The Department of Psychology 2014 Fall Honors Presentation and PSY 390 poster session took place December 5 in DeGarmo Hall. One student presented her honors thesis at this event, with nine additional students presenting posters in the hallway outside 48 DeGarmo Hall immediately preceding and following the presentation.

Senior Diana Steakley-Freeman presented her honors thesis, “Understanding Complex Decisions: A Preliminary Exploration of Cognitive/Behavioral Networks in Suicidal Behavior,” as a requirement of the Illinois State University Honors Program. Her presentation focused on the use of network analytic methods in the study and prediction of suicidal ideation.

According to Psychology professor Eric Wesselmann ’03, M.A. ’05, Steakley-Freeman’s faculty advisor on the project, the researchers used a behavioral network analysis approach to predict suicide-related attitudes and self-reported suicide attempts. They used data from Illinois State undergraduates and built a network based algorithm similar to the one Netflix uses to decide what movie it will suggest to users.

The resulting parameters increased the predictive value of the formula by 20 percent above and beyond basic self-reported attitude measures. Further testing revealed ~70 percent accuracy in predicting self-reported suicide attempts on an external longitudinal data set (sampling from eight different universities over three time points). Steakley-Freeman and Wesselmann suggest that behavioral network analyses may inform future psychological research focused on predicting self-harm and other clinically relevant behaviors in addition to contributing to research on automated computer assessment.

“I collaborate with Diana on many research projects,” Wesselmann said. “I use the term ‘collaborating’ in the fullest sense because she brings as much to these projects in theoretical development and design as I do as the faculty mentor. This project in particular demonstrates how she can teach me new things and challenges me to stay intellectually flexible. She has introduced me to a new domain of research (i.e., suicide and self-harming behaviors) and has challenged me to rethink the role of ‘application’ in my own programs of research.”

Steakley-Freeman holds an active position in the Psi Chi Honor Society and works in the mental health field in Bloomington-Normal. Her interests are centered on clinical science research, and she looks forward to starting graduate school in the fall.

“Words cannot express my gratitude for the opportunities I have had in and around the Psychology Department,” Steakley-Freeman said. “I was excited to share the work that I did this semester at the Honors Colloquium, and I’m excited to keep developing the project.”

Student research conducted for the honors thesis is comparable to that completed for PSY 390: Advanced Research Apprenticeship, but with much greater research responsibilities for the student.

PSY 390 poster presentations

The 390 poster and presentation is one option for fulfilling the “final product” requirement for PSY 390. Students enrolled in this course conduct independent research projects with faculty members as part of the capstone experience. Prior to taking PSY 390, students must first enroll in three credits of PSY 290 Independent Research and work with a faculty member/researcher for at least one semester. Once enrolled in PSY 390, students take on a larger role in the project and conclude their research with a final product. Students who took advantage of the poster option presented their work at Friday’s poster session.

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This semester’s 390 poster presenters included

  • Samantha Bell-Brown: “Effects of Scaffolding and Overhearing on Children’s Use of Complex Spatial Terms.” Faculty advisor: Alycia Hund
  • Vicky Delgado: “Comparing Time and Event Based Prospective Memory: Effects of Delay.” Faculty advisor: Dawn McBride
  • Nicole Gray: “The Interaction Between Delay and Emotional Expression.” Faculty advisor: McBride
  • Kimberly James: “Developing a Scent Detection Task for a Deaf/Blind Dog.” Faculty advisor: Valeri Farmer-Dougan
  • Katarina Miller and Rachel Shelley: “Using Dual Tasks to Understand Wayfinding Directions and Performance.” Faculty advisor: Hund
  • Savannah Rehr: “Effects of Mood, Mood Congruency, and Arousal on False Memories.” Faculty advisor: McBride
  • Kristen Salomon: “Implementing a Relaxation Protocol for Shelter Dogs: Sitting Quietly Before Crate Opens.” Faculty advisor: Farmer-Dougan
  • Taylor Weismann: “Links Between Support for Change and Job Attitudes in a Nonprofit Organization.” Faculty advisor: Dr. Kimberly Schneider
  • Joey Wollender: “Implementing a Relaxation Protocol for Fear-aggressive Deaf Dogs.” Faculty advisor: Farmer-Dougan

PSY 390 posters are typically presented at a combined honors presentation/poster session for the fall semester or at the Illinois State University Research Symposium for the spring semester. The 2015 University Research Symposium will take place Friday, April 10, 2015, at the Bone Student Center.

To support the Department of Psychology and help enhance its educational mission with advanced teaching methods, guest speakers, and more opportunities for students to learn through research experiences, please consider making a gift to the department through the Illinois State University Foundation.