Strategic partnership with Kyoto University

We are delighted to have a highly fruitful and successful collaborative relationship with Kyoto University in Japan.

Psychologists in Lancaster and Kyoto have signed agreements to help support and foster research in each institution, and we all benefit from the closer ties that this brings as well as the direct opportunity to work with each other.

The first general agreement was signed by Professor Tom Ormerod, then Head of Department, the then Dean of Science and Technology Professor Mary Smyth, and on behalf of Kyoto University by Professor Yoshitaka Kawasaki, Dean of the Graduate School of Education.

The agreement marked the first formal agreement between our two Universities and was celebrated at the first International Symposium on Psychological Science and Cognitive Development held on 25th and 26th October 2006.

We have enjoyed many collaborative events and projects since that time:

Joint meetings held at Lancaster and Kyoto

We have staged several focused meetings to discuss and promote the research that we do at Lancaster and in Kyoto and to encourage the exchange of ideas, with external guests and discussants. For example:

  • In October 2006, we held a research meeting on cognitive development and psychological science in Lancaster. Alan Baddeley (University of York) and Chris Jarrold (University of Bristol) were discussants at this meeting.
  • In July 2009, we held a symposium in Kyoto prior to the SARMAC meeting (Society for Applied Memory and Cognition)
  • In November 2011, we held a symposium in Lancaster at which several colleagues from Kyoto were able to come and visit and talk about their research projects.

Working memory research

The psychological topic of working memory is a research strength both at Lancaster and in Kyoto.

Dr John Towse and Dr Satoru Saito have maintained research links that have involved both overlapping and independent work.

They share interests in theories of complex span performance, as well as the dynamics of recall processes in shaping working memory performance, and have worked together as guest editors for a special issue of the journal Psychologia on the topic of working memory, and wrote the following paper together:

They have also collaborated in the supervision of PhD and research students (see below)

Developmental research into the mental world of children

Researchers in the Department of Psychology at Lancaster and the Graduate School of Education in Kyoto are capitalising upon cultural differences between the UK and Japan to explore the influence of culture upon two key developments in the preschool and early school years: social understanding (called by come "theory of mind") and self-control (otherwise known as "executive function").

Japanese children appear to lag behind Western children in tests of "theory of mind", but are slightly advanced in measures of working memory, attentional flexibility and inhibitory control. A joint project has been investigating this further. The scope of this project is designed to address several key issues.

  • First, to develop measures which test whether Japanese children really do show a lag in social understanding.
  • Second, to explore which aspects of executive function and "theory of mind" are linked in Western children but not in north-east Asian children.

The work of this team centres mainly upon conducting joint investigations. Professor Koyasu's PhD students have focused on these specific issues, and Dr Toru Goshiki has been a research visitor and Lancaster to help facilitate the progress of the research.

In addition, both teams have exchanged information and skills in a series of seminars conducted in Kyoto and Lancaster. For example, in 2008 Dr Ivonne Solis Trapala presented a paper in Kyoto on the statistical analysis of tests of executive function, while PhD student Macarena Sliva Trujillo talked about the role of narrative in development, at an international symposium in Kyoto.

Collaborative Cognition

A research project has been established and developed between Professor Satoru Saito in Kyoto and Dr John Towse and Dr Andrea Towse at Lancaster University.

The project is designed to investigate the impact of collaborative activity (group performance) on cognitive processes. Most research in cognition tests participants in isolation. In this innovative project, people are assessed on tasks carried out in individual and group contexts, to determine the benefits and limitations of collaborative activity.

The research has been supported by a COE grant in Kyoto in 2008 and 2009. Several experiments have been conducted and are being prepared for journal submission; the grant has facilitated research visits to enhance and better shape this work.

Research visits and study

There are many benefits from being able to carry out short-term and longer-term exchange visits in another institution. Our links recognise this and have encouraged exchanges in different ways

  • John Towse was awarded a research fellowship from the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science to visit Kyoto in October and November 2009. As well as working with research colleagues in Kyoto, a number of invited addresses and meetings were held across Japan, as well as arranging a visit to schools in Japan to further understanding of cultural and educational comparisons of children's development
  • Yukio Maehara visited Lancaster as a PhD student in October 2006 and was able to carry out a research study as part of his PhD work in working memory. He was able to learn about experimental facilities at Lancaster during his visit.
  • Teppei Tanaka has carried out PhD research in the field of working memory and as well as being supervised by Professor Satoru Saito in Japan, he has kept in touch with John Towse at Lancaster and joint supervision meetings have been held in Kyoto to discuss research progress.

Developmental research in infancy

Professor Gavin Bremner has made a number of research visits to Japan as part of his highly-acclaimed work on the abilities and limits of infants' understanding of the world.