John Kiat


Kiat, J.E., Cheadle, J.E. Goosby, B.J. (in press). The Impact of Social Exclusion on Anticipatory Attentional Processes. International Journal of Psychophysiology. Advance online publication

The importance of understanding how we anticipate and prepare for social rejection is underscored by the mental and physical toll of continual social vigilance. In this study, we investigate the impact of social rejection on anticipatory attentional processes using the well-known Cyberball task, a paradigm in which participants engage in a game of catch with virtual avatars who after an initial period of fair-play (inclusion condition) then exclude the participant from the game (exclusion condition). The degree of anticipatory attention allocated by subjects towards the avatars was assessed by measuring P3b responses towards the avatars’ preparatory actions (i.e. the phase preceding their exclusionary actions) using high density EEG. The results of the study show that relative to the inclusion, participants exhibit elevated levels of anticipatory attentional allocation towards the avatars during the exclusion block. This shift was however significantly moderated by participants’ self-reported cognitive regulation tendencies. Participants with higher levels of self-reported cognitive reappraisal tendencies showed larger anticipatory P3b increases from the inclusion to exclusion block relative to participants with reduced levels of reappraisal tendencies. These results highlight the impact of social exclusion on anticipatory neural processing and the moderating role of cognitive reappraisal on these effects.

Kiat, J.E., Cheadle, J.E. (2017). The Impact of Individuation on the Bases of Human Empathic Responding. Neuroimage. 155, 312-321.

While there is substantial overlap in the neural systems underlying empathy for people we know as opposed to strangers, social distance has been shown to significantly moderate empathic neural responses towards the negative experiences of others. Intriguingly however, variance in empathic neural responses towards known and unknown targets has not been reflected by behavioral differences as indexed by self-reported empathic ratings. One explanation for this disconnect is that empathic evaluations of known and unknown individuals draw on different bases (e.g. target identity/reactions) within the empathic process. To test this hypothesis, we utilized high density EEG to assess how individuating targets with personal names moderated the link between behavioral pain ratings and attentional processing oriented towards (a) initial target processing and (b) subsequent expressions target discomfort. Consistent with prior findings, no differences in pain ratings between individuated and unindividuated targets was observed. However, individual mean pain rating differences for individuated targets was strongly positively related to attentional processing levels, indexed by the P300, during the initial presentation of those targets, a relationship absent for unindividuated targets. In contrast, pain ratings for unindividuated targets was positively related to levels of attentional processing, indexed by the Late Positive Potential (LPP), during the subsequent discomfort expression stage. Furthermore, the LPP response to individuated target discomfort was positively linked to behavioral measures of emotional expressivity whereas the LPP response to unindividuated target discomfort was positively associated with cognitive appraisal. These findings suggest that individuation can significantly shift the bases of empathic responding.

Kiat, J.E., Straley, E., Cheadle, J. E. (2017). Why Won’t They Sit with Me? An Exploratory Investigation of Stereotyped Cues, Social Exclusion, and the P3b. Social Neuroscience. 12(5), 612-625

The importance of understanding how we anticipate and prepare for being socially excluded is underscored by the numerous adverse mental and physical consequences of social rejection. In this study, we adapted a social exclusion paradigm, the Lunchroom task, to investigate the use of social context cues in the formation of social outcome expectations as indexed by the P3b, an ERP component associated with attention orientation and context updating. In this task, Black and White participants were presented with either neutral or stereotyped cues prior to being exposed to simulated inclusion versus exclusion outcome scenarios. Black participants showed evidence of (1) a significantly reduced P3b response to exclusions preceded by stereotyped cues relative to neutral cue-related exclusions and (2) a marginally significant increase in the P3b response to inclusions relative to exclusions when both were preceded by stereotyped cues. Both of these findings suggest a key role for the use of social cues in the formation of outcome expectations. In line with our hypothesis that the random intermixing of inclusion and exclusion outcomes would prevent formation of outcome expectations when coupled with the absence of self-relevant cues, no overall P3b modulations were observed among a comparison group of White participants.

Kiat, J.E., Straley, E., Cheadle, J. E. (2016). Escalating Risk and the Moderating Effect of Resistance to Peer Influence on the P200 and Feedback Related Negativity. Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience, 11(3): 377-386.

Young people frequently socialize together in contexts that encourage risky decision making, pointing to a need for research into how susceptibility to peer influence is related to individual differences in the neural processing of decisions during sequentially escalating risk. We applied a novel analytic approach to analyze EEG activity from college-going students while they completed the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART), a well-established risk-taking propensity assessment. By modeling outcome-processing-related changes in the P200 and feedback-related negativity (FRN) sequentially within each BART trial as a function of pump order as an index of increasing risk, our results suggest that analyzing the BART in a progressive fashion may provide valuable new insights into the temporal neurophysiological dynamics of risk taking. Our results showed that a P200, localized to the left caudate nucleus, and an FRN, localized to the left dACC, were positively correlated with the level of risk taking and reward. Furthermore, consistent with our hypotheses, the rate of change in the FRN was higher among college students with greater self-reported resistance to peer influence.

Lukman, H., Kiat, J.E., Ganesan, A., Chua, W.L., Khor, K.L., Choong, Y.F. (2010). Strabismus-related prejudice in 5-6-year-old children. British Journal of Ophthalmology, 94,1348-51.

Aims There is a general consensus that individuals with conspicuous strabismus are perceived more negatively with respect to physical appearance, personality and capability. Such social biases can potentially lead to social alienation and negative psychosocial development, particularly when experienced at a young age. This study aims to explore young children’s perception of peers with noticeable exotropia.
Methods 128 children, 5-6 years old, took part in this cross-sectional within-group study. The sample viewed four paired images of peers with orthotropia and exotropia, and chose the image they LIKED and the image they would SHARE their favourite toy with. All images were created using digital morphing technique.
Results Single proportion tests showed that a significantly greater proportion of the sample chose the orthotropic images as the ones they like and the ones they would share their favourite toy with. Phi coefficient analysis further demonstrated an association between the choice to like and the choice to share.
Conclusions Children as young as 5 years old are found to have negative social reactions towards peers with noticeable exotropia. These findings imply that children with noticeable strabismus may be subjected to social alienation at an early age.

Lukman, H., Kiat, J.E., Ganesan, A., Chua, W.L., Khor, K.L., Choong, Y.F. (2010). Negative Social Reaction to Strabismus in School Children Ages 8-12 years. Journal of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, 15(3):238-40.

PURPOSE To investigate children’s willingness to sit next to a child with noticeable exotropia as a measure of social alienation.
METHODS This was a cross-sectional, mixed-design study. Children in primary grades 3-6 (8-12 years old) were asked to view 8 digitally modified images of exotropic or orthotropic children in classroom settings and rate their willingness to sit next to the child in each image.
RESULTS A total of 157 children participated. A 4 X 2 X 2 mixed-design analysis of variance revealed a significant main effect for primary level and for image type, exotropic versus orthotropic. The results of the main effects were qualified by a significant primary level X image type interaction. Children were less willing to sit next to a person with noticeable exotropia. Although this phenomenon was consistent across all primary levels, the magnitude of the effect diminished in strength for children in higher primary levels.
CONCLUSIONS This study further strengthens existing evidence for strabismus-related prejudice that suggests that children with noticeable strabismus may be subjected to social alienation by other children.


Kiat, J.E., Belli, R.F. (2017). An Exploratory High-Density EEG Investigation of the Misinformation Effect: Attentional and Recollective Differences between True and False Perceptual Memories. Neurobiology of Learning & Memory. 141, 199-208.

The misinformation effect, a phenomenon in which eyewitness memories are altered via exposure to post-event misinformation, is one of the most important paradigms used to investigate the reconstructive nature of human memory. The aim of this study was to use the misinformation effect paradigm to investigate differences in attentional and recollective processing between true and false event memories.
Nineteen participants completed a variant of the misinformation paradigm in which recognition responses to true and misinformation based event details embedded within a narrative context, were investigated using high-density (256-channel) EEG with a 1-day delay between event exposure and test. Source monitoring responses were used to isolate event-related-potentials (ERPs) associated with perceptual (i.e. event) source attributions. Temporal-spatial analyses of these ERPs showed evidence of an elevated P3b and Late-Positive Component, associated with stronger context-matching responses and recollective activity respectively, in true perceptual memories relative to false misinformation based ones. These findings represent the first retrieval focused EEG investigation of the misinformation effect and highlight the interplay between attention and retrieval processes in episodic memory recognition.


Schutte, A., Torquati, J., Kiat, J.E. (2017). The influence of Indoor and Natural Environments on Children’s Executive Function and Event-Related Potentials. Children, Youth & Environments, 27(2).

This study explored the influence of green environments on children’s cognitive functions by using an experimental, within-subjects design to compare children’s neural responses as they engaged in assessments of attention, inhibitory control, and spatial working memory in two different environments: a natural outdoor area and an indoor laboratory room. Ten children ages 6 to 11 years (M= 9.3; SD= 1.5) participated. Children performed significantly better on the spatial working memory task outdoors compared to indoors. There were no significant differences in attention or inhibitory control, but two markers of neurological activity were significantly larger indoors than outdoors, suggesting that more cognitive resources were needed to achieve the same level of performance indoors compared to outdoors.

Kiat, J. E., Ong, A. R., & Ganesan, A. (2017). The influence of Distractor Strength and Placement on MCQ Responding. Educational Psychology. Advance online publication

Multiple-choice questions (MCQs) play a key role in standardised testing and in-class assessment. Research into the influence of withinitem response order on MCQ characteristics has been mixed. While some researchers have shown preferential selection of response options presented earlier in the answer list, others have failed to replicate these results. This paper investigates a possible explanation for these mixed findings by assessing the influence of distractor strength on MCQ response order effects. A real-world assessment was administered to 232 undergraduates in which the response order within items was systematically varied. A generalised multilevel model was then used to show a significant interaction between distractor strength and response position with regard to response behaviour. Furthermore, the effect was found to be independent of student ability. These findings have implications for MCQ test construction, minimising the negative consequences of MCQ test exposure and promoting improved test-taking strategies.

Liau, A.K., Kiat, J.E., Nie, Y. (2014). Investigating the Pedagogical Approaches Related to Changes in Attitudes Toward Statistics in a Quantitative Methods Course for Psychology Undergraduate Students. The AsiaPacific Education Researcher,24(2): 319-327.

The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which the pedagogical approaches used in the course were related to improvements in students’ attitudes toward statistics in a Quantitative Methods course for psychology undergraduate students in a Malaysian University. The study examined whether increasing availability of the instructor and tutor, carrying out hands-on activities, using collaborative learning, and utilizing scaffolding activities would be related to the improvement of students’ attitudes toward statistics. It also hypothesized that the various pedagogical approaches used would be related to higher levels of achievement in statistics. One hundred and three psychology students from a 14-week undergraduate course on statistics volunteered to participate in this study. The study found partial support that the approaches utilized were related to positive attitude changes toward statistics as well as achievement. Limitations are discussed and future research is suggested.