The Elizabeth Rutherford Memorial Centre for the Advancement of Research on Emotion
On 25 November 2020, the Elizabeth Rutherford Memorial Centre for the Advancement of Research on Emotion (CARE) celebrated the completion of its first full decade of research innovation and productivity. CARE was established in 2010 through the generous philanthropic support provided by Mrs Margot Rutherford and Miss Debbie Rutherford, in celebration of the life and achievements of their daughter and sister, Dr Elizabeth Rutherford.
Headed by Professor Colin MacLeod, now one of Australia’s most cited psychologists, the Centre spearheaded the development of Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM) paradigms developed to directly alter cognitive biases that underlie emotional vulnerability and resilience, to alleviate suffering due to mood and anxiety dysregulation.
Dr Elizabeth Rutherford’s work played a key role in developing this research, where her seminal 2002 paper in the prestigious Journal of Abnormal Psychology introduced the CBM approach and demonstrated its capacity to systematically attenuate anxiety vulnerability, and has been cited over 1,500 times since then - a truly extraordinary achievement.
Cognitive bias and resilience: a decade of impact
The Centre’s focus on the patterns of selective attention, interpretation and memory that give rise to emotional resilience and emotional dysfunction has also been applied to research on resilient ageing, in partnership with Brightwater Care Group. It has also been applied to the development and evaluation of a cognitive bias modification packages designed to enhance resilience in WA school children, with the support of WA Healthway.
Outside of the academic community, CARE’s researchers have partnered with a wide range of public sector organisations across healthcare, emergency services and policy sectors to facilitate decision-making and practice that are grounded in psychological science and based in evidence. This has included the Brightwater Care Group, State Education Departments, Act for Kids, Relationships Australia, the Aboriginal and Torres Strat Islander Healing Foundation, MAARI MA Health Aboriginal Foundation, Department of Defence, Department of Veteran’s Affairs, FIFO Families, Australian Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, and Alzheimer’s Australia.
In the decade since its inception, CARE has become a thriving hub for world-leading research on human emotion and cognition, and its dysfunction. It has produced over 160 publications with 150 collaborators and visitors from across the world, including from the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Spain and The Netherlands, Romania, Iran, Singapore, and China. The Centre has exerted major global academic impact, with its publications garnering more than 5,000 citations.
In carrying out its work, the generous support of the Rutherford family has enabled CARE to nurture the scientific development and careers of a large community of scholars, including four lecturers/senior lecturers, eight postdoctoral researchers, 40 doctoral students, and more than 120 Honours students. The Centre’s extraordinary productivity has also secured more than $8 million in funding in the last ten years from government and philanthropic bodies, including the Australia Research Council, WA Healthway, the Forrest Research Foundation, and the Raine Medical Foundation.
Recognising a milestone
The Centre’s 10th anniversary was marked by a celebratory luncheon at the UWA University Club, where the Centre’s executive members hosted Miss Debbie Rutherford, Elizabeth Rutherford’s sister. At the event, Professor MacLeod spoke about not only Elizabeth’s extraordinary intellect and strength of character, but also the warmth she brought to his research group that made her a truly unforgettable person.
Elizabeth was gentle and self-effacing, devoid of the ego that one expects to encounter in someone so accomplished, and she was always quick to see the best in other people. This enabled her to identify the talents and aptitudes of students and colleagues alike, and she used this knowledge gently steer us all, students, colleagues, and myself, in the directions best suited to ensuring our collective success. Professor Colin MacLeod
Professor MacLeod and the Centre’s two current co-directors, Dr Lies Notebaert and Dr Ben Grafton, looks forward to continuing Elizabeth’s legacy with the next 10 years of scientific and community contributions.
Dr Elizabeth Rutherford (1949 - 2008)
As a mature-aged student with multiple degrees and a stellar career spanning policy, the media, and allied health, Dr Elizabeth Rutherford was a pioneer who continually sought intellectual challenge and breaking societal expectations. Elizabeth’s Psychology Honours research project not only resulted in a publication, but has now been cited some 600 times. Her PhD research with Professor Colin MacLeod at UWA then laid the foundation for a splendid postdoctoral career.
Elizabeth passed away in 2008. Her family provided philanthropic support to establish the Elizabeth Rutherford Memorial Centre for the Advancement of Research on Emotion, to honour her memory.