Psych Students Attend EPA Convention

By Jennifer Phillips & Michael O. Daly

PSNK’s Psychology students and faculty attend the annual convention of the Eastern Psychological Association in Pittsburgh.(Photo courtesy Michael O. Daly)

March 1-3 brought the annual convention of the Eastern Psychological Association to downtown Pittsburgh.  The Eastern Psychological Association, or EPA, was founded in 1896, and is the oldest regional psychological association in the US.  Their purpose is to advance the science and profession of psychology. They accomplish this by holding conventions to present research, hear the ideas of others in the field and network.  This year Penn State New Kensington professor Dr K. Robert Bridges was granted a fellowship in the EPA in recognition of his contributions to research and education.

We first heard about the EPA at a meeting of the Penn State New Kensington Psychological Association last fall.  As the convention approached, the subject came up many times as the professors of the Psych classes we are in encouraged everyone to attend.  Members of the Psychological Association coordinated rides, lodging and discussed what talks they each wanted to attend. Having the opportunity to talk with others about what to expect at the convention made the whole experience go smoothly.

As undergraduate students we joined the EPA as associate members, which is very affordable and admits you to the convention.  At check-in we were given name badges and a thick catalog that had a schedule of events and a description of each of the items being presented.  With up to 13 rooms with different activities happening at the same time, it was very clear that nobody could attend everything so we had to pick the items during each time period that interested us the most.  These presentations could be an individual lecturer, a group of related lectures or poster presentations, where many pieces of research are outlined on large posters for people to read and the researchers are on hand to answer questions you may have about their work.

First we learned about the history of Anti-Psychiatry, RD Laing and the Philadelphia Project by a professor from Duquesne University who has written several books on the movement.  Next was a talk on preparing for your career with a psychology degree, where the speaker stressed early and frequent research experience during your bachelor’s degree, networking and exploring all of the options you have beyond the traditional roles of a psychologist.

After this we attended a presentation on how factors such as race, income and special needs status can predict if and what type of early child care a person will use.  After lunch we attended a lecture by Penn State professor Dr. Lynn Liben, who described how children and adults learn spatial skills, such as using maps, diagram, and photos, to get information about the world around them.

Saturday, we started the day by attending a lecture about undergraduate research and how it should be treated as introduction to graduate work, rather than a capstone to the undergraduate work.  The next lecture was about how traits such as being goal oriented versus stimulus oriented predicts addictive behaviors in rats, where the rats that waited for the food were more resistant to addiction than those that would attack the indicator light until food was delivered.

Being fans of video games, we went to a presentation on how playing video games, such as Elder Scrolls or Portal, can change your ability to use navigational tools in real life.  The final lecture we attended was four papers about memory, such as the suggestibility of false memory, recall of events after two months have passed, how testing influences your ability to remember and the differences in your ability to remember future plans versus past events.

During the convention, there were two posters presented on research that was conducted by PSNK students Natalie Chalmers, Rachel Barr and Robert G. Hughes and professors Dr. K. Robert Bridges and Dr. Richard J. Harnish.  They have been working on developing a new teaching tool that brings a fun, active learning experience through the use of student-created videos.  They presented several interesting ways to use videos for a Developmental Psychology class that avoid the confidentiality issues associated with filming children by having students act out different scenarios using themes like talk shows, game shows and commercials.

Their second poster was about the Sexual Intent Scale, which is used to measure perceptions, and misperceptions, of the sexual interest one person has in another. Lead author Chalmers explains, “Our findings supported that the discussion partners that scored higher on the Sexual Intent Scale did not over-sexualize the discussion with the other partners.”

When asked about this experience, Chalmers said, “Overall, I was just excited to have the opportunity to be a part of a professor’s research, especially being lead author.  Research is a big part of psychology, and by having this opportunity, I gained much more knowledge of the research aspect.”

To see similar poster presentations, consider attending the Penn State New Kensington Research & Creative Exposition on April 17th.

The Annual EPA Meeting is an excellent opportunity for researchers as well as students to present their work to the public.  It’s also a great way to explore graduate programs for furthering a degree in psychology and making connections.  Even as freshmen in the psychology major, this meeting was extremely valuable because it is a great way to look at the wide array of possibilities this field has to offer.  It is never too early to look at where you want to go in your career.

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