McMaster University




Lisa deBruine
(Posted Nov 24 2005)

A new study found that the faces of women with high voices appeared more attractive -- to both men and women -- than those of women with lower voices. [more]

Martin Daly
(Posted Nov 24 2005)

Living with an unrelated adult, especially an unrelated man, substantially increases the risk that a child will die violently, researchers reported yesterday.

According to the study, children who live with adults who are not biologically related to them are nearly 50 times as likely to die at the adults' hands as children who live with two biological parents, the researchers said. [more]

Denys deCatanzaro
(Posted Nov 7 2005)

After the multiple all-nighters, second-year McMaster student Danielle Mihok was looking forward to sleeping in when the clocks moved back one hour Sunday morning, as daylight time ends. [Fully Story]

Sigal Balshine
(Posted Nov 7 2005)

In recent studies, men and women are in complete agreement that, when it comes to choosing a romantic partner, a good sense of humour is crucial. The twist is in how the two genders define this quality. [Fully Story]

United Way Mitten Campaign
(Posted Oct 27 2005)

It's time for the Mitten Challenge. The Sekuler/Bennett Lab has started things off by donating $40 to start and they have 20 paper mittens dedicated to their lab. They are challenging each lab/office to the battle for the most mittens purchased. Last year the Shore lab won with the most cash collected and most mittens purchased. Who will be the winner this year?

Come down to my office drop some cash into the mitten tin (Mittens are $2 each) and then note your lab/office and amount of cash collected.


It's that time of year again. Winter's coming and while we all hurry to bundle up in warm jackets, scarves and mittens, there are many in Hamilton who do not have that luxury. The United Way campaign is an excellent way for the McMaster community to help meet the needs of those less fortunate. Are you still looking for a way to contribute? Why not buy a mitten?

Milica Pavlica, an administrator with the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, is geared up to sell paper mittens in support of the United Way campaign. She began selling the paper mittens last year during the campaign and raised $3,346. This year, she hopes to top that amount.

For just $2, anyone can have the privilege of displaying a mitten on the wall. Pavlica encourages departments to contact her about selling the mittens and posting them up in a common area. She also recognizes the benefits of a little friendly competition. "I wish to once again challenge every department on campus to raise a minimum of $100 for the McMaster United Way campaign," she says. "I know my own department, Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, will well exceed that amount by at least double."

The gloves - or should I say mittens - have been thrown down. It is now up to everyone on campus to snatch up those mittens in support of the United Way's important and charitable work.

For more information or to order mittens for your department, contact Milica Pavlica at

Allison Sekuler
(Posted Oct 21 2005)

Allison Sekuler, McMaster professor and Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience, was among a group of dedicated educators honoured by the Hamilton Spectator Wednesday.

Sekuler was a winner of The Hamilton Spectator Publisher's Award for Educators, for helping spearhead public-private skills development partnerships.

(The Hamilton Spectator, Oct. 20, 2005) [ Full Story ]

Brain Workshop [more]


Friday November 18, 2005
Council Chambers, Gilmour Hall, Rm 111

What I did on my summer vacation

(Posted Aug 23 2005)
Ron Racine takes a break while on an adventurous hike across England with his wife Yvonne.

When most people think of vacation, they think R&R - rest and relaxation. However, Ron Racine, chair of the psychology, neuroscience and behaviour department, and his wife Yvonne are always on the lookout for challenging trips. The Racines' vacations usually involve either biking or hiking, although they have also done canoe, kayak, horse, and camel trips. This summer, fueled by Guinness and assorted English ales, this adventurous pair hiked across England.

[ More ]

Bennett Galef
(Posted Aug 23 2005)

Chimpanzees may not have literature and ballet, but some researchers suspect that our close primate kin do have cultural traditions for behaviors such as tool use and grooming. Now a study provides the strongest evidence yet that chimps can learn traditions of tool use by observation. The authors say their work also reveals another trait previously seen only in humans: a tendency to conform to community standards.

Some chimp culture skeptics have been convinced, saying the study provides strong evidence that chimps have traditions they learn by observation. "I've been looking for this for 10 years," says Bennett Galef an animal behaviorist at McMaster University. Galef and others are less compelled by the claims regarding the chimps' conformist tendencies, however.

(Science Now, Aug. 22, 2005)


Helping in a selfish world
Posted July 15 2005)

Billions of people tuned into recent Live 8 concert broadcasts, some just for the music, others to support the altruistic cause spearheaded by former Boomtown Rat, Sir Bob Geldof. In today's rat-race climate, what makes some of us look out for each other, while others look out for themselves?

According to evolutionary theory, natural selection has designed individuals to behave selfishishly; selfish individuals are likely to end up with more resources and therefore more offspring. But many species (including humans, some rock musicians, politicians, and everyday citizens among them) do co-operate.

Traditionally, scientists have explained the evolution of co-operation using the idea of kin selection. Help to relatives (who share your genes) makes sense if it means your relative will have more children who will carry your genes into the next generation. Therefore, relatives are expected to help more. However, in a study published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour researchers, Sigal Balshine and Kelly Stiver, show that in certain situations the reverse is true: unrelated individuals help more.

[ More ]


Bennett Galef
(Posted June 28 2005)

An international team of researchers believe bottlenose dolphins wear sea sponges on their snouts while foraging for small fish, crustaceans and other food along channels in the sea floor because it protects them against sharp coral and stinging critters such as stonefish.

But Bennett Galef, an animal behaviorist and Professor in the Psychology Department at McMaster University, said the researchers had not proved that the dolphins use the sponges as tools.

"They have no idea how this behavior develops or really what it is used for," Galef said. "If you don't know that, then you're really just guessing."

The researchers said their conclusions are based on years of observing the dolphins and a detailed genetic analysis that clearly ruled out other explanations.

(The Washington Post, June 27, 2005)

[ Full Story ]

All jokes aside
(Posted June 28 2005)

What's the toughest audience a stand-up comedian could possibly face? One conjures up thoughts of biker bars, psychiatric wards and maximum-security prisons, but nothing, perhaps, is so terrifying as telling jokes to a room full of academics who study humour.

The National Post recently described the goings on in one such room where the International Society for Humor Studies brought together academics from more than 20 countries. The crowd contained about 150 scholars, from twentysomething graduate students to eminence grise professors and psychiatrists from as far away as Hong Kong, New Zealand and India. And despite the occasionally esoteric nature of their research, they dredged up some interesting findings.

McMaster Psychology Graduate student, Eric Bressler's work was highlighted in the article. He has discovered that a sense of humour may mean different things to men and women when choosing romantic partners, perhaps because it displays cognitive ability and allows women to potentially "maximize the quality" of their offspring.

[Full Story]

Katayun ("Kat") Treasurywala & Ryan Wolek

Psychology student Katayun ('Kat') Treasurywala had good reason to celebrate at the recent Science convocation. Not only was she among the 63 Psychology students graduating this year, she was named the Valedictorian for Science, and won the Abe Black Memorial prize and the Burke Memorial Ring. Our own Ryan Wolek also took the Abe H. Black award.

The Abe Black prize, named in memory of former Psychology professor Abe H. Black, is awarded to the 3 graduates with the highest cumulative averages in each of Psychology's honours programs (B.A. in Psychology, B.Sc. in Psychology, B.Sc. in Biology and Psychology). The Burke Memorial Ring is awarded in memory of Dean C. E. Burke, to a "graduate of a B.Sc. programme who is named to the Dean's Honour List and who has made the most outstanding contribution to undergraduate activities." Kat gave an inspiring speech to her classmates at the convocation ceremony, and we congratulate her and all the other graduates.


Winner of the New Investigator Award
(Posted June 10 2005)

Psychology Ph.D. student, Danny Krupp,  won the New Investigator award for his paper "A cue of kinship affects cooperation in a 'tragedy of  the commons'" at the 17th annual international meeting of the Human Behavior & Evolution Society in Austin, Texas last weekend.  Danny  joins a long list of McMaster winners of this award:  His paper was  co-authored with Psychology grad-alum Lisa Debruine (winner of the same  competition in 2002) and Psychology Ph.D. student Pat Barclay (winner  of the same competition in 2003) -- all of the students worked under  the supervision of Psychology Professors Martin Daly and Margo Wilson.

Another McMaster alum, Nick Pound, won the same award in 2000 -- making the Daly/Wilson lab 4 for 6 in recent competitions. Congratulations to  Danny and all the other past and future McMaster Psychology winners!

Undergraduate psychology researcher wins Governor General's Silver Academic Medal
(Posted June 8 2005)

Alaina Benoit, honours linguistics, and an NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award winner in Psychology is one of 4 McMaster recipients of the 2005 Governor General's Silver Academic Medal for each receiving a grade point average of 11.9.

Lord Dufferin, Canada's third Governor General after Confederation, created the academic medals in 1873 to encourage academic excellence across the nation. Over the years, they have become the most prestigious award that students in Canadian schools can receive.

During her time at McMaster, Alaina Benoit has received four In-Course Awards and the Junior League of Hamilton-Burlington, Inc. Community Contribution Award for service to the community-at-large. Benoit also earned two Dr. Harry Lyman Hooker Scholarships for overall academic excellence and the Mabel Stoakley Scholarship for outstanding female academic achievement and leadership. This summer, Alaina continues her work in the Cognitive Science Laboratory in the Department of Psychology under the supervision of Psychology Professor Karin Humphreys, studying errors in speech production and what they can tell us about the language production system in the human mind.

Congratulations to Alaina!

Music Makes Us Move
(Posted June 6 2005)

(Jessica Phillips-Silver and Laurel Trainor test a baby's memory for sounds. Photo credit: Chantall Van Raay)

Music makes us move to the rhythm. But just how are music and movement related? McMaster Psychology researchers have found that how we move also shapes what we hear, even in babies.

"The simultaneous experience of listening and moving to a rhythm wires the brain so that different senses work together," says Psychology Professor Laurel Trainor. "Our interpretation of sound is affected not only by our auditory system but by input from our other senses as well."

Trainor and her Ph.D. student Jessica Phillips-Silver published their work in the June 3 issue of Science. ("Feeling the Beat: Movement Influences Infant Rhythm Perception", 308, 1430 (in Brevia)).

"Across all cultures, caregivers naturally provide a rich rhythmic experience for their infants by rocking and bouncing them while singing," says Phillips-Silver. "For the first time, we are able to show that this experience not only affects their emotional state, but also influences infants' sensory development."

Phillips-Silver and Trainors findings have been discussed in media reports around the world, including the the Toronto Star, the National Post, the Daily Telegraph (UK), the New York Times, and USA Today.


Think about the aging brain
(Posted May 31 2005)

McMaster Psychology research on vision and aging was highlighted in the May 28 Focus section of the Globe & Mail. The story describes the work of Psychology Professors and Canada Research Chairs Allison Sekuler and Patrick Bennett, their students, and collaborators, highlighting the way their research has changed the way we think about the aging brain.

"In an age obsessed with youth, Allison Sekuler stands apart. When she recently turned 40, she didn't have any reservations about getting older. In fact, she looked forward to it. She still does. For her, age is something to savour.

... her research on the aging brain is transforming our understanding of what it means to grow old. 'It creates whole new ways of thinking about aging,' Prof. Sekuler says. '...You can teach older brains new tricks...In some cases, the older brain can actually rewire itself.' "

Full Story

Star Employees Honoured
(Posted May 19 2005)

President Peter George recognized the outstanding contributions of two Psychology staff members with the President's Awards for Outstanding Service on May 18.

Ann Hollingshead received commendation for going above and beyond her position as Psychology's undergraduate advisor and research co-ordinator. The citation reads: "Hollingshead has become the linchpin in an array of services offered to psychology students. She is the expert that students, staff, and faculty alike come to for advice and direction regarding the undergraduate activities and curriculum. The students love her; she is knowledgeable, kind, and willing to take extra steps to help them." Ann's is the third consecutive Inidividual Award for Outstanding Service for Department staff members. Milica Pavlica, Psychology's Departmental Administrator, received the award in 2004; and Wendy Selbie, Psychology's Infotech Advisor/Coordinator received the award in 2003.

Milica Pavlica also was honoured as part of a group special achievement award for her role as co-founder and selfless volunteer for the Children's Christmas Party. The citation reads: "One could not overestimate the important role the Children's Christmas Party plays in creating a strong sense of community among McMaster University's faculty members, employees, retirees, and their families. ... The logistics of organizing such a large event takes place within a spirit of cooperation and collegiality that serves as a model for others."

Congratulations to Milica, Ann, and all the other winners!

Full Story - link to:

Romina Coppa-Hoppman

"When one has a great deal to put into it, a day has a hundred pockets." -- Nietzsche
Psychology PhD candidate Romina Coppa was featured in a Hamilton Spectator story about the pockets of Hamilton. "While my rats are in their experimental running chamber, those more docile ones that have completed the task for the day sometimes like to sit inside my lab coat pocket. They are nocturnal so they enjoy the dark, and seem to enjoy coiling themselves up into the more restricted area. They sleep there very happily."

Click HERE for the full story.

Terri Lewis
(Posted May 17 2005)

McMaster psychologist Terri Lewis has appeared in a number of publications following the recent release of her study, including Forbes. Lewis' study shows that a child's inability to hit a slow-moving ball has a scientific explanation: Children cannot hit slow balls because their brains are not wired to handle slow motion. Her study will be published in the July edition of Vision Research.

(appeared in the Hamilton Spectator, the Globe & Mail, Forbes, the 
Washington Post, and the New York Times)

[Full Story]

(Posted May 10 2005)

to Karin Humphreys, Ann Hollingshead and Judy Shedden for their large crew of volunteers, who made Psychology's contribution to May@Mac a huge success on Saturday.  Despite the construction barrier in front of the building they attracted excellent crowds to the Psych lobby displays and events, as well as hosted tables at MUSC and MDCL, showed off our Mobile Lab, and presented Psych demos to crowds at the outdoor tents.  It was an excellent show!

We greatly appreciate all the hours that went into planning and executing this very important event.  
Well Done !!!!!

Slow balls take the swing out of young ball players
(Posted May 5 2005)

Exasperated parents practicing throw-and-connect skills with their young children will be relieved to know that their child's inability to hit a slow-moving ball has a scientific explanation: Children cannot hit slow balls because their brains are not wired to handle slow motion.

Full story:

(Posted Apr 28 2005)

Tracy Vaillancourt, Jessie Miller
Tracy Vaillancourt, assistant professor of psychology at McMaster University, and her graduate student/Ph.D candidate Jessie Miller were guest speakers Thursday, April 28, at the Hamilton Spectator's live broadcast of "Open Forum". This month's featured discussion was on Girls and Bullying. Vaillancourt and Miller fielded questions from a full audience as well as viewers at home who called and e-mailed in to the show. Leslie Cunningham, a social worker with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, was also featured. Parents, concerned teachers as well as young girls filled the audience voicing concerns and asking questions about what to do if you are bullied and how to handle the unique and covert maniupulations characteristic of girls bullying/relational aggression.

DISCOVERing McMaster Research
(Posted Apr 28 2005)

Research by McMaster psychology doctoral candidates Lisa Betts and Christopher Taylor and psychology Professors Patrick Bennett and Allison Sekuler is featured in the May issue of Discover Magazine.

To learn about changes in the older brain, the researchers tested young college students against people in their sixties and seventies on how quickly they noticed the sideways movement of vertical bars on a computer screen. Students do terribly, says Betts. They leave in frustration, but "the older observers come out and say, 'That was easy.'"

(Discover Magazine, May 2005)

[ Full Story ]

A Celebration of Research

Psychology held it's first annual Undergraduate Thesis Conference on Wednesday, April 20. Fifteen students presented their research findings in a poster session attended by students, faculty and staff. The Conference was a celebration of the hard work all of our students put into their thesis projects over the past year. The topics covered the full range of research in Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour: from communication difficulties in individuals with autism spectrum disorder, to infants' ability to encode and remember of music, to the factors that govern the attentional capture, to electrophysiological studies of vision. Congratulations to all our our thesis students for a job well done, and we wish you the best in your future endeavors in science and in life!

The Albert Lager Event Series
(Posted Apr 19 2005)

“Myth (and Science) of the Musical Mind” with Dr. Larry E. Roberts happens Apr. 21

Exploring the Musical Mind
with Dr. Larry Roberts

(Posted Apr 19 2005)

Is the “Mozart Effect” a myth? Did your music lessons make you smarter? We know that listening to music can affect our mood and our emotions, but can it affect our brain? Dr. Larry Roberts and his colleagues at McMaster’s Human Neural Plasticity Lab have explored this question by studying the brains of musicians from Boris Brott’s National Academy Orchestra and young Suzuki violin students. Their research considered how the brain learns to hear music, how music changes brain response and how music lessons impact the developing brain. Come and hear Dr. Roberts discuss the findings of his research and discover whether you can increase your brain power by listening to or studying Mozart and other classical music, or even jazz and popular music.

Thursday, April 21, 2005
Gilmour Hall, Council Chambers, Room 111
7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
$5.00 per person (includes light refreshments)

What the warm weather brings...
(Posted Apr 19, 2005)

For many critters big and small, the lengthening hours of daylight and the increasing temperatures are the cues that trigger physiological changes that prompt the need to breed.

"This is probably the peak of the mating season," said Sigal Balshine, also a McMaster biologist. "In a few weeks we'll see a shift.

--The Hamilton Spectator

(for the Full Story see

The name may change, but excellence remains the same!
(Posted Apr 19, 2005)

McMaster Senate approved a name change for our Department. Effective July 1, 2005, we will be the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour.  The change more appropriately reflects the nature of teaching and research in our department. "McMaster has great strength in behaviour and neuroscience research," says Ron Racine, Department Chair. "This name change will provide students and the community-at-large with a better idea of who we are."

GSA Awards Night
(Posted Mar 11 2005)

March 15, 2005: Two Psychology graduate students were singled out for their outstanding contributions in this evening's ceremonies at the 10th Annual Graduate Students Recognition Day. Graeme Moffat received the Therese Quigley Award for Graduate Student Leadership in Athletics. Jessica Phillips-Silver was Science's recipient of the Dean's Award for Excellence in Communicating Graduate Research, and she also was selected to represent all the winners in making an oral presentation about her research at the ceremony. Congratulations to Graeme, Jessica and all the other winners and nominees.

Jessica Phillips-Silver pictured with Acting Dean of Graduate Studies, 
Laura Finsten.


Lake Invaders
(posted Mar 11 2005)

March 11, 2005: Foreign species, such as zebra mussles and carp, are invading the Great Lakes and changing the ecology of this vital ecosystem. A study from Psychology Assistant Professor Sigal Balshine, published in the March issue of the Journal of Great Lakes Research, suggests that for the round goby, a recently introduced fish species, their ability to wrest territory from native fish plays a key role in their dominance of the Great Lakes. Scientists believe that gobies have contributed to or caused the extinction of some native species in Lake Erie, the first lake to be invaded. "Obviously people are concerned about the effects on native species in the other lakes that gobies have now spread to," says Balshine.

See the full story in the Daily News:

Clinical Psychology Information Night
(Posted Mar 10 2005)

Date: March 29, 2005
Time: 9:00 to 10:00 pm
Location: MDCL 1305
Speakers: Dr. Alison Niccols (child clinical psychology) Katherine Owens (Ph.D. candidate; adult clinical psychology) and Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt (child/school psychology)

Description: Drs. Niccols Owens and Vaillancourt will describe what clinical psychologists do and provide helpful hints for students applying to graduate school in clinical/applied/school psychology.

Million Dollar Initiative
(Posted Mar 04 2005)

Pictured at today's announcement, from left are, Tony Valeri, liberal MP for Stoney Creek; Byron Spencer, economics professor; Tracy Vaillancourt, assistant professor of psychology; David Emerson, federal Minister of Industry; Janet Halliwell, executive vice-president of Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council; and Peter George, McMaster President. Photo credit: Chantall Van Raay

March 3, 2005: Tracy Vaillancourt, assistant professor in Psychology, will receive $1 million to find solutions to the bullying epidemic. The funding announcement was made today at McMaster University by David Emerson, ministry of industry, and Tony Valeri, leader of the government in the House of Commons. Hamilton Mayor Larry Dianni and SSHRC Executive Vice President Janet Halliwell were also in attendance.

Prof. Vaillancourt heads team of university-based researchers and community partners who will focus on bringing the city of Hamilton together as a community to combat bullying. Prof. Vaillancourt estimates that 10% of children are regularly victimized by their peers—many to the point where they suffer severe psychological and social problems, including depression and poor academic performance. Funding for the project comes from SSHRC's Community-University Research Alliance program.

“Professor Vaillancourt’s research will ultimately help us to protect our children and build stronger communities, both of which are essential for achieving a higher quality of life and economic prosperity,” said Minister Valeri. “I am proud to see a community-based approach being applied here in Hamilton.”

Funding for another project headed by McMaster Economist Byron Spencer investigating the effects of aging on the nation's economy also was announced at the ceremony. "These projects define who we are – a community-based research university with a national reputation for excellence," said Mamdouh Shoukri, McMaster's Vice President of Research and International Affairs.

Related links:
McMaster's Daily News (

Mother's diaries yields clues for early detection of autism.
(Posted Feb 11 2005)

The origins of autism are a mystery. But new research by Psychology's Assistant Professor Melissa Rutherford may be a critical step in solving that mystery. Prof. Rutherford analyzed the detailed diaries kept by a mother with twins, only one of which was later diagnosed with autism. As is commonly the case, the twin with autism was not diagnosed until age three and a half. "There's not a reliable diagnosis before age two," Prof. Rutherford says. "But I believe autism is there earlier." She reports, in the journal Neurocase, that behavioural markers of autism could be seen as early as one year of age. The possibility of detecting autism at such an early age is remarkable. Children with autism need early treatment, she says, or they risk drifting further and further from normal behaviour.

Prof. Rutherford's research has garnered national media attention. See the full story in the National Post.

A treasure chest of data, buried in the sands of bureaucracy.
(Posted Feb 10 2005)

The National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth is a national treasure, holding reams of information relevant to studies of child development. But Tracy Vaillancourt, Assistant Professor of Psychology at McMaster, says the NLSCY is more like "the sunken Titanic. It's great that it's there, and we can brag about it, but we can't pull anything out of it...." Today's Globe & Mail reports that researchers around Canada, including Prof. Vaillancourt, have been stalled in their efforts to use the enormous database.

For the complete story see: globeandmailstory.htm

Laughter and Love
(Posted Feb 9 2005)

Is a good sense of humour as important in relationships as people think? Psychology graduate student Eric Bressler has been investigating that topic as part of his Ph.D. research, and says the answer depends on who laughs last. The results were discussed in a recent issue of the Journal Times:

"The idea," Bressler wrote in an e-mail from Hamilton, "was that if someone says they value their partner's `sense of humor,' but then say that it's really only their partner's appreciation of their own humor that is important, then you have some idea of how that person defines the term `sense of humor.' "We were interested in looking at whether men and women use the term `sense of humor' in different ways, at least with respect to relationship partners."

And apparently they do.... Bressler's survey showed that "Even though being around funny people and having them appreciate your own humor are both rewarding experiences, women will ultimately prefer humor producers as relationship partners, while men will prefer appreciators of their own humor." In other words, while both sexes value a "sense of humor" in their dates, women tend to define this as a partner's ability to make them laugh, while men define it as a partner's capacity to laugh at their jokes.

For the full story see:

Good news for aging brains.
(Posted Feb 9 2005)

The long-held belief that older people always perform slower and worse than younger people has been proven wrong. In a study published in Neuron , psychologists from McMaster University discovered that the aging process actually improves certain abilities: Older people appear to be better and faster at grasping the big picture than their younger counterparts. The study, conducted by Psychology Ph.D. students Lisa Betts and Christopher Taylor and Profs. Allison Sekuler and Patrick Bennett, has received worldwide media attention, including mention in the Daily Telegraph, The Globe & Mail, The National Post, and

"The results are exciting not only because they show an odd case in which older people have better vision than younger people, but also because it may tell us something about how aging affects the way signals are processed in the brain," says Patrick Bennett, a senior author, and Canada Research Chair at McMaster.

For the full story, see:

Dr. Jeff Galef
(Posted Jan 24, 2005)

Saturday, January 22, 2005: The Globe & Mail Focus section focused squarely on the life and work of Bennett (Jeff) Galef, emeritus  Professor of Psychology at McMaster University. The piece explored  Prof. Galef's work in the area of evolutionary psychology and animal  behaviour, and highlighted his role as a founder of the field of animal  social-learning science." Professor Kevin Laland, a psychologist at the  University of St. Andrews in Scotland says of Prof. Galef, "Jeff is  kind of like the father figure to the field. He made people think of  this as an important topic, and he introduced experimental rigour into a field which ahd previously been quite wishy-washy."  Although Prof.  Galef is officially retired, he remains as active in research as ever,  aiming to inspire others to continue the work in animal  social-learning, and constantly challenging other researchers to go the  next step. "I want us to know things, the way we know hydrogen and  oxygen make water. If this is ever going to be a real science, what we mean by knowing things has to be much more solid than it is today.... 

If the intellectual pressue is there, then the means for answering  these questions may be found," he says.

Dr. Daphne Maurer
(Posted Dec 16, 2004)

December 15, 2004: WHAT COLOUR IS THAT SOUND??
Psychology Professor Daphne Maurer has been incredibly busy with the media recently as she received world-wide attention for her groundbreaking research on synesthesia.

"Imagine being able to see or taste sounds, as well as hearing them. Sound like science fiction? For some people. it's reality. This blending of the senses occurs in a rare condition called 'synesthesia.' In this condition, a stimulus, such as sound, creates a reaction in another sense, as well as the expected sense. Now, professor Daphne Maurer of McMaster University's department of psychology has found that at one time we all lived in a world in which sights had sounds and feelings had taste."

The story was featured in print, radio and television around the world (including the Science Daily news, CH TV, the Australian Broadcasting Company, and CBC International). Look for additional stories related to the work to appear in the Chinese Daily Herald and in Today's Parent.

For the fully story, see

Radio Canada International:

Dr. Laurel Trainor
(Posted Dec 16, 2004)

Dec. 12, 2004: Psychology Prof. Laurel Trainor was featured in a story on inter-species differences in music perception in the New Kerela News (India).

"If you want to look at the evolution of music it's important to do these types of studies," said Laurel Trainor, a neuroscientist at McMaster. She added that this research supports the idea that humans have a special preference for consonance, one of the most basic structural elements of music. This could account for the fact that as far as we know, only humans produce songs simply for enjoyment.

For full story, see:

Dr. Allison Sekuler Allison Sekuler
(Posted Nov 15, 2004)

McMaster's Allison Sekuler was named one of Canada's scientific "Leaders of Tomorrow." Professor Sekuler was one of 15 young scientists from around Canada honoured at a symposium in Ottawa on November 2, sponsored jointly by the Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE) and NSERC. The "Young Leaders" met with representatives of major granting agencies and the media, as well as with the National Science Advisor and Members of Parliament to share their views on the future of science in Canada.

Prof. Sekuler is a Professor of Psychology and Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience. She was selected for her research showing how the human brain processes visual information, and how that processing changes as a function of aging. She also has been active in the promotion of science for the general public.

For more information see: PAGSE:

Full story:

Dr. Daphne Maurer of the Department of Psychology
(Posted Nov 15, 2004)

Psychology Professor Daphne Maurer gave the invited keynote address at  the annual meeting of the American Synesthesia Association last week.  The meeting, which took place November 5-7 at the University of  California, Berkeley, featured a range of talks about a rare condition  called "synesthesia." In this condition, a stimulus induces a percept  in another modality as well as the expected percept -- so, for example,  people can actually see or taste sounds, as well as hearing them.  Although synesthesia is thought to occur in only 1% of all adults,  Prof. Maurer discussed evidence that all infants are synesthetic. She  suggests that with development, the connections underlying synesthesia  are pruned or inhibited in most individuals, although remnants of the  early synesthesia can be demonstrated in the lab even in  non-synesthetic adults.

For more information see:
Prof. Maurer's Visual Development Lab:
American Synesthesia Association:

Dr. Jeff Galef of the Department of Psychology
(Posted Oct 14, 2004)

Anyone who has visited the Psychology Building knows it is filled not just with beautiful minds, but with beautiful art as well. That art was the brainchild of our own Professor Bennett (Jeff) Galef, who is as serious and knowledgeable about art as he is about science. Dr. Galef supports art outside the Psychology department as well, serving on the Board of Directors of the McMaster Museum of Art . He was recently interviewed at the Museum by Cable 14 while viewing a new exhibit by Yechel Gagnon, and he spoke passionately and vividly about Mr. Gagnon's work. The "monumental mindscapes" of Yechel Gagnon will be on display at the Museum until November 28.

For more details, see

(Posted Oct 12, 2004)

Daphne Maurer still remembers the exhilaration she experienced while studying child development in the honours program at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. Students were expected to pursue their questions, do as much research as possible, write up papers and lead class discussions. “It allowed you to focus on learning,”says the McMaster University professor,who has developed an expertise in visual development. Today, Maurer takes a similar approach with her graduate students, helping them to develop their knowledge about the healthy and optimal growth of children. [more]
“She has a nice balance between giving critical feedback and letting me try out my ideas”

Larry Roberts
(Posted: Sept. 24, 2004)

We know music has power over us, but how much? Does it really offer an academic edge? Is it a language -- like math -- which helps us solve tricky equations? Music can change your mood -- but what about our brains? This is one of the central questions a McMaster University research team has been working away at inside the confines of the Human Neural Plasticity Lab. Larry Roberts alongside colleagues Antoine Shahin, Laurel Trainor, Daniel Bosnyak and several graduate students are trying to determine how the brain changes as a result of real-world experiences like music lessons. [more]

Far from opposites attracting, people tend to choose friends who look like them, research suggests.
(Posted: Sept. 13, 2004)

However, psychologist Dr Lisa DeBruine found a facial resemblance is not a turn-on when we are looking for a partner. She believes we may have evolved to prefer the company of people who remind us of family - but have a biological block to prevent incest. The study is published in the Journal of the Royal Society. The researchers showed volunteers male and female faces that had been computer-manipulated to produce a 'family resemblance'. Men liked other men's faces that resembled their own and women liked other women's faces that resembled their own. However, a facial resemblance did not influence attraction to opposite-sex faces.


Dr DeBruine, of McMaster University, Canada, said previous research had shown that people were more likely to trust others [more]

Mac Psychology PhD Wins Brain Star Award
(Posted: May 20, 2004)

Rick LeGrand, a recent graduate of McMaster Psychology’s PhD program, received the prestigious Brain Star Award for his work on the development of face processing. The research, which was published in Nature Neuroscience, suggests that visual input to the right hemisphere of a baby’s brain during the first few weeks of life is critical for the development of normal face processing skills. "The two halves of the brain are not created equal as only the right hemisphere appears able to develop expertise in processing faces," said Dr. LeGrand’s PhD supervisor, McMaster Professor Daphne Maurer. "We know from this study that early visual input to the right hemisphere is required for this skill to develop correctly." The work received extensive media coverage earlier this year within Canada and internationally.
The Brain Star Award recognizes the contributions of graduate students and other trainees to neuroscience research within Canada. This is McMaster Psychology’s third Brain Star Award; the previous awards went to Dave Ellemberg, another former PhD student from Professor Maurer’s lab, for his work on the effect of early visual deprivation from cataracts on spatial and temporal vision; and to Assistant Professor David Shore for his work on learning in virtual mazes. The Brain Star Award is sponsored by the Institute for Neuroscience, Mental Health and Addiction of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The award signifies the high quality and potential impact of the research, and includes a $1,000 honorarium and a profile of the recipient’s research on the CIHR website.

For more information about Dr. LeGrand’s research and other work in Prof. Maurer’s lab:

For more information about the Brain Star Award:

Graduate Student Service Award Winner
(Posted: May 19,2004)

Congratulations to Jenny Campos, who has won:
GSA Honour Society (A Distinguished Service Award)
for her outstanding service at McMaster.

The award recognizes the involvement of graduate students who have contributed significantly to the broader community while excelling in their graduate program. Awards were presented at the 9th Annual Graduate Students Recognition Day Dinner and Awards Program on May 18th.

See this website for a list of winners:

Congratulations Jenny, you are a credit to our department.

McMaster University Faculty Association recognizes outstanding service
(Posted: May 17, 2004)

Dr. Lorraine Allan

Allan has served for multiple terms on the Senate and Board of Governors and was chair of the Senate Committee on Appointments, as well as a member of numerous selection committees for deans, provosts and presidents. The two-time president of MUFA is an expert on the tenure and promotion document, having contributed to its continual revision since its inception.

Allan is an editor of a national journal in psychology and past president of the Canadian Society for Brain Behaviour and Cognitive Science. Allan, who has been chair of the NSERC Psychology Grants Committee, has been continually funded by NSERC since its inception. Recently she was appointed McMaster’s official NSERC representative ... read more from the link below

Most people think that newborn babies are essentially blind, seeing nothing more than vague shadows of objects. Are they correct? Professor Terri Lewis will talk about what babies can see and how we figure that out, in her upcoming public lecture, "First Sight: What Babies See." Prof. Lewis will discuss the latest work from McMaster Psychology's Infant Vision Lab as part of the Science in the City lecture series (co-sponsored by McMaster University and the Hamilton Spectator).

Tuesday, April 13, 2004 in the Hamilton Spectator Auditorium.
Doors open @ 6:30 pm;
Lecture begins at 7:00 pm.
To reserve your seat e-mail

This is a FREE PUBLIC LECTURE. Everyone is welcome to attend!

McMaster Psychologists were front and centre in the kick-off to the Globe & Mail's multi-part series on Development, Saturday, March 27. One story focused on research from Prof. Laurel Trainor's Auditory Development Lab using behavioural and EEG techniques to understand how children learn language. Another story, highlighted the work of Prof. Daphne Maurer and her colleagues from the Infant Vision Lab, examining how attractiveness judgements change across the lifespan.

For the complete stories, see the Globe & Mail web site:

"A computer-like brain" (How kids learn language):

"Ooh, baby! Who kids find cute" (Development of attractiveness judgements):

Professor Shepard Siegel's research was featured in the latest issue of the APA Monitor in a story titled, "Pavlovian psychopharmacology." The article discusses the surprising findings and implications of an article he recently co-authored in the journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. This research suggests that, in response to internal cues, our bodies can learn to anticipate and even counteract some of the physiological effects of drugs. See "PDF" for the full story.


Facing the facts about recognizing faces

Notice anything different about these two pictures? It’s the same person, with one small difference. One image has been altered, but most people won’t see how until they’re viewed upright.

This is one example of the so-called the “inversion effect” – it’s harder for the brain to process upside-down objects than upright objects, and the inversion effect is especially strong for the perception of faces.

“For most people, it’s easy to recognize a range of faces, even under various lighting conditions and from different views. But when those faces are turned upside-down, we experience problems,” says Allison Sekuler, professor of psychology and Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience at McMaster University.

Sekuler says human faces consist of two eyes, a nose, and a mouth, organized in just about the same way for every face. For decades, people thought the face inversion effect meant that the brain uses the information in faces in very different ways to recognize upright and upside-down faces.

Traditionally, recognition of upright faces was thought to hinge on the organization of features across the whole face, whereas recognition of upside-down faces relied much more on identifying local features.

Sekuler and her team set out to test that idea directly. Their results, which will appear in the journal Current Biology on Tuesday, provide an entirely new picture of what goes on when our brains picture faces. To obtain a clear view of how the brain processes information about faces, the researchers actually added “visual noise” (resembling snow on a de-tuned television) to face images. By keeping track of how that “noise” affected perception, the researchers were able to tell what parts of the faces were most important for recognition. Surprisingly, all observers relied mostly on the region around the eyes and eyebrows, regardless of whether the faces were upright or upside-down.

“The devil is in the details,” says Sekuler. “Although most of the relevant information for recognizing our faces was right around the eyes, people seem much more efficient at picking up that information in just the right way when the face is right side-up.” These results fly in the face of previous theories of face recognition. Instead, the researchers suggest that the face inversion effect may be an example of the old saying, “practice makes perfect” – people simply have a lot more experience recognizing upright faces, and that makes them better.

According to this view, the inversion effect is a fascinating example of how the human brain processes information, and how our brains can be trained to process difficult tasks more efficiently. In a related study, to be published in April in the journal Cognitive Science, Sekuler and her research team applied similar “noise” obstructions to faces and unfamiliar textures to determine how people’s recognition skills improved with learning. With both types of patterns, everyone who was tested improved. For faces, people became more efficient at picking out the relevant information around the eyes and eyebrows. For textures, different individuals adopted different strategies for improvement. Although everyone became more efficient at picking out the right details, the locations of those details differed dramatically (some people relied more on information in a top corner, whereas others relied on information in the middle or bottom).

“In working with textures, we found that people learned to recognize them in different ways, even though they all ended up performing the task equally well,” says Sekuler. “For the first time, we were able to get a direct view of what strategies the brain used to improve recognition. Understanding the unconscious learning strategies people use, and how those strategies vary across individuals, will help us to establish more effective training techniques.”

Sekuler hopes that by identifying how the brain normally processes this kind of information, she and her group will be able to develop training programs for people who have impaired facial recognition skills, such as autistic individuals and some stroke victims.

“The first step toward improving performance in impaired populations is to understand how the typical brain processes information,” she says. “With this work, we’ve made a big leap toward that end.”

Sekuler’s research team includes Patrick Bennett, professor of psychology and Canada Research Chair in Vision Science, and Carl Gaspar, graduate student, from McMaster University, and Jason Gold assistant professor of psychology from Indiana University. The work was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canada Research Chairs.

Related link(s):
Allison Sekuler
Department of Psychology
Vision Lab

Tracy Vaillancourt

McMaster psychology professor Tracy Vaillancourt will help launch a Community Coalition on Prevention & Intervention of Bullying Among Children and Youth in Hamilton Feb. 23. Vaillancourt is a member of the coalition, believed to be one of the largest community groups of its kind. The coalition is focused on raising awareness and in working collaboratively on a community-wide initiative to address the issue of bullying in the City of Hamilton. The launch will take place at the Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club at 10 a.m.

Psychology hosted McMaster University's first annual Brain Bee
on February 17, 2004. Nine students from high schools in Hamilton, Burlington and Oakville faced off in a show of knowledge about
neuroscience and the brain. Da Liu, a grade 12 student from Westmount Secondary School, won first place in the contest, and will represent Hamilton at the International Brain Bee held in Baltimore, Maryland in March. Second place went to Daniel Matan, of Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School, and third place to Laura Rupar of Lord Elgin High School. The event was featured in the Hamilton Spectator and CHML Radio.

Judy Shedden, Associate Professor of Psychology, spearheaded McMaster's entry into the event, which is modelled after a spelling-bee (except that students' knowledge of neuroscience is tested, rather than their knowledge of spelling). Our thanks to Professor Shedden, the Brain Bee Volunteers, and all the teachers and students who made the event a success. The Brain Bee will be an annual event, and interested participants should visit the Brain Bee website for more information.

R elated Links:

Calling all high school students!

The First Annual McMaster Brain Bee
1:00 PM, February 17, 2004
Hosted by the Department of Psychology
Brain Bee web page:

The Brain Bee is a fun competition fashioned after a spelling bee. In a question/answer elimination round format, students answer questions about the brain (all questions come from a Brain Facts primer). Our afternoon will begin with the first few rounds of questions. A refreshment break will follow, during which psychology graduate and undergraduate students will talk with the high school students about their research. Then we will return to the competition with more rounds of questions, leading to the final elimination rounds that will leave one person standing.

The first place winner will receive an all-expense paid trip to Baltimore to compete in the International Brain Bee competition at the University of Maryland on March 19 and 20, 2004, and a traveling trophy plaque engraved with their name and the name of their school, to be displayed in their school's trophy case for a year. Our graduate students will help the winner prepare for the international competition. There will also be prizes for the 2nd and 3rd place winners, and every contestant will receive a certificate of participation. It is a great event to put on their resume.

At the University of Maryland in Baltimore, about 40 top high school winners of local Brain Bee competitions across the US and Canada will compete in the International Brain Bee. The winner will receive an all-expense paid trip for two people to the Annual Society for Neurosciences conference (in San Diego), a US$3,000 scholarship, and a summer internship to work in the laboratory of a famous neuroscientist!

Canada will be sending only two representatives because McMaster and Toronto are the only universities in Canada hosting local Brain Bees. The McMaster winner and the U of Toronto winner will travel together as 'Team Canada'. Two of Toronto's local winners have actually gone on to WIN the International competition, so Canada has already demonstrated what our high school students can do. Let's get our high school students excited about this wonderful opportunity!

Registration is still open and there is still lots of time for students to study the Brain Facts primer, a 50 page book from which all questions and answers will be drawn. This book is free to download from the web site in PDF format.

Open to ALL high school students in the Hamilton and surrounding area (including all secondary public, separate, and private schools).
Please contact Judith Shedden for more information or to register a student (x24345,, or check our Brain Bee web site for more details:

McMaster Psychologists receive $1 Million for studies of development and neural plasticity.

The Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) granted 3 Psychology research teams over a million dollars for the study of development and neural plasticity across the lifespan. The funds, to be awarded over the next 3-5 years, will enable researchers and their students to explore how the infant brain processes sound, how visual deprivation affects the development of the visual pathways, and how aging influences visual perception. The research projects all combine behavioural measures with modern neuroimaging techniques. Details of the grants are below and on the CIHR web site. (

Patrick Bennett & Allison Sekuler, with Cheryl Grady, Rotman Research Institute (RRI). “Pattern recognition and scene analysis in older adults. $92,680 / year (2004-2007)

Daphne Maurer, with Jane Dywan and Sidney Segalowitz (Brock University), and Cheryl Grady and Kathleen O’Craven (RRI). “The influence of visual deprivation on the development of human visual pathways: Neuroimaging of patients treated for congenital cataract during infancy.” $101,871 / year (2004-2007); $7,341 for the purchase of equipment

Laurel Trainor
“Development of auditory event-related potentials in infancy” $89,488 / year (2004-2009); $8,450 for the purchase of equipment

January 26-29, 2004 (Monday to Thursday)
Mental Health Awareness Week
Presented by the Psych Society in collaboration with Faculty of Social Sciences Experiential Education

Schedule of Events:

  • Monday to Thursday, Jan. 26 to 29
    Information Booth in Student Centre
    Fundraisers – Raffle Tickets for Psych Clothing
    Selling Stuffed Animals, Ribbons
  • Tuesday, Jan. 27 at 7:00 p.m., Psych Bldg., PC 204
    Speakers Night
    Dr. Randi McCabe, Aniety Treatment & Research Centre
    Dr. Ellen Lipman, Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences,
    Offord Centre for Child Studies
  • Wednesday, Jan. 28 at 7:00 p.m., Psych Bldg., PC204
    Alethea Ouzas, Family Mental Health Support Network
    Rick Casey, Miles for Mental Health Cross-Canada Biker
    Gwen Davidson, Psychiatric Patient Advocate
    Dr. Voruganti, Head Psychiatric Services Centre
  • Thursday, Jan. 29 at 7:00 p.m., Psych Bldg., PC237
    Wine & Cheese Movie Night
    “Walter” a documentary about Schizophrenia by Dr. DeMarco

BiopsychSociety and PsychSociety - MEET THE PROF NIGHT

Professors from both Biology and Psychology Departments will be attending.

When: Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004
Time: 7:00 PM
Where: Psychology Second Floor Lounge (205A/B)

NSERC is celebrating its 25th Anniversary of funding innovative research in the basic sciences. As part of the celebrations, McMaster held an awards ceremony to honor researchers who have been continuously funded by NSERC for the past 25 years. Psychology had a major presence at the celebration, with faculty from our department alone accounting for 8 of the 72 honorees.

Congratulations to NSERC, and to our members of the 25 year club: Professors Lorraine Allan, Lee Brooks, Jeff Galef, Betty Ann Levy, Daphne Maurer, Ron Racine, Larry Roberts, and Shep Siegel. Here's to many more years of outstanding research and discovery!

Clockwise from bottom left: Psychology Professor and McMaster NSERC Representative Lorraine Allan along with McMaster President Peter George, NSERC's VP of Research Partnerships Janet Walden, McMaster's VP Research & International Affairs Mamdouh Shoukri, and Henry Schwarcz, professor emeritus geography and geology.

for more see:

other links: NSERC --

BioPsychology & Psychology Career Night 2004

When: Thursday, January 15, 2004 - 6:00 pm
Where: Council Chambers (Room 111 Gilmour Hall)
Brought to you by the Undergraduate BioPsych Society, the Undergraduate Psychology Society, the Department of Psychology, the Department of Biology and Science Career Services.
  • Meet a representative from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correction Services!
  • Meet the President of Innovus Research!
  • Talk to a Speech Language Pathologist!
  • Speak to a Lawyer!

(Monday, December 1, 2003) McMaster's Tracy Vaillancourt, Assistant Professor in Psychology, is one of four exceptional leaders in the Hamilton community who will receive a Lifetime Honourary Child Abuse Council Memberships this evening. The recipients organized the world¹s largest classroom for youth at Copp¹s Coliseum on October 30, 2003. Over 11,000 youth, teachers, community professionals and parents attended the "Bullying versus Basketball-One on One" daylong event. Professor Vaillancourt will also be featured on Global TV's "Body and Health" program, at 9 am on December 3. The segment includes discussion of girls' agression, and a new initiative to make Hamilton Canada's first bully-free community. To view the story click below

Research by McMaster Psychologists Rick Legrand, Cathy Mondloch and Daphne Maurer was featured in a recent article in the weekly science newsmagazine, Science News:

"At least some data on the subject come from studies of Canadians directed by psychologist Daphne Maurer of McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. Children subjected to cataract-induced blindness in only the left eye for the first 2 to 6 months of life lose an element crucial for discerning facial configurations, Maurer's team reports in the October Nature Neuroscience. As teenagers and young adults, these individuals find it difficult to detect differences in the spacing of eyes and other facial
features from one person to another."

The work was originally published in the October edition of Nature Neuroscience. To read more about this fascinating research, see the full story, "Giving eyesight to the blind raises questions about how people see," by Bruce Bower, at the Science News website:

Or visit the Maurer lab site:

McMaster Professor Larry Roberts and graduate student Antoine Shahin were featured in a story "The Dallas Morning News" for their work on music and the brain.

From the story: "Connections amplified: Music and the brain work in concert, research shows" by Alexandra Witze:

One question that has plagued neuroscientists for years is whether musical training alters the brain's activity or whether the brains of musicians are different from the beginning than the brains of nonmusicians.

"Do musicians simply come with brains that are predisposed to respond with more neurons when musical tones are heard?" asks Larry Roberts of McMaster University.

In trying to answer this question, Dr. Roberts and Antoine Shahin have been studying seven children, ages 4 and 5, who are receiving the Suzuki method of musical training. The researchers measured electrical activity in the students' brains while musical tones were played to them.

After a year of training, the children's brains had increased activity in a region called the secondary auditory cortex ­ but only for the instrument they were training on. Piano students showed a greater response to piano tones, while the lone violinist responded only to a violin, Dr. Roberts reported at the neuroscience meeting.

Exposure to music at home, long before the students took lessons, could have triggered that brain response, he said. As a next step, the team plans to play different sounds for the children ­ not musical tones, but some unfamiliar acoustic trigger that may produce other effects in the brain.

For the full story, see:

 A huge hit against bullying

McMaster University, in partnership with the Hamilton Police Service, hosted the world's largest anti-bullying seminar Thursday with more than 10,000 Grade 6, 7 and 8 students from Hamilton and Halton region participating.

The seminar included the educational theatre production, The Diary, which addresses the physical, emotional and relational effects of bullying and victimization that are relevant to adolescents. McMaster psychology professor and international bullying expert Tracy Vaillancourt and her 200 trained student volunteers facilitated group discussion with the classes attending.

"This event sends a clear message to our youth about how their community does not expect them to deal with bullying on their own," said Vaillancourt. "Rather, bullying is a community problem that is best dealt with using a community-wide approach that promotes awareness and understanding. This event also highlights how the community and the University can join forces to make a positive change in the lives of children."

The presentation was followed by the McMaster University men's basketball home opener versus the University of New Brunswick. Community ticket sales pushed the attendance for the game to over 11,853, setting a new Canadian university basketball attendance record. McMaster won the game by a score of 72-63.

The event was supported by McMaster University, Hamilton Police Service, the Hamilton Community Foundation, Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Incorporated (HECFI), the McMaster Student Union, the McMaster psychology department and Nike Canada.

For the complete story, see and the October 31st edition of the Hamilton Spectator. The event was also covered extensively on radio and television.

McMaster Alum wins CRC in Behavioural Neuroscience

Alumnus Cheryl McCormick (PhD 1990) is one of the newest recipients of a Canada Research Chair. Dr. McCormick will be taking her Chair in Behavioural Neuroscience at Brock University, where she plans to continue her research in behavioural neuroscience and developmental neuroendocrinology. The Chairs Program seeks to strengthen Canada's research excellence and research capacity by attracting and retaining world-class researchers in Canadian universities.

Dr. McCormick's work investigates the effects of early life experiences (e.g., exposure to social stressors, malnutrition, hormones) on cognitive and emotional behaviour and sensitivity to psychostimulants in adulthood in rats. She also investigates the physiological and neurochemical bases for these effects. A related research interest is how sex hormones influence the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal response to stress.

Congratulations to Cheryl and welcome back to Canada!

Dr. Hongjin Sun will also appear tonight on CHCH News at 6:20 PM and 11:40 PM and tomorrow either at 6:15 or 7:15 PM.

He will also appear on the Discovery Channel, tomorrow at 7:00 PM and 11:00 PM and on Friday at 9:00 AM and 12 NOON.


Oct. 7, 2003

Virtual BikeGo speed racer!
McMaster researchers use virtual reality technology to study how cyclists 'see' a race

Hamilton, ON ­ When elite cyclists are racing down Hamilton¹s mountain this week, you might think they know how fast they¹re going from information they get from their eyes.

Not so.

McMaster behavioural neuroscientist Hong-Jin Sun and a team of researchers have found that feedback from cyclists¹ legs to their brains is more important than vision in determining speed.

Sun, a psychology professor, and his team use virtual reality technology combined with a modified stationary mountain bike to evaluate how the brain integrates different sources of information.

The study, the first of its kind, will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal CyberPsychology & Behaviour.

Sun said virtual reality technology allows researchers to create realistic and natural testing scenarios while maintaining the ability to systematically manipulate visual and kinesthetic stimuli while monitoring the corresponding behaviour.

'This allows us to study the moment-to-moment coordination of visual information with body movements,' said Sun. 'The real-time manipulation of the relation between different sources of information can't be achieved in a real world experimental task; however, this can now be accomplished using virtual reality. Further, the sense of 'presence'­ the subjective experience of being within an environment, is also much greater in a multisensory, immersive, human-computer interface than in a simple computer desktop display.'

In their study, the researchers found that when visual cues and body movement cues were provided separately or in combination, either cue can provide sufficient information to the brain to determine speed. When researchers made the two cues inconsistent, they found that the body cues played a more dominant role.

Sun said this research could help elite cyclists fine tune their body performance as they understand the integrated relationship between the visual and body cues at work when they race.

A similar study recently published in the journal of Experimental Brain Research by the same group, examines how humans estimate distance travelled, another important source of information for cyclists.

The research is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

For more information contact:
Professor Hong-Jin Sun
Department of Psychology
T: 905-525-9140 ext. 24367 or 27565

McMaster vision scientists discover the right brain’ connected to the left eye’s view of the world
September 10, 2003

Hamilton, ON - Three vision scientists from McMaster University’s Visual Development Lab have discovered that the right hemisphere of a baby’s brain must receive visual input during the first few weeks of life to allow the brain to develop normal face processing skills.

Their findings are detailed in the article, Expert face processing requires visual input to the right hemisphere during infancy, published this week in the online edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Adults can recognize hundreds of faces at a glance. One reason we are so good is that we recognize small differences between people in how their features are spaced (e.g., how far apart their eyes are). This allows us to recognize someone’s face from a novel point of view (e.g., to recognize someone sitting across the aisle at a movie theater with whom we previously had only face-to-face interactions). This skill continues to develop through adolescence and seems to depend on the right hemisphere.

“The two halves of the brain are not created equal as only the right hemisphere appears able to develop expertise in processing faces,” said psychology professor Daphne Maurer. “We know from this study that early visual input to the right hemisphere is required for this skill to develop correctly.”

PhD graduate student Richard Le Grand, research associate Cathy Mondloch and professor Maurer studied children whose right brains missed early visual experience when they were infants because they had cataracts in their left eyes. During early infancy, each eye sends most of its signals to the opposite side of the brain and the fibres that connect the two hemispheres are not yet transmitting visual information. These babies were able to look at faces from birth, but only their normal right eye sent information to their developing brain prior to treatment. This means that during early infancy, their left hemisphere received signals from their normal right eye but, because of the cataract, their right hemisphere did not receive signals from their left eye. By six months of age, the cataracts had been removed and the eye had been fitted with a compensatory contact lens by ophthalmologist Henry Brent of the Hospital for Sick Children.

When tested at least eight years later—after many years of viewing faces—the patients performed very poorly when asked to distinguish faces that differed only in the spacing among features. They performed poorly despite being able to use their right eye — the eye that had seen faces since birth — during the test. Another group of patients who had a cataract in the right eye at birth performed normally, even though their left hemisphere did not receive signals from their right eye during the first few months of life.

“We are dependent on the intricate interactions between the intrinsic structure of the brain and our early experiences to accurately distinguish the myriad of faces we see everyday,” said Maurer.

Go to and click on Advance Online Publication to read the study.

The best and brightest academics in Canada, and the research they're doing...

Ottawa - Today, universities are known for their star power -- and they aggressively recruit top researchers to bring prestige and research dollars to the institution. Dr. Patrick Bennett, internationally recognized vision scientist, came from U of T to McMaster.

As Canada Research Chairs, the pair (Dr. Allison Sekuler, his wife, fellow psychologist) secured an additional $1 million in infrastructure support from the provincial and federal governments, a magnet for top graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in vision science and cognitive neuroscience.

Mitch, Doreen, & Grant

On June 30, we'll say "au revoir" to three great friends who are retiring: Elmsley "Mitch" Mitchell (centre, left picture), Erie Long and John Platt (both in the bottom picture). Although we hate to see them leave, at least it was a good excuse for a party! They were sent off in style with a great retirement bash on June 3 at the University Club.

Mitch, Erie and John
: Thanks for all your hard work and years of devotion to Psychology. The Department just won't be the same without you!

For more photos of the fun, see

Martin Daly's research was the top story in NSERC's recent announcement of newly funded research (see for the original posting).

Shes having my baby? Who does the baby look like? Its often the first question asked of new parents. But Dr. Martin Daly has another question: Do men and women look for resemblance in different ways? The McMaster University psychologists experiments are testing the hypothesis that fathers greater uncertainty in confirming parenthood may result in differences in how mom and dad look for telltale signs that junior is indeed theirs.

Professor Lorraine Allan will be inducted into the McMaster Alumni Gallery on Saturday, June 7. Since receiving her Ph.D. at McMaster in 1968, Prof. Allan has made her mark at McMaster as a teacher, administrator and scholar of international reputation. While conducting groundbreaking research on the role of learning in perception and cognition, Prof. Allan has continually offered her skillful and dedicated teaching skills to countless graduate and undergraduate students.

The Alumni Gallery is a photographic and biographical display of some of these alumni who lead interesting lives and make outstanding contributions to society. (see: for more details about the Alumni Gallery and the Induction Ceremony).


Ontario Ecology and Ethology Colloquium - May 3-4, 2003

McMaster's Psychology and Biology Departments hosted this year's Ontario Ecology and Ethology Colloquium, May 3-4. The conference is a venue for researchers to present their work in the fields of ecology, animal behaviour, evolution and environmental science. The meeting featured two plenary speakers, 90 regular talks and over 20 posters. The event was a great success, thanks in large part to the efforts of our own Sigal Balshine (Assistant Professor in Psychology, and OEEC organizer), as well as a number of other faculty and graduate students in Psychology and Biology....more about

Faculty of Science Accelerated Student Workshop

May Event - Accelerated WorkshopThe Psychology building was filled to the brim with grade 11 students for this workshop, held on Saturday, May 3. Terri Lewis gave an excellent introductory lecture, and a team of graduate students (Jessica Phillips-Silver, Nikki Woods, Fil Cortese, Ale Freire, Vicki Armstrong, George Chan, Jenny Campos, Graeme Moffat, and Mayu Nishamura), showed off their latest computer demos. The response from grade 11 students was overwhelmingly positive, and we'll look forward to seeing many of them in the department as Psychology majors in a few years! Thanks to Judy Shedden and her team (Ann Hollingshead, Gary Weatherill, Milica Pavlica, and Mitch Mitchell) for putting together such a terrific event.

If you missed this event, never fear! May@Mac is just around the corner (Saturday, May 24), with another opportunity to meet the friendly faces of Psychology. For more information, visit:

Congratulations to Alex G. Ophir, from McMaster University for best student oral presentation, and to J.A. Strother, from UC-Berkeley, for best student poster at the 2003 meeting of The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. Losers win in the end: Female Japanese quail that eavesdrop on fighting males prefer the losers. Paper presentation at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SCIB) International Conference, Toronto, Ontario, January 2003. ...more

Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt ....receives two teaching awards in her first year here at Mac... more
Killer cloaked in shadows - Psychologist Margo Wilson of McMaster University in Canada said a sexual murderer has traits that are at the far end of the behavioral bell curve. Most men, she said, are "slightly deaf" to a woman's refusals because evolution has programmed them to think that with persistence, she might say yes. Similarly, most men are capable of violence but only when necessary. Yet, "We know from lots of work that's been done on sexual-assault offenders that they're not bothered by someone saying no. They are just totally deaf," Wilson said. "These guys who do this, for whatever reason, have the parameters all set wrong."

(, March 16, 2003) ...more

Vampire Bats Aren't Fussy Easters - Dr. Bennett Galef, one of the study's co-authors, who studies animal behavior at McMaster University....more

STUDY USES AVIAN 'PORN' TO EXPAND BIRD SCIENCE .....To find out whether a bird is paying attention these days, it seems you have to get a little risqué. Alex Ophir, 28, a PhD student in the department of psychology ..... more

TRAINING THE BRAIN - Dr. Daphne Maurer of McMaster University, has discovered that the ability to recognize someone from different points of view -- when they lok down at a try of food or turn their head to the side as a friend arrives -- is dependent upon seeing things during the first few weeks of life. Their study's findings were published in the November issue of the journal of Developmental Science...more

Science Comes to the City - This exciting new series is the result of collaborations between psychology Professor  Allison Sekuler and Nick Markettos, senior advisor to the Office of the Vice-President, Research & International Affairs - our very own researcher Dr. Martin Daly, will be talking on February 11: Competition, inequity and homicide - What do social policies, income inequality and unsuccessful young men have to do with murder? Join Martin Daly, professor of psychology, to hear about the factors that can be used to predict the homicide rate. Dr. Daly was also featured in the Hamilton Spectator on Saturday, February 8, 2003 ....more

Professor Sekuler and Professor Patrick Bennett are a husband and wife team...more

Crossing your hands confuses your mind until you can see them

Scratching your left knee with your right hand appears to be an effortless act. Not so for your brain.

An international research team including David Shore, an assistant professor of psychology at McMaster University and Donna Lloyd, Charles Spence and Gemma Calvert of the University of Oxford used ...more

Tracy Vaillancourt, of McMaster University's psychology department, said female bullying is primarily based on ostracizing another female. It comes in forms that are less confrontational than males use, like gossip, name-calling or isolation.

Male bullying cases are based largely on physical abuse, she said.
(The Toronto Star, Oct. 25, 2002)

Bullying by girls more subtle, panel says

Two McMaster psychologists were featured recently on the Daily Planet (Discovery Channel), discussing the science of everyday life. Prof. John Platt's segment focussed on how we use our binaural abilities in a multi-media art installation at the Power Plant Art Gallery in Toronto. ( Prof. Allison Sekuler's segment explored how perceptual and attentional limits will minimize the distracting effects of new protective netting at NHL arenas. (


Shep Siegel, University Professor in the Department of Psychology, recently delivered the Donald W. Taylor Memorial Lecture at Yale University, and was awarded the W. Horsley Gantt Medal from the Pavlovian Society of North America" ("In Honor of the Nobel Pursuit of Truth."). The Gantt Medal, established by the Society following the death of W. Horsley Gantt in 1980, is awarded to individuals who have made distinguished contributions to the fields of psychology, physiology, behavioral neuroscience, psychophysiology, mental health or medicine within the confines of Pavlovian conceptual models or who have contributed significantly to the functioning of the Society.

Prof. Tracy Vaillancourt will be one of 5 invited panelists at a televised Town Hall forum on Bullying. Prof. Vaillancourt joined McMaster Psychology this past July, and her recent research on aggression has received international attention. For more information on attending the forum, see "Reservations," below.
What: Town Hall Tonight - Bullying
When: Thursday, September 26 - 7:15 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Where: The Hamilton Spectator, Auditorium 44 Frid St. Hamilton, ON
Why: With the school year upon us, there is no better time to tackle this important issue. Whether it be physical, mental or emotional, bullying has affected all of us at some time. The Hamilton Spectator and Cable 14 invite you to come to a Town Hall forum, where you can ask questions of the experts and participate in a discussion on the subject of bullying.

Panelists: Diana Furry, a teacher and principal with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board

Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt, faculty member at McMaster University, and expert on child-peer relations

Agnes Bongers, The Hamilton Spectator' family-issues writer, who has reported extensively on bullying

Lesley Cunningham, social worker with the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board

Tracy Lamb, chair of the Brookville Public School Parent/Community Council, and part of the special Behavioural Task Force that was created to address the issue of student behaviour in Halton public schools

Moderator: Howard Elliott, Executive Editor, The Hamilton Spectator
Reservations: This session is free of charge, but we ask that you RSVP to our SpecTel lines at 905-521-5600 and press code 8696.
Other Details: This is a televised event by Cable 14. Doors close at 7:30 p.m. sharp. Access will not be permitted afterwards.


WASHINGTON - New studies reveal that a learned compensatory response can trigger "drug tolerance," a physiological process central to addiction. Drug tolerance makes people need more and more drug to get the same effect, whether pain relief or a "high." Its newly discovered psychological aspect -- in which a drug-predictive cue primes the body to react "as if" the drug effect is imminent -- might be used to treat addiction more effectively. In short, if drug tolerance can be learned, there is a chance it can be unlearned, reducing or eliminating the tolerance-related cravings and other withdrawal symptoms that can lead addicts to relapse.

The findings appear in the July issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, which is published by the American Psychological Association (APA). This study used rats, but addiction researchers frequently generalize from rats to humans because "rats, like humans, can become dependent on addictive drugs, and display drug tolerance and drug withdrawal symptoms," says co-author Shepard Siegel, Ph.D., of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

Researchers had already shown that the drug tolerance of rats getting morphine infusions depended on the presence of environmental cues (sights or sounds paired with drugs). These external cues typically have been used because they are easily controlled by the experimenter. The new findings demonstrate there also are internal cues not controlled by the researchers -- the early bodily sensations that the drug itself surreptitiously provides.

In their July article, Siegel, with Marta Sokolowska, a graduate student at McMaster University, and Joseph A. Kim, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, explain how they built on these earlier findings to add a psychological layer to drug tolerance's already known physiological layer.

(for more information, see

Lisa DeBruine

Lisa recently did a talk on this paper at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society conference at Rutgers University and won the "New Investigator Competition".

The press seems fascinated with the topic and several news articles have appeared. The London Times also did a story on Monday, June 17. Here are two URL's with similar articles.

She was also interviewed with the BBC World Service on a program called Outlook. You can hear the interview from their website at

This is what the National Post had to say about it.

Also, Nature, Science and the Discover Channel are going to run a story on her work. These are just a few of the quotes that were emailed to her.

"I work for the Nature Publishing Group, and we are running a web-only story about your research paper "Facial resemblance enhances trust" on our daily science news site - Nature Science Update."

"I'm interested in interviewing you about your recently published research in the Proceedings of the Royal Society about facial resemblance enhancing trust. The story would appear on the daily online news section of Science magazine (Science NOW) and later in the Random Samples section of the print magazine (likely the July 12 issue)."

"I am from the Discover Channel. We are hoping to put together a short scripted news item about your face study. Do you have any graphics we might use (ie: the composite faces). We will credit you or the University on screen."

Professor Daphne Maurer's work on visual development and synesthesia was featured on a recent (June 27) edition of the popular Dutch television program, Noorderlicht. A webcast will be available at

The programme featured the research of Dr.Daphne Maurer and Dr. Catherine Mondloch on the mixing of the senses in early development. It features an interview with Dr. Maurer explaining the evidence that initially infants fail to distinguish between seeing, hearing, smelling, and tasting, but rather experience an intermingled confusion. Only when the sensory cortices become differentiated do babies start to separate the senses and become aware of seeing the mother's face versus hearing her voice. The programme also features demonstrations that remnants of the intermingling are evident in toddlers and even adults: Arial, 2 1/2-year-old daughter of faculty member, Dr. Balshine, tells Cathy Mondloch that a bright ball is the one making a high-pitched sound and Dr. Maurer demonstrates that adults perceive coloured odors as stronger than colourless odors.

Psy Jung Softball

The Psy Jung team is the psychology departments contribution to the GSA three-pitch Softball League. Our team is primarily composed of Graduate students from the Psychology Department, but also consist of Faculty, Undergraduates, Support Staff, and Friends & Significant Others as well. Come by one of our games and cheer us on to victory, or join us at the Phoenix afterwards to revel in our wins (or losses). Also, please feel free to visit our Team Web Site at:

Good Times
Psy Jung

February 28, 2002

Check out the pictures and information from this very successful evening.


Psychology received a major award from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to fund lab facilities and state-of-the-art equipment for the study of development. The team of researchers, headed by Ron Racine, was awarded over $2.2 million for their proposal: Optimizing human development: Experiential influences on brain/behaviour maturation. McMaster psychologists have been exceptionally successful in previous CFI competitions as well, receiving funds from the New Opportunities and Canada Research Chair Infrastructure programs totaling almost $700,000. CFI contributions represent 40% of total project value, enabling Psychology to access to about $7.5 million.

CFI awards are based on the recommendations of multidisciplinary assessment committees made up of world-class experts from a wide range of fields and disciplines. To receive funding, applicants must show the excellence and innovative nature of their projects and how they will benefit Canada. "This CFI investment confirms the talent of our researchers and the research expertise that resides at McMaster.," said Mamdouh Shoukri, vice-president research & international affairs.

Bio-Psych Career Night 2002

What the night of events brought forth.

Dr. Shore was granted a CIHR Brain Star award from the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction. The relevant paper (Shore, Stanford, MacInnes, Brown & Klein, 2001) compared humans and mice traversing a set of Hebb-Williams mazes. The key innovation was the use of Virtual Reality to test the human participants. See the CIRH web site for further details about the award.


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