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Articles categorized as ‘Australian Psychology Schools’

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

What do your music preferences say about your study habits?

It’s well known that certain human behaviours such as eating, having sex or shared social moments lead to a release of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

“Dopamine is a very common neurotransmitter, sometimes called a feel-good neurochemical. More accurately, it is released in response to a rewarding activity, and its presence helps drive our motivation and reinforces the activity that led to its release,” says University of Sydney Professor Alais.

What do your music preferences say about your study habits?

What you listen to may affect how you study

Now music can be added to the list, since it’s been found that listening to emotionally engaging melodies also results in the release of dopamine—one of few intangible practices to do this.

Prof Alais discussed a behavioural study on rats to demonstrate the relationship between dopamine and motivation.

“Given two pathways to find a food reward, rats with high dopamine levels took the effortful path to receive twice the amount of food, while those with low levels took the easy path and received less food,” he says.

So, how does this relate to studying?

“When you are sitting down to study, boosting dopamine through music is good because it will increase your motivation levels. The satisfaction you feel when reaching your study goals will be intrinsically rewarding and reinforce your willingness to study,” Prof Alais explains.

“For the maximum dopamine boost, you should choose music that gives you a positive emotional response,” he suggests. “People who are happy and less stressed are going to feel better and therefore learn better.”

Certain music can boost memory

In neuroscience there are several networks in the brain including the executive attention network and the default mode network, the latter being more active when you are calm and inwardly focused.

“In this reflective state you are more likely to imagine and visualise things; you can find connections between information and memories. You are less focused on logical sequences and instead on broader associative connections that can help you encode things in a richer network.”

And visualisation is apparently the best way to memorise things.

Alais gives the example of how famous Roman orators from times before cue cards harnessed the power of visualisation to recite their extraordinarily lengthy public speeches utilising the default mode network of their brain.

“They would model the sequence of their speech off their house which they knew backwards. They would use this to create an order for their talk and in each room of the house they would mentally input a couple of object cues,” the University of Sydney professor explains.

“They only had to remember the sequence of their speech in global terms (e.g., the route they would take to walk around their house) and the rest of the information would flow on from there.

“The imagination is a powerful tool and it’s one that we don’t use enough.”

In order to reach this part of the brain Alais suggests we need to remove extraneous stimuli.

“In order to switch off your externally focused frontal lobe and achieve a more reflective headspace you can meditate, practice mindfulness, take a walk or listen to calming, ambient music.”

Music with lyrics and complex technical sequences is more distracting, making it harder to reach this reflective inner state as you will be focused on outside factors.

“You can’t ignore someone speaking to you, even through song; so often the logical part of your brain that you’re trying to use when you’re studying is conflicted. You’re detracting from your focus.”

Alais suggests avoiding music with lyrics or that compels you to move physically, “choose music that flows over you rather than grabbing you.”

Work over twerk, if you will.

Tunes can be even more distracting if you have a background in music, something Professor Alais can attest to having worked for six years as a live sound engineer while an undergraduate and PhD student.

“If you are musically trained, you are probably a very analytical listener. You will likely engage more with the music and analyse the rhythm, key, chord changes, instrumentation etc. Something ambient may be better for you to reach that inner default mode network. Or perhaps a genre that is outside your area of expertise.”

What about personality and music preference?

Only a small amount of research exists, but what’s there suggests people can be broadly categorised into three types: empathisers, systemisers and those considered a little bit of both.

Empathisers were found to enjoy pop music because it speaks to the emotions with lyrics and in using rhythm and beat to convey mood. This type of person enjoys the global effect of the music rather than isolating aspects of it. A systemiser, meanwhile, will be more scientific in approach and therefore enjoy complex forms of music like jazz or electronica which requires some effort to decode it.

So as you settle in for another study session, give an extra thought to the tunes you choose because it’s proven that listening to certain music can indeed help you out come exam time. For Professor Alais nothing beats the Bach cello suites.


Find out how you can study science at the University of Sydney. Contact OzTREKK Admissions Officer Shannon Tilston for more information at shannon@oztrekk.com.

Friday, August 19th, 2016

UQ YOLO program: live with purpose

Living a YOLO (you only live once) lifestyle doesn’t mean abandoning any sense of consequence, but it does mean seizing opportunities for self-improvement.

UQ School of Psychology researcher Shelley Viskovich is eager to highlight this message with the YOLO program, an online course which encourages students to pursue living fully and with purpose.

UQ YOLO program: live with purpose

YOLO, so make the most of it! (Photo credit: UQ)

“Yes, you do only live once—so make it count,” Mrs Viskovich said.

“The YOLO program at UQ is all about gaining the skills to handle the challenges life throws at you, now and in the future.

“It teaches skills for managing stress so you can invest energy in pursuing your passions and live life in a purposeful, value-driven and fulfilling way.

“Our pilot study saw very impressive improvements in a range of facets, including depression, anxiety, stress, self-compassion, mindfulness and satisfaction with life.”

Supervised by Professor Kenneth Pakenham, the YOLO program consists of four free online modules that can be completed over four weeks.

Each 40-minute module can be broken down into segments of less than 15 minutes, allowing participants to pause to do other activities and resume where they left off.

A practicing therapist for 10 years before undertaking her PhD at the University of Queensland, Mrs Viskovich said the YOLO program had a similar number of student participants at the higher research and the undergraduate levels.

“The skills we encourage are useful for managing life at any stage,” Mrs Viskovich said.

“I do think this current generation is a lot more understanding of the importance of living a well-rounded lifestyle, whereas some of us in the past lived by the detrimental ‘suck it up’ mentality.

“Modern life is so demanding and our schedules so busy that it’s easy to feel like you’re not on top of things and not feel so great.

“Studying at university is a great opportunity to balance academic development with personal growth, and the YOLO program provides this.”

The YOLO program is open to all English-speaking UQ students aged 18 or older and is designed for self-improvement, rather than mental health conditions requiring specialised therapy.

Mrs Viskovich said the current average age for participants is 26.

“It seems that young people appreciate that building a career entails both academic and personal development,” she said.


Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Psychology Schools Admissions Officer Adam Smith to learn more about the University of Queensland’s psychology degrees. Email Adam at adam@oztrekk.com.

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

Canadian scholar addresses disorders and addictions at University of Melbourne workshop

Disorders and addictions such as anorexia nervosa, problem gambling and substance abuse should be viewed as “passions” in order to be properly treated, according to a Canadian scholar visiting the University of Melbourne this month.

Study psychology at the University of Melbourne

Study at the University of Melbourne

Philosopher and health care ethicist, Professor Louis Charland from Western University, Ontario, said a grand scale of reform was needed to better understand and treat sufferers of such conditions.

“Disorders such as anorexia nervosa can’t be easily cured with cognitive-based therapies,” said Professor Charland, a partner investigator with Australia’s renowned Centre for the History of Emotions of which the University of Melbourne is a node.

“The difference between the historical concept of passions and the newer idea of emotions could be crucial in improving clinical treatments,” he said.

“Passions can begin innocently enough, providing a person with meaningful activity and purpose, but when they become extreme they can suck a person into a powerful downward spiral where they’ve effectively lost control.

“It is new, alternate passions that can often reverse, block or divert the unhealthy ones,” he said.

Professor Charland hosted a free workshop,”Passions – Healthy or Unhealthy?”at the University of Melbourne on July 19, which explored the significance of “the passions” for contemporary psychology and psychiatry.

Attendees were invited to share their own examples of what they consider to be passions, and how these might be judged to be healthy or unhealthy.

A partner of the University of Melbourne, the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions is a world-leader in driving research and debate in the study of emotions and has links across the globe with leading thinkers and academics in this growing discipline.


Find out more about studying psychology at an Australian university!

Friday, June 10th, 2016

Macquarie Psychology finds people prefer thin over healthy

A new study from Macquarie University being published in PLOS ONE has found that both genders consider an unhealthily low body fat content for women as attractive; however for men, a healthy body type with a normal body fat content is considered more attractive.

The study used new techniques to measure different body shapes associated with different levels of fat and muscle, and then used computer graphics to apply these differences to photographs of real bodies. Participants then manipulated the apparent fat and muscle mass of these body photographs to indicate the shape that they thought looked the healthiest or the most attractive.

Macquarie Psychology finds people prefer thin over healthy

Composite bodies showing the average fat and muscle mass chosen as the most attractive for women and men (Image credit: Dr Ian Stephen)

“In this study we found that both male and female participants chose significantly less fat mass to optimise the attractiveness of women’s bodies than to optimise the healthy appearance of women’s bodies,” explained lead author, Mary-Ellen Brierley from the Macquarie Department of Psychology.

“Whereas for men’s bodies, participants opted for a similar amount of muscle and fat mass to optimise attractiveness and healthy appearance,” she added.

The healthy body fat range for young Caucasian women is 21-33 per cent according to previous health studies; however, research-group leader Dr Ian Stephen, also from the Department of Psychology, said that most participants selected a lower body fat range for both attractive and healthy female bodies.

“Our participants optimised a healthy-looking body composition for women at around 19 per cent fat, and a most attractive-looking body type of just 16 per cent fat. This suggests that while previous studies have found that smaller female body size generally corresponds to a greater perceived attractiveness, this observation is actually due to people’s preference for lower fat mass, rather than lower muscle mass or smaller body size in general.”

The manipulated female and male bodies in the study were of all of Caucasian appearance between the ages of 18 to 30, to minimise effects of age and ethnicity on participants’ judgements. Notably, the participants could have chosen even thinner bodies if they had wanted, but instead chose bodies just below the healthy range.

“Perceptions of face and body attractiveness are thought to reflect the health and fertility of the person, allowing us to identify healthy and fertile mates,” said Dr Stephen. “While this seems to be the case for men’s bodies, our study suggests that something else is also influencing the perceived attractiveness of women’s bodies. It could be that cultural ideas of the ‘thin ideal’ are driving down people’s perceptions of attractive body fat levels in women.”


Learn more about psychological sciences degrees at Macquarie University. Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Psychology Schools Admissions Officer Adam Smith at adam@oztrekk.com.

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

UQ murder mystery scoops international award

The psychology of crime and justice has fascinated people for centuries—and it continues to do so, with the University of Queensland’s CRIME101x online course winning an international award.

Created and taught by Associate Professors Blake McKimmie, Barbara Masser and Mark Horswill from the UQ School of Psychology, CRIME101x uses an innovative mix of drama and interactive learning to identify ways the criminal justice system can be improved.

UQ murder mystery scoops international award

The Crime101x team (Photo credit: UQ)

“Almost 40,000 students from around the world have experienced a fictional crime case first-hand, as a way of learning about the psychology of criminal justice,” Dr McKimmie said.

“They learn how to identify some of the myths about the criminal justice system from a psychological perspective, and the empirical evidence that can inform our understanding of justice.”

In a first for UQx, UQ’s Massive Open Online Course arm, CRIME101x has been selected for a MERLOT Classics award at the Innovate Conference in New Orleans in the USA.

MERLOT (the Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching cooperative) is supported by higher education institutions in many countries.

The MERLOT Psychology Editorial Board described the CRIME101x course as “creative and contemporary.”

“It offers a thoroughly modern and engaging way for students to learn about the psychology of criminal justice,” the board said.

“A series of eight professionally produced and presented crime drama videos are used, though any episode within the series can stand in its own right and be applied as an instructional supplement in a range of psychology courses.

“Each episode is associated with specific psychology concepts (e.g., memory reliability, bias) and is tied together with supplemental instructional videos in which the faculty members explore the relevant psychological literature as well as implications for application.”

UQx Director John Zornig accepted the award on behalf of Associate Professors McKimmie, Masser and Horswill.

“The award is a testament to the course team’s ability to produce effective, creative and engaging online learning material that genuinely impacts upon student learning,” he said

“Instead of merely presenting information or theories, they created a scripted crime drama along with instructional videos and learning activities.

“The award is also an acknowledgement of UQ’s decision to use a Creative Commons licence, enabling educators to use Crime101x, and other UQx courses, as resources to enhance teaching worldwide.”

Mr Zornig said Creative Commons licences meant educators around the world could use Crime101x and other UQx courses as teaching resources.

UQx is UQ’s contribution to edX, the world’s largest non-profit MOOC provider. EdX was established by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard in 2012, and UQ joined as a charter member in 2013.


Find out more about psychology programs at Australian universities. Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Psychology Schools Admissions Officer Adam Smith at adam@oztrekk.com or call 1-866-698-7355.

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

UQ psychology research: Flipping Fifty Shades eroticises equality

Christine Grey would have been just as sexy as Christian Grey as the lead character in Fifty Shades of Grey – and resulted in less ambivalence about rape.

In a study of almost 500 people, UQ School of Psychology researcher Emily Harris has found that equality can be just as erotic as dominance and that stories depicting male dominance can impact negatively.

UQ psychology

UQ School of Psychology researcher Emily Harris (Photo credit: UQ)

“Our research shows that reading about a sexually submissive woman may increase the acceptance of rape myths among men,” Ms Harris said.

“Reading about a fictional woman who enjoys sexual submission may lead to the false belief that women may enjoy rape.

“Furthermore, we found that men and women were equally sexually aroused by a story depicting a dominant man and an erotic story in which the man was not dominant.”

In the Fifty Shades Flipped study, UQ School of Psychology PhD student Ms Harris and co-authors Michael Thai and Dr Fiona Barlow (Griffith University) gave 481 participants one of four different stories to read before monitoring responses.

One story centred on male dominance, one on female dominance, one on a man and woman of equal sexual standing, and one story that was completely non-erotic.

Ms Harris said the research provided some encouraging results towards possible treatment of sexual disorders.

“The finding that all three erotic stories were equally arousing may have important implications for sex therapy,” Ms Harris said.

“Past research has shown that the more a woman associates sex with submission, the less sexual satisfaction and relationship satisfaction she feels. This emphasises the need to ‘eroticise equality.’

“Our findings provide promising evidence that a focus away from female submission does not mean a decrease in sexual arousal.

“The stories describing female dominance or no dominance were equally arousing and less likely to perpetuate the belief in women that sex and submission are necessarily linked.

“What we read does impact how we view the world, so it can be very dangerous if we only read one highly gendered type of narrative. Just like our sex lives, our erotic fantasies need more variety.”

Ms Harris said she was interested to test the effects of popular erotica in non-heterosexual contexts.


Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Psychology Schools Admissions Officer Adam Smith to learn more about the University of Queensland’s psychology degrees. Email Adam at adam@oztrekk.com.

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

UQ health students put talents on display

Queensland is home to not only the nation’s champion rugby league and netball teams, but also to Australia’s most ingenious health students.

University of Queensland’s Dr Emma Beckman  said she was ecstatic after the team she mentors claimed a second successive HealthFusion Team Challenge.

UQ Health Sciences

Study health sciences at the University of Queensland

The HealthFusion Team Challenge is a national competition requiring students to collaborate and produce a gold-standard care program for a hypothetical client with complex needs.

Organisers purposely place contestants in a timed, pressurised environment and present unusual and complicated scenarios.

“We really do have some fantastically talented health professionals coming through the Health at UQ ranks,” said team mentor Dr Beckman.

“This is a great endorsement of not only the individuals concerned, but for the education and support provided by UQ’s health sciences faculties.

“To be outstanding in one area is an achievement, but this team brought students together from six different disciplines and they were all quite remarkable.”

This year’s winning UQ health sciences team consisted of Joanna Standen (Social Work), Michael Honnery (Occupational Therapy), Nicole Atkinson (Physiotherapy), Elizabeth Coomer (Speech Pathology), Mariam Rizk (Medicine), and Brittany Martin (Pharmacy).

UQ Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences Associate Dean (Academic) Professor Sarah Roberts-Thomson described the title defence in the HealthFusion Challenge as a proud achievement.

“The community is already well aware of the strength of the health sciences at UQ, but this is wonderful validation,” Professor Roberts-Thomson said.

“HealthFusion Team Challenge provides a platform by which we can identify and integrate our health leaders of tomorrow.

“It’s a great environment to stamp yourself as an innovator who applies absolute best practice towards patient care.”

This year’s final was held at the Queensland University of Technology campus in Brisbane City.

An Indigenous HealthFusion Team Challenge will be held on Nov. 28–29 in Cairns, and UQ is actively seeking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to participate.

What makes up the UQ Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences?

Would you like more information about health science programs at the University of Queensland? Please contact OzTREKK Australian Health Sciences Admissions Officer Rachel Brady at rachel@oztrekk.com or call toll free in Canada at 1-866-698-7355.

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Bond psychology student studies texting and romantic relationships

After years of studying texting and romantic relationships, Jodie Bradnam knows better than most how to get a message across quickly, and it has earned her top honours in Bond University’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

Bond University Psychology School

Bond 3MT winner Jodie Bradnam and runner up Skye Marshall (Photo credit: Bond University)

The psychology student presented her latest findings into whether texting fosters relationship intimacy at the competition, which challenges students to describe their research within three minutes to a general audience. Jodie was awarded both overall winner and people’s choice.

Jodie’s research findings revealed that while the use of text messaging in young adult relationships could enhance intimacy, using text messaging to manage conflict and communicate hostility was strongly related to declines in relationship satisfaction.

Jodie will now compete in the 2015 Trans-Tasman 3MT Competition against students from around Australia and New Zealand, being held at The University of Queensland (UQ) on Oct. 2, 2015.

Jodie said she had been working on her thesis since 2012, titled “Text messaging, attachment orientation, satisfaction and stability in romantic relationships: Does texting foster relationship intimacy?” which explored the links between romantic attachment, texting and relationship quality.

More than 990 young adults have already taken part in the study, with the final phase of research involving a further 200 young adult couples about to begin.

She said mobile phones had significantly changed the way romantic partners communicate and the research had already uncovered some interesting findings.

“Young people, aged 18 to 30, are the largest adult users of text messaging. Young adults send up to 90 text messages each day and texting is a way of staying connected,” said Jodie.

“While emerging research suggests text messaging may be a tool for promoting intimacy and connection in young romantic relationships, we’ve also found the use of texting for the management of conflict has been associated with significant reductions in relationship quality.

“What we’ve found is that a strong, positive, emotional climate is required to buffer the impact of negative text message sent between partners.

“The next phase of the research will involve couples so we can study the effect of text messaging on relationship quality from the perspective of each partner.”

“I’m doing the final piece of research now to complete the study, which will involve interviewing family and friends to create recommendations for how to better engage them to achieve more positive outcomes.”

Bond University Director of Research Services Mr Andrew Calder said the competition was a great way to showcase the diverse research underway at Bond, and right around Australia and New Zealand. “The Three Minute Thesis competition allows young researchers to engage with the wider community and showcase the work currently underway that will ultimately help to improve the way we do things.”

Mr Calder said Bond University was looking for aspiring researchers to join the growing research team, with PhD scholarships now on offer to bolster the diverse studies underway by Bond’s Higher Degree by Research (HDR) community.


Find out more about studying psychology at Bond University! Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Psychology Schools Admissions Officer Adam Smith at adam@oztrekk.com or call toll free in Canada at 1-866-698-7355.

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

UQ psychology study finds heterosexuals react better when gays and lesbians ‘come out’ early

Same-sex attracted people are justified in mentioning their partner’s gender early in a conversation, as it could prevent people from becoming fixated on sexuality and deeming it a defining characteristic.

Australian Psychology Schools in Austarlia

Learn more about studying psychology at the University of Queensland

These were among the findings of a study by UQ School of Psychology researchers Dr Sharon Dane, Associate Professor Barbara Masser and Associate Professor Julie Duck.

“In releasing our results we acknowledge ‘coming out’ is a very personal decision and one which involves an assessment of risk,” Dr Dane said.

“We tested whether heterosexuals reacted more positively if they learnt a person was gay or lesbian if this information was casually divulged early or if it was revealed after getting to know the person better.

“Results showed heterosexual participants liked the gay or lesbian person more, sat closer to them, were more willing to introduce them to friends and meet them alone if sexuality was established earlier.

“On the other hand, those who only found out after getting to know the gay or lesbian person better appeared to become fixated by this information and consider it as a defining quality.”

Dr Dane and Dr Masser stressed their study, When ‘In Your Face’ Is Not Out Of Place, should not be used to advise people about revealing their sexual identity, as every case differed.

Instead, their research of 478 heterosexual men and women, published in journal PLOS One with University of Toronto co-author Associate Professor Geoff MacDonald, focused on the reactive tendencies of the wider population.

“Heterosexuals inadvertently ‘come out’ early all the time, and I believe this is linked to the way they responded in our test,” Dr Dane said.

“A woman can make a casual comment to colleagues that she ‘had to catch the train today, because my husband took the car keys’.

“Although her sexuality is not the topic of conversation, it becomes clear to everyone listening that the person is in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex.”

In their earlier nationwide study Not So Private Lives, Dr Dane and Dr Masser found that same-sex attracted Australians preferred to ‘come out’ early in non-work-related social encounters, provided the disclosure was relevant to the conversation.

Dr Dane said that one of the unexplored benefits of same-sex marriage was the ease with which same-sex couples could simply refer to their ‘ husband’ or ‘ wife’ to facilitate early disclosure.

She said positive heterosexual reactions to ‘coming out’ early were encouraging, given the well-documented negative health consequences of keeping sexuality hidden.


Would you like more information about the UQ School of Psychology? Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Psychology Schools Admissions Officer Adam Smith at adam@oztrekk.com or call 1-866-698-7355.

Friday, July 24th, 2015

Who killed Janine Jenker?

A free online course that explores the effectiveness of the law and justice system from a psychological perspective is running for a second time.

University of Queensland

The UQx course opens August 25, 2015

The University of Queensland’s CRIME101x: The Psychology of Criminal Justice follows a fictional murder, investigation and trial played out as a drama purpose-built for the course.

The weekly episodes of the drama are accompanied by video lectures and other resources from UQ School of Psychology instructors Associate Professor Blake McKimmie, Associate Professor Barbara Masser, and Associate Professor Mark Horswill.

Course Coordinator Blake McKimmie said that the course is designed to challenge some common misconceptions about what results in a fair criminal justice system.

“We’re hoping that people who take CRIME101x will be better equipped to take part in the debate about justice by learning about what research says leads to fairer or more reliable outcomes in the criminal justice system.”

The eight-week UQx course opens August 25 and requires 1-2 hours of effort per week to complete.

No prior knowledge about psychology or the legal system is necessary, just a curiosity about the criminal justice system.

Almost 15,000 students took the course when CRIME101x was first offered in October 2014 on edX, a leading provider of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

edX was founded by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2012 and offers free online education using cutting-edge technologies, innovative pedagogy and rigorous courses.


Find out more about psychology programs at Australian universities. Contact OzTREKK’s Australian Psychology Schools Admissions Officer Adam Smith at adam@oztrekk.com or call 1-866-698-7355.