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)


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