Spring 2020 Newsletter | Research Highlights

female doctor in surgery roomA study ‘long overdue’—emotions and patient care in the ER
Social psychologists interview emergency room doctors and nurses about their emotional health, a topic of increasing concern during the coronavirus outbreak. Doctors and nurses in emergency departments at four academic centers and four community hospitals in the Northeast reported a wide range of emotions triggered by patients, hospital resources and societal factors, according to a qualitative study led by UMass Amherst social psychologist Linda Isbell. Read full article

woman in maskA Multi-Level Analysis of Social and Behavioral Responses to COVID-19
Funded by a RAPID award from the National Science Foundation, a team of PBS faculty members, Brian Lickel, Allecia Reid, Katherine Dixon-Gordon, and Ezra Markowitz (environmental conservation) will study the psychological and societal response to the coronavirus epidemic. Read full article

outline of judgement scalesStrategic Science Communication in the COVID-19 Pandemic
Together with graduate student Quinnehtukqut McLamore and an international team of collaborators, Berni Leidner has been awarded an NSF RAPID grant to study people's compliance with their governments' policies in response to COVID-19 across the world, and across the diverse national, cultural, and political contexts in the 20+ countries involved. Read full abstract

school children use tablets in classroomEducational app levels the playing field for preschoolers
Scientists find Khan Academy app can help bridge the education achievement gap for at-risk children, an important finding during coronavirus-induced remote learning. As millions of families struggle to keep their children learning while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, preliminary results of a randomized, controlled study led by David Arnold show that 4- and 5-year-olds from low income families who used a Khan Academy Kids App for three months at home achieved “substantial gains in their pre-literacy skills that brought them nearly to the national average.” Read full article

sunny landscape with mountains transitions into a starry nightIs jetlag making you feel out of sync? Bacteria in the brain may play a role
Washington State, UMass Amherst Researchers Receive Keck Grant to Study Effects of Bacteria on Brain. With a $1 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation, neuroscience researchers at Washington State University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst will explore whether variations in brain levels of bacterial fragments can account for life’s sleep/wake and 24-hour cycles, known as circadian rhythms. Read full article

shadow outlines of a group of peopleEffects of Contact Between Minority and Majority Groups May Be More Complex than Once Believed
Linda Tropp, Hema Preya Selvanathan '19PhD, and international team suggest new route to social change—intergroup harmony. For more than 50 years, social scientists and practitioners have suggested that having members of different groups interact with each other can be an effective tool for reducing prejudice. But emerging research points to a more complex and nuanced understanding of the effects of contact between groups, say Linda Tropp at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Tabea Hässler, leader of a multi-national research team based at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Read full article

3D glasses showing how one eye can see a different picture than the otherRayner Fund Research Impact: Connecting the Dots Without Top-Down Knowledge
The Keith Rayner Memorial Graduate Student Research Award helped support a project led by Patrick Sadil, now published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Connecting the Dots Without Top-Down Knowledge: Evidence for Rapidly-Learned Low-Level Associations That Are Independent of Object Identity (Sadil, Potter, Huber, & Cowell 2019). The project explored how people encode and remember visual information. Read full article

Molly Mather's Master's Thesis entitled 'Greater negative affect and mixed emotions during spontaneous reactions to sad films in older than younger adults' was accepted for publication in European Journal of Ageing. Read full abstract

As we read, do we notice every typo that we come across? If a word is accidentally omitted or printed twice, do we realize it? Are some errors easier to spot than others? A recent paper by Adrian Staub, Sophia Dodge, and Andrew Cohen addressing these questions is featured on the Psychonomic Society's blog. "Their specific question aimed at understanding what factors influence readers’ ability to find duplicate or missing words, and whether this is due to eyes simply skipping over words or whether it even occurs when our eyes land on those words. If we still fail to notice repeated words when we read them, this suggests that our tendency to not notice function word errors is the result of a higher-order cognitive process than just eye movement control." Read full article