UW News

Department of Psychology


March 12, 2020

Staying connected — at a distance

It’s important to maintain human connection, even during a time of social distancing, UW psychology researchers say.


March 2, 2020

Not a ‘math person’? You may be better at learning to code than you think

Woman working on computer, wearing headset while

New research from the University of Washington finds that a natural aptitude for learning languages is a stronger predictor of learning to program than basic math knowledge.


February 26, 2020

Wildness in urban parks important for human well-being

beach in seattle

A new University of Washington study has found that not all forms of nature are created equal when considering benefits to people’s well-being. Experiencing wildness, specifically, is particularly important for physical and mental health.


February 5, 2020

Soundbites & B-roll: Altruistic babies

For journalists Download soundbites and b-roll   New research by the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, or I-LABS, finds that altruism may begin in infancy. In a study of nearly 100 19-month-olds, researchers found that children, even when hungry, gave a tasty snack to a stranger in need. The findings not…


February 4, 2020

Altruistic babies? Study shows infants are willing to give up food, help others

Toddler offers bowl of raspberries to camera.

New research by the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences finds that altruism may begin in infancy. In a study of nearly 100 19-month-olds, researchers found that children, even when hungry, gave a tasty snack to a stranger in need.


January 22, 2020

Community-based counselors help mitigate grief, stress among children orphaned in East Africa

Group of people pose outside a building.

The University of Washington led a clinical trial involving more than 600 children in Kenya and Tanzania, in which community members were trained to deliver mental health treatment, showed improvement in participants’ trauma-related symptoms up to a year after receiving therapy.


January 6, 2020

Supporting diversity, inclusion in neuroscience: A conversation about the BRAINS Program with UW psychology professor Sheri Mizumori

The 2019 cohort for the BRAINS program, or Broadening the Representations of Academic Investigators in NeuroScience. Program evaluator Cara Margherio is in the back row, two people to the left of the post. Co-director Claire Horner-Devine is at the far right. Laura Ciotto , program operations, is at the far left. Co-director Joyce Yen is at the far left, middle row. Director Sheri Mizumori is fifth from the right in the front row.

A conversation with UW psychology professor Sheri Mizumori about the UW-based program Broadening the Representations of Academic Investigators in NeuroScience — or BRAINS for short — designed to accelerate career advancement for postdoctoral researchers and assistant professors from underrepresented populations.


November 18, 2019

Among transgender children, gender identity as strong as in cisgender children, study shows

Photo of two children, in silhouette, on a beach

New findings from the largest study of socially-transitioned transgender children in the world, conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, show that gender identity and gender-typed preferences manifest similarly in both cis- and transgender children, even those who recently transitioned.


October 15, 2019

Deaf infants more attuned to parent’s visual cues, study shows

Baby looking at something not seen by the camera.

A University of Washington-led study finds that Deaf infants exposed to American Sign Language are especially tuned to a parent’s eye gaze, itself a social connection between parent and child that is linked to early learning.


October 8, 2019

Genes contribute to dog breeds’ iconic traits

A new study by a research team that included the University of Washington offers new evidence to support what scientists have long suspected about dogs: that some dog behaviors that help characterize breeds — a drive to chase, for example, or aggression toward strangers — are associated with distinct genetic differences among them.


September 26, 2019

Pay, flexibility, advancement: They all matter for workers’ health and safety, study shows

Food delivery cyclist

The terms and conditions of your employment — including your pay, hours, schedule flexibility and job security — influence your overall health as well as your risk of being injured on the job, according to new research from the University of Washington. The analysis takes a comprehensive approach to show that the overall pattern of…


September 5, 2019

Study shows exposure to multiple languages may make it easier to learn one

Man writes on whiteboard.

A new study from the University of Washington finds that, based on brain activity, people who live in communities where multiple languages are spoken can identify words in yet another language better than those who live in a monolingual environment.


July 1, 2019

How you and your friends can play a video game together using only your minds

UW researchers created a method for two people help a third person solve a task using only their minds.


June 27, 2019

LGBTQ Asian Americans seen as more ‘American’

For Asian Americans who are gay or lesbian, their sexual orientation may make them seem more “American” than those who are presumed straight. A new University of Washington study, the latest in research to examine stereotypes, identity and ideas about who is “American,” focuses on how sexual orientation and race come together to influence others’ perceptions.


June 18, 2019

Of octopuses and astrobiology: Conference talk speculates on cognition beyond Earth

Dominic Sivitilli, UW doctoral student in behavioral neuroscience

Of the many papers and presentations scheduled for AbSciCon2019, the conference on astrobiology and the search for life in space happening in Bellevue the week of June 24, the UW’s Dominic Sivitilli’s is perhaps unique — he’ll discuss his research into how octopuses “think.”


June 4, 2019

How early-life challenges affect how children focus, face the day

Experiences such as poverty, residential instability, or parental divorce or substance abuse, can affect executive function and lead to changes in a child’s brain chemistry, muting the effects of stress hormones, according to a new University of Washington study.


April 22, 2019

Brains of blind people adapt to sharpen sense of hearing, study shows

People who are visually impaired rely on other senses to interpret their surroundings. A pair of studies from the University of Washington shows how the brains of blind people adapt to process information. Photo of blind person walking with cane.

Research from the University of Washington uses functional MRI to identify two differences in the brains of blind individuals — differences that might be responsible for their abilities to make better use of auditory information.


March 12, 2019

A school that values diversity could have health benefits for students of color

Photo of empty classroom

Students of color who attend schools with a culture and mission statements that emphasize the value of diversity show better cardiovascular health than peers whose schools do not express such values, according to a new study.


January 15, 2019

Researchers can predict childhood social transitions

A University of Washington-led study finds that children who socially transition to the gender "opposite" their sex at birth also demonstrate strong "cross-gender" identities before the transition. Photo of two children in silhouette.

A new University of Washington study suggests that the children most apt to socially transition to the gender “opposite” their sex at birth are those who already demonstrate the strongest “cross-gender” identities, and that the transitions don’t appear to alter a child’s gender identity or preferences.


December 17, 2018

How a workshop about getting along became a story stoking division

A University of Washington class meets outside of Mary Gates Hall on a sunny day. Photo of students in a circle under a tree.

A small study about a workshop to bring together students of different political persuasions found that workshop participants were able to better understand their fellow students as individuals, but their attitudes about opposing beliefs, in general, did not change.


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

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 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

  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?

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,…



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