UW News

Department of Psychology


December 12, 2018

Attention, please! Anticipation of touch takes focus, executive skills

A study of 6- to 8-year-old children by the University of Washington and Temple University found that the anticipation of touch was associated with executive function skills such as selective attention and working memory. Photo of children's hands.

A study by the University of Washington and Temple University examines what happens in children’s brains when they anticipate a touch to the hand, and relates this brain activity to the executive functions the child demonstrates on other mental tasks.


December 11, 2018

What social stress in monkeys can tell us about human health

A University of Washington-led study found that social status in rhesus macaques affected how the animals responded to stress. Photo of monkey looking at camera.

A new University of Washington-led study examines one key stress-inducing circumstance — the effects of social hierarchy — and how cells respond to the hormones that are released in response to that stress.


November 29, 2018

Why culture is key to improving the ‘interpretive power’ of psychology

University of Washington

Three researchers from the University of Washington Department of Psychology say existing practices overlook the importance of culture, and suggest how individuals and institutions can be more inclusive.


November 5, 2018

Violence in childhood leads to accelerated aging, study finds

A study led by the University of Washington finds that children who are exposed to violence tend to age faster. Photo of teenager's feet.

A new study of nearly 250 children and teens led by the University of Washington found that participants who had suffered abuse were developing faster than those who had not.


October 19, 2018

PTSD symptoms improve when patient chooses form of treatment, study shows

A study of PTSD patients led by the University of Washington finds that people who chose their form of treatment were more apt to stick to their program and eventually become diagnosis-free. Photo of woman looking out a window.

A study led by the University of Washington is the first large-scale trial of hundreds of PTSD patients, including veterans and survivors of sexual assault, to measure whether patient preference in the course of treatment impacts the effectiveness of both cognitive behavioral therapy and use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, a type of antidepressant often prescribed for PTSD.


October 4, 2018

UW’s Kristina Olson wins MacArthur Foundation ‘genius grant’

Kristina Olson, University of Washington associate professor of psychology, on Oct. 4 was named one of the MacArthur Foundation's Fellows. She receives a $625,000, no-strings-attached stipend. Photo of Kristina in her lab.

Kristina Olson, University of Washington associate professor of psychology, has been named one of the 2018 MacArthur Fellows. The Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation comes with a $625,000 stipend, commonly known as the “genius grant,” for recipients to use as they see fit.


September 28, 2018

Researchers release endangered crows into the forests of Pacific island

Aga nestlings are reared in captivity by San Diego Zoo Global. Photo of young bird with its mouth open, facing camera.

  For more than 2 million years, the native forests on the Pacific islands of Guam and Rota were home to several thousand crows, members of a species found nowhere else on Earth. But over the last 60 years, the Mariana crow — called the Aga in the Chamorro language — has completely disappeared from…


September 25, 2018

Practicing mindfulness benefits parents and children, UW study says

A University of Washington study finds that parents who took mindfulness lessons were better able to manage their emotions, and their children's behavior improved, as well. Photo of a father walking with his young son.

A UW study found that mindfulness lessons, offered to parents at two early childhood centers, helped adults learn how to manage their emotions and behaviors while supporting their child’s development.


September 20, 2018

Even toddlers weigh risks, rewards when making choices

A University of Washington study finds that young toddlers conduct a form of cost-benefit analysis in deciding whether to help someone. Photo of blocks at an infant's feet.

A University of Washington study finds that 18-month-old toddlers conduct a form of cost-benefit analysis, making choices based on how much effort they want to expend, or on whether they like the people involved.


September 13, 2018

UW psychology professor honored for founding research on implicit bias

Tony Greenwald

When Tony Greenwald and his colleagues developed the online Implicit Association Test two decades ago, it enjoyed quick success in the pre-laptop, pre-smartphone, nascent Internet world, with some 45,000 participants in the first month. The test, which requires classifying words and images rapidly according to their meanings, captures unconscious biases toward — depending on the…


August 21, 2018

Do persistent babies make for successful adults?

University of Washington researchers argue that greater study of infant persistence can shed light on the factors that instill this trait, and the outcomes that may emerge from it later in life. Photo of baby playing in sandbox.

University of Washington researchers argue that further study of why infants persist, and to what end, may shed new light on how they learn and what the future yields.


August 16, 2018

Men and women show surprising differences in seeing motion

A University of Washington-led study finds differences in the ways men and women see motion.

A new UW-led study shows that males and female process visual motion differently, a variation that may be attributable to a neural regulatory process that is different in the male brain.


July 13, 2018

Battling STEM stereotypes, UW’s Sapna Cheryan helps Barbie evolve

Sapna Barbie RESIZE

Sapna Cheryan, a University of Washington associate professor of psychology, has spent her career researching the stereotypes surrounding STEM. Now she’s serving on Mattel’s Barbie Global Advisory Council, lending her expertise as the company looks ahead to the toy’s future.


July 9, 2018

Pucker up, baby! Lips take center stage in infants’ brains, study says

A new University of Washington study shows how the hands, feet and, in particular, the lips are represented in the brains of 2-month-old infants. Researchers believe that at that age, the lips are a focus for survival.

  A typically developing 2-month-old baby can make cooing sounds, suck on her hand to calm down and smile at people. At that age, the mouth is the primary focus: Such young infants aren’t yet reaching for objects with their hands or using their feet to get around, so the lips – for eating, pacifying…


May 15, 2018

STEM for All Video Showcase features six UW projects

stem for all logo

  Family-focused science lessons, robotics for young children and touch-based programming for the visually impaired are among the University of Washington research videos featured in the STEM for All Video Showcase, funded by the National Science Foundation. The weeklong online event, in its fourth year, highlights more than 200 projects from universities around the country…


April 12, 2018

UW’s Kristina Olson wins NSF Waterman Award for studies of ‘how children see themselves and the world’

Kristina Olson, University of Washington associate professor of psychology, on Oct. 4 was named one of the MacArthur Foundation's Fellows. She receives a $625,000, no-strings-attached stipend.

  The National Science Foundation today named Kristina Olson, University of Washington associate professor of psychology, winner of this year’s Alan T. Waterman Award. The Waterman Award is the U.S. government’s highest honor for an early career scientist or engineer, recognizing an outstanding scientist under the age of 40 or within 10 years of receiving…


March 7, 2018

Is there a glass ceiling in academic publishing?

Student researchers at the Molecular and Cellular Biology Lab

A University of Washington study finds that women authors are significantly under-represented in high-profile academic journals.


January 16, 2018

A ‘touching sight’: How babies’ brains process touch builds foundations for learning

A 7-month-old baby sits in the Magnetoencephalography machine at the UW Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. An I-LABS study shows how babies' brains register "felt touch" and "observed touch."

  Touch is the first of the five senses to develop, yet scientists know far less about the baby’s brain response to touch than to, say, the sight of mom’s face, or the sound of her voice. Now, through the use of safe, new brain imaging techniques, University of Washington researchers provide one of the…


November 15, 2017

What counts as nature? It all depends

The environment we grow up with informs how we define "nature," UW psychology professor Peter Kahn says. Encounters with truly wild places inspire people to preserve them.

    Think, for a moment, about the last time you were out in nature. Were you in a city park? At a campground? On the beach? In the mountains? Now consider: What was this place like in your parents’ time? Your grandparents’? In many cases, the parks, beaches and campgrounds of today are surrounded…


September 26, 2017

Scientists come to the aid of Puerto Rican community, research station

The Cayo Santiago Research Station in Puerto Rico was heavily damaged by Hurricane Maria, which destroyed the buildings, feeding corrals, and all but one of the water cisterns necessary to support a free-ranging population of monkeys. A University of Washington faculty member is among the researchers who study there and are mobilizing a relief effort for the community.

    Researchers from the University of Washington and seven other institutions are working together to restore a Puerto Rican research station and its nearby community following the damage wrought last week by Hurricane Maria. The research station known as Monkey Island is located on Cayo Santiago, off the southeast coast of mainland Puerto Rico,…


September 13, 2017

Offhand comments can expose underlying racism, UW study finds

microaggressions photo 2

        Blatant racism is easy to identify — a shouted racial slur, a white supremacist rally, or the open discrimination, segregation and violence of the pre-civil rights era. But more subtle forms of bias, called microaggressions, emerge in the everyday exchanges among friends and strangers alike and can offend racial and ethnic…


July 31, 2017

Heavier Asian Americans seen as ‘more American,’ study says

A University of Washington-led study has found that for Asian Americans, those who appear heavier not only are perceived to be more "American," but also may be subject to less prejudice directed at foreigners than Asian Americans who are thin.

  What makes people look “American”? The way they dress? Maybe their hairstyle, or mannerisms? How much they weigh? A University of Washington-led study has found that for Asian Americans, those who appear heavier not only are perceived to be more “American,” but also may be subject to less prejudice directed at foreigners than Asian…


July 27, 2017

Even babies can tell who’s the boss, UW research says

Videos featuring puppets introduced to toddlers the concept of social dominance.

This video acquaints the viewer with the puppets and introduces the idea of which is socially dominant.   The charismatic colleague, the natural leader, the life of the party – all are personal qualities that adults recognize instinctively. These socially dominant types, according to repeated studies, also tend to accomplish and earn more, from accolades…


April 27, 2017

Can early experiences with computers, robots increase STEM interest among young girls?

A young girl takes notice of a robot project at a college event promoting science to children.

Girls start believing they aren’t good at math, science and even computers at a young age — but providing fun STEM activities at school and home may spark interest and inspire confidence. A study from the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) finds that, when exposed to a computer-programming activity, 6-year-old…


April 19, 2017

More than recess: How playing on the swings helps kids learn to cooperate

boy swinging

A favorite childhood pastime — swinging on the playground swing set — also may be teaching kids how to get along. The measured, synchronous movement of children on the swings can encourage preschoolers to cooperate on subsequent activities, University of Washington researchers have found. A study by the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences…


April 4, 2017

The science of sight: Transplant recipient, UW professor to share perspectives on vision restoration

Mike May

UW psychology professor Geoffrey Boynton and corneal transplant recipient Michael May to speak April 5.


February 1, 2017

UW introduces new master’s degree in applied child & adolescent psychology

Boy and young woman teacher during private home lesson

A new UW graduate degree program – the Master of Arts in Applied Child & Adolescent Psychology: Prevention & Treatment – aims to meet the growing need for mental health professionals trained to serve children, teens and families.


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.



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