Research Opportunities

Perhaps the greatest strength of Lewis & Clark’s psychology department is the opportunity for students to do research in the major areas of psychology. Research conducted at Lewis & Clark is at the professional level. The department has a strong commitment to involving students in faculty research projects and providing guidance for students who wish to work on independent projects.

Students, in collaboration with faculty, may develop their own research and frequently present their papers at national psychology conferences. Students are also frequently credited as co-authors on articles in leading psychology journals. Psychology students may also tie in their overseas study experiences with their interest in psychology.

Based on an evaluation of academic performance and the quality of a research proposal prepared in cooperation with a faculty member, a select group of senior students is invited to participate in the psychology honors program. Students work closely with a thesis committee to undertake and defend their honors theses to the department. Exceptional senior projects are awarded honors on graduation.

Examples of collaborative student/faculty research:

  • “The Psychiatric Nosology of Everyday Life: Categories in Implicit Abnormal Psychology.”
  • “Education of Irish Traveler Children: Some Social Issues.”
  • “Studying the Movement of High-Tech Rodentia: Pointing and Dragging.”
  • “Date Rape: The Hidden Crime.”
  • “Contemporary Models of Intelligence.”
  • “Individualism and Collectivism: A Comparison of Kenyan and American Self-Concepts.”

Current Psychology Research Programs

Dr. Janet Davidson

My research focuses on developmental and individual differences in problem solving ability and intelligence. My earlier work examined the mental processes individuals use to solve well-defined or routine problems, such as those found on conventional intelligence tests. My later work focuses on the mental processes used to solve ill-defined or non-routine problems, such as brain teasers and novel tasks. Currently I am examining the developmental role of inhibition. Psychologists typically view human development in terms of systematic gains over time. However, some of my work indicates that increases in problem solving skills only occur if certain behaviors are inhibited or lost. For example, fixation (or lack of inhibition) keeps some children and adults from changing their problem-solving strategies even when they realize that old procedures are irrelevant to the current situation. Understanding inhibition will further our understanding of how development occurs and changes across the lifespan.

Dr. Jerusha Detweiler-Bedell

My program of research brings together investigations of human decision-making, health psychology, and clinical psychology. I co-lead the Behavioral Health and Social Psychology (BHS) research lab, where we work with teams of undergraduates on a range of projects. Specifically, I am interested in promoting physical and mental health behaviors (e.g., using sunscreen, spending quality time with significant others). Although the average person has many opportunities to adopt behaviors that increase physical health and mental well-being, it can be challenging to carry out these behaviors regularly. Students in the BHS Lab help tackle the problem of failing to do “what’s best” for one’s physical and mental health by determining: how to persuade people with mood disorders (such as depression) to adopt behaviors that will improve their mental health, how to enhance the likelihood that depressed individuals receive the social support they need, and how to promote the application of research-based findings in “real-world” clinical settings.

Dr. Jennifer LaBounty

I am primarily interested in social cognitive and emotional development in infancy and early childhood. I study infant precursors to preschool social cognition, the developmental trajectory of social and emotional understanding throughout early childhood, and the effects of social cognition on childhood outcomes (including positive social functioning and psychopathological outcomes such as internalizing and externalizing problems).

Dr. Erik Nilsen

My research area is broadly defined as Human Computer Interaction. More specifically, one line of research is developing predictive performance models of visual search and memory using eye-tracking technology. I have recently become interested in exploring the use of computer simulations and games for pro-social purposes. Recent pilot work in my lab has shown that playing a game called Peacemaker can reduce negative stereotyping of Palestinians and change people’s attitudes concerning the Israeli/Palestinian Crisis. Another game called Mind Habit Trainer, may enhance self-esteem and increase dating self-confidence in college students! A third line of research that I just started this year looks at The impact of impulsiveness and physiological reactivity on risky decision making using a dice gambling task. All of these research projects incorporate student researchers.

Dr. Tom Schoeneman

Tom Schoeneman’s research investigates social perception: the ways in which people, individually and collectively, come to understand themselves and others. Most recently, he and his students in the Social Construction of Madness lab have been focusing on stereotypes of mental disorder through the analysis of images and metaphors.

Dr. Todd Watson

My primary research interests lie in the fields of cognitive neuroscience and psychophysiology. I use safe, noninvasive electrophysiological techniques (such as electroencephalography [EEG] and event-related potentials [ERP]) to study the relationship between brain function and cognition. In particular, I am interested in examining the neural correlates of cognitive operations often called “executive functions”. These include processes such as decision-making, working memory, and response inhibition. In addition, I use EEG and ERPs to study the neurocognitive underpinnings of psychological and psychiatric disorders such as alcoholism.

Dr. Yueping Zhang

My research program includes basic neuroscience, human neuropsychology, and cross-cultural psychology. My research in basic neurobiology focuses on the underlying brain mechanisms in learning and memory. My most recent research on human neuropsychology investigates the underlying psychological and physiological mechanisms of risk-taking, especially the role of prefrontal cortex functions in risk taking and impulsivity. I have also done research on the effectiveness of EEG biofeedback, videogame playing and attention, and other topics. My recent research in cross-cultural psychology has been focusing on the interactions among culture, gender, self-perception, and academic performance. You can find out more about any of my research interests at http://www.lclark. edu/~yzhang/Research.html.