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Senior Psychology Majors Presented Research at Regional Meeting

Posted on Friday, May 18, 2012

Six Westminster College senior psychology majors presented their research at the Midwestern Psychological Association conference May 2-5 in Chicago.

Sarah Lewis presented a poster on "The Effects of Optimism on EECP Treatment Outcome," advised by Dr. Kirk Lunnen, associate professor of psychology, who attended the conference.  The research investigated how the attitudes of patients engaged in enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP) impact their relative compliance with treatment requirements.

Lewis is a daughter of Daniel and Jody Lewis of Sharpsville and a graduate of Sharpsville High School.

Brittany Pierce presented a poster on "The Effects of Disgusting Stimuli on Visual Processing for Individuals with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder," advised by Lunnen.  The research explored how individuals with OCD visually process materials differently from individuals without OCD.

Pierce is a daughter of Jerry and Tammy Pierce of Scottdale and a graduate of Southmoreland High School.

Devon Struthers presented "The Effects of Thunder, Stereotyping, and Cognitive Load on Impression Formation," advised by Dr. Jamie McMinn, associate professor of psychology, who attended the conference. 

Struthers collected data from 120 Westminster students to assess their perception of a hypothetical man (either stereotypical or counter-stereotypical of his racial group) who either revealed that he had been convicted of assault or that information was revealed by someone else.  Struthers found that impressions of the man were more positive when he revealed this negative information himself and was also counter-stereotypical of his group.

Struthers is a son of Lisa Schreck of Carlisle and Donald Struthers of Newville and a graduate of Big Spring High School.

Jack Taylor presented a paper on "Pain Perception and Physiological Response as Predictors of Athletic Performance," advised by Lunnen. 

The project studied 60 student-athletes who performed a painful physical task while heart rate, sweat reactivity, and stress hormones were monitored.  The athletes and their coaches provided ratings of athletic ability, which was also measured using a standardizing technique to compare the various statistics recorded throughout the season.  The results showed that better athletes had greater heart rate and sweat reactivity during the painful task while secreting fewer stress hormones.   

Taylor is a son of Frederick and Kathleen Taylor of Elizabeth and a graduate of Elizabeth Forward School District.

Brian Van Buren presented a poster on "The Effects of Paraprofessional Disclosure on Alliance in Treatment of Sexual Assault," advised by Lunnen.  The research explored how the information that paraprofessionals reveal about themselves affects the level of trust between the paraprofessional and a victim of sexual assault.

Van Buren is a son of Eugene and Susan Van Buren of Tampa, Fla., and a graduate of Paul R. Wharton High School.

Robert Vavrinak, also a political science major, presented a paper on "Use of Self-Involving Statements in Correctional and Non-Correctional Settings," advised by Lunnen.  The project investigated how the information therapists reveal about themselves varies as a function of the perceived dangerousness of their clients. 

Vavrinak is a son of James and Denise Vavrinak of Hubbard, Ohio, and a graduate of Hubbard High School.

Contact Lunnen at (724) 946-7203 or email for additional information. 

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 the Drinko website for more information about the Drinko Center and its programs.