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The Family That Researches Together Presents Their Science Together

This family research team – sisters Karen Freberg, Kristin Graham, and mother Laura Freberg – enjoy “dressing” for their poster presentations each year at APS Conventions. Last year, they wore Slytherin (of Harry Potter fame) shirts for their study of CEOs and psychopaths, which they referred to as the “Snakes in Suits” study. This year, they chose shirts with a military theme for their generals study, and marching across those shirts were formidable Lego soldiers. What’s in store for next year?

This family research team – sisters Karen Freberg, Kristin Graham, and mother Laura Freberg – enjoy “dressing” for their poster presentations each year at APS Conventions. Last year, they wore Slytherin (of Harry Potter fame) shirts for their study of CEOs and psychopaths, which they referred to as the “Snakes in Suits” study. This year, they chose shirts with a military theme for their generals study, and marching across those shirts were formidable Lego soldiers. What’s in store for next year?

My husband Roger and I share a strong belief that education for our daughters is extremely important, but we did not anticipate the turn this belief would take.

Since 2009, my daughters and I have presented research that we did as a family at the APS Annual Conventions. I am a Professor of Psychology at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, but our daughters Kristin and Karen persued very different academic interests.

Kristin pursued a major in operations research at the United States Military Academy at West Point, followed by masters degrees in engineering management (University of Missouri, Rolla) and systems engineering (University of Virginia). Karen received a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Florida, a masters in strategic public relations (University of Southern California) and her PhD in communications (University of Tennessee, Knoxville).

When Karen was beginning to do independent research at USC, we realized that finding access to participants would be difficult for her, but as my teaching load includes several large general education courses at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, I could solve that problem. Karen would provide ideas, and my students and I would carry them out. As we proceeded, we realized that it was difficult to analyze our data and turned to Kristin for help. Her background in operations research and systems engineering provided the sophisticated statistics we wanted for our projects.

So far, our collaboration has resulted in papers published in Media Psychology and the Public Relations Review, as well as poster presentations at APS for three years in a row, and a presentation in an international psychology conference in Greece. We have several more papers under review, some in psychology journals and others in public relations, leadership, and communications journals. We are planning to submit another project to the International Congress of Psychology meeting in Cape Town, South Africa in 2012, and hope to return to APS of course. It’s quite possible that I am the only biological psychologist around with a publication in Public Relations Review!

We have been encouraged in our work by APS Past President John Cacioppo, who believes so strongly that psychology is a hub discipline. Our ability to span our respective disciplines to work together supports that view of psychological science. Contemporary science is experiencing an unprecedented era of collaboration, and based on our own experience, we are strong believers in pulling together interdisciplinary teams. Of course the fact that I have a chance to spend time with my very busy adult daughters only adds to the fun!

We all had a big laugh over a comment made to us at the 2010 APS Convention in Boston. We explained our team’s background to a visitor at our poster. She related that she found it hard to form and keep research teams, but had never considered the possibility of “spawning” a research team. I assure you that was not my intention 30 years ago either, but I am delighted that I have had the opportunity to share this experience with my children.

Watch Karen J. Freberg of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Kristin C. Graham, University of Virginia and U.S. Military Academy, West Point present their research at the APS 23rd Annual Convention in Washington, DC.

Observer Vol.24, No.6 July/August, 2011

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Professor,
Your daughters have so many ackomplishments behind their belts You can see how proud you all are of each other in your picture.
Congratulations,
Melissa Irion

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