Newsletter Section


Understanding what makes the individual unique

Photo:  Dr. Chantel Prat
Photo:  Dr. Chantel Prat

Our newest faculty member, Chantel Prat, joined us in September 2010 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and a member of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences. In many psychological studies, investigators try to “average out” individual differences by measuring the behavior of many individuals. But, we all appreciate our unique cognitive abilities – whether it’s an individual’s particular abilities in math or a particular facility with second language acquisition. What forms the bases of these individual differences? Chantel’s research emphasizes an understanding of the neural basis of individual differences with a particular focus on language comprehension abilities.  Her current research employs the combination of multiple neuroimaging techniques –  including fMRI to assess neural activity, transcranial magnetic stimulation to selectively and temporally disrupt activity, and diffusion tensor imaging to assess brain connectivity patterns – along with traditional behavioral paradigms to investigate the neural basis of individual differences in language and cognition. 

Chantel earned her Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis, working with Debra Long on investigations of individual differences in representation of discourse in the two cerebral hemispheres, and trained subsequently with Marcel Just at Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging.  At Carnegie Mellon, she was awarded the prestigious NIH Pathway to Independence Award. This award provides two-years of postdoctoral funding and three years of principal investigator funding for new faculty. In addition, Chantel was recently awarded the Society for Text and Discourse’s Tom Trabasso Young Investigator Award for 2011. We are fortunate to have her join our Department.

In Memoriam: G. Alan Marlatt

[This is based on and includes excerpts from an In Memoriam article appearing in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs in May 2011 written by his close colleagues. The complete version can be found here: ]

Photo:  Dr. G. Alan Marlatt
Photo:  G. Alan Marlatt

The Psychology Department, the University of Washington, and the entire field of addictive behavior research mourn the loss of G. Alan Marlatt, Ph.D., who passed away on March 14, 2011 from kidney failure due to melanoma. A truly creative, courageous, and groundbreaking scientist, he leaves behind an enormous legacy of contributions to the field of addiction research. Alan was born on November 26, 1941, in Vancouver, British Columbia. He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology with honors from the University of British Columbia in 1964 and his doctorate in clinical psychology from Indiana University, Bloomington, in 1968. He taught at the University of British Columbia and the University of Wisconsin before joining the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1972. Alan founded the Addictive Behaviors Research Center within the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington in 1981, creating an atmosphere of excellence and a supportive environment within which numerous innovations in the prevention and treatment of addiction were born.

During his 42 years as a clinical and academic psychologist, Alan authored, co-authored, or edited 23 books, and more than 300 articles and book chapters on theoretical and methodological topics as well as empirical research results regarding the assessment, etiology, prevention, and treatment of addictive behaviors. Alan’s research had a major impact on understanding the interaction between thoughts, emotions, and situations as predictors of addictive behaviors. His brilliant, productive, and influential career changed how scholars, clinicians, policy makers, and members of the larger society think about alcohol consumption, the problems it causes, and what we can do about these problems at both the clinical and public health levels.

Alan’s research approaches were pioneering and established a precedent for much of the behavioral alcohol research that followed. For example, early in his career he created the Behavioral Alcohol Research Laboratory (BARLAB)—a simulated bar in the University of Washington Department of Psychology, complete with all the accoutrements of a local tavern in addition to two-way mirrors, hidden cameras, and microphones. He used the BARLAB to study the effects of “set” (expectations, thoughts, attitudes) and “setting” (environment, cues) on alcohol use.

Alan also brought a tremendous amount of compassion to his research and advocated for a pragmatic and humane approach to reducing the harms associated with addictive behaviors. For example, he recognized early on that requiring complete abstinence as the only treatment goal often deterred substance users from seeking treatment. Instead, he promoted alternative approaches designed to encourage behaviors that reduced harm and provide flexible options rather than insisting on immediate cessation of use. He has been recognized for profoundly changing attitudes about addiction and how to approach its treatment.

The Department will deeply miss Alan.

The Retirement of Ilene Bernstein: A Career Marked by Distinguished Research

Photo of Ilene Bernstein
Photo: Ilene Bernstein

After nearly 40 years at the University of Washington, Professor Ilene Bernstein will be retiring in June 2011. Ilene came to the University of Washington as an Affiliate Assistant Professor of Psychology in 1972.  Prior to her arrival, she had earned a B.A. from Brooklyn College, an M.A. from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.  Ilene has had great ‘taste’ in research — a joke she surely has never heard before as one of the field’s most important researchers in the neurobiology of taste.  For example, in a well-known study with direct clinical applications, she ingeniously employed a novel-tasting ice cream as a conditioned stimulus and demonstrated that the clinical dilemma of anorexia in both child and adult cancer patients receiving radiation/chemotherapy was due to taste aversion learning and therefore can be alleviated via applying learning theories.  In recent years, Ilene has astutely applied functional cellular imaging techniques to delineate neurochemical correlates and neuroanatomical substrates of conditioned taste aversion and fear memory traces in the brain.

Throughout her career, Ilene has attracted some of the best of our graduate students to her laboratory, many of whom have gone on to distinguished academic careers. In the classroom, her courses were always hugely popular with undergraduate and graduate students. At seminars and journal clubs, Ilene is well known for asking difficult and unexpected questions an in unassuming manner, which encouraged students to participate and enlivened the discussion. While most scientists, nearing their retirements, decrease their research productivity, Ilene is an exception and has recently published a number of outstanding studies mentioned in national research news.  Although retiring very soon, we are very fortunate that as a Professor Emeritus Ilene Bernstein, with her originality, enthusiasm and great charm, will continue to provide her valuable services to the Psychology Department and UW.

The Retirement of Beth Kerr: A Career Marked by Outstanding Teaching and Service

Photo:  Professor Beth Kerr
Photo:  Professor Beth Kerr

After 37 years with at the University of Washington, Associate Professor Beth Kerr will be retiring in June 2011. Beth came to the University of Washington first as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology, in 1974. She was Department Chair in 1984 when the Kinesiology program was terminated during a period of strong budgetary cutbacks. Beth moved to the Department of Psychology where we have been fortunate to have her since. The department switch was seamless, given that her Ph.D. was in Psychology (University of Oregon), and her research focusing on human motor control, learning and attention fit perfectly within the Department’s Cognitive and Perception Area.

Beth has been a strong leader in the Department, serving as Associate Chair since 1988 and playing a major role in developing and overseeing the Department’s undergraduate curriculum.  During the time that Beth was Associate Chair of the department, she oversaw major restructuring and sequencing of the undergraduate major.  Along with Steve Buck, Beth provided the vision of undergraduate education in psychology that is reflected in our current curriculum.  She implemented broad changes in the required core curriculum and methodology courses, and restructured the courses to provide logical sequencing.  It is not suprising that this last decade and a half has seen the psychology major become one of the most sought after programs of study at the University of Washington.   All the while, Beth also championed the idea that all students benefit from knowledge of the scientific study of behavior, and she worked to maintain the excellent general education curriculum of the Department.

Beth has been a tireless supporter of outstanding teaching, leading the selection of distinguished teaching awards for graduate students and the creation of teaching resource materials for instructors.  Beth also found time to provide input on everything from curriculum development to student conduct issues and her advice has been sought by many of her colleagues in and beyond the Department.   In recent years, she has spearheaded efforts to clarify learning goals for the Department as a whole and for individual courses.  There is not an area in our undergraduate curriculum that has not been made better by her vision, her hard work, and her steady hand.

We will be fortunate to be able to continue to draw on Beth’s expertise as she transitions into her status as Emeritus Associate Professor.

2011 Faculty Promotions

Brian Flaherty: promotion to Associate Professor with tenure

Photo of Brian Flaherty
Photo: Brian Flaherty

Dr. Brian Flaherty was voted to be promoted to Associate Professor (with tenure), effective September 16, 2011. After receiving a B.A. degree from State University of New York (Buffalo; 1992), Dr. Flaherty received his Ph.D. from the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the Pennsylvania State University (2003; minor in statistics).  Following two years of postdoctoral experience, Dr. Flaherty joined the University of Washington Psychology Department in 2005 as an Assistant Professor.  Dr. Flaherty’s contribution to the Psychology Department has been diverse. His quantitative research focuses on modeling change over time using latent class models, with a specific emphasis on understanding substance use and dependence. His work challenges dogma while at the same time makes new discoveries relevant to our understanding of tobacco use and nicotine dependence.  Dr. Flaherty provides core instruction in quantitative methods and statistics at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and he serves on a number of departmental committees. We look forward to many more years with Dr. Flaherty as our colleague!


Laura Little:  promotion to Principal Lecturer

Photo of Laura Little
Photo: Laura Little

Dr. Laura Little was recently voted to be promoted to Principal Lecturer effective September 16, 2011.  Dr. Little arrived in the UW Psychology Department in 1998 as a Lecturer and Coordinator of our developing Quantitative program. She was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2003 as the Department recognized her outstanding instructional contributions. The University also recognized Dr. Little’s creative and effective instructional effort by awarding her the UW Distinguished Teaching Award in 2005. Over the years, Dr. Little has not only demonstrated her innovative teaching style, but she has played an instrumental role in developing both of our undergraduate and graduate quantitative curricula.  Dr. Little’s role in leadership positions increased not only in the Department, but across campus. In 2003, she was appointed the Psychology Department Assistant Chair for Teaching and Curriculum. In 2008, she became Associate Chair for Teaching and Curriculum in recognition of the critical role that she plays in our instructional mission. Since 2006, Dr. Little has also served as a Senior Fellow in the University of Washington’s Faculty Fellows Program. In this capacity, she teaches new faculty how to navigate university policies, helps them to develop pedagogically, and she assists in the development of creative and effective teaching materials. In recognition of Dr. Little’s outstanding performance she was featured in the first UW Distinguished Teaching Showcase (2009). Dr. Little not only supports fellow faculty, but she also participates in workshops for graduate teaching assistants. Finally, Dr. Little has been involved on the Faculty Council on University Facilities and Services, the Cunningham Hall Relocation Committee, and the UW Tower Planning Advisory Board.  The many administrative contributions that further the instructional mission of the UW, together with her consistent high ratings in her classrooms, was recognized by this promotion to Principal Lecturer. We congratulate Dr. Little on her achievements and we look forward to continuing to work with her in the years to come!

Faculty Accomplishments

Michael Beecher
Photo of Michael Beecher 

Michael Beecher was quoted in articles about a study that demonstrates that the size of an animal's social group helps to determine the uniqueness of that individual's voice.  One of these articles is “The (Justin) Bieber factor makes unique voices”,

Ilene Bernstein
Photo of Ilene Bernstein 

Nicholas Nasrallah, Annie L. Collins and Ilene Bernstein co-authored a study that found that adolescent alcohol use is associated with altered ability to evaluate risk. The study concludes that adolescent alcohol use corrupts decision-making later in life.  Jeremy J. Clark, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences is also a co-author.

Eliot Brenowitz
Photo of Eliot Brenowitz 

Eliot Brenowitz was awarded a new five year NIMH grant. Steroid hormones have potential for use as neuroprotective agents in the treatment of stroke and a variety of neurodegenerative and mental health disorders. They are also of increasing concern as drugs of abuse. This work, Comparative studies of vocal control, will examine the fundamental mechanisms by which these potent hormones influence neuronal birth, death, and gene expression.

Sapna Cheryan
Photo of Sapna Cheryan 

Sapna Cheryan’s research on members of U.S. immigrant groups choosing typical American dishes as a way to show that they belong and to prove their American-ness has received considerable media coverage. Immigrants to the United States and their U.S.-born children gain more than a new life and new citizenship. They gain weight. The wide availability of cheap, convenient, fatty American foods and large meal portions have been blamed for immigrants packing on pounds, approaching U.S. levels of obesity within 15 years of their move.  The results of the study are published in the June issue of Psychological Science.  It has been picked up by a New York Times food blog, US News & World Report, Time magazine’s health blog, Seattle Weekly, Vancouver Sun, and KIRO, among others.  See ‘Fatting in’: Immigrant groups eat high-calorie American meals to fit in,

Dario Cvencek,Anthony Greenwald and Andrew Meltzoff
Photo of Dario Cvencek
Photo of Anthony Greenwald
Photo of Andrew Meltzoff 

Dario Cvencek, lead author and a postdoc at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, and co-authors Anthony Greenwald and Andrew Meltzoff’s study on gender stereotypes has received considerable media coverage after the publication of their study in the March/April issue of Child Development

“Children express the stereotype that mathematics is for boys, not for girls, as early as second grade," according to a new study by University of Washington researchers. "And the children applied the stereotype to themselves: boys identified themselves with math whereas girls did not.” 

Coverage ranged from Toronto ( to India ( and many places in-between.  You can listen to it on KPLU,

Annette Estes
Photo of Annette Estes 

Annette Estes's research on IQs, reading, spelling, math and social functioning of “high-functioning” autistic children is receiving substantial media coverage. One is For Autistic Kids, IQ May Not Predict School Achievement,

Ione Fine and 
Jaime Olavarria

Photo of Ione Fine 
Photo of Jaimie Olavarria 

Ione Fine received a Royalty Research Fund grant to, with the help of UW Radiology, carry out high resolution structural imaging of early visual pathways.   Her proposal, along with Jaime Olavarria’s, were two of only 30 funded out of 101 submissions.

John Gottman
Photo of John Gottman

John Gottman’s work was used as a starting point in a column in a recent Huffington Post. Why men don’t listen to women,

Jim Ha
Photo of James Ha

Jim Ha was interviewed by KOMO news. Vicious or vilified? Debate rages over pit bulls,

Renee and Jim Ha
Photo of Renee Ha
Photo of James Ha

Renee and Jim Ha’s paper Without intervention, Mariana crow to become extinct in 75 years, written for Bird Conservation International, has been picked up by multiple media sources, Sources include US News & World Report and the Saipan Tribune.

Kevin King
Photo of Kevin King 

Kevin King will be honored with an Undergraduate Research Mentor Award. Every year, students who are presenting their work at the Undergraduate Research Symposium are invited to nominate their mentor for special recognition.  Dr. King is one of five mentors who will be honored this year with an Undergraduate Research Mentor Award.  This award recognizes his great efforts in guiding undergraduates to become scholars.


Jeansok Kim
Photo of Jeansok Kim 

Jeansok Kim’s work on Neuroscience of instinct: How animals overcome fear to obtain food has received a lot of media coverage.  

Jeansok Kim was also named as one of the top 'Faces and Minds of Psychological Science' by the Association for Psychological Science.  He was described as a top “researchers the exciting field of psychological science. Using the latest methods and technologies, they have made enormous strides in exploring the complexities of human behavior in all of its forms, from the most basic brain research to applications in health, education, business, and social issues.”

Janxin Leu
 Photo of Janxin Leu

Janxin Leu’s research shows that Asians interpret and react to positive emotions differently in regard to their mental health. Psychotherapies emphasizing positive emotions, which can relieve stress and depression in white populations, may not work for Asians, who make up 60 percent of the world population.  Co-authors of the paper are Jennifer Wang and Kelly Koo, both Psychology graduate students. The journal Emotion published the study online March 28.   The UW’s Institute for Ethnic Studies in the United States funded the research.  Press in Los Angeles and Los Angeles and the Seattle Morning News have carried this.  Psychologists warn that therapies based on positive emotions may not work for Asians,

Marsha Linehan 
Photo of Marsha Linehan 

Marsha Linehan was quoted in The Wall Street Journal. The article Conquering Fear states that mindfulness “holds that simply observing your critical thoughts without judging them is a more effective way to tame them than pressuring yourself to change or denying their validity.”

Lois McDermott and Ron Smith 
Photo of Lois McDermott 
Photo of Ron Smith 

Lois McDermott and Ron Smith received Faculty Member of the Year awards from the UW's sororities and fraternities at the Greek Awards 2011 event. Lois's Human Sexuality course was honored as "Course of the Year," and Ron received the "Most Inspirational Professor" award for his Human Performance Enhancement course.

Andrew Meltzoff and Peter Kahn
Photo of Andrew Meltzoff 
Photo of Peter Kahn 

Andrew Meltzoff and Peter Kahn presented at the Osaka-UW Workshop in March. Andrew spoke on Developing social cognition: Gaze following and imitation; infants and robots, and Peter spoke on Social and moral relationships with robots.  Osaka University, Japan - with the Center of Human-friendly Robotics Based on Cognitive Neuroscience program - is one of the UW Study Abroad sites.

Sean O’Donnell 
Photo of Sean O'Donnell 

Sean O’Donnell’s research on Social wasps show how bigger brains provide complex cognition was featured in UW Today and the April 11 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was also picked up by the US News & World report site, among other news sources. See As the brain gets larger, there’s disproportionately greater investment in the size of brain tissue for higher-order cognitive abilities.  Co-authors are Yamile Molina, who received a doctorate in psychology at UW, and Marie Clifford, a UW biology graduate student.

Jaime Olavarria 
Photo of Jaimie Olavarria

Jaime Olavarria’s Royalty Research Fund proposal was one of the 30 funded out of 101 submissions. With the help of UW Radiology, he will perform a quantitative analysis of the effects of visual deprivation on the columnar organization of rat visual cortex.

Lee Osterhout
Photo of Lee Osterhout

Lee Osterhout’s work on language was featured extensively on Fluent in another language? The CIA wants you covered his research on the importance of motivation in language learning.

Frank Smoll
Photo of Frank Smoll 

The Mastery Approach to Parenting in Sports, developed by Frank Smoll and Ron Smith, was the feature topic of a recent Fox Sports Radio show To listen to the broadcast, click here

Frank Smoll was interviewed by ABC News, What Would You Do? Overbearing skater mom calls child 'pathetic, embarrassing'

Frank Smoll was interviewed (again) by FOX Sports Radio.This session focused on stress in youth sports.  You can listen to the interview here:

Wendy Stone
Photo of Wendy Stone 

Wendy Stone is co-author of a study that indicates that the level of interest toddlers with early signs of autism show in toys may predict how well they will respond to a parent-guided treatment program. The study has received coverage in U.S. News & World Report and many science and medical on-line news sources.