Winter 2018 Newsletter


Welcome from the Chair

caren rotelloDear Friends,

Good things are happening in Psychological & Brain Sciences, and I’m excited to share them with you! Thanks to strategic investments from the Provost, we’re hiring faculty whose research focuses on ethno-racial disparities in mental or physical health outcomes, thus expanding our contributions to diversity science. Look for details in our Spring newsletter. We’re also hiring three faculty to enhance student success by expanding our course offerings. Our wonderful faculty and students continue to win awards and grants, and to share the results of their research through community events and the media. And, of course, our many alumni contribute to society in so many important ways; in this issue, we highlight the successes of one recent alumna. 

We also want to hear your news!  Alumni, I hope you’ll #MeetMeInTobin to tell us what you’re up to, or stop by our Alumni pages to tell us your stories and share your favorite UMass memories.


Caren Rotello



Award Highlights

Linda Isbell, professor and social psychologist, has received a five-year, $1.71 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to study the influence of emotions on medical decision-making and diagnostic errors among emergency medicine (EM) physicians and nurses.

Read full article

The Association for Psychological Science (APS) is an international organization committed to the advancement of psychological sciences across many disciplines. “Fellow status is awarded to APS Members who have made sustained outstanding contributions to the science of psychology in the areas of research, teaching, service, and/or application.”

Read full article

The Wendy Helmer Memorial Graduate Student Award is a peer-nominated award that is presented annually to a graduate student in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences who embodies Wendy’s sprit and positively influences the PBS community.

Read full article

David Reinhard, a new Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Psychology of Peace a Violence Program working under the supervision of Dr. Bernhard Leidner, received a new grant from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). His research project entitled “De-escalating Conflict in International Rivalries” aims to understand how rivalries between nations can lead to conflict escalation, and whether this understanding can be leveraged for conflict reduction and prevention.

Read full article



Alumni Profile

The College Diabetes Network (CDN) is a national nonprofit organization creating opportunities for students and young adults living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) to connect, share, and succeed in their academic and professional life. CDN includes a central online resource for young adults, friends, and family who want to learn more about how the disease can be managed effectively. Their programs seek to guide students through the many new experiences and challenges of attending college with T1D.

Read full article



PBS Labs

baby graspingThe primary research goal of the Infant Cognition Lab is to discover the cognitive capabilities of infants early in development. The lab, directed by Erik Cheries, Ph.D., is part of the Developmental Science Center within the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at UMass Amherst.

Read full article



Catching Up with Psi Chi

Current Executive Board membersThis year’s theme for Psi Chi is “Rebuilding Together.” At the end of the Spring 2017 semester, we bid farewell to our longtime faculty advisor, Dr. Susan Whitbourne, and our graduating Executive Board members. With open arms, we welcomed our two new faculty advisors, Dr. Rebecca Stowe and Dr. Heather Richardson, as well as three new Executive Board members. Together, we are taking one step at a time to rebuild our chapter. Our goals for this year are to build membership, form new relationships with the community, start new fundraising projects, and create new traditions.

Current Executive Board members: From left to right, Kimberly Whitney (Secretary), Jenny Guo (Treasurer), Elise Commons (Co-President), David Benford (Co-President).

Read full article



New Faces

Graduate Programs Administrative Assistant

PBS welcomes Sabrina Flagg as our new Graduate Programs Administrative Assistant. She will provide guidance to prospective and current graduate students in a broad variety of ways, ensuring their program needs are addressed.

Read more about Sabrina

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Psychology of Peace and Violence Program

David Reinhard, Ph.D. has joined the Psychology of Peace and Violence Program in the fall of 2017 as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation awarded to Bernhard Leidner.

Read more about David



In the Media

Linda TroppLinda Tropp is quoted in an opinion piece about the level of anger that seems to permeate America, and how increasing rage and contempt toward our fellow countrymen and women can serve as a spark to cause incidents such as the recent mass-shooting in Las Vegas. “Social norms play incredibly important roles in shaping our behavior,” she says. "We look to others in our social environment to learn whether to respond to events with violent or peaceful actions, with hatred or friendliness.” Time

Robert FeldmanRobert Feldman, recently retired professor of psychological and brain sciences, comments in a news story about how people can mislead by telling the truth, something called paltering. This happens when someone answers a question with something that is true, but doesn’t address the original question. This is often a debating tactic in politics and business. Feldman, who has written a book about lying, sees this as a problem. “When we’re lied to by people in power, it ruins our confidence in political institutions – it makes the population very cynical about [their] real motivations,” Feldman says. BBC

Nilanjana DasguptaA Forbes columnist wrote about research by Nilanjana Dasgupta and her doctoral student Tara Dennehy that found that young women in engineering majors felt more confident about their ability, a greater sense of belonging in engineering, more motivated, and less anxious if they had a female, but not male, peer mentor. Forbes,

Daniel ChapmanBrian LickelA new study by Daniel Chapman and Brian Lickel, psychological and brain sciences, and Ezra Markowitz, environmental conservation, finds that people can probably handle the reality and magnitude of climate change more than experts are willing to recognize. In Nature Climate Change.
Media: VoxCare2

Luke Remage-HealeyResearchers including Luke Remage-Healey, psychological and brain sciences, and Jeffrey Podos, biology, report the discovery of sensorimotor “bridge” neurons involved in the imitative bird song learning of the swamp sparrow. The authors explain how these bridge neurons, “simultaneously and selectively represent two critical learning-related schemas: the bird’s own song, and the specific tutor model from which that song was copied.”



Upcoming Events

Monday, March 5, 2018 | 5:30-6:30 pm in Tobin 423

students conversingPBS is hosting a 'Careers in Psychology' workshop designed to introduce psychology majors to the multiple career path opportunities that await them after graduation. Students will hear a panel discussion led by UMass and PBS alumnus Jason Sidman who works at a product design firm outside of Boston and who has over 15 years of experience applying his psychology training in industry. Joining Jason will be fellow alumnus, current faculty member, Erik Cheries, who will describe the multiple ways that students can get started on their post-graduation career plans through the department's internship program.


The Future of Adoption: Beyond Safety to Well-Being

Friday, April 13, 2018

This year's conference will mark the Rudd Adoption Research Program's 10th anniversary and will feature Dr. Gary Mallon as keynote speaker. Dr. Mallon is the Julia Lathrop Professor of Child Welfare and Executive Director of the National Center for Child Welfare Excellence at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College in New York City. The keynote address will be followed by a discussion led by Panel Chair April Dinwoodie, Chief Executive of The Donaldson Adoption Institute.

In addition to the morning keynote address and panel discussion we will have research poster presentations, breakout sessions and a special celebration of the Rudd Adoption Research Program's 10th anniversary.

Register here


Saturday, April 21, 2018 | 4:00-5:30 pm

students walking at UMassAn opportunity to network and catch up with current and past psychology majors! Learn about what current students are working on. Discover new career possibilities and share advice. Meet other members of the PBS community and discuss your experiences at UMass in a casual environment. This year’s event will be held at the Hatch within the Student Union. It will be followed by the Campus Crawl, an exploration of the excellent cuisine offered by UMass Dining.

More details and registration coming soon.


Seminar Dates: Saturday, June 30 through Friday, August 10

Now entering its fifty-first year, the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Summer Seminar at Trinity College, Oxford is one of the oldest American summer programs at Oxford University. It is still guided by its original intention: to introduce a wide range of students to the best of Oxford University's academic and social traditions. Participants also have the opportunity to explore England and Europe, both on their own and on Friday field trips.

PBS is offering our first ever course The Psychology of Sherlock Holmes taught by Tamara Rahhal. This course explores the research and theories behind Sherlock's famous abilities as a detective. It will examine the psychology behind Sherlock's use of observation, deduction, and memory. A large body of research in social cognition, decision making, and memory has addressed these questions, and this course will examine the evidence that has emerged so far. Class meetings will include discussion, debates, exercises and presentations. It satisfies an upper division Psychology major requirement (either advanced seminar or small course).

Read full class description


This year, we are excited to announce that we will be raising funds to support undergraduate research during this year's UMassGives campaign!

Additionally, your contributions to the PBS Strategic Initiatives Fund allow us to support student opportunities such as:



Conference and Publication Highlights

Genna Santorelli, Molly Mather, and Becky Ready's latest article "Older and younger adults differently judge the similarity between negative affect terms," has been accepted for publishing in Aging & Mental Health. Using a novel assessment method, results indicated that older adults distinguish more between negative emotion terms that younger persons. Being able to differentiate between negative emotions may facilitate emotion regulation.

Making Research Matter: A Psychologist's Guide to Public Engagement, edited by Linda Tropp, gathers well-known experts to discuss how researchers can impact a broader audience, by lending their scientific expertise to pressing social issues, current events, and public debates. Faculty from UMass Amherst (Amy Schalet, Sociology) and UMass Lowell (Meg Bond, Michelle Haynes-Baratz) have also contributed to this book.

tropp presentingLinda Tropp also presented a talk on Oct. 4th at the HeroiKon International Conference in Budapest, Hungary. Her presentation, Transforming Group Relations Through Contact Changing Attitudes, Pursuing Peace, and Promoting Social Justice, discussed how and why contact can promote more positive attitudes and relations between groups, and how it can motivate members of advantaged groups to engage in activism for equality and social justice. The Conference was held in the Uránia National Film Theatre. Tropp was also interviewed by György Baló of RTL Klub, a national television station.

Chrystal A. George Mwangi presentingEach January, the PBS Graduate Student Diversity Committee hosts a retreat, which is a daylong opportunity for our community to convene and learn about topics relevant to multicultural practice and research. This year’s retreat was titled, “Diversity in Teaching and Mentorship: Navigating an Increasingly Diverse Academic Atmosphere." The committee hosted a number of great speakers who spoke about various aspects of diversity in academia: Dr. Chrystal A. George Mwangi (Department of Educational Research, Policy, and Administration) on the importance of diversity in teaching and mentorship; Dr. Michelle Trim (College of Information and Computer Science) on fostering diversity in the classroom; and Dr. Becky Wai-Ling Packard (Psychology Department - Mount Holyoke) on effective multicultural mentorship. PBS gives thanks to the many students, staff, and faculty that attended!

View Photo Gallery image icon

Michael Constantino and graduate student Brien Goodwin, are co-authors on a forthcoming publication: Boswell, J. F., Constantino, M. J., Oswald, J. M., Bugatti, M., Goodwin, B.J., & Yucel, R. (in press). Mental health care consumers’ relative valuing of clinician performance information. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

This study examined 403 community mental health care patients' relative valuing of provider performance track records and other therapist and treatment characteristics for their mental health care decision making. Drawing on an adapted delayed-discounting paradigm, participants valued knowing about potential providers' track records of effectiveness. They also indicated relatively higher preference values for working with therapists who had specific strength in treating their primary problem, charged less, and with whom they would be likely to establish a quality relationship. Participants who most valued provider track record information were younger, believed that therapists are not interchangeable, and endorsed trust in the provider data. This report is the first stemming from Dr. Boswell and Dr. Constantino's research funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Grant #73088).

Michael Constantino will deliver a keynote address, Motivational Interviewing as an Evidence-based, Interpersonally-responsive Intervention for Generalized Anxiety Disorder, at the forthcoming meeting of the Society for Interpersonal Theory and Research. The meeting will take place in Montreal on June 22-23, 2018.




The fifth floor of Tobin saw a major change this summer when Linda Perry, PBS Graduate Programs Administrative Assistant, retired from UMass. Linda, a UMass alumna, began her career with the department in 1984 as a secretary in what was then called the Biopsychology Area. She soon moved into the Graduate position which she held until her retirement.

On her retirement, Linda spoke about her time at UMass, sharing with us stories of her many enriching experiences with her friends and colleagues. She expressed how much she enjoyed meeting new students each year, witnessing their enthusiasm and their drive to keep learning. She observed how many alumni showed the depth of the richness of their experience at UMass through a continued connection with the department, faculty and staff throughout their careers. During her retirement, Linda also plans to maintain these positive relationships and anticipates there will still be many good times ahead with her UMass family. Her retirement, she said, is a new step forward that reminded her of a similar transition, her first year as a student at UMass. Back then she learned a lot by jumping right in, appreciating the many great people she met and those that became true friends.



We're Hiring

Lecturers (3 full-time, NTT)