A particular strength of the psychology department is the faculty, whose members are not only excellent teachers, but also productive researchers. Many students (freshmen through seniors) work with faculty members as research assistants and collaborators. Students may volunteer their time in a research lab, or they may work on faculty members’ research projects in the Supervised Research course (PY 295, 3 credits). As a result of these collaborations, students often co-author papers that are presented at professional research conferences, and many students give presentations at the annual the annual Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society research symposium on campus.
After an apprenticeship, students also often develop their own research ideas and go on to Independent Research (PY 395, 4 credits). On average, approximately 10-15 students per semester work directly with faculty on their research, and another 5-10 students develop independent projects in collaboration with faculty each year. Although specific faculty interests vary widely (e.g., false memory, stereotyping and prejudice, intimate partner violence, hormones and behavior), here are some examples of recent Student-Faculty research collaborations, all of which have led to presentations at local, regional, and national conferences:
How Do Photos and Technology Shape Our Memories?
Dr. Henkel’s research team has been running a series of studies examining the impact of taking photos on what people subsequently remember. When we outsource our memory to our cameras – expecting our cameras record and in essence “remember” our experiences, we engage in different ways of thinking about those experiences than if we do not take photos. This research follows up on Dr. Henkel’s 2013 work which was featured on NPR, and dozens of other media sites, including the New York Times, BBC news, Wall Street Journal., and CNN.
How Does Empathy for Other People's Emotions Impact One's Social Relationships?
When most people think of empathy, they think of “feeling along with” another person’s negative emotions (e.g., fear, sadness). In his research however, Dr. Andreychik and his students focus on empathy for others’ positive emotions (e.g., happiness, excitement). We are currently examining how each type of empathy—positive and negative—relates to various aspects of social behavior, such as helping behavior, close relationships, and motivation. In addition to a number of conference presentations, this work has also led to a joint student-faculty journal publication.
How can We Better Treat Individuals with Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders such as Schizophrenia, and Schizotypal Personality Disorder?
Dr. McClure’s NARSAD Young Investigator Award (The Brain & Behavior Foundation) examines the impact of Cognitive Remediation Therapy (CRT) when paired with an agent that targets the norepinephrine system compared to CRT plus placebo. Dr. McClure also collaborates on projects examining treatments for personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, including studies of medications such as oxytocin and psychological interventions such as dialectical behavior therapy. Students working in this lab have the opportunity to conduct telephone screens of potential participants, observe diagnostic interviews and neuropsychological assessments, and sit in on CRT computerized training sessions.
How Strongly (and Permanently) are Other People Affected by the Expectations that we Hold about Them?
Research has shown that our expectations about others (“She isn’t very nice”) can affect how we treat them (“I’m not going to talk to someone who’s so unpleasant”), thus causing them to behave in the way we expected (“I’m certainly not going to act friendly toward someone who doesn’t even seem to want to talk to me”). But, what are the limits of these self-fulfilling prophecies? For example, how many times must someone be treated as unpleasant before they become a “permanently” unpleasant person? What if someone who has been treated as unpleasant (or unintelligent, etc.) for many years begins to be treated in the opposite way? Will their behavior or personality change? Dr. Andreychik is currently exploring these and related questions with his students.
How is Intimate Partner Violence Related to Factors such as Childhood Trauma and Emotion Regulation?
Dr. McClure’s lab in the psychology department at Fairfield University studies risk and protective factors for intimate partner violence in college student dating relationships, including childhood trauma, anxiety and mood symptoms, personality factors, and emotion regulation. Students working in this lab have the opportunity to interact with study participants by administering the computerized assessment battery and emotion regulation tasks, as well as to clean and analyze data.
How do the Physical Environments of Nursing Home Residents Shape the Quality of Care They Receive?
As part of the Interdisciplinary Health Studies Scholars grant awarded to Dr. Henkel (psychology) and Dr. Alison Kris (School of Nursing) for 2013-2015, a team of undergraduate researchers from both psychology and nursing recently completed a project examining how memory cues in the environment, such as personal family photos, can bring about greater social interaction between health care providers and nursing home residents, which in turn can boost not only the residents’ morale and wellbeing, but can increase the social interactions between health care providers and the residents, which can improve the quality of care received.
The above is just a sample of the exciting research currently taking place in the department. For information about the research being conducted by each faculty member in the department, visit the Faculty Information pages. If you are interested in the research described, contact that faculty member and see if he or she has room in their research lab for an enthusiastic, responsible new member!
(* = undergraduate student)
(* = undergraduate student)
The Psychology Department at Fairfield University has established a partnership with PsychForums, an online discussion forum for conversations on a wide variety of issues relating to psychology and mental health. This partnership allows Fairfield faculty and student researchers to recruit participants from the PsychForums site.
If you wish to recruit participants from PsychForums, please see the guidelines for how to proceed here. Of course, participant recruitment through PsychForums can only proceed after your study has been approved by Fairfield’s Institutional Review Board. If you have additional questions about using PsychForums in your research, you may also contact Dr. Andreychik, the Fairfield PsychForums liaison.