Psychology

Faculty Research Interests - Honors Program

Professor Aries
My research examines the role that race and social class play in the college experience. I have just completed a longitudinal study of black and white students, both affluent and lower-income, at Amherst College, to better understand the challenges they face on campus based on their race and social class, and the extent to which they are learning from the diversity in the student body. I am interested in understanding racial microaggressions on campus, the form they take, their impact, and the differential perception of these acts by students of different races. I am also interested in identity development during adolescence and particularly in the role social class, race, ethnicity and gender play in the formation of identity. The Psychology of Adolescence is strongly recommended as a background for projects on identity.

Professor Baird
My research is devoted to uncovering neural and psychological mechanisms that control feeding behavior. I use modern behavioral analysis, pharmacological, and neural recording techniques to explore how various drugs and other treatments affect feeding behavior and taste coding in the brainstem. For the upcoming year I intend to use microstructural behavioral analysis methods to evaluate how direct brain application of novel neuropeptides recently implicated in obesity specifically affect feeding behavior. We will be directing these infusions to areas of the brain not previously explored for a role in obesity. These results should help to clarify the brain circuits through which obesity-related neuropeptides act and possibly how these circuits may become imbalanced in cases of obesity.

Professor Demorest
I am interested in the role of emotion in personality. In past research I have examined individual differences among people as to which emotions are most prevalent in a person's life (e.g., some people are more vulnerable to sadness and others to fear) and what scripts a person holds about how emotions are evoked (e.g., some people feel love in response to another being weak while others feel love in response to another being strong). I would be willing to supervise any thesis that deals with the role of emotion in personality. Students interested in pursuing a thesis on this topic should have taken Psychology 221.  I am also willing to supervise theses involving emotion but unrelated to personality, as well as theses on personality unrelated to emotion.  As a second area of inquiry I am interested in various clinical phenomena, such as how clinical psychologists come to understand clients in the process of psychotherapy, or how unconscious processes operate. Students interested in studying clinical phenomena should have taken Psychology 353 or related courses.  On leave Spring, 2014, and will not be taking thesis students.


Professor McQuade
The focus of my research is on the investigation of risk and protective factors of social impairment and emotional adjustment in children and adolescents with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). One area of my research examines self-perceptions of competence, which is one’s belief in their competency and ability. Studies have found that some children with ADHD have impaired insight and tend to report positive self-perceptions of competence despite being rated by others as significantly impaired.  My research seeks to understand why children with ADHD demonstrate impaired insight and what the consequence of this thinking is to their adjustment (e.g. depression, delinquency, risky behavior). An additional area of my research examines executive functioning impairments, which are cognitive abilities involved in goal-directed behavior and future-oriented thinking. Models of ADHD have suggested that executive functioning deficits may explain why children with ADHD often demonstrate impairments in functioning. My research is specifically interested in understanding how executive functioning deficits affect social impairments (e.g. peer rejection, aggression, social problem solving) in children with ADHD as well as children more generally. Psychology 228 is strongly recommended as background.


Professor Mendoza
My research broadly examines how goals and norms impact our evaluations of and behaviors toward outgroup members. In particular, I am interested in understanding how stereotypes operate, why they are maintained, and how they can be reduced. My prior work has examined how specific goal plans can help individuals override automatic stereotyping effects, as well as how group norms of fairness can affect intergroup behavior within negotiation settings. Past thesis students of mine have explored the explicit and implicit effects of racial humor, the negative impact of positive stereotype application, and the influence of gender-role expectancies on legal decision-making. In addition to these to these topics, I am willing to consider other experimental study ideas pertaining to intergroup relations, attitudes, or perception. PSYCH 220 is a pre-requisite and PSYCH 337 is strongly recommended as background. 

 

Professor Palmquist
Broadly, I am interested in questions of how children learn from, and communicate with, others. Given that in their first few years of life, children usually communicate with adults who are trying to share truthful information with them, young children often expect that both verbal and nonverbal communication can be trusted. Stemming from this, my research is focused on 1) whether children distinguish between the helpfulness of verbal and nonverbal communication and 2) how children’s expectations about the truthfulness of nonverbal communication (i.e., gaze, pointing, and other hand gestures) in particular, affects children’s learning. My research asks whether these expectations about truthfulness actually help children learn from others, or whether they lead children to be more easily deceived by incorrect information. Another area of my research examines the developmental origins of nonverbal communication. For instance, others have found that one form of nonverbal communication, pointing, is a nearly universally used gesture that often develops at about the same time in many different cultures. Yet, no one has asked why infants first begin to use gestures like pointing to communicate with others. My work in this area seeks to understand this transition into nonverbal communication and whether being able to communicate with others in this way actually changes the way that infants think about themselves and the world around them. PSYCH 227 is strongly recommended as a background.  Professor Palmquist can be reached via email.

 

Professor Raskin
My interests are broad; they range from neuroscience to clinical psychology. I have worked in several areas: the psychology of aging; diagnosing childhood behavior disorders and studying their etiologies; the history and systems of psychiatry; and psychoanalysis. Although I have had extensive experience in empirical research, my recent scholarly pursuits have taken me from the laboratory to the library. Students interested in studying one of these  research topics with me would create what the Department calls a  non-empirical thesis , and should be prepared --and eager-- to improve their critical reading and writing skills.  Some examples of the work done by my recent students include  reviewing deinstitutionalization in America;  constructing the diagnosis of ADHD and its complications; the history of childhood depression;  and a study of where elder Americans live and how housing shapes their lives. Students interested in doing a non-empirical thesis must have the requisite course background in the area of study they choose.

 

Professor Sanderson
My research is based in social-personality psychology and specifically on issues within close relationships and health-related behaviors.  First, I study the interaction of individuals in close relationships (e.g., friendships, dating relationships, marriages), and how both reality and perception influence satisfaction.  Thesis projects could examine how individuals' intimacy goals in these relationships influence the strategies used to pursue interpersonal relationships and/or relationship interactions and satisfaction.  Second, I examine individuals’ accuracy in perceiving others’ health-related attitudes and behaviors as well as how such perceptions (and misperceptions) influence one’s own attitudes and behaviors.  For example, women see other women as thinner and as exercising more than they themselves do, and both men and women see others as more negative about condom use than they themselves are, which in turn can influence behavior.  Thesis projects could examine factors leading to such errors, the consequences of such perceptions, and/or individual difference factors influences these perceptions.  Third, I supervise topics related to sports psychology, and in particular how beliefs about student-athletes influence individuals' attitudes and behavior in academic and athletic domains.  Psychology 220, Psych 235, and/or Psychology 247 are recommended as background.


Professor Schulkind
My primary interests are in the field of autobiographical memory, which is memory for the events of one’s life. I have recently begun to examine how one’s personal identity is related to their memories for past experiences.  Although many theorists believe that we know ourselves only by reflecting on our past experiences and behaviors, there are others who believe that our sense of self is entirely separate from our past experiences. Potential thesis topics might explore whether differences in personality (e.g., extraversion) and identity (e.g., I consider myself to be honest) influence the kinds of personal experiences that an individual regards as ‘important’.  I am also very interested in music cognition, especially how people identify melodies. Although people can easily name 100s of different songs, we know very little about how listeners distinguish ‘Frosty, the Snowman’ from ‘Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer’. Current work in my lab is examining how expertise effects melody identification, the relationship between music and language, and whether musical training influences cognitive performance on other kinds of mental tasks. In addition to these topics, I am willing consider other questions relating music and memory.


Professor Turgeon
My research focuses on understanding the behavioral pharmacology of phencyclidine (PCP) as it relates to animal models of schizophrenia.  PCP is a psychomotor stimulant that can induce schizophrenia-like symptoms in humans.  We have identified a number of behavioral effects of PCP in rats that appear to be plausible animal models of schizophrenia and are interested in the pharmacological and neural mechanisms by which PCP induces these schizophrenia-like behaviors.  The current focus in the lab is on sex and age differences in these effects and how these differences relate to sex differences in the manifestation of schizophrenia in humans and the developmental time course of symptom onset.  Methods used to approach these questions include behavioral observation, lesion studies, and analyses of regional c-Fos activation.  Students interested in working on any of these projects need to have taken Neuroscience/Psychology 226.  In another line of research, I have been investigating sex differences in drawing behavior and color choice in humans. 

 

 

 

Trees on the Quad