One of the great joys of research is the opportunity to periodically engage in an eclectic range of side-projects. These are some of mine (in no particular order).


Applications of elliptical Fourier analysis for neuroimaging data

What began as a methods benchmarking paper to support my work around diabetes, ageing, and the brain has expanded into a more general interest in the benchmarking, application, and expansion of closed outline shape analysis of biological structures using a combination of elliptical Fourier and principal components analysis. The corpus callosum (human and animal) has been the focus of this work so far, but watch this space for broader application in future.



Social evidence of a changing climate

In collaboration with W. Grant

  • There is physical evidence (e.g. tree rings) demonstrating climate change
  • Google have digitized over 15 million books: this gives a birds-eye view of language use over human history
  • Does Google Ngram data points to early climate change impact on human society? (spoiler: yes).

This project is about relating word usage patterns in human history to physical markers of climate change.

Click here to read the paper: Grant, W. J., & Walsh, E. (2015) Social evidence of a changing climate: Google Ngram data points to early climate change impact on human society. Weather 70(7) 195-197. DOI: 10.1002/wea.2504


RTS-CH: A Chinese language translation of the Ruminative Thought Styles Questionnaire

In collaboration with J. Brinker and Y. Shou

  • Rumination is important. The more people ruminate, the higher their risk of depression and other negative outcomes.
  • There are many different ways to measure rumination. Unlike many other questionnaires, the Ruminative Thought Styles questionnaire is a great measure, because it isn't tangled up with the concept of depression.
  • There is growing interest in using the Rumination Thought Styles Questionnaire in languages other than English.

This project is about translating the Ruminative Thought Styles Questionnaire into Chinese.

Rumination is repetitive, recurrent, intrusive and uncontrollable thinking. The act of rumination is transitory, but the tendency to ruminate is stable within an individual across time. A high level of rumination is associated with a vast array of potentially harmful psychological constructs, which emphasizes importance of developing a good understanding of rumination. There is evidence in Western samples that rumination is associated with non-suicidal self-injury, and suicidal ideation. Similarly, there is some indication of a link between suicide and rumination in Chinese samples. Rumination in China is generally measured by the Response Styles Questionnaire (later refined by removal of sub-optimal items to become the Ruminative Responses Scale). This scale has been criticized for containing explicitly depressive content in its quantification of rumination. Another measure of rumination, the Ruminative Thought Styles Questionnaire, overcomes this problem. We are in the course of developing a Chinese-language version of the Ruminative Thought Styles Questionnaire.

Brinker, J. K., & Dozois, D. J. (2009). Ruminative thought style and depressed mood. Journal of clinical psychology65(1), 1-19.


Why do students participate in particular psychological studies?

In collaboration with K. Pammer and V. Beanland

  • Many academics based in universities rely on students to participate in their psychology research.
  • Ideally, students should gain insight into the research process, and learn from participating in these studies.
  • Some studies are much easier to recruit university student participants for than others.

This project is about understanding the motivations behind students participating in university psychological research studies.

As part of their coursework, undergraduate psychology students are typically required to participate in research. This benefits new researchers by providing a convenient and cost-effective sample of participants, but more importantly benefits the students by providing them direct experience with the research paradigms and principles about which they are learning.

Previous research on the topic of student motivation for participation has assumed that reasons for not participating are orthogonal to reasons for participating. This is not necessarily so: for example, if a participant says they will participate for a monetary an incentive, it does not follow that they will not participate if there is no monetary incentive. 

This project capitalizes on the administrative record-keeping of this participation, and adds a self-report aspect, in order to understand the motivations underlying student engagement with this participation process at the Australian National University.


Humor Styles Questionnaire - Short Form

In collaboration with J. Brinker

  • Different people have different senses of humor.
  • Scientific questionnaires are needed if you want to study humor systematically.
  • The best current questionnaires are too long.

This project is about creating a short form of a pre-existing humor questionnaire, Martin et. al's Humor Styles Questionnaire.

The Humor Styles Questionnaire is a 60-item scale which  assesses four dimensions of humor; self-enhancing, affiliative, aggressive, and self-defeating. This project is the construction of a short 5-item version of this scale.

Martin, R. A., Puhlik-Doris, P., Larsen, G., Gray, J., & Weir, K. (2003). Individual differences in uses of humor and their relation to psychological well-being: Development of the Humor Styles Questionnaire. Journal of research in personality37(1), 48-75.

Defining 'violence' in video games

In collaboration with Y. Shou

  • There is ongoing contention surrounding the possible link between violent video games and real-world violence
  • There is no clear definition or scale for violence in a video game

This project is about creating a consistent, scientific definition of violence in video games.

With over 1.2 billion gamers worldwide (Newzoo, 2013), the issue of a link between violence in video games, and real-world violence, has received much research attention from a variety of perspectives, and led to a variety of conclusions (Greitemeyer, 2014). One factor underlying the dissent in the literature may be an incomplete, or oversimplified conceptualisation of what constitutes a 'violent' video game in the modern heterogenous gaming landscape. This study proposes a composite self-report and objective measure of elements of in-game violence that are pertinent to theoretical links between video game violence, and real-life violence and aggression. We will administer an online survey including the Violent Content Inventory developed for this study, and gaming history. The common theme of desensitisation to in-game violence is deconstructed by exploring the disjunct self-reported and objectively coded content of the most popularly endorsed favourite, most violent and least violent games.

http://www.newzoo.com/ , accessed July 15th 2013.
Greitemeyer, T. (2014). Intense acts of violence during video game play make daily life aggression appear innocuous: A new mechanism why violent video games increase aggression. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 50, 52–56. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2013.09.004


Quenching Burnout – Protective factors in high-stress occupations

In collaboration with C. Horan.

  • Burnout is associated with high-stress occupations
  • There is some evidence that factors such as family support and physical health can be protective against suffering burnout
  • Few studies simultaneously explore both risk and protective factors for burnout.

This project is about looking at both risk and protective factors for burnout in high stress occupations.

The term “burnout” refers to long term exhaustion and diminished drive, usually associated with an occupation or career. Originally, burnout was considered to be due to a disconnection between workload and the work an individual is capable of carrying out. Subsequent research has suggested it is a more complex phenomenon, relating not only to workload but also to a worker's sense of control, reward, community, fairness, and values. As burnout is associated with a wide range of negative psychological outcomes, including poorer job performance and an increased likelihood of job quitting, understanding factors that might protect people from experiencing burnout is important.

This project seeks to explore the issue of burnout by looking at the roles of both risk factors (such as anxiety and depression), and protective factors (such a social support and positive affect), across several high-risk occupations, including the police and ambulance services.


Communication Asymmetry

  • As it becomes more ubiquitous, the social context of mobile telephone usage is changing
  • There are interesting familial dynamics in terms of communication
  • There is limited research surrounding how communication within the family is being changed by mobile phones over a long period of time.

This project examines the potentially asymmetrical ways in which families communicate via mobile phone, and whether this is changing over time.

The number and ratio of voice calls and text messages between family members will be examined (i.e. do parents call their children more often than children call their parents? Do the children prefer to use SMS to contact their parents, and why?).


Rumination, the Depressive Schema, and Inter-Stimulus Distance

In collaboration with J. Brinker

  • Most research explores self-report traits in terms of how well it describes a person
  • Different people value different traits
  • The likelihood someone will describe themselves in a particular way depends on how positive they think that trait is

This project explores how simultaneously measuring how well a word describes someone, and how they feel about that word, in order to better understand the concept of rumination.

This project applies a two-axis inter-stimulus distance measure alongside novel rumination inductions.


Academic decision making

  • Conducting research is an art: there are hundreds of possible designs and statistical techniques that might be applicable.
  • Researchers have limited time to learn techniques, and so need to be strategic in choosing appropriate analytical techniques.

This project explores how established academics go about the process of deciding which particular method, statistic, or technique to use.

It also addresses the important question: can their experience be translated into practical advice for new researchers?

Click here to read more about this project.

Click here to see the presentation slides for: Walsh, E., & Brinker, J. (2013) Academic Decision Making for statistical analysis, Australian Mathematical Psychology Conference (Adelaide, 10th - 12th of February)


Musings on variability in psychological research

  • People change over time
  • Sometimes the change in something can be more interesting or important than the average level of something (think about you're moody workmate; it's not that they're always happy or sad, it's that they bounce between the two: that's variability!)
  • Much psychological research doesn't look at change because it is super tricky and expensive to actually do correctly.
This is a little collection of some flailing from a "Intra-individual variability is important!" soapbox across some little pilot studies.

Click here for some potted musings, with some empirical research thrown in.



Collaboration in science

In 2013, I ran a science week event on the theme of collaboration in science. Now that the event is over, it seems a waste not to share the materials I spent so long creating.

Click here to download the Collaboration In Science booklet (link pending, I've misplaced the file!)

Click here to download the Collaboration In Science children's story and colouring book. (link pending, I've misplaced the file!)

This event was covered in the article Two (or more) heads are better than one (click to read)