Tag Archive for Psychology Department
by Andrew Logan ’18 •
Wesleyan Associate Professor of Psychology Barbara Juhasz and alumna Jennifer Brewer ’13 recently coauthored an article titled “An Investigation into the Processing of Lexicalized English Blend Words: Evidence from Lexical Decisions and Eye Movements During Reading” in the Journal of Psycholinguistic Research.
Their work examines the process of blending, through which a new word or concept develops from the synthesis of two source words. Some examples of common blended words include “smog,” “brunch” and “infomercial.” Though previous research on blending has inspected the structure of blends, Juhasz and Brewer examined how common-blended words are recognized compared to other kinds of words.
Pairing blend words with non-blend control words of similar familiarity, length and frequency, the study asked participants to complete tasks involving lexical decisions and sentence reading. The results found that participants processed blend words differently from non-blend words according to task demands. In the lexical decision task participants recognized blend words more slowly but received shorter fixation durations when read within sentences.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Men in the U.S. today increasingly believe themselves to be victims of gender discrimination, and there are a record number of recent lawsuits claiming anti-male bias. In a study published in March in Psychology of Men and Masculinity, Assistant Professor of Psychology Clara Wilkins and her co-authors assess the consequences of these perceptions of anti-male bias. Are men who perceive discrimination more likely to discriminate against women? How do beliefs about societal order affect men’s evaluations of men and women?
The article is co-authored by former post-doctoral fellow Joseph Wellman, now an assistant professor at California State University–San Bernardino, Erika Flavin ’14, and Juliana Manrique ’15, MA ’16.
In a blog post on the study, the authors write:
Traditionally men have had higher status than women in the U.S.; they have been better educated, more likely to be employed, and have tended to earn more than women with the same job and qualifications. People vary in the extent to which they believe that this particular ordering of society is fair and the way things should be. Some believe this type of inequality is legitimate, while others believe it should change. We expected that men who believed men should have higher status in society would be most upset about the thought that men now experience discrimination, and that they would react by favoring men over equally-qualified women. This effort would be a way to reestablish men’s perceived rightful place in society.
They conducted two studies to test this prediction. In the first, male participants read an article about increasing bias against men or another group, and then were asked to evaluate the résumé of a man or woman as part of an ostensibly unrelated study. The résumés were identical except for the name and gender. The researchers found that men who believe the social hierarchy is fair tended to give more negative evaluations of the female candidate relative to the male candidate after reading about bias against men. They also showed less desire to help the female candidate. The same effect wasn’t seen after male participants read about bias against an unrelated group. The researchers conclude that beliefs about the legitimacy of the hierarchy and perceptions of bias against men together seemed to disadvantage women.
In a second study, the researchers manipulated participants’ beliefs about society’s fairness by having them create sentences by unscrambling strings of randomly ordered words that suggested system legitimacy. For example, they created sentences like “effort leads to prosperity” – which makes people believe that hard work in society is rewarded. Or, they unscrambled other words to create neutral sentences unrelated to society. Unscrambling system-legitimizing sentences caused participates to believe the social structure is legitimate, and in turn, caused those primed to perceive discrimination against men to more negatively evaluate female targets. They also reported being less willing to help the female targets than male targets.
The researchers gave participants an opportunity to provide feedback on how to improve targets’ resumes. Those primed with beliefs that the social structure is legitimate reacted to perceiving bias against men by providing more constructive feedback to male targets than female targets. They write that these findings are striking, as the resumes were identical – only the names varied.
This research suggests that men who believe that men should be high-status in society react to perceiving bias against men by engaging in efforts to maintain men’s position of power. These individuals may be unaware that they favor their own group or disadvantage women; they may simply perceive that they are righting a perceived wrong. However, this explanation was not supported by other research results. When the researchers primed men to perceive discrimination against women, they did not react by favoring women over men. It seems as though they are uniquely concerned about maintaining their own group’s position in society, they write.
The researchers conclude that when high-status individuals perceive increasing bias against their group, those who endorse the legitimacy of the social hierarchy may perpetuate social disparities. Thus, if men increasingly perceive discrimination against their group, they may be more inclined to discriminate against women and provide other men with an extra boost. They recommend adopting hiring and evaluation processes that mask gender to prevent these potentially deleterious effects of perceiving bias against men.
Read the complete research article here.
by Bill Holder •
Antonio Gonzalez, professor of Spanish and director of the Center for Global Studies, is comfortably seated in front of a semicircle of 11 students. He holds an iPad Pro that controls two large screens on the wall behind him and enables him to move effortlessly, seamlessly from Google Maps, to video clips, to text he can annotate on the iPad. All the while he converses in Spanish with his students about a movie that tells the story of a Moroccan woman repatriating the body of her brother after he died crossing the Strait of Gibraltar in a small boat.
In another class, Gonzalez and a colleague in Madrid co-teach with the help of high-quality videoconferencing technology. (See article.)
“You can’t believe what a success my trans-Atlantic classroom arrangement has become. It was as if the students in Spain were here with us,” says Gonzalez. In one class, students in Spain conversed with peers in Middletown about why certain homicides in Ciudad Juarez had not been classified as terrorism. “Talk about interculturalism!”
Technology is helping Gonzalez to teach differently and more effectively. And that’s one goal of the Center for Pedagogical Innovation and Lifelong Learning (CPI), which has been working with faculty members on new techniques and pedagogical strategies.
Now the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has given the CPI a major boost with a $750,000 grant to fund its activities for the next four and a half years.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Assistant Professor of Psychology Psyche Loui and Rachel Guetta ’17 are the authors of a new paper exploring how people form associations between sound and taste. The article, titled, “When Music is Salty: The Crossmodal Associations Between Sound and Taste,” was published March 29 in the journal PLoS One.
Scientists know that music can be evaluated as sweet, sour, salty or bitter, depending on features in its composition such as pitch, articulation, or brightness. For example, higher pitches are often thought of as sweet or sour, and lower pitches associated with bitterness.
While previous research has studied this general area, Loui and Guetta implemented four experiments to explore if, and to what extent, humans form associations between complex sounds and complex tastes, and what mechanisms might underlie these associations. One experiment, conducted with 50 Wesleyan undergraduates, involved making matches between recordings of an original violin composition and four different flavors of custom-made chocolate ganache. Whereas past studies have used simpler auditory and gustatory stimuli (such as isolated pitches, or basic taste samples of flavored beverage solutions), “both violin music and chocolate ganache are categories of complex stimuli that enable fine-grained perceptual discrimination,” the researchers explain.
Loui and Guetta write, “Our findings suggest that perhaps everyone, to some extent, has the capacity to form mappings between auditory and gustatory modalities.” They found that individuals with musical training were no more accurate in their sound-taste associations.
The findings also support the idea that the pleasantness associated with each auditory and gustatory stimulus is a mediating factor in creating these sound-taste associations. That is, individual participants were likely to associate those music clips they found most pleasant with those chocolate samples that they enjoyed the most.
These findings may have applications for “food businesses and restaurant entrepreneurs in marketing products and optimizing consumer experience, capitalizing on emotional congruency between sound and taste.” For example, cafes might choose certain music to enhance their coffee flavors, and the taste of beer might be affected by music being played at the bar.
Loui also is assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrative sciences.
by Olivia Drake •
Charles Sanislow, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, is the author of two papers in leading journals for psychiatry and psychology on his work with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Research Domain Criteria (RDoC). The RDoC is a framework to drive translational research to improve psychiatric diagnosis and develop new and better treatments.
In the October issue of World Psychiatry, Sanislow reports on ongoing RDoC work, including the consideration of adding the domain “Motor Systems” to the RDoC. Early this month, Sanislow participated in a workshop at NIMH to review the evidence for research constructs having to do with disruptions of movement related to psychopathology.
In the November issue of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Sanislow argues for the need to research connections between internal mechanisms and core dimensions of human suffering and dysfunction. In Sanislow’s lab at Wesleyan, students learn methods to study alterations in cognitive and neural processes, and ways to clarify how such alterations relate to clinical symptoms. Sanislow began work on the RDoC when it started in 2009, and he continues to serve as member of the NIMH Internal Working Group for the project.
by Cynthia Rockwell •
Two alumni who did not know each other as undergraduates—but were both psychology majors and students of Professor of Psychology Karl Scheibe—have collaborated on editing a book examining academic collaborations.
The book, Collaboration in Psychological Science: Behind the Scenes, was published this fall by Worth Publishing, a division of MacMillan. The editors, Richie Zweigenhaft ’67, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Psychology at Guilford College, and Eugene Borgida ’71, Professor of psychology and law at the University of Minnesota and a Morse-Alumni Distinguished Professor of Psychology, dedicate the book to Professor Karl Scheibe, their undergraduate mentor, five years apart.
Separated by this age difference, the two did not meet on Middletown campus, but through Zweigenhaft’s mother, Irene, when Borgida showed up at her place of employment, American Institutes for Research (AIR), looking for a job. Seeing his résumé, and noting that Borgida attended Wesleyan and one of his references, Professor Karl Scheibe, was one of her son’s favorite professors, Irene took the young graduate under her wing and he was hired at AIR. The two Wesleyan graduates eventually met and developed a warm collegial friendship from their respective institutions.
The two began speaking of the importance of collaborations in research and noting an increased trend. In their introduction, the editors note,”[P]sychologists today engage in a good deal of collaboration, collaborative research is likely to generate the most frequently cited work in the field, and some scholars and some institutions very much encourage collaboration. Ironically, however, little has been written about the complicated behind-the scenes process of working with others to design research, to gather and analyze data, and to write reports, articles, or books…. With these issues and questions in mind, we encouraged those who wrote chapters for this volume to tell us how they came to collaborate and the nature of their interactions, while collaborating.” The result is a book of 21 essays, with contributors from Princeton, University of Michigan, the American Psychological Association, and the University of Kent, to name a few—and a section on interdisciplinary collaboration, with conclusion by the editors offering best practices.
The book is dedicated to both Irene Zweigenhaft and Professor of Psychology Emeritus, Karl Scheibe. Both Zweigenhaft and Borgida consider their Wesleyan experience a crucial factor in shaping their scholarship and interest in developing collaborations across academic disciplines.
“My undergraduate experience at Wesleyan very much emphasized interdisciplinarity,” says Zweigenhaft. ” In fact, although I was a psychology major, I wrote my honors thesis with Phil Pomper in the history department. It was a study of Hitler’s personality—the result of a conversation that Phil and I had after I wrote a paper about Lenin in a seminar on the Russian Revolution that I took with him. Karl Scheibe was on the thesis committee, and he, like Phil, encouraged me to think across traditional disciplinary lines.”
“From my perch,” says Borgida,” there is no question that my own deep affinity for interdisciplinary scholarship was activated and nurtured while at Wesleyan. And with such a view of research questions comes a commitment to collaboration across disciplinary boundaries and state lines in order to generate the most insight into the questions posed. To me, Wesleyan was then and is now all about interdisciplinarity and collaboration. So in a very basic way the book with Richie basks in the value of a Wes education.”
by Frederic Wills '19 •
Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology, is a co-author of a paper titled “The impact of junk-food diet during development on ‘wanting’ and ‘liking’.” The paper was recently published in The Behavioral Brain Research Journal. His co-authors include Wesleyan alumni Ellen Nacha Lesser ’15, Aime Arroyo-Ramirez ‘16, and Sarah Jingyi Mi ’16.
The research looked at the developmental impacts of a chronic junk-food diet throughout development and how it blunts pleasure and affects motivation. The study found that chronic exposure to a junk-food diet resulted in large individual differences in weight gain (gainers and non-gainers) despite resulting in stunted growth as compared to chow-fed controls. Behaviorally, junk food exposure attenuated conditioned approach (autoshaping) in females, particularly in non-gainers. In contrast, junk-food exposed rats that gained the most weight were willing to work harder for access to a food cue (conditioned reinforcement), and were more attracted to a junk-food context (conditioned place preference) than non-gainers.
Hilary Barth, associate professor of psychology, is a co-author of a paper titled, “How feedback improves children’s numerical estimation,” published in the August 2016 issue of the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. Barth’s co-authors are former members of her Cognitive Development Lab, which include Shipra Kanjlia ’11 and Jennifer Garcia ’10, former lab managers Jessica Taggart and Elizabeth Chase, and former postdoctoral fellow Emily Slusser, PhD.
The paper explores one theory of children’s cognitive development that there are fundamental developmental changes in the ways children think about numbers. This theory says numbers are arranged on a different mental scale for younger children. Changes in children’s estimates following corrective feedback have been interpreted as support for that theory.
Barth’s team tested this study and wrote about the results. “This study with second-grade children shows that the changes observed in estimation following corrective feedback are more consistent with a different theory of children’s numerical development,” said Barth. “Instead of thinking of numbers in a fundamentally different way with development, children are probably changing by gaining knowledge of numerical ordering and magnitude, and gaining facility with measurement processes.”
by Olivia Drake •
Wesleyan’s Passion Driven Statistics curriculum introduces students to statistics by allowing them to ask and answer statistical questions that they care about.
Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Passion Driven Statistics model has been successfully implemented through the Applied Data Analysis course at Wesleyan, created by Lisa Dierker, professor of psychology, director of pilot programs for the Center for Pedagogical Innovation. The course is taught by several faculty from Wesleyan’s Quantitative Analysis Center.
“What I want is for students to do when get out of this course is to encounter data in the world and say, ‘I can’t wait to do something with it,’ and to have an understanding of what might be possible,” Dierker said.
The program includes 15 hours of video lessons and supporting materials. It’s adapted for virtual learning on Schoology, Moodle , EdX and Coursera and is offered free of charge for teachers and learners worldwide.
Passion Driven Statistics is a new way to approach statistics by shifting the focus from solely mathematics to a uniquely-applied learning experience. Topics come from a large range of disciplines including psychology, sociology, government and environmental science. Students generate hypotheses based on existing data, conduct a literature review, prepare data for analysis, conduct descriptive and inferential statistical analyses, present research findings to expert and novice audiences, and learn statistical analysis software packages.
This past summer, the Yale University-Bridgeport GEAR UP Partnership adopted Wesleyan’s Passion-Driven Statistics curriculum for their summer program at Yale. High school students from Bridgeport, Conn. benefited from the two-week program.
This film, below, which features Wesleyan’s Lisa Dierker, Jalon Alexander and Sarah Jeffrey, follows the Bridgeport students as they complete their Passion Driven Statistics projects and present their research posters:
by Olivia Drake •
Situational judgment tests (SJTs) have become an increasingly important tool for predicting employee performance.
In a recent study, Steven Stemler, associate professor of psychology, and two executives at pre-hire assessment firm Aspiring Minds asked current employees at several firms in India to review scenarios and then pick the “best” and “worst” choices from a set of options.
The colleagues found a statistically significant correlation between job success and those who correctly identified the ‘worst’ answers to scenarios.
Their results were surprising.
“What we found in our research is that the ability to correctly identify the ‘worst’ response to a situation is a systematically different skill than the ability to identify the ‘best’ response, and the two may not even be related,” Stemler said.
As a result, Stemler, Varun Aggarwal and Siddharth Nithyan produced a paper titled “Knowing What Not to Do Is a Critical Job Skill: Evidence from 10 Different Scoring Methods,” which was published in the September 2016 International Journal of Selection and Assessment.
by Olivia Drake •
The new school year ushers in a wide array of emotions for both new and returning students – from feelings of excitement over leaving home for the first time among first-year students, to anxiety and nostalgia over post-graduation plans among seniors.
Amidst those emotions, students will face challenges in balancing their academic workload, socializing with friends, participating in extra-curricular activities, and maintaining family relationships — all within limited financial and time constraints. As the school year progresses, it may become increasingly challenging for students to strike a healthy balance across these various aspects of their university life. The unfortunate result for many students will be an ominous cloud of negative affect: levels of stress, anxiety, self-doubt, and rumination may increase over time. When students perceive that they are drowning in the sea of university demands, the first instinct is often to push themselves harder in order to stay afloat.
“Unfortunately, coping with the turbulent waves of university life inevitably results in compromises in one important human behavior – sleep,” says Royette Tavernier, assistant professor of psychology. Tavernier is a developmental psychologist whose research examines the link between sleep and psychosocial adjustment among adolescents and emerging adults.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends