Students Show Research Posters at Eastern Psychological Association Meeting

Record number of Caz students present at annual New York City conference

Seven Cazenovia College psychology majors had poster presentations accepted at the Eastern Psychological Association’s (EPA) 84th Annual Meeting in New York City this past March. The posters represented what each student learned in the preparation of her Senior Capstone Project.
 Cazenovia College Psychology students with Rachel Dinero
Melissa A. Bartolomeo '13, of Pine Plains, New York; Anna Cariello '13, of Middletown, New York; Revanna Hogan '13, of Oneida, New York; Megan Kresge '13, of Port Crane, New York; Nicole L. Rizzo '13, of Syracuse, New York; Elise Russell '13, of Whitesboro, New York; and Faith Toomey '13, of Averill Park, New York, were seniors when they joined students and faculty members from colleges and universities throughout the eastern United States who presented more than 100 posters describing their research findings. Conference attendees roamed the corridors of the exhibition hall to study the posters and ask questions of the researchers.
Dr. Rachel Dinero, associate professor of psychology, says that ten of her 19 seniors chose to collect data for their capstone projects and the seven who submitted their research were all accepted to present. At the conference, she says, "They each spoke knowledgeably about their work and had a great deal of interest from student and faculty conference attendees. I think the individual attention these students receive in both the Research Methods and Capstone classes facilitates their success with independent research. I am extremely passionate about research and make every effort to encourage students to conduct their own research."
Melissa A. Bartolomeo, says, "At Cazenovia College, a significant number of psychology majors conduct research when working on their senior capstones. From freshman year on, we are encouraged to attend the Eastern Psychological Association’s conference in New York City.  Whether it's to get a better understanding of the field, support our fellow psychology majors, or have the opportunity to present our own research, I am grateful that the professors here work hard to make attendance possible."
Bartolomeo has been interested in psychology for most of her life. She says, "As a child I frequently found myself mediating among my peers.  Eventually, I received some training in becoming a peer mentor for the students in my middle school.  In high school, I had the opportunity to take a psychology course.  Needless to say I became an instant psychology nerd. I loved everything the field had to offer and the information fascinated me.  There is so much room for growth and development in the psychology field and that is extremely appealing." 
In addition to her academic work, Bartolomeo was a junior adviser for the Cazenovia College chapter of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, and the head resident adviser in her residence hall. Her research focused on biomechanism (biological evidence, such as a brain scan, indicating the potential presence of a psychological or personality disorder) and its effects on the sentencing stage of the criminal justice system. She says, "Being a dual psychology and criminal justice and homeland security major, I wanted to find a topic that connected both of my majors in a cohesive and interesting way.  I was also drawn to this topic because of the lack of research in this field.  I really enjoyed the challenge it presented."
Graduate study is the next step on Bartolomeo’s career path. She plans to study mental health counseling with a specialization in forensic psychology.  She says, "Forensic psych is my long term goal because it sets me up to work in a prison setting."
Anna Cariello’s research topic, "The Effects of a Positive Psychology Intervention on the Prevention of Eating Disorders in Young Adults," stemmed from her concern that eating disorders are occurring more frequently and at earlier ages than ever before, but that support, education and prevention efforts have not kept pace with the increase. She notes that multiple factors serve as triggers for the disorder - biological, neurological and sociocultural, including the role the media plays in body image satisfaction.
She says, "Some schools have begun to implement intervention programs for eating disorders, but the results often prove ineffective. My passion for positive psychology sparked the idea to base a prevention method on using each student’s individual strengths to build resiliency and help them identify and accept their authentic selves."
The program Cariello created is focused on teaching positive psychology to female and male students from middle school through high school, rather than dealing only with eating disorders. She says, "The main idea is to teach students how to appreciate themselves for who they are."
She says, "The majority of students I talked to at the conference who wanted to do research and run a lab study needed to find someone to support them all on their own. Cazenovia builds the process right into the curriculum, providing psychology students with an advantage - an introduction to conducting research and creating and executing their own study. I presented my research poster with a group that consisted mostly of graduate students and faculty members from other schools, which was both overwhelming and exciting.
Lacrosse is Cariello’s other passion. She says, "I knew two things that I wanted from my college: I wanted to be a name, not to be a number, and I wanted to play lacrosse. Cazenovia has been the perfect fit for me.  Cariello is also a master student for the Positive Psychology seminar, where two of her teammates are students. She says, "I proposed bringing positive psychology to our team. We start every practice with everyone saying something good that happened to them that day. It really boosts morale and puts them in a good mood, plus it's so rewarding to see the girls genuinely proud of each other's accomplishments and achievements. We've even got our coaches involved."
Cariello says, "Being part of the team, and now being a captain, means I need to have dedication, commitment and responsibilities. Our coach, Lauren Pacelli, reminds us that we are student-athletes; academics come first, lacrosse comes second. That's always stuck with me and has motivated me to stay on top of my course work so I can continue to play the game I love." 
When she considers her future, Cariello says that sport psychology would allow her to incorporate her two passions, and as a lacrosse coach her psychology background would help her understand, motivate, and improve her players. She says, "My favorite aspect of psychology is that it's so diverse. It can be broad or highly specific; you can literally apply it to any field."
Revanna Hogan noted that students began their projects by researching what had already been done in their field of interest. Hogan’s paper, titled "Ignoring the Warning Signs of Abusive Relationships," is focused on how easy it is for people to overlook the initial signs. Once she chose the direction her research would take, she put together a questionnaire involving two versions of the same scenario and asked participants from Cazenovia College for their input.
Hogan says that there has been much research that identifies personality and social factors that characterize a person who is likely to accept an abusive relationship, as well as profiles of the typical abuser. "The existing research does not account for people who find themselves in abusive relationships who do not necessarily fit into the typical mold. My research explored why those who may not have been surrounded by violence find themselves in such situations."
Wanting to be involved in a helping profession led Hogan to major in psychology. "I chose it," she says, "so I would have many options for careers in fields such as teaching, research or counseling. I’m planning to continue this line of research while applying to graduate programs." 
Hogan found attending the conference to be a valuable learning experience, noting, "I spent a lot of time at the conference viewing and learning about all the amazing new research that has come out this past year, both from other students and from professionals."
Megan Kresge says, "Dr. Dinero helped each of us find a topic that we truly care about. She gets just as excited as we do when we find something we love, which definitely motivates all of us to go above and beyond."
Kresge’s research project is titled "Acute Exercise’s Effects on Cognitive Functioning."  Her original interest was exercise in Alzheimer’s disease patients. Lacking the clinical environment to carry this out, she chose as her subjects members of the Cazenovia College volleyball team. She says, "I assessed their attention and memory abilities before and after practice. I found that attention improved significantly, however, memory was not affected by the exercise."
When she was younger, Kresge learned a lot about obsessive compulsive disorder. "It was so interesting to learn how we can sometimes control our thoughts and train our minds to do different things," she says. "From then on, I found myself intrigued with anything involving psychology. I think it’s a profession that I’ll be happy with every day. I plan to earn certification in neurodiagnostic technology because I love studying the brain and its diseases."
During the weekend in New York City, Kresge notes that the group didn’t have many opportunities for sight-seeing, but they did have time to walk around the city. She says, "We found a Hurricane Sandy memorial in the middle of Times Square – it was a heart made out of wood from boardwalks in New Jersey and New York that were destroyed by the storm. It was only going to be on display until March 10, so I was extremely grateful to have been able to see it."
Nicole L. Rizzo’s research project, titled "Manifestation of Personality Traits in Artwork," was designed to determine if art-based assessments are an accurate and reliable measure of specific personality traits. She says, "I really like personality psychology, and always found projective testing to be interesting."
In the study, she used a questionnaire to capture the intensity of participants’ feelings for given items, and asked them to draw a picture, in order to investigate the correlation between personality traits and graphic variables.
She says, "In the questionnaire, I measured personality according to five factors: extraversion, openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness and neuroticism. Students were then asked to draw a person picking an apple from a tree. I measured graphic variables on scales such as color fit, implied energy, and others. Evaluating the student drawings was more like fun than work, but the rating scale I used was still scientific, as it measured everything on a Likert scale."
She continues, "Overall, this research project was the best part of my experience at Cazenovia College. I'm not entirely sure of what field of psychology I want to pursue, but I do know that I would love to do research again. I enjoyed working independently, and discovering research results was challenging but exciting at the same time."
Elise Russell plans to earn a certificate of advanced study in school psychology, with the intention of becoming an elementary school counselor. She began her career at Cazenovia College as a visual communications major, with a minor in psychology. "I fell in love with psychology – it presented more of a challenge," she says. "In my junior year I switched my major to psychology and my minor to visual communications, and I served as president of the College’s Psychology Club."
Russell was introduced to the birth order ideas of Alfred Adler in her Theories of Personality class. She says, "I thought it might be interesting to attempt to test some of his theories for my senior capstone. I wanted to assess whether an individual’s birth order influences their achievement motivation."
Participants in Russell’s study, titled "The Effects of Birth Order on Achievement Motivation," completed a survey that measured parental expectations and criticism, organization, personal standards, concerns over mistakes and doubts, goal mastery and approaching or avoiding goals.
She says, "My results backed up Adler’s findings and when Dr. Dinero suggested that I could incorporate the achievement motivation aspect of my research into my capstone, the project really came together. I found that older siblings tend to be leaders and the youngest tend to be more organized than middle children. I was surprised that there were no gender differences – the differences were truly based on birth order positioning."
She continues, "I will be attending SUNY Albany for graduate study in the fall. The opportunities available to students who have experience in conducting research appear to outnumber the opportunities for those that do not possess the knowledge." 
Russell noted that she and her classmates had an opportunity during the conference to look at research done by other students on many different subjects. "The posters were a chance to see what other students are doing and to share their knowledge," she says.
Faith Toomey says students in her capstone class had the option of doing a research paper based on a professional scientist’s work, or conducting their own research. "I chose to conduct research on the emotional responses people have after listening to music," she says. "Once I collected all my data and analyzed it, I wrote a paper describing my research and findings."
She submitted her paper to the EPA, and when it was accepted she created her poster, which was among more than 100 posters presented by students from colleges and universities in the eastern United States. Conference attendees roamed the corridors of the exhibition room to study the posters and ask questions of the student researchers.
Toomey believes that credit for the high acceptance rate for Cazenovia psychology students goes to the psychology professors, as well as the support of professors from other disciplines. She says, "Without the support of the professors, many of us would not have been able to get as many participants for our research. Also, Dr. Dinero has a background in research. This helped all of us because she was able to guide us in our endeavor. She helped me through the process of starting with a topic that interests me to having it become research with significant results."
The subject of Toomey’s research is affective (mood/emotional states) responses after listening to music. She says, "The focuses of my paper were how personality played a role in this response and how different genres may influence emotional responses to music."
She continues, "I have always been interested in music and how it influences people’s moods. At first, I was going to look at just how mood changes after listening to music. This is a very popular line of research. However, I wanted to branch off of this topic. So, I decided to look at how different personality types may influence emotional responses to music in general and in different genres."
Toomey admits to being nervous about her presentation. "It’s such an honor, and I was especially nervous that I would not know how to answer people’s questions. I overcame this by talking to people about my research. The more I talked to people the more the nerves dissipated."
As with many students, Toomey developed her interest in psychology in high school. "I took two psychology classes which I loved. These classes were what made me explore psychology as an option for a major in college. The more I researched what psychology is and what I would be able to do with it as a career, the more I knew psychology was the perfect fit for me."
Toomey plans to study occupational therapy in graduate school, but says, "In the next year I will be taking some prerequisite classes and working full time. My goal is to eventually work with developmentally disabled people."