Category Archives: Psychology

SNC Psych Fair 2018 and UNR Nevada Undergraduate Research Symposium a Success! Off to UCLA!

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 (= .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 (= .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)

PUBLISHED! The Impact of Background Stimuli on the Perception of Fear in Facial Expressions

Stephanie Kwon graduated from Sierra Nevada College in 2016.  She recently got the independent research she conducted in her senior year published. and I asked her some questions about she did.  Read her published work here:

http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/1734/the-impact-of-background-stimuli-on-the-perception-of-fear-in-facial-expressions

Research Question: Will different background stimuli influence fear ratings of fearful facial expressions viewed as still images?

How did you test: 30 participants rated the intensity of fear in facial expressions on a 9-point Likert scale after viewing images from four different facial expression categories (fearful, angry, happy, and neutral) paired with three backgrounds (static, blue, and black).

ResultsBackground stimuli did not show significant differences in fear ratings of facial expressions (fearful, angry, and neutral), except for happy facial expressions viewed as still images.

What inspired you to study this idea: Under the field of clinical psychology, I have been particularly interested in studying an emotion, fear.  This emotion ‘fear’ in contemporary terms may be associated with anxiety disorders or horror, but it is one of the most crucial and oldest survival functions in the evolutionary development of human. Its main purpose is to keep us alive by activating sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight) when we perceive or sense threat(s).

Furthermore, literature reviews gave me many different ideas for creating studies incorporating emotions. With a thoughtful consideration of designing method, I decided to study perception and fear in this thesis.

How long did it take you publish/what was the process to get it to the point you thought it was good enough to submit: It took me almost two years to edit and submit, but it probably would have taken about two months to finish touching up on the manuscript and submit for the publication. After I graduated from SNC, I moved to a Bay area where it was hard to meet up to collaborate and edit my manuscript with Professor Christina M. Frederick Ph. D. Fortunately, Dr. Frederick and I were able to collaborate during spring, summer, and winter breaks to edit the manuscript.  We did editing after editing before it was ready.

Publishing a manuscript takes commitment and it is a serious process that takes lots of time before submitting to a journal.  Also, the fact that audiences are pioneers in the field of psychology or other science reviewers, it is important to show them the best version of what I am passionate about.

Amount of time from submission confirmation to acceptance took less than a month for me. I did utilize their offer on expedited review, but it definitely was faster than what I expected.

The point when I thought it was good enough to submit was half of the gut feelings and when the manuscript was delivering as concise, accurate, and novel scholar product.

What does being published mean to you:  Being published mean the first step into contributing my knowledge to advance the great world of psychological science. During undergraduate years, I was amazed and admired by published articles that many psychologist and neuroscientists produced to contributing advancement of the world of psychological science.  Unlike physical/biological medicine, psychological/mental medicine is still behind at its development.  Many types of research and studies are needed to get a deeper understanding of how our brain/mind works.

Any plans for future research: My future research is currently focusing on clinical or computational model aspect of emotions.

Stephanie has worked as a research assistant in California since graduating and is currently applying for graduate and PhD programs.  Good Luck Steph!!

 

Author: Ryan Knuppenburg (Senior Intern)

 

Published! “The Looking Glass Self: The Impact of Explicit Self-Awareness on Self-Esteem”

Recent months have been rewarding for Sierra Nevada College’s Psychology Department.  There has been a wave of research that has been published by our alums with the help of SNC’s Director of Undergraduate Research, Christina M. Frederick.  I will be covering some of their research in the upcoming weeks in blog posts.

Sarah A. Fricke graduated in 2015 and was published in Inquiries Journal December of 2017.  You can find the link to her paper here:

http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/1711/the-looking-glass-self-the-impact-of-explicit-self-awareness-on-self-esteem

Sarah decided to study the impact of reflective surfaces on scores of a self-esteem assessment.  She tested an equal number of males and females to see if there was a difference in the gender variable between conditions.  In order to study the impact of reflective surfaces, Sarah had participants look in mirrored paper which was either reflective or non-reflective before taking self-esteem scores.

Sarah found no difference between genders or between conditions.  However, her research is still extremely important in the field.  The study of social sciences should not only focus on when significant differences are found, but also when those differences are not found.  Although every researcher in the world holds biases from their personal experiences, research is aimed at finding the truth through limiting those biases.  In this light, the publication of research that shows no significant difference between conditions, is just as valuable or applicable in our daily lives as research which shows no difference.

Sarah was inspired to study this idea, because she was curious as to whether or not using reflective surfaces could impact a person’s view of themselves either positively or negatively.  It took her 1.5 years of editing and working on it on and off, but it only took one submission to Inquiries Journal for it to be accepted.  This shows how much work our Psychology students at Sierra Nevada College dedicate into our research program.

Sarah told me that the opportunity of conducting research and getting it published has proven to her that hard work and dedication does pay off and that even if you don’t discover what you expected to find it is still valuable to the field of Psychology.

Not only is it valuable to the field of Psychology, but the publishing of research from our small institution reflects the dedication and passion of our Psychology department and is great for Sierra Nevada College as a whole.  More to come!

 

Author: Ryan Knuppenburg (Senior Intern)

Student and Alum Blogs

Many current psychology students and alumni of our program have spirited blogs which focus on their passions, interests, and work in the field.  I read some of their stuff and let me just say that a lot of these posts are extremely moving and inspiring!  Check out the content here and read about their individual work below:

http://bosswomyn.com/

http://anxiousbrunetteabroad.com/home/

www.justnotafraid.wordpress.com

http://sexdrugsandsustainability.libsyn.com/

Morgan Burke – Graduated in 2014, Current Teacher Aide and Research Assistant

“A thoughtful blog for unapologetic women”

Blog Title: Boss Womyn

Website: Bosswomyn.com

When It All Began: August 2017

What is the blog’s purpose – A platform for “womyn” empowerment.  For anybody who identifies as a “womyn” and is unapologetically feminine.  A place for womyn to share how they are living their lives everyday through all the bull that we have to deal with these days.  This blog is a place that highlights the small victories as well as the big victories and a big part of it is to promote being yourself.

A BossWomyn is somebody who does something for themselves without having to apologize.

BossWomyn supports all womyn, respecting each individual’s choice to present themselves in the way that’s comfortable to them, whether in a feminine way or not.  Basically, if you want to rock lipstick and pumps, do that.  If you prefer baggy sweats and flip flops, that’s cool, too.  All womyn are welcome to share their experiences so we can improve female relationships.

Morgan’s personal meaning behind it – I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I knew I had to do something to get started.  I was in a bad place when I began it and needed an outlet that I could invest what I wanted to do to feel self-fulfilled.  In a way that it’s for other womyn, but it’s a huge part of me.  It’s what I aspire to be.

Morgan is offering a no judgment platform for support.

Goals – Morgan would love to create a community within it and through the Instagram for BossWomyn as well and to make it so that womyn don’t feel like they need to apologize for their choices.

Jillian Hummer – Current Senior

Blog title:

Anxious Brunette Abroad

When it all began:

“About a year ago after traveling to multiple countries I decided I wanted to share my knowledge and experiences with others.”

What is the blogs purpose:
“To help provide information, guides, tips, photos, inspiration, and more for those interested in traveling with or without any anxiety.
The blog focuses on different guides to help plan your next trip to countries in Europe and also is a resource for those who have any anxiety/nerves when dealing with traveling.”
What is your personal meaning behind the creation of this blog or why you continue to do it.
“The personal meaning behind the blog is my passion for traveling and I continue to do it because I hope to share information and inspire others to expand their horizons.
I personally deal with a huge amount of anxiety daily, but traveling is something that I have become extremely comfortable with and want to encourage others to have the confidence to travel too.”
Future goals of the blog:
“The future for this blog is huge as it is being professionally renovated as I type.
I plan to incorporate my psychology degree within my website and offer not only traveling advice but counseling services for those around the world hoping to meet their goals.
The blog will soon also being expanding to offer guides and information about traveling in other areas such as, Tahoe, Reno, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and more!”

 

Maggie Burns – Graduated in 2014

Her blog is called “Just Not Afraid” which comes from a quote Maggie really loves:

“I’m not crazy, I’m just not afraid”

The website is www.justnotafraid.wordpress.com

“I started the blog in 2015. I was thinking about moving to Hawaii and thought it would be a good way to update/keep in touch with family and friends. When that move didn’t happen the blog turned into a way for me to process my thoughts and share them with others.”

Maggie doesn’t have any big goals for the blog yet.  She sees it as a way to write about how she feels to hopefully help somebody else who is struggling with similar issues if they may be reading.  She thinks that one day it would be awesome to use some of her content and posts to formulate a book later on, but that’s years from now.

Anza Jarschke and Sonya Hernandez – Alums

Blog Title: Sex, Drugs, and Sustainability

Blog website?
https://www.instagram.com/sonyaandanza/
http://sexdrugsandsustainability.libsyn.com/
https://www.facebook.com/sexdrugsandsustainability

When did it all begin:
“Sex, Drugs, and Sustainability has had many iterations over the course of the years, but we officially started this project on New Year’s 2016. We don’t blog in the traditional sense, but we have made podcasts, micro-vlogs (video blogs), full length vlogs, and other content through social media channels.”

What is the blog’s purpose?
“Sex, Drugs, and Sustainability is a feminist and social-justice media collaboration between Sonya Hernandez and Anza Jarschke to create and distribute media we are interested in. In an increasingly question-ridden world, the mainstream news and media have been exposed as a place where truth is not always present. We want to share our truth, and the truths of the more marginalized that don’t often see themselves in the media. We founded SD&S as a way to bring the conversations we were having about social justice issues, and the world at large, to a broader audience.”

What is your personal meaning behind the creation of this blog?
“One concept we really tried to unpack in the beginning was to expand our perception of what Sustainability means. For us, living sustainably is far more nuanced, intersectional, and communal than simply “being green”. At SD&S we see that the 21st century parameters for a Sustainable Community far surpass the traditional objective to lessen our carbon footprint and includes the health and well-being of our community.  To understand the plights of our community, we must also understand the systems of oppression that are intertwined into our lives. This is where we find ourselves: through an intersectional feminist lens, we attempt to deconstruct these systems of oppression and share ways to be resilient throughout the journey.”

“One of our main goals is to break down stigmas of all kind. We talk about different sexual orientations, relationship configurations, drug use, and focus heavily on our own mental health struggles. The hope is by being radically honest about our own experiences, other folks will feel less shame, more acceptance, and get more information about a variety of issues.”

What are your future goals for the blog?
“Right now we are focusing on micro-vlogging on our Instagram and creating podcast episodes as often as we can. It’s difficult these days with both of us living in different states and still in grad school/doing thesis research, but because of our close friendship we still make time to collaborate and create content together.”

 

Author: Ryan Knuppenburg (Senior Intern)

Experimental Research Continues Data Collection

This year’s senior class started off Spring semester strong, testing participants around campus in the first week of class.  Tomorrow, Psychology seniors will be conducting data collection for the 5th and 6th times.  The psychology department needs approximately 900 pieces of participant data between the 10 senior research projects which are currently undergoing.

Research began early this semester due to a few students who are trying to meet the January 31st deadline for APS, the Association for Psychological Science’s 30th annual conference in San Francisco, California.  This is an optional conference, but is the top psychological conference in the country.

Psychology seniors will be attending 3 other conferences this semester, 2 mandatory and 1 optional.  They include the Sierra Nevada College symposium, Nevada Undergraduate Research Symposium at the University of Nevada, Reno, and finally the Psychology Undergraduate Research Symposium at UCLA in Southern California.  Students have until February 31st, one month away, to collect, analyze, and submit data to these conferences.

Six of our seniors are also taking Publication Seminar, a course offered here by Dr. Christina M. Frederick, which helps students publish the findings of their studies in Psychology Journals.

The undergraduate research program at Sierra Nevada College is truly special.  While I may be biased, it gives students a huge step up on the way into Graduate school or Master’s Programs.  More updates to come with the progression of our research process!  Thanks for reading.  🙂

 

Author: Ryan Knuppenburg (Senior Intern)

A Plant-Based Thanksgiving

Due to environmental pressures, family health concerns, and growing awareness from information learned in a health psychology course this semester, I have been meat free for nearly 3 months.  This health psychology class, instructed by Professor Donna Axton, specializes in awareness of the importance of nutrition, diet, education, and environmental stressors which impact a variety of different health outcomes.

Diathesis Stress Model – Predispositions to negative physical or psychological diseases are activated by the presence of environmental or psycho-social stress.

Did you know that the food pyramid or “plate” represented as a healthy meal, is not necessarily what we should be ingesting?  Those same government programs are often funded by milk and dairy corporations which have existed for decades.  There is no doubt a need for farming in this country.  Especially at a smaller level which can increase community collectivism and decrease our environmental footprint.  However, major farms could do their part to stop focusing on maximization of profits and instead switch to sustainable and healthy alternatives.

Did you know that consuming meat is extremely unsustainable for the planet and can not continue at the rate that it is occurring?  Meat production and consumption is one of the largest environmental risks and contributes to fossil-fuel energy consumption.

Did you know that dairy has been linked to many detrimental cardiovascular outcomes, clogged arteries, higher blood pressure, cancer, obesity, gastrointestinal issues and even exposure to the same hormones and chemicals that the animals are treated with?

Due to some of these facts (and many other ones) I attempted to have my own Vegetarian dinner.  And I’m happy to announce IT IS POSSIBLE!!!

We had vegan butter and used almond milk to make mashed red potatoes.  Vegan stuffing, vegan sweet potatoes (couldn’t find vegan marshmallows on time but they do exist) Home-made vegan gravy with vegetable broth that was amazing.  The green bean casserole was also vegan.  It’s pretty easy to eat an all vegetable diet.  Humans evolved to eat meat in colder climates when food was less available, but due to modern advances we do not need to eat meat anymore when we can find anything and grow anything we would like.

The hard part was the turkey substitute.  I will not lie to you, while vegan butter and cream cheese may be better than the real thing, and vegetables and fruits never get all, the Tofurkey we purchased was not that tasty.  The stuffing on the inside was good (and vegan) along with the included brownies which were to die for.  But the Tofurkey tasted like a wet crouton honestly. I still just felt good that I didn’t contribute to the harm of animals or the environment though, and I felt light and energized instead of stuffed like I usually am after eating.

Upon later investigation I found out that Tofurkey is the cheapest (it was 24 bucks) and most flavorless substitute to get.  Quitting meat and dairy consumption is pretty easy with all the alternatives.  Especially when you take into account the health detriments, hormonal imbalances, environmental stress, animal abuses, and in-sustainability of meat and dairy consumption.

I included pictures of dinner and some vegan ingredients you can find at places like Natural Grocers and Trader Joe’s (some I have even found at Walmart).  All in all it was an amazing Thanksgiving.  I hope you see from the pictures that it is possible!  I’m super proud of myself for accomplishing this for the first time ever and can’t wait to improve next year by being prepared with vegan marshmallows, vegan pies, and a better turkey substitute…

The only major downside I can say is there wasn’t any scraps to give the puppy!

 

Author: Ryan Knuppenburg (Senior Intern)

Thank You Veterans!

In honor of Veteran’s Day which passed this last weekend, I spoke to Landen Chau, one of the several military veterans who attend Sierra Nevada College.

Landen will be graduating next month.  He served in the Air force as an intelligence analyst providing information to pilots, and men on the ground for four years and is now only 23 years old.  Landen took an active role in Veteran’s Affairs, attending a previous research study conducted at Sierra Nevada College which looked into the political aspect of drone warfare, conducted by alums Laura Baker and Sephoia Crystal two years ago.  The two studied veteran disenfranchisement through recording and analyzing responses at public forums.  Not only did Landen attend both public forums, when it was his turn to conduct research last year, he also choose a research question that specialized in veteran affairs.

“What has your experience of undergraduate research at Sierra Nevada College been like and how has your own research had an impact on your life?”

Landen (near exact quotes) – I gained a lot of respect for the program, because I didn’t know research was a part of graduating.  Picking my own topic made it easier and worth it, because I was able to pick a topic that I was interested in.  I presented my data at UCLA, UNR, and the student symposium here at SNC.  I studied the use of water as a co-therapist by using measures that monitored stress and mood.  (Not only did Landen use undergrad participants from SNC, but he included actual veteran data that he collected himself outside of campus).  The experience of presenting and studying something I was passionate about made it much more applicable to my life and helpful to me.

“How has your experience as an intern prepared you for your future?”

Landen – I’ve become more diplomatic when talking with others.  Haha, but seriously it has taught me to work better with people I do not have the best outlook on, and to have a more positive outlook towards others who I may not always understand at times.

“Plans for after graduation?”

Landen – I’m going to take a break from school for a while so no Grad school at this time.  I plan on finding employment as an outdoor therapy recreation guide or kayaking guide.

“Last one, the people who have made the biggest impact on your education and life at Sierra Nevada College?

Landen – When I first got here Rosie was my adviser and she helped me out a lot.  She helped me feel comfortable when I first got here since I didn’t know anybody yet.  Christina has also has had a major impact on me, because she is always willing to help and actually goes out of her way to help all of us.  Also the outdoor adventure trips, where I guided for the school, and the student symposiums, where I presented and saw student presentations, all had an impact on me.

 

Landen is only one of the veteran’s that I have personally had class with here at Sierra Nevada College.  Independent research conducted by the Psychology Department here at SNC has provided important contributions to Veteran affairs.  Landen’s research found a significant difference in the water group for distress levels and mood regardless of veteran status.  This highlights the importance of nature therapy and indicates water as a co-therapist may be valuable in therapy settings.

So in honor of Veteran’s Day, Thank you to all who have served at Sierra Nevada College and across the United States!  We are so grateful to you for your service.

 

Author: Ryan Knuppenburg (Senior Intern)

Observational Study Fall 2017

Last week our senior Research Methods class conducted on observational study on the Sierra Nevada College campus outside Patterson Hall.

An observational study is a method of research in which the researcher simply observes behaviors that occur naturally in the environment.  This differs from experimental research because there is no manipulation of variables or controls.  The strength of this type of research is that one can observe things as they happen naturally in the environment.  Other benefits include gaining access to situations and people where interviews are impossible or unable to be used.  Some weaknesses of observational studies are that they can be very time consuming, the researcher could influence the outcome of results, and observations could be made subjectively.  This creates a higher role conflict as observers may inadvertently influence results.  Confounding variables may also influence results, as researchers do not use control or manipulation as they would in experimental research to limit them.

There are two types of observational studies: Systematic and Natural

Natural observation occurs when there are no parameters set up for the researcher to record.  Observers simply go to a specified location with an idea in mind to study.  An example of this would be to go to an airport and simply record every single behavior that relates to what you are looking into: say love.  This is the example which Professor Christina M. Frederick used in class.  Previous colleagues of hers went to the airport and observed behaviors which related to love (kissing, hugging, crying, etc.).

Systematic observation occurs when observers go to a set location with certain parameters.  Instead of recording any and all behaviors which may or may not relate and analyzing all of them, researchers have certain parameters and measures which they already plan on recording beforehand.  This sort of observation allows more structure to control the complete randomness that can occur during natural observation.

Last Wednesday our Research Methods class conducted a Systematic Observational Study in order to gauge responses to an overt act of littering.  We decided to concentrate on littering behavior due to the fact that one of our four core themes focuses on sustainability.  This is no surprise for a campus located in the beautiful Lake Tahoe Basin, much of which is within protected national forests and open preserve state park land.  Water clarity in Tahoe has been suffering in recent years to do increased tourism around the lake, which has crystal blue waters that resemble The Mediterranean.

The reason this study was a systematic observation is because we went into the situation with planned conditions and parameters to measure.  The two conditions the class used was whether or not the litter was dropped less than 5 feet away from a trash basket or whether it was dropped more than ten feet away from the trash basket.  Observers recorded whether or not the participants were indifferent, concerned, hostile, or constructive.

We defined these parameters as such:

Indifferent – No words spoken and no action taken

Concerned – Words or action taken with neutral tone of language

Hostile – Words or action taken with hostility or anger

Constructive – Words or actions taken with positive or helpful tone

Radius – Feet from trash can

Our class situated ourselves outside Patterson Hall.  Observers were scattered at lunch tables and in study groups in the lawn.  Two students were located on either end of Patterson Hall as interceptors and debriefers.  These two students stopped participants who appeared angry or upset and explained to them that nobody was actually throwing trash on the ground, but that we were actually conducting an observational study.

One last student, lucky me, got to act as the Confederate.  A confederate in a psychological study is somebody who is essentially “in on it.”  In this case the confederate was the litterer.  I chose to do this role hoping it would allow me some more insight for writing this article.

Results of the study were quite surprising.  We discovered that only 16% of students actually did anything about the litter.  Of this 16% the majority of participants picked up the trash and said nothing to me.  There was only two guys that said anything, and it was a quiet “you dropped something bud” without picking up the trash.  Many students who passed by were quick to glance a dirty look at me, but apparently none of them cared enough to stop and pick up the trash.  These results were very surprising to me, especially at a school located in such an environmentally friendly and gorgeous location with one of its’ main core themes being Sustainability!

Our class decided to believe the best in our fellow man, and explained our results to the Bystander Effect.  This concept comes from social psychology.  The bystander effect is the tendency for individuals to ignore emergency situations or to not intervene in a situation which they know is wrong, simply due to the presence of others.  I believe that the bystander effect is one of the major factors that can explain the presence of litter around the Lake Tahoe Basin.  Many people believe that park rangers and others will take responsibility or take care of something if they are there.  This is called diffusion of responsibility.  Our brains tend to diffuse responsibility onto others in order to reduce stress.  This ego reaction prevents us from feeling the guilt of not intervening into a situation even when we know we should.

This got me thinking.  Since moving to Lake Tahoe a little more over three years ago, my appreciation of the environment and beauty of this earth has increased ten-fold.  As a member of the community, I am part of the Incline Village and Lake Tahoe pages on Facebook.  Often times there are locals who complain about littering.  These same individuals, who make profits from the tourism that the lake brings, spend more time complaining online about tourists littering than actually doing anything to make it better.  How many students walked by me and shot me a dirty look, but didn’t have it within them to stop and pick up the trash?  Perhaps if more individuals around the community took action and helped clean up litter, the tourists who have less appreciation of the environment would model our behavior, and also clean up.

Due to the weaknesses of our study, I decided to not be too upset with the 16% pick-up rate on campus.  There were several things we could have done better.  First, a group of observers in a study group on the lawn were probably too close to the location of the litter drop.  This likely exacerbated the bystander effect.  Another weakness of this study was that we could have had an additional confederate.  This would have reduced sampling error by increasing the sample size in our study and getting us closer to the actual rate of students who would have picked up the litter.  Having less observers, or observers who were more hidden in the environment, would have helped decrease diffusion of responsibility among participants.

The senior research methods class is blessed to be able to actually conduct studies in the field.  We are currently devising and polishing our own individual experimental research which we will each conduct next semester.  Activities like this and our in class observational study allow us to not only learn about psychology from a book, but get out in the field and conduct research in topics which we are each individually interested in.  This is just one of the many reasons why I have a great amount of respect for our Psychology Program.

 

Author: Ryan Knuppenburg (Senior Intern)

Student of the Week

Gabby Ariganello is a 24 year old Psychology student at Sierra Nevada College.  She is a senior this year and will be graduating in May.  She moved to Reno four years ago from Oakland, California, to attend TMCC and then Reno University of Nevada.  She then transferred to SNC last year.

“What do you like to do for fun” (Answers Paraphrased)

 

-I enjoy hiking, backpacking, camping, and going on spontaneous adventures.  I also love

my dog and taking him on hikes.  I dabble in art, but I wouldn’t call myself an artist.

 

“How did you hear about Sierra Nevada College?”

 

-I found out about SNC when I was part of the girls lacrosse team at UNR.  We played

against the SNC team and that was the first time I heard about this school.

 

“What are your plans for after you graduate this spring?”

 

-I want to be a teacher of an autism classroom.  Nevada has a really great program for

autism specialists.

 

“How has the SNC Psychology Program directly impacted your life?

 

-It opened me up to new ways of learning and thinking that has helped me personally as

well as prepared me to help my future students.

 

“How has an SNC psychology professor impacted your life directly?”

 

– Dan Aalbers helped invoke a lot of independent thought into my learning and inspired

me do research outside of class on topics I was interested in.  We were able to discuss

personal passions or interests rather than just teaching to a test or to a book.

 

“What makes SNC better than other colleges you have attended?”

 

– I enjoy the small class rooms because it makes it easier to understand concepts and

to talk to your professor.  You can get help more quickly and it feels like your professors

are personally invested in you.  This also increases accountability and has helped increase

my grades.  Friends and teachers help achieve your goals because it is such a close knit

community.  Also SNC offers the chance at independent research in topics we are each

individually interested in, which makes you feel like you have full control over your

education.  Another plus: labs are camping trips and P.E. credits are rock climbing

courses or paddle-boarding lessons.

 

“How has SNC prepared you for being a teacher for children with autism?”

 

-Having such flexibility in what we get to study in every class allows us to pick topics

we are interested in.  This has allowed me to “specialize” and learn many things that

are directly linked with my future plans and will benefit my future students.  Some of

these skills include breathing exercises and meditation practices that I can implement

while working with kids with autism.

 

“What is your favorite memory from Lake Tahoe that you will carry with you through your life?”

 

-My favorite memory is sitting in an 8am class and then being able to leave and go skiing

afterwards or go to the beach.

 

Author: Ryan Knuppenburg (Senior Intern)

 

 

Staff Member of the Week

This week I interviewed Sarah A. Fricke, alumni and current employee of Sierra Nevada College, to gauge her experience at Lake Tahoe and the impact her education has made on her life. She is employed as the Senior Administrative Assistant to the Psychology Program Chair, Christina M. Frederick.

Sarah graduated from the Psychology Department at SNC in 2015. She is 27 years young and migrated to the Lake Tahoe basin from the Eastern San Francisco Bay area in 2012.  She decided on the Lake Tahoe area because she always came here on family vacations and has always loved it.  How did she find Lake Tahoe?  A simple google of colleges in Lake Tahoe, of course!

“How did the Psychology Department directly impact you when you were still a student”(Answers paraphrased)

– Donna Axton helped me through a lot of hardships when I first began at SNC. She is so kind and caring and she helped me foster those qualities in myself to improve life and relationships with others.  Also, Christina Frederick has been an integral part in my success as a student and has taught me so much in regards to my work ethic and handling more responsibilities.  Christina helped me to start believing more in myself and that is important.

“How has the Psychology Department impacted you since being a Teacher’s Assistant for Christina?”

– I’ve learned so much about teaching, helping others, being more in charge of my responsibilities, and it has improved my life overall. It has also prepared me for Graduate School in a big way.

“How did you get involved in working with Christina and becoming a Teacher’s Assistant?

– I had actually never met Christina, but I was friends with her previous Administrative Assistant. I interviewed with her and began as a student worker, helping with the psychology blog, various clerical duties, and doing internship hours.  Then I eventually got interviewed for the Administrative Assistant and TA positions.

“What are your future plans after you leave Sierra Nevada College?”

– I really would like to enroll in a graduate program in counseling. My future aspirations include helping juveniles in detention centers and helping implement programs in prisons so inmates can have access to higher education.

“Can you discuss the research you’ve been involved in here?”

– I conducted my undergraduate research on the topic of self-esteem. I was also invited to participate in two additional projects that were funded through the Sierra Nevada College Internal Grant (one focusing on provisional and probational students and one focusing on water conservation).

I presented my undergraduate research as well as the Internal Grant projects at the Sierra Nevada College Psychology Research Fair. I have also presented at various external conferences, such as, UCLA, Stanford, and UNR.

“Last but not least, what is your favorite memory from Lake Tahoe you will carry with you through out your life?”

– The day I graduated, because so many of my friends and family drove up from all over California to support me. It felt so amazing to know all my hard work had paid off.

Author: Ryan M. Knuppenburg (Senior Intern)