John Kiat

One of the aspects of research I love the most is how random conversations in the hallway can so quickly lead to multiple ongoing collaborations. I get a lot of out collaborating personally. Being able to work in a team and leverage each member’s unique skillsets is pretty awesome when things go right.

Here are some of the collaborations I’ve been involved with over the years that, happily enough, went right. They include a study investigating the environmental effects on inhibitory processing with Julia Torquati & Anne Schutte, Facial processing & Schizotypy with Charles Davidson, and an investigation into the neural correlates of gradual change blindness in collaboration with Michael Dodd.

Also listed here are a few “two-birds-one-stone” studies that I conducted in-class while fulfilling teaching responsibilities throughout my career. The first looks at factors which predict the improvement of undergraduate perceptions of statistics and the second looks at how an interesting aspect of MCQ construction can have a subtle influence on student test performance. Last but not least, a few technical ERP studies are also highlighted in this section.



While most of my EEG work focuses on social-affective processing, it’s hard to be heavily involved in EEG and not occasionally tackle technical questions in the area. One of the questions that consistently comes to my mind is the nature of the processes underlying classic ERP components, most notably the P300. I’ve long been interested in assessing potential commonalities and differences in underlying processes reflected by the P300 response across different paradigms. To start out this line of work, I ran a study assessing the behavior of the P300 oddball response as a function of preceding target modality. Using a unique alternating modality oddball design, this study sought to investigate if the P300 response to a deviant oddball target would be different if the preceding target was presented in a different modality. The results of this study were quite interesting. While auditory oddball responses exhibited modulations in line with the context-refreshing P300 hypothesis, being more positive when the preceding target was presented visually, visual oddball responses showed the opposite pattern. Speculatively, this may indicate that the P300 response towards oddball targets become more similar under cross-modal conditions with both auditory and visual targets benefit from the stronger orienting response towards previously presented visual stimuli relative to the weaker orienting response towards previously presented auditory targets. It’s also possible that the heightened attentional response inducted by the saliency of the visual targets may be subsuming subtler modality transition-related effects or that , the attentional response towards auditory deviants may be harder to disengage from.

While I don’t have plans to pursue these issues further at the moment. I am potentially interested in assessing if the P300 response across disparate domains (e.g. towards faces vs. abstract shapes) reflect similar vs. dissimilar processes.


Kiat, J.E. (in press) Context Refreshing Effects on a Cross-Modal Visual-Auditory Oddball. International Journal of Psychophysiology.


The goal of this investigation was to assess potential impairments in social processing as a function of various dimensions of subclinical schizotypy. In this project, I worked with Dr. Charles Davidson to analyze ERP data he collected from a population of young adults expressing varying degrees of subclinical schizotypy characteristics.  Intriguingly several basic ERP components were shown to significantly differentiate various schziotypal features. I served primarily as the analyst on this one, but I really enjoyed processing the face expression data, which lead to the development of another neat experiment discussed here.

Davidson, C. A., Kiat, J.E., Tarasenko, M., Ritchie, A. J. R., Molfese, D., Spaulding, W. D. (in press). Electrophysiological correlates of social cognition in subclinical schizotypy. Personality and Mental Health.


The phrase Change Blindness refers to a perceptual phenomenon in which visual changes (often major ones) can occur without an, often vigilant, observer detecting them. Most of the studies investigating the neural processes underlying change blindness rely really more on change detection type designs involving the presentation of two images with an intervening visual disruption like a blank screen. In other words, the change itself occurs instantaneously with detections representing the registration of their result.

Change blindness has however also been demonstrated using gradual change introduced in the absence of visual disruption (Simons, Franconeri & Reimer, 2000). A few examples of these changes are shown below :



I was curious to find out whether these types of changes recruited similar neural regions to those shown to be involved in disruption change blindness related phenomena. We conducted a study in which high-density (256 channel) EEG was collected from 25 participants while they viewed scenes which either had or did not have changes in them. The primary finding of interest in this study was that increased levels of beta activity, source localized to the right inferior parietal lobule (a region repeatedly associated with change detection in disruption paradigms) was observed in undetected changes relative to change-absent stimuli. Drawing on prior work in the area, we propose that this activity is associated with the sub-threshold orientation of attention towards visual changes. This is, of course, speculative, and currently we’re building off this exploratory work in a significantly expanded investigation. More news soon!

Kiat, J.E, Dodd, M.D., Belli, R.F. Cheadle, J.E. The Signature of Undetected Change: An Exploratory Electrotomographic Investigation of Gradual Change Blindness. (in press). Journal of Neurophysiology


Quite a while back, I was seriously considering completing a doctorate in quantitative methods. Needless to say, statistics is an area I really enjoy working in. Sadly, not everyone shares this love and back in my undergraduate years, I collaborated with Dr. Albert Liau to see if we could identify what in-class methods were most effective in shifting folks towards having a more positive view of statistics. This one dates way back to my raw new-at-the-gig undergraduate days so it’s a little rough but if you’re interested in the topic, so feel free to check it out~!

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. doi: 10.1007/s40299-014-0182-5.

This was a fun little project to run. As a student, I used to wonder if all the randomized order tests that were being given out actually had some sort of impact on test performance. Think of it this way. If you read a reasonable sounding albeit incorrect answer early on in the list it’s not unreasonable to argue that you might end up being more likely to pick that response relative to a situation where you read it late in the list. This could happen either through satisficing or memory interference effects. I got together with a bunch of graduate student friends and, thanks to Winnee Cheong allowing us to collect data in her class, we ran and published a study showing that this indeed true, as strong MCQ distractors showed a distinct tendency towards being more likely to be selected when read earlier in the list relative to weak distractors.

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


Don’t you just love a good long walk out in nature? There’s recently been a great deal of interest on the restorative effects of natural environments on psychological function. In a collaboration with Julia Torquati and Anne Schutte (my primary role was being the EEG analyst), we looked at how ERP responses related to attentional focus to various measures of attention and inhibitory control in children differed between indoor and outdoor environments. Intriguingly, while behavioral performance did not differ as a function of environment, levels of task-related attention were lower outdoors. These findings suggest that perhaps for some tasks, we can afford to relax a little and mentally stretch our legs, things facilitated by being outdoors, with less of a performance cost then we might think!

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).