Tag Archive for Psychology Department

Wesleyan in the News

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 participated in a Newsweek podcast debate titled “Is Higher Education Broken?” “I think the idea that only rich people should be able to experience the benefits of learning—whether that’s about math and science, or whether it’s about literature and philosophy—that’s a huge mistake. (Aug. 31)

President Roth also wrote a book review of Allan V. Horowitz’s A History of Psychiatry’s Bible for The Washington Post. “In this history … Horwitz emphasizes the social construction of scientific concepts. This account underscores the economic incentives in play as psychiatrists tried to reach consensus on how to describe specific disorders so that they could treat them—and be paid well to do so.” (Sept. 3)

In The Washington Post, Kyungmi Kim, a cognitive psychologist and assistant professor of psychology, explains why people tend to hold onto material possessions. “Mostly, when people think about the self, the self is residing within the physical boundary of our body,” she said. “However, we also have an ‘extended self’ which includes important people in our lives, plus certain objects that help us ‘define ourselves because they belong to our personal history.'” (Sept. 2)

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the much anticipated directorial debut tick, tick…BOOM! by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 is timed to detonate Nov. 10 as the Netflix film opens the 35th edition of AFI Fest at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre. Bradley Whitford ’81, Hon. 20, will play the role of Stephen Sondheim. The Emmy-winning actor tells The Hollywood Reporter that he found the obligation of playing a legend like Sondheim “scary” but he found a soft place to land on Miranda’s set. “We had the same wonderful, crazy acting teacher in college,” Whitford said of the late William “Bill” Francisco, professor of theater, emeritus. “Whitford says while there’s a relatively small percentage of the audience that has ever seen Sondheim, those who do know him love and adore him. ‘It’s scary to have that obligation but Lin was there to pull the blood out of me.'” (Sept. 9)

In Wicked Local, Jasmine Fridman ’25 shares her thoughts about working for the Mystic Mural project this summer. Fridman wants to major in environmental science as a result of working on the mural. “We learned a lot about the current effects of climate change on a global level, but also on a local level and on our home,” she said. “Not only did we paint nature, but we also took field trips to learn about the environment — it was very enriching.” (Sept. 2)

Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, was mentioned in The Conversation for writing an article about an eighth-century female Sufi saint, known popularly as Rabia al-Adawiyya. “[She] is said to have walked through her hometown of Basra, in modern-day Iraq, with a lit torch in one hand and a bucket of water in another. When asked why, she replied that she hoped to burn down heaven and douse hell’s fire so people would—without concern for reward or punishment—love God.” (Aug. 30)

In The Connecticut Patch, William Wasch, Sr., ’52, is remembered for his long career with Wesleyan. “In 1964, Bill returned to Wesleyan and began a long career with the university, initially running the annual fund and then becoming Director of Development and Alumni Relations in 1967. While at Wesleyan, he oversaw several large capital campaigns and successfully kept more traditional alumni connected to the university during the very difficult years of campus unrest in the late 60s and early 70s. He retired from Wesleyan in 1985.” (Sept. 1)

 

Scientific Images of Nanoparticles, Colliding Stars, Learned Words Win Annual Contest

We had 13 submissions this year.

Thirteen students, majoring in chemistry, physics, astronomy, molecular biology and biochemistry, biology, neuroscience and behavior, psychology, and quantitative analysis submitted images for the 2021 Scientific Imaging Contest.

At first glance, a viewer sees a single image of pink-tinted cubes, resembling a bacteria culture from high school biology.

But upon closer examination, the viewer begins to see a series of other shapes—triangles to hexahedrons to tetahexahedraons (cubes with four-sided pyramids on each face).

“If you stare at this image for a while, you can see that it’s actually a series of five images in the top row, and five images on the bottom row, and each of these images show us nanoparticles that are made of gold and copper,” said Brian Northrop, professor of chemistry. “It’s intriguing, captivating, and visually very interesting.”

The image, which depicts bimetallic gold-copper (Au-Cu) nanoparticles synthesized with varying concentrations and amounts of sodium iodide, was created by Jessica Luu ’24 using a scanning electron microscope. It also was the first place winner in Wesleyan’s 2021 Scientific Imaging Contest.

Jessica Luu

Jessica Luu ’24 took first place with a series of 10 images of bimetallic gold-copper (Au-Cu) nanoparticles synthesized with varying concentrations and amounts of sodium iodide. They were imaged using a scanning electron microscope (SEM).

The annual contest, spearheaded by Wesleyan’s College of Integrative Sciences, encourages students to submit images and descriptions of the research that they’ve been conducting over the summer.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan’s intellectually dynamic faculty, students, alumni, staff, and parents frequently serve as expert sources for national media. Others are noted for recent achievements and accolades. A sampling of recent media hits is below:

In The Washington Post, William Griffin Professor of Philosophy Lori Gruen is quoted in a story about neutering. In her early career, Gruen, who specializes in animal ethics, worked in shelters where she witnessed “perfectly healthy dogs destroyed” and the toll it took on employees. “The overpopulation issue sounds abstract,” she said. “But these are dogs whose lives end and the people who have to bring those dogs’ lives to an end often can’t get certain dogs out of their minds.” (Aug. 5)

In The Hartford Courant, Jhanelle Oneika Thomas ’18, MA ’19 and Royette Dubar, assistant professor of psychology, are featured for their investigation of the motivation and psychological impact of ghosting in the age of social media and hypervisibility. “From the ghoster’s perspective, choosing to ghost was a little bit nicer than a more blatant rejection approach,” Dubar said. ”Individuals may choose to ghost out of concern for the ghostee—that is, to shield them from hurt feelings.” (Aug. 8)

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 reviews Charles King’s Gods of the Upper Air in Los Angeles Review of Books. Gods of the Upper Air explores the career of Frank Boas, “the father of 20th-century anthropology” in America. “Gods of the Upper Air is gracefully written, and it succeeds beautifully both as intellectual history and group biography,” Roth writes in the review. (Aug. 13)

Wesleyan University’s Center for Film Studies is mentioned in The Hollywood Reporter for being one of 2021’s top 25 American film schools. The article states “in keeping with this institution’s liberal arts identity, its film curriculum is focused on formal analysis and theory. And what it doesn’t provide in production experience, it makes up for in strong industry connections, with a network that includes 2006 grad and Nomadland producer Dan Janvey [’06].” (Aug. 13)

Dubar, Thomas ’18, MA ’19 Explore the Psychological Effects of Social Media Ghosting

Royette Dubar

Royette Dubar, PhD, assistant professor of psychology

Jhanelle Oneika Thomas '18, MA '19

Jhanelle Oneika Thomas ’18, MA ’19

So long are the days of slipping out the back door of a party to avoid confrontation with a date gone bad. Through social media, one can easily “ghost”— that is, cut off all communication without giving a reason.

In a new qualitative study titled “Disappearing in the Age of Hypervisibility: Definition, Context, and Perceived Psychological Consequences of Social Media Ghosting,” lead researcher Royette Dubar, assistant professor of psychology, and her former master’s student Jhanelle Oneika Thomas ’18, MA ’19 investigated both the motives and psychological consequences of the act of ghosting.

Dubar and Thomas discovered that this modern-age disappearing act has both negative consequences for the ghostee (i.e. the person being ghosted), and the ghoster (i.e. the person committing the act).

The study, which appears in the June 2021 issue of the American Psychological Association’s journal Psychology of Popular Media, is based on a sample of 76 college students who participated in a focus group session.

Ghosting has an overwhelmingly negative effect on the person being ghosted and can have both short-term and long-term consequences. In the short-term, ghosting may lead to internalized feelings of self-criticism and self-doubt, Dubar explained. Over time, these feelings may hinder the development of trust and vulnerability in future relationships, “which are key ingredients for developing intimacy.”

“Because ghosting does not provide any closure to the ghostee, it robs the individual of an opportunity to address any personal issues that may actually promote growth within that individual,” she said.

A 19-year-old female participant in the study described her own experience of being ghosted: “It becomes a lot of self-doubt at first. I think a lot of personal insecurity comes out when you get ghosted because you begin to question because you don’t have answers. So you question yourself, you question what you know about yourself and you blame yourself. You say that it’s because ‘I’m not pretty enough,” or ‘I’m not smart enough,’ or ‘I said the wrong thing,’ or ‘I did the wrong thing,’ or whatever. And at least for me, that’s really harmful and can really affect my mood for a long period of time.”

Faculty, Alumni Rated Among World’s Top 1% of Scientists

Thirteen Wesleyan faculty are rated among the top 1% most-cited researchers worldwide, according to a recent study by PLOS Biology.

The study, led by Professor John Ioannidis from Stanford University, combines several different metrics to systematically rank the most influential scientists as measured by citations. More than six million scientists, who were actively working between 1996 and 2018, were analyzed for the project.

The faculty include:
David Beveridge, Joshua Boger University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, emeritus
Fred Cohan, Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment, professor of biology
Mark Hovey, professor of mathematics, associate provost for budget and personnel
Tsampikos Kottos, Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of physics
Matthew Kurtz, professor of psychology
Herbert Pickett, research professor in chemistry, emeritus
Dana Royer, professor of earth and environmental sciences
Francis Starr, professor of physics
Steve Stemler, professor of psychology
Ruth Striegel Weissman, Walter Crowell University Professor of Social Sciences, emerita
Sonia Sultan, professor of biology
Johan Varekamp, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, emeritus
Gary Yohe, Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, emeritus

In addition, at least eight Wesleyan alumni are rated in the top 0.1% of all scientists in the world including Gene Stanley ’62, Philip Russell ’65, Jay Levy ’60, Nick Turro ’60, Dr. William H. Dietz ’66, Michael Greenberg ’76, Jerry Melillo ’65, John Coffin ’67, and Hugh Wilson ’65. (Know of any others? Let us know at newsletter@wesleyan.edu!)

The study reinforces Wesleyan’s reputation as an exceptional liberal arts institution, said Wilson, who is professor emeritus of spatial and computational vision at York University.

“It is sometimes questioned whether a liberal arts education is really optimal for an aspiring scientist. After all, wouldn’t it be better to take just science and math courses rather than spending part of one’s time with literature, philosophy, history, or art,” he said. “So, [this study shows that] liberal arts continue to attract outstanding scientists as dedicated faculty members who espouse both teaching and research.”

3 Professors Honored with 2021 Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching

binswanger

At left, Provost Nicole Stanton and Wesleyan President Michael Roth congratulate Sonali Chakravarti, associate professor of government, on being a recipient of a Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching. (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

Every spring, Wesleyan recognizes outstanding teaching with three Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching. These prizes, made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr., Hon. ’85, underscore Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, who are responsible for the University’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.

Recommendations are solicited from alumni of the last 10 graduating classes, as well as current juniors, seniors, and graduate students. Recipients are chosen by a selection committee of faculty and members of the Alumni Association Executive Committee.

This year, Wesleyan honors the following faculty members for their excellence in teaching:

Sonali Chakravarti

Sonali Chakravarti

Sonali Chakravarti
Sonali Chakravarti, associate professor of government, came to Wesleyan in 2009. Her work focuses on questions of emotions, the law, and democratic institutions. Chakravarti is the author of two books—Radical Enfranchisement in the Jury Room and Public Life (University of Chicago Press, 2019) and Sing the Rage: Listening to Anger After Mass Violence (University of Chicago Press, 2014)—as well as numerous peer-reviewed articles and chapters in publications including Political Theory and the Journal of Law, Culture, and the Humanities. At Wesleyan, she teaches courses including What Is the Good Life?, The Moral Basis of Politics, Transitional Justice, and Acting and Citizenship, among others. She served on the Educational Policy Committee in 2019–20, and on the faculty board of the Fries Center for Global Studies in 2018–19. In 2014, she was awarded Wesleyan’s Baker Memorial Prize. Chakravarti has been the Ann Plato Post-Doctoral Fellow at Trinity College and Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Faculty Fellow at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. She earned a BA in political science from Swarthmore College, and an MA, an MPhil, and a PhD in political science from Yale University.

4 Faculty Honored with MA Ad Eundem Gradum Degrees

During the 189th Commencement ceremony, four Wesleyan University faculty received the honorary degree of Master of Arts ad eundem gradum. The degree is awarded regularly and solely to those members of the faculty who (1) are not graduates of Wesleyan at the bachelor’s level and (2) have attained or been appointed to the rank of full professor on our faculty. By the award of this degree, all full professors on the Wesleyan faculty are made alumni of the University, and are qualified to participate in alumni affairs.

The recipients include: Erika Franklin Fowler, professor of government; Barbara Juhasz, professor of psychology; Hari Krishnan, professor of dance; and Phillip Resor, professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Dierker to Teach Passion-Driven Statistics As Fulbright Specialist

dierker

Lisa Dierker began her four-year term as a Fulbright Specialist in January.

As a recipient of a Fulbright Specialist Award, Professor Lisa Dierker hopes to connect with academic partners across the world sharing her expertise and excitement in support of data analytics.

“High quality, accessible and manageable data have never been so critical to the well-being of people around the world,” Dierker said. “Increasing capacity to identify, gather and analyze relevant data is a key pathway for better-informed decision-making and will create a larger, more diverse workforce.”

Dierker, Walter Crowell University Professor of Social Sciences, professor of psychology and education studies, is a co-creator of Wesleyan’s “Passion-Driven Statistics” model, a data-driven, project-based introductory curriculum backed by the National Science Foundation. This flexible curriculum engages students from a range of disciplines with large, real-world data sets and code-based analytic software (e.g. SAS, R, Python, Stata, etc.), providing experience in the rich, complicated, decision-making process of real statistical inquiry. The model is being taught nationwide in colleges and universities and has reached more than 50,000 people worldwide through the Coursera class, Data Analysis and Interpretation, taught by Dierker and Jennifer Rose, professor of the practice in the Center for Pedagogical Innovation.

Campus Community Explores “Truth (and Lies) in Our Time” During Shasha Seminar

shasha seminar 2021

During the 2021 Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, held March 11–13, participants explored the topic of “Truth (and Lies) in Our Time.”

The Shasha Seminar is an annual educational forum for Wesleyan alumni, parents, and friends that provides an opportunity to explore issues of global concern in a small seminar environment. Endowed by James Shasha ’50, P’82, the Shasha Seminar supports lifelong learning and encourages participants to expand their knowledge and perspectives on significant issues.

David McCraw, vice president and deputy general counsel for The New York Times, presented the Shasha Seminar’s keynote address titled “Lies and Liberty: The Future of Free Speech in a Divided America.”

“Think about the information ecosystem as a spring-fed lake,” McCraw said. “You need that spring, with its fresh water, to flow and replenish the lake. Think of that as vital public information. And you need to stop people who are polluting the lake. Think of that as disinformation and misinformation.”

Cantwell ’22: Liberals Are Anxious About COVID-19 And They Social Distance More

cantwell poster

Ori Cantwell ’22 presented his research poster during the Convention of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Conference on Feb. 13. Cantwell’s study found that liberals were more anxious than conservatives, partially explaining why liberals socially distanced more during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ori Cantwell '22

Ori Cantwell ’22

Do political views and anxiety play a functional role in combating COVID-19?

According to a recent study by Ori Cantwell ’22, the answer is yes.

Cantwell, a psychology major, presented his recent study “Yes We (Anxiously) Can: Liberal Ideology and Anxiety Predict Social Distancing during the COVID-19 Pandemic” during the virtual 22nd Annual Convention of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Conference, held Feb. 9–13.

“We found that in a sample of over 10,000 American adults, anxiety partially mediated the relationship between liberal ideology and social distancing,” Cantwell explained. “Liberals were more anxious than conservatives, and people were most likely to want to social distance if they were more anxious.”

Cantwell began working on this research in March 2020 with his advisor, Kostadin Kushlev of the Digital Health and Happiness Lab at Georgetown University. They were introduced through Assistant Professor of Psychology Alexis May ’05.

“We don’t think that there’s a plus side to anxiety disorders, but these findings suggest that anxiety could have played a role in how people adapted to the threat of COVID-19 by social distancing.”

To create a social distancing index, Cantwell explored data collected by the Pew Research Center. Between March 19 and 24, more than 10,000 participants were asked, whether, during the pandemic, they’d be comfortable visiting a friend/family member’s house; eating out in a restaurant; attending a crowded party; going out to the grocery store; and going to a polling place to vote.

The average participant was comfortable doing 3.29 out of 5 activities, Cantwell noted.

In November 2020, Cantwell and Kushlev co-authored a pre-print titled “Anxiety Talking: Does Anxiety Predict Sharing Information about COVID-19?” This spring, they’ll continue their research on the topics of misinformation, infodemics, political ideology, anxiety, and social distancing.

Cantwell also is a recipient of the Psychology Department’s Feldman Family Fund grant, which supported his conference registration.

Kurtz Speaks on Improving Thinking Skills in Schizophrenia

Kurtz

On Nov. 18 as part of the Wesleyan Faculty Lunch Talk series, Matthew Kurtz, professor of psychology, spoke about “Thinking Skills in Schizophrenia: Can They Be Improved, and If So, How?” Kurtz said people with schizophrenia have cognitive deficits in attention and memory, which seem to predict the degree to which they are able to participate in community activities, make friends, attend a work skills or social skills program, or have stronger performance-based functions such as making phone calls, organizing, or making a doctor’s appointment. “This suggests that if we were to elevate cognition, we might be able to elevate function.”

Hot off the Press: Papers by Psychology Faculty, Alumni Published in Journals

Hilary Barth, professor of psychology; Andrea Patalano, professor of psychology; Liana Mathias ’17; and former lab coordinators Alexandra Zax and Katherine Williams are the co-authors of an article titled “Intuitive symbolic magnitude judgments and decision making under risk in adults,” published in Cognitive Psychology, 118, in May 2020.

Barth; Williams; postdoctoral fellow Chenmu Xing; Jamie Hom ’17, MA ’18, Meghana Kandlur ’18, Praise Owoyemi ’18, Joanna Paul ’18, Elizabeth Shackney ’17, and Ray Alexander ’18 are the co-authors of “Partition dependence in financial aid distribution to income categories,” published in PLoS ONE 15, in April 2020.

Barth; Patalano; Williams; Zax; and Sheri Reichelson ’16, MA ’17 are the co-authors of “Developmental change in partition dependent resource allocation behavior,” published in Memory & Cognition 48, March 2020.

Barth; Patalano; Williams; Zax; Paul; and Williams are the co-authors of “Number line estimation and standardized test performance: The left digit effect does not predict SAT math score,” published online in Brain and Behavior, October 2020.