Last Updated: 2018-19 Academic Year
The psychology faculty are active scholars and maintain current research programs. Faculty members have a wide range of research interests in both human and animal behavior. Areas of specialization include:
- Behavioral neuroscience – (A. Bailey, T. Dennis, G. Fernandez)
- Clinical/counseling psychology – (T. Dunn, A. Ikizler, L. Williams)
- Cognitive psychology – (N. Foster., J. Mantell, R. Platt)
- Developmental psychology – (C. Koenig, S. Mirabile)
- Social psychology – (G. Freedman, J. Tickle)
Below each faculty member’s name you’ll find their current areas of interest and some possible areas for St. Mary’s Projects they would be especially well-qualified to supervise. If you are interested in the research of any current faculty member, please don’t hesitate to contact them directly to discuss opportunities.
Dr. Aileen Bailey*, email@example.com, Goodpaster Hall 102, x4338
Behavioral neuroscienceA. Animal Models of Depression
Excitatory synapses of the brain are altered in various animal models of depression. Traditional antidepressants are known to alter these excitatory synapses but behavioral effects are not measureable for several weeks. Therefore recent research has focused on other mechanisms to rapidly restore these excitatory synapses. My lab is currently testing newer fast-acting compounds with antidepressant effects. We utilize various animal models of depression to measure aspects of anhedonia and its reversal following antidepressant administration. (see K. Kostelnik SMP; K. La SMP).
B. Neurological Mechanisms of Learning
Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by hypofunction of the basal forebrain cholinergic system which results in memory and attentional deficits. Progressive neurodegeneration renders the primary source of cortical acetylcholine, the nucleus basalis magnocellularis (nBM) unable to innervate the cortex at normal physiological levels. Recent research as implicated a group of hypothalamic neuropeptides, the orexins, in aiding the efflux of endogenous acetylcholine in the nBM. My lab has recently investigated the direct effects of intrabasalis orexin infusion on the acquisition and reversal of an olfactory discrimination tasks and more broadly on aspects of cognitive flexibility. The current focus of the lab is the role of Orexin A in aspects of cognition. (P. Piantadosi SMP, A. Holmes SMP, Z. Forrester SMP)
C. Animal Models of Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a chronic and progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by motor impairments, including slowness in movement and lack of movement. Clinical diagnosis of PD follows a greater than 50% loss of dopaminergic concentrations. However, prior to this level of loss, a progression of behavioral changes may occur prior to clinical diagnosis. My lab has used optogenetic techniques to investigate the role of the direct and indirect pathways of the basal ganglia on motor movement in an animal mode of PD. (see B. Roberts SMP, S. Jarrin SMP, S. Hirsch SMP, J. Goodrich SMP, M. Hilbert SMP)
D. Animal Learning and Behavior
There are an endless number of animal learning and behavior projects that could be done. Some examples of previous projects include (a) examination of neurological, cognitive, and social behavior in dolphins, (b) mating behavior of captive seahorses, (c) behavioral differences in wild vs. semi-domestic vervet monkeys. (see N. Little SMP; see H. Lobkowitz SMP, K. Shuman SMP).
Dr. Torry Dennis, firstname.lastname@example.org, Goodpaster Hall 126, x4347
A. Sex Differences in Cocaine and Opioid Addiction
It is well established that women and men respond differently to drugs of abuse. Women begin use at an earlier age, progress through the stages of addiction more quickly, and are more susceptible to relapse than men. Through the support of both human and animal literature, it is clear that one of the factors mediating these differences is the action of ovarian hormones. Increases in the ovarian hormone estradiol have been linked to potentiated acquisition of cocaine and morphine administration, increased responding for drugs in the maintenance of addiction, and increased cue-reactivity in female rats. Conversely, progesterone has been shown to have a protective effect in the context of addiction. My lab will continue to tease apart the influence of both sex and sex hormones on drug reward, drug aversion, and motivation.
B. Augmenting Memories to Treat Addiction
Memories are not permanent and flawless records of our past experience, but rather the manifestation of malleable networks of neurons that undergo augmentation and updating as a course of normal functioning. When memories are accessed, they return to a labile state that requires reconsolidation to take place for the memory to be preserved. Disruption of reconsolidation decreases the strength of the activated network and, consequently, the salience of the accessed memory is degraded. My lab will explore the possibility of treating multiple components of addiction by targeting memory systems to weaken maladaptive memories and strengthening memories that would reduce relapse.
C. Transitions in Addiction
Addiction is a chronic and relapsing disease that is marked by several significant transitions as it progresses. One important feature is a transition from positive reinforcement to negative reinforcement. When use of a drug is first initiated, most individuals have a positive subjective experience. However, as use continues the drug becomes less rewarding and the positive nature of this experience is diminished. This is often accompanied by a growing generalized negative affect and “motivational withdrawal” that is temporarily relieved by the use of the drug. In other words, the individual transitions from initially consuming the drug to feel good, to needing to consume the drug to feel less bad. Another feature in addiction is the transition from goal-oriented “willful” behavior to more compulsive and habitual patterns of responding. With continued use, the brain changes so that the “decision” to consume drugs and the pattern of behaviors associated with finding and consuming the drug becomes more “automatic.” My lab will use preclinical models of addiction to explore the underlying neurobiological mechanisms at play in these transitions.
Dr. Trevor Dunn, email@example.com, Goodpaster Hall 135, x2249
My primary research interest focuses on ways oppressive experiences (e.g., heterosexism, sexism) impact the lives of marginalized groups. For example, sexual minorities often face stressors (e.g., minority stress) related to both external and internalized heterosexism. External stressors (e.g., experiences of discrimination, harassment, rejection, or violence) and internalized oppression (e.g., negative attitudes or beliefs about oneself and one’s group) often contribute to psychological distress. My research focuses on examining this link between external and internalized stressors and mental health outcomes.
B. Resilience and Coping
Another line of research looks at ways that marginalized individuals use adaptive coping strategies (e.g., connection to community, activism) as a response to oppressive experiences (e.g., discrimination). For example, I have examined variables such as connection to community, meaning-making strategies, and awareness of heterosexism and looked at their role in link between experiencing discrimination and engaging in activism in LGBQ individuals.
C. System-level Interventions, Social Justice, and Social Change
As a counseling psychologist, another specialty is using research to help implement broader, systems-level interventions that foster social changes. For example, I have partnered with an HIV service organization using strategies such as needs assessment, literature review, and political lobbying to advocate at the Tennessee legislature for needle exchanges to reduce HIV transmission.
Dr. Gina Fernendez, firstname.lastname@example.org, Goodpaster Hall 124, x4458
A. Animal Models of Adolescent Drug Abuse
An addiction is a compulsive engagement in an activity that at one point was rewarding, but now leads to negative consequences and a low quality of life. Addiction and drug abuse can be studied using animal models, which help us investigate the neural pathways that are involved in the establishment and dysregulation of motivated behaviors. Looking at drug addiction, we can use rodent models to explore substance abuse disorders: How are drugs reinforcing? How do intrinsic reward seeking behaviors become habitual? What are the neural processes that support reward seeking behaviors? My lab models the abuse of alcohol and nicotine during adolescence, and then examines their effects on learning and memory and reward seeking behaviors in adulthood. Several SMP research questions stem from these interests: Do nicotine and alcohol exposure have an additive or synergistic effect on reward seeking in adulthood? What type of motivated behaviors are impaired by co-morbid drug use, and which are spared? What type of dopamine cells are involved in the behavioral changes following co-morbid drug exposure, and do they change across development
B.Neural Basis of Cognitive Flexibility
Cognitive flexibility refers to our ability to adapt cognitive strategies and behaviors in response to changes in the environment. As an important executive function, it is dependent on the brain’s frontal cortex. There are many factors (age, drugs, previous experience) that can alter cognitive flexibility performance in rodents. I’m currently interested in the interaction between multiple drug exposures during adolescence on cognitive performance in adulthood. In exploring these effects, general questions arise such as: What levels of alcohol intoxication are sufficient to produce long- lasting cognitive deficits in rodents? How do neurons in the frontal cortex and in the “reward” pathway physically change following exposure? Are these changes a result of drug exposure, withdrawal, training or some other biological process? My lab will focus on the role that adolescent alcohol and nicotine exposure play in the disruption of behavioral flexibility.
C. Neural Development and Behavior
As the central nervous system matures, it’s typical development can be altered by a myriad of environmental variables. I am interested in mentoring SMPs that examine how changes to the maternal environment (both positive and negative) affect neural development of offspring. Potential students could focus on whether stress, exposure to drugs, or environmental enrichment affect social behavior in young rats. Other areas of potential study include the examination of maternal and early diet on anxiety- like behavior in young rats. These projects would also build on one another, with SMPs investigating both behavioral and neural consequences of early life manipulations, such as their effect on the growth and lifespan of new neurons.
Dr. Gili Freedman, email@example.com, Goodpaster Hall 137, x4426
A. Social Rejection
Social rejection is a frequent and unpleasant occurrence in our daily lives. Most of us have been on both sides of the equation: being rejected and doing the rejection. However, very little research has examined how we can make rejection less hurtful and what the process is like for the rejector. My work on social rejection investigates all aspects of the process of social rejection including how the rejection occurs, the language (or lack of language) that is used, how each party is perceived, and how the process could be improved for both the rejector and the rejected person. I am particularly interested in understanding the consequences for rejectors when they engage in different forms of rejection. Research on social rejection can address rejection that occurs in a wide range of contexts including friendships, romantic relationships, workplace relationships, and families.
B. Interpersonal Biases
Biases against women and individuals from underrepresented backgrounds are still prevalent in our society, particularly in certain contexts such as in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Importantly, and problematically, these biases can be internalized and can influence how individuals perceive themselves and the world around them. In my work on biases, I focus on examining the types of biases individuals espouse and how they manifest, particularly in the academic context. I also examine how biases impact other interpersonal processes, like social rejection. Although my work tends to focus on gender biases, I am also very interested in research on racial biases, biases based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and biases based on socioeconomic status.
C. Creating Interventions
How can we leverage social psychology to reduce interpersonal biases and the effects they have on individuals? By applying social psychology to social problems, we can learn more about both the basic science of psychology as well as the social problem at hand. My work on interventions has focused on using narratives and games to reduce biases against women in STEM and to improve outcomes for women in STEM. To create the game interventions, I have worked with collaborators and students across a diverse range of fields including art, computer science, and psychology. Research on interventions can include evaluating existing interventions, reimagining interventions for use with novel populations, and creating and testing new interventions.
Dr. Nathan Foster*, firstname.lastname@example.org, Goodpaster Hall 139, x4967
A. Intentional Forgetting and Beliefs about Memory
Much of my research centers on the investigation of how we forget recently learned information. In this paradigm, subjects study lists of words, and occasionally they may be instructed to forget portions of the lists. Our ability to intentionally forget is important in situations where old information becomes irrelevant or counterproductive to our current goals (e.g., out-of-date information, a route blocked by construction, or a friend’s old job all constitute “to-be-forgotten information”). Research has shown that our ability to forget on command is not guaranteed, and can depend on a number of factors. I have a particular interest in the influence of beliefs on intentional forgetting ability. For example, if we think we are bad at learning a list of vocabulary words, we may ignore instruction to forget those words even though we have actually learned them quite well. SMP projects related this topic may explore some of the metacognitive factors that contribute—or fail to contribute—to intentional forgetting ability.
B. Research on Metacognition and Categorization
Knowledge acquisition depends on our ability to learn new concepts and to integrate, or categorize, these concepts into a broader knowledge structure. The rules that govern categorization are not well understood in part because cognitive psychologists have struggled to figure out how people accurately categorize unfamiliar concepts. A new and exciting approach involves asking subjects to rate how well they know a specific example of a concept, and in turn, whether or not they can categorize it. Here, subjects may fail to categorize because they are overconfident about their ability. Overconfidence has been shown to be related to underperformance, and increasing subjects’ accuracy in judging their categorization abilities might help us identify ways in which people can get better at categorization. A promising SMP project might investigate some of the boundary conditions related to accurate versus inaccurate judgments about categorization. These processes have implications for learning in the classroom because they suggest that improving metacognition might improve the learning of novel concepts.
C. Predictions about Exam Performance in a Classroom Setting
In the classroom setting, students often must evaluate how well they are studying or preparing for an exam. For example, if students are overconfident about their preparation, they might under-prepare and do poorly on an exam as a result. Thus, my third area of interest involves evaluating the accuracy of judgments about performance in the classroom. More specifically, I’m interested in how accurate students are when predicting exam scores. Accurate predictions are often correlated with increased exam scores and this outcome suggests that being able to evaluate your upcoming preparedness is important for doing well in class. An interesting SMP project might involve measuring student predictions about upcoming exam performance, and later exam performance, and then exploring the contribution of other factors that might influence performance. It is also important to identify factors that might increase prediction accuracy. If students can get better and assessing what they know versus what they do not know, they might use this information to study more effectively
Dr. Ayse Ikizler*, email@example.com, Goodpaster Hall 141, x4258
*On leave F18
A. Oppression and Mental Health Outcomes among Ethnic and Sexual Minorities
My primary research interest focuses on the ways in which oppressive experiences (e.g., ethnic discrimination, Islamophobia, sexism, heterosexism) and traditional gender role socialization relate to mental health outcomes. I am especially interested in the experiences of sexual minorities (e.g., LGBQ) and individuals of Arab/Middle Eastern/North African (AMENA) backgrounds in the United States, and understanding identity development among diverse individuals with multiple oppressions (e.g., sexual minority women, queer people of color). I approach these topics using feminist-multicultural perspectives (e.g., relational-cultural theory, Hatzenbuehler’s psychological mediation framework, Meyer’s Minority Stress Model, Jack’s Silencing the Self Theory) and an appreciation for the intersectionality of multiple oppressions as described by Cole (2009). Overall, my aim is to develop a better understanding of how the often invisible struggles of marginalized groups impact mental health, both negatively and positively. Projects in this area may include: qualitative studies on intersectional identity experiences or quantitative studies on the relationship between coping with discrimination, cultural values, and minority stress.
B. Social Justice and Social Change
As a counseling psychologist, I recognize the need for understanding and intervening with our communities at both the individual level and at social/institutional levels. Thus, another research interest of mine is about using research to help effect social change and evaluating such intervention efforts. Sometimes such efforts are designed for the sole purpose of educating the public (e.g., providing information about Muslims and Islam) and other times an “intervention” may be a work of art or other event that exists for other purposes (e.g., a theater piece, lecture from guest speaker). If interested in this area, I would encourage you to consider how your particular knowledge and skills as a researcher and expert in psychology can be used to promote social change. Projects in this area may include: summarizing multicultural research for a broad or lay audience, evaluating existing events and projects aimed to educate the public, or designing intervention for reducing stigma and negative attitudes towards Muslims/AMENAs or other People of Color.
C. Improving Mental Health Services for Marginalized Communities
Finally, I am also interested in improving access and mental health services for marginalized communities (e.g., Muslims, immigrants, LGBTQ) by assessing needs and providing resources to promote clinicians’ multicultural competences. This line of research could focus on prospective clients’ needs or on the needs of clinicians that would help them better serve particular marginalized groups. Projects in this area may include: needs assessment for particular organizations or populations (e.g., victims/survivors of intimate partner violence), a literature review and guide for identifying the most effective ways of reducing stigma against help-seeking behavior in particular groups, or assessing current clinician competence with respect to a particular population or clinical issue that minority clients face (e.g., discrimination).
Dr. Cynthia Koenig, firstname.lastname@example.org, Goodpaster Hall 133, x4344
A. The Psychology of Death and Dying
Research on death and dying indicates that fear and anxiety about death and dying tend to vary by age. For example, fear of death is greatest among adolescents, young adults, and middle-aged adults; although adolescents typically deny the possibility of their own death. A variety of factors appear to be related to death anxiety, including religiosity, spirituality, and neuroticism.
– Investigate the relationship between death anxiety and risk taking behaviors among college students
– Investigate the relationship between experiences with death (age, relationship to deceased, number of experiences, etc.) and death anxiety among college students
– Explore ethnic/religious/cultural variations in death anxiety among college students and professors
B. Predictors of Ageism and Its Effects
Ageism (prejudice and discrimination towards individuals based upon their age) has received less research attention compared to other forms of prejudice, like sexism and racism. Yet, if we all live long enough, we are likely to experience ageism in some form (e.g., not being hired for a job because of one’s age). I am interested in both factors that predict ageist views and the effects of experiencing ageism.
– How do various factors intersect to predict whether or not an individual is likely to express ageism (e.g., negative/positive portrayals in media, time spent with older adults, emotional closeness to older relatives)?
– How are women impacted by the effects of multiple forms of prejudice and discrimination (e.g., sexism, beautyism, and ageism)?
C. Emerging Adulthood
Jeffrey Arnett has proposed that the period between the late teens and early twenties be defined as “emerging adulthood…a distinct period demographically, subjectively, and in terms of identity explorations.” He has suggested this stage of development is unique when we examine the identity explorations, job/career patterns, frequent residence changes, and romantic relationships that occur during this time. Emerging adulthood (approx ages 18 – 25) is hypothesized to exist only in cultures that allow young people a prolonged period of independent role exploration.
– Explore differences in this developmental stage among college students with various cultural/ethnic/religious backgrounds
– Explore views toward relationships, marriage, job/careers, religion, politics among emerging adults
– How do various factors contribute to college student success and retention?
Dr. James Mantell, email@example.com, Goodpaster Hall 131, x4468
A. Music perception and production
Music is a universal human behavior that requires the coordinated use of general auditory, associative, affective, and executive functions. Besides exploring the auditory contents of music, popular topics within this field include the acquisition of expert musical skills, individual differences (e.g., with regard to pitch perception such as absolute and relative pitch), and music and emotion. My relevant work has investigated the sensorimotor and cognitive processes involved during singing. For example, how does language content influence singing accuracy? Why can’t some people carry a tune? What is the relationship between singing and speech performance?
B. Vocal Imitation
Talkers tend to reproduce specific features of just‐heard speech. Research has shown that this vocal imitation occurs at multiple levels of linguistic processing including syntactic (phrase), prosodic (intonation), lexical (word), and phonemic (speech-sound) levels. One reasonable explanation for unintentional vocal imitation is that language and speech representations are incredibly plastic. That is, they evince patterns of change very quickly. Recent models of speech production suggest that internal modeling mechanisms predict sensory and motor outcomes of planned speech. These psychological mechanisms also utilize feedback to augment ongoing speech processes. Thus, it is reasonable to hypothesize that real-time speech perception can influence ongoing speech planning and production. I also study intentional vocal imitation to assess the accuracy with which individuals can replicate sound patterns they have just heard. By comparing vocal performance in both automatic and intentional vocal imitation paradigms, I hope to more clearly understand the psychological mechanisms underpinning vocal behaviors.
C. Speech perception
Humans present a remarkable capacity for verbal language. The fact that humans are the only species to develop such a complex language system suggests that we possess a cognitive module uniquely adapted for speech perception. Yet, accumulating evidence suggests that a specialized speech system may not be the entire explanation for our incredible speech abilities. One line of my research is dedicated to exploring how the speech perception system automatically interprets the duration of all auditory events, regardless of their source. I have investigated how nonspeech information, such as simple pure tones, can reliably alter the identification of speech segments, such as stop consonants (the sound /g/ in the word “goat”). The goal of this research is to determine the extent to which general auditory perceptual processes influence speech perception. This information may ultimately help to explain why humans are so good at speech processing.
D. Distributed, Situated, and Embodied Cognition
Research in these diverse areas of cognitive science seek to model, predict, and understand cognitive processes as more than the sum output of exclusively brain-based mechanisms. Distributed cognition theorists consider the mind from a wider perspective as a sociocultural cognitive system, such that culture, context, and technology are intimately entwined with human cognitive processes. Generally, just how can tools, computers, cultural norms, and the physical body itself influence memory, problem solving, and other cognitive processes?
Dr. Scott Mirabile, firstname.lastname@example.org, Goodpaster Hall 122, x3356
I. Children’s development during early childhood (approx. ages 2-6) establishes the foundation for their future disposition and adjustment across multiple domains. A critical process during early childhood is the development of emotional competence: the knowledge of one’s own and others’ emotions and the ability to express and regulate emotions in keeping with one’s goals and social expectations. Emotional competence supports children’s development in multiple contexts including social, behavioral, and academic contexts. Given the importance of early emotional development, the following research areas are devoted to children’s emotional competence and its developmental consequences and how parents and teachers socialize emotional competence. The following hypotheses could be tested with questionnaires (and/or mixed methods). Participants would be recruited from a pool of willing participants (parents, children, and teachers) at local schools.
A. Early Childhood Emotional Competence and Adjustment
– Hypothesis: Early childhood emotional competence is a unitary construct consisting of interrelated processes of emotion expression, emotion regulation, and emotion understanding.
– Hypothesis: Various adjustment outcomes (including internalizing and externalizing problems like anxiety and aggression, respectively) relate specifically and uniquely to various profiles of emotional competence (i.e., different levels of emotion expression, regulation, and understanding).
– Hypothesis: Aspects of emotional competence are significant predictors of academic achievement and offer incremental validity beyond (i.e., are even better predictors than) other measures of children’s development (e.g., verbal ability, compliance to commands, social competence, etc.).
B. Parents’ Socialization of Emotional Competence during Early Childhood
– Hypothesis: Parents’ direct, purposeful emotion socialization (e.g., teaching about emotions) and parents’ indirect, unintentional emotion socialization (e.g., emotional displays in the presence of children) provide unique and interactive contributions to children’s emotional competence and adjustment.
– Hypothesis: Inconsistencies between parents direct emotion socialization messages and their indirect emotion socialization behaviors will negatively impact children’s development of emotional competence.
– Hypothesis: Parents’ emotion socialization may interact with aspects of children’s emotional competence in predicting children’s adjustment. For example, some parental emotion socialization strategies (e.g., cognitive restructuring, distraction, soothing) are likely more or less effective/adaptive depending on children’s level of negative emotionality.
C. Teachers’ Socialization of Emotional Competence during Early Childhood
– Exploratory Hypotheses: Do teachers and parents use different strategies to socialize emotional competence? If so, which strategies does each group use most frequently, and why?
– Exploratory Hypotheses: Does teachers’ socialization of emotional competence impact children’s adjustment (emotional, social, behavioral) in ways similar to parent’s emotion socialization?
– Exploratory Hypotheses: Are teachers more likely than parents to use generalized response styles when dealing with children’s emotions or are they sensitive to children’s individual differences and needs when responding to emotions?
II. Given St. Mary’s core institutional values of “the power of a diverse community” and “social responsibility and civic-mindedness” and our goal of graduating “prepared, responsible, and thoughtful global citizens and leaders,” it is vital to assess how well we are living up to these values and meeting these goals. Thus, my second line of research focuses on how certain learning experiences (e.g., workshops, trainings, lectures, activities, assignments) foster students’ knowledge of how social/political power systems operate in relation to course content (e.g., child development) and how such learning experiences develop students’ capacity for and engagement in resisting oppressive sociopolitical structures.
Dr. Rich Platt, email@example.com, Goodpaster Hall 114, x4283
I have worked with students on a variety of memory topics. These studies have included examinations of autobiographical memories, eyewitness memory, and various paradigms for the creation of false or distorted memories.
B. Deductive Reasoning
One of the most studied deductive reasoning tasks is Wason’s selection task. In this task, the subject is given an “If…, then…” rule and four cards to which it might apply. They have to decide which cards they need more information about in order to determine whether the rule is true or false for the four cards. The task is surprising difficult with only a small percentage of participants making the correct selections. However, a variety of factors can be varied to improve performance including providing concrete content, making the rule more explicit, and asking for reasons for the selections that are made. Despite the number of studies examining this task there are still many new questions that could be asked about the reasoning processes involved in this task.
C. Critical Thinking
Most decisions that we make involve some uncertainty regarding the possible outcomes that may result. However, human reasoning about probability is often guided by heuristics that can lead to poor likelihood judgments. This can have an impact on important judgements about medical procedures or other high stakes decisions. Research into the factors that influence the use of these heuristics can help improve the way people think about uncertain outcomes.
D. Belief in Conspiracy Theories
I have begun a new research project investigating cognitive factors associated with belief in conspiracy theories. Belief in conspiracy theories is widespread and those who believe in one conspiracy theory often believe in others. Consequently, conspiratorial thinking seems to be a characteristic of some people’s cognitive processing. Some research suggests that this type of thinking may be associated with greater susceptibility to certain cognitive heuristics and biases. This research project is investigating the underlying cognitive processes involved in conspiracy beliefs.
Dr. Jennifer Tickle*, firstname.lastname@example.org, Goodpaster Hall 128, x4359
*On leave AY18-19
A. Media Influence on Attitudes and Behavior
Media influence how we see ourselves, how we see others, and how we interact in the world. Media can create, reinforce, or challenge stereotypes; they affect our attitudes about topics as diverse as sexuality or politics; and they influence our behaviors in domains such as health and consumerism. Research on media may include content analysis of media, correlational research examining media exposure and attitudes or behaviors, or laboratory research that differentially exposes individuals to media in order to observe effects. Although the possibilities for research in this area are vast, some examples of the types of research questions that could be pursued are: What characteristics are ascribed to members of a particular group in top grossing American films? How does the use of the internet relate to academic performance or social development? What aspects of advertising are related to product memory? How does personality relate to media use?
B. New Media and Communication Technology (e.g., social media, computer communication, virtual reality)
The ever-changing nature of media provides many opportunities to study how people use newer media technology, the pitfalls or advantages of newer media, and how people’s perceptions or behaviors change (or don’t change) in non-face-to-face or “virtual face-to-face” interactions compared to the face-to-face domain. This research also uses newer media technologies like virtual reality to explore the applicability of more traditional social psychological theories within virtual space. The questions that can be asked in the domain change as quickly as the media itself, but studies might focus on emotions, cognitions, or behavior and could be observational, correlational, or experimental in nature.
C. Research on Self and Self-regulation
Each of us experiences success at self-control as well as failures of self-control, whether it is breaking a diet or practicing daily to improve a skill. Self-regulation requires awareness of the desire to meet a goal, determination of the steps required to meet the goal, enacting those steps, checking to see if you have met the goal, and knowing when to stop. Self-regulation can go wrong at any of these stages, and some common culprits of self-regulatory failure are stress, mood, the situation, or interfering goals. Research in this area can examine the types of situations or strategies that lead to self-regulatory success or failure or the consequences of success and failure for self or others. Behaviors that might be explored are health decisions (e.g., drinking, smoking, sex, weight), personal decision making (e.g., relationships, time management), self-presentation, deception, or emotion expression regulation.
D. Interaction Dynamics and Person Perception
Our interactions with other people influence many of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. For example, our interactions with individuals who are stigmatized may reinforce our prejudices or may alter them depending on the interaction. Our first impressions of a person influence how we will subsequently behave with that individual. Research on interaction dynamics may include survey or interview research, analysis of narrative responses, or laboratory research involving observing and coding behavior during interactions. The types of interactions studied may include strangers, friends, romantic relationships, or groups.
E. Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
I have also mentored many projects that examine themes relevant to the study of women, gender, and sexuality.
Dr. Libby Williams*, email@example.com, Goodpaster Hall 104, x4467
A. The Process of Psychotherapy and Counseling
My primary area of research is in psychotherapy process (i.e., what actually happens in therapy sessions between clients and counselors). Within this area, my particular interests lie with therapist self-awareness and self-talk, but I am also interested a variety of other process issues, such as useful therapeutic techniques, clients’ perceptions of therapist techniques (e.g., do clients like it when therapists use silence as a technique?), and therapists’ unique issues in therapy (e.g., boredom, ethical issues, homophobia, therapists need for their own psychotherapy). Some past examples of student projects in the area include: a national survey of therapists’ training regarding how to manage sexual attraction to clients, a qualitative interview study of therapists’ use of the “self” in therapy, and the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy as a treatment for schizophrenia. Future SMP projects might focus on whether therapists of different theoretical orientations manage and use their self-awareness in different ways or whether therapists’ background (e.g., personality variables, family history) relate to the ways therapists manage their self-awareness.
B. Issues of Gender and Multiculturalism
I am interested in the impact of gender and race/ethnicity (as well as other demographic variables) on the experiences of clients and therapists. For example, one of my students did his SMP on client preferences for match with the therapist. Another student did a project on the impact of sexual orientation on therapist and client attitudes. I am particularly interested in the intersection of feminism and multiculturalism in therapy, but I have interest in gender and racial topics outside of therapy as well (e.g., women’s career development). Future SMP projects might focus on the extent to which therapists actually use feminist and multicultural techniques in therapy or on the impact of subtle or “benevolent” sexism (Glick & Fiske, 2001) on students’ attitudes.
C. Qualitative Methodology
In addition to my quantitative studies, I am also interested in qualitative analysis. Specifically, I helped create a qualitative methodology called Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR; Hill, Thompson, & Williams, 1997; Hill, Knox, Thompson, Williams, Hess & Ladany, 2005) that has been used fairly extensively to examine issues in counseling (e.g., how therapists deal with receiving gifts from clients, what happens during a therapeutic impasse, how serendipity plays a part in career decisions). Several of my SMP students have done qualitative projects (e.g., counseling experiences of Latina battered women). Qualitative methods work well when you are studying a topic that has not been extensively researched – it allows for an exploratory approach that can generate new information and new ideas for future quantitative follow-up studies. Future SMP projects might focus on the CQR methodology itself (e.g., a qualitative study of qualitative researchers) or on a specific topic (e.g., how therapists deal with boredom in therapy).