Tag Archive for Psychology Department

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.

Psychological Scavenger Hunt Helps Alleviate Zoom Fatigue

On Oct. 27 and Nov. 5, more than 100 students participated in an on-campus Psychological Scavenger Hunt created by Steve Stemler, associate professor of psychology, and Sarah Carney, assistant professor of the practice in psychology. Carney, pictured second from left, spoke with Stemler through Zoom during the event. 

On Oct. 27 and Nov. 5, more than 100 students participated in an on-campus Psychological Scavenger Hunt created by Steve Stemler, associate professor of psychology, and Sarah Carney, assistant professor of the practice in psychology. Carney, pictured second from left, spoke with Stemler through Zoom during the event. One group walked more than 2.5 miles during the scavenger hunt.

This fall, the introductory-level course PSYC 105: Foundations of Contemporary Psychology is being taught entirely online to 200 students due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After six weeks of remote lectures and interactive breakout sections via Zoom, Professors Steve Stemler and Sarah Carney who are team-teaching the course, hoped to break the “Zoom fatigue” routine and get their students physically interacting. So working together with the eight course TAs, they created a campus-wide psychological scavenger hunt.

With the first wave of students participating on Oct 27, and other waves participating subsequently, more than 110 students participated in the activity in person, while others joined in virtually.

“This was a fun way of doing some course-relevant activities while getting students out and about and interacting with each other,” Stemler said.

The instructors and TAs worked hard to ensure the scavenger hunt adhered to all COVID-19 protocols by keeping team sizes small, start times staggered, and locations spread out across campus and outside.

During the hunt, students worked in groups of four and looked for clues at various campus locations. The clues led them to a station run by a teaching assistant, who asked the undergraduates to complete a task relevant to the course content.

At an “intelligence station,” for example, the groups engaged in a word recognition test that relies on past experiences to prime their perceptions. At a “consciousness station,” students were asked to write down five things about themselves, and then the TA shuffled around their cards. After the cards were revealed, students had to categorize the notes as belonging to the social self, spiritual self, or material self in accordance with William James’ theory of the empirical self. And at a “methods station,” students read a description of a fictional research study and were allowed to ask 10 follow-up questions. The goal of that activity was to get students thinking about what information they wanted to know and why in order to evaluate the validity of the study rather than simply recalling the correct answers about the study design.

The scavenger hunt also led students to stations on memory, cognition, and bystander intervention.

The Teaching Apprentices for the course are Nolan Collins ’23, Maya Verghese ’23, Sarah Hammond ’22, Charity Russell ’21, Will Ratner ’22, Christian Quinones ’22, Arianna Jackson ’22, and Ezra Levy ’21.

Photos of the scavenger hunt on Oct. 27 are below: (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Shusterman Awarded $1.8M NSF Grant to Design and Test Preschool Math Games

Anna Shusterman

Anna Shusterman

Before children enter Kindergarten, they’re often interested in mathematical concepts like patterns, numbers, and logic. However, math remains under-supported in most preschool settings in the United States.

As a recipient of a $1.8 million grant by the National Science Foundation, Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman hopes to address this educational need by providing preschool settings with a research-based, developmentally appropriate, conceptually rich, flexible, and fun collection of math games that can be incorporated into any classroom.

“The preschool years have long been recognized as an opportune time to engage children in mathematical thinking, bootstrapping their natural curiosity and laying a foundation for future academic success and lifelong numeracy,” Shusterman said.

Her project, titled “Implementation and Efficacy Study of the Wesleyan Preschool Math Games,” has the potential to provide evidence for the benefits of incorporating a simple, playful set of materials into early childhood settings to increase children’s foundation for STEM learning.

Faculty Publish Books, Journal Articles

Several faculty have recently authored or co-authored books, book chapters, and articles that appear in prestigious academic journals.

BOOKS AND BOOK CHAPTERS

barnhart book

Book by Joslyn Barnhart

fusso book

Book translated by Susanne Fusso

weilbook

Book by Kari Weil

Joslyn Barnhart, assistant professor of government, is the author of The Consequences of Humiliation: Anger and Status in World Politics (Cornell University Press, 2020).

Susanne Fusso, Marcus L. Taft Professor of Modern Languages, is the translator of The Nose and Other Stories by Nikolai Gogol (Columbia University Press, 2020).

Ruth Johnson, associate professor of biology, is the author of a book chapter titled “Adhesion and the Cytoskeleton in the Drosophila Pupal Eye,” published in the book Molecular Genetics of Axial Patterning, Growth and Disease in the Drosophila Eye (Springer Science and Business Media, 2020).

Elizabeth McAlister, professor of religion, is the author of a chapter titled “Sacred Waters of Haitian Vodou: The Pilgrimage of Sodo,” published in Sacred Waters: A Cross-Cultural Compendium of Hallowed Springs and Holy Wells (Routledge, 2020).

Kari Weil, University Professor of Letters, is the author of the book Precarious Partners: Horses and Their Humans in Nineteenth-Century France (University of Chicago Press, 2020). She also wrote a book chapter titled “The Animal Novel That Therefore This Isn’t,” published in New Approaches to the Twenty-FirstCentury Anglophone Novel (Palgrave MacMillan, 2019).

 

JOURNAL ARTICLES

Lindsay Dolan, assistant professor of government, is the author of “Rethinking Foreign Aid and Legitimacy: Views from Aid Recipients in Kenya,” which was published in Studies in Comparative International Development 55(2) in 2020.

Ruth Johnson, associate professor of biology, and Joe Coolon, assistant professor of biology, are co-authors of “Mask, a Component of the Hippo Pathway, is Required for Drosophila Eye Morphogenesis,” published in Developmental Biology in August 2020. The study also is featured on the cover of Issue 464.

Bill Johnston, professor of history, is the author of “Epidemic Culture in Premodern Japan,” published June 23 by the Society for Cultural Anthropology, from the Series “Responding to an Unfolding Pandemic: Asian Medicines and Covid-19.”

Robert Lane, associate professor and chair of molecular biology and biochemistry, is the author of “Bioinformatics discovery of putative enhancers within mouse odorant receptor gene clusters,” published in Chemical Senses, 44(9), 2019.

Ioana Emy Matesan, assistant professor of government, is the author of “Grievances and Fears in Islamist Movements: Revisiting the Link between Exclusion, Insecurity, and Political Violence,” published in the Journal of Global Security Studies in 2020.

Ishita Mukerji, Fisk Professor of Natural Science and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and Manju Hingorani, visiting scholar in molecular biology and biochemistry, are the co-authors of “Mismatch Recognition by Msh2-Msh6: Role of Structure and Dynamics,” published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences on Aug. 31, 2019.

Anna Shusterman, associate professor of psychology, is the co-author of “Working in the Research-to-Practice Gap: Case Studies, Core Principles, and a Call to Action,” published in PsyArXiv on Sept. 23, 2019. Six Wesleyan students also are co-authors of the article.

Justine Quijada is the author of “From Culture to Experience: Shamanism in the Pages of the Soviet Anti-Religious Press,” published in Contemporary European History, Vol. 29, Special Issue 2 (Religion and Socialism in the Long 1960s: From Antithesis to Dialogue in Eastern and Western Europe), 2020.

View all faculty publications online here.

5 Faculty Conferred Tenure, 4 Promoted

monogramWesleyan’s Board of Trustees recently announced the promotions of nine faculty members, effective July 1, 2020.

Five faculty were conferred tenure with promotion. They join six other faculty members who were awarded tenure earlier this spring.

  • Joslyn Barnhart Trager, associate professor of government
  • Anthony Keats, associate professor of economics
  • Andrew Quintman, associate professor of religion
  • Michael Slowik ’03, associate professor of film studies
  • Takeshi Watanabe, associate professor of East Asian studies

In addition, four faculty members are being promoted. They join one other faculty member who was promoted earlier this spring.

  • Erika Franklin Fowler, professor of government
  • Barbara Juhasz, professor of psychology
  • Hari Krishnan, professor of dance
  • Phillip Resor, professor of earth and environmental sciences

Brief descriptions of their areas of research and teaching appear below:

Joslyn Barnhart Trager is a political scientist whose research focuses on international security and the effects of psychology and biology on international conflict. Her work examines the ways collective emotions shape national identity, how gender and suffrage interact to affect war and peace, and how rhetorical justifications for territory relate to the use of force. In her recent book, The Consequences of Humiliation: Anger and Status in World Politics (Cornell University Press, 2020), she argues that when international events trigger a sense of humiliation among people who identify with a country, those people become more likely to behave aggressively to restore the country’s image. She offers courses on Psychology and International Relations, Introduction to International Politics, and The Nuclear Age in World Politics, and she received Wesleyan’s Carol Baker Memorial Prize for excellence in teaching and research in 2019.

Erika Franklin Fowler’s research focuses on American politics, with a specialty in political communication—examining the ways political information is disseminated and the effects of such dissemination on political attitudes, knowledge, and behavior. Her Wesleyan Media Project, which provides information on spending and the content of political advertising, has received over $2.7 million in external grant funding. She has co-authored a book, Political Advertising in the United States (Westview Press, 2016), along with numerous peer-reviewed articles and invited publications. She received the APSA Political Organization and Parties Section’s Jack Walker Award for the best article in 2017, and Wesleyan’s Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2019. She teaches courses on American Government and Politics, Media and Politics, and Empirical Methods.

Barbara Juhasz is a cognitive psychologist who studies reading and word recognition in adults. Through her Wesleyan Eye Movement and Reading Laboratory she investigates how words and their meanings are represented in memory and processed during reading as revealed by eye movements. Her work seeks to answer questions such as what variables can predict how, and how quickly, a word is processed. She has published extensively in many peer-reviewed journals, including Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition; Memory and Cognition; and Behavior Research Methods, and her publications have received over 3,000 citations to date. She offers courses on Sensation and Perception, Psychology of Reading, Experimental Investigations into Reading, and Statistics: An Activity-Based Approach.

Anthony Keats’s research in development economics uses a variety of approaches, including randomized control trials conducted in the field and quasi-experimental methods using household survey data, to answer causal questions related to education, early child health, financial access and savings, and occupational choices in developing countries. His highly-cited work has been published in the Journal of Development Economics and the Economic Journal. He has received over $3.3 million in grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund, Omidyar Network, and other funding organizations. He teaches courses on Quantitative Methods in Economics, Econometrics, and Development Economics.

Hari Krishnan is a dance artist and scholar, specializing in bharatanatyam, queer/contemporary dance, and the interface between dance history and film studies. Bridging theory and practice, he interrogates the boundaries between modern and traditional dance forms, engaging critically with questions of gender, sexuality, and race. His choreographies have been featured at esteemed venues including Jacob’s Pillow, La MaMa’s, Asia Society, Canada Dance Festival, HarbourFront Centre (Canada), Maison des Cultures du Monde (France), The Other Festival, and the Music Academy Dance Festival (India). He is a Bessie award nominee in the Outstanding Performance category, and his recent monograph, Celluloid Classicism: Early Tamil Cinema and the Making of Modern Bharatanatyam, was published by Wesleyan University Press. His courses include Bharatanatyam; Contemporary Dance from Global Perspectives; Mobilizing Dance and Cinema; and Queering the Dancing Body.

Andrew Quintman is a scholar of premodern Buddhist traditions in Tibet and the Himalayas. He has special expertise in biographical and autobiographical literature, in particular the analysis of Buddhist hagiography and historiography, religious poetry, and representations of sainthood. His monograph, The Yogin and the Madman: Reading the Biographical Corpus of Tibet’s Great Saint Milarepa (Columbia University Press, 2014), presents a systematic analysis of the entire Himalayan literary tradition about Milarepa, including all 128 biographies written about the 11th-century Tibetan saint. His book received numerous awards, including the American Academy of Religion’s Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion and Yale University’s Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Prize for Outstanding Scholarship. He offers courses on Buddhist Traditions of Mind and Meditation, Tibetan Buddhism, and Who is the Dalai Lama?

Phillip Resor is a structural geologist who studies rock deformation with an emphasis on fault zones. His research, which combines field work and modeling, has important applications in planetary science, energy resources, and present-day hazard assessment related to earthquakes. He has received grants from the National Science Foundation Tectonics Program, NASA’s Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program, and the Southern California Earthquake Center. He has published widely, and in 2019 he received Top Author recognition from NAGT Teach the Earth. In 2016 he received the Joe Webb Peoples Award in recognition of his contributions to promoting the understanding of Connecticut geology. He offers courses on Dynamic Earth, Structural Geology, Field Geology, Modeling the Earth and Environment, and Geologic Field Mapping.

Michael Slowik’s research focuses on the history of film and film aesthetics, with a special emphasis on the uses and evolution of sound and music in cinema. His book, After the Silents: Hollywood Film Music in the Early Sound Era, 1926-1934 (Columbia University Press, 2014), which provides a detailed analysis of the evolution of film music from the start of synchronized sound through 1934, was a top 10 finalist for the 2015 Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Moving Image Book Award. His latest manuscript, Defining Cinema: The Films of Rouben Mamoulian, is under contract with Oxford University Press. He teaches courses on Film Genres: The Western; History of Film Sound; Sex and Violence: American Filmmaking Under Censorship; and Cinema Stylists: Sternberg, Ophuls, Sirk, Fellini. Slowick is a 2003 alumnus of Wesleyan.

Takeshi Watanabe is a scholar of premodern Japanese literature. In his recent book, Flowering Tales: Women Exorcising History in Heian Japan (Harvard Asia Center, 2020), he examines the historical tale A Tale of Flowering Fortunes (c. 1000), and demonstrates how the rise of writing in the vernacular allowed a new type of historical writing that captured court gossip and channeled its divisive energy into stories that brought healing. He has published broadly in both English and Japanese, and his scholarship covers art history, material culture, and the history of food. He teaches courses on Japanese literature and culture and East Asian culture, including From Tea to Connecticut Rolls: Japanese Culture through Food; Samurai: Imagining, Performing Japanese Identity; and In Search of a Good Life in Premodern Japan.

4 Faculty Receive Honorary MA ad Eundem Gradum Degrees

ad Eundem Gradum2020

At left, Hilary Barth, Robert Conn, Sanford Shieh, and Nicole Stanton.

This month, four Wesleyan faculty received the honorary degree of Master of Arts ad eundem gradum.

This degree has been awarded by Wesleyan since 1894 to those members of the faculty who are not graduates of Wesleyan at the bachelor’s level and who have attained the rank of full professor. The award makes each full professor an alumnus/a of the University.

Recipients include Hilary Barth, professor of psychology; Robert Conn, professor of Spanish; Sanford Shieh, professor of philosophy, and Nicole Stanton, professor of dance.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. Washington Post: “Biden Makes End Run Around Trump as the President Dominates the National Stage”

Erika Franklin Fowler, associate professor of government and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, comments on Biden’s unusual strategy during an unprecedented time for the 2020 presidential campaign. “There is not a ready off-the-shelf playbook for how you campaign in this environment if you are a nonincumbent, so that’s part of what you’re seeing,” she said. “We’re all being thrown into this new environment, where campaigns are going to need to reinvent, to some extent, how they go about things, how they going to go about reaching citizens.” Fowler added, “I think we’re at a stage of this event where people are starting to feel coronavirus fatigue. So it seems like to me that the local television news strategy and reaching around is probably a good one at this point.”

Wesleyan Establishes College of Education Studies

Students at Wesleyan have long been interested in studying educational practice and policy, and have been committed to working with local schools and children through a wide variety of programs. Here, Emma Distler '19 plays an interactive reading and counting game with a four-year-old through Kindergarten Kickstart, a research-based, high-impact, low-cost innovative and nurturing preschool program organized by Anna Shusterman and her students every summer.

Students at Wesleyan have long been interested in studying educational practice and policy, and have been committed to working with local schools and children through a wide variety of programs. Here, Emma Distler ’19 plays an interactive reading and counting game with a 4-year-old through Kindergarten Kickstart, a research-based, high-impact, low-cost innovative and nurturing preschool program organized by Anna Shusterman and her students every summer.

Wesleyan has announced the establishment of a College of Education Studies, along with a new linked major in Education Studies.

Rooted in a liberal arts framework, the new College will foster interdisciplinary scholarship of education studies that is connected to practice and policy. It is an opportunity for Wesleyan to integrate serious scholarship with the University’s social justice mission, according to Associate Professors of Psychology Anna Shusterman and Steve Stemler, the co-chairs of the newly formed College.

A proposal to establish the College was unanimously endorsed by the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) earlier this year, and was approved by a vote of the full faculty on April 14.