Christopher Sears

Christopher Sears

BA (Hons), MA, PhD


Full Member

Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education

Full Member

Hotchkiss Brain Institute

Contact information


Educational Background

Doctor of Philosophy - Psychology, University of Western Ontario, 1996

M.A. - Psychology, University of Western Ontario, 1991

B.A. (Hons) - Psychology, University of New Brunswick, 1989


Areas of Research

Cognition and emotional disorders; attention and memory biases

Why do people process emotional information differently? Are there individual differences in the way that emotional information is attended to and remembered that increase one’s vulnerability to mood disorders? Are there individual differences that help protect one from mood disorders? How can cognition researchers distinguish between typical and atypical attention and memory for emotional information? My research is focused on answering these and related questions.

Many of our studies examine attention and memory biases in depressed, never depressed, and depression-vulnerable individuals, using eye gaze tracking to measure attention to emotional stimuli (e.g., Fernandez, Quigley, Dobson, & Sears, 2022; Newman, Quigley, Fernandez, Dobson, & Sears, 2019). We also use mood inductions and priming procedures to study interactions between attention, memory, and mood, in younger and older adults. My graduate students and honours thesis students are always collaborators in these studies. I also pursue research on attention and memory biases associated with body image and eating disturbances (with Kristin von Ranson), and research on cognitive and affective factors in disordered gambling (with Daniel McGrath and Andrew Kim). Visit the Cognition and Emotion Lab website for more information.

Participation in university strategic initiatives


Course number Course title Semester
Psychology 473 Evolution and Human Behaviour Fall 2022
Psychology 473 Evolution and Human Behaviour Winter 2023
Psychology 412 Multiple Regression in Psychological Research Winter 2024


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)

Student Supervision

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 November application deadline to discuss opportunities. Undergraduate students interested in the honours program and possible honours thesis projects should contact me early in the fall session (the deadline for applications to the honours program is in January). For students interested in Psychology 499 (Research Experience in Psychology), you can contact me anytime to discuss possibilities. 

To date I have supervised 22 graduate student theses (MSc/PhD) and 28 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.


More Information

Recent Publications

Note: graduate and undergraduate students are in bold text.

Drake, A.C., & Sears, C.R. (2023). Do humour styles moderate the association between hopelessness and suicide ideation? A comparison of student and community samples. PLoS ONE18(12): e0295995. [PDF]

Quigley, L., Dobson, K.S., Russell, K., & Sears, C.R. (2023). Negative affective priming: Reliability and associations with depression symptoms in three samples. Behavior Research Methods, in press. [Link]

Coelho, S.G., Sears, C.R., Kim, H.S., & McGrath, D.S. (2023). The reliability of attentional biases for gambling-related images in free-viewing eye-tracking paradigms. Addictive Behaviors139, 107575. [Link]

Tobin, L.N., Sears, C.R., & von Ranson, K.M. (2022). Two eating disorder preventive interventions reduce attentional biases in body-dissatisfied university women: A cluster randomized controlled trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 90, 911-924. [Link]

Fernandez, A., Quigley, L., Dobson, K.S., & Sears, C.R. (2022). Coherence of attention and memory biases in currently and previously depressed women. Cognition and Emotion, 36, 1239-1254. [Link]

Kim, H.S., Ritchie, E.V., Sears, C.R., Hodgins, D.C., Kowatch, K.R., & McGrath, D.S. (2022). Affective impulsivity moderates the relationship between disordered gambling severity and attentional bias in electronic gaming machine (EGM) players. Journal of Behavioral Addictions11, 386-395. [PDF]

Fitzpatrick, C.L., Kim, H.S., Sears, C.R., & McGrath, D.S. (2022). Attentional bias in non-smoking e-cigarette users: An eye-tracking study. Nicotine & Tobacco Research24, 1439-1447. [Link] 

Soltani, S., van Ryckeghem, D.M.L., Vervoort, T., Heathcote, L.C., Yeates, K.O., Sears, C.R., & Noel, M. (2022). Clinical relevance of attentional biases in pediatric chronic pain: An eye-tracking study. PAIN163, 261-273. [Link] 

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 Behaviors35, 961-973. [Link] 

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 & Theory29, 166-174. [Link] 

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. PAIN161, 2263-2273. [Link] 

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 Methods51, 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 Research43, 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 Psychopathology10, 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 Psychopathology10, 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 Cognition25, 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 ONE13(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 Psychology58, 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. Appetite100, 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 Research39, 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 Cognition22, 220-243. [PDF]