News Archive


The Super-Sized Spoiler That Couldn't Sink Terminator 2
Way back in 2011, Professor Nicholas Christenfeld of Psychology published findings that exposing people to spoilers prior to reading a story actually tends to enhance the enjoyment of said story. This work continues to be cited, this time in a report for IGN, an entertainment media company. Click here to read this article!

Familiar Faces Look Happier Than Unfamiliar Ones
It’s a cheesy pick-up line: “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?” It might also be something that profoundly alters how we perceive other people. According to new research from UC San Diego published in Psychological Science, familiar faces look happier to us than unfamiliar ones. Former graduate student, Evan Carr, led the research as part of his doctoral studies in Psychology and Cognitive Science. Co-authors are Prof. Timothy Brady and Prof. Piotr Winkielman. Read more here.

IBM Watson AI XPRIZE ® Competition
Professor Timothy Gentner has been selected to compete in the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE ® Competition. "For the XPRIZE competition, the UC San Diego team is working on proof-of-concept demos that will help the general public experience what is possible when they apply the work of the Center for Engineered Natural Intelligence to some of the world’s most advanced cognitive computing systems." Click here to read more! 

Mandarin Makes You More Musical?
Mandarin makes you more musical – and at a much earlier age than previously thought. That’s the suggestion of a new study from lead author Sarah Creel of Cognitive Science and co-author Gail Heyman of Psychology. Read more.



Edmund Fantino - In Memoriam
The Department of Psychology is deeply saddened by the death of Edmund J. Fantino, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, who passed away September 22 in his home in Del Mar, surrounded by his loving family.
Read more about Edmund Fantino.

Uncovering the secrets of the adolescent brain
Our very own Dr. Sandra Brown, vice chancellor for research and professor of psychology and psychiatry, is coordinating a cross-disciplinary team to investigate the adolescent brain. "More than 10,000 children between the ages of 9 and 10 will be enrolled at 20 research institutions across the country and followed for 10 years."
Read this article and this article for more information.

New Faculty
The Department of Psychology is happy to welcome its newest professors: Dr. Adena Schachner (PhD, Harvard) and Dr. Caren Walker (PhD, Berkeley) will be joining our developmental group, and Dr. Tim Brady (PhD, MIT) will be joining our cognitive group. We are excited to have them join the department!

Congratulations to Steven Pan who will be participating in the ComSciCon June 2015 workshop! ComSciCon is an extremely competitive workshop focused on developing science communication skills.
Find out more details.

Time out!
New research by graduate student Katharine Tillman finds that children use words like "second" and "minute" years before they understand them.
Read more.

Jean Fort and INSAR Dissertation Awards
Katherine Meltzoff-Stavropolous, has been awarded the 2015 Jean Fort Dissertation Prize and a 2015 INSAR Outstanding Dissertation Award. Katherine is a former UCSD graduate student and will be an Assistant Professor at UC, Riverside.
The Jean Fort Dissertation Prize is awarded annually to individuals whose research has met the highest standards of academic excellence and may make a significant contribution on an issue of humanitarian or public concern.
The International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) supports basic science discoveries and service delivery initiatives for ASD, as well as global perspectives on ASD.

Lifetime achievement award
Laura Schreibman, Emeritus Distinguished Professor, has been awarded the 2015 INSAR Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding contribution to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) research and services.
The International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) supports basic science discoveries and service delivery initiatives for ASD, as well as global perspectives on ASD.
Find out more details.

Auditory illusions
You hear mango but I hear bueno? The BBC reports work from Diana Deustch about musical and auditory illusions in our lives.
Read more.


Marmoset conversations
A new study from Dr. Cory Miller examines how baby marmosets learn not to interrupt each other, an essential skill for the development of language. Click here for more details.

Glushko Dissertation Prize
Congratulations to Jess Sullivan for receiving the Glushko Dissertation Prize from the Cognitive Science Society and the Glushko-Samuelson Foundation! Jess was a graduate student with Dave Barner and is now an assistant professor at Skidmore College.

Class stereotypes
A new study by Dr. David Barner reports that children's attitudes toward social class affect whether they think their own intellectual aptitude and personality traits are malleable or set in stone. Click here for more details.

John Serences VSS Young Investigator Award
Congratulations to John Serences, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego, who is the winner of the 2015 Elsevier/VSS Young Investigator Award! 

Keith Rayner
With deep sadness, we announce the passing of Distinguished Professor Keith Rayner, Atkinson Family Chair of Psychology at UC San Diego. Keith was the world’s leading expert in the study of the cognitive mechanisms underlying the ability to read in children and adults. Keith left a deep mark on his colleagues in his discipline, as well as the dozens of students and scholars he has mentored throughout the world across his forty-year career. Keith's full obituary is located here.

NSF Veteran
Aimee Chabot attended an event at the NSF headquarters, honoring her military service and scientific achievements. See more details here.


Welcome Christina Gremel!
The Department of Psychology is happy to welcome its newest professor, Dr. Christina Gremel. Professor Gremel received her Ph.D. at the Oregon Health & Sciences University and did post doctoral research at the National Institutes of Health. She is a behavioral neuroscientist who studies the neural basis of decision making. We are excited to have her join the department!

Passing of James Goodson
With deep sadness, we announce the passing of our former colleague, James L. Goodson, 48. A behavioral neuroendocrinologist by training, Jim's research focused on neural networks and nonapeptide circuits that regulate social behavior in animal species (specifically in songbirds). Jim was a very productive and successful scientist, having published in a wide variety of high-impact journals (e.g., Science, PNAS, etc.), and he was also a dedicated environmentalist. Jim was a valued and beloved member of our department. To read a tribute to Jim, see here.

Welcome new graduate students!
The Psychology department is very pleased to welcome our incoming class of new graduate students. We look forward to their contributions to the department and the scientific community!

Women in Cognitive Science Award
Prof. Keith Rayner has been awarded the Women in Cognitive Science Outstanding Mentor Award. The award recognizes, "scientists who have demonstrated sustained, effective mentorship of female students and who have also served as a research advisor or supervisor to one or more female students".

In the first empirical study of its kind, Dr. Christine Harris and former honors student, Caroline Prouvost find that humans are not the only social species to display jealous behaviors. Dogs do so too, suggesting that jealousy is likely hard-wired and may not require complex cognitive attributions. This research has been featured widely in the media. To learn more, check out the New York TimesWashington PostTimeNPR’s “All Things Considered" or just google dog jealousy.

Distinguished Emeriti Award
Norman Anderson has been awarded the prestigious 2013-14 Constantine Panunzio Distinguished Emeriti Award, which is presented annually to one or more distinguished emeriti to honor outstanding scholarly work or educational service performed since retirement by a University of California emeritus or emerita in the Humanities or Social Sciences. The Constantine Panunzio selection committee is proud to honor and acknowledge your remarkable achievements and contributions on behalf of the University of California, and in particular, the UC San Diego campus.

Speed reading app is suspect
Many people would like to read faster, and unsurprisingly there's a smart-phone app for that. Software developers cashing in on speed-reading enthusiasts have created software that eliminates the need to move your eyes while reading. But don’t throw away your books and e-readers just yet – research by Liz Schotter, Randy Tran and Keith Rayner suggests that the eye movements we make during reading actually play a critical role in our ability to understand what we’ve just read. APS covers the story.

Teaching Excellence
The Department of Psychology congratulates Professor Leslie Carver for being awarded the 2014 Chancellor's Associates Faculty Excellence Award for Graduate Teaching. The prestigious Chancellor’s Associates Faculty Excellence Awards are given annually to six University of California, San Diego professors for excellence in teaching, research, community service, and visual and performing arts.
"Professor Carver is one of our most skilled and talented teachers, and her contributions to graduate teaching are truly impressive."
- Jeff Elman, Dean of Social Sciences

Grad students showcase value of doctoral research
Psychology Graduate Student, Liz Bacon, participates in UC Graduate Research Advocacy Day at the State Capitol to promote graduate level education and research at UC schools.

Elected to Royal College
In August 2013, V.S. Ramachandran was elected as an honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (FRCP), London. This is one of the highest honors that the Royal College can bestow on a doctor who is not already a member of the RCP. It is awarded to a maximum of 20 people annually, world-wide.

A study on a disorder called Misophonia (lit. the hatred of sound) conducted by Miren Edelstein, David Brang, and VS Ramachandran has recently been featured on a KPBS News segment.

APA Early Career Award
Adam Aron has been selected by the APA as the recipient of the 2013 American Psychological Association (APA) Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology in the area of behavioral and cognitive neuroscience. As the history of this award indicates, it is an outstanding accolade for scientific achievement. To be announced in May's APA Monitor.

Perfect Pitch
Diana Deutsch and Kevin Dooley's research on perfect pitch featured heavily in mediaHuffington PostNBC, UK's Daily Mail

Facebook memories
Research by Laura Mickes, Nicko Christenfeld and Chris Harris shows that recognition for Facebook posts is substantially better than for photos or sentences. More info >>

2013 Graduate Fellowships - The psychology department is excited to congratulate those graduate students who were recently recognized by major funding agencies! National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program 2013 Awardees: Scott Freeman, Mary Smith, Aimee Chabot. 2013 Honorable Mentions: Randy Tran, Evan Carr. National Defense Science & Engineering Graduate Fellowship: Evan Carr.

Diana Deutsch was featured in a New York Times article on after speaking in a one-day symposium on auditory hallucinations. In addition, an interview with her is featured on NPR's RadioLab.

Former psychology faculty, UC President, and UC San Diego Chancellor Richard Atkinson has donated $3.5 million to the National Academy of Sciences to create a $200,000 prize "to recognize and support scientists in improving our understanding of how the mind works." Read more.

The Atlantic reported on research by Gail Heyman showing that while a majority of American parents lie to their children, nearly all Chinese parents do and see less harm in it, too.

Karen Dobkins appears in a TEDx America's Finest City video: "The Space Between Kansas and Oz." Dobkins was also quoted by the Scientist in a story on brain adaptations among deaf people.

Chronicle of Higher Education story on the problems in priming research cites at length Hal Pashler, the "most prolific of the Replicators." Pashler's work is also cited in a Sunday New York Times op-ed.

Fans of the TV show "Downtown Abbey" were enraged by a media spoiler revealing a major character's death, and The Week cited research led by Nicholas Christenfeld to temper the anger.

BBC News and TIME reported on research led by Gail Heyman on lying to children in the U.S. and China.

Facebook is more memorable than books or faces, finds a study by Nicholas Christenfeld,Christine Harris and alumna Laura Mickes. Coverage ranged from the Wall Street Journalto Cosmopolitan and included the SalonU-T San DiegoGizmagMashablePC Magazine, ScienceNOW and TIME, among others. Christenfeld appeared on KPBS-FM and TV. The LiveScience coverage enjoyed wide national and international pick-up, while Scientific American also included commentary by John Wixted.

Seeds of Persuasion”:  Lead story package in ThisWeek@UCSanDiego on getting people to better citizens includes research by James Fowler of Political Science and Chris Bryan of Psychology.

Feb. 6: Craig McKenzie of Psychology and the Rady School of Management will talk about “Business and Psychology: Decision Making, Rationality and Creativity” at this quarter’s Social Sciences Supper Club.


Adam Aron (, Associate Professor in the Psychology Deparment, has won the 2012 Young Investigator Award of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society. Dr Aron will be honored at the Society's annual meeting in March, this year in Chicago. The award is given “to recognize the outstanding contributions by scientists early in their careers.” Dr Aron's overarching concern is to better understand how people control themselves, especially how they stop, or prepare to stop, inappropriate response tendencies. To understand the brain architecture underlying such cognitive control, he performs studies with electrophysiology, magnetic resonance imaging, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and patient groups. His research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIDA), the National Science Foundation, NARSAD, CHDI, the UCSD Academic Senate and the Alfred P Sloan foundation.

Are Men Funnier Than Woman? Funny Finding: Men Win Humor Test (by a Hair); research by Psychology alumna and current post-doc Laura Mickes, with Nicholas Christenfeld and New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff – continued to generate coverage and conversation: Good Morning America ran a weekend edition segment; TIME ran a piece and Scientific American broadcast a “60-Second Mind” podcast; Los Angeles Times had an editorial that was also distributed on the McClatchy wire and picked up widely around the nation; UPI piece enjoyed international distribution

John Wixted has been awarded Experimental Psychology's most prestigious and oldest award, the Howard Crosby Warren Medal for his research. With this award, he joins the elite company of notable psychologists, such as Karl Lashley, B. F. Skinner, Harry Harlow, Endel Tulving, Anne Treisman, and Larry Squire. recognition of his recent penetrating and influential work examining human memory theoretically, experimentally, and biologically--particularly the constructs of recollection and familiarity. John Wixted has conducted pioneering research and created extensive theoretical analyses of recognition memory. He has developed and extended the original ideas from signal detection theory in novel ways and brought them to bear on new phenomena, ones that had previously seemed incompatible with the theory. His recent theoretical analyses have blended strengths of single and dual process theories of retrieval into one coherent theoretical framework that includes both recollection and familiarity as components. Within his model, he has shown that both recollection and familiarity are graded processes. In addition, in collaboration with Larry Squire, he has shown that the hippocampus and perirhinal cortex support both recollection and familiarity. For these outstanding achievements, John Wixted is presented with the Howard Crosby Warren Medal.

Problems in Priming Chronicle of Higher Education story on the problems in priming research cites at length Hal Pashler, the "most prolific of the Replicators." Pashler's work is also cited in a Sunday New York Times op-ed.

An embarrassing cover story Christine Harris's research on embarrassment gets the front cover of APA's Monitor

Evan Carr & Piotr Winkielman's research on smiles Whether or not someone unconsciously mimics the facial expressions of another—such as by returning a smile—appeared to depend, in part, on how powerful the mimic feels, and the status of the person they are "mirroring"… Wall Street Journal>>

TEDx Women TEDx
Conference on Dec 2nd co-organized by grad Rachael Harms and featuring Karen Dobkins.

'Mirroring' Might Reflect Badly on You
In a study to be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science, Piotr Winkielman and Liam Kavanagh suggest that mimicry is more nuanced than previously thought and not, the authors write, “uniformly beneficial to the mimicker.”READ MORE >>

Mental abacus does away with words
Study on “mental abacus,” coauthored by David Barner, was featured in New Scientist >>

Diana Deutsch in Scientific American Mind
Diana Deutsch has been awarded the Science Writing Award for Professionals in Acoustics by the Acoustical Society of America for her article in Scientific American Mind, "Speaking in Tones".

Are Men Funnier Than Women?
A recent study by Psychology alumna and current post-doc Laura Mickes, with Prof.Nicholas Christenfeld, addresses the question.

APA Monitor has a cover story on embarrassment which prominently features work by Christine Harris; the digital edition of the magazine includes video interview on the subtle signs and the consequences of the social emotion.

Live Science reported on research by Christine Harris debunking the popular idea that women in the fertile phase of their cycle prefer more masculine men.

Financial Times reported on research by Chris Bryan showing that framing matters: People were less likely to cheat when encouraged to think of themselves as cheaters if they did.

Wall Street Journal and CNN, among others, reported on research by graduate student Evan Carr with Piotr Winkielman, presented at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting: Smiles have a thing or two to say, it seems, about human pecking order.

NBC News, the Business Standard of India, the UK’s Daily Mail, and U.S. News and World Report reported on research by Diana Deutsch and Kevin Dooley, presented at the Acoustical Society of America's annual meeting, suggesting that genetics may help explain perfect pitch.

Research by Nicholas Christenfeld and post-doc, alumna Laura Mickes was cited in a San Francisco Chronicle article on how women’s humor can fail in the workplace

In an article about Hollywood blockbusters, Colorado Springs Independent referenced findings by Nicholas Christenfeld that stories are not spoiled by “spoilers”

Live Science on wrongful convictions based on misidentification by eyewitnesses cited work led by John Wixted 

Nicholas Christenfeld of Psychology weighed in on a UT San Diego story about employee personality tests

Christopher Bryan  was quoted in The Atlantic on the public perception of B.F. Skinner’s behavior modification techniques 

Los Angeles Times story on synesthesia’s blended senses include the work of graduate student David Brang

ScienceNOW reported on study about how the brain processes metaphors and quoted commentary by V.S. Ramachandran

Study on infants’ cognitive development by Karen Dobkins and graduate student Katie Wagner, suggesting babies may be experiencing something akin to synesthesia, was featured on BigThink.

Story in Huffington Post surveying studies on beauty included the golden-ratio work of Stephen Link and alumna Pamela Pallett

Science 2.0 story on training your toddler to have perfect pitch featured Diana Deutsch

Don’t know much about charter schools: Education Week reported on a new paper -- coauthored by Julian Betts of Economics with UC President Emeritus Richard Atkinsonof Cognitive Science/Psychology and published in the journal Science – demonstrating that the best, most rigorous (lottery-based) studies of charter schools reflect only the best schools and must be supplemented with “value-added” approaches for all the rest. KPBSand The San Diego Reader, among others, also reported.

New Scientist ran video and blog posts on visual illusion originally developed by Stuart Anstis; the magazine’s “Culture Lab” blog featured V.S. Ramachandran on his favorite place to reflect and seek inspiration.

BBC News ran a feature on the ongoing mirror-therapy work of V.S. Ramachandran, starting with treating the phantom-limb pain of amputees in the mid-’90s and now moving on to osteoarthritis.


Psychological scientists are doing sound research in the quest for the elusive crossroads where words and music meet. Diana Deutsch featured in the cover story of the Association for Psychological Science's Observer.

Now that’s funny: New York Times ran story on research by Psychology alumna and current post-doc Laura Mickes, with Nicholas Christenfeld, showing that, contrary to gender stereotype, men may not be the much funnier sex. Sydney Morning Herald also ran a piece as did UK’s Chortle; and Salt Lake Tribune re-published LA Times editorial

Discover Magazine article a on study suggesting that finches may have their own grammatical rules included comment from Tim Gentner of Psychology

Stuart Anstis of Psychology explained a “beating hearts” visual illusion to New Scientist blog

Daily Tech covered research coauthored by John Wixted of Psychology finding that the hippocampus may play a larger role in memory than previously thought

KQED’s “MindShift” cited work by Hal Pashler of Psychology that doesn’t find evidence to support the popular notion of learning styles

Larry Squire published in Journal of Neuroscience regarding new understandings of the role of the hippocampus in memory.

Undergraduate Theresa Tran wins 2nd place and an iPad in the Cengage Psychology video contest thanks to student votes. See her humorous and informative entry on youtube.

Diana Deutsch has been awarded the Science Writing Award for Professionals in Acoustics for her article in Scientific American Mind, "Speaking in Tones".

Funny Finding: Men Win Humor Test (by a Hair); research by Psychology alumna and current post-doc Laura Mickes, with Nicholas Christenfeld and New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff – continued to generate coverage and conversation: Good Morning Americaran a weekend edition segment; TIME ran a piece and Scientific American broadcast a “60-Second Mind” podcast; Los Angeles Times had an editorial that was also distributed on the McClatchy wire and picked up widely around the nation; UPI piece enjoyed international distribution

New Scientist short with video on a visual illusion referred to Stuart Anstis of Psychology

Spoilers don't ruin stories! Nicholas Christenfeld and Jonathan Leavitt received plenty of attention in the media for his recent findings on story endings. The Colbert Report andMSNBC.

California Watch ran story on report, led by Hal Pashler of Psychology, saying there is little scientific evidence to support the theory of “learning styles”

MSNBC reporting on the arrest of the “Toe Suck Fairy” cited V.S. Ramachandran of Psychology on foot fetishes

Big Think ran piece on recent mirroring research by Piotr Winkielman of Psychology

Leslie Carver and Karen Dobkins of Psychology, coauthors on a big study led by UC Davis showing that autism risk in sibling is much higher than previously thought, were featured on the talk-show KPBS “Midday Edition” and on KPBS NewsWebMD and several others mentioned UC San Diego involvement in the study

Study on “mental abacus,”  coauthored by David Barner of Psychology, was featured in New Scientist.

Forbes blog, LiveScience and Deccan Herald ran stories on research by Piotr Winkielman of Psychology showing that mirroring another’s body language sometimes reflects poorly on the mimic, as did Business Insider and the Daily Mail (UK)

Keith Rayner is awarded the the Carnegie Cetenary Professorship, given to nominees of the highest academic standing who will contribute to academic/scientific developments in the Scottish universities in their particular fields, whether in teaching or research or in both, in emerging as well as established disciplines or in interdisciplinary fields.

New Scientist feature on the link between sounds and particular sensory perceptions cited research by V.S. Ramachandran of Psychology, with alumnus Ed Hubbard, and also the work of Benjamin Bergen of Cognitive Science

Australian science magazine Cosmos referred to starling research by Tim Gentner of Psychology in a story about the evolution of language

MedIndia story on how listening to music while jogging and biking makes you “deaf” quotedDiana Deutsch of Psychology

John Wixted has been awarded Experimental Psychology's most prestigious and oldest award, the Howard Crosby Warren Medal for his research. With this award, he joins the elite company of notable psychologists, such as Karl Lashley, B. F. Skinner and Larry Squire.

ScienceNews story, appearing in U.S. News & World Report, on how brains guesstimate quoted Ed Vul of Psychology