2009 Department News
department of psychology
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Psychological Benefits of Engaging in Art-Making for Children and Adults
Jennifer Drake will be presenting her research on the affective benefits of art for children and adults. This presentation is part of a symposium on Children's Engagement in Art and its Educational Context. The symposium will be presented at the annual meeting of the British Psychological Society in Stratford-upon-Avon, England in April 2010.
Grant awarded by the Faber Castell company entitled: Does Making Art Improve Mood in Young Children? A Comparison of Art-Making by Hand vs. by Computer
Jen Drake and Ellen Winner will be investigating the emotional/mood benefits that children derive when they make visual art using hand held materials (water colors and colored pencils on paper) vs. making images digitally. This research follows previous research from the Arts and Mind Lab showing that art making improves mood valence.
The Psychology Department recruited a record number of new members of the faculty this year. According to Jim Russell, former chair, this is the largest number of faculty ever recruited in one year. Two beginning assistant professors, Sara Cordes and Sean MacEvoy, will begin fall 2009. A full-time adjunct, Jef Lamoureux, will begin at the same time. Another beginning assistant professor, Alexa Veenema, will begin fall 2010.
Left to right: Sara Cordes, Sean MacEvoy, Jef Lamoureux, and Alexa Veenema
Jim Russell's article, "Evidence for a three-factor theory of emotions," published in 1977 in the Journal of Research in Personality, was recently listed on the JRP website as one of its 10 most cited articles in its 43-year history. The article has received 275 citations.
Springer Early Career Achievement Award reception
On July 31 the Psychology Department celebrated the American Psychological Association’s announcement that associate professor Elizabeth Kensinger is this year’s winner of the Springer Early Career Achievement Award for her research on age, emotion, and memory. Below, from left, are psychology professor and department chair Ellen Winner (back to camera), A&S interim dean David Quigley, Kensinger, and Patricia DeLeeuw, vice provost for faculties.
Since joining the Psychology Department in 2006, Elizabeth Kensinger, associate professor and director of the University’s Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory, has studied and written about how age and emotions influence the formation and retrieval of memories. She became interested in this field as a graduate student, and since then has conducted research supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Dana Foundation, among others. In dozens of articles and presentations, she has reported that emotions significantly influence whether and how people remember experiences, that an emotion’s positive or negative valence affects memories’ accuracy (negative emotions enhance accuracy), and that neural imaging techniques reveal physical changes in the brain indicative of a connection between strong emotions and memory. The American Psychological Association announced in July that she is the 2009 winner of the Springer Early Career Achievement Award in Research on Adult Development and Aging, “designed to honor an individual whose work has made significant early career contributions to understanding critical issues in the psychology of adult development and aging.” Above, at a July 31 Psychology Department celebration of the announcement, from left, are psychology professor and department chair Ellen Winner (back to camera), A&S interim dean David Quigley, Kensinger, and Patricia DeLeeuw, vice provost for faculties.
Emotion and visual processing
Lisa Feldman Barrett and her lab were featured in a ScienceNews article, "What Do You See?"
Emotion recognition measures
Sherri Widen presented her poster, Raising Questions about the Recognition of New “Universally Recognized” Facial Expressions, at the APS 21st Annual Convention.
The psychological insight of actors
Doctoral student Thalia Goldstein's program of research demonstrating that actors have a particular skill in psychological insight (theory of mind) and empathy has recently been featured in OnFiction, an online magazine on the psychology of fiction.
Psychology grant funding grows
In Fiscal Year 2009, our total direct expenditures were $1,524,000. This is almost a half a million dollars higher than for Fiscal Year 2008. In Fiscal Year 2004, our direct expenditures were under $600,000. This graph shows our sharp rise in funding from 2004-2009.
Psychology Department External Funding, Direct and Indirect, 2004-2009
New Addition to Psychology
Cognitive Neuroscientist Sean MacEvoy will join the Psychology Department on July 1, 2009. Sean earned his Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience from Brown University in 2003 and has held two post-doctoral fellowships, one at Duke University and the second at the University of Pennsylvania. Sean’s research examines higher visual processing in the brain in order to explain how our visual system immediately recognizes many objects seen simultaneously—and keeps us from being confused. His research has strong implications for the development of effective therapies to mitigate deficits following brain injury.
US News surveys graduate programs every four years through ratings by academics throughout the country. In 2002, BC Psychology was ranked 135th; in 2006, ranked 107; in the latest survey, 66th.
Dean Robert Lay notified us today of “the Psych Ph.D. Program’s magnificent rise in the US News rankings.” In analyzing the results across academic departments at BC, Dean Lay stated, “Every university of any merit has a Psychology Ph.D. program, so that if we go by percentile rank, our Psych Ph.D. has tended to do well relative to the larger pack. With the new ranking of #66, we must be among the top 5-10% of Ph.D. programs...because the number of APA-accredited Psych Ph.D. programs was 1,039 for 1999-2000.”
Dean Lay remarked, “Moving up dramatically in academic reputation is the Psychology Ph.D. Program, which jumped 41 ranks from four years ago and 69 ranks from eight years ago! The Program’s peer assessment rating improved from 2.6 to 3.0 to 3.2 over the same eight-year period. The Psych Ph.D. Peer Assessment rating is now tied with the Economics PhD Program on the same five-point scale. The competition among top psychology programs is obviously very intense among a large number of programs nationally.”
On May 4, the Psychology Department held its annual PURC, the Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference.
Graduate Research Day
Graduate Research Day is a one-day research conference at which students in the Department of Psychology graduate programs present their ongoing research to the Boston College community.
Behavioral Neuroscientist Alexa Veenema will join the Psychology Department on July 1, 2010. Alexa earned her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, has held two post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Regensburg in Germany, and is now a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Alexa’s research examines the neural basis of complex social behaviors (e.g., aggression, social cognition, social anxiety, social
reward) and the role of stress in the development of social and emotional disorders, using mice and rats to explore the underlying brain neuropeptide systems involved. Her research will shed light on normal and abnormal human social functioning as observed in autism spectrum disorder, borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and schizophrenia.
Remco Bredewold will join the Psychology Department at the same time and will serve as a lab coordinator and technician for the Behavioral Neuroscience area.
Psychology students receive Professional Excellence Awards
Two Psychology graduate students, Katherine Mickley and Danielle Stolzenberg, were awarded Professional Excellence Awards at a ceremony April 27th. The ceremony was sponsored by the Office of the Provost and Dean of Faculties.
The Psychology Department is now offering a concentration in Clinical Psychology.
Noam Chomsky addressed Psi Chi, our undergraduate psychology honors society, about the new American administration and its implications. Students filled Gasson 100 to overflowing to hear a critique of the American electoral system and politics. Co-presidents Joy Batra, Brett Ford, and Larissa Jones are congratulated on their organization of an important event.
VIDEO FROM FRONT ROW
Chomsky discusses American politics before a standing-room-only crowd.
Alan Scott accepts position at Elon University
Alan Scott has accepted an offer to become an assistant professor at Elon University in North Carolina. Elon is a fairly small (6000 students), private, largely undergraduate institution located between the Greensboro-Winston-Salem and Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill metro areas. It has historically been a teaching focused institution, but has in the past 10 years or so begun a concerted effort to transition to more of a teacher-scholar model without losing sight of its long-standing mission. Alan will be able to continue both primary programs of research he became involved with while at BC, and the Elon psych department has a strong record of research involvement on the part of their undergraduate students.
Jef Lamoureux to Join Psychology Department
Jeffrey Lamoureux will join our department as an Adjunct Assistant Professor this fall. He received his Ph.D. from Duke University in 1998.
"My research interests center on the mechanisms by which animals learn predictive relationships in their environment (e.g., Pavlovian and operant conditioning). Using rodent models, I investigate both the circumstances under which animals learn these predictive associations, as well as the neural systems that underly the process. Of particular interest to me are the mechanisms by which animals use contextual cues to retrieve 'ambiguous' memories, and response recovery phenomena observed following extinction procedures (i.e., renewal, reinstatement)."
Sara Cordes to Join Psychology Department
Sara Cordes will join our department as an Assistant Professor in Developmental Psychology. Sara is a rising star in the area of infant cognition and has made important discoveries about surprising degrees of numerical competency in infants. She will be setting up a large infant lab where graduate and undergraduate students will learn the latest techniques in infancy research. She received her Ph.D. from UCLA with Rochel Gelman and had done post-doctoral training with Elizabeth Brannon at Duke University.
Elizabeth Kensinger in @BC
Elizabeth Kensinger's research is described in "Partial Recall," an article in the June @BC bulletin.
Noam Chomsky to Visit Boston College
The Boston College chapter of Psi Chi gladly welcomes the noted linguist, philosopher, and scientist as he speaks to the BC community next month. Mark your calendar!
5:00pm, Reception at 4:30 (refreshments served)
Thalia Goldstein wins travel award
Thalia has won a student travel award from the Society for Research in Child Development and will be presented with this award at the awards ceremony of the SRCD convention on April 3, 2009.