by tuli alexander/The AS Review

Psychology students can finally exhibit all their hard work at PsychFest 2009 when they present the research projects they’ve been working on throughout the year or quarter. Their opportunity will be from 9 to 4 on June 5 at the Academic Instructional Center in rooms 203 and 204.

PsychFest is a way for students and faculty to get together to showcase the research they’ve been doing outside of the classroom, said psychology professor Kelly Jantzen.

The tradition of PsychFest began in 2003 with the club Psy Chi, who decided to put on a conference in the psychology department, said psychology professor Kristi Lemm.

The students did such a great job, Lemm said, that the faculty decided to make it an annual event.

Students can sign up to give poster presentations, in which they use posters to outline and summarize the research they’ve done. Generally consisting of one to four students per research project, these posters are condensed in a way that can be easily understood rather than reading an entire academic paper and trying to interpret it, said James LeDuc, the student representative on the PsychFest committee.

While there are usually around 20 to 30 poster presentations, approximately eight students give talks. Many of those are graduate students but there are typically one or two talks that are given by undergraduate students, Lemm said.

Undergraduate senior LeDuc will be giving a talk this year about a study he and a research partner did on correspondence bias, also known as fundamental attribution error.  The idea is that humans will interpret the actions of others regardless of the motivations behind those actions.

For example, if you see someone commit a violent act, your initial interpretation of that person is that they’re violent, regardless of the reasons why they committed that act, LeDuc said.

Another talk will be given by senior Lara Schiss. She and a research partner studied rejection sensitivity and its relationship between self esteem, social support, romantic relationships and emotional distancing during social interactions.

Using data from a two-year study that focused on how blood pressure was related to different personality types and social upbringing, the partners found no evidence supporting their hypothesis that people with higher rejection sensitivity would report more emotional distancing during social interactions.

They did, however, find that people with higher rejection sensitivity have lower self esteem and social support. But there wasn’t support that people with higher rejection sensitivity would be less likely to be in a romantic relationship, although Schiss said that people who are constantly looking for rejection would be affected by how they formed and maintained relationships.

The keynote speaker this year is Dr. Ross Thompson, a developmental psychologist at University of California, Davis. He will be giving a talk titled “Making a Human Connection: Parent-Child Conversation and Psychological Understanding.”

Thompson was the doctorate mentor for Rebecca Goodvin, a developmental psychologist at Western. She said Thompson will be describing a body of research that he’s been working on for a number of years. His research in child development is particularly important because he works to apply his findings to public policy problems regarding children and families, Goodvin said.

Although all psychology majors are required to take research classes, they don’t have to present their findings at PsychFest, said Jantzen. Participation is voluntary.
Students are typically hesitant to present their research because they feel that their work is a lot less refined than the work of professional psychologists, LeDuc said.
“There’s always the fear that you’re going to get something wrong,” Schiss said.

While PsychFest is intended to mimic a professional psychology conference, it’s in a low-stress environment, said Jantzen.

“Nobody’s there to critique one another. Instead, it’s a way for students to show off to faculty and to get help from them,” he said.