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Southwestern Psychological Association Conference

22 Psychology Majors to Present at Conference

Dr. Landrum teaching

Date published: March 16, 2020

This spring, 22 University of Dallas psychology students were accepted to present at the Southwestern Psychological Association (SWPA) Conference. Hosted by the University of Texas at Arlington, the conference was originally scheduled for April 3-5 but will now be held in August; it will involve several lectures from distinguished speakers, as well as student presentations. 

“This is a great opportunity for the students to present their research and network with other psychology students and faculty,” said Affiliate Assistant Professor of Psychology Brittany Landrum, Ph.D., BA ’08. “I am truly thankful for UD’s support and very proud of the students’ dedication and hard work, which have made these achievements possible. It is a testament to the students and the department that 100% of the students who applied were accepted.”

The students will be participating in the conference in multiple ways: Some are giving short talks describing their papers, while others are presenting posters on their research projects.

Among these students, Grace Hines, BA ’20, was selected as a finalist in the undergraduate paper competition, and her presentation will be judged by a panel of SWPA members to determine which research project will be awarded the title of “Best Paper.” Her paper is titled “Presenting Societal Benefits vs. Personal Benefits to Increase Vaccine Willingness” and consists of research she conducted as part of Quantitative Research Design, a required course for all psychology majors.

“I conducted this research to investigate how willingness to receive a flu vaccine differs between groups exposed to the personal benefits versus the societal benefits,” said Hines. “The results of an online survey I created revealed that willingness to vaccinate did not significantly differ between the groups presented with the personal versus societal benefits. However, prior to exposure to these benefits, willingness to vaccinate in those with lower education levels significantly differed from those with higher education levels.”’

“Thus, I performed additional statistical analysis incorporating education level, which revealed that among those with lower education levels, the willingness to vaccinate increased after exposure to either personal or societal benefits,” explained Hines. “In those with higher education levels, willingness to vaccinate increased only in those exposed to personal benefits; however, I was surprised to find that in those with higher education levels, willingness to vaccinate decreased after exposure to societal benefits. My research highlights the need for further investigations on how different types of vaccine messages affect vaccine uptake across different education levels.”

psychology studentsAnother psychology senior, Raphael Cavanna, BA ’20, is also presenting on the research he did for Quantitative Research Design. The name of his study is “Sleep and Napping Variables and Their Relationship to College Academic Performance.”

“The less glamorous way to describe this is that I studied napping!” explained Cavanna. “I have always thought that this subject is interesting and more important than it sounds: Research suggests that we are biologically hardwired to function best when we sleep in two phases throughout the day instead of just one long stretch at night, and considering that a third of the population currently has trouble sleeping, this is a big deal if it is true. I wanted to study if napping could effectively replace nighttime sleep for college students, who (surprise!) are one of the most sleep-deprived demographics, routinely receiving far less than the recommended amount of nighttime sleep.”

“My study consisted of a questionnaire to measure student GPA and several sleep variables such as time spent napping, average nighttime sleep duration, and more,” he said. “Unfortunately I found that there was a significant negative correlation between time spent napping and GPA — the more that participants napped, the lower their GPA tended to be. I am sure there is more to the story than this, though, since scientific literature does note several potential benefits to napping when done correctly. So it is definitely something that is worth studying more.”

Mary-Catherine Scarlett, BA ’21, will also be presenting her work from Quantitative Research Design, and her poster will be featured as part of the Psi Chi International Honors Society in Psychology showcase. Her study is titled “Socio-demographic factors: Harm and addictiveness perceptions of nicotine products.” Inspired by the recent laws raising the national legal age of tobacco, Scarlett’s study analyzes the relation between tobacco use and one’s perception of harm and addictiveness. 

“Almost every hypothesis of my study was supported by the data collected,” said Scarlett. “Most notably, as the number of household members of a participant who used nicotine products increased, their harm and addictiveness perceptions decreased. Although the household use data was interesting, and something I had not seen tested in other studies (usually household use was measured as a presence/absence variable), I could not explain why that inverse correlation was present, but merely shed light on the fact that it should be investigated further. It will take more in-depth studies and diverse sample sizes to come to a better understanding of that relationship.”

These further studies are already taking place in the Psychology Department at UD. 

“Currently, Dr. Landrum and I are developing a phenomenological study on the experience of vaping as an extension of my study in the fall,” explained Scarlett. “After reviewing 20 scholarly journal articles, creating an interview-style questionnaire, and receiving IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval, we plan to collect and analyze data and interpret our findings in order to add a new dimension to the current research. Stay tuned for our findings in the coming months!”

Discover more about studying psychology at UD.