Two University of Waikato academics have been recognised by the Association for Psychological Science (APS), one of the world’s leading international bodies for psychology. In the announcement this month, Professor Vincent Reid was made a Fellow of the APS, while Dr Aleea Devitt received a Rising Star award.
Professor Reid is Head of the University of Waikato’s School of Psychology - Te Kura Whatu Oho Mauri. His research focuses on how humans develop perception and cognition before birth and in the first few years of life.
Professor Reid’s research showed that foetuses prefer to look towards face-like images, a finding which made Discover Magazine’s list of ‘Top 100 discoveries of 2017’. He pioneered the use of 2D and 4D ultrasound to experimentally study human development in utero – techniques which have spread to other fields, including epilepsy research and epigenetic robotics.
His work forms the foundation for a new interdisciplinary field of study, foetal visual perception, which could eventually lead to assessments of foetal vitality following foetal heart surgery and the development of numerous interventions.
The Auckland-born researcher has extensive experience in the UK and Europe, completing his Ph.D. with the University of London before taking on roles at the Max Planck Institute in Germany followed by Durham University and Lancaster University in England. He returned to New Zealand and joined the University of Waikato in 2019.
Professor Reid’s APS Fellow status reflects sustained outstanding contributions to the science of psychology in the areas of research, teaching, and service. He is one of just 35 new APS Fellows this year, worldwide.
Dr Devitt is a Lecturer in the School of Psychology. Her work examines how conscious memory of previous experiences interacts with future thinking, and how both change as we get older.
Her groundbreaking research determined that thinking optimistically about a future event can lead people to have a rosier recollection of that event after it has happened. Dr Devitt’s studies contribute to cognitive theories of memory, providing insights into how we might preserve and improve memory as we age.
After completing her Ph.D. in New Zealand, Dr Devitt spent four years as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University before joining the University of Waikato in 2020.
An early-career researcher, she received the APS Rising Star award in recognition of her innovative work that has already advanced the field of psychology. Dr Devitt is the only New Zealand recipient among this year's 114 Rising Star awards.
The accolades come as the two researchers embark on separate three-year studies, having recently won Marsden Fund grants totalling more than $1.1 million. Professor Reid is conducting further study into how human sight develops in utero, and Dr Devitt is exploring how memory affects our ability to imagine the future as we age.