Jolien van Breen (University of Groningen) has won the NVP poster award 2014 for her research “The effect of observed pupil dilation on deception”.
About her research:
Following each other’s gaze and attending to pupil size allows humans to communicate information about the immediate environment. “Pupillary contagion” is the synchronization of pupil sizes with an interaction target. Interestingly, pupillary contagion has adaptive value, e.g., to promote shared understanding and coordination, because it emerges within, but not across species. This can be observed when humans synchronize their pupils specifically with other humans, but not with chimpanzees. Pupil synchronization is uniquely human, as it does not occur in our closest relative, the chimpanzee (P. troglodytes). In our studies on the effects of pupillary contagion on trust and deception, we demonstrated that pupillary contagion induced trust and reduced the likelihood of deception.
Claudia Pama (University of Cambridge) and Roberta Sellaro (Leiden University) have won the NVP popularization award 2014 in the category “VIDEO/BLOG” for their video “Reducing prejudice through brain stimulation”.
About their research:
More than fifty years have passed since the day Martin Luther King Jr. pronounced one of the most inspiring speeches of the Twentieth century. Nonetheless, today it is still quite hard to look at the outside world and think with confidence that the dream of the American clergyman will become more than a dream in the near future. In fact, everlasting ethnic, religious and cultural wars (just open any newspaper for examples), rash immigratory policies, everyday violence and implicit and explicit ghettoization demonstrate that social discrimination is still one of the leitmotifs of human history. We used a noninvasive brain stimulation technique, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), to modulate implicit bias toward social discrimination. We found that stimulating the prefrontal cortex, brain area related to social discrimination, we were able to reduce negative implicit attitudes toward members of an out-group. So, our results imply that, as dreamed by Martin Luther King, it will be possible to reduce prejudice.
Prof Marc Brysbaert, Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Gent (Belgium), has won the NVP popularization award 2014 in the category “MULTIMEDIA” for his groundbreaking research “Het taalonderzoek” (http://www.npowetenschap.nl/programmas/grootnationaalonderzoek/onderzoeken/het-taal-onderzoek.html)
About his research:
We started our vocabulary research from the observation that some words rarely encountered in books and television programs, are generally known. This goes against the tenet that word frequency is the best variable to predict word knowledge and speed of processing. Apparently, some words are acquired very rapidly (probably after a single encounter) or can be processed on the basis of prior knowledge (e.g., in the case of low frequency derived words). To find out how well words are known, we set up a short vocabulary test that was fun to do. As it was important to have many responses from a wide audience, we were happy to collaborate with the media (television, radio, newspapers). In the end, more than 2% of the Dutch speaking population (i.e., more than 440,000 persons) took part in the test so far. Preliminary analyses indicate that the percentage of people of who know a word (a variable we call word prevalence) explains as much variability in word processing times as word frequency and, in addition, is largely complementary to word frequency. This will seriously enhance our understanding of word learning and word processing. At the same time, the outcome of our research is also a nice historical document of Dutch word knowledge at the beginning of the 21st century. The data are freely available on the web, but are now also available as a book (http://www.academiapress.be/woordenkennis-van-nederlanders-en-vlamingen-anno-2013.html), for those who love to leaf through pages.