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Colloquium Series

Departmental Colloquium Series

During the academic year, the department of psychology invites respected scholars to give lectures on research and theory in contemporary psychology. Please see the schedule below for more details and room locations. All are welcome to attend and engage with the Northwestern Psychology Community.

*Currently colloquiums are being held via Zoom till further notice, presentations are on Friday afternoons, 3:15pm to 4:30pm CST


Friday, October 9th, 2020, 3:15 pm

Speaker: Gordon Pennycook, University of Regina

Topic: Good lawyers versus bad philosophers: On the source of reasoning errors

Abstract: The alarming spread of entirely fabricated news stories - "fake news" - during the 2016 US Presidential election is a salient example of how human reasoning often fails. How do we explain such errors? I will outline two broad perspectives on this question with different implications for understanding cognitive capacity and knowledge resistance. One argues that humans reason like good lawyers, and that cognitive sophistication increases political polarization. The other argues that humans reason like bad philosophers, and that cognitive sophistication increases accurate belief formation. I will attempt to adjudicating between these two perspectives by drawing on research from a variety of domains, and describe in detail my work on the recent phenomenon of fake news as a particularly interesting test case.

Location: LIVE Via Zoom

About Gordon Pennycook


Friday, November 13th, 2020, 3:15 pm

Speaker: Steven Franconeri, Northwestern University

Topic: Thinking with Visualizations, Fast and Slow

Abstract: Your visual system evolved and develops to process the scenes, faces, and objects of the natural world. You then adapt that system to process the artificial world of graphs, maps, and data visualizations. This adaptation can lead alternatively to fast and powerful – or deeply slow and inefficient – visual processing. I'll use interactive visual tasks to demonstrate the powerful capacity limits that arise when we extract structure and meaning from these artificial displays, which I will argue must occur via a slow serial language-like representation. Understanding these constraints leads to guidelines for display design and instruction techniques, across information dashboards, presentations, and STEM Education.

Location: LIVE Via Zoom

About Steven Franconeri


Friday, December 11th, 2020, 3:15 pm

Speaker: Steven O. Roberts, Stanford University

Topic: Racism: A Developmental Story

Abstract:  Racism – often conceptualized as disliking or mistreating others because of their race – is a system of advantage based on race. In this talk, I will share my personal and professional experiences within this system, and highlight how the two have developed hand in hand. Specifically, I will address racism in our categories, churches, relationships, and science. In doing so, I will aim to make three broader points. First, racism shapes our lives in ways that are often unappreciated and unrecognized. Second, racism shapes our lives from childhood well into adulthood and beyond. Third, our own experiences with racism (and race) inform who and what we study. I will conclude, as a human and as a psychologist, with recommendations for an anti-racist future.

Location: LIVE Via Zoom

About Steven O. Roberts


Friday, January 8th, 2021, 1:15 pm**(note: time change has been made for this event)

Speaker: Roshan Cools, Radboud University Medical Center

Topic: Neurochemistry of the adaptive mind. Lessons from dopamine.

Roshan Cools completed her undergraduate degree in Experimental Psychology at the University of Groningen, Netherlands, in 1998. She then moved to Trevor Robbins’ lab at the University of Cambridge, UK, for an MPhil degree (1999), a PhD degree (2002), a St John’s College Junior Research Fellowship (2002-2006) and a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellowship (2002 – 2006). She spent two post-doc years at UC Berkeley working with Mark D’Esposito from 2003, before moving back to Cambridge in 2005, where she obtained a Royal Society University Research Fellowship (2006 -2007). In November 2007 she returned to The Netherlands, where she is now Principal Investigator at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour and Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry at the Radboud University Medical Center. She studies the cognitive and motivational control of human decision making and its modulation by dopamine and serotonin. She is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and the Academia Europea and has obtained many personal awards and prizes, including a Vidi (NWO, 2008), a Vici (NWO, 2014), a Human Frontiers Science Program grant (2009), a James McDonnell Foundation scholar award (2012) and the Young Investigator Award from the Cognitive Neuroscience Society (2012). In total, she has obtained more than 10 million euro’s of grant funding. Moreover she serves as handling Editor for the Journal of Neuroscience and the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, and is a member of the (Dutch Government) Advisory Council for Science, Technology and Innovation (AWTI, since 2014) and the board of the Rathenau Institute (since 2012).

Location: LIVE Via Zoom

About Roshan Cools


Friday, February 12th, 2021, 3:15 pm

Speaker: Katie McLaughlin, Harvard University

Topic: Neurodevelopmental Mechanisms Linking Childhood Adversity with Psychopathology Across the Life-Course

Abstract: Children who have experienced environmental adversity—such as abuse, neglect, or poverty—are at markedly elevated risk for developing psychopathology.  What is less clear is how and why adverse early experiences exert such a profound influence on children’s mental health.  Identifying developmental processes that are disrupted by adverse early environments is the key to developing better intervention strategies for children who have experienced adversity.  Yet, much existing research relies on a cumulative risk approach that is unlikely to reveal these mechanisms. This approach tallies the number of distinct adversities experienced to create a risk score. This risk score fails to distinguish between distinct types of environmental experience, implicitly assuming that very different experiences influence development through the same underlying mechanisms.  In this talk, I will advance an alternative model.  This novel approach conceptualizes adversity along distinct dimensions, emphasizes the central role of learning mechanisms and the neural circuitry that supports these mechanisms, and distinguishes between different forms of adversity that might influence learning and neural development in distinct ways.  A key advantage of this approach is that learning mechanisms provide clear targets for interventions aimed at preventing psychopathology in children who have experienced adversity.

Location: LIVE Via Zoom

About Katie McLaughlin


Friday, March 12th, 2021, 3:15 pm

Speaker: David Smith , Northwestern University

Topic: Curriculum of Hope: One Instructor’s View of Teaching Psychology in a Maximum-Security Prison 

Abstract: In this presentation I will describe my experiences as a continuing faculty member in the Northwestern Prison Education Program (NPEP), where I teach courses in Psychology.  NPEP is a partnership between the Illinois Department of Corrections and Northwestern University, and exists to provide high quality educational opportunities to incarcerated students.  Now in its third year, the program has introduced a variety of liberal arts courses to multiple cohorts of around 20 students per year, who, with persistence in the program, may ultimately earn an Associate’s degree from Oakton Community College or a B.A. from Northwestern.   The experience of working in prison with these students has been personally transformative, and I hope to describe its impact on me through stories, pictures and statistics.

Location: LIVE Via Zoom

About David Smith


Friday, April 9th, 2021, 3:15 pm

Speaker: Marie Banich, University of Colorado at Boulder

Topic: "Stop thinking about it”! Neural and cognitive mechanisms for actively removing information from working memory

Abstract: How can we as scientists determine when someone has stopped thinking of something? Said differently, how can we find an experimental signature of a thought that no longer exists? In this talk I will discuss behavioral and neuroimaging research that addresses this question to elucidate the cognitive control mechanisms that allow information in working memory to be actively removed from the current focus of attention. Most paradigms used in cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience to study working memory do not actually require information to be removed nor do they measure when such removal has occurred. In contrast, our work using a marriage of functional neuroimaging and machine learning techniques, including multi-voxel pattern analysis (MVPA), in conjunction with behavioral experiments has been able to provide evidence that a thought has indeed been removed. Our work provides evidence that there are at least three distinct ways of removing information from working memory: by replacing it with something else, by specifically targeting it for suppression, and by clearing the mind of all thought. In this talk, I will discuss a) the neural mechanisms that enable each of these three types of operations, b) provide evidence regarding the time course of the removal of information from working memory, and c) elucidate the consequences of these removal operations for the encoding of new information, which is critical for new learning. In addition to having implications for enhancing our knowledge of the cognitive control operations that work on information in working memory, I will also discuss the implications of this work for psychological and psychiatric disorders, many of which are characterized by recurrent or intrusive thoughts that individuals cannot remove from the current focus of attention.

Location: LIVE Via Zoom

About Marie Banich


Friday, May 7th, 2021, 3:15 pm

Speaker: Phillip Hammack, University of California, Santa Cruz

Topic: The Psychology of Sexual and Gender Diversity in the Era of Radical Authenticity

Abstract: The twenty-first century is a time of heightened recognition of diversity in gender, sexuality, and relationships—an era of “radical authenticity” in which individuals are increasingly able to align their internal sense of identity with its external presentation. Cultural attitudes and social policies in the United States and elsewhere have increasingly come to legitimize diversity in gender and sexual identity, with legal recognition of same-sex relationships and heightened visibility of the transgender experience. This presentation reports preliminary findings from a mixed-methods study of adolescents residing in distinct regions of California known for their historic support or hostility toward gender and sexual diversity. Mobilizing multiple sources of data (e.g., ethnographic, interview, survey), three larger stories are emerging that center on (a) the new vocabulary related to gender and sexual identity, revealed in adolescents’ appropriation of new identity labels that challenge binary conceptions; (b) the endurance of stigma in spite of social change and the resources associated with supportive community settings; and (c) the expansion of the meaning of community for contemporary adolescents, facilitated by social media. These findings challenge psychology’s traditional paradigm—historically rooted in static, binary notions of gender and sexual identity—and call for new understandings of identity, community, and stigma.

Location: LIVE Via Zoom

About Phillip Hammack


Friday, June 11th, 2021, 3:15 pm

Speaker: Onnie Rogers, Northwestern University

Topic: TBA

Abstract: TBA

Location: LIVE Via Zoom

About Onnie Rogers

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