Science on Tap discussion to focus on technology and the brain

June 8, 2012

LAWRENCE — Smartphone, tablet, e-reader: All of them are technological innovations that are useful, attractive and fun. But are they also harmful?

New research has begun to show the costs of our “wired” society and the incompatibility between our brains and our gadgets.

Paul Atchley, associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas, will lead a talk and conversation on the subject at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 12, at Free State Brewing Co., 636 Massachusetts St. The free event is part of the KU Natural History Museum’s Science on Tap series of informal “science café” events.

Atchley will discuss the limits of human attention, the costs of technology and the myth of multitasking. He will also offer information about promising research that shows that a return to nature may be good for how we think.

Atchley’s research focuses on the interaction between attention and perception, and how these two aspects of cognition are influenced by dual-tasking, such as using a smartphone and driving.

For more information about the event, please visit online.

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU’s Lawrence campus. | (785) 864-3256 | 1314 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045

Contact: Jen Humphrey, Natural History Museum, 785-864-2344, from

KU Finals Week Bus Service

Finals Week – Early Bus Service

In order to help students arrive on campus in time for 7:30 a.m. final exams, the following transit routes will start early May 7-11:

  • Route 11:  The 6:18 am bus will operate as usual.  A special 6:48 am departure from The Reserve and The Connection will be added.  This bus should arrive to campus about 7:20 am.
  • Route 11:  Special 7:00 am departure from Campus Court at Naismith.
  • Route 30:  Service will start at 6:55 am from 14th & Apple Lane.
  • Route 30x:  Service will start at 7:05 am from Chelsea Place.
  • Route 32:  Service will start at 6:44 am from 23rd & Louisiana and 7:00 from North Michigan.
  • Route 36:  Service will start at 6:43 from Gateway Court.
  • Route 38:  Service will start at 6:45 am from 25th and Melrose.
  • Route 43:  Service will start at 7:00 am.

Route and schedule information is online at

Stop Day – Limited Service

On Stop Day, Friday, May 4, the following routes will not operate: 30, 30X, 32, 36, 38, 42, and 43.

Routes 11 and 41 will operate their ‘B’ schedules on Stop Day, and will return to their ‘A’ schedules for one week on Monday, May 7.

SafeRide & SafeBus

SAFERIDE WILL START AT 9:30 DURING FINALS WEEK. SafeBus service will end on Thursday, May 10, SafeRide service will end on Saturday May 12.

End of Spring KU on Wheels Service

Regular KU on Wheels service ends on May 11.  Only Route 41 (Park & Ride) will operate its ‘B’ schedule during Summer term.

Route 11 will also operate ‘B’ service during Summer term.

“Like” KU on Wheels and SafeRide/SafeBus on Facebook!

KU on Wheels and SafeRide/SafeBus have new Facebook pages.  “Like” us to get information about detours and service announcements, proposed changes to routes, ridership, and special events.

Follow Parking & Transit on Twitter!

You can follow @parkingKU to get updates about current parking information, game restrictions, and general announcements, or get answers to specific questions and concerns.

Cognitive Prosem: “New Studies in Discrimination Learning”

This Friday, as part of the Cognitive Prosem schedule for the Spring term, Dr. John Colombo, Professor of Psychology, here at the University of Kansas will give a talk entitled, “New Studies in Discrimination Learning”. It’s the last prosem of the term; see you there!

The Cognitive Prosem is from 12:00-1:20 pm in Fraser 537.

KU researchers find time in wild boosts creativity, insight and problem solving

April 23, 2012

LAWRENCE — There’s new evidence that our minds thrive away from it all.

Research conducted at the University of Kansas concludes that people from all walks of life show startling cognitive improvement—for instance, a 50 percent boost in creativity—after living for a few days steeped in nature.

Ruth Ann Atchley, whose research is featured in this month’s Backpacker magazine, said the “soft fascination” of the natural world appears to refresh the human mind, offering refuge from the cacophony of modern life.

“We’ve got information coming at us from social media, electronics and cell phones,” said [Ruth Ann] Atchley, associate professor and chair of psychology at KU. “We constantly shift attention from one source to another, getting all of this information that simulates alarms, warnings and emergencies. Those threats are bad for us. They sap our resources to do the fun thinking and cognition humans are capable of—things like creativity, or being kind and generous, along with our ability to feel good and be in a positive mood.”

The researcher said that nature could stimulate the human mind without the often-menacing distractions of workaday life in the 21st-century.

“Nature is a place where our mind can rest, relax and let down those threat responses,” said Atchley. “Therefore, we have resources left over—to be creative, to be imaginative, to problem solve—that allow us to be better, happier people who engage in a more productive way with others.”

Atchley led a team that conducted initial research on a backpacking trip in Utah with the Remote Associates Test, a word-association exercise used for decades by psychologists to gauge creative intelligence. Her fellow researchers included Paul Atchley, associate professor of psychology at KU, and David Strayer, professor of cognition and neural science at the University of Utah.

Intrigued by positive results, the researchers partnered with Outward Bound, the Golden, Colo.-based nonprofit that leads educational expeditions into nature for people of many backgrounds. About 120 participants on outings in places like Alaska, Colorado and California completed the “RAT” test.

“We worked with a number of backpacking groups that were going out last summer,” Ruth Ann Atchley said. “Four backpacker groups took the test before they hit the trail, and then four different groups did it on the fourth day just like we had done before. The data across age groups—regular folks from age 18 into their 60s—showed an almost 50 percent increase in creativity. It really worked in the sense that it was a well-used measure and we could see such a big difference in these two environments.”

Best of all, she said that the benefits of nature belong to anyone who delves completely into wilderness for an amount of time equivalent to a long weekend.

“There’s growing advantage over time to being in nature,” said Ruth Ann Atchley. “We think that it peaks after about three days of really getting away, turning off the cell phone, not hauling the iPad and not looking for internet coverage. It’s when you have an extended period of time surrounded by that softly fascinating environment that you start seeing all kinds of positive effects in how your mind works.”

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU’s Lawrence campus. | (785) 864-3256 | 1314 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045

Contact: Brendan Lynch, KU News Service, 785-864-8855, from

MIND Lecture by Dr. Michael Kane on March 6th

This is a reminder of Tuesday’s MIND Lecture by Dr. Michael Kane, entitled: “What mind wandering reveals about executive control & its variation”. The lecture will take place at 3pm, Tuesday, March 6th in the Alderson Auditorium (KS Union). Dr. Kane is a cognitive psychologist who has strong collaborations with social and clinical psychologists. His talk should be interesting to many in the department! 

Our guest for this year’s Cognitive Psychology Mind Lecture Series, Dr. Michael Kane, investigates the role of executive functions in mind wandering. Some of his other areas of research include: attentional control and working memory capacity. His research “explores the nature of WMC’s predictive power, in order to understand cognitive individual differences and the functioning of the core attention and memory processes that are broadly important to ‘real world’ cognition”. His work has appeared in Psychological BulletinJEP: GeneralPsychological Science, and Memory & Cognition, to name a few. He is a current recipient of an NIMH grant looking at executive control and schizotypy.

This lecture is made possible through the support of the Mind Lecture Series Endowment. A reception will follow after the lecture. 

Individual differences in working memory capacity (WMC) predict complex cognitive capabilities (e.g., reading, reasoning) as well as performance in relatively simple attention tasks. Our executive attention theory of WMC argues that shared variance between WMC and higher-order cognition reflects primarily variation in attention control. In this talk, I will explore the WMC-attention relation by focusing on goal-neglect and mind-wandering phenomena. Goal neglect refers to momentary failures to respond according to goals despite knowing and appreciating them. I’ll argue that goal neglect (and WMC variation therein) sometimes results from mind-wandering, the subjective experience of off-task thought. Via daily-life and laboratory studies, I’ll suggest that mind-wandering research can inform theories of WMC and executive control.