Psi Chi’s Summer Research Grants

Partnering with APS, Psi Chi, the National Honors Society in Psychology, offers grants for undergraduate research conducted during the summer. Winning students receive a $3,500 stipend, and faculty sponsors receive a $1,500 stipend. Winning students receive a complimentary annual membership to APS. Following are profiles of previous grant recipients. For more information on this program, see www.psichi.org/awards.

William Acklin
University of Central Arkansas
Faculty sponsor:
APS Member Shawn R. Charlton
University of Central Arkansas

William Acklin developed a keen interest in disparities in individual performance in the workplace during the 20 years he was in restaurant management before going back to school.  His summer 2008 study focused on two higher-level cognitive functions — working memory and top-down attention — and attempts to bridge the gap between these two processes of executive functioning that have only been measured separately until now. “Executive function underlies our ability to reason, solve problems, and think critically,” notes Acklin. “I’m exploring how executive functioning is implicated in our ability to focus on what is important and ignore conspicuous, but irrelevant distractions.” Describing his summer project as “an essential part of [his] education,” he feels that this opportunity has better prepared him for the type of work he will be doing in graduate school, where he will pursue a PhD in applied cognitive psychology.

Ashley P. Gunn
University of Colorado at
Colorado Springs

Faculty sponsor:
APS Member Lori James
University of Colorado at
Colorado Springs

Ashley P. Gunn investigated whether the use of cognitive abilities into old age can prevent their decline (the “use it or lose it” theory) and whether improvement in a recall task can transfer to another recall task. Participants completed a crossword puzzle and were then asked 60 definitional questions, 20 of the answers having been among the words used in the puzzle. Participants were expected to perform better when the answer to a definitional question was primed on the puzzle, and results did show significant priming effects. The experience that she has gained through designing, proposing, and running her own study has instilled in Gunn a sense of confidence that she believes will serve her well as she graduates and pursues a PhD in geropsychology.

Jean M. Kim
University of Michigan
Faculty sponsor:
APS Member Edward C. Chang
University of Michigan

Jean M. Kim worked with Edward C. Chang to design a study examining prediction bias of positive and negative psychological and physical health outcomes among European and Asian American college students. Kim’s study suggests that there is a need to consider cultural variations in predictive bias for positive and negative health outcomes. Through taking responsibility for a research project, says Kim, “the [research] process was demystified; I gained self-efficacy in conducting research, and I became even more excited about the opportunities I will have to continue doing research in graduate school.” Moreover, Kim was excited by the opportunity she had to build a research project from the ground up that culminated in a complete final study to be published and read by many in the field. Upon graduation in April 2010, Kim plans to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology and a career in academia.

Allison C. Milam
Duke University
Faculty sponsor:
APS Member Georgene L. Troseth
Vanderbilt University

Allison C. Milam designed a study that examined the effects of repetition on toddlers’ learning of novel words from an interactive television show. 2-year-olds were shown an episode of an interactive show twice, with three days between each showing. During these three days, they were assigned to watch either the interactive program or a noninteractive program. “Since [watching interactive television programs] is common now among young children, it is important to understand how they are able to learn from these programs, along with [the programs’] limitations,” says Milam. Results showed that the interactive program did not increase learning of new words, but it did increase retention of words previously learned from the initial two screenings of the show. Also, children who watched the interactive program were more likely to imitate actions seen on another program than children who watched the noninteractive program. While developing and performing this study, Milam was particularly excited to be more involved in the research process than she would have been as a research assistant. After graduation in May 2009, she plans to continue studying education and psychology in graduate school.

Matthew Harold Robinson
Rutgers University, Camden
Faculty sponsor:
Michelle Verges
Indiana University, South Bend

Matthew Harold Robinson’s project examined how weather and the seasons affect attitudes toward the environment. “Understanding the exogenous factors that may influence environmental attitudes and subsequent behaviors have a number of implications that may result in better policies, laws, and programs that battle the threat of global warming,” he says. The first of two studies examined individual’s perception of the threat of global warming, and he hypothesized that people will perceive a greater threat from global warming when the weather is unusually warm. The second study examined the extent to which people feel they are “connected” to nature, and he hypothesized that people will feel more connected when the weather is fair than when it is poor. Data analysis is ongoing. Robinson says that “this grant has provided me with the ability to ask better questions for future research endeavors,” which is the “most rewarding and most exciting” part of this project or him and will serve him well as he pursues his PhD in school psychology after graduation.

Elizabeth Rossier
Fairfield University
Faculty sponsor:
Linda Henkel
Fairfield University

For Elizabeth Rossier, the most exciting part of receiving the grant was the opportunity to design and conduct her own study under the expert supervision of an experienced researcher: her faculty sponsor, Linda Henkel. Her study examined the effects of imagination and imagery on changes in memory reports. Participants watched a videotaped crime, then were asked to remember details from the scene. Then they were asked to imagine the scene as it was depicted by another witness. When asked to remember details from the scene, participants often changed answers that were correct on the first test to align with incorrectly imagined details on the second test. Rossier notes that her study is important because “it helps us to understand how witnesses process and integrate information that they have actually witnessed along with information that perhaps they have received from other sources (i.e., articles, news reports, other witnesses), and thus determine the validity of “facts” given in an eyewitness report.” Her experience has helped her to discern her interest in applied research over basic research, and she plans to go to graduate school for school counseling, aspiring toward a career as a high-school guidance counselor.

Observer Vol.22, No.3 March, 2009

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