Santa Clarita School Shooting

This morning there was a school shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita. It’s sad to say that two students were killed during this tragedy and several others were injured including the shooter himself. According to the New York Times this is the eleventh school shooting in America this year. It’s sad to see all of these tragedies happening so often. Let’s keep these students, the school and all of the families in our thoughts!



Author: Jamie DeFrank (Junior Intern)

Why get your Bachelor’s in Psychology??



Wondering why getting a Bachelors in Psychology is a good idea? The graph above shows just a few careers in the psychology field and what the potential salary could be. A degree in psychology can open the door to a variety of careers and it’s an opportunity to make a difference in peoples lives. It’s also a great way to learn more about yourself and others. It also teaches you how to analyze, organize and interpret data. Psychology is an awesome major!!


Author: Jamie DeFrank (Junior Intern)

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween Everyone!! We hope everyone has a great night. This is a reminder to be safe and respectful. This shows that costumes are not a type of consent! One of the best ways of consent is verbally. A costume is not a way of communicating someones consent. Consent should be given each time before a new activity. You should never refuse to acknowledge when someone says no.

Lets all be safe and have a fun time tonight!


Author: Jamie DeFrank (Junior Intern)

Senior Research Class Observational Study

Yesterday our senior research class conducted an observational study to track cooperative behavior for a reward. They had a box of doughnuts and in order for a student walking by to get one they had to dance first. The class found that students in groups were more likely to dance and if the student holding the “dance for doughnuts” sign was dancing a student passing by was also more likely to dance. The class also got our professor Chuck Levitan to join in on the dancing to get a doughnut!

Author: Jamie DeFrank (Junior Intern)

Student Spotlight!

Student Spotlight!

Meet Vanessa! You may have seen her as you enter the school library! Vanessa is a psychology student from Ely, Nevada. Back in 2010 Vanessa suffered a brain injury due to a school bully. She’s been through so much but at the end of the day she continued to remain hopeful. She started reaching out to others and shared her struggles which gave her a lot of enjoyment in her life. Vanessa’s goal is to change the world as an entrepreneur with her own business ventures or partnering with companies that share her same goals for mental health in the market place. Her words of encourage: “ Never give up, love yourself through every stage of life, and never take no for an answer because it simply means you haven’t spoke to the right person yet. Most importantly stop saying no to yourself and start saying yes to your own personal greatness”. You are a true inspiration Vanessa!
#sncpsychology #mentalhealth #inspirational

Term of the Day!

Term of the Day!!

Phubbing: Ignoring someone’s company in order to pay attention to your phone.


This happens too often in society these days. You ever try and talk to your friend and they pull out their phone to look at while you’re talking? They’re being a phubber!


Don’t be a phubber! Give your full attention to people while they are talking to you! Be present.


Author: Jamie DeFrank (Junior Intern)

Psychology Professor Spotlight!




Donna Axton is a professor in our Psychology Department and the head of our Music Department. She has been a dedicated professor at SNC for over 30 years! Donna has a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology and a Masters in Piano. She also has a Marriage and Family Therapist License. Donna loves teaching all her classes but some of her favorites are Art Therapy, Clinical Methodologies, Abnormal Psychology, and Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology. When she’s not in the classroom she enjoys gardening, cooking, and playing in the two bands she’s a part of.  We are so lucky to have Donna as an integral part of our program!


Author: Jamie DeFrank (Intern)

How Inferences and Assumptions Hurt Us.

It is important to know the difference between the two, and be able to identify which one we are doing.…assumptions/484

I believe this is the basis for critical thinking. To re-construct the foundations of our ideas to involve those concepts and perspectives which before were unknown to us. This is one greatest skills that we can display in our interactions with others. Unfortunately, I feel that we would rather hold on to what we already perceive we know then trying to understand something that might not support our beliefs.

I also adamantly believe that if we continue to rely on the past for how we expect people to act that we are normally proven correct. So much of our environment can be affected by us and our attitudes towards each other. If we perceive that people are good and we believe the best in people we often get a response that confirms our positive beliefs. The opposite works as well. If we expect nothing but negativity from a person it almost impossible for the interaction not to feel that way to us. No matter what may have actually occurred. My point is, inferences and assumptions are something that we rely and yet struggle with on a daily basis. We blame the models in our environments for our shortcomings. Yet, how many of us try to control these for the benefit for all, and not just confirming our self centered safe beliefs?

I challenge every all of you (myself included) to keep a humanistic and positive regard toward all people that we encounter. It is up to us to not repeat history, and make our own present circumstances better than they are. Even if past aggressions have occurred this is a chance to prove that if we can be better than our own mistakes, so can others.

Ethan Bolinger

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:

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)