Psychology Students Participate in Regional Research Conference

Three Sarah Lawrence psychology students will present talks about their original research conducted in the Memory and Cognition Lab run by faculty member Adam Brown, at the 6th annual Westchester Undergraduate Research Conference, sponsored by Manhattanville and Mercy Colleges at Manhattanville in Purchase, NY on Friday, April 7.

“These students have developed and carried out very innovative studies and it will be exciting to see them participate in this conference and share their findings with students and faculty from other colleges,” says Brown.

Jessica Cloud, a senior, and Mary Vitello, a junior, examined different aspects of memory. Sophomore Sanjana Conroy-Tripathi examined psycholinguistics. Abstracts of their work, submitted by the students for the conference, follow:

Forgetting the Future: The Effects of Voluntary Memory Suppression on Creation of New Memory (Jessica Cloud ‘18)
Forgetting is often characterized as a lack of remembering; that is, not as a conscious process, but as a side-effect of another process’s failure. Research, however, has demonstrated that forgetting can occur voluntarily and through processes independent from those of memory (Anderson & Green, 2001). This study aims to understand what happens when the processes of memory and forgetting intersect-this intersection is a common phenomenon in daily life, especially following the experience of trauma (Gold & Wegner, 1995). Modifying Anderson and Green’s (2001) Think/No Think paradigm (T/NT) for use with face and landscape images, we simulated the dual desire to forget and remember distinct memories that have the same contextual cue. These alterations maintained T/NT’s original three-condition dynamic with a Think condition (thinking of two contextually-associated faces simultaneously), a Baseline condition (thinking of one face alone), and a No Think condition (thinking of one face while suppressing the memory of a different but contextually-associated face). Factors investigated include how accuracy and specificity of recall of the faces varies between the three conditions. The results may give insight into how voluntary memory suppression contributes to the rumination and overgeneralized thinking symptoms of PTSD.

Effect of Rumination on False Memory Production in Non-Clinical Samples (Mary Vitello ‘19)
Over-general autobiographical memory is a common feature in depression where patients tend to remember past events in thematic elements rather than rich, detailed memories. Rumination, a cognitive thinking style that focuses on abstract elements of negative symptoms, has been linked to generalized memory in depressed patients by blocking memory retrieval. What has not been addressed yet in the existing literature is whether rumination is also a mechanism for inflating false recall of items in associative memory tasks in non-depressed individuals. The current study tested healthy, non-depressed participants' recall of word lists after being distracted or induced to ruminate about a negative event. Contrary to the hypothesis, the results suggest that non-clinical individuals induced to ruminate are less susceptible to false recall of word list items than those who are distracted from negative memory recall. In sum, these data suggests that rumination may induce a analytical thinking style which may increase memory specificity in associative memory tasks.

A Psycholinguistic Approach to Analyzing Conservative and Liberal Political Statements (Sanjana Conroy-Tripathi ‘20)
Recent years have seen a sharp divide growing in US politics, almost as if the two major parties are speaking different languages and are unable to reach a middle ground. This research focuses on the linguistic differences between US political Conservatives and Liberals. Previous research has shown that differences in word choice, particularly function words, can reveal information about the writer’s psychological state (Pennebaker, 2000). In our study, self-identified US political liberals and conservatives were asked to write a short statement on two divisive topics (abortion and immigration) twice over: once from their own perspective, and a second time as though they were trying to persuade someone who disagreed with them. Responses to these questions were analyzed using the Linguistic Inquiry Word Count software (LIWC), which categorizes words based on pre-determined and customizable dictionaries, to look for differences in language between political parties and between each question condition. The primary point of examination was any significant language differences between the groups, and whether they were able to modify those language choices to make persuasive arguments.

The Westchester Undergraduate Research Conference is an opportunity for students pursuing undergraduate research on topics in the social, behavioral, health, or natural sciences, liberal arts, or education to share their scholarly explorations with a broad community, hone presentation skills, network with other students and faculty, and attend presentations by keynote speakers who are leaders in their fields.

About Sarah Lawrence College

Founded in 1926, Sarah Lawrence is a prestigious, coeducational liberal arts college that consistently ranks among the leading liberal arts colleges in the country. Sarah Lawrence is known for its pioneering approach to education, rich history of impassioned intellectual and civic engagement, and vibrant, successful alumni. In close proximity to the unparalleled offerings of New York City, the historic campus is home to an intellectually curious and diverse community.