Psychology students, professors attend SEPA conference

Psychology students at the SEPA Poster Session
Psychology students at the SEPA Poster Session (L-R): Morrgan Duncan, Rachel Scott, Victoria Dunsmore and Amanda Chappell.

Over spring break, professors and students in the Department of Psychology traveled to the Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA) conference to present research in Charleston, SC.

“Does Perceived Empathy Reduce the Role of Gender Bias in Physician Choice for Women’s Health” was a master’s thesis study conducted by Victoria Dunsmore, a second-year experimental psychology student in the College of Graduate Studies and Research; Amanda Chappell, a first-year graduate student from Zuni; Rachel Scott, a graduate student; Morrgan Duncan, a freshman from Cartersville in the Accelerated Research Opportunity program; and Rachael Harasink, an undergraduate psychology student.

Professor of Psychology Jenessa Steele, also the associate director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS), and Assistant Professor of Psychology Nicholas Lee assisted with the research.

Chappell explained that the research involved determining the extent to which young females consider empathy when choosing a male or female gynecologist, or if gender is the only factor used when choosing this type of physician.

“We’ve been exploring if the gynecologist was a male with a high level of empathy would the participant still choose a female who has low empathy just because they want a female doctor,” she said.

The study is a health care decision-making study, primarily focusing on freshman and sophomore female students. Duncan, who attended her first conference, said that the experience was exciting.

“The other students in our research lab have been outstanding,” Duncan said. “They’ve been really welcoming. I’m very thankful for [Associate Professor of Chemistry and OURS Director] Joe Wirgau because he’s the one who matched me with Dr. Steele. We already have plans for the next year and the experience has really benefited me. Just talking to peers, they’re surprised I’m already doing this at college.”

Morrgan Duncan, left, and Victoria Dunsmore, right, explain their research at SEPA.
Morrgan Duncan, left, and Victoria Dunsmore, right, explain their research at SEPA.

At the conference, a lady approached Duncan about the research.

“I explained it to her in the way that I understood it and she completely got it,” Duncan said. “She said that she’d always go for the female [regardless of perceived empathy level]. I’m definitely not a person who is afraid to speak in public, so it wasn’t scary. I thought it was funny that as soon as the males would walk up and then realize what the poster was about they’d walk away because it’s about women’s health.”

Duncan said she learned a lot from everyone, especially regarding time management and the amount of energy it takes to get the most out of a conference.

Steele wanted the students to have free time to discover everything that the SEPA conference had to offer.

“I wanted them to go and learn about research in which they are interested at the conference,” she said. “They spent their mornings uncovering what the conference had to offer as a general psychology conference. It’s also an opportunity to meet with students from other programs.”

SEPA was Chappell’s first big conference experience and she “enjoyed” being able to take what she wanted from the conference.

“There were more people, more information and more sessions,” she said. “At this conference, it’s all about what you want to see and do. There’s no set schedule. You get your program and pick where you want to go. It was nice being able to share what we’ve been working on with other people.”

Radford University will host the 27th annual Student Engagement Forum April 17-19, during which nearly 400 students will share presentations from their fields of study. The presentations will be located in Heth, Young, McGuffey, the Planetarium, Peters and the Center for the Sciences.

Apr 9, 2018
Max Esterhuizen