University of Calgary

Christopher Sears

  • Professor
  • Department Head

Currently Teaching

Not currently teaching any courses.


Head, Department of Psychology, 2017-2022
Chair, Conjoint Faculties Research Ethics Board (CFREB), 2013-2016
Chair, Research Ethics Appeal Board, 2011-2013
Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Psychology, 2004-2008; 2011-2013

Research Support

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, 1998-02; 2002-07; 2007-12; 2013-18; 2018-2023
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), 2014-2017 (with K. Dobson)
Alberta Gambling Research Institute (AGRI), 2016-2017 (with McGrath, Hodgins, Kowatch, & Hyoun)
NSERC Research Tools and Instruments, 2011
Alberta Innovates - Health Solutions, 2012-2013

Research Interests

The focus of my research is on the interactions between attention, memory, and mood. Some of my studies use sad mood inductions to explore these interactions (an NSERC-supported research program), whereas others examine attention and memory in depressed individuals and individuals vulnerable to depression (research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research). My graduate students and honours thesis students are always collaborators in this research. We use eye gaze tracking in many of these studies to examine attention to emotional information over extended intervals (e.g., Newman & Sears, 2015; Soltani et al., 2015; Sears, Newman, Ference, & Thomas, 2011; Sears, Thomas, LeHuquet, & Johnson, 2010). We also investigate the interpretation biases associated with depression and depressed mood (e.g., Bisson & Sears, 2007; Sears, Bisson, & Nielsen, 2011; Stea, Lee, & Sears, 2013). 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 research 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 19 graduate student theses (15 MSc and 4 PhD) and 20 honours thesis students (BA/BSc). I have been a member of the thesis supervisory committee of 60 MSc/PhD students (not including my own students). My graduate and undergraduate trainees are always coauthors on my publications and they have had good success winning Tri-Council scholarships (NSERC, CIHR, SSHRC). You can learn more about my lab, my graduate students, honours students, and our research activities by visiting the Cognition and Emotion Lab.


Undergraduate Research Supervision Award (2008)
Faculty of Social Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award (2000)
Students' Union Teaching Excellence Award - Honourable Mention (1996, 2000)

Recent Publications

Note: graduate and undergraduate students are underlined.

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, in press.

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]

Nakayama, M., Sears, C.R., Hino, Y., & Lupker, S.J. (2013). Masked translation priming with Japanese-English bilinguals: Interactions between cognate status, target frequency, and L2 proficiency. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25, 949-981. [PDF]

Phillips, C.I., Sears, C.R., & Pexman, P.M. (2012). An embodied semantic processing effect on eye gaze during sentence reading. Language and Cognition, 4, 99-114. [PDF]

Nakayama, M., Sears, C.R., Hino, Y., & Lupker, S.J. (2012). Cross-script phonological priming for Japanese-English bilinguals: Evidence for integrated phonological representations. Language and Cognitive Processes27, 1563-1583. [PDF]

Sears, C.R., Newman, K.R., Ference, J.D., & Thomas, C.L. (2011). Attention to emotional images in previously depressed individuals: An eye tracking study. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 35, 517-528. [PDF]

Nakayama, M., Sears, C.R., & Lupker, S.J. (2011). Lexical competition in a Non-Roman, syllabic script: An inhibitory neighbor priming effect in Japanese Katakana. Language and Cognitive Processes, 26, 1136-1160. [PDF]

Sears, C.R., Bisson, M.A.S., & Nielsen, K.E. (2011). Dysphoria and the immediate interpretation of ambiguity: Evidence for a negative interpretive bias in error rates but not response latencies. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 35, 469-476. [PDF]

Sears, C.R., Thomas, C.L., LeHuquet, J.M., & Johnson, J.C.S. (2010). Attentional biases in dysphoria: An eye tracking study of the allocation and disengagement of attention. Cognition and Emotion, 24, 1349-1368. [PDF]

Nakayama, M., Sears, C.R., & Lupker, S.J. (2010). Testing for lexical competition during reading: Fast priming with orthographic neighbors. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 36, 477-492. [PDF]

Current Graduate Students

Amanda Fernandez (PhD student, Clinical Psychology program)

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