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Westminster College Students Presented Research at Regional Psychological Conference

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Posted on Tuesday, May 28, 2013

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Six Westminster College seniors presented their research at the annual meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association May 2-4 in Chicago.

Margaret Box presented "Effects of Hyperarousal on Perseverative Errors in Obsessive Compulsive Individuals." A 2x2 quasi-experimental design was used to examine the effects of hyperarousal on perseveration on executive functioning tasks in obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptomatic individuals.  The findings suggest hyperarousal has a significant effect on executive functioning performance, but not in OC symptomatic individuals, providing a more complicated understanding of the etiology of OC disorder, and knowledge about the effectiveness of executive functioning tasks to measure perseveration. Dr. Kirk Lunnen, associate professor of psychology, advised the research.

Box is a daughter of Daniel and Dianne Box of Corning, N.Y., and a graduate of Corning Painted-Post East High School.

Anthony D'Antonio presented "Executive Function as a Predictor of Pain Tolerance." The purpose of this study was to see what executive functions (cognitive flexibility measured by the Wisconsin Card Sort Task, cognitive inhibition measured by the Stroop Color Word test, and cognitive mapping measured by the Trail Making Task) had the strongest predictive value for pain tolerance.  Lunnen was his adviser.

D'Antonio is a son of David and Debra D'Antonio of North Canton, Ohio, and a graduate of Hoover High School.

Fatima Homison presented "Co-Witness Contamination of Eyewitness Recall and Confidence." Eyewitness conformity research has shown that an individual's memory for an event can be influenced by another person's recall of the event. In this study participants watched a mock robbery video filmed from an eyewitness's point of view then were asked to recall details after overhearing another witness's account of the robbery. Responses were monitored to examine whether overhearing a co-witness's statement caused participants to change their pre and post responses and confidence, also their ability in identifying the perpetrator in a photo array. Lunnen was her adviser.

Homison is a daughter of Gary and Mary Beth Homison of Tarentum and a graduate of Highlands High School.

Leah Hunter presented "Empathy in Preschoolers: Influences of Executive Function and Effortful Control." The purpose of this study was to look at the way children are able to plan ahead, wait patiently, and express emotion, and how these things relate their empathy for other people. Hunter also observed how these things relate their cognitive empathy and emotional empathy. Two preschools were used to collect the data: the Westminster Preschool Lab and the New Castle Head Start Preschool. Children's skills in these areas were assessed while playing a variety of games and through teacher reports. Dr. Mandy Medvin, professor of psychology, department chair and director of Westminster's preschool lab, was Hunter's adviser.

Hunter is a daughter of David and Tawnee Hunter of New Wilmington and a graduate of Wilmington Area High School.

Ashley Wilfong presented "The Effects of Paraprofessional Facial Expressions on the Therapeutic Alliance." Non-verbal displays of emotion in sexual assault intervention effect client comfort when disclosing information to paraprofessionals, and determine the strength of therapeutic alliance. It was hypothesized that emotional paraprofessionals would have a stronger alliance with their clients. This experiment included 20 individuals who received sexual assault response training (SAFE), reacting to two video vignettes depicting sexual assault victims. Raters evaluated the videos recording facial expressions and posture. Results suggest that emotional facial expressions during intervention therapy can influence the alliance between therapists and clients (p<.05). Therefore, paraprofessional facial expressions have an effect on therapeutic alliance. Lunnen was her adviser.

Wilfong is a daughter of Michael and Cynthia Wilfong of Campbell, Ohio, and a graduate of Ursuline High School.

Jordyn Williams presented "The Impact of Attention Deficit Disorders on Weapon Focus." The present research investigated the role of weapon focus among 41 undergraduate students with or without attention deficit symptoms, ages 18-22. The primary hypothesis was that individuals with symptomatic attention deficits would score lower than individuals without symptomatic attention deficits during recall of an event involving weapon focus. Participants viewed one of three videos depicting an interaction between a man and a woman; the man carried a weapon, an unusual object, or a neutral item. Multiple recall tasks were completed by each participant. Lunnen was her adviser.

Williams is a daughter of Alan and Mary Williams of Cortland, Ohio, and a graduate of Lakeview High School.

Faculty also presented at the conference:

Jamie Kohler, Westminster assistant professor and librarian, and Dr. Jamie McMinn, associate professor of psychology, presented "Integrating Library Research into Psychology Instruction using a Learning Management System." The quality of research sources often determines the quality of research paper assignments. Directing students to the most appropriate resources and teaching them to use these sources effectively is a challenge. Kohler and McMinn presented one solution: integrating library, research help, and technology resources into assignments by using a learning management system.

Kohler, who has been with Westminster since 2011, earned her undergraduate degree from Juniata College and a master's from the University of Pittsburgh.

McMinn, who joined Westminster in 2003, earned an undergraduate degree from Emory & Henry College and master's degree and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh.

McMinn also presented, along with Carey S. Ryan from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, "Leader and Team Support Effects on Perceptions of Diversity Training."  The research examined perceptions of diversity training among 165 undergraduates who read about an organization whose leaders and teams either supported the training or not. Leader support enhanced perceived usefulness of training, willingness to attend future trainings, and organizational attractiveness. Participants' intergroup contact, diversity openness, and ethnic identity also predicted these outcomes.

Lunnen attended the conference as the faculty sponsor. Lunnen, who joined the Westminster faculty in 2002, earned an undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University and master's and Ph.D. from Ohio University.

The students received travel/presentation grants from Westminster's Drinko Center for Experiential Learning to attend the conference.

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 for more information about the Drinko Center and its programs.

Contact McMinn at (724) 946-7121 or email for additional information.