Skip to Content

Psychological Sciences

Home > News > News and Events

News and Events


Congratulations Rob Reinhart!

November 23, 2015—Rob has been selected to receive an American Psychological Foundation 2015 COGDOP Graduate Research Scholarship. As a recipient of this scholarship, he will receive $1,000. The Foundation will also publish notification of his award in the APA Monitor on Psychology and in its newsletter, Psychology Giving. The Foundation provides financial support for innovative research and programs that enhance the power of psychology to elevate the human condition and advance human potential both now and in generations to come.

Congratulations Sun-Joo!

November 4, 2015—Sun-Joo Cho, will be receiving the 2016 Bradley Hanson Award for Contributions to Educational Measurement from the National Council on Measurement in Education! Below is some information about the award. What a wonderful honor to be recognized in this way! Congratulations, Sun-Joo! The Bradley Hanson Award has been established to honor Bradley Hanson's contributions to the field of educational measurement and to further advance the goals embodied in his work. Applicants must describe a recently completed research project or propose a new research project that promises to make a substantive contribution to the field of educational measurement or the development, instruction or mentoring of new professionals in the field. A typical time frame for the expected completion of a proposed project is one to two years. Please see the list of previous recipients and their projects for more information. The recipient will be awarded $1,250 and a commemorative plaque from NCME, which will be presented to the recipient at the NCME Annual Meeting.

Congratulations Sonya Sterba!

October 21, 2015—Sonya K. Sterba is named the 2015 recipient of the Cattell Early Career Research Award: The Cattell Early Career Research Award is named for Raymond B. Cattell, a founder of SMEP. This award is an early-career award given annually by the Society to a young researcher who has made outstanding contributions to multivariate experimental psychology and who shows promise of continued work of a very high quality. The recipient need not be a member of SMEP. Criteria for the award are as follows: (1) outstanding contribution to multivariate experimental psychology; (2) age 40 or younger, or 10 years or less post-Ph.D.; (3) a minimum of one publication in a refereed journal. Nominations are solicited annually from members of the Society, and members then vote among the nominees to select a winner. The winner of the Cattell Early Career Research Award is invited to the annual SMEP meeting to present an address and is also given an honorarium.

Congratulations Sam Ling!

September 18, 2015—Sam Ling, postdoctoral alumnus from the Blake lab, is an assistant professor at Boston University, and was recently awarded a prestigious Peter Paul Professorship. This award is given annually to promising junior educators in recognition of their exceptional contributions to their field of study. For more details, see:

Jennifer Coppola wins the Lisa M. Quesenberry Scholarship

April 22, 2015—The Lisa M. Quesenberry Scholarship Fund was established by Irvin and Mary Ann Quesenberry and Kathryn Quesenberry to memorialize the accomplishments of their daughter and sister, Lisa M. Quesenberry. The scholarship is designed to provide research or study awards to motivated graduate students. The award is targeted to female graduate student who overcame significant personal hurdles to pursue their education. Jennifer is currently a first-year graduate student with Anita Disney. She received her undergraduate degree from the Ohio State University. Not only is Jennifer the first in her family to enter a PhD program, but she is the first to go to college and the first to finish high school. Congratulations, Jennifer.

May Shen and Yao Jiang win The William F. Hodges Teaching Assistant Award

April 22, 2015—This award recognizes outstanding achievement as a teaching assistant by a graduate student in the Department of Psychology. William Hodges was an undergraduate and a graduate student at Vanderbilt in the 1960s. After his untimely death in 1992, family and friends established the William F. Hodges Teaching Assistant Award at Vanderbilt to honor outstanding teaching assistants in the department. May Shen is a graduate student with Thomas Palmeri. She has completed a Certificate in College Teaching from the Center for Teaching and has TAed for a wide array of courses in the department, including PSY208 (Principles of Experimental Design), PSY209 (Quantitative Methods), and PSY225 (Cognitive Psychology); this semester, she is TAing for a statistics course in Psychology and Human Development. Adriane Seiffert, for whom May TAed in PSY208 and PSY209, noted that her work was “exemplary in both courses”, and that students commented that “she was responsive and helpful - gave exact answers to questions”, “conveyed the material in a way she knew would be effective, logical and memorable”. Geoff Woodman, for whom May TAed in PSY225, noted that she “jumped on a week’s worth of lectures when given the opportunity.” Yao Jiang is a graduate student with Vivien Casagrande. She most recently TAed for the introductory NSC201 Neuroscience course. Students commented that Yao is “very energetic and very very smart”, and that “her review sessions helped so much”. Dr. Leslie Smith, who Yao TAed for in Neuroscience, commented that “She was always eager to volunteer for jobs as they sprung up during the semester. Her exam reviews were spot on, and students raved about her upbeat, enthusiastic personality during these sessions. … I truly enjoyed working with her. She was so positive, a breath of fresh air every lecture day.” Congratulations, May and Yao.

Rob Reinhart wins The Pat Burns Memorial Graduate Student Research Award

April 22, 2015—This award is named after Pat Burns, who was Education Coordinator in the Department of Psychology until her death several years ago; Pat touched generations of doctoral students during her nearly four decades of service to Vanderbilt University. In memory of her tireless efforts to help guide our students through all phases of their graduate education, this award recognizes outstanding achievement in research by a graduate student in the department. This year’s winner, Rob Reinhart, is a PhD student working with Geoff Woodman, Jeff Schall, and Sohee Park. He received his BA from the University of Connecticut. Rob was awarded a pre-doctoral NRSA fellowship and already has 12 peer-reviewed publications in top journals, such Psychological Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Cerebral Cortex, and Journal of Neuroscience. Congratulations, Rob.



November 30, 2015 – Quantitative Methods (QM) Colloquium Series with Joe Rodgers

Quantitative Methods (QM) Colloquium Series presents

Dr. Joe Rodgers, Psychology & Human Development, Vanderbilt University

Title: Statistical Cartoons that Teach

 Monday November 30, 2015

2-3:30 p.m. Hobbs 105

December 1, 2015 – Clinical Brown Bag Series: Sandra F. Simmons

Sandra F. Simmons, Ph.D., General Internal Medicine and Public Health, Vanderbilt Medical Center

Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015

12:10 p.m. Wilson Hall, Room 316


December 2, 2015 – CCN Brown Bag Series: Duje Tadin

Duje Tadin, Brain/Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester, River Campus

Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015

12:05 p.m. Wilson Hall, Room 115

Suppressive neural mechanisms: from perception to intelligence

Perception operates on an immense amount of incoming information that greatly exceeds the brain's processing capacity. Because of this fundamental limitation, the ability to suppress irrelevant information is a key determinant of perceptual efficiency. Here, I will present a series of studies investigating suppressive mechanisms in visual motion processing, namely perceptual suppression of large, background-like motions. These spatial suppression mechanisms are adaptive, operating only when sensory inputs are sufficiently robust to guarantee visibility. Converging correlational and causal evidence links these behavioral results with inhibitory center-surround mechanisms, namely those in cortical area MT. 

What are functional roles of spatial suppression? Spatial suppression is weaker in old age and schizophrenia—as evident by paradoxically better-than-normal direction discriminations of large moving stimuli. Moreover, these subjects also exhibit deficits in figure-ground segregation, suggesting a functional connection. In recent studies, we report direct experimental evidence for a functional link between spatial suppression and figure-ground segregation

Finally, I will argue that the ability to suppress information is a fundamental neural process that applies not only to perception but also to cognition in general. Supporting this argument, we find that individual differences in spatial suppression of motion signals strongly predict individual variations in WAIS IQ scores (r = 0.71).


December 3, 2015 – Neuroscience Brown Bag Series: Vivien Casagrande

Vivien Casagrande, Ph.D., Medical School, Vanderbilt Medical Center

Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015

12:10 p.m. Wilson Hall 316


December 3, 2015 – Department of Psychology Colloquium Series: Lisa Feldman Barrett

Lisa Feldman Barrett, Ph.D., Northeastern University

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

4:10 p.m.

Location : 126 Wilson Hall

Emotion inside out:  From cartoon neuroscience to the predictive brain

This talk will review theory and research to reveal the surprising ways in which the brain uses prediction to construct experiences and perceptions of emotion. Two themes will be covered: (1) the shift from typological thinking (an emotion has a particular facial expression and autonomic fingerprint) to population thinking (an emotion word names a population of unique instances tailored to the specifics of the immediate situation); (2) the shift from essentialism (all instances of an emotion category share an underlying neural circuit) to degeneracy (instances of an emotion category are constructed as different configurations within the brain’s functional architecture of interacting domain-general core networks).  These themes not only explain the nature of emotion, but they represent a shift in the scientific paradigm for mapping brain structure and function to mental categories. They dissolve the artificial boundaries between cognition, perception, emotion, and action, and between categorization, prediction, and memory, to unify the mind, providing new insights for understanding mental disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, and even physical illness.

December 4, 2015 – Department of Psychology Seminar (hosted by the Schall Lab)

Thomas Reppert

Laboratory for Computational Motor Control

Department of Biomedical Engineering 

Johns Hopkins University

Friday, 12/4/15

12;10 - 1:00pm

WH 316

Saccade vigor encodes subjective value of reward 

Until close to the end of the 20th century, saccade speed was considered strictly a function of movement size (the so-called “main sequence”).  More recent studies suggest that saccade vigor is not strictly dictated by amplitude.  Motivational factors such as reward also affect saccade vigor.  For instance, monkeys make faster saccades to targets promising juice reward than to non-rewarded targets.  Similarly, humans make faster saccades to faces than to visual noise.  We wanted to determine whether subjective value of reward, assessed during a temporal discounting task, affected saccade vigor.  We asked 60 volunteers to complete a standard temporal discounting task, in which they chose between a small reward to be delivered immediately, and a larger reward delivered after 30 days.  We manipulated the amounts of immediate and delayed reward offered over 120 trials, and estimated each subject’s discount rate.  While subjects completed the task, we monitored their eye movements with video-oculography.  It is important to note that subjects’ saccades did not affect trial outcome; saccades only served as a means of acquiring information about the rewards offered.  We found that, after subjects made their decision, within-trial saccade vigor dropped immediately by roughly 4%.  Among the saccades made just before and just after the decision, saccades to the preferred option were more vigorous than saccades to the non-preferred option.  The disparity between vigor of saccades to the two options became larger as the difference in the subjective values of the two options increased.  Therefore, during decision-making, the subjective value that the brain assigned to a stimulus influenced the vigor with which the eyes moved toward that stimulus.