“I’m a Researcher” Live Final at the Curiosity Carnival
While some of the OCEAN Lab hosted a games stall “Do you see what I see?” on Broad Street, our own Sam Parsons was participating in the live final of “I’m a Researcher, Get me out of here!” During the event, students and their parents were able to interact with the 5 researchers that had won the most votes throughout September and ask their questions in person. We had lively conversations about how our research gets published, what our most exciting findings were, and how our research can help the world. Congratulations to Priyanka Dhopade who won and donated the winnings to a charity that works towards encouraging girls into STEM subjects. Although Sam didn’t achieve the winning vote, he is keen to follow on from “I’m a Researcher” and continue his blog/podcast regularly to answer more students questions and to talk about the realities of being a researcher.
Fun day at the Curiosity Carnival!
The OCEAN Lab had a fantastic time at the Curiosity Carnival, which took place on Friday 29th September. Maud Grol, Annabel Songco and Charlotte Booth took to the streets of Oxford to showcase the labs research and speak to the public about cognitive biases. They hosted a games stall on Broad street, which was called “Do you see what I see?” and included three different games to introduce the concepts of i) attention bias, ii) interpretation bias and iii) memory bias. The attention bias game required groups of the public to find the happy or angry “face in the crowd” on specially made posters as fast as they could. The interpretation bias game asked people to imagine a picture in their head associated with a list of ambiguous words, after which they were shown pictures to represent the different interpretations people have. For example the word “Bark” – could be interpreted as either tree bark (neutral interpretation) or dog bark (threatening interpretation). The memory bias game involved showing people a poster with many different healthy and unhealthy foods for 30 seconds, after which they were asked to write down as many items as they could remember. Remembering more of one category would indicate a bias towards healthy or unhealthy foods. The games were very well received and introduced the idea that we all see the world differently, as we all have filters or biases in our cognition. This sparked many interesting discussions on why we develop these biases and under which conditions these might be helpful or sometimes unhealthy. All in all, It was a truly fascinating event and great opportunity to share scientific research with the public. Looking forward to the next one!
Upcoming Curiosity Carnival
On the 29th of September the streets and museums of Oxford will be bustling with activity for the Curiosity Carnival which is an exciting opportunity for the public to engage with Oxford scientists from all disciplines. The University of Oxford was ranked top for world-leading research in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF, 2014). The Curiosity Carnival will be a chance to meet these world-class researchers and hear about their fascinating research in a slightly different way – through games stalls, live experiments, and snappy to-the-point talks. The OCEAN Lab will be presenting a games stall on Broad Street, which will include fun games to engage the public with getting to know their own cognitive biases. Come down to check us out – our event is FREE to attend!
The Why Factor: Fear vs. Fact
Elaine features in the BBC World Service’s latest instalment of The Why Factor. In the episode – entitled Fear vs. Fact – presenter Mike Williams asks if we now live in a post-factual age — where messages of fear dominate and the truth goes unspoken or unheard. He investigates the ‘Backfire Effect’ which means that entrenched views can become more entrenched when confronted by contradictory facts. Elaine comments: ‘Fear is a very powerful emotion – I guess the first thing to remember is the reason all of us are here is because our ancestors had very effective threat detective systems.’
Psychology Lunchtime talks
Charlotte Booth visited a school to give 3 fascinating lunchtime talks on the “Development of the Teenage Brain.” The talks were very engaging and informative, and attended by students in Years 11, 12 and 13 who were interested in Psychology. It was a great opportunity for the students to extend their understanding of the brain and in particular their own developing brain, as well as learn about career pathways within Psychology.
This is a review by a Year 11 student who studies Psychology and Biology:
“As we had not learnt much about the brain previously, in either Biology or Psychology, many of us were enthusiastic about attending a talk on The Teenage Brain by Charlotte Booth, a researcher from Oxford University!
During the talk, she explained how our prefrontal cortex develops last, which could explain the teenage stereotype of ‘reckless behaviour’, and about how our brains have recently been discovered to continue to develop well into early adulthood (one could argue that some people’s brains never mature!). We learnt about how our social senses develop as we become more aware of other people, and showed us how studies had been done to show differences in the way an 11 year-old would think socially, and how 15 year-olds would interpret social contexts. All in all, the talk was informative and we understood her well.”
Encouraging girls into STEM subjects
Recent surveys have revealed that there has been a decline in the past year of girls choosing to study STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) subjects at University. This is despite the fact that job vacancies in these subjects are constantly on the rise. Very few women are applying for these roles, which is no doubt due to the fact that women are not likely to study these subjects at University. It seems that we should be encouraging girls from a young age to engage with these exciting and innovative subjects.
At the OCEAN Lab we will be working with STEM-NET to promote our field of science to adolescents in schools around the country by joining their STEM Ambassador programme.
Science Week is a new initiative being run by the Oxford Centre for Emotions and Affective Neuroscience (OCEAN) during half term – 16th – 20th February, 2015. It has been designed by our developmental researchers to engage young adolescents – in years 7 & 8 – to learn more about science in a fun and interactive way.
Parents can book their children into a morning or afternoon session during half term week and bring them along to the department of experimental psychology. Activities will be organised in groups of about ten other children, who will be chaperoned by two researchers (DBS approved to work with children). We will be playing brain games designed to help children learn more about their adolescent brain – including the brain piñata.
Some of these interactive activities are real scientific experiments – which will be completed on a computer and are designed to measure cognitive ability, risk taking and biases in attention and memory. The results from these computer games will be compared with responses from questionnaires, as well as genetic information – as we will be taking a saliva sample from each child, in order to see whether we can find any associations between our psychological tests and specific genes. This information will be coded anonymously and will never be stored with individual names. This cutting edge research will provide us with new information about the genetics of psychology.
All activities will be completed within a three hour time frame at the department of experimental psychology. Parents will be required to drop children off and sign a consent form for their participation in our study. A detailed information sheet will be emailed to you before you come along and you will have the opportunity to discuss any further questions with our researchers. This is part of the on-going CogBIAS study and your child will be invited to come back for follow ups 18 months later.
So, please come and join us for this fun filled week – snacks and refreshments will be provided – children will also receive a £10 Amazon voucher for their participation in our study.
Booking is now closed. If you have any concerns or queries email firstname.lastname@example.org Watch this space for future activities!
Attention Bias Modification for children with chronic pain
DPhil student Lauren Heathcote appeared on the BBC South Today news, talking about her new research on children with chronic pain. Lauren is conducting a large, randomised controlled trial of a novel computerised intervention, Attention Bias Modification, for children with chronic pain. The trial is funded by the UK-based charity Action Medical Research http://www.action.org.uk, and is taking place at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital. Lauren also appeared on BBC Radio Oxford to discuss her research: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p027tvtv
Aspects of Personality
Elaine will be talking about ‘Rainy Brain Sunny Brain’ or why some people are optimists and why some are pessimists to the National Women’s Register conference on “Aspects of Personality” in Salisbury on Saturday 25th October, 2014.
Are there Cognitive Markers of Optimism and Wellbeing?
Elaine will be presenting a talk to the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics (LSE) on Thursday 23 October, 2014 at 1:00 pm. She will be asking “Are there Cognitive Markers of Optimism and Wellbeing?”
Happiness by Design
Elaine will be chairing a talk at the London School of Economics (LSE) by Professor Paul Dolan on his new book ‘Happiness by Design’ and a general discussion on “Happiness” on Wednesday 22 October, 2014. The event is in the Old Theatre, Old Building from 6:30 – 8:00 pm.
Radio New Zealand Interview
Elaine speaks on Nine to Noon Radio New Zealand National on the science of optimism and pessimism.