Tag Archive for Psychology Department

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. The New Yorker: “The Shapeshifting Music of Tyshawn Sorey”

“There is something awesomely confounding about the music of Tyshawn Sorey [MA ’11], the thirty-eight-year-old Newark-born composer, percussionist, pianist, and trombonist,” begins this profile of Sorey, assistant professor of music. Sorey was recently featured in the Composer Portraits series at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre.

2. The Register-Mail: “Video Slots Take Heavy Toll on Some Players”

In this article exploring the expansion of video slot gaming in a region of Illinois, Assistant Professor of Psychology Mike Robinson shares what he has learned through his research about how gambling affects our brains through the pleasurable release of dopamine. “You hear gamblers talk about chasing losses,” Robinson said. “Basically, they are talking about how gambling and uncertainty can even change how you respond to losing. It sounds counterintuitive, but for gambling addicts losing money triggers the rewarding release of dopamine almost to the same degree that winning does.”

3. The St. Thomas Source: “V.I. Studies Collective Asks, ‘What Is a Virgin Islander?'”

Professor of English Tiphanie Yanique, a core member of the Virgin Islands Studies Collective, recently led a workshop on St. Thomas at the Virgin Islands Literary Festival. A poet, essayist, and fiction writer who teaches creative writing at Wesleyan, Yanique comes from St. Thomas and has written fiction about life in the Virgin Islands.

4. The Forward: “8 Practical Tips on How to Lead a Progressive Seder This Year”

Asked for advice on leading a “progressive seder” for Passover this year, Wesleyan’s Director of Religious and Spiritual Life and University Jewish Chaplain David Leipziger Teva suggested adding a shoelace to your seder plate to express solidarity with the migrants fleeing their homes to cross into the U.S. “In thinking about the 92,607 migrants and refugees who in March of 2019 alone were detained after crossing the US Mexico border, I was struck by the fact that one of the first things that our US Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP) does is force these tired and vulnerable people to remove their shoelaces,” he explained. “Apparently anything, even the shoelaces of young children, considered ‘nonessential and potentially lethal’ is confiscated.”

5. Reading Religion: “Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Bias”

“Through the medium of cartoons, Gottschalk and Greenberg examine complicated concepts such as Islamophobia and stereotypes in a manner that is both accessible and comprehensive,” according to this review of Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Sentiment: Picturing the Enemy, coauthored by Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk and Gabriel Greenberg ’04 and recently re-released in an expanded and revised second edition. “This book is accessible enough to include on an undergraduate introductory syllabus, but also specialized enough for readers who are familiar with the concept of Islamophobia, or the study of the Muslims in the United States, to benefit from.”

Alumni in the News

  1. PeabodyAwards.com: Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart (PBS/WNET TV)”

Randall MacLowry ’86 is the producer and editor; Tracy Heather Strain is the filmmaker for this documentary, which PBS notes as “the first in-depth presentation of Hansberry’s complex life, using her personal papers and archives, including home movies and rare photos, as source material.” The couple cofounded The Film Posse, Inc., to work together in creating documentaries of high quality, and according to a press release, “spent more than 14 years raising money to develop the independently-produced film, which the couple produced with Strain serving as director and writer, and MacLowry and Chad Ervin as editors. Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart had its world premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and its television premiere on the PBS biography series American Masters in January 2018.”

2. Women and Hollywood: “Tribeca 2019 Women Directors: Meet Bridget Savage Cole [’05] and Danielle Krudy [’07]Blow the Man Down” 

“Wesleyan University graduates Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy met on a film set in Coney Island. They immediately bonded over a shared love of character-driven stories and juicy filmmaking styles. They have collaborated on numerous music videos, shorts, and writing projects. Blow the Man Down is their first feature-length film,” writes Gabriela Rico, who follows with the directors’ candid Q&A. Blow the Man Down premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival on April 26.

3. Vanity Fair: Fosse/Verdon: 5 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets from the Cast and Creators”

Vanity Fair editor Radhika Jones, who moderated a panel that included Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15, provided excerpts of the conversation: “‘I picked up a book off the shelf, and my job was to read the book and put it in Tommy Kail’s [’99] hand,’ said Miranda. The Hamilton creator had gone to Wesleyan University with Sam Wasson [’03], author of the 2013 biography Fosse—on which the FX series is closely based. In June 2016, Hamilton director Kail and Miranda began planning a way to bring Fosse back to the screen.”

4. Broadway World: “MCC Launches Season with Ross Golan’s The Wrong Man Directed by Thomas Kail [’99]”

The Wrong Man (“the wrong man meets the wrong women in the wrong place at the wrong time”) is a new stage musical, written by multi-platinum songwriter Ross Golan (book, music, lyrics), Tony Award–winning director Thomas Kail and three-time Tony and four-time Grammy Award–winning orchestrator Alex Lacamoire. Performances begin on Wednesday, September 18, 2019.

5. Boston Globe: “Cape Air on Course for Seaplane Takeoff in Boston”

Jon Chesto ’93 writes: “Dan Wolf [’79] needed to get his hands on an amphibious aircraft before he could fulfill his yearslong quest to bring seaplane service back to Boston Harbor.

“Now, the chief executive of Cape Air has an entire squadron.”

In this tale of Wolf’s acquisition of the seaplanes, Chesto notes some Wes-related history: “Wolf first learned to fly a seaplane at the Goodspeed Airport along the Connecticut River, while going to school at nearby Wesleyan University. That was nearly 40 years ago, but there’s a connection to this latest deal. Shoreline Aviation was run by John Kelly [MALS ’70], who taught Wolf during his college years. They obviously stayed in touch: Cape Air has used Shoreline planes during its Boston Harbor test runs.”

 6. MIT News: “Candid Conversation about Race: In MIT Talk, Beverly Daniel Tatum [’75, P’04, Hon. ’15] Urges Direct Discussion about Racial Issues at a ‘Polarized’ Moment in U.S. History”

Peter Dizikes, of the MIT News Office, writes: “Candid discussions about race relations are vital at a time of ‘pushback’ against social diversity in the U.S., said Beverly Daniel Tatum, the former president of Spelman College, in a talk at MIT on Thursday.

“‘It seems to me pretty clear we’re living in a pushback moment,’ Tatum said, referring to resistance against both political progress by blacks and a diversifying population. She added: ‘I think that today, most people would agree, we are more polarized than ever.’”

Tatum’s talk at MIT’s Wong Auditorium covered topics including the difference between race and racism, what is possible in the political arena, and the “long-running conditions of material inequality in the U.S.”

7. WBUR.org— “WBUR Announces Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize Winner”

From the website: “WBUR announced today that Hannah Dreier [’08] is the winner of the 2019 Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize. The winning segment was produced at This American Life in partnership with ProPublica, where Dreier serves as an immigration reporter.

“Dreier’s winning entry, ‘The Runaways’ is an hour-long investigative report that documents how the Suffolk County Police Department in New York failed to investigate a series of gang murders when the victims were immigrant teenagers. Days after the story aired on This American Life, the Suffolk County legislature forced the police department to conduct an internal investigation into how it had handled the MS-13 murder cases. ‘The Runaways’ proves that investigative reporting continues to effect change.”

Psychology Department Hosts Research Poster Session

More than 120 students presented 65 posters during the Department of Psychology's Research Poster Presentation April 25 in Beckham Hall. 

More than 120 students presented 65 posters during the Department of Psychology’s Research Poster Presentation April 25 in Beckham Hall.

Will Ratner '22 shared his poster titled "Relationship between Coping Strategies and Self-Esteem." Ratner's advisor is Sarah Kamens, the David Scott Williams Visiting Professor of Psychology

Will Ratner ’22 shared his poster titled “Relationship between Coping Strategies and Self-Esteem.” Ratner’s advisor is Sarah Kamens, the David Scott Williams Visiting Professor of Psychology.

Sammi Diep ’20 and Helena Sanchez ’21 presented their poster titled “What’s Sexual Orientation and Race Got to Do With It? Examining Multiple Domains of Psychosocial Adjustment at University.” Their advisor is Royette Tavernier, assistant professor of psychology.

Versey Authors Paper on the Impact of Gentrification, Moderates Panel

shellae versey

H. Shellae Versey

H. Shellae Versey, assistant professor of psychology, is the author of “A tale of two Harlems: Gentrification, social capital, and implications for aging in place,” published in Social Science & Medicine, Volume 214, October 2018.

In this paper, Versey discusses the impact of gentrification on features of the social and cultural environment.

“While research generally describes gentrification as a phenomenon of housing shifts and neighborhood migration, I argue that gentrification is more so a process of slow violence that increases housing scarcity and social isolation, disrupts neighborhood social capital, and decreases a sense of belongingness, particularly among older adults and communities of color,” she said.

Versey examined several neighborhoods undergoing gentrification, including Harlem and Brooklyn, N.Y., which revealed a more complicated narrative about changing neighborhood dynamics and the implementation of new norms as a consequence of gentrification.

At Wesleyan, Versey leads the Critical Health + Social Ecology (CH+SE) Lab. There, Versey and her students explore social ecologies and the context of neighborhoods, work, health, and gender by using surveys, epidemiological data, geospatial analytics, and community engagement to examine questions related to these themes.

At 5 p.m. on May 2, Versey will moderate an American Studies panel discussion on gentrification titled “Interrogating the Wesleyan to New York City Pipeline.”

10 Wesleyan Students, Alumni Win Fulbrights

2019 Fulbrights

The 2019-20 Fulbright award winners include, from top left, Jordan Legaspi ’19, Emma Porrazzo ’19, Katelin Murray ’19, Amad Amedy ’19, Stephanie Loui ’14, Hai Lun Tan ’18, and Ulysses Estrada ’17. Not pictured is Ellie Martin ’16, Emma Distler ’19, and Rachel Yanover ’19.

Ten Wesleyan seniors and recent alumni are the recipients of 2019-20 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships (ETA) and Fulbright Open Study/Research Awards.

The English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Programs place Fulbrighters in classrooms abroad to provide assistance to local English teachers. ETAs help teach English language while serving as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. The age and academic level of the students varies by country, ranging from kindergarten to university level.

Applicants for Open Study/Research Awards design their own projects and will typically work with advisors at foreign universities or other institutes of higher education. The study/research awards are available in approximately 140 countries.

Ellie Martin

Jordan Legaspi ’19 received an ETA to Taiwan. Legaspi is a McNair scholar and a psychology major from California.

Ellie Martin ’16 received an ETA to Colombia. She is an anthropology and Hispanic literatures and cultures double major.

“You Just Have to Read This…” 3 Books By Wesleyan Authors

In the first of a continuing series, Sara McCrea ’21, a College of Letters major from Boulder, Colo., reviews alumni books and offers this selection for those in search of insight and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

In 2004, Susan Lanzoni ’85 read an O Magazine interview of then U.S. Senator Barack Obama, in which he said that, more than America’s budget or trade deficit, he was concerned about an “empathy deficit” in our country. The use of the word “empathy” has only increased over the past 15 years, and many would say for good reason. In Empathy: A History (Yale University Press, 2018), Lanzoni explores empathy as a tool, a technique, a practice, and an aspiration, involving the body, the mind, and the imagination. She tracks the word from its early conception as a translation of the German word Einfühlung (“in-feeling”)—a psychological term used to describe how spectators projected their own feelings into objects of art and nature—to its current usage, which more closely resembles the opposite of projection. In addition to her discussion of the etymology of empathy, Lanzoni investigates the limits and possibilities of empathy in art, science, psychology, popular culture, and politics to present an all-encompassing look at the evolution of how we understand what it means to place ourselves in the world around us.

Tavernier, Students Coauthor Paper on Psychological Trauma of Natural Disasters

Natural disasters are becoming more common all over the world. While the focus is often on restoring physical damage, these disasters also impact residents of the affected region psychologically in ways that are less well understood.

In a paper published in the journal Traumatology on Feb. 7, Assistant Professor of Psychology Royette Tavernier, along with five student coauthors, examined the psychological impact of tropical storm Erika, which hit the Caribbean island of Dominica in August 2015. The data analyzed was based on a sample of 174 college-aged individuals who completed survey-based assessments of several psychosocial variables six months after the storm.

Results showed that more negative exposure to the storm (e.g., displacement, lack of access to food and water) was associated with poor quality sleep, which, in turn, was associated with poorer psychological adjustment (higher rumination, less effective emotion regulation strategies and less perceived psychological growth from the experience of the storm). Furthermore, those who were more negatively affected by the storm had higher religious coping (praying, meditating). Interestingly, higher religious coping was linked with both positive (higher perceived psychological growth from the experience of the storm) and negative (higher rumination and PTSD symptoms) aspects of psychological adjustment.

According to Tavernier, these findings highlight the important roles that both sleep and religious coping play in explaining psychological adjustment in the aftermath of natural disasters.

Plous Honored with Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Minnesota

Scott Plous

For his accomplishments in research and scholarship, the University of Minnesota’s Department of Psychology is honoring Professor of Psychology Scott Plous with a Distinguished Alumni Award.

Plous graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1980 with a BA degree in psychology, summa cum laude. He later completed a PhD in psychology and a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University. At Wesleyan, Plous’s research focuses on judgment and decision-making, prejudice and discrimination, and the human use of animals and the environment.

The University of Minnesota’s alumni awards honor distinguished alumni from the undergraduate and graduate programs. Nominations are solicited from alumni, faculty, and friends of psychology at Minnesota and are reviewed by a Distinguished Alumni Awards Committee, who forward their recommendations to the department chair.

“This award recognizes [Plous’s] distinguished accomplishments in research and scholarship, both basic and applied, as well as in education and enhancing public awareness and impact of psychological science and practice,” wrote Jeffry Simpson, chair of the University of Minnesota’s psychology department, and Mark Snyder of the Distinguished Alumni Awards Committee, in an award letter to Plous. “Your achievements are truly distinguished, and we are so pleased to have you among our truly distinguished alumni.”

Kim, Students Coauthor Paper on Self-Memory Advantage

Kyungmi Kim

Assistant Professor of Psychology Kyungmi Kim, Youngbin (Amabel) Jeon ’19, Alexis Banquer ’20, and Danielle Rothschild ’19 are coauthors of a study published in the October 2018 volume of Consciousness and Cognition.

In the paper, “Conscious awareness of self-relevant information is necessary for an incidental self-memory advantage,” Kim and her students examine the relative contributions of conscious vs. unconscious self-processing to the incidental self-reference effect.

The incidental self-reference effect refers to a memory advantage for items simultaneously presented with self-relevant information (e.g., one’s own name) over those presented with other relevant information (e.g., someone else’s name) when the task at hand bears no relevance to the self (e.g., a simple location judgment task; “Does each item appear above or below the name in the middle?”).

In the study, Kim and her students compared memory for target items that were presented with one’s own name vs. another person’s name when the names were consciously identifiable vs. unidentifiable. They found the incidental self-reference effect when the names were consciously identifiable but not when they were consciously unidentifiable.

“These findings show that conscious awareness of self-cues in the environment is necessary for an incidental self-memory advantage to emerge, suggesting a boundary condition under which the self influences memory,” Kim explained.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

1. Inside Higher Ed: “Voting Is Good, but Higher Ed Must Do More”

In this op-ed, President Michael S. Roth writes: “In a year when inducements to political violence have become normalized at the highest level, colleges and universities must do more than just encourage our students to vote.” It is crucial that colleges actively work to protect free expression, free inquiry, and fact-based discussion, Roth argues.

Stemler Participates in CTNext’s Entrepreneurship Retreat

Steve Stemler, associate professor of psychology, participated in the High Value Talents and Innovators’ Entrepreneurship Retreat Oct. 26-27 on campus. The new industry-academic initiative, supported by the CTNext Higher Education Entrepreneurship and Innovation Fund works to increase entrepreneurial education and output among the state’s top researchers.

Steve Stemler, associate professor of psychology, participated in the High Value Talents and Innovators’ Entrepreneurship Retreat Oct. 26-27 on campus. The new industry-academic initiative, supported by the CTNext Higher Education Entrepreneurship and Innovation Fund works to increase entrepreneurial education and output among the state’s top researchers. The event was sponsored by Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

Stemler joined faculty and researchers from the University of Connecticut, Unilever, Quinnipiac University, and The Jackson Laboratory at the retreat.

Stemler joined faculty and researchers from the University of Connecticut, Unilever, Quinnipiac University, and The Jackson Laboratory at the retreat. Stemler attended the retreat to learn how his research on testing could have potential real-world applications. He also had many students come up with projects in his Psychological Measurement course that could result in important commercial ventures.

Activities included a combination of instructor talks, attendee presentations, active interactions between participants, and a customer discovery, where participants explored potential product-market fit and a wider business model. Faculty received targeted training modules to help attract and retain high-value researchers and were encouraged to engage in Connecticut’s growing innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Activities included a combination of instructor talks, attendee presentations, active interactions between participants, and a customer discovery, where participants explored potential product-market fit and a wider business model. Faculty received targeted training modules to help attract and retain high-value researchers and were encouraged to engage in Connecticut’s growing innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. The goal of the initiative is to increase the number of successful ventures coming out of universities in the state; launch new products and/or business lines with corporate partners; attract investment and partnership deals for these startups and products; and improve the entrepreneurial ecosystems at these institutions to better attract and retain researchers.

The goal of the initiative is to increase the number of successful ventures coming out of universities in the state; launch new products and/or business lines with corporate partners; attract investment and partnership deals for these startups and products; and improve the entrepreneurial ecosystems at these institutions to better attract and retain researchers.

“One thing I took away from the retreat is that as researchers we often get very excited about our own technological/research innovations and assume that people will immediately understand how it fills a need they have,” Stemler said. “I learned that in business ventures, you have to start by really understanding the needs of the people you think will be your potential customers. To do that, it is critically important to interview and really listen to a whole lot of people whom you think will be most interested in your innovation. What I found is that when we engage in that process, we often find that people we thought would find our innovation appealing actually have very different needs. But we can also walk away with more refined ideas for how to apply our innovation, practically communicate about it in a way that resonates with their needs, and which segments of the market will find our innovations useful and which will not.” (Photos by Preksha Sreewastav ’21)

For more information visit the CTNext Higher Education Initiative website.

Robinson, Hellberg ’16, Russell ’17 Coauthor Paper on the Interactions between Gambling, Anxiety, Substance Abuse

Assistant Professor of Psychology Mike Robinson, Samantha Hellberg ’16, and Trinity Russell ’17 are coauthors of a study published in the Journal of Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, October 2018.

In the paper titled “Cued for risk: Evidence for an incentive sensitization framework to explain the interplay between stress and anxiety, substance abuse, and reward uncertainty in disordered gambling behavior,” the coauthors propose a theoretical framework about how cross-sensitization of reward systems in the brain, in part due to uncertainty, leads to high levels of comorbidity between gambling, substance use, and anxiety disorder.

In particular, the coauthors review the literature on how cue attraction and reward uncertainty may underlie gambling pathology, and examine how this framework may advance our understanding of comorbidity with anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders, such as alcohol and nicotine, which are both frequently consumed in gambling settings.

Morawski Honored for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology Research

Jill Morawski (Photo by Christopher Green)

Jill Morawski is an expert on the history of modern psychological sciences. (Photo by Christopher Green)

For her ongoing contributions to the philosophical foundations of psychology, Jill Morawski, Wilbur Fisk Osborne Professor and professor of psychology, is the recipient of two distinguished awards.

Morawski was most recently honored with the American Psychological Association Division 24 Award for Distinguished Theoretical and Philosophical Contributions to Psychology. The award was presented at the annual meeting of the APA, at which Professor Morawski delivered an invited address, “Chasing Psychology’s Objects: The Quest for Ontological Certainty.” It is the division’s highest award and recognizes one of its members each year for lifetime scholarly achievement.

Morawski also received the American Psychological Foundation’s 2017 Joseph B. Gittler Award. The annual Gittler Award was established through a bequest from Joseph Gittler, PhD, who wished to recognize psychologists who are making and will continue to make scholarly contributions to the philosophical foundations of psychological knowledge.

Morawski was honored for “contribut(ing) in original and profound ways to our understanding of reflexivity, subjectivity, and the place of the researcher in experimental and qualitative psychology. Her contributions can be characterized as an explication of the deep structure of the relationship between the researcher, the researcher’s epistemology, and the research object derived from the research participant. Together this frames much of her research on the subject, on the researcher, and on the laboratory practices that together unfold the ontological conditions of the experiment. Her work has ranged over the contentious nature of what is now often referred to as mechanical objectivity by philosophers and historians of science, and she has connected this work with the important elements of reflexivity entailed and sometimes addressed by the psychological community.”

Morawski has made numerous contributions to the organizations and societies that matter to the philosophical and historical foundations of psychology. This includes having held the presidency of two APA divisions, the Division of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology and the Division of the History of Psychology. She is also professor, science in society, and professor, feminist, gender, and sexuality studies.