Upcoming IMBES 2024 conference in Leuven, Belgium!

leuvenThe International Mind Brain and Education Society (IMBES) are thrilled to announce that the 2024 conference will be held from 10 – 12 July in Leuven, Belgium! The meeting will be jointly organised by IMBES and EARLI SIG 22.

The primary objective of this joint conference is to showcase cutting-edge research where the fields of neurosciences, educational sciences, developmental sciences, and cognitive sciences intersect. The overarching goal is to advance the current state of knowledge and foster meaningful dialogue between scientists, practitioners, and policy makers within the realm of mind, brain, and education.

IMBES are delighted to announce their distinguished keynote speakers for this event, namely Stanislas Dehaene (Unicog, Paris), Jennie Grammer (University of California LA, US), and Duncan Astle (University of Cambridge, UK).

 If you are interested, please mark your calendars with the following important deadlines:

Opening registrations: 15 January 2024
Abstract submission deadline: 1 February 2024
Author notification: 1 March 2024
Early bird registration deadline: 1 May 2024
Closing registrations: 26 June 2024
Conference dates: 10 – 12 July 2024

Should you have any questions or remarks about this conference, you can always reach the organisers at info@imbes2024.org. If you wish to stay informed about the IMBES 2024 updates, do not hesitate to subscribe to the mailing list and/or check out the website for more information!

“Did ChatGPT just ruin education?”


In this blog, Michael Thomas discusses the potential impact of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT on education.

Generative artificial intelligence, such as ChatGPT, is a form of AI that can generate human-like text based on a ‘large language model’ – information extracted from what is out on the internet. It can write essays and summarise facts, it can give feedback on written work and Excel formulae. There are versions that can generate other types of content, such as images from text, or music. I used DALL:E to generate the above image in response to the text prompt “draw a photorealistic picture of a university administrator thinking very hard about artificial intelligence” (I added the text!). Together, generative AI represents an immensely powerful tool.

In education, one of the principal methods of encouraging conceptual learning, developing writing skills, and assessing knowledge, is to ask students to independently write essays. However, students are now increasingly using generative AI in their work (see, e.g., this recent article from the BBC: ‘Most of our friends use AI in schoolwork‘). This is causing concern among educators and parents alike.

For educators, generative AI represents a significant challenge. Can teachers no longer use essays as an educational tool? Has a principal form of assessment been lost? Generative AI is immensely powerful but it has limitations: it generates plausible, ‘high probability’ text, not necessarily factually correct text, and the content it generates can be biased based on what the AI has found on the internet. Are students using a tool that leads them astray?

Like search engines, generative AI cannot be uninvented. Instead, students should be guided on how best to use generative AI to support their learning. But right now, students frequently know more about what generative AI can do than educators.

CEN Director Michael Thomas recently attended a meeting of the All Parliamentary Party Group (APPG) on Artificial Intelligence at the UK House of Lords, convened to discuss the potential impact (for better or worse) of generative artificial intelligence on education. He wrote a report of the meeting for the education think tank Learnus. The 3-page report can be found here.

Here are the main points from the report of the House of Lords meeting:

1. No one was panicking that AI robots were going to take over the world – although everyone recognised the downside risks of generative AI (e.g., inaccurate and biased content, age-inappropriate content, commercial ownership, data privacy). Instead, the main focus was on opportunities.

2. Among experts, there was a diverse range of views expressed on what tools like ChatGPT mean for education – all the way from ‘that don’t impress me’ to ‘it’s a steppingstone to utopia’. Some thought it on a par with the introduction of calculators to maths class, or of search engines for researching essays and projects: a helpful tool, necessitating some tweaking of teaching practice, but not much more. Others thought it would fundamentally alter educational practices and was an opportunity to democratise education – a tool to provide support for all.

3. The kids currently know much more than the teachers – pretty much everyone agreed that the most important first step is to improve teacher literacy on generative AI, to understand what these systems can (and can’t) do, and to begin to think about how they may be used. Perhaps the most important take-home for teachers and students alike is that you’ve got to know the limitations of the technology.

4. Guidance is beginning to emerge – institutions are thinking hard about the educational impact of generative AI, and some guidance is beginning to emerge (e.g., from the UK Department for Education and from the Russell Group of UK universities). As an example, this term, I gave a lecture to university psychology students on how they might use ChatGPT as a tool in their essay writing. I let them know what the chances are of getting caught if they simply use it to write their assessments (given that universities use AI detection tools, and that ChatGPT essays are reasonably easy to spot for content experts); and I also told them the very mediocre mark they would likely receive for an AI generated essay even if they didn’t get caught – because ChatGPT doesn’t write great essays. Here’s a slide summarising some tips:



There are many ways generative AI can be useful in education: to suggest initial ideas, to give feedback on text, to help second language learners improve their writing, for checking and recommending Excel formulae or computer code.

There are inevitably pitfalls we need to avoid (mostly linked to ensuring that content is unbiased and factually true, and that creativity is not stifled – ChatGPT will encourage you to write just like everyone else on the internet!).

But the broad message should be a positive one. In the same way that the invention of search engines gave everyone unprecedented access to vast stores of human knowledge (but ‘knowledge’ not to treated uncritically), generative AI can empower learners. The search is on for the best guidance to allow students to realise the potential of this new tool and avoid its pitfalls.

Did ChatGPT just ruin education? No, it gave education a powerful new tool, but with an instruction manual yet to be written.

Using neurotechnology in the classroom


In a new issue of the educational journal Comunicar, Jo van Herwegen and Michael Thomas from the CEN have teamed up with María-José Hernández-Serrano from the University of Salamanca in Spain to co-edit a special edition on the use of neurotechnology in the classroom.

What counts as a neurotechnology? Neurotechnology comprises a range of techniques that offer information about the operation of the brain separate from how it shows up in behaviour, especially the kinds of behaviour that educators typically monitor to track students’ progress in learning. The use of neurotechnology is therefore rooted in the assumption that the way that learning works in the brain will be relevant for educators.

Neurotechnologies might directly reflect physiological markers of brain function, such as in the brain’s electrical discharges (electroencephalography or EEG) or its regional oxygenated blood flow (functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy or fNIRs). They may reflect body markers of the operation of the sympathetic autonomic nervous system, the network of nerves that helps the body activate its “fight-or-flight” response. Such markers often index emotional processes (for example, the electrical conductance of the surface of the skin, which depends on sweat release, so-called electrodermal activity). Or they may detect subtle behavioural markers reflecting attention processes or memory retrieval (for example, eye-tracking or pupil dilation). Together, these measures can offer a window on students’ engagement in the classroom, their current knowledge, their emotional state, and the nature of learning as it unfolds.

There are two advantages that neurotechnology can potentially bring to the classroom. First, it can offer educators real-time information to guide practices, either on the current state of their students or the effectiveness of the teacher’s current activities – though the technical challenge of instantly turning rich neurotechnology data into an educationally usable form renders this still, perhaps, a promise rather than a reality.

The second advantage is that using neurotechnologies in the classroom provides greater ecologically validity to study learning and instruction in the context where it occurs, rather than in the artificially controlled context of the laboratory. This means that the use of neurotechnologies in the classroom engages with the embodied sensory, emotional, and social context in which teaching and learning actually occur.

The special Issue is a contribution to this emerging field, compiling a variety of studies conducted in Spain, Portugal, Latin America, and Taiwan, carried out with different neurotechnologies and approaches, from different perspectives. An introduction to the volume and an overview of the papers can be found here.

Learning and Reasoning Group


The Centre for Educational Neuroscience is establishing a new working group to investigate the relationship between reasoning and learning in cognition.

Organised by Dr Selma Dündar-Coecke and Semir Tatlidil, the group brings together researchers from multiple disciplinary perspectives with the aim of elucidating the mechanisms of learning and reasoning and considering pathways to informing education and artificial intelligence.

Each month, the group will host an online seminar with experts in cognition, development, artificial intelligence and education.

To register for these seminars, please complete this form.


andreas-dWednesday 24th November at 4 pm (UK time)

Professor Andreas Demetriou
University of Nicosia

Causal Reasoning: Its role in the architecture and development of the mind






Wednesday 15th December at 4 pm (UK time)

Professor Steven Sloman
Brown University

The Limits of Causal Reasoning in Human and Machine Learning






Wednesday 16th February at 4 pm (UK time)

Dr Ciarán Gilligan-Lee
University College London

Learning and reasoning at different levels of Pearl’s Causal Hierarchy


NeuroSENse launch event and teacher resources


This week, the Centre for Educational Neuroscience launched a range of free ‘NeuroSENse‘ teacher resources to help raise awareness of neuromyths related to neurodevelopmental disorders and special educational needs.

The NeuroSENse resources were launched with an online twilight event attended by teachers, SEND specialists and school leaders. The event started with Dr Jo Van Hewegen discussing a recent study conducted by her lab on the prevalence of neuromyths in education and the general public. Dr Van Herwegen described that whilst the general public and educators rated similar numbers of neuromyths as true, neuromyths related to neurodevelopmental disorders were more commonly believed to be true compared to general neuromyths about learning.

Following Dr Van Herwegen, Matthew Slocombe described several focus groups conducted with teachers, SENDCos, teaching assistants, and school leaders to understand which neuromyths are common in education and what causes them. Based on the findings of these focus groups, Dr Van Herwegen went on to discuss several approaches schools can take to help address neuromyths related to special educational needs and disabilities.


We then moved on to a series of short presentations from Dr Jo Van Herwegen, Matthew Slocombe, Prof Chloe Marshall, and Dr Rebecca Gordon, who described the new NeuroSENse blogs on common neuromyths related to ADHD, autism, deafness, dyslexia, and intellectual disabilities.


Finally, Dr Jamie Gaplin from the National Association for Special Educational Needs and Prof Michael Thomas discussed neuromyths within the broader contexts of SEND support and neuroscience, highlighting the value of dialogue between practitioners and researchers for addressing neuromyths in education.

Visit the NeuroSENse page to access the teacher resources and keep up-to-date with NeuroSENse news and events.

NeuroSENse launch event


We are delighted to invite you to our second NeuroSENse twilight session, ‘Addressing Neuromyths in SEND’, where we will be launching our new awareness campaign on neuromyths related to special educational needs and developmental disorders.

The twilight session will take place online on Wednesday 3rd November from 5.00 pm to 6.30 pm (UK time). We welcome all teachers, SEND specialists and researchers to attend.

To attend, please register for free here.

During the session, we will introduce our new free online teacher resources on neuromyths in special educational needs and developmental disorders. We will also have presentations and discussions on neuromyths in SEND and educational neuroscience from Dr Jo Van Herwegen (Psychologist at UCL Institute of Education), Prof Michael Thomas (Neuroscientist at Birkbeck, University of London), and Dr Jamie Galpin (Education Officer at National Association for Special Educational Needs).

For those unable to attend, we will distribute a recording of the event via the registration mailing list. The recording of our previous twilight session in June can be viewed below.

Symposium on the psychological impact of poverty


Michael Thomas, Director of the CEN, recently chaired a symposium at the British Neuroscience Association Festival of Neuroscience on psychological perspectives on poverty. The symposium was convened and sponsored by the British Psychological Society. All of the 12-minute presentations from the symposium are available to view below.

Over the last decade, there has been an increasing amount of work in cognitive neuroscience applied to poverty. However, differences in socioeconomic status are very much a social and structural phenomenon, and the contribution of psychology and neuroscience therefore needs to be carefully contextualised. Moreover, research into poverty takes place against the backdrop of an urgent need to alleviate the consequences of poverty, particularly on children’s development, and to reduce inequality in society (gaps which have been exacerbated by the pandemic). Therefore, research in this area must be considered in relation to government policy.

In this symposium, we hear from five speakers, considering poverty from multiple angles. Sebastian Lipina (Unit of Applied Neurobiology UNA, CEMIC-CONICET, Buenos Aires, Argentina) begins by providing an overview of contemporary evidence from neuroscientific studies of childhood poverty, including mediating factors and the impact of the first generation of neuroscientific interventions.

Michael Thomas (Birkbeck, University of London, UK) then discusses the relationship between socioeconomic status and educational achievement, addressing the role of executive functions as a potential mediating factor, and considering what policymakers should take from recent evidence that poverty is associated with differences in children’s brain structure.

In the third talk, Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington (London School of Economics, UK) focuses on decision making in the context of poverty, and how apparently poor decision making – with respect to long-term educational, financial, and health outcomes – may be seen as an adaptive response to the challenges of economic hardship.

In the fourth talk, Philip Murphy (Edge Hill University) addresses the relationship between addiction and poverty, considering the role of addiction in creating a cycle that sustains poverty, and how neuroscience insights point to possible interventions.

In the final talk, Sophie Wickham (University of Liverpool, UK) establishes the links to policy, considering how policy decisions over the last decade have led to a rise in child poverty in the UK, and how a mental-health focus in future policy making could improve outcomes.

Rebecca Gordon and Natasha Kirkham join the CEN management committee

The CEN is delighted to welcome Dr Rebecca Gordon and Professor Natasha Kirkham as new members of the CEN management committee.


Rebecca Gordon is a Chartered Psychologist at the UCL Institute of Education where she is currently the Academic Head of Learning and Teaching. She also lectures in cognitive psychology, educational neuroscience, and research methods and statistics for the psychology undergraduate and Masters programmes at the UCL Institute of Education.

Rebecca’s research focuses on working memory and executive functions in children and adults as a means for understanding higher-order cognitive abilities and cognitive impairments. Her current work examines aspects of executive function and motor control as they apply to different curriculum areas, particularly mathematics and science learning.

natasha-kirkham-2Natasha Kirkham is Professor of Developmental Psychology at Birkbeck, University of London. She is also Chair of Ethics for the School of Science at Birkbeck. In addition to her research, Natasha works on various projects, including public science communication events and SOFAR, a society dedicated to supporting women in science.

Natasha’s research focuses on the development of visuospatial understanding, cognition, and attention in infants and preschool-age children. In particular, her research addresses the questions of how infants learn about their visuospatial environment and what are the roles of attention and memory in young children’s learning and development. Over the past 5 years, Natasha’s work has been focussing on how the home environment, specifically noise and household chaos, affects the development of attention, and eventual academic outcomes.


Using retrieval practice to promote long-term retention

Over the past three years, Dr. Alice Latimier (D.E.C, Ecole Normale Supérieure) has studied which learning practices best promote long-term memory retention. In this blog post, she tells us about her PhD project and her main findings. 

pic_aliceMy supervisor Franck Ramus and I wanted to know which learning practices best promote long-term retention, based on the science of learning. A review of the literature indicated that commonly used learning strategies, such as reading, blocked studying (e.g. studying the same content in a given session instead of interleaving with other contents), and massed studying (e.g. having a long session instead of multiple, shorter ones that are spaced through time) are not necessarily the most efficient ones. Retrieval practice and spaced learning, although less frequently used (e.g., Dunlosky et al. 2013; Weinstein et al., 2018), have been shown to promote better long-term retention among a great variety of populations and pedagogical contents (Brown, Roediger & McDaniel, 2014).

We first focused on retrieval practice. Over the past decade, research in psychology has demonstrated that practicing retrieval methods is particularly efficient because it creates a testing effect (e.g., Roediger & Karpicke, 2006): retrieving newly learned information from memory is an active process that consolidates information. It can be done via free recall (i.e. recovering as much information on a given topic as possible), cued recall (i.e. recovering information from memory via cues, often given by teachers), Multiple Choice Questions (i.e. either factual MCQ for definitions or inference-based MCQ), or flashcards (i.e. presenting one question on one side, the answer on the other). Whatever the format of the practice session, the learner should try to retrieve the information that has just been presented in the context of a new lecture (see for recent meta-analyses: Rowland, 2014; Adesope et al., 2017). My question of interest was ‘How can we optimize the benefits of retrieval practice when exposed to the content of a lecture?’.

didasklogoMy project was lead in partnership with the start-up company Didask, which designed an “evidence-based” teaching platform. On this platform, each course consists of a set of modules organised in a logical order. A module is an elementary learning unit, including both learning material (text, videos, pictures) and a corresponding training quiz (e.g. multiple choice, pairwise matching, ordering, sorting into categories etc.), lasting in total between 5 and 15 min. To carry out our experiments, we used a modified version of Didask that allowed us to specify several learning conditions and to control the learning environment, in particular, the order in which the pedagogical content and the quiz were arranged with each other. We designed three experiments investigating the benefits of different placements and schedules of retrieval practice episodes on the long-term retention of new information.

Experiment 1 – Retrieval practice is best used after, rather than before being exposed to a course

In the first experiment, we studied whether students should use retrieval practice before or after a learning session (Latimier et al., 2019). Recent research found that taking a test even before being exposed to learning content enhances memory retention compared to having no retrieval practice at all. For the first time, our experiment directly compared the benefits of using quizzes for memory consolidation, before (Quiz-reading group) and after (Reading-quiz group) reading an online course, relative to an extended reading condition (Reading-reading group). We used material from a course on DNA. The retention of information was asssessed seven days after the learning session (composed of the reading only or reading and quizz components).

Final performances revealed a significant advantage in memory retention for the Reading-quiz group over the Quiz-reading group and the Reading-reading group. The Quiz-reading group out-performed the Reading-reading group. This pertained to both trained and untrained information. Thus, using a retrieval practice after being exposed to new knowledge appears to bring both specific and general learning benefits. Overall, our results do not support the specific idea that a pre-test on the information of the subsequent text passage improves learning more than a post-test.


Experiment 2 – The length of the retrieval practice episode does not impact its efficiency

The second experiment went a step further and investigated the optimal lengths of both the learning units and the retrieval practice episodes. In other words: In how many chunks should the learning content be separated?. This question is less explored in the literature despite being very relevant to students and teachers. Our experiment demonstrated that the granularity of the learning contents is particularly of interest when learning with successive readings: short reading passages led to a better retention than longer readings. However, when learning with retrieval practice, granularity did not matter for long-term retention.

Experiment 3 – Spaced retrieval practice is not better than crammed retrieval practice at short term exams

Finally, the last experiment raised the question of the optimal schedule of repeated retrieval practice and reading. Indeed, decades of research in the science of learning demonstrated that inserting a time interval between the study sessions promotes better consolidation than massed practice, where learning the same piece of information in a repetitive fashion occurs without inter-study interval (i.e., spacing effect, Cepeda et al., 2006, Kang, 2016). In this experiment, we wanted to compare 4 learning strategies that mimicked the ones students would use to review a course before an exam: crammed re-reading, spaced re-reading, crammed retrieval practice, and spaced retrieval practice. The hypothesis was that combining both retrieval practice and spacing might enhance long term retention better than the other three strategies. Our main results provided a replication of the well-known testing effect (retrieval practice was better than just reading) but not of the spacing effect. Moreover, and contrary to our predictions, the combination of both learning strategies did not lead to significantly better retention compared to crammed retrieval practice. This result suggests that further research should focus on the parameters that promote a spacing effect (e.g., inter-study interval, retention interval, type of contents, learners’ characteristics…).  Overall, the results of my thesis provide a better understanding to how learners should use retrieval practice to aid memory retention, and suggest new research questions in optimizing learning.

Practical implications for the learners and teachers

 Throughout my studies, it was particularly important to find a balance between (a) realism, using real life learning contents extracted from the French high school curriculum and from professional training, and (b) experimental rigor, by designing well-controlled and randomized set up as well as recruiting a large sample of adult participants with a great diversity of socio-demographic characteristics. By being realistic yet rigorous, it is possible to derive practical recommendations.

My results suggest to try and implement retrieval practice, because it can be considered as a real learning tool to consolidate new knowledge as well as to promote knowledge transfer (Agarwal, Bain, & Chamberlain, 2012). Concrete examples on how to implement retrieval practice can be found here. While being tested after the exposure to pedagogical resources is optimal to consolidate and assess what is understood and what is not, being tested before could be very useful for the teacher to assess prior knowledge, and for students to be introduced to new learning concepts.

Digital learning tools seem very appropriate to integrate retrieval practice in the routine of the classroom. There is an amazing diversity of platforms for teachers and learners to develop formative assessment and self-testing (Plickers, Quizlet, Polleverywhere, SuperMemo, Google forms, Kahoot!). These digital tools do not replace the expertise of the teachers but help them to promote active learning. Furthermore, apart from the benefits on memory retention, retrieval practice promotes self-regulated learning by stimulating students’ metacognitive abilities. They can better estimate their feeling of knowing, to avoid the illusion of mastery and planning relevant reviewing activities (Littrell‐Baez, Friend, Caccamise, & Okochi, 2015, Fernandez & Jamet, 2017). It also fosters motivation and attentional focus on complex and lengthy contents. It should be mentioned that retrieval practice is even stronger with rich and elaborative feedback – without it the learners can’t properly identify how to improve their knowledge (Butler & Roediger, 2008). A combination of learning strategies for which we have robust proof of efficacy can therefore be particulary efficient !

Alice’s project was funded by the Programme d’Investissement d’Avenir (call for proposals e-FRAN for “Espaces de formation, de recherche et d’animation numérique” in French) launched by the mission on the digitalisation of education in France.  This educational funding program aims at supporting different innovation projects to improve education based on research. The project gathered the association Synlab, which promotes the link between research and actors from education; the start-up company Didask; and 3 research teams in the field of cognitive psychology and machine learning.

Alice is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University Bourgogne Franche-Comté, in France, studying the impact of expertise on musical reading (Laboratory for Research on Learning and Developement). You can follow her @AliceLatimier.

For more resources on retrieval practice, and to learn more about strategies for effective learning, you can download pedagogical material on the Learning Scientists’ website.


Adesope, O. O., Trevisan, D. A., & Sundararajan, N. (2017). Rethinking the Use of Tests: A Meta Analysis of Practice Testing. Review of Educational Research, 87(3), 659-701. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654316689306

Agarwal, P. K., Bain, P. M., & Chamberlain, R. W. (2012). The value of applied research: Retrieval practice improves classroom learning and recommendations from a teacher, a principal, and a scientist. Educational Psychology Review, 24(3), 437–448. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-012-9210-2

Brown, P. C., Roediger (III), H. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Make It Stick. Harvard University Press.

Butler, A. C., & Roediger, H. L. (2008). Feedback enhances the positive effects and reduces the negative effects of multiple-choice testing. Memory & Cognition, 36(3), 604–616. https://doi.org/10.3758/MC.36.3.604

Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K. A., Marsh, E. J., Nathan, M. J., & Willingham, D. T. (2013). Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest: A Journal of the American Psychological Society, 14(1), 4–58. https://doi.org/10.1177/1529100612453266

Cepeda, N. J., Pashler, H., Vul, E., Wixted, J. T., & Rohrer, D. (2006). Distributed practice in verbal recall tasks: A review and quantitative synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 132(3), 354–380. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.132.3.354

Fernandez, J., & Jamet, E. (2017). Extending the testing effect to self-regulated learning. Metacognition and Learning, 12(2), 131–156. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11409-016-9163-9

Kang, S. H. K. (2016). Spaced Repetition Promotes Efficient and Effective Learning Policy Implications for Instruction. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, https://doi.org/10.1177/2372732215624708

Littrell‐Baez, M. K., Friend, A., Caccamise, D., & Okochi, C. (2015). Using Retrieval Practice and Metacognitive Skills to Improve Content Learning. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 58(8), 682–689. https://doi.org/10.1002/jaal.420

Roediger, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). Test-Enhanced Learning Taking Memory Tests Improves Long-Term Retention. Psychological Science, 17(3), 249–255. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01693.x

Rowland, C. A. (2014). The effect of testing versus restudy on retention: A meta-analytic review of the testing effect. Psychological Bulletin, 140(6), 1432–1463. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037559

Weinstein, Yana, Madan, C. R., & Sumeracki, M. A. (2018). Teaching the science of learning. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 3(1), 2. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41235-017-0087-y


Articles from the project

Latimier, A., Riegert, A., Ly, S. T., Ramus, F. Do spacing and retrieval practice effects interact? (in prep).

Latimier, A., Rierget, A., Ly, S. T., & Ramus, F. (2020, March 10). Retrieval practice promotes long-term retention irrespective of the placement. PsyArXiv, https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/dk63q

Latimier, A., Peyre, H., & Ramus, F. (2020, March 5). A meta-analytic review of the benefit of spacing out retrieval practice episodes on retention. PsyArXiv, https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/kzy7u

Latimier, A., Riegert, A., Peyre, H., Ly, S.T., Casati, R., & Ramus, F. (2019). Does pre-testing promote better retention than post-testing? Npj Science of Learning, 4(1), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41539-019-0053-1



Global Covid-19 Study

screen-shot-2020-05-05-at-17-07-15Hi Keri,

You are a Lecturer in Psychology at the Institute of Education (University College London), and you are the Principal investigator of the Global Covid-19 Study of Social Trust and Mental Health.

Can you tell us what drove you to create this study, and why it is necessary?

I had a few personal motivations to run this study. I am from Hong Kong and when I visited my family in December, I could see the early development of the Covid-19 crisis. As a teenager, I also lived through the 2003 SARS pandemic, which had a significant impact on my generation. I was old enough to remember the situation – I sat at my exams with a face mask. This experience with SARS gave me the impetus to start looking at how people are currently affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in terms of mental health.

It started with a conversation with my collaborator at Penn, Professor Adrian Raine. It was early March, he was in London, before the UK lockdown. I had participated in a few COVID-19 surveys to see what other researchers were addressing. None of these (I believe) tackled social trust, which is my research area.

We’ve heard and seen people behave differently during the pandemic – I certainly behave differently too. In particular, I am interested in whether people may become less trusting of others, more suspicious about who has coronavirus or not, and feel more anxious given that the respect for lockdown guidelines vary across individuals. The virus is like an invisible enemy, circulating between people, and there is lots of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. All of this, rightly so, can be very stressful! And individuals in a persistent state of stress are probably not operating at their best.

So I wanted to capture this right now, and to follow-up with people in 6 months and 12 months’ time, to see whether their experience has changed for the better (fingers crossed). Our survey is currently available in English, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian and Spanish.

I really want to understand what people are going through personally, because understanding people’s reactions, thoughts and emotions, can inform policies. The physical efficacy of public health guidelines (e.g. Which types of masks are efficient and when should we wear them?) has associated mental health concerns too (e.g. Does seeing other people wear face masks reduce or increase stress levels?). So it is important to adopt a multicultural approach to see how people’s experiences differ given that different countries have different policy responses to COVID-19.


Anyone 18+ years and resident of any country can take part as long as they can access the link www.GlobalCovidStudy.com (available in Chinese, Italian, Greek, French, German, Spanish). The survey takes most people 20 to 40 mins to complete. By taking part you are helping us understand the impact of COVID-19 on people’s health and how we can best support people moving forwards. So do contribute to the survey!

Do you have any other ongoing projects ?

 Outside of this Covid-19 study, my research focuses on young people’s mental health. I currently have two projects.

In the first, I work with Dr. Marta Francesconi and Prof. Eirini Flouri on the ALSPAC study. We have a paper in preparation for submission looking at children’s and adolescents’ internalising (emotional) and externalising (behavioural) problems. In this paper we want to better understand when these emotional and behavioural problems best predict the occurrence of psychotic-like symptoms in adulthood. The findings from this paper can help identify windows for early interventions.

In the second, I work with the World bank to identify which behaviours promote effective teaching in developing countries. Most observational teaching tools (such as the Classroom Assessment Scoring System) are developed in Western countries, and what we might conceive as effective practices in these countries might not be the same elsewhere. It is therefore important to come up with comprehensive assessments that reflect the pedagogical and cultural reality in developing countries. The World Bank has developed the Teach observation tool with this purpose in mind.

This all looks very exciting Keri. A final word: How do you do to look after your mental health when you are researching other people’s mental health?

Well, I practice yoga! And I go for a walk or run every now and then – respecting social distancing, of course.

The Global Covid Study is open to anyone above 18 years of age.

The research team has also put together key resources about mental health, and publications on Covid-19.