University of Calgary

Christopher Sears

  • Professor


Chair, Research Ethics Appeal Board (REAB), 2020-2023

Research Support

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, 1998-02; 2002-07; 2007-12; 2013-18; 2018-23
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), 2014-2017 (with K. Dobson)
Alberta Gambling Research Institute (AGRI), 2016-2017 (with D. McGrath)

Research Interests

My research examines individual differences in cognition, attention, and memory that are associated with mood and anxiety disorders, aging, and body image and eating disturbances. In the lab we frequently use mood inductions and priming procedures to study interactions between attention, memory, and mood (an NSERC-supported research program). One focus of our research is attention and memory biases in depressed individuals and individuals vulnerable to depression. My graduate students and honours thesis students are always collaborators in these studies. We use eye gaze tracking in many studies to examine individual differences in attention to emotional stimuli (e.g., Sears et al., 2019; Speirs, Belchev, Fernandez, Korol, & Sears, 2018; Frayn, Sears, & von Ranson, 2016). Visit the Cognition and Emotion Lab website for more information.

For Students

Each year I consider applications from students interested in our graduate programs (MSc and PhD). If you are interested in pursuing graduate studies under my supervision please contact me well in advance of the December application deadline to discuss opportunities. Undergraduate students interested in the honours program and possible honours thesis projects should contact me in the fall session (January 23 is the deadline for applications to the honours program). For students interested in Psychology 499 (Research Experience in Psychology), you can contact me anytime to discuss possibilities, but remember that you will need to register for the course prior to the fall or winter session registration deadline. 

To date I have supervised 22 graduate student theses (MSc/PhD) and 26 honours thesis students (BA/BSc). My graduate and undergraduate trainees are always co-authors on our lab's publications and they have had good success winning Tri-Council scholarships (NSERC, CIHR, and SSHRC). You can learn more about my lab, my graduate students, honours thesis students, and our research activities by visiting the Cognition and Emotion Lab.

Recent Publications

Note: graduate and undergraduate students are underlined.

Soltani, S., van Ryckeghem, D.M.L., Vervoort, T., Heathcote, L.C., Yeates, K.O., Sears, C.R., & Noel, M. (2021). The clinical relevance of attentional biases in pediatric chronic pain: An eye-tracking study. PAIN, in press. 

Kim, H.S., Sears, C.R., Hodgins, D.C., Ritchie, E.V., Kowatch, K.R., & McGrath, D.S. (2021). Gambling-related psychological predictors and moderators of attentional bias among electronic gaming machine players. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, in press. 

McGrath, D.S., Sears. C.R., Fernandez, A., & Dobson, K.S. (2021). Attentional biases in low-risk and high-risk gamblers and the moderating effect of daily psychosocial stress. Addiction Research & Theory, 29, 166-174.

Soltani, S., van Ryckeghem, D.M.L., Vervoort, T., Heathcote, L.C., Yeates, K.O., Sears, C.R., & Noel, M. (2020). Attentional biases in pediatric chronic pain: An eye-tracking study assessing the nature of the bias and its relation to attentional control. PAIN, 161, 2263-2273. 

Sears, C.R., Quigley, L., Fernandez, A., Newman, K.R., & Dobson, K.S. (2019). The reliability of attentional biases for emotional images measured using a free-viewing eye-tracking paradigm. Behavior Research Methods, 51, 2748-2760. [PDF]

Newman, K.R., Quigley, L., Fernandez, A., Dobson, K.S., & Sears, C.R. (2019). Concurrent and prospective relations between attentional biases for emotional images and relapse to depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 43, 893-909. [PDF]

Withnell, S., Sears, C.R., & von Ranson, K.M. (2019). How malleable are attentional biases in women with body dissatisfaction? Priming effects and their impact on attention to images of women's bodies. Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, 10, 1-16. [PDF]

Tobin, L.N, Barron, A.H., Sears, C.R., & von Ranson, K.M. (2019). Greater body appreciation moderates the association between maladaptive attentional biases and body dissatisfaction in undergraduate women. Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, 10, 1-15. [PDF]

Speirs, C., Belchev, Z., Fernandez, A., Korol, S., & Sears, C.R. (2018). Are there age differences in attention to emotional images following a sad mood induction? Evidence from a free-viewing eye-tracking paradigm. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 25, 928-957. [PDF]

McGrath, D.S., Meitner, A., & Sears, C.R. (2018). The specificity of attentional biases by type of gambling: An eye tracking study. PLoS ONE13(1), e0190614. [PDF]

Tobin, L.N., Sears, C.R., Zumbusch, A.S., & von Ranson, K.M. (2018). Attention to fat- and thin-related words in body-satisfied and body-dissatisfied women before and after thin model priming. PLoS ONE, 13(2), e0192914. [PDF]

Quigley, L., Wright, C.A., Dobson, K.S., & Sears, C.R. (2017). Measuring attentional control ability or beliefs? Evaluation of the factor structure and convergent validity of the Attentional Control Scale. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 39, 742-754. [PDF]

Sears, C.R., Boyce, M., Boon, S.D., Goghari, V., Irwin, K., & Boyes, M.C. (2017). Predictors of student satisfaction in a large psychology undergraduate program. Canadian Psychology, 58, 148-160. [PDF]

Frayn, M., Sears, C.R., & von Ranson, K.M. (2016). A sad mood increases attention to unhealthy food images in women with food addiction. Appetite, 100, 55-63. [PDF]

Soltani, S., Newman, K.R., Quigley, L., Fernandez, A., Dobson, K.S., & Sears, C.R. (2015). Temporal changes in attention to sad and happy faces distinguish currently and remitted depressed individuals from never depressed individuals. Psychiatry Research230, 454-463. [PDF]

Popien, A., Frayn, M., von Ranson, K.M., & Sears, C.R. (2015). Eye gaze tracking reveals heightened attention to food in adults with binge eating when viewing images of real-world scenes. Appetite91, 233-240. [PDF]

Newman, K.R., & Sears, C.R. (2015). Eye gaze tracking reveals different effects of a sad mood induction on the attention of previously depressed and never depressed women. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 39, 292-306. [PDF]

McArthur, A.D., Sears, C.R., Scialfa, C.T., & Sulsky, L.M. (2015). Aging and the inhibition of competing hypotheses during visual word identification: Evidence from the progressive demasking task. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 22, 220-243. [PDF]

Arndt, J.E., Newman, K.R., & Sears, C.R. (2014). An eye tracking study of the time course of attention to positive and negative images in dysphoric and non-dysphoric individuals. Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, 5, 399-413. [PDF]

Wright, C.A., Dobson, K.S., & Sears, C.R. (2014). Does a high working memory capacity attenuate the negative impact of trait anxiety on attentional control? Evidence from the antisaccade task. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 26, 400-412. [PDF]

Nakayama, M., Verdonschot, R.G., Sears, C.R., & Lupker, S.J. (2014). The masked cognate translation priming effect for different-script bilinguals is modulated by the phonological similarity of cognate words: Further support for the phonological account. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 26, 714-724. [PDF]

Nakayama, M., Sears, C.R., Hino, Y., & Lupker, S.J. (2014). Do masked orthographic neighbor primes facilitate or inhibit the processing of Kanji compound words? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40, 813-840. [PDF]

Stea, J.N., Lee, S.M., & Sears, C.R. (2013). Enhancement of false memory for negative material in dysphoria: Mood congruency or response bias? Cognitive Therapy and Research, 37, 1189-1200. [PDF]

Thomas, C.L., Goegan, L.D., Newman, K.R., Arndt, J.E., & Sears, C.R. (2013). Attention to threat images in individuals with clinical and subthreshold symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 27, 447-455. [PDF]

Current Graduate Students

Jennifer Khil (MSc student, Brain & Cognitive Sciences)

Aaron Drake (MSc student, Brain & Cognitive Sciences)

Daniel Cunningham (MSc student, Brain & Cognitive Sciences)

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