Welcome back message for a new semester

by on January 10, 2017


January, 2017


Dear Psychology Students,

The Department of Psychology sends you warm wishes for a Happy New Year and looks forward to sharing a productive and creative new semester.   At this time of beginnings, we are writing to reaffirm to you our collective commitment to the University’s mission of Pro Humanitate, and to confirm our commitment for maintaining an inclusive learning environment for students of all races, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, political affiliations, religion, country of origin, and socioeconomic status. Given the tense and sometimes divisive atmosphere that too frequently characterized our communities during the closing months of 2016, we hope that 2017 will bring more constructive interactions within our communities, accompanied by open discussions on challenging issues facing the field of psychology and society more broadly.  We encourage you to come to us with any issues that negatively impact the development of an inclusive learning environment, as well as suggestions for how we can work together to accomplish these goals.

— Psychology Faculty and Staff


Professor Kiang’s Article Featured in AAJP

by on December 9, 2016



December, 2016.  Professor Lisa Kiang’s article titled, “Annual Review of Asian American Psychology, 2015,has been selected as the Feature Article of the December 2016 issue of Asian American Journal of Psychology.  AAJP is  the official publication of the Asian American Psychological Association and is dedicated to research, practice, advocacy, education, and policy within Asian American psychology. Professor Kiang and her colleagues accomplished the challenging task of reviewing literally hundreds of articles published on Asian Americans during 2015. Her work was  made even more challenging by the fact that she was teaching in Vienna during this time.  She relied on technology to communicate with her coding team and colleagues. Dr. Kiang commented to AAJP that ” I have sort of a love-hate relationship with technology, and my emotions certainly fluctuated to the extremes while collaborating on this paper.”  She discusses this and more detailed teaching escapades in Vienna at:  http://www.s-r-a.org/announcements/blog/2016-05-17-teaching-semester-vienna-connecting-cultural-experiences-class-concept.

Her review article  focused on 332 papers published in 2015 meeting the inclusion criteria of study topic, methodology, participant characteristics (ethnicity) and age range. In addition to presenting a summary of this research, Kiang et al., presented a more detailed synthesis and evaluation of the work in terms of the distinctive status of Asian Americans as members of cultural, immigrant, and minority groups. Read more about it at: https://aapaonline.org/2016/11/04/aajp-vol-7-no-4/

Citation:   Kiang, L., Cheah, C. L., Huynh, V. W., Wang, Y., & Yoshikawa, H. (2016). Annual Review of Asian American psychology, 2015. Asian American Journal Of Psychology, 7(4), 219-255.

Professor Kiang earned her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of Denver and received her B.S. in Psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park.  Her primary research interests are in the intersections of self and identity, family and social relationships, and culture, with a focus on adolescents from immigrant and ethnic minority backgrounds.  Major themes include relational or contextual influences on identity formation, and culturally protective factors in promoting development and well-being.


Professor Best’s advice on parenting: Explaining Trump and Santa Claus

by on December 7, 2016



November and December, 2016.  As an expert in child development, Professor Deborah Best  is often asked by the media to comment on topics related to children and families. In the last couple of weeks, requests have centered on how to talk to children about the two men who are currently the subject of much conversation and controversy:  President-elect Donald Trump and Santa Claus.  It’s clear why there may be a lot of conversation about these two….and why there is controversy about the election…..but what’s so controversial about Santa Claus?

Santa. It turns out that a paper entitled “A wonderful lie” was recently published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry suggesting that children’s trust in their parents (SPOILER ALERT:  IF YOU’RE UNDER 10 years old…stop reading now) is undermined by the myth of Santa.  In this paper, Christopher Boyle, an author of the paper and professor at University of Exeter suggests that the “morality of making children believe in such myths has to be questioned.”     CBS News gathered some expert opinions on this question, including the opinion of Dr. Best    CBS News What parents should tell

Dr. Best notes that belief in magic and make-believe is an important part of young children’s lives and that it can play an important role in development.  She acknowledges that there may be some effects when a child learns the reality of SC, but that this is more likely to be a sense of disappointment rather than anger, as was suggested by the Lancet paper.  However, she did agree with the authors of the paper on one point:  Using Santa as a threat to control behavior is bad parent parenting!


Trump. A few weeks earlier, Dr. Best was among a number of psychologists who were asked to comment to the The Huffington Post on how parents should discuss issues made salient by the presidential election. Given her expertise in the development of gender stereotypes in young children, Professor Best discussed the importance of teaching kids about diversity. She made mention of the famous blue eyes-brown eyes classroom study and made the point that it’s important to address issues of bigotry and racism early. She also discussed the importance of  maintaining a zero-tolerance rule on bullying and being a good role model for our children.  Advice to parents




Former MA student Erika Carlson receives 2017 Sage Young Scholar Award

by on November 28, 2016
Erika Carlson

Erika Carlson

November 27. The Foundation for Personality and Social Psychology http://www.foundationpsp.org/ recently announced that  Erika Carlson, Ph, D. is among the recipients of the 2017 Sage Young Scholar Award. Sponsored by Sage Publications, these highly competitive awards acknowledge the outstanding contributions of talented young scholars in personality and social psychology.  Erika Carlson graduated from WFU with her MA degree in 2008 and went on to Washington University – St. Louis where she received her Ph.D.. specializing in personality and social psychology. She is now an assistant professor at University of Toronto.  Her research focuses on Self-Knowledge and Interpersonal Perception (SKIP) http://skiplab.org/      Along with the other recipients listed below,  Professor Carlson  will be honored at the awards ceremony at SPSP in San Antonio. http://meeting.spsp.org/ 

The  award recipients are:

  • Erika Carlson, University of Toronto
  • Mina Cikara, Harvard University
  • Jesse Graham, University of Southern California
  • Kurt Gray, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Andrew Todd, University of Iowa
  • Liane Young, Boston College
  • Jamil Zaki, Stanford University

Highlights: Faculty Invited Presentations

by on November 17, 2016



November, 2016  Professor Lara Kammrath presents social support research at  Harvard symposium:

“Ego Networks in the Era of Network Science”


The purpose of the conference was to bring together researchers who study ego networks, which are the personal social networks of individuals. The speakers discussed a wide range of network types, including social support networks, dating networks, job networks, and more. Professor Kammrath presented her work on social support seeking in college and community populations, in which she found that when it comes to choosing a person to approach for support, individuals focus on ease of accessibility more than interpersonal closeness.



copy-of-best1_1024Summer,  2016.   Professor Deborah Best  invited to present in symposia  in Japan and Lithuania


Best, D.L., & Bush, C.D. (2016, July). Cultural influences on the development of preschoolers’ emotional competence. Paper presented in Symposium, Children’s Social Skills in Different Social  Contexts, Tiia  Tulviste (Convenor). Symposium at the meeting of the International Society for the Study of Behavioural  Development, Vilnius, Lithuania.


Best, D.L. (2016, July). Discussant. In Symposium, Social skills in different peer interaction contexts, TiiaTulviste (Convenor). Symposium at the meeting of the International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development, Vilnius, Lithuania.


Bush, C.D., Morley, K. & Best, D.L. (2016, July). Preschoolers’ emotional competence and empathy:
evaluation and intervention. Paper presented in the Symposium, SCCR Presents at IACCP: Culture,
Interventions, and Change. Brien Ashdown (Convenor). Symposium at the meeting of the International
Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology. Nagoya, Japan.


Research has shown that emotional competence and empathy are important facets of children’s socio-emotional development.  In two studies, preschoolers’ emotional competence and the effectiveness of a role-play intervention on empathy were explored.  In the first study ethnic, socio-economic, and gender differences were found. The second study found that a role-play intervention was effective for improving empathy in preschoolers.  These studies suggest that it is beneficial to talk with children about emotions at an early age so they learn what is appropriate in their social environments.


Summer, 2016.  Professors Fleeson & Jayawickreme present Whole Trait Theory in Keynote Addresses


Professor Will Fleeson


Image result for Eranda Jayawickreme & Will Fleeson pics

Fleeson, W., Jayawickreme, E. (May, 2016). Whole trait theory: A model of virtues that integrates self and motivation within traits. Keynote address at the 2016 Self, Motivation, and Virtue Conference, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN.


In this talk we present Whole Trait Theory, which offers a detailed model of traits that, inter alia, provides an optimistic view on the existence of broad, robust traits. Whole Theory does not conceive of traits as essential, permanent, and unwavering. It considers self-concepts, scripts, schemas, narratives, goals, motives, and other similar constructs as drivers of traits.


Fleeson, W. (July, 2016). Whole trait theory: How personality changes across hours, and brings symptoms along with it. Keynote address at the 2016 International Society for Schema Therapy Conference, Vienna, Austria.


“Can we change who we are or are we prisoners of our personality?” This question makes most sense if personality traits are conceived of as essential, permanent, and unwavering. But, are they? How do social-cognitive models of personality fit in? How do scripts, schemas, narratives, goals, motives, and other similar construct relate to traits? Moreover, given that personality change does in fact occur, individuals may be able to have an influence on how they change. In that case, how do traits work?



Edward R. Hirt, Ph.D. presents on Replenishing Depleted Resources

by on November 15, 2016


John Petrocelli, Ed Hirt, Cathy Seta

John Petrocelli, Ed Hirt, Cathy Seta



Nov 9, 2016.  Professor Edward R. Hirt’s presentation on Counteracting Depletion: Adventures in resource replenishing  was an especially appropriate colloquium topic for the day following a late night of presidential election coverage!  Professor  Hirt, from the  Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University, presented his research on the potentially restorative effects of expectations and beliefs on mental fatigue. Across an impressive number of high caliber experiments, Professor Hirt and  his colleagues  demonstrated that expectations about the potential influence of variables, such as positive mood, on mental energy are central factors in ego-depletion and restoration. He finds that both manipulated and idiosyncratic expectancies moderate mood’s conventional influences on self-control.  Theoretically, his work  suggests that expectations of mental energy change are central in self-control and ego-depletion.

Outstanding Graduate Student Research Awards

by on November 8, 2016

Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco


November 4-5. This weekend, two former WFU graduate students – Ashley Hawkins (’12) and Kassidy Velasquez (’16) – received research awards at the 38th annual meeting of the Society of Southeastern Social Psychologists held in Asheville, NC. SSSP conference

Ashley is the current research manager for the Beacon Project at WFU. Kassidy graduated from WFU last year and is now in the Ph.D. program at Florida State University.  Kassidy’s award was based on her MA thesis (advisor: Professor Fleeson). She conducted an ambitious meta-analysis of altruistic behavior and subjective well-being.  Ashley’s research, conducted with Professor Furr, examined how key dimensions, such as self-sacrifice and temptational purity, affect perceptions of actors’ morality and whether morally exceptional versus typical perceivers differ in these judgments.  Congratulations!

Founded in 1978 by a group of social psychologists at the University of Georgia, the Society of Southeastern Social Psychologists (SSSP) has a membership of over 400 students, faculty, and professional psychologists throughout the southeastern United States. Professor Solano was instrumental in founding this conference and organized one of the first meetings of the organization. SSSP was held at WFU last year and was organized by Professors Masicampo and Waugh.



Homecoming breakfast held to thank the Gigler family

by on November 3, 2016





Saturday, Oct 29.   Homecoming weekend provided an opportunity for the Psychology Department to express our gratitude to Joe and Carol Gigler for their generosity in establishing the John R. Jombock Academic Fund in Psychology, named for Carol’s father.  Mr. and Mrs. Gigler have three children, Kati (’10); Mary (’12), and Maggie (’14) who graduated from WFU and returned to campus with their parents for Homecoming.  The Gigler family were early adopters of student-faculty engagement support and established this current use and endowed fund to support and to recognize exceptional student-faculty engagement. Professor Janine Jennings is the first award winner and attended this event, along with several other members of the psychology department (Department Chair, Professor Eric Stone and Professors Best, Jayawickreme, and Pratt).

Former Psychology MA Student receives Early Career Award in Clinical Neuropsychology

by on November 1, 2016
Ben Hill

Ben Hill

Benjamin D. Hill, Ph.D.

October,  2016. We are proud to announce that Benjamin Hill, Ph.D. recently received the National Academy of Neuropsychology (2016)  Early Career Service Award for contributions to clinical Neuropsychology.  Ben received his M.A. degree in psychology in 2003; Professor Terry Blumenthal supervised his thesis work.( For publication based on this work, see: DOI: 10.3758/BF03193529.)  Ben  went on to receive his Ph.D. in 2008, specializing in Clinical Psychology at Louisiana State University. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Psychology Department at the University of South Alabama.  His research crosses the areas of clinical and neuropsychology, focusing on issues such as fluid cognition, cognitive disorders, concussions and symptom validity measurement and  his  research is published in quality journals such as the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology  and Applied Neuropsychology. At South Alabama,  Ben teaches courses in clinical neuropsychology, advanced assessment, ethics and professional practice, personality and cognitive assessment, personality, abnormal and psychometrics.





Beacon Project Receives Award

by on October 18, 2016

The WFU Office Of Research and Sponsored Programs recently recognized members of the Beacon Project Team for their $3.9 million dollar grant  from the Templeton Foundation,. The Beacon Project grant is among the largest ever received for social science research at WFU.  The ORSP award recognizes those who received funding greater than $2 million in a single grant. In an interview last fall with Cheryl Walker (see link below,) Professor Michael Furr explained:   “At the heart of this project is figuring out what makes people good,” . “What are the psychological, cultural and spiritual factors that make people morally excellent? We are hoping what we do can lay the foundation for how we can foster these attributes.”