SARMAC News for Summer 2015 


Our eleventh biennial conference, hosted by Steve Lindsay and Don Read, will be held 24-27 June 2015 in beautiful Victoria, B.C., Canada.  Keynote speakers include Itiel Dror (University College London), Marcia Johnson (Yale University), Hal Pashler (UC San Diego), and Dan Simons (University of Illinois).  View the full program or click here for general conference information.   Interested in jazz?  The Victoria International Jazz Fest is in Victoria June 19-28.  

SARMAC on Twitter!

We will be tweeting the latest memory and cognition news as well as keeping you posted about all the exciting conference events. Follow us now @OfficialSARMAC

Member spotlight: Don Read by Danielle Polage

Most of you already know Don. After all, he's helping organize this year's SARMAC conference, we just named an early career award after him, and he's someone whom people are just drawn to. Don was one of the first people I met at my first SARMAC conference and he was also the editor I worked with when I published my first research article.  He definitely is a special guy.  If you don't know Don yet, make sure to get to know him at SARMAC this summer.  If you do know Don, I hope you'll learn a little more about him by reading on...

How did you do in Psych 100 when you were an undergraduate student?
Actually, I failed psych 100 at UBC in 1960.  The course was taught using the British system which fortunately gave me the opportunity to rewrite the final exam to earn a passing grade which I did and ended up passing with 52%.  I use that experience to teach my students a lesson.  The course may be tough, but you can come back from a poor grade and go on to get a PhD.  Interestingly, one of my current colleagues (David Cox) at Simon Fraser, is the son of the instructor whose class I failed.  He presented me with an "official" grade change form "changing" my course grade to a B, signed by his father 45 years after the fact. 

Do you remember a specific event/class/moment in which you knew Psychology was what you wanted to pursue as your career?
The possibility of a career in experimental psychology came to me in a fairly classic and common way: I had a young recent-PhD professor at the University of BC for whom I completed a senior laboratory course in Sensation and Perception.  A major component of the course was an individual research data-collection project and I chose to study the Ames Room illusion. This professor, James McNulty, gave me a very high evaluation and considered my dependent measure to be a most creative solution to the problem.  In hindsight of course, as I look back on that measure, it looks decidedly pedestrian, but what did I know?  I thought: hmmm...perhaps there's a future in this. So, graduate school applications followed.
How did you get involved in SARMAC?
The group began with a few colleagues in 1993 and came out of the Practical Aspects of Memory conferences in Wales and Maryland (1994).  SARMAC's two founding individuals were David Burrows and Ron Okada. I actually organized the first SARMAC in Vancouver in 1995.  It's interesting that 20 years later I'm doing it again (although Steve has done the lion's share of the work).  It is great to see how this conference has exploded in growth.  In 1995 we had 160 registrants, about 70 papers, a couple of keynotes, and two concurrent sessions.  This year we have over 400 registrants, 4 keynotes, over 300 presentations, and 5 concurrent symposia and paper sessions. 

What accomplish are you most proud of in your career?
In the research domain, I'm most proud of work completed in two collaborations with colleagues: Steve Lindsay of the University of Victoria on the topic of recovered memories (published in Applied Cognitive Psychology in 1994) and an international NATO conference we constructed around that theme in 1996.  The other work might seem a little-off-the-wall these days, but with John Vokey of the University of Lethbridge, we examined claims about the influence of subliminal messages in rock music.  The resulting paper in American Psychologist (1985) was truly a classic in many ways (or so many folks told us).  It received, however, relatively few citations but I've come to accept the explanation for that offered by others: that we did such a thorough job that little room was left over for additional papers.  We'll accept that interpretation.
I'm also very proud of my teaching activities over the years with both undergrads and graduate students.  When enthusiasm and good sense come together students and professors can benefit in so many ways.  It was truly enjoyable.
What advice do you have to young faculty members?
You've got to put in the time on research.  Success doesn't come easily and there are dozens of other things that can and will distract you, and, once distracted, it's difficult to find your way back.  And you absolutely must live well with family and friends throughout. 
Are you really retiring this time?  What will you do after you retire?
Yes!  But being retired doesn't mean I am out of the business, I do intend to write up materials I have from experiments and get some closure on things.  As I was moving out of my office, I discovered I have enormous amounts of material.  I have data, some published and some not, that has been archived on zip drives (which were the cat's meow in the 1990s because they stored 100mb which was enough to last forever in those days!).  Interestingly with the advent of statistics techniques and large data meta-analyses, people have been asking me for access to some of my data from 25 years ago.  It makes me happy to see my data get a second chance at life, coming back and being used in a different form.  And in a sense, I'm doing a meta-analyses of my own life.  The more distance you have from events, the more perspective you have on your life.  You realize there is a better view on top of the ladder, even if the stuff on bottom isn't visible anymore.  I'll also do a lot of exercise walking, house projects, get back to artistic endeavors, volunteer, and travel.  My wife and I are off to Italy in the fall.
How do you feel about having the young faculty award with your name on it?
I am honored that the board wanted to put my name on it.  Actually, I have to say I was flummoxed when they first asked me, I thought, "Wow, I'm about to retire after 50 years and I'm winning a young faculty award!".  I asked, "What does one have to do to get a Senior Career award?"  Although I didn't choose the nominees or the winner, Jason Chan was an undergraduate student at UVIC and he has done extremely well.  Congratulations to him.

SARMAC Members in the News

Is your research "newsworthy"?  Do you have something you would like to share with SARMAC members?  If so, please contact Stefanie Sharman at

JARMAC Highlights (June, 2015)

Eyewitness Identification Accuracy

How do we measure the impact of variables—such as the length of time that an eyewitness views a suspect or the type of lineup)—on the accuracy of eyewitness identifications? Does the way that we measure the impact affect the relevance of the results for legal policymakers, judges, and jurors?
In this article, Laura Mickes answers these important questions using two graphical techniques: receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis and “confidence–accuracy characteristic” (CAC) analysis. ROC curves reflect the discriminability associated with a lineup for the particular variable (e.g., 10-second view of the suspect) tested in an experiment. The different points on the curve represent different levels of bias, ranging from the most conservative decisions (i.e., only include high-confidence identifications) through to the most liberal decisions (i.e., include all identifications, regardless of confidence). In contrast, CAC curves reflect suspect identification accuracy for each level of confidence. The utility of both ROC and CAC analyses is illustrated by examining both types of analyses on previously published experiments and new experiments.
Mickes determines that the relevance of the results of these analyses is largely dependent on whether the variable being examined is under control of the justice system (a system variable, e.g., the instructions given to the eyewitness during a lineup) or not (an estimator variable, e.g., length of time that the eyewitness viewed the suspect). Policy makers should be more interested in the results of ROC analysis as it is critical for understanding the effect of system variables on eyewitness accuracy. Judges and jurors should be more interested in the results of CAC analysis as it is critical for understanding the effect of estimator variables on eyewitness accuracy. This research indicates that both graphical techniques make important contributions to understanding the accuracy of eyewitness identifications, depending on the audience to which the analyses are presented.
Mickes, L. (2015). Receiver operating characteristic analysis and confidence-accuracy characteristic analysis in investigations of system variables and estimator variables that affect eyewitness memory. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 4(2), 93-102. 
Read more about Laura Micke’s research.

Improving Working Memory Performance in Children

Can working memory training increase children’s performance? Su Yin Ang, Kerry Lee, Fiona Cheam, Kenneth Poon, and Juliana Koh examined the effectiveness of a computer-based updating training program based on two paradigms (Running Span and Keep Track). Seven-year old children with poor working memory and mathematical performances were assigned to one of four groups: updating training, Cogmed (a commercially available program), or one of the two control groups. Children were tested immediately after the training period and again six months later. Results demonstrated that children who completed the updating training showed marginal improvements relative to control at the immediate post-test. These improvements were maintained and became significant at the six month follow-up. Children who completed the Cogmed training showed the reverse pattern: they showed significant improvements relative to control at the immediate post-test. However, these improvements were only marginally significant at the six month follow-up.
Children’s improved working memory performance did not generalize to other working memory tasks that were markedly different to those used during training. Furthermore, neither program affected mathematical performance. This result suggests that factors moderating the relationship between working memory or updating capacity and mathematics performance do not directly benefit from improved working memory capacity.
Ang, S. Y., Lee, K., Cheam, F., Poon, K., & Koh, J. (2015). Updating and working memory training: Immediate improvement, long-term maintenance, and generalizability to non-trained tasks. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 4(2), 121-128.
Read more about Ang and colleagues’ research.

Calling all students!

Do you think SARMAC should have a student group? A group of students interested in enhancing student participation within SARMAC and advancing students' professional development? Such a group might plan student-focused events at upcoming conferences. Maybe they would develop a student travel and/or research grants scheme. Perhaps they would create and administer an awards scheme to recognize highly successful students? There are any number of ways we could improve the student experience within SARMAC. 
 The Governing Board thinks a student group would be a great addition to our Society, but to be successful and sustainable it must be driven by students. 
 So, if you are interested in developing such a group — or weighing in on what a student group might look like — then please email Deryn Strange ( to register your interest and attend the Students of SARMAC Caucus at SARMAC XI!
When: Saturday 10.15 - 11.45am
Where: Oak Bay 2