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Professor Ted Ruffman Research Interests

 Professor Ted Ruffman

Tel 64 3 479 7670
Email tedr@psy.otago.ac.nz
Visit Professor Ruffman's profile

Social/Emotion Understanding in Older Adults (60+ Years):

We have found that some older adults are worse at recognising some emotions relative to younger adults. In particular, they have difficulty identifying anger and sadness in facial, bodily and auditory expressions. They also seem worse when identifying which persons look dangerous but not when identifying dangerous situations.

When attempting to identify emotional expressions, younger adults tend to focus on the most informative regions of faces, whereas older adults do not. We think all of these differences can be traced to decline of the “social brain” with age, for instance, the amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex.

We also examine other aspects of social understanding such as young and older adults' ability to tell and identify a lie, tell when someone has made a faux pas, or know when to stop talking. More recently, we have been examining gambling behaviour in young and older adults.

Theory of Mind Development in Infants and Children

We are interested in theory of mind development (understanding of beliefs, desires, intentions) from birth to about 4 or 5 years. We are investigating how mothers’ language might facilitate children’s theory of mind (and their general language development), and how a theory of mind might impact on the child’s real life. We also examine infants’ theory of mind and whether their success on theory-of-mind tasks can be attributed to sophisticated statistical learning skills.

Theory of Mind Development in Dogs

Dog owners often claim that their dogs are empathic and understand them, for instance, know when they feel sad. We examine dogs' understanding of human emotional expressions. Do dogs know when a human is angry, sad or fearful, and do they respond differently to each emotional expression? If so, do dogs pick up on vocal or facial expressions of emotion on their own? We examine these questions by bringing dogs into our lab and running them through various tasks.

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Publications

Sullivan, S., Campbell, A., Hutton, S. B., & Ruffman, T. (2017). What's good for the goose is not good for the gander: Age and gender differences in scanning emotion faces. Journals of Gerontology Series B, 72(3), 441-447. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbv033

Ruffman, T. (2014). To belief or not belief: Children’s theory of mind. Developmental Review, 34(3), 265-293. doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2014.04.001

Campbell, A., Ruffman, T., Murray, J. E., & Glue, P. (2014). Oxytocin improves emotion recognition for older males. Neurobiology of Aging, 35(10), 2246-2248. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2014.04.021

Redman, K., Ruffman, T., Fitzgerald, P., & Skeaff, S. (2016). Iodine deficiency and the brain: Effects and mechanisms. Critical Reviews in Food Science & Nutrition, 56(16), 2695-2713. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2014.922042

Ruffman, T., Sullivan, S., & Dittrich, W. (2009). Older adults' recognition of bodily and auditory expressions of emotion. Psychology & Aging, 24(3), 614-622. doi: 10.1037/a0016356

Chapter in Book - Research

Ruffman, T. (2010). Do we get wiser as we get older? Age-related changes in social understanding. In J. Low & P. Jose (Eds.), Lifespan development: New Zealand perspectives. (2nd ed.) (pp. 218-230). Auckland, New Zealand: Pearson.

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Journal - Research Article

Sullivan, S., Campbell, A., Hutton, S. B., & Ruffman, T. (2017). What's good for the goose is not good for the gander: Age and gender differences in scanning emotion faces. Journals of Gerontology Series B, 72(3), 441-447. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbv033

Redman, K., Ruffman, T., Fitzgerald, P., & Skeaff, S. (2016). Iodine deficiency and the brain: Effects and mechanisms. Critical Reviews in Food Science & Nutrition, 56(16), 2695-2713. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2014.922042

Campbell, A., Ruffman, T., Murray, J. E., & Glue, P. (2014). Oxytocin improves emotion recognition for older males. Neurobiology of Aging, 35(10), 2246-2248. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2014.04.021

Ruffman, T. (2014). To belief or not belief: Children’s theory of mind. Developmental Review, 34(3), 265-293. doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2014.04.001

Miyahara, M., Harada, T., Ruffman, T., Sadato, N., & Iidaka, T. (2013). Functional connectivity between amygdala and facial regions involved in recognition of facial threat. Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience, 8(2), 181-189. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsr085

O'Brien, K. S., Kolt, G. S., Martens, M. P., Ruffman, T., Miller, P. G., & Lynott, D. (2012). Alcohol-related aggression and antisocial behaviour in sportspeople/athletes. Journal of Science & Medicine in Sport, 15(4), 292-297. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2011.10.008

Ruffman, T., Murray, J., Halberstadt, J., & Vater, T. (2012). Age-related differences in deception. Psychology & Aging, 27(3), 543-549. doi: 10.1037/a0023380

Ruffman, T., Taumoepeau, M., & Perkins, C. (2012). Statistical learning as a basis for social understanding in children. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 30(1), 87-104. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-835x.2011.02045.x

Halberstadt, J., Ruffman, T., Murray, J., Taumoepeau, M., & Ryan, M. (2011). Emotion perception explains age-related differences in the perception of social gaffes. Psychology & Aging, 26(1), 133-136. doi: 10.1037/a0021366

Ruffman, T. (2011). Ecological validity and age-related change in emotion recognition. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 35(4), 297-304. doi: 10.1007/s10919-011-0116-3

Morgan, K., Dennis, N. A., Ruffman, T., Bilkey, D. K., & McLennan, I. S. (2011). The stature of boys is inversely correlated to the levels of their Sertoli cell hormones: Do the testes restrain the maturation of boys? PLoS ONE, 6(6), e20533. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020533

Ruffman, T., Murray, J., Halberstadt, J., & Taumoepeau, M. (2010). Verbosity and emotion recognition in older adults. Psychology & Aging, 25(2), 492-497. doi: 10.1037/a0018247

Ryan, M., Murray, J., & Ruffman, T. (2010). Aging and the perception of emotion: Processing vocal expressions alone and with faces. Experimental Aging Research, 36(1), 1-22. doi: 10.1080/03610730903418372

Murray, J. E., Halberstadt, J., & Ruffman, T. (2010). The face of aging: Sensitivity to facial feature relations changes with age. Psychology & Aging, 25(4), 846-850. doi: 10.1037/a0019864

Henry, J. D., von Hippel, C., Ruffman, T., Perry, Y., & Rendell, P. G. (2010). Threat perception in schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 16(05), 805-812. doi: 10.1017/S1355617710000640

Miyahara, M., Ruffman, T., Fujita, C., & Tsujii, M. (2010). How well can young people with Asperger's disorder recognize threat and learn about affect in faces?: A pilot study. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 4(2), 242-248. doi: 10.1016/j.rasd.2009.09.010

Ruffman, T., Sullivan, S., & Dittrich, W. (2009). Older adults' recognition of bodily and auditory expressions of emotion. Psychology & Aging, 24(3), 614-622. doi: 10.1037/a0016356

Ruffman, T., Ng, M., & Jenkin, T. (2009). Older adults respond quickly to angry faces despite labeling difficulty. Journals of Gerontology Series B, 64B(2), 171-179. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbn035

Gordon, R. C., Rose, M. C., Skeaff, S. A., Gray, A. R., Morgan, K. M. D., & Ruffman, T. (2009). Iodine supplementation improves cognition in mildly iodine-deficient children. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(5), 1264-1271. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28145

Ruffman, T., Halberstadt, J., & Murray, J. (2009). Recognition of facial, auditory, and bodily emotions in older adults. Journals of Gerontology Series B, 64(6), 696-703. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbp072

Henry, J. D., Thompson, C., Ruffman, T., Leslie, F., Withall, A., Sachdev, P., & Brodaty, H. (2009). Threat perception in mild cognitive impairment and early dementia. Journals of Gerontology Series B, 64(5), 603-607. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbp064

Ruffman, T., Henry, J. D., Livingstone, V., & Phillips, L. H. (2008). A meta-analytic review of emotion recognition and aging: Implications for neuropsychological models of aging. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 32(4), 863-881.

Henry, J. D., Ruffman, T., McDonald, S., O'Leary, M.-A. P., Phillips, L. H., Brodaty, H., & Rendell, P. G. (2008). Recognition of disgust is selectively preserved in Alzheimer's disease. Neuropsychologia, 46(5), 1363-1370. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2007.12.012

Roberts, S. G. B., McComb, K., & Ruffman, T. (2008). An experimental investigation of referential looking in free-ranging Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 122(1), 94-99. doi: 10.1037/0735-7036.122.1.94

Taumoepeau, M., & Ruffman, T. (2008). Stepping stones to others' minds: Maternal talk relates to child mental state language and emotion understanding at 15, 24, and 33 months. Child Development, 79(2), 284-302.

Sullivan, S., Ruffman, T., & Hutton, S. B. (2007). Age differences in emotion recognition skills and the visual scanning of emotion faces. Journals of Gerontology Series B, 62B(1), P53-P60.

Ruffman, T., Sullivan, S., & Edge, N. (2006). Differences in the way older and younger adults rate threat in faces but not situations. Journals of Gerontology Series B, 61B(4), P187-P194.

Taumoepeau, M., & Ruffman, T. (2006). Mother and infant talk about mental states relates to desire language and emotion understanding. Child Development, 77(2), 465-481.

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