University of Vermont

The College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Psychological Science

Department of Psychological Science Colloquia

Every year the Department of Psychological Science hosts a variety of colloquia in which distinguished national and international scholars visit UVM to discuss their research. Our colloquia are open to all, though some require prior registration due to limited seating.

Mark Stanton, Ph.D

Mark Stanton Professor
Behavioral Neuroscience Area
Department of Psychology
University of Delaware
Cox McNeil Speaker Series
Developmental Psychobiology of Eyeblink Conditioning
April 27, 2007

Advances in psychology and neuroscience over the past 70 years have made eyeblink conditioning a powerful experimental paradigm for comparative studies of the neural basis of learning and memory in animal models and humans.

This presentation describes extensions of this paradigm to the developmental psychobiology of learning. It surveys applications of eyeblink conditioning to developmental studies of associative learning, multiple memory systems; and human memory development; and describes applications of this work to developmental disorders such as fetal alcohol syndrome and autism.

William (Sandy) Darity, Jr., Ph.D.

William (Sandy) Darity Boshamer Professor of Economics
Director, Institute of African American Research
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Research Professor of Public Policy Studies
African and African American Studies and Economics
Duke University
Cox McNeil Speaker Series
Codes of Color: Skin Shade, Social Psychology, and Economic Inequality
April 17, 2007

Skin tone seems to be an especially salient aspect of human appearance, generating a potent social response in a variety of contexts and countries. This colloquium will explore the nature of the penalties faced by darker skinned persons and how skin shade operates as a signal for discriminatory and racist behavior toward them. The role of skin shade in employment, criminal justice, and marriage all will be examined during the course of the colloquium.

John Senders, Ph.D

John Senders James Marsh Professors-at-Large
Department of Psychology
University of Vermont
Hosted by The Department of Psychology
Cox McNeil Speaker Series
Do Doctors Commit Errors or Do Errors Happen to Doctors?
April 13, 2007

The report To Err is Human was published by the Institute of Medicine in 1999. It presents an analysis of about 30,000 hospital cases in New York state, and extrapolated the findings to the whole country. It said that between 48,000 and 96,000 people every year died as a consequence of preventable errors in hospitals. Human error became an important topic. One of the major difficulties was that of convincing coroners, physicians and nurses, and lawyers that the problem was not MEDICAL error, a medical event, but rather medical ERROR, a psychological event.

I shall discuss very briefly the history of error research, describe some of the problems that arise in trying to treat error as an object of investigation rather than as a metric of performance, and suggest some topics that, in my view, need to be investigated.


John W. Senders, a research psychologist and Human Factors and Ergonomic Society Fellow, is an international expert in human error and has been conducting human factors research for over fifty years. Dr. Senders holds a B.A. from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Tilberg. He has authored several books including Human Error: Cause, Prediction and Reduction. His work crosses many disciplines, including medicine, law, engineering, and psychology. Dr. Senders is currently Principal Scientific Consultant to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) and is on the Board of directors for ISMP Canada.

Monika Fleshner, Ph.D.

Monika Fleshner Associate Professor
Dept of Integrative Physiology & Ctr for Neuroscience
University of Colorado
Dennis Repole Memorial Lecture
Exercise and Stress Resistance: Neural Mechanisms and Health Consequences
April 6, 2007

There is evidence in both the human and animal literatures that exercise can reduce the negative impact of the stress response on both mental and physical health. My laboratory is interested in understanding the mechanism for how exercise improves our resistance to stress.

In this presentation, I will present the results of a series of studies that focus on specifically the autonomic/sympathetic neurocircuitry brain adaptations produced by physical activity that function to constrain stress-induced sympathetic nervous system responses, and present new data that suggest such neural adaptations function to prevent stress-induced immunosuppression and blood pressure elevations in physically active animals.

Shannon Dorsey, Ph.D.

Shannon Dorsey Assistant Clinical Professor
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Duke University Medical Center
Cox McNeil Speaker Series
Interventions for Childhood Trauma: Implementation for Real-World Practice
March 2, 2007

A number of interventions in the area of child trauma and maltreatment have been found to efficaciously address traumatic sequelae and to lower the likelihood of maltreatment recurrence. Like other fields, however, a substantial gap exists between research and practice. The goals of this talk will be:

  1. to review some of the interventions in the area of child trauma with the strongest evidence base
  2. to present data on the use/adaptation of these interventions in real world practice, with a particular focus on model fidelity
  3. to introduce a model of training and dissemination designed to better bridge the research and practice gap

Linda Teri, Ph.D.

Linda Teri Professor
Department of Psychosocial and Community Health
University of Washington School of Nursing
Hosted by The Department of Psychology
Cox McNeil Speaker Series
Improving Care for Persons with Dementia: Advances in Evidence-Based Nonpharmacological Treatments
October 20, 2006

Behavioral problems are prevalent among persons with Alzheimer's Disease. Despite this, as recently as October, 2006 a large multi-site controlled clinical trial concluded that medications for control of such problems are ineffective and other strategies are needed. Indeed, guidelines from various professional associations argue that medication is the last resort and nonpharmacological strategies should be implemented first.

This presentation will provide state-of-the-art clinical and empirical information on the effective treatment of behavioral problems in persons with Alzheimer's Disease using nonpharmacological treatments. Specifically, data from a series of systematic randomized controlled clinical trials (the Seattle Protocols) will be presented to provide guidelines for evidence-based treatment of persons with Alzheimer's Disease. Effective treatment of these problems will significantly improve life for persons with AD and their caregivers.

David Barlow, Ph.D.

David Barlow Professor of Psychology
Research Professor of Psychiatry
Director, Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders
Boston University
Cox McNeil Speaker Series
A Unified Treatment Protocol For Emotional Disorders
October 13, 2006

Early approaches to anxiety and related disorders focused on reducing arousal and overt avoidance behavior and, perhaps, developing insight into dysregulated emotional behavior. In the 1980s, innovations in psychological treatments focused on psychopathology specific to each disorder, such as panic attacks in panic disorder, directly utilizing interoceptive exposure to counter avoidance of somatic cues; the worry process itself in GAD conceptualized as an avoidance of negative affect; and depressive cognitions in depression. These psychological treatments were organized into therapeutic manuals with proven efficacy. Nevertheless, these manualized protocols have become numerous and somewhat complex, restricting effective training and dissemination.

Deepening understanding of the nature of emotional disorders reveals that commonalities in etiology and latent structure among these disorders supercede differences. This suggests the possibility of distilling a set of psychological procedures that would comprise a unified intervention for emotional disorders. Based on theory and data emerging from the fields of learning, emotional development and regulation, and cognitive science, we identify three fundamental therapeutic components relevant to the treatment of emotional disorders generally. These three components include

  1. altering antecedent cognitive reappraisals
  2. preventing emotional avoidance
  3. facilitating action tendencies (emotion driven behaviors) not associated with the emotion that is dysregulated
This treatment takes place in the context of provoking emotional expression (emotional exposure) through situational, internal and somatic (interoceptive cues), as well as through standard mood induction exercises, and differs from patient to patient only in the situational cues and exercises utilized. Theory and rationale supporting this new approach are described along with some preliminary experience with the protocol. It is suggested that this unified treatment may represent a more efficient and possibly a more effective strategy in treating emotional disorders, pending further evaluation.

Howard Wainer, Ph.D.

Howard Wainer Distinguished Research Scientist
National Board of Medical Examiners
Professor of Statistics, The Wharton School
University of Pennsylvania
Cox McNeil Speaker Series
The Most Dangerous Equation
September 29, 2006

For almost a thousand years there have been documented cases of humans drawing incorrect conclusions because of their ignorance of the relationship between the variation of the mean and its sample size. Such ignorance was understandable prior to De Moivre's derivation of the exact mathematical relationship in his path-breaking 1730 paper. Yet the pace of similar errors in the almost 300 years since has, if anything, increased.

In this talk I describe five situations that span these thousand years (with an emphasis on contemporary errors) that illustrate the dangerous consequences of remaining ignorant. These situations include evidence behind the small schools movement, the 1160 AD Trial of the Pyx, possible causes of deaths due to kidney cancer and a commentary on Lawrence Summers' remarks on sex differences in scientific ability.