Students are encouraged to become involved in ongoing research on campus. There are a number of active labs that include student researchers. Whether they are observing social behavior of children in the Early Education Center or assisting with experiments in adult visual perception, psychology majors have some of their most memorable and fascinating experiences working with faculty in our labs.
Behavioral Neuroscience Lab
The behavioral neuroscience lab at Wheaton College is run by Visiting Assistant Professor Christina Reppucci and is located in the Mars Center for Science and Technology 1102.
The focus of my research is the interaction between the hormonal, chemical and sensory contributions that regulate complex reproductive behaviors of female rodents. Female rodent sex behavior is an extensively studied and well understood model for examining the actions of hormones in the brain. Given the growing understanding of the relevant hormones, hormone receptors and brain areas involved in these behaviors, researchers have been able to use this system to ask different questions about the role of a changing environment and different neurotransmitters in control of this complex set of behaviors.
My most recent studies have focused on environmental disruptors, especially bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA has been the focus of significant media attention in the past several years due to recalls of baby bottle and Nalgene water bottle products that contained BPA. BPA is known to be estrogenic and can alter neural and reproductive tissues during development. However, little is known about the effect of BPA on adults. My work has begun looking at the effects of BPA on estrogen sensitive reproductive behaviors, tissues and hormone receptors in adult female rats.
Neural Responses to Sensory Stimuli
Another line of recent research has examined the cellular response of forebrain neurons to differing types of mating stimuli in both rats and mice. These studies help to understand the neural pathways by which somatosensory information is transmitted to the brain from peripheral areas.
In my work, we use both behavioral measures and manipulations in live animals as well as biochemical methods to correlate neural changes with behavioral states. This in vivo to in vitro approach to my work is one of the aspects that I find most and one that I enjoy sharing with students. Bringing students into the laboratory is a priority and I encourage students to participate in every aspect of the collaborative research process. I typically have 2-4 students working in the lab, especially during the summer and January.
Please contact Christina Reppucci if you would like to be involved.
Cognitive Neuroscience Lab
The cognitive neuroscience lab uses a number of physiological tools to better understand cognitive processes. We explore the effects of music listening on creativity, and Dementia while recording electroencephalography (EEG).
Electroencephalography or EEG, measures the electrical activity of the brain by recording voltage based changes on the scalp. EEG can be used to understand underlying brain changes in cognitive processes including; attention, learning, memory, and physiological arousal. Event-related potential (ERPs) or changes in brain voltage in response to stimuli are used to measure these underlying changes.
Event-related potentials are extracted from continuous EEG data, which enables brain processes triggered by events (stimuli) to be characterized. Our lab analyzes the voltage distribution across all the electrodes to understand the brain topography after stimuli like music. Researchers have identified specific ERPs for the processing of faces (N170), words and meaning (N400), surprise (P300), and memory recall (P600).
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Health Psychology Lab
The Health Psychology Lab is run by Professor Michael Berg and is currently located in Knapton 301.
Social Perceptions and Health Beliefs
Our lab explores the application of social psychological theory (e.g., issues of identity, prejudice, and motivation) to public health outcomes, with a particular focus on social inequality and traditionally underserved populations. This approach, commonly referred to as the biopsychosocial approach to health, focuses on the interaction between the body, the mind, and social forces in an interdisciplinary fashion. In particular, we are interested in learning how stereotypes and prejudice affect people’s health-related attitudes. For example, we have studied how weight bias influences attitudes towards public health policies (such as raising the cost of sugary foods, or charging greater health insurance premiums to obese individuals). We are also interested in how a given social context (such as the age, gender, location, race, or weight of a target individual) influences body dissatisfaction and how weight stereotypes intersect with other aspects of identity such as gender and race. We have also researched college tobacco use including the effect of school policies on attitudes and behavior and the role of smoking-related identity in shaping cigarette use.
Previous (and occasionally revisited) lab projects have focused on the application of Social Psychology to a variety of health-related behaviors and attitudes. One topic of particular interest has been the mental health correlates and behavioral factors associated with HIV infection. In this research we explored the mental health concerns of HIV-infected individuals and examined the critical role that HIV appointment adherence plays in maintaining health. We have also studied how cultural values shape beliefs about the causes of health outcomes.
Volunteering in the Health Psychology Lab
Student volunteers are welcome, particularly at the beginning of the academic year. Past student activities have included the design of study materials and survey instruments, literature searches, data collections, and even collaborating on writing up articles for publication. Students with advanced experience in the lab will be encouraged to pursue their own independent research and honors theses.
Law and Psychology Lab
The Law & Psychology lab is run by Christina Riggs Romaine, Ph.D. and is currently located in Knapton 316A.
Our lab examines the intersection of psychology with the law, specifically in the juvenile courts. Over the course of adolescence youth undergo physical, cognitive, and psychosocial changes, including changes in temperance, perspective, responsibility, and emotion regulation that have implications for their abilities as participants in the justice system; including the court process and subsequent rehabilitative efforts. Taking a clinical, developmental, perspective, we study various questions such as: How do youths’ abilities to participate in the legal process (i.e., competency to stand trial) change over time? How do forensic evaluators consider trauma and other factors in their evaluations of youth charged with serious crimes? How does the development of certain psychosocial abilities influence risk-taking in young adults?
Volunteering in the Law & Psychology Lab
Volunteers and research partners are welcome, particularly at the start of the academic year. Lab members have conducted literature searches, cleaned and entered data, and collaborated on presentations for the American Psychological Association. Experienced students are encouraged and supported to pursue their own research and honors theses. Contact Professor Riggs Romaine (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Self Development Lab (SDL)
Various topics are explored in this lab including self-portrait development, the self-conscious emotion humiliation, and cultural identity development. Both quantitative and qualitative methodologies are used in this lab. Our research also incorporates developmental and multicultural approaches and considers both universal processes and individual differences based on cultural factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, and age. Our research strives to inform our understanding of social and emotional health, adjustment, and vulnerabilities among adolescents and emerging adults.
Working in SDL
Volunteers are welcome.
Visual Perception Lab
The Visual Perception Lab at Wheaton College is run by Professor Rolf Nelson and is located in Mars Center for Science and Technology 1112.
A number of research topics within visual perception are explored in the lab.
In this research, we explore the way in which our minds are able to construct a world full of meaningful shapes, objects, and categories from the array of light that falls upon our eyes. One particular interest has been in the area of the perception of visual holes — a case of figure-ground perception in which, unlike most situations, we remember the shape of the thing that is farthest from us, rather than the surrounding object.
How is it that we manage to select the most relevant information from the barrage of data that is constantly flooding our senses? We as humans have some very sophisticated cognitive apparatus that manages to sort out what we need to perceive and remember, but this often comes at a cost of neglecting most of what goes on in the world.
We have explored some ways that video games can affect perception and cognition. In one project, we found that playing first person shooter games can prime fast but less accurate responses, while playing more deliberate games can prime slower but more accurate responses in a subsequent test. Other projects have worked on the physiological effects of playing different kinds of video games, longer term effects of gaming, and the effect of playing video game on moral decision making.
Volunteering in the Perception Lab
We always welcome volunteers who are interested in gaining experience in a research setting or who are just interested in perception! Contact Professor Rolf Nelson (email@example.com) if you would like to get involved.