Students' Psychology Research a Success on Campus and Off
"Please do the right thing." It is a simple statement that has big meaning for three SUNY Plattsburgh psychology students.
Keeping Plattsburgh Beautiful
Montgomery Bopp '09, now pursuing a master's in psychology at Springfield College; Kara Carpenter, now a junior; and Nicole Lefevre, a senior, worked with Dr. Renee Bator, co-chair of the psychology department on a study involving cigarette litter.
Their study showed that the use of a brightly colored ashtray did not greatly deter litter. In fact, simply worded signs asking people to "please do the right thing" had much more of an impact.
"Just adding that sign caused us to have the least amount of litter," said Carpenter.
The students were motivated to conduct this research by their participation in a previous nation-wide study funded by "Keep America Beautiful."
Then they decided to go further, trying to figure out whether simple changes to the environment might impact behavior. According to Bator, the team decided to localize its study to cigarette butt litter on campus because the national study found that cigarette butts are by far the most frequently littered item.
Now, having found that signage makes a difference, students working under Bator will be looking into whether or not the particular wording of the message makes a difference.
An Exceptional Honor
This is only one example of how SUNY Plattsburgh students do not just learn about research from text books and case studies. They perform their own.
In this case, two of the students were able to present this research at the Association for Psychological Science's annual convention in San Francisco, Calif. Bopp and Carpenter joined Bator; Dr. J. Stephen Mansfield, Bator's departmental co-chair; and two additional student presenters at this national conference.
"The students did a really great job in collaborating with me from the outset of the project. It was an opportunity for them to see research from the idea stages to the final results," said Bator. "Graduate programs are impressed by applicants who not only have been involved with research, but have seen their work presented nationally."
According to Bator, it's rare for undergraduates to present research at the APS convention, but she has taken SUNY Plattsburgh students to the 2007 convention in Washington, D.C., and the 2005 convention in Los Angeles, Calif.
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