NewsPsychology News at Scarborough and Mississauga campuses.
> Congratulations to faculty member Morgan Barense on being a co-recipient of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society Young Investigator Award for her research on the link between memory and perception. Morgan's research demonstrates that there is an intertwined relationship between these two areas that have traditionally been considered separate and distinct. These findings can provide insight into impairment caused by Alzheimer's disease and, in doing so, provide new procedures for diagnosing those with dementia. Further to this award, Dr. Barense took part in an Q&A interview with CNS (go to https://www.cogneurosociety.org/overturning-modular-view-memory-brain-aiding-alzheimers-patients/ to read the interview). Morgan will give her award lecture on Monday, March 26, 2018 in Boston, MA.
> The Psychology Department is pleased to announce a new publication by Professor Emeritus Jerry Hogan. Dr. Hogan, whose research is in the area of brain and behavior, has published a book that examines the links between the many sub-disciplines of animal behavior (including behavioral ecology, neuroscience, cognitive psychology and evolutionary developmental biology). The publication, The Study of Behavior: Organization, Methods, and Principle (Cambridge University Press), integrates the diverse approaches to behavioral science disciplines into a solid framework while highlighting their connections and showing how results in the different areas can support each other. The book is designed to open up new and improved discussions between researchers from different areas of behavior studies. Thank you to Dr. Hogan for this insightful publication.
> Margaret (Meg) Schlichting, who joined the Psychology faculty in January of last year, has been recognized by the Faculty of Arts & Science by their "Rising Stars" series. Meg's important research, done by her Budding Minds Lab, focuses on memories - how we form them, how we recall them and how we use them when making new choices - with special emphasis on how processing new information with existing memories can deepen learning and support complex decision making. Meg and her fellow researchers are especially interested in how children, teenagers and adults might accomplish this processing differently due to developmental differences in their brain’s structure and function. Meg envisions that the results could be used to positively influence children who are struggling with certain tasks by finding the problem and providing strategies to overcome these obstacles. Read more about Meg's research at the Faculty of Arts & Science "Rising Stars" page at https://https://news.artsci.utoronto.ca/all-news/our-community/meg-schlichting-change-way-teens-learn/. And see more about Meg's rising star in the news item below!
> Congratulations to St. George faculty member Margaret (Meg) Schlichting. Meg was recently named one of the 2017 Association for Psychological Science (APS) Rising Stars. A full list of Rising Stars, including Meg, Brett Ford (UTSC) and Jennifer Stellar (UTM) is available at http://www.psychologicalscience.org/redesign/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/2017-Rising-Stars.pdf. Meg conducts research on how the brain supports the formation, modification, and use of knowledge from a developmental perspective using cognitive neuroscience techniques.
> Congratulations to Psychology Research Specialist program student, Alyssa Sinclair, for receiving the James Mark Baldwin Award for Best Essay in PSY 409H1F (Research Specialization: Theoretical Foundations). Alyssa's essay, entitled: "Pathologizing the Mind: The Validity of Mental Illness Diagnoses" is a rigorous critique of current ways of diagnosing mental illness that integrates neuroscience and cultural perspectives and offers useful ways to address these problems. Well done Alyssa!
> The Psychology Department is pleased to announce the publication of New Perspectives on Moral Development edited by Faculty member Charles Helwig. Published by Psychology Psychology Press (Taylor and Francis), this important volume includes the most up-to-date research on moral development, research that has been instrumental in advancing our understanding of the nature and acquisition of morality. The chapters cover a range of topics on morality including the origins of morality in infancy and early childhood, comparative research on primate morality and new views on moral emotion. Top scholars address moral development in connection with related matters of empathy, sympathy, agency, responsibility, normativity, guilt, collaboration, autonomy,identity, peer interaction, family relations, and social convention. A must read for serious researchers and students of the field. For more information, go to https://www.routledge.com/New-Perspectives-on-Moral-Development/Helwig/p/book/9781138188020.
This year brings new Faculty member Christina Starmans to the Psychology Department. Christina is a developmental psychologist who studies social and moral cognition across the lifespan. Her research takes an interdisciplinary approach to questions at the intersection of psychology and philosophy, and explores how young children and adults reason about topics such as the self, morality, ownership, fairness, and knowledge. Christina completed her PhD and postdoctoral training in Developmental Psychology at Yale University, and she was an undergraduate Psychology & Philosophy major at the University of Waterloo. She is happy to be returning to her city of birth, hopes to continue her habit of creating urban gardens in unlikely places, and is slowly re-incorporating long-forgotten Canadian-isms back into her vocabulary! Welcome, eh!
Psychology St. George welcomes new Assistant Professor Teaching Stream, Molly Metz, Molly's research interests focus on close relationships, with a special emphasis on the psychological, physiological, and behavioral factors that shape social support interactions in the lab and in daily life. She also conducts pedagogical research on the features of teachers, students, and learning environments that foster students' intrinsic motivation for learning. Her teaching interests span social psychology, research methods, and statistics, and considers it her mission to help students see the real-world value of everything - even the differences between measures of central tendency. Molly completed her PhD in Social Psychology and a Certificate in College and University Teaching at the University of California Santa Barbara and spent the last two years as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Miami University of Ohio. She is thrilled to finally fulfill her childhood dream of living in a major city with public transit, street performers, and a million types of cuisine at her disposal. And we are thrilled to have her join us. More on Molly, named one of the Faculty's Rising Stars, and her dream job at U of T can be found at Arts & Science News.
> Psychology professor Nick Rule and PhD student Thora Bjornsdottir recently published research on facial recognition that demonstrated how people can detect, unconsciously, if a person is richer or poorer than average simply by looking at a photograph of the person's face, a judgment that can create bias toward rich over poor in certain situations, such as job hiring. In the experiment, students whose families fell into two categories – with total family incomes of under $60,000 or above $100,000 – had their faces (devoid of any expression) photographed. A separate group of participants were then asked to decide which ones were "rich or poor" just by looking at the faces. Results were accurate at a level that exceeded random chance. The researchers’ conclusion was that habits of expression, such as frequent happiness, which is stereotypically associated with being wealthy, become etched on a person's face by their late teens or early adulthood. Gender and race did not facto rinto the assessments made by participants. Read more about this research in:The Toronto Star, ScienceDaily and the U of T Bulletin.
> Congratulations to our recipients of the 2016 Psychology Scholarships and Awards:
1. Linda Mamelak Undergraduate Award: Amanda Choi
2. The McNab Scholarship in Psychology: Chong He
3. The Psychology Graditude Scholarship: Maisha Tasnim
4. The Dept. of Psychology Student Award: Cristina Tucciarone
5. The John D. Ketchum Memorial Scholarship: Erica Matulis/Karen Black
6. The John D. Ketchum Memorial Bursary: Priscilla Fung
7. The Dr. Horace O. Frosty Steer Award: Natalie Holtby
8. The George Mandler Research Fund: Rachel Forbes/Anna Petersson
> Psychology Department Professor and Graduate Chair, Morris Moscovitch, has received the University of Toronto's highest designation for faculty members. On June 2, 2017, the provost announced that Dr. Moscovitch was one of four U of T faculty members newly named University Professor. This designation recognizes extraordinary scholarly achievement and high distinction in a particular field of study. Morris was recognized for his leading work on memory and the brain as well as his contributions to research on face-recognition, attention, and the specialization of the brain's hemispheres. He is also well- respected for his teaching and student mentoring. Congratulations to Morris and to the other three recipients. Read more in the U of T Bulletin.
> Psychology Department neuroscientist, Dr. Gillian Einstein, was recently awarded the first-ever Wilfred and Joyce Posluns Chair in Women’s Brain Health and Aging. The award comes with $1 million over five years with the goal of answering why more womenthan men are affected by depression, stroke and dementia. The funded research also examines the effects of social and cultural life experiences on the biology of women. A Toronto Star article, published June 3, 2017, thoroughly exams Dr. Einstein’s career and research path – from her undergraduate studies at Harvard where her interest in neurobiology began, followed by a PhD invisual systems from the University of Pennsylvania, to an assistant professorship at Duke University 1989 and, starting in 2006, as faculty member at the University of Toronto. Since her interest was awakened and throughout her career, Jill, recognizing the strong sex and gender bias in favour of men in clinical health research, focused on women’s health and the role of hormones and genetics on women’s brains, as well as how social and cultural life experiences are absorbed into our biology. Today, Einstein’s lab pulls her concerns about sex, gender, aging, cognition and women’s health together. Read the Toronto Star article here.
> The Psychology Department welcomes Meg Schlichting. Meg studies how the brain supports the formation, modification, and use of knowledge from a developmental perspective. Her research employs cognitive neuroscience techniques (including both functional and structural MRI) to understand how the maturing brain gives rise to developmental differences in behavior -- how might kids, teens, and adults differ in their ability to remember and reason about their experiences? Meg completed her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin followed by postdocs at UT Austin and here at the University of Toronto. When she isn't science-ing, Meg is all about food. She loves cooking and checking out Toronto's diverse restaurant scene. She especially enjoys exploring the many takes on her new favorite food: poutine! She also loves traveling and spending time with her family.
> Psychology Faculty member, Morgan Barense, is part of a team of researchers who have uncovered a potential predictor for early dementia. The joint study conducted by University of Toronto and Baycrest Rotman Research Institute scientists, indicates that changes to the brain may occur years before a diagnosis of dementia, even before the onset of problems with memory. Published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging on May 8, 2017, the research looked at 40 older adults (between the ages of 59 and 81) who, while not aware of any major memory problems, had scores below the benchmark on a dementia-screening test. With early detection of at-risk individuals can allow for therapeutic interventions that can treat or slow down the disease. Adults who are 40 or older and are interested in testing their memory and attention prior to raising concerns with their doctor can consult Baycrest’s scientifically-validated, online brain health assessment tool, Cogniciti. To read more about this important research, got to the U of T Faculty of Arts & Science news page.
> The Psychology Department is pleased to announce that PhD candidate David Chan is the 2017 recipient of the Teaching Assistant Training Programs' (TATP) Course Instructor (CI) award. This award is presented annually to a graduate student who has demonstrated ongoing excellence in their teaching. Qualities the recipient must exhibit include the following, to name a few: evidence of sustained excellence in teaching practice over time; effective strategies for supporting student learning; the ability to provide effective feedback to students; enthusiasm and knowledge of their subject area and for the practice of teaching; and a passion for enhancing student learning. David teaches cognitive psychology with the Department. Congratulations, David!
> Congratulations to Faculty member Dirk Bernhardt-Walther who has been selected as a recipient for a Sony Research Award. This program provides funding for innovative academic research, helping to build a collaborative relationship between University faculty and Sony researchers. Dirk's proposal involves the creation of a computational framework for detecting and characterizing symmetry. For more information about this important award, go to http://www.sony.com/research-award-program.
> How do children feel about same-sex romantic relationship? Funded by SSHRC, research by former Psychology graduate student Sarah Spence, Psychology current graduate student Nicole Cosentino and Faculty member Charles Helwig, sheds light on this question. Results of the study, with 128 child participants aged 5 to 14, show that the majority viewed same-sex relationships as acceptable and most believed gay and lesbian relationships should either not be regulated at all or, if so, should be protected by law. According to lead writer Sarah Spence, given that the LGBTQ community is still a target for discrimination, this first-time researchon children’s attitudes about same-sex relationships could provide crucial information on how to work towards a more inclusive society. More information: PsyPost interview with lead writer Sarah Spence. Read the article Children's Judgments and Reasoning About Same-Sex Romantic Relationships.
> Psychology Professor Jay Pratt wins 2017 Faculty Award for outstanding teaching and research. Read more in the U of T News.
> Psychology’s Daphna Buchsbaum, graduate student Julia Espinosa and former postdoctoral fellow Emma Tecwyn, with the invaluable assistance of undergraduate students in the Research Opportunity Program (ROP) Aarushi Gupta and Madeline Pelgrim have been studying the relationship between how humans train dogs and how dogs learn. Through two separate cognition studies, the researchers discovered that the way we think dogs ‘learn’ may be different than supposed, and that dogs are less prone to the ‘gravity bias’ than small children and monkeys. Due to their long association with humans, dogs have become uniquely sensitive to cues thought to be associated with teaching, such as sharing, pointing and directing their attention to certain actions. With the first study dogs where shown a series of events that, if copied, would produce a treat at the end. Contrary to expectations, the dogs did not learn the steps to reach the treat. Rather, they went straight to the final action without going through the sequence they were ‘taught’. In other words, the dogs, while paying attention, did not experience this as a “teaching” moment (i.e. the dog does not understand that someone is trying to teach it). In the second study looking at gravity bias in dogs (gravity bias is what makes small children and monkeys look directly beneath an object when it is dropped) revealed that dogs are able to locate a dropped object when it is deflected elsewhere and does not fall directly to the ground. Read more on the Arts & Science news page.
> Research findings by Psychology’s Kaori Takehara-Nishiuchi, recent PhD graduate Mark Morrissey and former post-doctoral fellow Nathan Insel provide new insight into the brain, memory, and how knowledge is collected and stored. The paper reporting these results Generalizable knowledge outweighs incidental details in prefrontal ensemble code over time was published in eLIFE on February 14, 2017. While memories from recent events are full of detail, these same memories fade with time as the brain consolidates information that is both important and common to a variety of experiences in our long-term memory. The researchers predicted that specific neurons within the brain were responsible for building representations at the time of long-term memory consolidation that were larger than that of the smaller details. Experiments on rats supported this hypothesis, showing that the initial encoding of unique and shared stimuli became more sensitive to shared features while unique features became lost. Read more in the Faculty of Arts & Science News
> In a study that focuses on how the human brain encodes architecture, a team led by Psychology’s Dirk Bernhardt-Walther uncovered that the area within the brain’s visual system that processes scenes and faces is also used when looking at buildings. In other words, the way we perceive architecture is similar to the way we view people and scenes. Participants (half of which were architectural students) in the study were shown a variety of images including different architectural styles, assorted scenes and faces while their brain activity was recorded using functional MRI technology. Another surprising result of the study was that all participants (expert and non-expert) used the same area of the brain when viewing architecture. Future research plans include developing methods of measuring people’s appreciation of architecture. Read more in the U of T Bulletin. Read the research paper here.
> Ground-breaking research on reasoning skills among capuchin monkeys presents evidence, for the first time, that monkeys have the ability to make decisions based on probabilities. The research, conducted by Psychology Faculty member Daphna Buchsbaum and Post-Doctoral Fellow Emma Tecwyn, was published online in Animal Cognition. In brief, monkeys presented with jars of attractive peanuts and unappealing pellets in varying ratios demonstrated the ability to reason about relative amounts. This cutting-edge research indicates that monkeys share an intuitive statistical ability with human infants, something that previous research demonstrated existed with the great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans). It also raises questions about this statistical reasoning trait and whether this ability dates back 30 million years to when capuchins and humans shared a common ancestor. Read more on CBC News and in the U of T Bulletin.
> Congratulations to Psychology Associate Professor Dr. Gillian Einstein on being awarded the first ever Wilfred and Joyce Posluns Chair in Women's Brain Health and Aging. The Chair is an initiative of the late Wilfred Posluns' Family Foundation and the Women's Brain Health Initiative. After a competitive search that began in March 2016 the recipient of this honour was announcement on December 14, 2016 by The Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Health. Dr. Einstein is a leading expert in the field of neuroscience, sex and gender. The award will support new research, led by Dr. Einstein, into why women are more affected by brain disorders than men, research that will contribute to the development of new strategies to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases that affect the brain and promote brain health in women. CIHR News Release of Award.
> The Psychology Department is delighted to announce that Faculty member Liz Page-Gould and her former Post-Doctoral Fellow, Cara MacInnis (currently a professor at the University of Calgary) have won the Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize! This is the top award given in intergroup relations, awarded for the best paper published on the subject. Liz and Cara have received the prize for their 2015 article, "How Can Intergroup Interaction Be Bad If Intergroup Contact Is Good? Exploring and Reconciling an Apparent Paradox in the Science of Intergroup Relations" (http://pps.sagepub.com/content/10/3/307). The paper was published in Perspectives on Psychological Science. Congratulations to Liz and Cara!
> Newly published research conducted by Psychology graduate student, Jessica Maxwell, shows that realism and not romantic day dreams can result in a healthy sex life in long-term relationships. According to the research, Jessica says, if a couple uses the quality of their sex life to gauge the quality of their relationship, they will equate any sex life problems to problems with their entire relationship. Alternatively, people who believe that sexual life can grow and change within a relationship do not allow such problems to affect their overall satisfaction in the relationship which, in turn, can result in a healthy sexual relationship over the long term. Approximately 1,900 individuals (in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships) participated in the research which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology on November 7, 2016. Read more in the U of T Bulletin
> The Psychology Department is delighted to welcome Michael Mack to the St. George campus. Michael studies human learning, focusing on how visual attention and memory systems work together to build useful knowledge. His current work investigates the moment-by-moment dynamics of category learning, specifically how newly learned information is integrated into prior knowledge. His lab will characterize the cognitive and neural mechanisms of successful learning with a novel combination of behavioral, computational modeling, and fMRI approaches. Michael completed his PhD at Vanderbilt University and postdoctoral training at the University of Texas at Austin. After more than 10 years in the American South, he is indelibly marked with a passion for BBQ and breakfast tacos, but is excited to return to a climate with four seasons and to live in a diverse city overflowing with great food. We are thrilled to have Michael join us.
> Eric Taylor, postdoc with Jay Pratt’s Visual Cognition Lab for the past two years and now at Western University and Psychology graduate student Jason Rajsic are co-authors, along with Dr. Pratt, of a paper that received a 2016 Clifford T. Morgan Best Article Award. This award, presented by the Psychonomic Society, honors authors for the best paper published in each of the Psychonomic Society journals. Each August, editors of each journal select the best paper published in their journal over the past year. The honoured article “Object-based selection is contingent on attentional control settings”, was published in the Psychonomic journal Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics. Congratulations to the authors!August 2016
> Psychology professor Ashley Waggoner Denton knows from experience how intimidating taking an undergraduate class in Convocation (Con) Hall can be. So when she started teaching Introductory Psychology in Con Hall, where once she sat as a student, she wanted to create a warm learning environment in the less than friendly space. A couple of examples of how she does this include bringing in a dog and trainer to explain operant conditioning when lecturing on learning and having an individual with a brain injury talking to a class during a lecture on perception. Dr. Waggoner Denton is welcoming on the first day of class and works to include students in the discussion, making them an active rather than passive part of the learning process. Read more about Ashley’s experience teaching in Con Hall in the U of T News.
> It is with sadness that the Psychology Department announces the recent passing of two of its long time Faculty members, John Furedy and Paul Muter. John Furedy joined the Department in 1967, conducting research in psychophysiology, including biofeedback and lie detection. He taught numerous undergraduate and graduate courses on classical conditioning, controversies in experimental psychology, and the frontiers of psychophysiology. In 2005, John became a Professor Emeritus, and moved back to Sydney, Australia, the city where he completed his PhD in 1965. Paul Muter was a member of the Department for over 40 years, beginning his appointment in 1981. He was a pioneer of work on human memory, how humans interact with computers, and how technology affects cognition. Not only a dedicated teacher and researcher, Paul also loved spending time with his friends in the Department playing bridge and tennis. Our hearts go out to the families and close friends of John and Paul.July 2016
> Psychology’s Dr. Amy Finn is lead researcher of a study with potential to helping lower-income students succeed. The study, conducted collaboratively with University of Toronto and MIT researchers and published in the July 19, 2016 edition of Developmental Science, concludes that the ability to use working memory is weaker in lower-income students than children from higher income families. The brain activity of middle school students was assessed using functional MRI (fMRI) with the test results showing that higher-income students had more working memory capacity than those in the lower-income group. This ground breaking study linking deficits in working memory to income also demonstrated how these differences impacted academic measures of achievement. The results are a critical step toward understanding the income-achievement gap and also in changing it. As Dr. Finn stresses, these study results can contribute to developing ways of helping lower-income students succeed. Read more in the U of T News.
> Brain research at the University of Toronto and the city as a whole took a giant step forward with the arrival of a magnetic resonance imaging scanner (MRI) at the Psychology Department. The MRI, whose acquisition was spearheaded by Psychology Chair Suzanne Ferber, will have a tremendous positive effect on the Department's scope of brain research, which include studies in development, memory, vision, perception, learning, emotions and more. Read more in the University of Toronto News.
> Psychology Postdoc Dan Re’s research on ‘selfies’ and what they say about self-perception and narcissism was published in the May 18, 2016 issue of the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal. The study “Selfie Indulgence: Self-Favoring Biases in Perceptions of Selfies” was conducted with input from 200 undergraduate students. In addition to completing a narcissistic personality survey and reporting on their selfie-taking behaviour, participants took photos of themselves and also posed for photos. They then rated the photos of themselves in terms of likeability and attractiveness. These selfies were then rated by another group of students. The results showed that those who reported frequent selfie-taking rated their own selfies higher than the rating they received from other people and that this was even true when the selfie-takers claimed to disliked the narcissism they associated with other people’s selfies. Dr. Re says the next step is a follow-up survey with a larger, more-diverse sample that looks at how one’s online presence can impact career advancement, personal relationships, and other instances when making a good impression is important. Read more in U of T Bulletin.
> May 10, 2016: It is with sadness that the Psychology Department announces the death of George Mandler this past weekend. George was a faculty member in our Department from 1960 to 1965. He was one of the founding members of the modern era of our Department and was a major contributor to work on memory, consciousness, and emotion. His many awards and honours include a Guggenheim Fellowship and the 1986 William James Book Award of the APA (Division of General Psychology). In 2004, The George Mandler Research Fund was established in his honour with the goal to promote and facilitate research at the undergraduate level in our Department. Our hearts go out to his family and close friends.
> Congratulations to Liz Howard, Psychology Department research officer, who has been short-listed for the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize. First awarded in 2001, the Griffin Prize is Canada’s foremost award for poetry. This year there are seven poets on the short list, four international and three Canadian poets, including Liz. The prizes will be awarded on June 2, 2016. Liz, manager for Psychology Department’s Hasher lab, is being recognized for her first book of poems Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent. In addition to her research work in cognition, Liz is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing from The University of Guelph. Well done, Liz, for this remarkable accomplishment. Read about the award in The Globe and Mail here.
> Congratulations to Psychology undergraduate students Bryan Hong, Anna Keshabyan and Valentina Mihajlovic. All three are active in Dr. Morgan Barense's research lab. Their accomplishments range from Bryan's co-authorship of an important research paper, Anna's conducting experiments on brain function and aging, to Valentina's role as lab manager for Dr. Barense. All three students got their start through Arts & Science Research Opportunity Program (ROP299), a program that offers hands-on, laboratory-based education for 2nd year students. With Dr. Barense acting as mentor, all three students has the opportunity to conduct research in a lab setting. Read more about the achievements of Bryan, Anna and Valentina and the ROP299 Program on the Arts & Science News page.
> The Psychology Department is pleased to announce that faculty member Dr. Christopher Honey has been awarded a 2016 Sloan Research Fellowship. This prestigious two-year fellowship is awarded to scientists in the early stages of their careers who have performed exceptionally and demonstrate the potential to make a major contribution to their respective area of study. Dr. Honey describes his research as follows: "Humans are able to combine information over multiple timescales: sequencesof phonemes are understood as words, sequences of words are understood assentences, and sequences of sentences are understood as an unfoldingnarrative . I study how brain networks are organized so that we canintegrate information over these multiple timescales." Read more about Chris's research in the U of T Bulletin and on the Arts & Science news page. Congratulations, Chris!
> University can be very stressful. Psychology Department special lecturer, Dr. Brenda Toner, believes mindfulness meditation classes can help to reduce stress and anxiety. Mindfulness is a way of thinking about just one thing at a time, of helping those practicing it to feel more grounded and centred … and less anxious. Dr. Toner and her mindfulness classes at the University of Toronto were the subject of a recent Toronto Star article, Stressed out students turn to mindful meditation. U of T offers 14 free drop-in classes on mindfulness meditation, attracting hundreds of students seeking to battle the toll that University, and life in general, can take. For information on mindfulness classes, go to http://www.studentlife.utoronto.ca/hwc/mindfulness. Dr. Toner also teaches a special topics course for the Psychology Department’s undergraduate program – PSY408HThe Psychology of Mindfulness: Theory, Empirical Evidence and Clinical Impact.
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