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Real World Experience


Engaging in research activities with faculty is a remarkable way to gain real world experience and learn outside of the classroom. Take a look at a few highlights from our many outstanding student research projects.

Research in Dr. Howell’s Lab with Students as First Author:

Abstract: Studies in evolutionary psychology have shown human beings to be very sexual in nature, however modern religious, familial, and governmental (RFG) ideals have people wishing they were something other than what they are. In this quasi-experimental study we examined the effect of these RFG pressures on individuals’ willingness to engage in short term mating. Second, we also examined the effect of high pressure on guilt and shame in those willing to engage in short term mating. We found some evidence that familial pressure plays a role in willingness. Religious pressure had no effect on willingness. Governmental pressure could not be assessed due to too few high pressure subjects. In all cases no relationship was found between RFG and guilt and shame. 

Abstract: Tattoos have been a part of societies for many centuries, although they tend to hold many negative connotations. In the United States today, tattoos along with other forms of body modification are extremely prevalent. Using a repeated measures experimental design, we studied the perceived level of attractiveness, professionalism, and also the level of comfort with individuals who have tattoos among Keystone College students. This was a novel survey, created by the researchers. In this research we had multiple hypotheses. We measured levels of comfort in working alongside the tattooed individuals. We also measured perceived levels of work ethic, job title, skill level, and education of those with tattoos. Lastly we measured perceptions of attractiveness toward individuals with tattoos versus covered individuals. We expected to find that individuals with tattoos would be looked at differently in terms of attractiveness and professionalism, compared to non-tattooed individuals. We also expected that there would be difference in levels of comfort working alongside the individuals with tattoos in a school or work setting.  All hypotheses were confirmed, with the exception of female attractiveness. Although covered females were rated to be more attractive, the results were not significant. 

Abstract: Cyber-bullying is continuing to become an important issue in today’s society, especially with the incessant advancement of technology.  Many people think of bullying as mainly an in-person, male-dominated activity. Will cyber-bullying bring about a greater number of female victims? In this quasi-experimental study, we examined the effect of gender on self-reported cyber-bullying in Keystone College students. We found that gender does affect the incidence and intensity of cyber-bullying. Females reported higher incidence and intensity in most of the modalities.  Males reported higher incidence through non-social media websites, and higher intensity through Twitter, non-social media websites, and emails. Finally, we found significant differences between the modalities on reported intensity, with calls/voicemails having the highest perceived intensity of cyber-bullying (presumably due to the direct personal connection) and Twitter having the lowest. Finding out what affects the prevalence and intensity of cyber-bullying could help with the prevention of future cyber-bullying in those demographics that are affected the most. 

Abstract: What makes people ‘cheat’ on their partner? For that matter, what types of behavior does society actually consider ‘cheating behavior’? At what point in a social encounter does the interaction go from an innocent act of friendship to something more, and is that point different for modern means of communication, such as Facebook or texting? In this experimental research study, we examined the effect of gender and relationship status on the willingness to engage in cheating behavior in Keystone College students. In addition, we examined the effect of different scenarios on one’s willingness to cheat via these six types of cheating behaviors. We also inspected the reported likelihood of breaking up with one’s partner due to each of the subtypes of cheating behavior. Our results concluded that gender and relationship status played a significant role in whether a person was willing to cheat and that specific subtypes of cheating behavior can play a significant role in whether a person may choose to break up with their boyfriend or girlfriend. 

Abstract: Psychology students taking undergraduate statistics courses are frequently relatively underprepared mathematically, and often suffer from considerable mathematics anxiety.  While “Statistics for the Social/Behavioral Sciences” courses are relatively common and are often specifically taught in a way to overcome this anxiety, instructors in such courses still frequently have to deal with basic mathematical under-preparation.  For example, many simple formulas are used in hand-calculation of the basic statistics (e.g. weighted means, variances, z-scores, z-tests).  While even the most mathematically underprepared student can learn to use these formulas, their understanding of the relation between the elements is often superficial.  Most of the time this is not a problem for developing an appreciation of, and skill in, the use of statistics. However, when discussions of hypothesis testing are first reached with the z-test, it becomes very useful to discuss how each element in the formula contributes to the final test-statistic, effect size, and statistical power.  To assist algebraically under-prepared students to understand the components of formulas, one of us (Barton) created a variety of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.  To illustrate how each component of the formula works, the student can enter each of the variable values in a data entry zone to the side, and watch what changing each value does to numerator, denominator, overall value, etc. in separate “expansions” of the components of the formula.  This kind of hands-on “playing” with the formulas seems to improve mathematical understanding among algebraically underprepared students. 

Research in Dr. Howell’s lab with Students as Co-authors: 

Abstract: There has been a great deal of interest growing over the last few years in the concept of urban farming.  In sprawling cities of millions of inhabitants, the idea of growing fresh fruits and vegetables, or even fish and livestock, in vertical skyscraper farms can be cost-effective, as it provides employment for rapidly urbanizing populations, minimizes fertilizer and pesticide use, reduces harmful agricultural runoff and reduces transportation costs of imported food (Despommier, 2010).  In North-East Pennsylvania (NEPA), while the cities are nowhere near this size, the city centers do have a surplus of unused, under-taxed real estate in older multi-story buildings and an under-employed work force.  We propose that some of these vacant buildings could be converted to support hydroponic urban farming, improving the neighborhood and property values while providing jobs and tax revenue for depressed city centers, along with locally-grown inexpensive fresh food.  Furthermore, while most designs for urban farming focus on technological automation which reduces running costs but drastically increases start-up costs, NEPA has the industrial and agricultural workforce already to operate such vertical farms without costly automation, producing more local jobs than an automated design and reducing capital costs. 

Abstract: One of the more difficult things for students to learn in introductory statistics classes is the concept of the standard error of the mean. While students generally understand how the standard deviation estimates the variance of the individual scores in a population, they have trouble understanding how the standard error of the mean shows the same thing for how means of samples of size N vary from the population mean.  We discuss an interactive classroom exercise for illustrating this concept using student heights and present data illustrating its effectiveness at increasing understanding. 

Abstract: Principles of language learning are important concepts in many psychology classes.  Such principles can be memorably illustrated in an interactive classroom demonstration of a “First Contact” experience.  First, a fluent foreign language speaker is recruited to attend a class and serve as the focus of the exercise.  They are instructed to pretend not to understand any English. The target class is divided into groups of four to six students in preparation.   In more language-focused classes, the students will have knowledge of basic language acquisition principles such as the taxonomic constraint, the whole-object assumption, and the mutual-exclusivity assumption.  In a more introductory class like cognitive psychology or general psychology, students may have to be explicitly primed with these principles during their planning phase.  On the day of the demonstration, the speaker is introduced to the class and seated at a table.  The groups take turns sitting across from and interacting with the speaker.  Props are provided for the groups (such as paper, colored crayons, small children’s toys and shapes).  By establishing joint attention with the speaker on one of the props or drawings, the group can begin to elicit names for objects from the speaker, in their language.  After a short time a large vocabulary of words in the novel language can be learned.  By the end of the demonstration, it is not uncommon for groups to be describing props to the speaker using two and three word phrases that may involve nouns, adjectives, and verbs in the previously unknown language. 



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