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Resources

Contact

Psychology Department
376 Sierra Hall
CSU Northridge
18111 Nordhoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330-8255

Hours: M-F (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
Phone: (818) 677-2827
Fax: (818) 677-2829

psychology@csun.edu

Research Projects / Assistantship Opportunities

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Please check for office hours of the professor with whom you are interested in performing research. You might want to bring in a copy of your transcript, describe your reasons for your interest in research, and be prepared to state when you are available for research. Please understand that participating in faculty research is a responsibility and a privilege. Therefore, commit to what you can really commit to, and apply your best efforts to this opportunity. AND HAVE FUN!

Research Guides

 

Research Opportunities
Biopsychology

Dr. Mitrushina, Dr. Razani

Cognitive Biopsychology

Dr. Blake , Dr. Lucero-Wagoner, Dr. Holden

Cognitive Psychology

Dr. Quilici , Dr. Wohldmann

Clinical Psychology

Dr. Elbert , Dr. Katz , Dr. Kazemi, Dr. Sergi , Dr. Shepherd-Look

Developmental Psychology

Dr. Oh, Dr. Malmberg, Dr. Tonyan

Health/Gerontology

Dr. Lagana'

Quantitative Methods/Measurement

Dr. Ainsworth

Social/Cultural Psychology

Dr. Ainsworth, Dr. Grant, Dr. Huynh, Dr. Kang, Dr. Ma, Dr. Otten, Dr. Rutchick, Dr. Shaw, Dr. Shaw & Dr. Skolnick, Dr. Wittig

 

 

 

PROFESSOR ANDREW AINSWORTH

The Applied Psychometrics Laboratory (APL) is committed to utilizing the application of advanced statistical methods and measurement models to furthering our understanding of psychological phenomenon. As a psychometrics and statistical laboratory we work as consultants for a multitude of psychological research studies in addition to conducting independent research of our own in a number of areas (e.g., social, personality, clinical). Students interested in advancing their quantitative skills while gaining exposure to multiple disciplines in psychological would feel right at home.

Current APL Research
Social and Psychological Impact of Stuttering seeks to fully understand the impact that stuttering has on a person’s mental health in order to improve treatment outcomes for chronic stutterers. We are simultaneously investigating psychological impairments concomitant with the speech disorder as measured by a number of assessment inventories (e.g., depression, anxiety, executive functioning deficits) as well as investigating the impact that stuttering has on a perceiver’s evaluations (i.e., ratings of attractiveness, intelligence, friendship potential) of a target that stutters. Investigations into perceptions of people who stutter is necessary in order to understand the nature of the stigma attached to stuttering and discover the roots of psychological impairments suffered by people who stutter. 

Intergroup Relations Research with Dr. Michele Wittig. Dr. Wittig and I have worked together for a number of years on high school prejudice reduction curriculum as well as testing mediating, moderating, factor analytic, growth curve and other complex models of prejudice.

PROFESSOR TYLER BLAKE

(for graduate students only)

UNIVERSE: User Centered Network for Interactive Virtual Education,
Research & Systems Enterprise

UNIVERSE™ is a novel and comprehensive system for the conceptualization, specification, design, production, delivery and evaluation of distributed, interactive courses. The design philosophy is to begin by specifying the desired functions and features that best support both interactive instruction objectives and the pedagogical goals via a distributed learning model. The instructional delivery system is then configured using existing media and platforms in a way that optimizes their specific strengths and minimizes their weaknesses for specific content and users.

The result is a system which designed from its inception to adapt to the needs of students (and their varied learning styles) and educators (and their varied teaching styles). Further, this methodology should result in an interface that is both platform independent and robust to the inevitable changes and improvements in interactive technology. The basic implementation of the course delivery system should allow new technology to be adapted in an evolutionary style, adding new enhancements to particular course modules without restructuring unrelated components of the UNIVERSE™ system.

The structures of UNIVERSE™ courses are predicated upon a number of principles of human factors design and applied learning systems theory. Some of the major design determinants include: (1) Emphasis on Experimental Learning, (2) Presentation of "single" application integrating both network and client based software into a seamless user interface, (3) Emphasis on subject mastery vs. competitive performance, (4) Promotion of an on line class identity through both structured and informal communication processes and (5) Variable control of course sequencing.

A major weakness of distributed learning has been the lack of adequate evaluation of instructional software. The DIME system includes a unique user "audit trail" which collects detailed data on student interaction with all aspects of the system. This provides a rich source of assessment data, which can be combined, with more traditional measures of efficacy. These data can be used to personalize course delivery to individual students as well as to prescribe modifications to course modules.

An interactive prototype using CD ROM, the Internet and a forerunner of the UNIVERSE™ methodology was designed in collaboration with the School of Cinema Television at USC.

PROFESSOR QUE-LAM HUYNH

The U.S.-American population is becoming increasingly diverse. In fact, US-born and foreign-born racial, ethnic, and/or cultural minorities already comprise more than half of California's population, and they will comprise half of the national population by the year 2050 (United States Census Bureau, 2008). This increased diversity has important implications for intergroup relations, ethnic minorities’ civic engagement in mainstream American society, and their well-being. As a result, the major issues of diversity and multiculturalism, prejudice and discrimination, and culture and identity underlie my research program.

Current projects in the lab include research studies about multicultural identity and electoral politics, experiences of racial microaggressions ("brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color," Sue et al., 2007), and the mental health impact of repeated exposure to both overt and subtle racial prejudice and discrimination.

Undergraduate research assistants will get experience assisting with literature reviews, data collection, data management and scoring, and data analysis for a variety of data types (i.e., qualitative and quantitative). In addition, after gaining initial training in these areas, students who are motivated to be more active lab members can be involved in designing research studies (e.g., thesis projects), preparing and presenting research findings at local, regional, and national conferences, and preparing manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Interested students (graduate and undergraduate) should visit my website: http://www.csun.edu/~qhuynh for more information about research being done in the lab and how you can get involved.

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR JANET OH

In my research, I study the development and experiences of individuals who come from backgrounds in which a heritage language (a language other than the mainstream, dominant language) is spoken.  With the increasing immigrant population, many children in the U.S. come from homes in which a non-English language is spoken.  However, these languages are usually lost very quickly and many immigrant-background adults are unable to speak their heritage language well, if at all.  Much of my research focuses on the consequences of heritage language loss.  Current projects include:  

1) A study of adolescents in middle and high school from immigrant backgrounds (mostly Latino/a) in which we are investigating how their experiences with their heritage language might affect their relationships with their parents, their sense of identification with their culture, and their overall psychological well-being.  

2) An investigation of the social, motivational, and cultural factors that predict the success of Latino/a college students in beginning Spanish language classes.  

3) A study of children in dual-language immersion bilingual education programs (Korean-English and Spanish-English) in which we are studying their classroom and home settings, parental attitudes, and children's linguistic, social, and cognitive development as related to their bilingual development.  

Students who join my lab may participate in a wide range of research activities, including literature review, preparation of research materials, data collection, data entry, data coding, statistical analyses, and/or presenting or writing up results.  In some cases, students may develop a project of their own to carry out under my supervision.  Please contact me (janetoh@csun.edu) for more information.

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR DEBBIE MA

My research relates to the social psychological phenomena of stereotyping and prejudice. In particular, I study how social categories shape human cognition and behavior. In my primary line of research, I examine how individuals are mentally represented within racial categories and investigate how category members’ prototypicality (i.e., goodness of fit within the category) influences whether individual targets will be conceived of as category members and how prototypicality relates to stereotypic inference. In a second line of research, I examine how making different categories salient affects automatic associations and the consequences that these associations might have on behaviors and theorizing about the mental representations of attitudes. Finally, in a third line of research, I study the cognitive processes implicated when individuals actively attempt to avoid using social categories in their judgments.
 

If you are interested in these topics, you can contact me about volunteering in the lab at debbie.ma@csun.edu. Research assistants will learn how to develop novel research questions, design studies to answer those questions, analyze and interpret data, and communicate findings to others in the scientific community.

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR DEBRA BERRY MALMBERG

My research focuses on designing and evaluating behavioral interventions for children with autism and their families. Additional research interests are parent education, family stress related to autism, and theory of mind development.
 
Rigid and Ritualistic Behaviors of Children with Autism: Rigid, ritualistic, and stereotypical behaviors are included in the diagnostic criteria for Autism; however, more research has focused on the social and communicative deficits present in autism than on these ritualistic behaviors. How can we better assess these behaviors in children with autism, and how do these behaviors impact the family? One current project involves developing a scale to assess these behaviors in children with autism and determine their impact on family stress levels. Another upcoming project will explore the function of these behaviors, which enables us to develop interventions to target the reduction of these behaviors.

Behavioral Interventions for Children with Autism:  My second line of research focuses on evidence-based interventions for children with autism. As the number of diagnoses of autism increases, many interventions have become popular despite little scientific evidence to support their use. This line of research involves studying the effectiveness of interventions for children with autism (e.g., PECS, Social Stories). These projects involve studying specific behavioral intervention techniques based on the scienceof Applied Behavior Analysis to aid in acquisition of skills for children with autism, including language development, socio-emotional development, and play skill development.

Students or families interested in being involved in research projects in this lab should contact Dr. Malmberg.

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR HOLLI A. TONYAN

My research interests are organized around understanding children's development as part of social and cultural contexts. My interests are quite broad, but my research has focused on infancy through early childhood (before starting school) and social and emotional aspects of development. I have particular expertise in attachment theory, socio-cultural historical activity theory (SCHAT, following Vygotsky's legacy), ethology (drawing on evolutionary biology), observational methods, and exploratory/graphic data analysis.
                                 
Several projects are available for student involvement, and examine parents’ responses to an internet survey of daily transitions between home and child day care settings (e.g., drop-off and pick-up times), a survey of child care providers to better understand the ecology of child day care settings in the San Fernando Valley, and mother-infant interaction among low-income Latino families (archival video or observational analysis).

In addition, I am very interested in working with students in developing topics of mutual interest. Recent student projects have examined the published literature in the following areas: comparing center-based and family-based child day care settings with regard to the quality and characteristics of children's experiences; long-term effects of child day care participation; socialization, parenting goals, and parenting practices among Latino and European-heritage families; the development of emotion regulation during infancy and toddlerhood.

For more information, please visit: http://www.csun.edu/~htonyan/CurrentProjects.htm

PROFESSOR JEAN ELBERT

My general research interests have involved children with various Learning Disabilities. Particular interests include several areas: l) Neurocognitive mechanisms in Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in children, particularly those of the Inattentive or Overfocused type, and the effect of slow processing and poor self monitoring on academic performance; 2) Phonological processing and memory problems in Dyslexic children, particularly those with a positive family history; 3) Nonverbal Learning Disabilities, particularly in children with Asperger's Syndrome; 4) the relationship between Attention Deficit Disorder and Central

Auditory Processing problems in children. Studies are currently being planned for the population of children with learning and language disorders, who attend Westmark School in Encino, and/or children referred to the Child Assessment Clinic in Monterey Hall, CSUN Community Service Center.

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR ABE RUTCHICK

I have three broad areas of interest. First, I study social perception and social identity, with a focus on the perception of groups. I’m currently studying people’s preferences for different intergroup construals (i.e., assimilation vs. multiculturalism) and how these are expressed in spoken language.

Second, I study applied social cognition: I use insights from literatures in social cognition and social psychology in general (such as attribution, attitude ambivalence, and stereotyping) and apply them to other contexts. I’m particularly interested in politics. For example, I have an ongoing study on how “Red State – Blue State” maps influence perceptions of politics, and another in which I’m examining the effect of activating people’s religious beliefs on their political attitudes.

Third, I study the impact of everyday objects and environments on thought and behavior. Sometimes, this interfaces smoothly with my other research areas; for example, I recently completed a study showing that churches used as polling locations can influence voting behavior. Sometimes these are more eclectic: I’m examining the effect of using red pens when grading (people seem to grade more harshly), and one of my students recently improved participants’ ability to solve insight problems by exposing them to an illuminated light bulb (what we call the “priming bright ideas” experiment).

More generally, I study the things that interest me, which constantly expand and shift. I have other projects in progress on race and social class, voting by mail, product brand perception, and the game of poker.

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR MARK OTTEN

What inspires, or impairs, performance under pressure in sport? My research integrates sport psychology, measurement and statistics, and related issues in an effort to answer the following questions: 1) What situational and individual difference variables govern performance under pressure in sport, as well as in similar performance domains, such as music? 2) How might we continue to develop structural equation modeling (SEM) and other latent variable statistical methods to help us answer new research questions in the performance domain and beyond? 3) How might issues of social facilitation and evaluation apprehension, achievement motivation, and aggression further our understanding of performance?

For my dissertation, which I completed in '07 at UCLA, I tested an SEM model to predict performance under pressure (by way of video- taping) in a basketball free throw shooting task. Among other results, it was apparent that self-reported "intuitive control" was the strongest predictor of successful performance. My current, developing line of research builds upon the results of my dissertation. At UCLA, I built a lab group of nine undergraduate research assistants in '06-'07, which turned out to be a highly rewarding process for both myself and them. I look forward to rebuilding my lab to include both undergraduate and graduate students in '08-'09 here at CSUN. If you are interested in joining and helping me rebuild, feel free to send me an e-mail!

PROFESSOR SHEILA GRANT

Minority Academic Personal Success (MAPS)... Exploring Pathways to Actualize Student Potential.

This project is a formal, systematic educational research program, exploring the differences between the resilient and the at risk student. Exploration of various social and psychological factors is conducted to ascertain which variables or sets of variables contribute to this lack of academic success.

Research Interns will receive training in basic and applied research principles and gain experience in drafting assessments, coding, data entry, and analyzing results. Motivated students will have the opportunity to prepare and present posters at professional meetings and co author articles, depending on the nature of their contributions to the overall project.

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR JAY HOLDEN

My research is concerned with learning how to evaluate and design work environments so that they can be used most effectively by people. I do research in two areas: hand-eye coordination in motor control, and the cognitive psychology of word recognition.

Hand-eye coordination: I conduct laboratory research on people’s ability to learn new, unusual patterns of hand-eye coordination. For example, try to turn your computer mouse sideways and click an icon. It is difficult, the cursor goes in the wrong direction at first, but you can learn to do it with practice. By understanding how people learn these simple tasks, we can understand how to train people to work effectively when their job requires them to work under similar conditions. For example, you may be surprised to learn that endoscopic (video) surgeons must perform surgery under very similar circumstances! Research assistants in my lab are trained to help me collect data by running planned experiments, to do library research, and to help me analyze data.

Word recognition: I am also interested in the psychology of word recognition, and I do research directed at understanding how people read. Learning how skilled readers read helps us learn about what kinds of things get in the way when children have problems learning to read. Research assistants in my lab are trained to help me collect data by running planned experiments, to do library research, and to help me analyze data.

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR SUN-MEE KANG

My current research interests are in the area of social intelligence; specifically, factors involved in interpersonal adjustment. The concept of social intelligence emerged from the observation that high IQ does not necessarily guarantee social success or successful interpersonal relationships beyond academic achievement. Besides verbal and spatial intelligence, psychologists suspected that there might be a third type of intelligence that explains people's social functioning. My research project explores factors contributing to social intelligence, focusing on the role of emotion in interpersonal sensitivity. Interpersonal sensitivity is defined as the ability to sense, perceive accurately, and respond appropriately to one's interpersonal and social environment. To identify the major factors involved in interpersonal sensitivity, multiple assessment methods will be employed in this project including focus-group, in-depth interview, computer simulation, mailing survey, and behavioral observations.

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR GARY KATZ

My current research interests are in the area of vocal emotional expression. We used our voice to convey a tremendous amount of emotional information. People are quite accurate in identifying the sounds of happiness, anger, disgust, and other specific emotions. However, when asked what makes happy speech sound happy, we have considerable difficulty. I am currently investigating spectral characteristics of vocal expressions to identify the specific qualities of speech that are used to convey emotional messages. I am studying how adults use this kind of expression to communicate with other adults as well as with infants. I am also interested in cultural variations in these emotional expressions.

A second project that I am involved in studies the vocal expression of HIV-infected pediatric outpatients. Speech pathologists have noted for some time that there may be disease-related changes in the quality of children and adult HIV-infected patients but we are currently unable to quantify these changes. Quantification of these changes may lead to new ways of characterizing the nature of HIV infection, treatment monitoring, as well as psychological functioning in these children.

Additional projects on the horizon include a study of ADHD children’s access to appropriate educational remediation programs in the public school system, the role of psychophysiologic change in emotional experiencing, and possible psychophysiological variations in cognitive functioning of ADHD children.

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR LUCIANA LAGANA'

My current research interests are in the area of adult health psychology/behavioral medicine, especially cancer, sexuality, women's issues, and gerontology. Students are welcome to contact me if interested in any of the following research projects:

This Fall and continuing into the Spring, I will be teaching classes in gerontology and human sexual behavior. In the course of the semester, students will be able to sign up for new research projects in the aforementioned areas. I encourage students to get involved in research endeavors as early as possible, in order to identify their scientific and creative talents and to focus on fostering their development. Students who are not enrolled in my classes are welcome to contact me for consideration of inclusion in those projects. Some of the latter may lead to co authorship of peer reviewed publications.

Many breast cancer or gynecological cancer survivors experience severe biopsychosocial challenges, including chronic pain, premature menopause, sexual dysfunction and body image difficulties. In collaboration with Stanford University School of Medicine, I am investigating the psychosocial needs of these patients to identify risk and protective factors related to the above problems. I am also interested in how cultural diversity affects these variables.

Currently, I am in the process of starting a psychotherapeutic group with gynecological cancer survivors to identify their psychosexual needs and concerns. Additionally, soon I will be conducting research on how being diagnosed with breast cancer affects women's body image and sexual functioning.

Another area of research that I am involved in investigates age related differences in psychosocial adaptation to breast cancer and gynecological cancer. Older women (age 65+) are usually less affected by cancer psychologically, regardless of the severity of the disease. I am interested in investigating factors affecting women's resilience as they are faced with a serious medical condition. Once we identify protective factors that allow adult and older adult patients to deal successfully with potentially devastating stressors such as cancer, we can then focus on the development and implementation of high quality, comprehensive treatment programs. These interventions will target especially those at risk for developing psychopathology following the diagnosis of a serious medical condition.

Additional projects include studies on the psychosocial needs of high functioning elderly of all ethnic backgrounds and on the quality of life and psychosocial concerns of elderly Hispanic women. Again, I welcome undergraduate and graduate students who truly feel that they would enjoy scientific writing, as well as concisely reviewing empirical literature, developing and testing innovative hypotheses, analyzing data, and/or proposing research/clinical recommendations based on research findings. I would like to encourage these motivated students to join my research team and to come up with their own potential research projects in areas related to the ones outlined above.

PROFESSOR BRENNIS LUCERO-WAGONER

Effects of nicotine and nicotine abstinence on mental performance. The current literature suggests deficits in performance accompany nicotine withdrawal. These deficits may partly account for the high relapse rates seen in persons attempting to cease smoking. We ask our participants to abstain from smoking for 12 hours, then present them with a variety of cognitive tests.

Somewhat related to the research interests on the effects of nicotine are my interests in research in thought suppression. Participants in a thought suppression experiment are instructed not to think of certain information. The results of these experiments suggest that attempts to suppress certain thoughts has paradoxical effects and may be an ineffective self-control strategy that may produce a preoccupation with the thought to be suppressed. These findings have implication for addictions and eating disorders. I am also interested in the assessment of the use of the World Wide Web in instruction. Students familiar with Superlab, or willing to learn to develop experiments using Superlab are especially sought, though this is not a requirement for working on these projects.

PROFESSOR MAURA MITRUSHINA

This study proposes to explore neuropsychological and electrophysiological indices characteristic for normal aging. This understanding of the baseline pattern associated with aging will facilitate differential diagnosis of Dementia of Alzheimer’s Type in the early stages of the disease. Neurologically intact elderly will be used as subjects. The study will include 2 components: Neuropsychological component of the study will consist of a comprehensive battery of neuropsychological tests assessing a broad range of cognitive domains known to be affected in DAT. The electrophysiological component will consist of recording event related potentials (ERPs) while Ss will perform a version of Continuous Performance Task. Amplitude and latency of P300 potential will be of primary interest. The findings will contribute to the enhancement of understanding of normal and abnormal aging and to the improvement of quality of life for affected elderly.

Students are invited to participate in a project directed at exploration of psychometric properties of the long and short versions of the commonly used intelligence tests (WAIS-III and WASI), and at the comparative study of various methods of intelligence estimation. The experimental procedure includes administration of tests and questionnaires for a total duration of 2.5 to 3 hours, split over 2 sessions. Subjects will be tested at CSUN (using the subject pool) and at other locations. After a brief training period, scheduling of Ss will be done by the students at their convenience. Students are encouraged to stay in the project for longer than one semester. At students’ request they are welcome to participate in data analysis, data interpretation and report writing stages of this research. Students will receive a letter grade and eternal gratitude of the instructor for their participation.

Students are invited to participate in a clinically-oriented project directed at assessment and case-management of patients with traumatic head injuries who are receiving services at the Independent Living Center in Van Nuys. This is a community service project which is also aimed at training students in providing clinical services. In addition, it offers a research opportunity to investigate functional status of long-term head-injury survivors. Students will be trained in establishing clinical rapport with patients and in administration of a comprehensive battery of tests and questionnaires assessing cognitive status and functional capacities of patients. Students will be scheduling meetings with patients at the facility in Van Nuys at their patient’s convenience, during working hours of the facility. Students are encouraged to stay in the project for longer than one semester. At students’ request they are welcome to participate in data analysis, data interpretation and report writing states of this research. Students will receive a letter grade and eternal gratitude of the instructor for their participation.

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR JILL QUILICI

My research interests lie in the area of cognitive processes, decision making, problem solving, expertise, knowledge representation, and analogical reasoning.  My current primary research interest is in the area of decision making.  In particular, I am interested in the issue of how people make decisions about their nutritional intake.  At a theoretical level, I am interested in the decision-making process and what factors influence our decisions to stick with or abandon healthy eating goals in our daily lives.  At a practical level, I am interested in studying potential environmental or educational interventions designed to promote healthier eating decisions with the goal of reducing obesity.  

More generally, I am interested in how we can use our knowledge of human cognition to design interventions in practical settings.  What can we do to promote effective decision-making that will be consistent our goals in health settings? In educational settings? How can we help people to learn from past experiences and use them effectively to make decisions or solve problems in new situations?

Research assistants in my lab will get experience assisting with literature review, data collection, data scoring, data entry, and data analysis for a variety of data types. In addition, students who are motivated to be more active participants in the lab can be involved in designing research studies (including thesis projects), designing stimulus materials for experiments, preparing and presenting research findings at conferences, and preparing research findings for publication.

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR ERICA WOHLDMANN

My research is concerned with factors that influence learning and memory for knowledge and skills. I am currently doing research in three areas: motor imagery, hand-eye coordination in motor control, and how divided attention affects time perception. However, I am also interested in conducting studies to examine factors that influence decision-making, especially related to consumer choices, as well as experiments to test divided attention in driving performance.

Motor Imagery: I conduct laboratory research on people’s ability to use motor imagery to learn new motor skills and for maintaining motor skills over long delays. This research has important theoretical implications for understanding motor control and motor programming. In addition, it has numerous practical applications to rehabilitation, recovery from injury, as well as skill learning and training.

Stimulus-Response Incompatibility: These experiments are designed to examine how people learn to perform tasks that require unusual patterns of hand-eye coordination. If you try to turn your computer mouse sideways, you’ll find that it is quite difficult to navigate on your computer. However, with practice, you’ll notice that your performance improves over time. By understanding the cognitive processes required to learn this type of simple task, we can understand how knowledge is represented in the mind, learn about generalization of knowledge, and better train people to perform well under similar circumstances.

Divided Attention and Time Perception: Practice makes perfect, or so the saying goes. This is especially true under conditions of divided attention. My research in this area examines how the skill of time production change as a function of secondary task demands. In the past, we have found learning to be highly specific to the task requirements, and future research will explore conditions under which learning is more flexible.

Research assistants who work in my lab will gain valuable experience conducting psychological research, which will make them highly competitive applicants for graduate programs. They are trained to help me collect data by testing human subjects, to do library research, and to help me analyze data.

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR LALEH JILL RAZANI

My research primarily focuses on aging and neuropsychological functioning in normal individuals and various clinical groups. An overview of the current projects is provided below. Undergraduate and graduate students are welcome (and encouraged!) to participate in all aspects of a project, including literature review, research design, data collection, data entry, statistical analyses, and communication of the findings in conference presentations and/or journal publications.

Neuropsychological Patterns of Performance in Individuals With Dementia. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is one of the most prevalent of the neurodegenerative disorders. Currently, the diagnosis of AD can only be definitively made upon autopsy. However, medical examinations combined with a thorough cognitive assessment can provide diagnoses of Probable or Possible AD during a person’s life. Thus, our understanding of the “cognitive profile” of individuals with AD is critical in aiding diagnosis as well as better understanding brain-behavior relationships. The purpose of this project is to better delineate AD from the other forms of dementia, such as the various forms of frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia and late-life psychosis, by documenting the specific cognitive domains that are affected in AD with use of conventional neuropsychological tests.

Students administer neuropsychological test batteries to patients with various forms of dementia at CSUN or in medical centers such as Harbor-UCLA Medical Center or at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. They will also assist in scoring the test results and help to enter data into a computer database. Students choosing to participate in this project will have the rare opportunity to work with interesting patients suffering from various, in some cases rare, forms of dementia, and gain experience in a medical center setting.

Neuropsychological Test Performance and Its Correlates with Everyday Functioning. The purpose of this study is to better understand the relationship between cognitive test scores and everyday functional ability. That is, how does an individual with severe memory test performance behave or carry out his/her daily activities? What specific daily problems does an individual have who scores low on information processing speed tests? How does an individual who has problems with reasoning and judgment carry out his/her daily activities? These are important questions for which we currently have very little information available. Students choosing to work on this project will aid in administering cognitive test batteries to normal individuals as well as to patients with various types of dementia. Students, of course, are welcome to participate in all other aspects of the research.

Development of Normative Neuropsychological Test Scores for Different Ethnic Groups. Normative data, by which an individual’s clinical test scores can be compared in order to assess strengths and weakness, are only beginning to emerge for most standard neuropsychological tests. However, these norms are primarily gathered on samples of Caucasian individuals and very little information is available for individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds. As a result, assessing the performance of such individuals remains a challenge. The purpose of this project is to gather more comprehensive normative data, particularly for ethnically diverse populations, for standard cognitive test batteries. Students can participate in all levels of research on this project, including administering neuropsychological tests to healthy individuals from diverse backgrounds that range in age from young to late adulthood, maintaining a database of scores and presenting findings at conferences or in journal articles.

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR MARK SERGI

My primary research interest is in the social functioning and community integration of substance-addicted persons with chronic mental illness. During my two years as a postdoctoral scholar at UCLA, I have developed a research program that investigates the influence of social cognition and neurocognition on the social dysfunction of persons with schizophrenia. In an upcoming project, my colleagues and I will be examining how new antipsychotic medications influence social cognition, neurocognition, and social functioning in persons with schizophrenia.

I recently received a young investigator award form the National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression that will support my research of social cognition and social functioning in schizophrenia for the next two years. I am also interested in substance abuse treatment for persons with major mental illnesses. I am currently working on a pilot project with UCLA researchers that examines the efficacy of a structured, behavioral, and role play driven treatment (the Substance Abuse Management Module). Last, I am interested in the coping process both as it pertains to stress vulnerability in persons with chronic mental illness and as it pertains to gender differences in relations amongst control, appraisal, coping, and adaptation.

In my estimation, the most attractive opportunity involves working in an internationally known UCLA laboratory studying neurocognition in schizophrenia. Undergraduate and master's level lab workers routinely matriculate to doctoral programs in psychology. Research assistants gain experience with persons with schizophrenia as well as measures of neurocognition and symptomatology. The research laboratory is located on the Campus of the West Los Angeles Medical Center.

I will also require research assistants for projects that will be conducted at CSUN. Research areas may include treatment of persons with substance addiction and mental illness, social perception in persons in the schizophrenia spectrum, and the comprehension of informed consent media. Financial compensation is to be determined.

PROFESSOR DEE SHEPHERD-LOOK

Parenting Research Associated with Parent-Child Interaction Training

The parent-child interaction project is a service delivery program which is part of The Department of Psychology Community Services Center Clinics housed in Monterey Hall. Each treatment room has video recording capabilities and is equipped with one way mirrors and observation rooms. Parent-child or sibling behaviors can be tabulated live from behind one-way mirrors or can be tabulated from video-tape. In addition, observation rooms have the capacity for computer hook-ups to make data collection quite easy.

The parent training program has spawned and supports four on-going research projects. Most of the parents and siblings of the developmentally disabled children who come to the clinic to receive the parent training service also serve as subjects in the following on-going research projects:

• The effect of developmental disability on parent-child attachment. Current folklore on how parents respond to children with special needs is quite contradictory. On the one hand, parents of special needs children are thought to be more attached for a longer period of time, while on the other hand, parents are thought to have a much more difficult time attaching and bonding to these children. The literatures on the quality of parent-child attachment and specific and specific parenting practices have not, for the most part, been integrated. The goal of the present study is to determine if parents form attachments to their developmentally disabled children in the same way and to the same degree as to their normal children. In addition, we want to find out how attachment interfaces with child rearing practices.
• Differential Parenting as a Within Family Variable. Differential parenting has been an important area of investigation for researchers interested in understanding non shared environmental influences on development. This study will investigate whether differential parental attachment is linked to oppositional defiant behavior apart from the effect of the level of parenting toward each child separately.
• Linking strength of parental attachment and self regulation in children.
Teachers will provide measure of self-regulation in children ages four to ten. Strength of attachment will assessed from multiple perspectives, including parent reports and observer ratings. The purpose of this study is to test the hypothesis that nurturant-responsive parenting practices would be positively related, and harsh-non-responsive and/or inconsistently responsive parenting practices would be inversely related, to children's self regulation behavior.
• Conditions of sibling support for a developmentally disabled child. The purpose of the study is to examine the nature and the extent of siblings' supportive roles and the conditions under which sibling provide support to a developmentally disabled sibling about familial and non-familial issues. One important variable will be the degree of parental attachment between the sibling providing support/non-support and the mother.

PROFESSOR JERRY I. SHAW

Program of research in social cognition, including (1) the factors which affect information acquisition during impression formation and (2) the structure and dimensions of causal explanations. Our previous work has found that persons prefer to search trait and behavior attributes significantly more than appearance and demographic attributes when forming an impression of a target person. Although this search pattern was obtained for all gender combinations of participant target pairs, male participants accessed more appearance information about female targets than did any other participant target combination. A recently completed investigation replicated the preference for trait over appearance information in multicategorical searches (both appearance and trait information available) but found a preference for appearance over trait information in unicategorical searches (only appearance or trait information
available). This finding was interpreted in terms of a fundamental preference for more stable trait information and that other information such as appearance, behavior, and demographic data is used primarily to enable a trait inference. Our current research investigates the effects of information valence and extremity in information gathering.

Our work on the structure and dimensions of perceived causality examines how naive perceptions of performance outcomes are structured in temporally linked causal chains that differ in terms of causal locus (internal vs external), variability, and controllability. We found that most explanations of performance outcomes are three causes in length arranged in a temporal chain. Internal, stable' and controllable causes are used more than external, unstable, and uncontrollable causes. These results are consistent with the fundamental attribution error and the need for predictability and control. It is suggested that complex explanations of necessary causality may be more common than previously assumed, but that dimensional structure remains consistent with established theory. Current research examines how complex causal explanations are structured across different domains, including achievement outcomes, interpersonal relations, and occupational behaviors. Student assistants are used in various phases of this research.

Social Psychology Research Interests Group (SPRIG)
Dr. Jerry Shaw, Director
SH 340A/B

The SPRIG lab provides the opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students to participate in both basic and applied research in the exciting field of social psychology.

Current projects include experiments on social cognition and jury decision-making. Participation in research projects provides students with important experiences that prepare them for graduate education and doctoral programs in social psychology.

PROFESSORS JERRY I. SHAW AND PAUL SKOLNICK

Program of research in psychology and the legal system, including studies of jury decision making and eyewitness identification. Past projects have investigated how legal decisions and judgments are affected by defendant status, weapon focus, judge's instructions, and types of evidence presented in criminal cases. Our current project will create a juror training program with the goals of alleviating some of the defects of the current jury system and improving jurors' satisfaction with their participation in the legal process. Students participate by conducting library research, collecting data, observing mock juries, and assisting in preparation of materials for presentation and publication.

PROFESSOR MICHELE WITTIG

The social and developmental psychology of intergroup relations, acculturation, social identities, prejudice reduction, political activism, conflict resolution, as well as multicultural education and other intervention strategies. Research assistants conduct literature searches and write reviews; assist in research design, data collection, coding and analysis; and report writing. Service interns are trained to lead discussions in schools and other settings with youth and adults; design and conduct workshops on intergroup relations, and write reports of their interventions. Motivated students have opportunities to present their work at professional conferences and co-author publications, depending on the nature of their contributions. Enrollment in Psych 432 (Applied Intergroup Relations and Conflict Mediation) is encouraged.

Social Psychology Action Research Collective (SPARC) Dr. Michele Wittig SH 350H

The Social Psychology Action Research Collective (SPARC) conducts research that addresses social problems. The group is currently funded primarily by a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant, that also provides funding for the involvement of Dr. Sheila Grant and one or two graduate students. Severalstudents are funded via MBR RISE and MARC grants, COR grants, or Sally Casanova and California Equity Fellowships.

Our NIH study uses an Acculturation Model to examine moderators and mediators of prejudice reduction and conflict resolution. This model is rooted in cultural pluralism and incorporates measures of situational conditions of intergroup contact as well as acculturation variables (including aspects of ethnic identity and outgroup orientation).

The NIH project includes field and laboratory-based studies designed to understand and reduce intergroup prejudice and conflict. Our current field-based work in primarily with middle and high school students. Our current lab studies are designed to assess mediates between situational factors and prejudice based on racial/ethnic, gender, sexual orientation and religious group membership.

Our research is conducted in collaboration with teachers, high school students, and non-profit human rights and educational organizations. Recent collaborations have been with the Ameican Psychological Association, CSUN's Dispute Resolution Center, People for the American Way, and the Anti-Defamation League.

SPARC offers opportunities for highly motivated, reliable CSUN undergraduate and graduate students to do collaborative, action-oriented research using quantitative and qualitative methods to understand and reduce intergroup prejudice and conflict. In addition to research opportunities, we offer service Internships for those who wish to lead discussions on these topics in local high schools.

Enrollment in Psych 432 (Applied Intergroup Relations and Mediation), Psych 445 (Applied Social Psychology), Psych 498 (Practicum), Psych 499 (Independent Study), Psych 699 (Graduate Independent Study), or Psych 698 (M.A. Thesis) is encouraged. Internship hours may also count for some sections of Psych 313 (Developmental Psychology) or Psych 345 (Social Psychology).

Our research is based on ethical principles, reviews of relevant literature and needs assessments. Activities include the design and implementation of action-oriented research, collection and analysis of data, interpretation and presentation of results, and using the information to address social problems. Conference participation and publication are also encouraged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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