Worcester State University
Psychology Department


Honors Presentations


          The Psychology honors students will be presenting their projects on May 4 from 11:30am - 12:30pm in S238. Please stop by, take a look, and discuss with them if you have the chance. The presentations represent a culmination of a year (or more) of hard work from both some of our best students and some of our dedicated faculty. This year, we have an diverse group of students covering topics from social, I/O, clinical, developmental, and cognitive areas. Your support of our honors students and the honors program will be appreciated! We are particularly interested in having freshman, sophmores and juniors attend who may be interested in doing Honors in the fall of 2009 or 2010.


The following are presentations that took place in the last academic year:


Hale, L. & Soysa, C. K. (2008, March). The impact of housing choice on student stress and perceived social support. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, Boston, MA.



This study investigated the impact of housing choice on perceived social support and stress in college students. The amounts of stress and perceived social support did not differ between residents and commuters. Both residents and commuters, however, reported the same pattern of differences in the causes of stress (stressors) as well as stress reactions.  In addition, as predicted, there was a significant inverse relationship between perceived social support from family and emotional stress in both residents and commuters


- EPA 2008-poster-march.pdf



Duncanson, H. (2008, April). Comparison of reaction times to a colored stimulus following a mood induction procedure. Poster presented at the annual Worcester State College Honors Presentations. Faculty Sponsor: Brandi Silver, PhD.



Color is such a dominant theme in the human experience that individuals have for a long time associated their feelings with color. Most research has focused on the effects of color on mood, while few studies have looked at how a person’s mood can affect their perception of color. This study examined the effects of a musical mood induction procedure on reaction time required to perceive the colors blue and yellow. Thirty-six undergraduates were randomly assigned to one of three groups in which they listened to five minutes of happy music, sad music, or white noise. The participants then completed the Multiple Affect Adjective Checklist-Revised (MAACL-R) to assess their current mood. Upon completion of the checklist, the participants’ reaction times to blue and yellow stimuli of varying intensities were recorded. Results show that participants who listened to happy music scored significantly higher on the Positive Affect scale of the MAACL-R, and participants who listened to sad music scored significantly higher on the depression scale. No significant difference was found between the happy and sad groups for reaction times to blue and yellow stimuli, indicating that the neural threshold may not be lowered. Unexpectedly, a significant difference was found for reaction times to blue and yellow stimuli for the participants in the white noise group; the reaction time was slower for the white noise participants.  Speculations can be made that listening to music primed those participants for the visual-spatial task, perhaps because both tasks are right hemisphere dominant. Future research should look at the effects of white noise on color perception.


- Moodposter.pdf


A manuscript based upon this project was accepted for publication:

Duncanson, H. (2009). Perceiving mood in color: The effects of mood on reaction time. Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research, 14, 65-71.



Edmonds, P. L. (2008, April). The effect of self-reference and irrelevant sound on memory for faces. Poster presented at the annual Worcester State College Honors Presentations. Faculty Sponsor: Emily Soltano, PhD.



This study examined whether self-reference and irrelevant sound affects face recognition ability for young adult females. Self-reference of age, race, and/or gender have been found to improve the recognition of unfamiliar faces by individuals of the same

group identity. Irrelevant sound has been shown to decrease performance on recall tasks. In this study,young female college students were presented with photographs and later asked to indicate which photographs were seen earlier. The photographs varied in age, race, and gender. There were two groups, one group received the irrelevant sound condition (e.g., car accelerating), and the other group received a no-noise condition. Results failed to provide evidence supporting the hypothesis that the self-reference effect may increase the accuracy in recognition of faces. Results also failed to provide evidence that the irrelevant sound effect decreases accuracy in recall. These results conflict with the findings of previous research.





Giddens, M. (2008, April). Feature Contrast Effects on Salience as Measured by Reaction Time. Poster presented at the annual Worcester State College Honors Presentations. Faculty Sponsor: Brandi Silver, PhD.



One of the most important facets of visual experience relies on the ability to quickly and accurately detect and process relevant information from a scene. The saliency of an object plays a large role in this ability by capturing a viewer’s attention. Salience, or an objects ability to stand out, is produced by the distinguishing features of that object from its surround, for example, color and movement. This study measured the effect of feature contrast on salience using a computerized reaction time task. Participants indicated the relative location (left or right side of a computer screen) of a unique item among identical background items in a line target display. Items differed from the surround by either color, motion, orientation, luminance or some combination of two features. Data indicate a faster reaction time for items differing in the color feature from the surround items more so than movement, orientation and luminance. Data also support prior research suggesting a faster detection time for items with a combination feature contrast as opposed to single feature contrast stimuli.  These initial results suggest salient effects resulting from feature contrast may be processed serially.


- Salienceposter.pdf


Rosati, M. J. (2008, November). College students involvement in the care of sick, disabled or elderly family members. Poster presented in partial fulfillment of Honors in Psychology. Faculty sponsor: Pearl Mosher-Ashley, PhD



As our society ages, more caretaking will be needed for our elders. This study surveyed college students from a small Massachusetts city to assess their level of involvement with sick, disabled or elderly family members. The students were recruited from the psychology pool and answered questions on levels of involvement and feelings of stress whether related to caretaking or not. Forty-two percent (N=32) of college females were found to provide care for relatives. They had been assisting in this care for one month to seven years. Less than half of the students reported experiencing stress juggling their caregiving with their studies and of those who reported feeling stress, only seven percent related it to their caretaking duties. Seventy-nine percent of students were working. As nearly 80 percent of all caregiving occurs within the home environment and with nearly half of the students found to provide caretaking, this largely unstudied group of young people will become more important to researchers in the future. This study adds to the research already done.


- Rosati Poster.pdf 

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