SNC’s Psychology Fair and UNR’s Nevada Undergraduate Research Symposium was a success this year with several amazing research experiments conducted by our students. Gabriella Ariganello was voted in by the senior class to speak at the SNC event about her project, but each student got to present their work via poster-presentations to students and staff on April 23rd. Danny Dubyak was selected as a speaker at the UNR undergraduate research symposium this year, with the rest of our seniors all presenting posters as well on April 30th.
Gabby’s research focused on the use of person-first (boy with a mental-disability) vs disability-first language (mentally-disabled boy). Although person-first language is mandated in psychological writing by the American Psychological Association, very little research has been conducted on the use of these two different ways of referring to individuals. Gabby points out in her paper that although societal expectations assume that we should use person-first language, many people who struggle with disabilities prefer disability-first language. Namely, the def community, largely prefers to use disability-first language as it is part of their identity and it may also help individuals take ownership of their struggles. The def community and others alike, see their disability as a defining characteristic which makes their identity unique. Disabled people may see themselves as part of a culture and using person-first language, although “socially acceptable” may take away a part of their identity or ownership of their personal struggles if we assume they want to be spoken to one way or the other. Gabby’s research discovered that among SNC student’s, the use of disability- or person-first language had no significant effect on perceived capabilities (p = .69) or number of errors assessed on the individual (p = .94) on evaluation of a hypothetical application. Gabby works in Reno with autistic children as a behavior analyst and is will be receiving her Master’s in Education in the next few years through a program she is already working with. Her research points out that societal expectations and standards may not actually align with truth, and is some of the first of its kind. Gabby points out that the preference of the individual with the learning disability should be considered, however the use of either type of language identifier did not impact perceived capabilities in our sample, which I think is a good thing!
Danny Dubyak, a double major in Psychology and Business, focused on whether or not “participation awards” impacted performance. His research has been accepted for a talk at both UNR and UCLA and it is a very relevant topic for this day and age. He gave a wonderful presentation at UNR on April 30th with was live-streamed on SNC’s Psychology page. Although there has been major push back and criticism of participation rewards, Danny’s results give evidence that these rewards actually do increase performance. He tested three groups, one which he told everybody would receive a reward regardless of performance, one in which only the best performer would receive a reward, and the control group in which nobody received a reward. He found that the group in which everybody received a reward (“all) had a significantly higher performance (p = .040) than the group in which only the best performer received an award. The “all” condition also had significantly higher levels of performance than the control, in which nobody received an award (p = .002). This data challenges the push-back that has been seen in recent months. He conducted this research due to his double major background and interest in whether or not it would be better, as a business manager, to reward everybody on the team or just the top performer. His results challenged his own views and hypothesis that the group in which only the best would receive a reward would have the greatest performance levels. This research is extremely exciting due to the relevance of “trophy kids” today on the news and on social media and opens the door for more research of its kind.
Liam Mattox was also accepted for a talk in the upcoming UCLA research symposium. As a person who dealt with stress as we all do, he was interested in whether or not having your eyes open or closed during a meditation exercise (mindfulness-based technique) would decrease stress levels. He measured this using a self-reported distress scale and also keeping track of participant blood pressure. His results indicated that his independent variable, the stressor, did indeed increase stress (p = .003) and the mindfulness breathing exercise did indeed decrease stress (p = .002). However, he found no significant difference in stress levels between the open-eyed and close-eyed meditation conditions (p = .01) These results provide evidence that it doesn’t matter whether your eyes are open or closed, stress levels are decreased the same during a breathing exercise or mindfulness based technique, at least in this sample. Liam’s research is much like Gabby’s, in that it challenges preconceived notions and societal expectations of what we think we should do in certain situations. While there is a need for more research in the area, it may suggest that open-eyed meditation is just as useful as close-eyed meditation, and we look forward to see his talk at UCLA!
Sarah Freedman focused her research on the use of malicious gossip on social media platforms and it’s impact on interpersonal attraction. Sarah created fake social media profiles and had participants read the comments on the profiles before filling out an interpersonal attraction scale. She found a significant (p = .001) difference between the groups. Those who used negative language and malicious gossip were much less attractive to participants than the individual who used positive gossip. Sarah points out that previous research has found gossip is used in order to increase pair-bonding (oxytocin) levels between the two gossipers, which helps make their relationship stronger. However, according to Sarah’s research, although it may make the relationship with the person who agrees with your gossip or somebody you know stronger, it clearly turns people off when they are reading malicious gossip via social media and Facebook from somebody who they have just met or is an acquaintance, decreasing attraction and deterring relationships.
Sybile Moser devotedly conducted two independent research studies this year. Her first study examined the use of colorized vs black and white photos on retention (memory). Sybile was interested in whether or not colorizing historical photos could help students’ in secondary school remember material. For this reason, she used purposive sampling to only include participants under the age of 25. Participants looked at either a black and white or colorized historical photo from King Tut’s excavation and asked to remember material from previous slides in her presentation. Her results provided evidence that colorized material did indeed increase engagement (p = .0001) and retention in students (p = .014) and implicates a need to invest in student interest through revitalization of historical texts. This information is relevant to teachers, professors, and counselors alike who make present learning material to individuals.
Sybile’s second study looked at the relationship between risk-taking behavior in a “choose your adventure” story-book and nonsocial gratitude. Participants were asked to make a decision on each page, one decisions being more risky than the other. Different decisions directed them on to different pages, much look the choose your adventure story books many of us did when we were children. Results of her second study showed no significant difference after priming with gratitude or not (control). However, a significant difference did exist in risk taking behaviors between men and women (p = .0008). Sybile has now conducted three independent research studies between last year and this year! This is truly amazing work for the undergraduate level!
Jillian Hummer researched Service Dog Awareness in her independent study, which she presented via poster at both SNC Psych Fair and UNR. The growing impact of service animals and therapy dogs in modern times is a very relevant today. Jillian assigned 90 participants to three reading conditions about a woman who had a service animal or did not, and then statistics on service animals (control). She then had participants complete a service dog awareness questionnaire. The reading conditions did not find a significant difference (p = .946), however Jillian points out that future studies should look at this issue as 46% of participants thought canines were the best species in animal-assisted therapy and 48% had seen service dogs in public, meaning this topic is not going away any time soon.
James Sandoval also presented at both events. His study examined the impact of priming with different drawing techniques through self-expression usage on creativity levels. Research has shown the creativity is healthy for the mind and body. His study collected 96 participant data under minimal self-expression, moderate self-expression, or maximal self-expression conditions. Results from James study indicate that the maximal self-expressive group had significantly higher creativity levels than the minimal self-expression condition (p = .029). James points out that creativity can indeed be developed as a skill which is very exciting for individual’s who may be scared to live their lives more creatively.
This is only the beginning for our undergrads here at Sierra Nevada College! All of this research is awesome and may help open the doors for others to absorb this information and expand upon their own ideas thanks to these students. Tomorrow some of us fly to L.A. to finish off the semester presenting at UCLA’s Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference! I for one am very grateful for all of the knowledge that these studies have introduced into my life!
Author – Ryan Knuppenburg (Senior Intern)