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Student Research



Psychology majors demonstrate breadth of knowledge by successfully completing a comprehensive exam, given in three parts that cover major areas of the field (e.g., cognitive, developmental, learning, personality, physiological, social). They also have the opportunity to pursue an area of psychology in greater depth by completing a senior thesis. One thesis option (PSY 495-496) allows a student(s) to perform an empirical investigation of a research problem (review background evidence, design and carry out a study, and write up the findings) over both semesters of the senior year. The other thesis option (PSY 493) is a one-semester in-depth, integrative review of the scientific literature on a topic in psychology. All students will publicly present their work. Both options allow students to apply the skills and knowledge they have acquired over their first three years, and pursue a topic in which they are most interested. 

2019 (P495-496, TWO SEMESTERS)

Fall 2018 (P495-496, Two Semesters)


Berenice Contreras and Alicia Jacobs


Emerging adulthood is a period from the late teens to late twenties, when an individual is continuing to establish their identity and gaining independence from their parents (Arnett, 2007). Those who choose to attend college are also faced with adjusting to a new environment and demands in addition to these developmental milestones. Although stress is experienced by all college students, specific individual differences, such as being an international student, first generation student, or lower socioeconomic status can create additional stress for college students (Lay & Safdar, 2003; Ross, Niebling, & Heckert, 1999). In order to assess the experiences of different groups of college students, 132 students from a small liberal arts college in the Midwest completed an online questionnaire regarding different dimensions that may influence their college experience, their perceived daily hassles, and perceived daily uplifts. The findings of this study suggest that international students perceive less social support from friends and also experience fewer uplifts than domestic students. In general, results also suggest that international and first generation status are not related to daily hassles or acculturative stress. Finally, students who identify as middle class were found to experience lower levels of acculturative stress than students who identified as other socioeconomic classes. Ultimately, understanding how different groups experience college can allow for better support of emerging adults. 

Jack E. Leahy and Richard Melville


This project examines the role exercise has in facilitating reappraisal after a stressor. Emotion dysregulation has been linked to increased risk of depression, less ability to work a job, and difficulty test taking. People who struggle with emotion dysregulation also fail to appropriately respond to stressors. Exercise, however, has positive effects: research suggests it increases mood, decreases stress and leads to improved mental resources.We hypothesized that, by increasing mental resources, exercise would improve people’s ability to reappraise. We looked at one’s ability to reappraise a stressor after participants spent twenty minutes cycling or twenty minutes stretching. Using an N-Back test, a public speaking task, and scales measuring mood and emotion regulation, participants were given a stressor and measured on their ability to reappraise. We found no significant results in the study to suggest that exercise was more effective in reapprasing a stressor than stretching, and we also found no significant results that the exercise group had a higher working memory after exercising than did the stretching group. We conclude that more research is needed in this field, and that there is a continued importance to finding replication in previous literature.


Fall 2018  (P493, One Semester)



Jack Baderman


The Dark Triad (DT; Paulhus & Williams, 2002) is a set of personality disorders composed of psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism. This constellation of personalities and their corresponding characteristics are widely acknowledged as undesirable. Contrary to popular belief, DT traits seem to be advantageous, propelling individuals to fame, fortune, and power; thriving in the modern Western world where much of the population is struggling to ‘survive’. Many individuals in the top 1% of society today possess significant DT characteristics (Wille, De Fruyt, & De Clercq, 2013), further highlighting the benefits of the DT.  Using the Five Factor Model (FFM; Costa & McCrae, 1992) to measure the DT using non-pathological traits will provide insight into how these abnormal dispositions can function within societal boundaries. The results suggest that although there are negative life outcomes associated with the DT, there are also positive life outcomes, including increased salary, adaptability, and higher career satisfaction (Spurk, Keller, & Hirschi, 2016).


Austin Barker



This is a research review on the topic of stress from deployment.  Throughout this paper we will look at how this stress affects those serving, their spouse, and their children.  For service members, mental health and the barriers to treatment is the focus.  Specifically traumatic brain injury (TBI), sexual assault, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression.  The focus for military spouses is communication, mental health, barriers to treatment, and support.  This paper also looks at the differences between male and female military spouses.  Mental health; behavioral, developmental, and social health, along with barriers to seeking treatment is the focus for military children.  Some barriers include stigma, financial struggles, and wanting to handle it on your own.  This paper also looks at how the stress affects marriages and divorce, along with pre and post 9/11 differences in the divorce rate, and how it has not increased even though deployments has increased.

Shay Barry



This review aims to discuss attachment theory relevant to adult romantic relationships, connecting attachment styles to partnerships and marriage satisfaction. This paper focuses on the adult attachment of heterosexual romantic relationships, as this is what a majority of the literature consists of. The goal of this review is to provide substantial evidence that attachment styles correlate with many factors for relationship quality. This paper focuses through a timeline of an individual’s life and the appropriated relationships that ultimately lead into the adulthood attachment. This paper is highly constructed around the foundational and theoretical work done in the field of attachment, followed by relatively recent empirical studies. A specific question asked throughout is how individual differences in attachment styles correlate with romantic relationships and the quality of them. In conclusion, attachment styles impact, positively and negatively, the many components of adult romantic relationships included.

Chloe Boensch



This current review explores existing literature on the influences of pediatric cancer on future relationships after treatment, especially adolescent and young adult (AYA) relationships. Because pediatric cancer patients’ childhood looks much different than their healthy peers, due to distress from treatment, absence from school, and a number of other hurdles, development may be altered. This literature review primarily utilizes Erik Erikson’s psychosocial approach and secondarily recognizes Jean Piaget’s cognitive development and Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theories. The literature reviewed seeks to better understand the needs of pediatric cancer patients after treatment, due to the largely increased survival rate due to medical advancements in the past few decades. Majority of the literature examines the childhood cancer’s impact on peer and romantic relationships and reveals the need for further education and intervention in schools and hospitals for current and past cancer patients. Due to much of the research having participant qualifications as relatively broad, future research should attempt to better understand how the age at diagnosis, time since treatment, and other variables more specifically influence AYA peer, familial, and romantic relationships. 


Abigail R. Burton



Criminal offenders experience a contamination in their natural narrative development by entering the prison system, which strips away the value of their previous identity. By gaining a new, stigmatized identity in prison, they face difficulties navigating their way through self-concept and identity development. Many offenders digress into the consequences of Erikson’s (1980) psychosocial stages of development and look for self-validation by engaging in harmful behaviors. The negative societal narrative placed on the criminal offender population leads many to internalize that stigma and conceptualize it as their own narrative. Proper rehabilitation processes focus on improving social support, cognitively reconstructing the meaning of past life events, maintaining a positive outlook, and temporally configuring a narrative into a cohesive plot. The United States prison system does not currently implement all factors of this rehabilitation plan, which is seen in the high rates of recidivism for criminal offenders. In order to decrease rates of mental illness and recidivism within the prison population, narrative reconstruction and identity development are crucial. 

Annie Gillard



The purpose of the following literature review is to examine the ways in which individual well-being and social relationships are effected by social network site (SNS) use. Research surrounding social technologies, specifically SNSs, has become increasingly important and relevant within the psychological field. In particular, adolescents and young adults have been the focus of majority of the emerging studies, due to statistics showing this age group as the most prevalent users. Individual well-being will be assessed in terms of anxiety and depression, body dissatisfaction, loneliness, cyberbullying, and self-esteem. While there are many types of social relationships, this review will focus on friendships and romantic/intimate relationships. SNS use appears to be associated with numerous negative implications, however, there are certainly positive impacts as well. This literature review first summarizes the effects SNS use impose on individual well-being and then examines what impacts SNS use have on friendship and romantic relationships. Ultimately, outcomes are largely dependent on differing personal, situational, and behavioral factors – of which many will be discussed – when using social network sites.

Emily J. Green



Intimate partner violence (IPV), or physical, sexual, and psychological abuse between individuals in close relationships, a is a widespread phenomenon that influences almost one-fourth of American women (Smith et al., 2017). Further, IPV can have many negative physical and mental health consequences, including depression and PTSD (Golding, 1999). It is important to examine the literature on IPV, specifically as it relates to coping strategies, in order to understand the associations between IPV, health outcomes, and survivors’ risk of experiencing IPV in future relationships. The literature suggests that disengaged and emotion-focused coping strategies (e.g., avoidant, wishful thinking coping), compared to engaged and problem-focused coping strategies (e.g., leaving an abuser), can potentially exacerbate poor mental health outcomes and increase the likelihood of IPV survivors experiencing future IPV (Iverson, Litwack, Pineles, Suvak, Vaughn, & Resick, 2013; Rizo, Givens, & Lombardi, 2017). Research on those relationships has led to promising directions for prevention by intervening to improve trauma symptoms and coping strategies. However, there are methodological limitations that must be addressed when defining and examining IPV. 

Krista L. Kaleel



Poverty is a worldwide phenomenon that negatively affects the lives of millions on a daily basis. Unfortunately, poverty’s negative effects are more pronounced on children and adolescents than adults. This paper is a review of the literature that focuses on ways in which economic disadvantages negatively impact children’s academic, social, and developmental growth. In order to gain theoretical background information on cognitive and language development, Piaget and Vygotsky will be discussed respectively. Because poverty does not have an explicit definition, the multidimensional definition of poverty will be analyzed. This definition takes into account that geographical locations weigh heavy when defining poverty. Associated with this fact is that there is by nature, a disparity in local education systems. Factors that are linked with families that live in impoverished homes are included but not limited to the following: maternal depression, lack of parental engagement in their children’s education, and an increase in teenage pregnancy and gang-related involvement. Measures that parents and teachers can take in order to support economically disadvantaged youth to continue their education will also be discussed.


Zhaoyan Liu


Mindfulness-based meditation is a sub-group of meditation practices that are receiving growing attention. The present paper examines the effectiveness of mindfulness practices on measures of cognitive performances and physical and psychological well-being. Overall, previous literature suggests that mindfulness training might be beneficial to enhance measures of psychological and physical health for both healthy individuals and patients with different types of disorders. Further, mindfulness meditation could improve some executive functions and memory specificity. However, many of the studies show methodological limitations, and negative results have been reported as well. Therefore, even though most findings reviewed in this study suggested that mindfulness-based meditation could enhance the aforementioned functions, available evidence should be evaluated with caution, and further high-quality studies involving more standardized protocol are needed to draw a firm conclusion about the effectiveness of meditation. 

Virginia W. Schoder


The workplace in America has become a strenuous environment for some, both mentally and psychologically. Knowing how unfortunate an individual’s experiences can be at work, it is important to realize just how much of an effect changing one’s mood can have on his or her productivity, social relationships, and overall workplace success. Fredrickson’s (2001) Broaden-and-Build Model theorizes how positive affect can broaden individuals’ minds and allow them to build upon their cognitive and social skills. Applying this structure to the workplace, researchers have been able to understand the positive effects mood can have on workplace behaviors and thought processes, highlighting happiness’ influential role on the employee. Not only can individuals improve their situation, but the organization can also employ methods to foster happiness, such as with job design, how leaders present themselves and work with employees, and environmental elements of the office space itself. It is important to also acknowledge known moderators, such as emotion regulation and personality, and limitations to the positive influences of happiness on workplace behaviors. However, the large influence happiness has on employees is still one to be acknowledged and explored further for organizations to realize the importance of refocusing priorities less on material success, and more on the well-being of their employees.  

Meghan E. Sink


This paper reviews the scientific literature regarding the impacts of prenatal and early postnatal lead exposure, specifically the cognitive and behavioral effects associated with early lead exposure in humans and non-human animals. The evidence reviewed suggests that even extremely low levels of lead exposure are associated with decreased cognition and overall academic performance. In addition to observed cognitive deficits, behavioral modifications are also observed in human and animal studies. Animals exposed to lead exhibit greater levels of hyperactivity and anxiety-like behavior, and children with higher lead levels display more problem behaviors and are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and related disorders. Overall, early lead exposure is associated with a variety of adverse effects on behavior and cognition. Even after lead levels decrease, many of these adverse effects remain (Reyes, 2014). This paper aims to better understand the overall effects of early lead exposure, and emphasize that these effects occur at lead levels recently and widely considered in the past to have been safe. 

Audrey J. Smith



A literature review of play therapy outcomes was conducted to determine the effectiveness for children with chronic health conditions. Using Schaefer’s (2001; 2013) therapeutic powers of play as an outline for outcomes, the review found consistent themes of anxiety reduction, play as preparation, and the importance of parental involvement. Future research on play therapy can be improved methodologically and expanded to new populations by considering the unique needs of children with chronic illnesses. 





Yijie Wang



As positive psychology became popular, scholars pay much attention to the topic of happiness. With the knowledge of the importance of being happy, more and more studies started researching on the determinants of happiness. Variables such as health, social relationships, personality are confirmed to have a positive relationship with happiness across countries and cultures. However, few studies have concluded that there is a universal effect of other variables such as religion and occupation on psychological well-being. As Egri and Ralston (2004) hypothesized, there should be a converge in general cohort of China and the U.S. due to the economic and political reform in China during the recent years. Thus, this thesis investigates the effect of six variables, which are income, health, education, occupation, religion, and social relationships, on happiness in China and the U.S. After combining evidence from previous studies, this paper reported a few interesting points regarding the distinctive impact of occupation and religion in China and the U.S. Since the conclusion in this thesis are based on evidence in either China and the U.S., the result on the difference between China and the U.S. concerning the effect of contributors on happiness can't adequately represent the situation in collectivist and individualist countries. Ergo, in order to better address the difference in happiness and the determinants of happiness in collectivist and individualist countries, more studies which in countries besides China and the U.S. should be done. 

Spring 2019  (P493, One Semester)



Megan Galle

The Role of Gender in Emotional Expression and Experiences

While emotions are crucial to many aspects of individuals’ lives, emotions can be difficult to define and comprehend. Because of this complexity, numerous theories have been proposed to understand the multiple components that may work together to comprise emotions as well as the role that emotions play in daily life (e.g. Bard, 1934; Cannon, 1927, Schachter & Singer, 1962). Many of these theories agree that emotions consist of both physiological arousal, or emotional experience, and a cognitive labeling component, or emotional expression (e.g. Lazarus, 1991; Schachter & Singer, 1962). However, research into emotions has also demonstrated the importance of various external factors in this process. Specifically, the role of gender, which includes gender stereotypes, gender role norms, and social norms, has been extensively studied within the emotion literature (e.g. Eagly, 1987; Grossman & Wood, 1993; Solcova & Lacev, 2017). Overall, researchers suggest that these societal pressures may have negative consequences for both men and women (Blazina & Watkins, 1996; Shephard, 2002). However, understanding the role of gender in the process of emotion can help men and women more fully understand their own experience. While the literature examining emotion is complex and multifaceted, a deeper understanding of how individuals experience and express emotion is necessary to understanding how people interact with one another and the environment. 




Andrew Gold


Mindfulness and Its Impact on Athletic Performance and Experience 

This paper explores several published articles which relate mindfulness to improved sport performance. The reviewed articles support a narrative that mindfulness can help with every step of athletic performance, from learning to play, preparing for competition, competing, and recovery for athletes of all levels. Overall, the literature indicates that mindfulness provides a holistic approach for improving athletic performance. The reviewed research ranges from experimental approaches to correlational research, and it spans a variety of mindfulness techniques that were focused on either acceptance or stress reduction. The limitations of the reviewed include several small sample sizes and some correlational data and an emphasis on questionnaires. The largest limitation of the field as a whole is that there is no generalizable athlete population, as it ranges in both age and skill level. Future research should continue to expand into different sports and cohorts of athletes, as well as investigate the relationship between self-guided mindfulness and performance. 

Anacarina Gomez 

Recognizing The Truth: Exploring The Effects Of Healthcare Disparities On Race 

As health care continues to advance forward towards better treatment and, there are still many inconsistencies in our health care system that can lead to health disparities. Health disparities is defined as differences in incidence, prevalence, and mortality among other health conditions that are present in certain populations or communities. Racial and ethnic minorities are hugely impacted by these disparities that can be caused by multiple factors such as physician implicit and explicit biases, socioeconomic status, lack of cultural tailoring and competency, and unequal treatment among White and Ethnic patients. Although there have been numerous studies addressing and demonstrating these disparities, there is much left to be done in order to reduce these racial health disparities. 

Jessica L. Hopkins


The Effectiveness of Music Therapy in Prisons 

This literature review examines the effectiveness of music therapy in prisons. There is limited research on the mechanisms responsible for music’s therapeutic benefits, but there is evidence that music therapy is particularly effective with offenders both due to its accessibility and desirability over more traditional forms of therapy. Music therapy may be more effective than other forms of therapy for improving the general well-being of inmates, meeting their criminogenic needs, and for treating mental illness. In order to fully understand music therapy’s effectiveness in prisons, more quantitative research is needed, particularly with female and juvenile participants. More research is also needed regarding music therapy’s ability to treat psychosomatic symptoms, to reduce the risk of suicide, and to reduce recidivism in inmates. 


Andrew T. Johnson


Positive Psychology in I/O Settings: Increasing Organizational Efficiency 

The goal of this literature review is to examine how the use or implementation of effective positive psychological strategies in organizations can increase efficiency and profitability of organizations while also lowering employee absenteeism and turnover. Positive psychology is the study of how to increase overall subjective well-being in an individual; also known as “happiness”. The goal of this literature review is to reflect upon research that has implemented or measured the effects of certain positive psychology strategies in workplace settings, and the results. Six major constructs in positive psychology that will be discussed in this review are self-determination theory, autonomy, positive social relationships, self-efficacy, flow, and subjective well-being. Some constructs from Industrial/Organizational Psychology that will be discussed in this review are leadership styles, reasons for employee absenteeism, turnover, and motivation, as well as organizational culture and organizational trust. A focus on the relationships between positive psychological and I/O constructs can have important implications for the profitability of organizations. 

Michael Rivera Rios

Parenting Styles and Adolescence: Cognitive, Emotional, Social and Physical Development 

In the present literature review, four aspects of adolescent development - cognitive, emotional, social and physical - are explored through three types of parenting styles adapted from Baumrind (1971): authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive. Parenting styles are a type of source for adolescents to learn behaviors and skills and much research suggests parenting styles play a role in adolescent development. From the research presented, authoritative parenting styles has been related to positive benefits in adolescent development such as positive social interaction, academic achievement and emotional regulation. Research found authoritarian parenting styles to have mild relations with levels of aggression and academic achievement and emotional control. Finally, relationships with permissive parenting have been uncovered in relation to high levels of aggression and delinquency, low academic excellence, low emotional control. 


 Leming Zhu


Catching a Liar: Different Ways to Detect Deception 

Deception involves the deliberate concealing of the truth for reasons such as gaining an unfair advantage or even avoiding the consequences of a wrongful act. This literature review includes the literature on lie detection based on three major perspectives: the physiological changes associated with deception, the non-verbal cues that indicate deception, and the verbal cues that separate the truth from deception. The analysis of the techniques, methods, and technologies employed in lie detection are, in this review, grounded on both the leakage hypothesis and reality monitoring (RM) theories. The findings of the study illustrate that liars are able to manipulate aspects of the verbal and non-verbal behavior to appear more convincing. However, with the careful use of technologies such as the polygraph, EMP, and fMRI, it is possible to accurately determine whether or not an individual is telling the truth or a lie. The review, therefore, makes a significant contribution to the lie detection literature by exploring some of the identifiable shortcomings of lie detection research and offering suggestions for the direction of future research.