Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Six Westminster College seniors and Dr. Sandra Webster, Westminster professor of psychology, presented their research at the annual meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association March 1-3 in Pittsburgh.
Webster presented "Embodiment of the Data vs. Practice Calculations," a paper based on her sabbatical research and co-authored with Karina-Mikayla Barcus, a 2011 Westminster graduate who is currently a graduate student at Ohio University, and psychology major Devon Struthers.
The experiment demonstrated that when students act out (embody) the data points on a life-size graph and work as a group to determine the descriptive statistics of the data, they learn as well as when doing traditional practice problems. In addition, women who did the embodiment exercise had more positive attitudes toward statistics than did women who did the practice problems. Men had good attitudes toward statistics in both learning activities.
Struthers is a son of Lisa Schreck of Carlisle and Donald Struthers of Newville. He is a graduate of Big Spring High School.
Psychology major Jenna Aldom's poster, "Effects of Age and Stress on Romantic Views of Love and Relationships," was advised by Dr. Sherri Pataki, assistant professor of psychology.
Aldom's research examined the link between stress and romantic views of love across the lifespan. Although she did not find a link, her research confirmed past research that overall women tend to report experiencing more stress than men and that divorce is a particularly stressful event within families.
Aldom is a daughter of William and Paula Aldom of Donegal and a graduate of Mount Pleasant Area High School.
Psychology major Brian Chinchilla presented "Improving Past Performance with Facilitation during Group Reflection," research that was advised by Dr. Jamie McMinn, associate professor of psychology. The research is part of Chinchilla's senior studies requirements.
Chinchilla's research, an extension of work conducted by McMinn and collaborators at the University of Pittsburgh, focuses on how teams can better structure post-performance reviews through guided facilitation to improve future performance. Thirty three-person groups worked on a simulated game and then reflected on their performance either with or without guidance before playing the game again. Chinchilla found that groups in the facilitated reflection condition performed better than those that reflected on their own or not at all. Consistent with McMinn's research, Chinchilla found that groups that reflected on their own were no different in their performance than those groups that did not reflect.
Chinchilla is a son of David and Cathy Chinchilla of Ambridge and a graduate of Ambridge Area High School.
Megan Hoffman, a psychology major, presented "Social Dominance Orientation and Gender Roles Predict Norms Related to Emotional Expression in Egyptian Families," advised by Pataki.
Hoffman examined expectations related to the expression of emotion within the Egyptian family, working in collaboration with social psychologist Dr. Safia Fathelbab at South Valley University in Egypt. She collected data by having her survey translated into Arabic and completed by Egyptian college students.
Hoffman is a daughter of Robert and Terri Hoffman of South Park and a graduate of South Park High School.
Psychology major Kali Nissen presented her capstone research, "Young Children's Coping Strategies for Self versus a Friend in Stressful Situations," that was advised by Dr. Mandy Medvin, professor and chair of Westminster's Department of Psychology, who also attended the conference.
Nissen found that four- and five-year-old children suggested different kinds of strategies to solve everyday stressful situations for friends versus themselves, indicating a more sophisticated understanding of coping than previously thought for that age.
Nissen is a daughter of Richard and Grace Nissen of Irwin and a graduate of Norwin High School.
Aaron Walters, a neuroscience major, presented his senior thesis research, "Exploration of the Hemispheric Differences in Number Processing of the Brain." The work was advised by Webster and Dr. Alan Gittis, professor of psychology emeritus.
The study showed that as the number of visual elements increased the type of number processing switched from counting to estimation. It was most efficient when the numbers were presented to the left or right visual field, depending upon which brain hemisphere was dominant for the process (counting or estimation).
Walters is a son of Michael and Jeanne Walters of Oil City and a graduate of Oil City Area High School.
Walters' participation was supported by a travel/presentation grant from Westminster's Drinko Center for Experiential Learning.
The Drinko Center for Experiential Learning was created to enrich undergraduate education at Westminster through advancing world-class teaching as well as by participating in collaborations that address community and regional needs including strengthening K-12 education. The Undergraduate Research Initiative provides funding for students to conduct research and to present their research at regional and national conferences. Visit the Drinko website for more information about the Drinko Center and its programs.
Contact Webster at (724) 946-7359 or email for additional information about the research and presentations.