Ithaca College Quarterly 1999/No. 2

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Humanities and Sciences


Student ResearchPsychologists are always interested in predicting behavior. In Ithaca College’s Department of Psychology, some behaviors this time of year are very predictable: spring, you see, is the season during which psychology students make their pilgrimages to different psychology conferences to present the results of their research.

Eight students discussed their research in oral or poster presentations at the University of Scranton Psychology Conference this year. For this conference, students have to wake up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday so they can leave the College by 6:30 a.m. The conference runs throughout the day, and students arrive back home at about 8:00 p.m.

Three students from Barney Beins’s humor research team — James Adams ’99, Tisha Miller ’00, and David Wimer ’99 — traveled to Scranton to discuss factors that affect people’s enjoyment of humor. Five students from Nancy Rader’s cognition research team — seniors Theresa Cain, Jamie Donsbach, and April Smith and juniors Jill Fadia and Erin Hughes — enlightened audiences about cognition and language development.

In separate research projects, Miller and Adams discovered that people respond to the same joke differently, depending on whether they are told in advance how funny it is. That is, a joke turns out to be as funny as a person expects it to be. Further, Wimer reported that people who are easily embarrassed for others tend to rate jokes with "victims" funnier than do people who show personal embarrassment. People who feel embarrassed for others, she suggested, may be better at putting themselves in the others’ place, so the humor in a joke hits home for them and they like it more.

Meanwhile, from the cognition research team, Cain and Fadia reported on their research with infants and toddlers. They discussed the role that gestures play in facilitating the development of vocabulary in first and second languages. Smith discussed the relationship between behavior in infancy and childhood shyness. Hughes reported on her work involving how mood differences in children affect their problem-solving abilities. Finally, Donsbach presented her work on the effects of praise on problem solving in young children. All of these projects are part of the ongoing work in Rader’s cognition lab. Smith, Fadia, Donsbach, and Cain all engaged in their research as part of their honors theses in psychology.

IC psychology students have been regulars at the Scranton psychology conference since Beins’s initial trip with a single presenter in 1988. Since then 25 of his students have made presentations at the conference.

Psychology students regularly either present their work or coauthor papers delivered at other conferences as well. For instance, Tisha Miller’s research has been accepted for presentation at the 1999 National Conference on Undergraduate Research. In addition, students on research teams led by Cyndy Scheibe and Nancy Rader appeared as coauthors at this year’s meeting in Albuquerque of the Society for Research in Child Development. Linda McBride’s students have regularly coauthored papers given at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association. And when Ithaca College sends its science students to the Eastern Colleges Science Conference each year, psychology students predominate — usually with more than 20 students traveling to the meetings to present their work.

Much of the research that the psychology students complete has its beginnings in the department’s research teams program. Each psychology major spends three semesters conducting research under the tutelage of a single professor. Students frequently choose to continue their research experience for additional semesters. The payoffs are obvious when you see the list of graduate programs our students are accepted into. They include doctoral programs at Pennsylvania State, Rice, Syracuse, Tufts, and Yale Universities and the Universities of Hartford, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Rhode Island, as well as master’s programs at Rochester Institute of Technology, John Jay College, Catholic University, and other prestigious institutions.

The research team subjects that will be active for next year’s crop of student researchers are Barney Beins’s humor, Linda McBride’s psychology and law, Jack Peck’s neuroscience, Nancy Rader’s cognition, Cyndy Scheibe’s effects of television, Andrea White’s developmental psychology, and David Williams’s spaces and places. It should be another interesting year.


Janet Kalinowski, 1952–99

Associate professor of psychology Janet Kalinowski passed away on March 14, 1999, in Ithaca, at the age of 46. A memorial service was held on April 10 (see the Ithaca College News report.) In her memory, friends and colleagues have established the Janet Kalinowski Student Development Fund in Women’s Studies. The fund is intended to support students studying issues of gender and social position. Those wishing to contribute to the fund should contact Kristen Ford in the Office of Planned and Leadership Giving, Alumni Hall

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Web pages created by Andrejs Ozolins. 19 Oct 1999