Psych NU ws The Newsletter of the Northeastern

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Psych NU ws The Newsletter of the Northeastern
Psych NUws
The Newsletter of the Northeastern
University Psychology Department
Vol. 20, Number 1 (September 2013)
From the CHAIR
WELCOME TO THE 2013-2014
We have a large array of activities and
opportunities for undergraduates in the
coming year, and we urge you to take full
advantage of them. I encourage you to visit
our website
throughout the semester for up-to-date
information on the various programs,
resources, and opportunities we have to
A few highlights:
Directed Study Research. The faculty of
the Psychology Department are strongly
committed to both research and teaching,
and they provide opportunities for
undergraduates to become fully engaged in
research projects in their laboratories. One
mechanism is Directed Study Research,
where a student registers for course credit
to work with a professor in his/her lab,
usually on ongoing research. You can count
the Directed Study Research course (PSYC
4991) toward one of your two lab
requirements, and you will gain valuable
hands-on research experience, often
working as part of a lab team. This is a
great way to get to know your professors.
Directed Study Research opportunities are
posted on our website at
(See later in this issue of Psych NUws for
some of the opportunities in Directed
Psi Chi. Psi Chi is the national psychology
honor society. It aims to encourage,
stimulate, and maintain excellence in
scholarship, and to advance the science of
psychology. Membership is open to
undergraduates who are making the study
of psychology one of their major interests
and who meet the minimum qualifications.
Students become members of the national
honor society by joining our local chapter.
For more information, visit our website at
Co-op. There are many great co-op jobs
available to psychology majors, including
jobs focused on research, education,
human resources, marketing, and
residential programs. You can also work
with your Co-op Coordinator, Charlotte Lam
or Dave Merry, to set up your own co-op,
work in a different part of the country, or
even find a position abroad. If you have any
questions, feel free to email Charlotte or
Dave to set up a meeting through the
MyNEU Advisor Calendar. For more
information, visit our website at
Co-op Coordinator assignments by last
Charlotte Lam, [email protected] (Psych A-K
and Linguistics)
Dave Merry, [email protected] (Psych L-Z)
We are committed to providing students
with the courses, resources, and
opportunities they need to pursue a
productive, challenging, and rewarding
undergraduate experience. We very much
encourage you to play an active role in the
department, to get to know the faculty, and
to make your voices heard. We hope you
will avail yourselves of the many
opportunities we provide, and ask that you
let us know how we can make your
undergraduate experience even more
I am eager to work with you as we move
forward and welcome your input, ideas, and
suggestions – my email address is
[email protected] And don’t forget to visit
our website for information on additional
resources and activities, announcements,
updates, faculty profiles….and much more.
I wish you a very productive and rewarding
-- Prof. Miller
Opportunities in Prof.
Kim’s Lab!
Prof. Kim’s lab studies causal and
conceptual thinking, reasoning, and
decision-making in clinical settings. The
goal of our research is to concurrently
address basic issues in cognitive science
and applied issues in clinical science and
practice. From the perspective of cognitive
science, our research addresses how
causal and explanatory beliefs are mentally
represented and organized, and how this
representation affects basic cognitive
processes such as categorization, memory,
judgments, and decision-making.
From the perspective of clinical science, we
simultaneously examine how people’s prior
knowledge, beliefs, and expectations
influence the assessment and diagnosis of
medical and mental illness, memory for
patients’ symptoms and medical
information, judgments of psychological
abnormality, decisions about treatment, and
prejudice toward and stigmatization of
patients. Exact projects vary by semester.
We are currently recruiting energetic NU
undergraduate research assistants to work
on ongoing research projects for Research
Directed Study credit or work-study for the
Fall and Spring 2013-14 semesters.
Responsibilities may include helping design,
program, and run experiments, maintaining
online studies, data coding, data analysis
(for interested students), conducting
literature searches, and writing. The time
commitment is 10 hours per week for the
semester, including an hour-long weekly lab
meeting. Applicants must be responsible
and attentive to detail. Prior or concurrent
completion of Psych Stats and Cognition
strongly preferred. For more information,
and/or to apply, please contact Prof. Kim
([email protected]) or Erienne Weine
([email protected]).
Stand Up If You Are a
Procrastinator (and
Hear the Bad News)
Many students (okay, many professors too)
procrastinate. Many who do argue that it
works well for them: the intensity of the lastminute experience is stimulating and
produces good results. In the meantime,
they enjoyed life! What could be better?
Alas, research pricks a hole in that
reasoning. Much evidence now reveals that
procrastination is bad for people. So why do
people do it, even when they don’t even
think the final product, when it finally gets
done, will be good?
One reason is self-handicapping: doing
something at the last minute provides a
good excuse for its being not very good,
while if it turns out well one can be proud of
the natural genius that produces good
results even when barely trying. Selfhandicappers would rather fail with a good
excuse than do their best and fail. Social
psychologists Tice and Ferrari showed in a
laboratory study that chronic procrastinators
avoided preparing to perform well on a math
puzzle (by amusing themselves with
computer games) when they were told the
math puzzle was a cognitive evaluation, but
not when it was described as just a fun
puzzle. The threat of evaluation triggered a
maladaptive behavior pattern. Thus, the
procrastinator is someone who would rather
be thought of as lazy than incompetent.
Another cause of procrastination is
perfectionism. A perfectionist would rather
not do something when it needs to be done
than risk doing something that is not perfect.
The fear of being less than perfect is
Baumeister studied it over a semester in
two different courses. Students filled in a
self-report of their own procrastination
tendencies and then the researchers
tracked their academic performance and
their health and stress. Initially there
seemed to be a benefit to procrastination,
as the procrastinators had lower levels of
stress compared to others, presumably
because of putting off their work to pursue
more pleasurable activities. In the end,
however, procrastinators earned lower
grades and reported higher cumulative
amounts of stress and illness.
Researchers are not completely sure about
the root causes of procrastination. Probably
there are several reasons for this
complicated failure of self-regulation. It
could be a failure of time management, a
problem of impulsivity and low selfdiscipline, the inability to regulate moods
and emotions, or a disguised manifestation
of anxiety or insecurity. One thing is clear:
procrastinators are not just happy-go-lucky
people with weak time management skills.
They are often beset with feelings of shame,
guilt, and anxiety about deferring tasks they
need to do. Even the procrastinator who
finds pleasure in doing more fun things than
the thing that is postponed still—often—
feels stress, guilt, and dread.
Psychologist Timothy Pychyl argues that
procrastinators recognize the harm in what
they are doing, yet can’t overcome the
emotional urge toward a diversion.
Naturally, clinical psychologists are
developing interventions to help
procrastinators. But that is a story for
another time!
--Prof. Hall, with material adapted
from APS Observer, April 2013
The downside of procrastination has been
shown in much recent research. Social
psychologists Dianne Tice and Roy
News of Our Grads
Alumni of the DeSteno Lab are currently off
doing a variety of great things!
Mabel Ubiera is currently enrolled in
Northeastern University’s online direct-entry
Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN)
program. In 16 months, she will have the
qualifications to be an RN, which she is very
excited about!
Elyse Skenderian graduated and took a
job as a Biotech Recruiter/Account
Manager, before deciding to pursue a
career as a Clinical Research Associate.
She has taken some extra Life Sciences
courses since graduating, and is looking to
have an impact on the future of psychiatric
and neurological therapy. Until the right job
comes along, she is staying positive and
working as a full-time nanny.
Nicole Casey is beginning her second (and
final) year in Northeastern’s Masters of
Science in Counseling Psychology (MSCP)
program. She is doing a full course-load,
along with an internship with North Suffolk
Mental Health Association. She also works
full-time as a Case Manager for NSMHA, in
a transitional/high-intensity living
environment for individuals with chronic
mental illness. Ideally she’ll pursue a career
working as part of a clinical team in a
hospital, serving a severely mentally ill
Tara Gallo has graduated and is currently
attending MSPP (Massachusetts School of
Professional Psychology), where she just
finished her first year in the PsyD program.
She’s still living in Boston, and working at
the Lowell Treatment Center Adult Partial
Hospitalization Program for the summer.
More News of Our
Dan Paulus, ‘11
After completing my B.S. in psychology, I
worked for six months as a research
technician in the Causal Cognition Lab at
Northeastern, where I had previously
completed two Co-op cycles. I wanted to
apply my research experience in cognitive
psychology to a clinical setting, so I moved
on to the University of Massachusetts
Boston, as a research coordinator for an
anxiety research lab. There, I was able to
get my foot in the door of the clinical
psychology realm, while still being in a
research setting. I spent two years
coordinating an NIMH-funded treatment
research study on Cognitive-Behavioral
Group Therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder.
This position challenged me in new ways
and provided me with life experiences that
were more rewarding than I ever could have
Despite social anxiety being a disorder
characterized by ‘fear’, I met some of the
most courageous individuals imaginable.
Working with these amazing people and
helping them along their paths to reclaiming
their lives inspired me and filled me with
immense optimism about the work that
clinical psychologists do, both in the lab and
in the therapy room. Without my
undergraduate research experiences, I
would not have been qualified to work as a
clinical research coordinator, and without
those experiences, I would not have
discovered my life’s passion. This upcoming
fall, I will begin my first semester as a
doctoral student at the University of
Houston, where I will study transdiagnostic
treatments for anxiety disorders.
--Leah Dickens (doctoral student)
Christian Hagedorn, ‘13
Christian has just arrived in Korea, as a
teacher of English. Here is what he writes:
I arrived last Monday and was taken on a
bus to Jeonju University. I had a 9 day
intensive orientation involving classes on
classroom management, teaching styles,
Korean culture and language. The classes
lasted from 9AM through 8:30PM with
breaks for lunch and dinner. On the last day
we had to present a lesson plan. My group
was assigned a high school level lesson on
hobbies and suggestions. We then found
out our assignment schools and grade
levels. I will be teaching high school for four
days a week and an elementary school
once a week. This is my second day on the
job and I am just "deskwarming" (I have no
teaching until Monday). I have a nice
apartment with kitchenette, bed, desk,
dresser, A/C, TV, and a bathroom with a
washing machine. I am slowly and painfully
learning some Korean but I definitely don't
know nearly enough to even get by yet. I
have been relying on my co-teacher who
has studied in the states for 1 year (Chicago
+ Omaha) to help me with my
necessities. Koreans as a culture are
extremely accommodating and I must make
an effort to not over-extend their hospitality,
as they will be overly generous with it.
As I am in a small town, I do get stares from
older inhabitants as I walk down the street. I
am average height and have Asian features
so I can imagine that "foreigners" that are
tall, Caucasian or otherwise non-Asian
would get even more stares. These kinds of
things may be a bit off-putting but you have
to have a positive mentality or all the "little
things" will get to you and you will be
miserable. I am trying to keep an open mind
and positive attitude.
Opportunities in the
Isaacowitz LED Lab!
As a graduate student at Northeastern, I
conduct research in the Lifespan Emotional
Development (LED) Laboratory with
Professor Isaacowitz. The majority of my
days are spent in the lab conducting studies
and working with Directed Study students.
Each semester we have about 25 Directed
Study students who work directly with a
graduate student or full time lab member.
The studies we conduct in the lab are about
emotion and aging. The type of research we
do involves collecting a variety of measures:
self-report mood data, behavioral data, eyetracking, and psychophysiology.
Students in the lab learn to run participants
through experimental paradigms and to use
the equipment we have in the lab. We use
two types of eye-trackers. A mobile eyetracker, which is a pair of glasses with a
small camera on it, tracks gaze while
participants move around the room, and a
stationary eye-tracker, which is a camera
under the computer monitor, tracks where
on the screen participants are looking using
the pupil and reflections on the cornea.
We also collect physiological signals which
inform us about what is happening in the
body as people do studies about emotions.
Since we use lots of different measures we
collect a massive amount of data and so
directed students are also an integral part of
the data processing procedure. We also
have lab meetings in which we discuss
empirical articles, graduate school, and
other relevant topics.
There are also some great opportunities
once you are involved in a lab through the
university. The Provost offers
undergraduate research awards of up to
$1,000 for students to conduct research
projects sponsored by a faculty member.
There is also the RISE exposition each
spring at Northeastern where students can
present posters with research findings from
the lab they work in. All of these things are
great preparation for research and clinical
jobs and graduate programs, and Directed
Study is a great way to have these
--Molly Sanders-Cannon
(doctoral student)
How Waiting for the
Walk Light Could Save
a Life That’s Not Your
Eugenia Coleman and Tanya Schillawski
designed and conducted a great experiment
in Social Psychology Lab (PSYC 4614) last
spring. It showed the power of role modeling
between strangers in a public safety
situation. And it shows how a very simple
behavioral act influences other people—for
their own good.
Two crosswalks near Northeastern were
selected as the research setting for their
experiment. Without their knowing it,
pedestrians were assigned to three different
experimental conditions. One was a control
condition in which they were simply
observed to see if they waited for the “walk
light.” In a second condition, a confederate
waited for the light and the pedestrian’s
walking behavior was observed. And in the
third condition, three or four confederates all
waited for the light and the pedestrian’s
walking behavior was observed.
The confederates’ behavior had a dramatic
and highly significant effect on whether the
pedestrians waited for the light themselves.
In the control condition 24% of pedestrians
waited for the light, while in the 1
confederate condition 50% did, and in the 34 confederate condition, a full 75% did.
So, next time you are tempted to walk
against the light, remember that your
behavior has a bigger influence on the
people around you than you ever imagined.
--Prof. Hall
Don’t Know What
InterAxon Is? Then You
Must Read On
Do you like kids? Do you want to help
others? Are you interested in sharing your
unique knowledge of neuroscience to the
young minds of Boston?
Well, an awesome opportunity has landed
itself amongst the NEURONS community!
InterAxon is a national neuroscience
outreach organization (http://interaxonoutreach.org/). The NEURONS InterAxon
chapter is joining forces with other
InterAxon chapters across the nation in
creating and fostering interest, excitement,
and curiosity about the brain. We will go to
nearby underprivileged elementary schools,
middle schools and high schools to teach
neuroscience. This learning experience will
encompass an assortment of presentations,
brain games, trivia, fun facts, and more.
We need your creative mind to come up
with fun and interesting ways to teach
neuroscience to different age groups. The
students involved may not otherwise have
an opportunity to learn about the brain, so it
is in our hands to expose them to and excite
them about the field of neuroscience!
InterAxon will be part of the NEURONS club
(http://www.northeastern.edu/neurons/). So,
if you aren’t already a member of
NEURONS then come to our first meeting
where we will be recruiting interested
members to kick off the InterAxon chapter!
More information will be posted at
http://www.northeastern.edu/bns/interaxonoutreach/ shortly.
--Chloe Holland
[email protected]
--Tedi Rosenstein
[email protected]
(BNS majors)
Department of Research
Some Interesting Recent Findings
in Psychology!
Fat and happy? Over a 4-year period,
spouses filled in surveys about marital
happiness, health, stress, and weight.
Happier couples gained more weight than
unhappy couples. The researchers
speculated that happy couples are no
longer concerned about attracting a mate,
while unhappy couples are thinking ahead
to attracting their next partner (Health
Psychology, 2013, Vol. 32).
Smiling and sunshine. A well established
finding is that people will predictably return
the smile of a stranger when passing on the
street. A recent study in France also
confirmed another effect, based on the link
between good weather and good mood
(yes, there really is a link!). In the French
study, passersby were more likely to return
the stranger’s smile when it was a sunny
versus cloudy day (Journal of Nonverbal
Behavior, 2013, Vol. 37).
Who has an “entrepreneurial personality
profile” and where do they live? The
entrepreneurial personality is high on
extraversion, conscientiousness, and
openness to experience and low on
agreeableness and neuroticism, according
to research in the Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 2013, Vol. 105).
Research with over a half-million Americans
showed that the District of Columbia,
California, and Utah have the highest fit with
this profile and Mississippi, Louisiana, and
West Virginia have the lowest. The
distribution of entrepreneurial personality
types correlated significantly with empirical
measures of actual entrepreneurial activity
across the 50 states and D.C.
I like what you see. People evaluate an
object more favorably if the object is getting
others’ attention, even if it is just visual
attention—in other words, just seeing
someone looking at something makes you
evaluate the object more highly. (Don’t think
advertisers don’t already know this!) New
research shows that this effect depends in
part, however, on whom you see doing the
looking. Previous research has shown that
some people have faces that look more
“trustworthy” than others. Trustworthy and
untrustworthy faces were experimentally
shown looking at a painting. Observers
were more attracted to the painting if it had
been briefly looked at by the more
trustworthy face (Cognition, 2012, Vol. 122).
Crowded counseling centers! Ninety-five
percent of college counseling center
directors said the number of students with
significant psychological problems is a
growing concern on their campuses,
according to an article in Monitor on
Psychology, June 2013. The chief concern
is anxiety, followed by depression and
relationship problems. Also, they report not
having sufficient resources to adequately
serve students needing help.
How quickly can emotional expressions
be detected? It has long been known that
not much information is needed in order to
recognize a standard set of emotions in the
face. But now that time window has been
shortened even more. Researchers showed
happy, angry, or fearful faces for 10, 20, 30,
40, or 50 milliseconds, either right side up or
upside down. Accuracy of emotion
recognition increased from 10 to 50 ms but
it was better than guessing even at 10 ms,
for both orientations of the face. Some
researchers argue that humans are hardwired to recognize “basic” emotions.
Perhaps it is true. But perhaps we just learn
the cues really well. (From Emotion, 2013,
Vol. 13).
Need to Know
Something About
Psychology, or
Statistics, or……? Try
the Wikipedia
But even tree shrews recognize affect
intensity! Researchers have already shown
that social-living species including
carnivores and rodents respond to affective
information in conspecifics’ vocalizations.
However, it was not clear whether this
would be seen in animals with non-complex
social systems. Now, researchers from
Germany played recordings of two different
kinds of calls to tree shrews (a relatively
primitive, solitary foraging primate), while
experimentally varying the acoustic intensity
of the call. The shrews responded to the
difference with changes in attentional
behavior, indicating that responding to vocal
affect has very deep-reaching phylogenetic
roots. (From Emotion, 2012, Vol. 12).
There are many ways to get information
these days, on and off the Web. One is the
Wikipedia. Of course, one has to be
cautious about everything one reads on the
Web. But, still, you will be amazed at how
much valuable information for psychology
students and professionals is waiting to be
read on the Wikipedia! In fact there is a
page called WikiProject Psychology that
tells you how to find things on psychology
and what initiatives are in progress to
expand and improve the coverage of
psychology in the Wikipedia. The
Association for Psychological Science
(APS) even has a task force with this goal.
Gender and anxiety. Everyone is anxious
these days, but women are more plagued
by anxiety than men are. Researchers are
trying to figure out why. A team at the
University of Pennsylvania looked at the
psychological traits of instrumentality (for
example, self-confidence, independence,
and competitiveness) and mastery (the
belief one has control over one’s life). These
two variables were significant mediators
between gender and anxiety, meaning that
gender predicted instrumentality and
mastery feelings (women being lower on
both than men), and these two traits in turn
predicted anxiety. The conclusion is that if
women could develop stronger feelings of
instrumentality and mastery, their anxiety
levels relative to men would improve. (From
Psychology of Women Quarterly, 2012, Vol.
Write Something for
Psych NUws!!
UNDERGRADS! Write something about
your psychology-related activities on or
off campus. Or interview someone on a
psychology topic. Or summarize an
article you enjoyed reading. If you like
writing and networking, become a
contributor to Psych NUws.
--Prof. Hall
Psych NUws is a joint effort of the
members and grads of the Northeastern
University Psychology Department. Direct
your inquiries and contributions to the
Editor, Prof. Judith Hall ([email protected]).
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