UW Today

Department of Psychology


December 5, 2016

No peeking: Humans play computer game using only direct brain stimulation

The UW researchers used a magnetic coil placed at the back of the skull to noninvasively stimulate test subjects’ brains. Players used the absence or presence of phosphenes — blobs of light that appear when researchers stimulate a specific region of the visual cortex — to guide them through a maze without actually seeing the maze.

UW researchers have published the first demonstration of humans playing a simple, two-dimensional computer game using only input from direct brain stimulation — without relying on any usual sensory cues from sight, hearing or touch.


June 3, 2016

Q&A: Peter Kahn on nature interaction, wildness in cities

photo of peter kahn

University of Washington professor Peter Kahn recently co-authored an opinion piece in the journal Science about the importance of interacting with nature in urban areas. UW Today asked Kahn a few more questions about the broader implications of his work.


Finding connections to nature in cities is key to healthy urban living

baby with sandy feet

The authors of a Science perspective piece discuss the growing tension between an arguably necessary role urban areas play in society and the numbing, even debilitating, aspects of cities that disconnect humans from the natural world.


February 26, 2016

Transgender children supported in their identities show positive mental health

Kristina Olson

Studies of mental health among transgender people in the United States have been consistently grim, showing higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide. But almost nothing is known about the mental health of a new and growing generation of transgender Americans — prepubescent children who are living openly as transgender with the support of their…


November 2, 2015

Children’s self-esteem already established by age 5, new study finds

stock photo of children dressed as superheroes

By age 5 children have a sense of self-esteem comparable in strength to that of adults, according to a new study by University of Washington researchers.


August 20, 2015

Maltreated children’s brains show ‘encouraging’ ability to regulate emotions

Regions of the brain where maltreated children had greater activity than non-maltreated children when looking at negative images.

Children who have been abused or exposed to other types of trauma typically experience more intense emotions than their peers, a byproduct of living in volatile, dangerous environments. But what if those kids could regulate their emotions? Could that better help them cope with difficult situations? Would it impact how effective therapy might be for…


August 3, 2015

What would the world look like to someone with a bionic eye?

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Various sight recovery therapies are being developed by companies around the world, offering new hope for people who are blind. But little is known about what the world will look like to patients who undergo those procedures. A new University of Washington study seeks to answer that question and offers visual simulations of what someone…


June 2, 2015

UW psychology professor Yuichi Shoda honored for famous long-term study on delayed gratification

Yuichi Shoda, UW professor of psychology and recipient of 2015 Golden Goose Award from AUP.

University of Washington psychology professor Yuichi Shoda has been honored for his ongoing participation in a well-known — and perhaps slightly misunderstood — long-term study about delayed gratification.


April 20, 2015

Study shows early environment has a lasting impact on stress response systems

Children in an orphanage in Bucharest, Romania.

  New University of Washington research finds that children’s early environments have a lasting impact on their responses to stress later in life, and that the negative effects of deprived early environments can be mitigated — but only if that happens before age 2. Published April 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,…


April 15, 2015

Man with restored sight provides new insight into how vision develops

Mike May

California man Mike May made international headlines in 2000 when his sight was restored by a pioneering stem cell procedure after 40 years of blindness. But a study published three years after the operation found that the then-49-year-old could see colors, motion and some simple two-dimensional shapes, but was incapable of more complex visual processing….


February 11, 2015

How to interest girls in computer science and engineering? Shift the stereotypes

Guy laying on grass, using laptop. URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/49889874@N05/4768870493/

Women have long been underrepresented among undergraduates in computer science and engineering for a complex variety of reasons. A new study by University of Washington researchers identifies a main culprit for that disparity: inaccurate stereotypes depicting computer scientists and engineers as geeky, brilliant and socially awkward males. And they say broadening those stereotypes is key to…


November 5, 2014

UW study shows direct brain interface between humans

An example of how the brain to brain interface demonstration would look.

University of Washington researchers have successfully replicated a direct brain-to-brain connection between pairs of people as part of a scientific study following the team’s initial demonstration a year ago.


October 14, 2014

Orphanage care linked to thinner brain tissue in regions related to ADHD

brain scan image

Psychological studies of children who began life in Romanian orphanages shows that institutionalization is linked to physical changes in brain structure. The thinning of the cortex leaves a lasting legacy that can explain impulsivity and inattention years later.


September 23, 2014

Dying brain cells cue new brain cells to grow in songbird

Sparrow perches among tree branches

Using a songbird as a model, scientists have described a brain pathway that replaces cells that have been lost naturally and not because of injury.


July 15, 2014

Brain responses to emotional images predict PTSD symptoms after Boston Marathon bombing

brain scan showing activation of the amygdala in the left hemisphere

By using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scans from before the attack and survey data from after, the researchers found that heightened amygdala reaction to negative emotional stimuli was a risk factor for later developing symptoms of PTSD.


July 14, 2014

Months before their first words, babies’ brains rehearse speech mechanics

A year-old baby sits in a brain scanner, called magnetoencephalography -- a noninvasive approach to measuring brain activity. The baby listens to speech sounds like "da" and "ta" played over headphones while researchers record her brain responses.

Research from UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences shows that in 7- and 11-month-old infants speech sounds stimulate areas of the brain that coordinate and plan motor movements for speech.


May 28, 2014

PTSD treatment cost-effective when patients given choice

A woman sits in a dim room

A cost-analysis of post-traumatic stress disorder treatments shows that letting patients choose their course of treatment – either psychotherapy or medication – is less expensive than assigning a treatment and provides a higher quality of life for patients.


April 14, 2014

Babies prefer fairness – but only if it benefits them – in choosing a playmate

During the "choice trial" of a research experiment, a baby chooses one experimenter to play with.

Babies as young as 15 months preferred people with the same ethnicity as themselves — a phenomenon known as in-group bias, or favoring people who have the same characteristics as oneself.


February 5, 2014

Public lecture series will explore the science of decision making

2014EdwardsLectureSeries-logo

The ninth annual Allen L. Edwards Psychology Lecture Series will delve into “The Science of Decision Making,” to explain how the brain and an individual’s expectations influence decisions made in uncertain conditions.


December 3, 2013

Signalers vs. strong silent types: Sparrows exude personalities during fights

Song sparrow on a tree branch..

Like humans, some song sparrows are more effusive than others, at least when it comes to defending their territories. New UW findings show that consistent individual differences exist not only for how aggressive individual song sparrows are but also for how much they use their signals to communicate their aggressive intentions.


November 21, 2013

David Barash explores science, religion and meaning of life in ‘Buddhist Biology’

book cover of Buddhist Biology

David Barash, a UW psychology professor, is an evolutionary biologist, unapologetic atheist, and self-described Jewbu. In his latest book, “Buddhist Biology: Ancient Eastern Wisdom Meets Modern Western Science,” Barash examines the overlap between Buddhism and biology.


June 25, 2013

More women pick computer science if media nix outdated ‘nerd’ stereotype

A young woman working with a computer.

The media often portray computer scientists as nerdy males with poor social skills. But a UW psychologist found women will want to study computer science if they don’t buy into the stereotypes.


April 3, 2013

Diversity programs give illusion of corporate fairness, study shows

Black and white hands clasped.

Diversity training programs lead people to believe that work environments are fair even when given evidence of hiring, promotion or salary inequities, according to findings by UW psychologists.


February 13, 2013

Psychology in the real world: Public lecture series begins

Poster for the 2013 psychology lecture series

The eighth annual Allen L. Edwards Psychology Lecture Series will spotlight “The Science of Psychology in the Real World,” exploring psychological aspects of the natural world, adolescence and the law.


February 12, 2013

Get off my lawn: Song sparrows escalate territorial threats – with video

Song sparrow singing in his territory.

UW researchers have discovered a hierarchical warning scheme in which territorial song sparrows use increasingly threatening signals to ward off trespassing rivals.


January 23, 2013

Better outlook for dwindling black macaque population in Indonesia

a group of black macaques in Indonesia

Hunting and habitat loss harm the critically endangered Sulawesi black macaque, but new research shows the population has stabilized in the past decade.