Psychology Department Undergraduate Research Support Awards

Do you need financial support for your psychology research?

Thanks to generous donations from Psychology Alumni Keith May and others, the Psychology department is now offering Research Support Awards to enhance the research activities of our undergraduate majors.

Therefore, if you are a psychology major in need of financial help in

a) purchasing experimental materials,
b) covering travel expenses related to presenting research at professional conferences, or
c) any other research related expense,

just submit a one-page description of your request to the Psychology department chair (Patrick Raymark,

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Dr. Paul Merritt met with Senator Tim Scott to urge funding for Graduate Psychology Education

Dr. Paul Merritt meeting with Senator Tim Scott on behalf of APA to urge funding for the Graduate Psychology Education program

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Robert Sinclair named Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Bob Sinclair, professor of psychology was named Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Society Fellows are distinguished industrial and organizational psychologists who have made an unusual and outstanding contribution to the field. Sinclair was recognized for his scholarly contributions to occupational health psychology.

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Robert Sinclair receives the Graduate Student Excellence in Mentoring Award

Psychology professor Robert Sinclair was also recognized with the Graduate Student Excellence in Mentoring Award, which recognizes a faculty or staff member who mentors or advises graduate students. The goal of the award is to show graduate students’ appreciation for the faculty and staff who help students navigate the rigors of graduate school.

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Eric Muth Interviewed by Wall Street Journal

Researchers find that the optimal number of bites a day for weight loss and health is 100 bites a day, and new products will soon help people chew more. WSJ’s Sumathi Reddy and Clemson University psychology professor Eric Muth join Lunch Break with Sara Murray.

See the interview here.

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Leidheiser: The Effects of Age and Working Memory Demands on Automation-Induced Complacency

Student name: Will Leidheiser
Title of Thesis: The Effects of Age and Working Memory Demands on Automation-Induced Complacency
Type: Thesis Proposal
Thesis Advisor: Dr. Richard Pak
Thesis Committee Members: Dr. Richard Pak, Dr. Patrick Rosopa, and Dr. Kelly Caine
Date, Time, and Location: Monday, August 4th at 10:00 a.m., Brackett 419

Complacency refers to a type of automation use expressed as insufficient monitoring and verification of automated functions. Previous studies have attempted to identify the age-related factors that influence complacency during interaction with automation. However, little is known about the role of age-related differences in working memory capacity and its connection to complacent behaviors. The current study aims to examine whether working memory demand of an automated task and age-related differences in cognitive ability influence complacency. Higher degrees of automation (DOA) have been shown to reduce cognitive workload and may be used to manipulate working memory demand of a task. Thus, we hypothesize that a lower DOA (i.e. information acquisition stage with lower level) will demand more working memory than a higher DOA (i.e. decision selection stage with higher level) and that a lower DOA will result in a greater difference in complacency between age groups than a higher DOA.

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Hartman: Investigation of Distance to Break Using Compliant Nonlinear and Linear Materials in a Simulated Minimally Invasive Surgery Task

Time and Location: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 at 10:30AM, Brackett 419

Committee Members: Dr. Chris Pagano (Chair), Dr. Timothy Burg, Dr. Ben Stephens

Title: Investigation of Distance to Break Using Compliant Nonlinear and Linear Materials in a Simulated Minimally Invasive Surgery Task

Abstract:Accurate interpretation of the mediated haptic information in minimally invasive surgery (MIS) is critical for applying appropriate force magnitudes into soft tissue with the aim of minimizing tissue trauma.  Force perception in MIS is a dynamic process with surgeon’s administration of force into tissue revealing information about the remote surgical site which will further inform the surgeon for further haptic interaction. In previous research the relationship between applied force and material deformation rate was shown to provide biomechanical information specifying the distance remaining until the tissue would fail, which has been term distance-to-break (DTB).The current study furtherinvestigates whether observers are using DTB to stop before the failure point of the tissue or if they are stopping using another component such as increase in force. Findings replicated Long et al. (submitted) results that observers could reliably perceive DTB in simulated nonlinear biological tissues. The sensitivity for the DTB invariant is further supported by the poor performance of the additional linear profiles participants were tested on that lacked the DTB invariant.


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Phil Jasper thesis defense

Phil Jasper will be defending his Master’s Thesis titled: USING THE BITE COUNTER TO OVERCOME THE EFFECT OF PLATE SIZE ON FOOD INTAKE on Friday, May 2, 2014, in Bracket Hall, Room 419. (Contact Phil about the time).


According to a recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, overweight and obesity have reached epidemic levels in the United States (Flegal et at., 2010, NHANES, 2010) There are many treatments for overweight and obesity, the most popular being behavioral interventions (Berkel et al., 2005). Self-monitoring is one of the most important factors of successful behavioral interventions (Baker & Kirschenbaum, 1993). The Bite Counter is a newly developed tool for weight loss that aids in the self-monitoring process (Dong et al., 2011). The purpose of the current study was to determine if bite count feedback and an instruction on the number of bites to take could overcome the known environmental cue of plate size where eating from larger plates causes individuals to eat more (Wansink 2004). Data were collected from 112 participants eating a meal of macaroni and cheese in a laboratory setting. In a 2×2 design, the participants were assigned to one of four conditions: instruction given and small plate, instruction given and large plate, instruction not given and small plate, or instruction not given and large plate. Grams consumed and bites taken were measured post meal as the main dependent variables. A 2×2 ANOVA of grams consumed revealed a main effect of INSTRUCTION (F(1,104)= 5.297, p=.023, η² = .048), a main effect of PLATE SIZE (F(1,104)= 5.798, p=.018, η² = .053), and an interaction (F(1,104)= 7.695, p= .007, η² = .069). A 2×2 ANOVA of bites taken revealed a main effect of INSTRUCTION (F(1,104)= 7.47, p= .007, η² = .067), a main effect of PLATE SIZE (F(1,104)= 14.264, p< .001, η² = .121), and an interaction (F(1,104)= 14.964, p< .001, η² = .126). The results suggest that a given instruction on the number of bites to take along with feedback on the number of bites taken, can partially overcome a known environmental cue of plate size.

Committee Chair: Dr. Eric Muth
Committee Members: Dr. Adam Hoover and Dr. Tom Alley.

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Drew Morris’s thesis proposal

Student Name: Drew Morris
Title of Thesis: The Cold Driver: Driving Performance Under Thermal Stress
Type: Thesis Proposal
Thesis Advisor: Dr. June J. Pilcher
Thesis Committee Members: Dr. June Pilcher, Dr. Fred Switzer, Dr. Chris Pagano
Time and Location: Tuesday, April 29th at 1:30pm, Brackett 419
Exposure to cold environments can impact complex task performance and increase cognitive and physiological error in response to thermal stress. Critically, the task of driving a vehicle requires the use of calibrated mental and physical actions to be conducted safely without error. Few studies have examined the effects of cold stress on driving performance and none have explored the potential for advanced driver safety systems to detect error. Active vehicle safety systems which monitor dangerous driving behavior due to drowsiness have been research and developed, though technology associated with thermal stressed driving error is unexplored. The current study aims to examine the effects of cold stress by way of skin cooling on driving simulator performance, and evaluate vehicle behavior metrics for possible dangerous driving detection systems. Driving under cold stress is expected to result in systematic vehicle behavior and driving performance error which can be utilized for future safety system development.

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Bliss Altenhoff’s dissertation proposal

Perceiving Soft Tissue Break Points in the Presence of Friction

Tuesday, April 29th at 10:00am
Brackett 419

Committee: Dr. Chris Pagano (chair), Dr. Tim Burg, Dr. Ben Stephens, Dr. Rich Pak

Abstract: In minimally invasive surgery (MIS), surgeons face several perceptual challenges due to the remote interaction with the environment, such as distorted haptic feedback through the instruments due to friction produced from the rubber trocar sealing mechanisms at the incision site. As a result, surgeons sometimes unintentionally damage healthy tissues during MIS due to excessive force. Research has demonstrated that useful information is available in the haptic array of soft tissues, which allows novices to successfully perceive the penetration distance remaining until a material will fail based on displacement and reactionary forces of simulated tissues using a haptic invariant, Distance-to-Break (DTB). Attunement and calibration training will be used in the current study to investigate whether observers are able to identify material break points in nonlinear compliant materials through haptic force application, while ignoring haptic stimulation not lawfully related to the properties specifying DTB, including friction. A pretest, feedback, posttest, and transfer-of-training phase design will be used, allowing participants to probe four virtually simulated materials at varying levels of friction: no friction, low friction, and high friction in the first experiment, and pull the simulated tissues in the second experiment to investigate if perception of DTB generalizes to other tasks used in MIS.

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