Cognition and Sport
Psychology: e.g. Psychological Society of Ireland’s “Special Merit
Award”, 2004, UCD President’s Research Fellowship Sabbatical,
2008-2009, for the project “Mental Practice, Eye-Movements and
Cognition in Action” in collaboration with Imperial College, London,
and Harvard University. In 2006, Prof Moran was made inaugural
Editor-in-Chief of the “International Review of Sport and Exercise
Psychology” (IRSEP, published by Taylor and Francis, Oxford), and
has been an Official Psychologist to the Irish Olympic Squad.
Keynote Speaker
Research Interests
Prof Moran’s research interests are in Cognitive and Sport
He has investigated motor cognition, looking at
attentional and imagery processes underlying sports skills. Using an
eye-tracker, Prof Moran’s research team has studied the cognitive
and perceptual abilities that underlie how golfers judge the slope of
putting surfaces, the distinctive kinematic features of successful
putting, and the relationship between learning strategy and
attentional focus in developing complex golf skills. In addition to this,
Prof Moran has also researched how memory, visual search and the
anticipation processes of martial arts experts differ from beginners.
Also, he has researched how expert athletes differ from beginners in
feeling-oriented imagery, and if auditory imagery processes can be
measured using a real-world multi-sensory integration task.
Information sourced from
Oral Presentations
Lee Beattie, School of Psychology, QUB
Using adaptation to examine subsecond duration perception in
visual modality
Adaptation studies have suggested that subsecond event timing is encoded
by distributed, modality-specific mechanisms (Buonomano & Karmarkar,
2002; Grondin 2010). Adaptation is a technique whereby extended viewing of
a stimulus results in a perceived distortion (aftereffect) of a subsequently
presented stimulus. Johnston, Arnold and Nishida (2006) demonstrated that it
is possible to independently adapt a circumscribed area of the visual field
using oscillating stimuli. This resulted in a reduced perceived duration of
subsecond stimuli presented to the adapted region, but not elsewhere in the
visual field. By exploiting this effect it is possible to infer the underlying neural
mechanisms involved in the perception of brief intervals. This presentation will
outline some of the methods currently in use to research subsecond time
perception at Queen's.
Patrick Flack, School of Psychology, QUB
Identity change amongst former members of loyalist paramilitary
The aim of this project is to investigate the issue of identity change and, in
particular, how collective continuity (e.g. Sani, 2008) and nostalgia (e.g.
Wildschut et al, 2006) are employed to achieve this change. Psychologists
have been interested in how certain groups deal with change and how it
affects their identity (e.g. Jetten and Hutchison, 2010). Perfect examples of
identity change are loyalist paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland.
Loyalist paramilitaries are still meaningful despite the cessation of violent
conflict, highlighting the dramatic change in the functions these organisations
perform. There has been little research carried out in the Northern Ireland
context that has looked at issues such as identity change. The current project
involves a series of in-depth interviews carried out with members of these
organisations. The data I will present is based on this ongoing qualitative
research project. Notably, I will focus on the dynamics of collective continuity
and nostalgia in the process of identity re-construction
Oral Presentations
Kevin Latimer, School of Psychology, QUB
Does direction-contingent duration compression following adaptation
result from the function of retinotopically-tuned or spatiotopicallytuned neural mechanisms?
Previous research has established that adaptating to a visual stimulus can
result in the duration of a subsequent stimulus presented within the adapted
region being underestimated (Johnston, Arnold & Nishida, 2006; Burr, Tozzi &
Morrone, 2007). However there is still much debate as to whether this
phenomenon is a retinotopically-based effect or spatiotopically-based effect.
Recently Curran & Benton (2012) have provided evidence using unidirectional
stimuli that such duration compression is direction-contingent. The present
study aimed to establish whether this direction-contingent compression effect is
retinotopically-based or spatiotopically-based using an experimental procedure
that allowed the two conditions to be tested independently.
Ciara Laverty, School of Psychology, QUB
Investigating the nature of auditory predictors of reading
development: Maturation, Learning and Teaching
Reading is a complex skill which children must acquire in the early school
years. The negative consequences of failure to make adequate progress in
reading by the end of key stage one, highlights the importance of identifying
early predictors of reading development in beginning readers. This project aims
to examine the predictive validity of phonological skill, efficient phonics tuition,
auditory learning and auditory maturation for subsequent reading development
in typically developing children. Auditory learning has been assessed in study
one through examining individual patterns of change in auditory discrimination
thresholds over a 9 week learning period. Preliminary results show that
auditory learning behaviour may be separated into three subgroups which
demonstrate distinct learning patterns. Further studies will examine the
predictive contributions of auditory maturation and phonics tuition to reading
development, with a final study assessing whether an auditory predictor of
reading may be used as a diagnostic indicator of reading difficulties.
Oral Presentations
Claire McAroe, School of Biological Sciences, QUB
Can fish learn place?
Cognitive Maps are thought to be complex neural representations of a
familiar environment. Such maps allow for flexible and adaptive navigation
through a previously encountered area. Due to their allowance for flexibility,
they are thought to be more complicated strategies of navigation than
simply learning a particular route or navigating using cues. A key feature of
a cognitive map is alternative route planning- it allows the individual to
successfully navigate to the same place irrespective of start point in the
environment. Much of the research to date on cognitive mapping focuses
on humans and other mammals such as rodents. What this research seeks
to find is whether 4 different species of fish (Goldfish, Killifish, Zebrafish
and Siamese Fighting Fish) can navigate to the same location in a maze to
receive a food reward regardless of where the journey begins.
Michelle O’ Loughlin, School of Modern Languages, QUB
A cognitive approach to designing audio description for the
visually impaired
Audio description (AD) is an assistive method aimed at enabling blind
individuals to enjoy audio-visual media by having visual elements of the
media described during natural pauses in the audio. The current theory,
paradigms and normal practices of AD have until recently been solely
based on assumptions about the blind user. This project aims to contribute
a cognitive approach to modify current AD practice and theory by firstly
considering what is already known about the cognitive processing
capacities of blind individuals, and secondly by experimentally examining
how AD is experienced on a cognitive level by blind users. The findings of
this project will hopefully take AD one step closer to applied solutions that
can help to enhance the overall user-experience.
Oral Presentations
Eoin Travers, School of Psychology, QUB
Motor dynamics of category-based reasoning under uncertainty
Category-based reasoning allows us to go beyond what we know about the
world and deal with novel situations and stimuli, by providing a mechanism
of applying past experiences of category members to guide decisions about
new instances. However, this kind of reasoning has been found in the past to
be sub-optimal when categorization is uncertain, relying on the most likely
category only, rather than considering multiple possible categories in a
rational manner. The present research tests the hypothesis that implicit
motor output, as measured by mouse movements in a reasoning task, is
influenced by multiple categories in a way which explicit judgements are not.
Oral Presentations
Dr. John Rolison, School of Psychology, QUB
The time horizon of risky choice
Researchers interested in choice behavior have typically studied uncertainty
(i.e., risky choice) and time horizon (i.e., preferential choice) in isolation. We
demonstrate the importance of time horizon for risky choice by manipulating the
time horizon of risky choice outcomes. Participants made hypothetical choices
between a sure amount and a lottery gain or loss with the sure outcome, lottery
outcome, both, or neither delayed. Time horizon exacerbated risk taking
behavior when a delay was applied to the prospect of a loss, and heightened
risk aversion when the prospect of a gain was delayed. Our discovery highlights
a need to incorporate time horizon in studies of risky choice behavior and the
potential for treating risky and preferential choice within a single theoretical
Dr. Kinga Morsanyi, School of Psychology, QUB
Mathematical anxiety reduces cognitive reflection: The road from
discomfort in the mathematics classroom to susceptibility in biases
When asked to solve mathematical problems, some people experience anxiety
and threat, which can lead to impaired mathematical performance (e.g.,
Ashcraft, 2002). The present studies investigated the effect of mathematical
anxiety on performance on the cognitive reflection test (CRT; Frederick, 2005).
The CRT is a measure of a person’s ability to resist intuitive response
tendencies, and it correlates strongly with important real-life outcomes, such as
time preferences, risk-taking, and rational thinking. Our experiments with
university students (Experiment 1) and secondary school students (Experiment
2) demonstrated that mathematical anxiety was a significant predictor of
cognitive reflection, even after controlling for the effects of general mathematical
knowledge and test anxiety. Given earlier findings regarding the role of cognitive
reflection in risky decision-making and rationality, these results suggest that the
effects of mathematical anxiety extend beyond a negative impact on arithmetical
performance and career opportunities.
Clare Carty, School of Psychology, QUB
Social development and social functioning in typical development
In the current study, eye-tracking techniques were used to explore the
automaticity of looking to the eyes of faces and its relationship to social
function in typical school aged children (N=99). In three separate conditions,
participants were asked to freely view static images of faces, asked to avoid
looking at the eyes, and also asked to avoid looking at the mouth. Social
function was assessed with the Social Responsive Scale and the Social
Competence Inventory. Inhibition ability was also assessed using two
subtests from the Test of Everyday Attention for Children (TEA-Ch), as the
task specifically asked the participants to inhibit a response. The findings
revealed that the children could not completely avoid looking at the eyes
when instructed, indicating that looking to eyes is not under volitional control.
However, this automaticity of looking to the eyes was not related to social
function. The implications of these findings will be discussed.
Lisa Graham, School of Psychology, QUB
Longitudinal study; Illness representations and psychological
distress in Upper G.I. patients and carers
This study aims to investigate the relationship between illness perceptions,
coping mechanisms, and psychological distress (anxiety, depression, fear of
recurrence) in Upper G.I cancer patients and their family carers. 131 patients
with Upper G.I cancer being treated with curative intent and their family
carers will be recruited from NHS oesophago-gastric surgery units and
oncology wards across the UK. A baseline measure will be collected prior to
treatment by survey, with follow-up measures after treatment, and at 2 and 4
month follow-up. Qualitative interviews will be conducted after the survey
measures are complete. Regression analysis will be used to examine
relationships between the different blocks of variables. Cluster analysis will
be used to identify similar groups of patients. The results of this study will be
used to develop a psychological intervention to reduce distress in this
Gerard Madden, School of Psychology, QUB
Emotionally coloured discourse: Nonverbal behaviours as
indicators of communication breakdown
Human communication is an obvious example of emotional colouring in
everyday life. Isolated channels of communication (such as text- or visualonly) raise interesting questions about the relative importance of different
behaviours for expressing and recognising emotional states. Understanding
the emotional quality of verbal and non-verbal behaviour is essential to the
field of ‘affective computing’; the design of technologies that can recognise
and respond appropriately to a user’s emotional state. The Sensitive Artificial
Listener (SAL) is one such technology. SAL is an Avatar-dialogue system
designed to interact with a user in a sustained, naturalistic way by attending
to voice tone and non-verbal behaviour. Using SAL, this study investigated
non-verbal behaviours that may act as signals of communication breakdown.
Auditory feedback between the user and SAL was reduced to simulate a
breakdown. Participants rated interactions favourably or unfavourably using
interaction-quality measures. Reduction of auditory feedback had no effect on
quality ratings, necessitating an alternative analysis. The nonverbal
behaviours in the most-positively and most-negatively rated interactions were
compared. Significant differences were found for the following behaviours;
frowning (p = .029), ‘sad face’ (p < .001) and squinting (p < .001). Frowning
and sad facial expressions can clearly communicate negative affect, but the
context of squinting behaviour makes it difficult to determine if squinting
definitively signals communication breakdown. However, previous research
regarding the nature other non-verbal behaviours may make such
conclusions possible.
Jemma McGourty, School of Psychology, QUB
Do children value the future more than the past? Examining a bias in
children’s episodic future thinking
Adults tend to value the future more than the past, that is, display a temporal
value asymmetry (Caruso, Gilbert and Wilson, 2008). As it is not yet known if
children display this tendency in their episodic future thinking, a developmental
consideration was made. A task was designed where participants heard either a
past or future version of a hypothetical vignette and made a value judgment. 72
Undergraduate students (M = 21.13; SD = 6.54) participated in order for the
validity of the task to be verified. Participants valued the future version of the
vignette more than the past version, t = 2.869, df = 70, p = .005, thus participants
displayed TVA. 321 children aged 9-16 years completed a child-friendly version
of the task. There was no main effect of ‘event’ (past or future) on children’s
valuations (F < 1) so these children did not display TVA. Theoretical
considerations regarding the factors underlying TVA are discussed.
Annie Melaugh McAteer, School of Psychology, QUB
Alcohol attention bias in adolescents: An eye-tracking study
Several theories suggest a key contributing role of alcohol attention bias (AAB)
in the development of alcohol misuse and addiction. It has been reported in a
variety of populations including alcohol dependant patients and adult social
drinkers. Whilst the presence of AAB is confirmed by numerous studies, more
detailed examinations of the nature of AAB have been beyond the scope of the
methodologies employed. To date two studies have examined AAB in adolescent
groups despite high levels of alcohol use in this population. Eye tracking
provides a direct measure of attentional processing allowing us to examine the
trajectory of AAB, providing new insights in the area. This study employs eye
tracking in an adolescent population of social drinkers and non-drinkers to
examine the presence and nature of AAB in this group. AAB is measured using a
free viewing eye tracking paradigm alongside several questionnaires including
Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Task, Alcohol Expectancy QuestionnaireAdolescent and Raven’s Advanced Matrices. Results indicate drinking groups
show stronger attentional preference for alcohol stimuli compared to nondrinking groups. Details of developmental trajectory and relationship to alcohol
use and alcohol expectancy will be discussed.
Kirsty Smyth, School of Psychology, QUB
The inductive potential of religion categories for school-children in
Northern Ireland
Social inferences are generalisations people make about others based on the
social categories they belong to. Often the most meaningful categories in a
particular societal context are treated as the strongest basis for social
inference. We examined children’s use of categories to make social
generalisations across childhood, in different educational and national
contexts. An inductive inference task was used to examine generalisations
children make about whether two characters share an unfamiliar property,
based on which social categories the two share, i.e. religion, gender, or a
control category. We tested children aged 6-11 in integrated and segregated
schools in NI, and state schools in America. We found that 6-7 year old
children treat religion and the control category as equally strong bases for
inference, while the older children treat religion as stronger than the control
category. Gender was the weakest basis for inference at all ages, and by 1011 years children treat the control category as equal to gender in its
usefulness as a basis for social inference. We also found an effect of
educational context. At 10-11 years children in segregated schools in NI
make more social inferences in general, than children attending NI integrated
schools and state schools in the US. Children’s social inferences are an
index that children hold essentialist beliefs about categories. Strong
essentialist beliefs about social categories have been associated with
stereotyping and prejudice; thus, research on the essentialisation of social
categories has implications for combatting stereotyping and prejudice.
Patrick Stark, School of Psychology, QUB
Phonological segmentation is unaffected by compression or
expansion in poor readers: Evidence for the importance of temporal
speech representations for reading
The core cause of the reading difficulties experienced by some children is
believed to relate to deficient phonological awareness. A number of researchers
have proposed phonological awareness skills may be impaired as the result of
an auditory processing deficit that impacts the processing of the spectratemporal structure of speech. While the segmentation ability of a group of 20
typical proficient readers was impaired after the compression of speech, both the
poor readers (n=20) and the reading age-matched control group (n=20) were
unaffected by the modifications. This suggests that typical readers depend on
faster rate cues within speech for phonological awareness, compared with
struggling readers who were unaffected by the degradation of fast rate acoustic
Ross Thompson, School of Psychology, QUB
Factors affecting numeracy-related performance in undergraduate
psychology students
Numeracy-based quantitative methods are extremely important tools within the
psychology discipline. Yet quantitative methods courses are generally perceived
negatively by psychology undergraduates, many such students performing
poorly in such courses. Numerous examples of previous research have posited
factors that are feasibly responsible for these affective and performance-related
deficits, yet few have attempted to explore large numbers of such variables
within the framework of path analysis techniques. 118 1st year psychology
undergraduates were tested on numeracy ability, maths anxiety, maths attitudes
and various educational and demographic factors. A path analysis was then
carried out on this data, with numeracy performance being the final endogenous
variable. Results showed that a substantial minority of students tested had
extremely strong levels of negative affect towards maths. Maths anxiety and
previous educational qualifications were shown to be the strongest predictors of
poor numeracy performance. Such results can help suggest potential
interventions for improving negative affect and therefore performance.