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Emeritus Professor Geoff K White

Email kgwhite@psy.otago.ac.nz

 Professor Geoff White

Profile

Emeritus Professor White was Head of the Psychology Department at Otago University for 10 years from 1987, and for 5 years from 2004 was the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research). He joined the Department of Psychology at Otago in 1985, having spent 13 years lecturing at the Victoria University of Wellington and in visiting appointments at Colorado College, University of Colorado, Boulder, and University of California, San Diego. He has been President of the New Zealand Psychological Society and for many years was a member of the New Zealand Psychologists’ Registration Board. He edited the New Zealand Journal of Psychology and has been Associate Editor of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior.

He has been the recipient of the New Zealand Psychological Society’s Hunter Award and Adcock Award, and in 2000 with John Wixted was the recipient of the American Psychological Association’s George A Miller Award. He is a Fellow of several national and international organisations, including the Royal Society of New Zealand. He has successfully supervised over 20 PhD students and many Master's students, and in 2003 was the University’s inaugural supervisor of the year. In 2009 he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to science and psychology.

Geoff retired from the department in July 2014.

Memory and Discrimination Processes

Memory is a window on the past. In this metaphor, the important discriminations are made when we look out. Signs that point out what we are to look for, the retrieval cues, are actually in the present. Remembering, like looking, is direct.

The importance of retention interval as a retrieval cue

Our experiments study the factors that influence short-term memory, and emphasise the importance of the retention interval itself as a retrieval cue. Typically, when the retention interval is lengthened, remembering becomes less accurate. But we have shown that remembering can be more accurate at long retention intervals than at short intervals, even when conditions are introduced in the short intervals that should erase the memory trace, such as retroactive interference or rehearsal prevention.

These results are important because they suggest that the usual monotonically-decreasing forgetting function is not simply the result of time-related processes such as trace decay. Retrieval-cue availability is more important, independently of the duration of the retention interval. Theoretically, our cross-species demonstrations of the dependence of remembering on the time at which retrieval occurs, suggest that episodic memory is an ability of humans and nonhumans alike. Although episodic memory can involve the discrimination of what, where, and when, it doesn’t actually matter how long ago the ‘when’ was, so long as the retrieval conditions are optimal.

Memory as discrimination

These theoretical ideas, and our supporting experimental research, point to the importance of discriminations made at the time of remembering. We have applied these ideas in our many studies of the effects of clinically-relevant drugs on remembering in animals. By examining the effects of the drugs on the intercept and slope of forgetting functions we have been able to establish that the main effect of most drugs is simply to make the discrimination at the time of remembering more or less difficult. At present we are using these ideas in an attempt to understand the sunk cost effect.

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Publications

Cowie, S., Bizo, L. A., & White, K. G. (2016). Reinforcer distributions affect timing in the free-operant psychophysical choice procedure. Learning & Motivation, 53, 24-35. doi: 10.1016/j.lmot.2015.10.003

Magalhães, P., & White, K. G. (2016). The sunk cost effect across species: A review of persistence in a course of action due to prior investment. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 105(3), 339-361. doi: 10.1002/jeab.202

White, K. G., & Sargisson, R. J. (2015). A delay-specific differential outcomes effect in delayed matching to sample. Learning & Behavior, 43(3), 217-227. doi: 10.3758/s13420-015-0174-1

White, K. G., & Magalhães, P. (2015). The sunk cost effect in pigeons and people: A case of within-trials contrast? Behavioural Processes, 112, 22-28. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2014.09.035

Magalhães, P., & White, K. G. (2014). A good time to leave?: The sunk time effect in pigeons. Behavioural Processes, 105, 1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2014.02.010

Chapter in Book - Research

White, K. G. (2006). Impact of the Performance-Based Research Fund on staffing in Tertiary Education Institutions. In L. Bakker, J. Boston, L. Campbell & R. Smyth (Eds.), Evaluating the Performance-Based Research Fund: Framing the debate. (pp. 337-346). Wellington, New Zealand: Institute of Policy Studies.

Walker, F. A., White, K. G., Beekhuis, M., & Symonds, A. (1997). The Psychologists Act (1981): Implications for registered psychologists. In H. Love & W. Whittaker (Eds.), Practical Issues for Clinical and Applied Psychologists in New Zealand. (pp. 408-417). Wellington: The New Zealand Psychological Society.

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Journal - Research Article

Cowie, S., Bizo, L. A., & White, K. G. (2016). Reinforcer distributions affect timing in the free-operant psychophysical choice procedure. Learning & Motivation, 53, 24-35. doi: 10.1016/j.lmot.2015.10.003

Magalhães, P., & White, K. G. (2016). The sunk cost effect across species: A review of persistence in a course of action due to prior investment. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 105(3), 339-361. doi: 10.1002/jeab.202

White, K. G., & Sargisson, R. J. (2015). A delay-specific differential outcomes effect in delayed matching to sample. Learning & Behavior, 43(3), 217-227. doi: 10.3758/s13420-015-0174-1

White, K. G., & Magalhães, P. (2015). The sunk cost effect in pigeons and people: A case of within-trials contrast? Behavioural Processes, 112, 22-28. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2014.09.035

Magalhães, P., & White, K. G. (2014). A good time to leave?: The sunk time effect in pigeons. Behavioural Processes, 105, 1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2014.02.010

Magalhães, P., & White, K. G. (2014). Persistence in extinction: The sunk time effect. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning & Cognition, 40(1), 38-54. doi: 10.1037/xan0000009

Calder, A., & White, K. G. (2014). In search of consolidation of short-term memory in nonhuman animals. Learning & Behavior, 42(1), 83-92. doi: 10.3758/s13420-013-0127-5

Magalhães, P., & White, K. G. (2014). The effect of a prior investment on choice: The sunk cost effect. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning & Cognition, 40(1), 22-37. doi: 10.1037/xan0000007

White, K. G., & Millar, J. G. (2014). Attentuation of the differential outcomes effect by extraneous reward. Behavioural Processes, 108, 7-10. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2014.08.028

Beeby, E., & White, K. G. (2013). Preference reversal between impulsive and self-control choice. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 99(3), 260-276. doi: 10.1002/jeab.23

Kinloch, J. M., & White, K. G. (2013). A concurrent-choice analysis of amount-dependent temporal discounting. Behavioural Processes, 97, 1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2013.03.007

Magalhães, P., & White, K. G. (2013). Sunk cost and work ethic effects reflect suboptimal choice between different work requirements. Behavioural Processes, 94, 55-59. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2012.12.003

Magalhães, P., White, K. G., Stewart, T., Beeby, E., & van der Vliet, W. P. (2012). Suboptimal choice in nonhuman animals: Rats commit the sunk cost error. Learning & Behavior, 40, 195-206. doi: 10.3758/s13420-011-0055-1

White, K. G. (2012). Dissociation of short-term forgetting from the passage of time. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 38(1), 255-259. doi: 10.1037/a0025197

Grace, R. C., White, K. G., & Sargisson, R. J. (2012). Evidence for a magnitude effect in temporal discounting with pigeons. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 38(1), 102-108. doi: 10.1037/a0026345

White, K. G., & Sargisson, R. J. (2011). Maintained generalization of delay-specific remembering. Behavioural Processes, 87(3), 310-313. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2011.06.004

White, K. G., & Brown, G. S. (2011). Reversing the signaled magnitude effect in delayed matching to sample: Delay-specific remembering? Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 96(1), 7-15. doi: 10.1901/jeab.2011.96-7

White, K. G., & Brown, G. S. (2011). Reversing the course of forgetting. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 96(2), 177-189. doi: 10.1901/jeab.2011.96-177

White, K. G., & Wixted, J. T. (2010). Psychophysics of remembering: To bias or not to bias? Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 94(1), 83-94. doi: 10.1901/jeab.2010.94-83

Brown, G. S., & White, K. G. (2009). A computational technique for improving estimates of discriminability and bias across multiple dimensions of choice. Behavior Research Methods, 41(2), 515-523. doi: 10.3758/BRM.41.2.515

Brown, G. S., & White, K. G. (2009). Measuring discriminability when there are multiple sources of bias. Behavior Research Methods, 41(1), 75-84.

Brown, G. S., & White, K. G. (2009). Reinforcer probability, reinforcer magnitude, and the reinforcement context for remembering. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 35(2), 238-249. doi: 10.1037/a0013864

Sargisson, R. J., & White, K. G. (2007). Timing, remembering, and discrimination. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 87(1), 25-37.

Parr, W. V., Green, J. A., White, K. G., & Sherlock, R. R. (2007). The distinctive flavour of New Zealand Sauvignon blanc: Sensory characterisation by wine professionals. Food Quality & Preference, 18, 849-861.

Sargisson, R. J., & White, K. G. (2007). Remembering as discrimination in delayed matching to sample: Discriminability and bias. Learning & Behavior, 35(3), 177-183.

Sargisson, R. J., McLean, I. G., Brown, G. S., & White, K. G. (2007). Seasonal variation in pigeon body weight and delayed matching-to-sample performance. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 88(3), 395-404.

Parr, W. V., Green, J. A., & White, K. G. (2006). Wine judging, context and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Revue Européenne de Psychologie Appliquée / European Review of Applied Psychology, 56, 231-238.

Brown, G. S., & White, K. G. (2005). The optimal correction for estimating extreme discriminability. Behavior Research Methods, 37(3), 436-449.

Parr, W. V., Green, J. A., & White, K. G. (2005). Flavour and aroma of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Australian & New Zealand Grapegrower & Winemaker, (497a), 100-108.

Brown, G. S., & White, K. G. (2005). Remembering: The role of extraneous reinforcement. Learning & Behavior, 33(3), 309-323.

Brown, G. S., & White, K. G. (2005). On the effects of signaling reinforcer probability and magnitude in delayed matching to sample. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 83(2), 119-128.

Ong, E. L., & White, K. G. (2004). Amount-dependent temporal discounting? Behavioural Processes, 66, 201-212.

White, K. G., Parkinson, A. E., Brown, G. S., & Wixted, J. T. (2004). Local proactive interference in delayed matching to sample: The role of reinforcement. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 30(2), 83-95.

Sargisson, R. J., & White, K. G. (2004). Need probability effects in animal short-term memory. Behavioural Processes, 65, 57-66.

Parr, W. V., White, K. G., & Heatherbell, D. A. (2004). Exploring the nature of wine expertise: What underlies wine experts' olfactory recognition memory advantage? Food Quality & Preference, 15, 411-420.

Sargisson, R. J., & White, K. G. (2003). The effect of reinforcer delays on the form of the forgetting function. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 80, 77-94.

Wright, F. K., & White, K. G. (2003). Effects of methylphenidate on working memory in pigeons. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 3, 300-308.

Howard, M. L., & White, K. G. (2003). Social influence in pigeons (Columba livia): The role of differential reinforcement. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 79, 175-191.

Sargisson, R. J., & White, K. G. (2003). On the form of the forgetting function: The effects of arithmetic and logarithmic distributions of delays. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 80, 295-309.

White, K. G. (2002). Psychophysics of remembering: The discrimination hypothesis. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11(4), 141-145.

White, K. G., & Ruske, A. C. (2002). Memory deficits in Alzheimer's disease: The encoding hypothesis and cholinergic function. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 9(3), 426-437.

Parr, W. V., Heatherbell, D., & White, K. G. (2002). Demystifying wine expertise: Olfactory threshold, perceptual skill and semantic memory in expert and novice wine judges. Chemical Senses, 27, 747-755.

White, K. G. (2002). Temporal generalization and diffusion in forgetting. Behavioural Processes, 57, 121-129.

White, K. G. (2001). Forgetting functions. Animal Learning & Behavior, 29(3), 193-207.

White, K. G., & Wixted, J. T. (2001). Psychophysics of remembering. General Psychologist, 36(3), 56-63.

Sargisson, R. J., & White, K. G. (2001). Generalization of delayed matching to sample following training at different delays. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 75, 1-14.

White, K. G., & Cameron, J. (2000). Resistance to change, contrast, and intrinsic motivation. Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 23(1), 115-116.

Parkes, M., & White, K. G. (2000). Glucose attenuation of memory impairments. Behavioral Neuroscience, 114(2), 307-319.

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