Students Ikela Lewis and Sarah Fricke present their research on perception to Professor Christina Frederick at the 2018 Sierra Nevada College Psychology Fair
Every psychology major at SNC conducts an original research project, from background studies through experimental design, testing, and statistical analysis.

2018 Undergraduate Psychology Research

The eight seniors in the Experimental Psychology course, and a group of four underclassmen presented their research projects at the 2018 Sierra Nevada College Psychology Research Fair on April 23. Each student chose their question based on their personal interests. The students then designed and executed the research, from background studies through experimental protocols, testing, and statistical analysis. This year’s projects spanned an unusually wide range of fields, including education, business, social psychology, perception, psychopathology, and art therapy.


“I am always so impressed by how hard my students work on their research projects, and how motivated they are. Whether they go on to grad school or into the workforce, they have great futures ahead of them!”
Christina Frederick, Psychology Program Chair


Presenters at the 2018 Psychology Research Fair L-R: James Sandoval, Jillian Hummer, Sarah Freedman, Ikela Lewis, Danny Dubyak, Professor Christina Frederick, Liam Mattox, Sarah Fricke, Gabby Ariganello, Sybile Moser

After the SNC Psych Fair, the students took their posters and presentations on the road. The first stop was the Nevada Undergraduate Research Symposium, on April 30 at UNR. There, Danny Dubyak was chosen to describe his research on participation awards in the oral presentations. Then the six students who had submitted their papers to the UCLA Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference (PURC) headed to southern California for the May 4th event. Ariganello, Dubyak, Freedman, Knuppenburg, Mattox, and Moser were all accepted at PURC. Both Dubyak and Mattox were selected for oral presentations.


“Our students are up against students from all over the country that are trying to get into the UCLA psychology conference. . . People may think ‘Oh, this is a small college, maybe they’re not getting that great an experience’, but they really are. This semester really culminates everything they’ve been doing.”
Morgan Burke, Experimental Psychology Teaching Assistant

Original research gives an important extra dimension to undergraduates’ experiences at SNC. Students build adaptability and confidence when they use their own initiative to solve unexpected problems. They learn creative new ways of thinking that are important assets as they continue their education or move into professional careers. And they develop strong relationships and collaboration skills working with their faculty mentors and fellow students.

The 2018 Psychology Research Projects

Gabby Ariganello
Person vs. Disability-first Language: Perceived Capabilities of Those with Learning Disabilities
This project measured how participants evaluated an essay by a “student with a learning disability” (person first) vs. the same essay by a “learning disabled student” (disability first). The APA stresses person-first language, but not everyone agrees. Ariganello found that the difference in language had no significant effect on how participants judged the hypothetical disabled student’s academic ability. Disabled people’s personal language preferences can safely take precedence.

Danny Dubyak
Award Structures: Participation Awards Positively Impact Performance
There is a common concern about participation trophies that giving awards to everybody makes the awards meaningless. Dubyak, who is a double major in Psychology and Global Business Management, was particularly interested in the value of giving awards in the workplace. The study compared the impact on performance of giving everyone an award, giving no one an award, and giving the highest achiever an award. The results show that awards given to all participants do have a statistically significant impact on performance.

Sarah Freedman
You Can Judge a Person by Their Profile: When Gossip Deters Relationships
Gossip (talking about an absent third party) has a negative connotation in popular culture. In contrast, research suggests that gossip is a social tool which enhances relationship and group bonds. Freedman set up fake social media profiles containing malicious, positive, or no gossip. The study looked at participants’ responses to friend requests from the people represented in the different types of profiles. Comparison tests of social, physical, and task attraction were all lower when the profiles contained malicious gossip.

Sarah Fricke, Alisa Robinson, David I.K. Moniz-Lewis, and Kaitlin Cabral
What You Sea is What You Get; Does Global vs. Local Priming Impact Hierarchical Perspective?
This research investigated the effect of global (distance) or local (close-up) priming on visual perception. The perception tests were letter recognition tasks in which there were very large letters made up of different small letters. The testing is not complete, but preliminary results suggest that priming does not impact global or local perspective. This project was conducted by a group of sophomore and junior psychology students.

Jillian Hummer
Service Dog Awareness: The Impact of Reading on Students’ Perceptions of Animal-assisted Therapy
Hummer looked at whether storytelling changed students’ perceptions of service dogs. Many people, nowadays, bring their dogs into public spaces and refer to them as emotional support dogs. This has created problems for service dogs. Hummer, who has experience with animal therapy and owns a support dog, researched how reading different types of content influenced students’ awareness about support animals. Participants read a personal narrative with a support dog, a personal narrative without the dog, or statistics about service dogs. These readings did not impact service dog awareness.

Ryan Knuppenburg
Linguistic Affect Priming Impacts Word Choice and Likability
Knuppenburg, who grew up in New York, noticed that people on the East Coast are more sarcastic and people on the West Coast have a more positive tone. He was interested in the effect this could have on people’s feelings about themselves and others. His research found that exposing participants to positive vs. negative language affected their own language choices and tendency to like the speaker. This highlights the importance of conversational awareness and learned optimism in social interactions.

Liam Mattox
Does Closing Your Eyes Affect Stress?
Managing stress is a major concern for many people. Mattox used blood pressure measurements and questionnaire responses to see if it is more effective to meditate with your eyes open or closed. Participants in his study experienced similar stress reduction from a 5-minute breathing exercise performed either way – do it however works for you!

Sybile Moser
History Alive: Using Colorized Historical Imagery to Impact Retention and Engagement
Students can struggle with interest in history. This project compared students’ responses to mock textbook pages with either black and white or colorized images. Participants who read the pages with colorized images showed higher levels of engagement and retention, and used fewer words about negative emotions and death in describing the content. Revitalized visuals in textbooks could lead to more engaged students.

The Trouble With Thankfulness
Does “non-social” gratitude – gratitude for a life circumstance, rather than for the actions or presence of a person – impact risk-taking behavior? Moser exposed half the participants to a gratitude priming exercise, then used responses to a “choose your own adventure” (CYOA) story to compare risk-taking. Results showed that the gratitude priming had no significant effect, although there was a significant difference in risk-taking between men and women across both groups.

James Sandoval
Impact of Self Expression on Creativity
Sandoval investigated whether self-expression can stimulate creativity. Participants began by completing one of three different drawing activities: drawing inside the lines, drawing a specified object, or making a unique-to-self drawing. Participants then completed a creativity test. Those who had started with the most self-expressive drawing task had significantly higher scores on the creativity test, suggesting that there are ways to develop and practice creativity.


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