Psychology Faculty-Student Research

students meet with a professor

The Psychology Department is in the top 20 in the nation as the undergraduate source of psychology Ph.Ds. The major reason for this success is our 20-plus year history of involving students in faculty research. The single most important factor in gaining admission to graduate programs in Psychology is the demonstration of an interest and expertise in conducting research. Psychology majors at Rhodes have the opportunity to participate in ongoing research of the faculty in the Department, or with scientists at University of Memphis, University of Tennessee Medical School, or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Each year 40-50 psychology majors participate on a research team working with a faculty member on one or more related projects. Most teams include one or two seniors doing honors research or independent studies, one or two second year students who assist the older students in data collection, coding, etc., while learning research skills, and one or two third year students who are designing and preparing for their senior projects.

Are you looking to get involved? Here’s a good start: Find out about your faculty members’ research interests. Read their published work and ask questions that demonstrate your interests. If you would like to have a place on a research team, you will need to impress the faculty member with your willingness to do extra reading, to think clearly about research problems, and to work independently. Every year one or two spaces generally become available on each team.

Rather than processing everything our sensory systems receive, we must rely upon heuristics—mental short-cuts—to reduce computational load. The Visual Cognition Laboratory centers around one such critical heuristic: ensemble perception, which refers to the idea that we can represent sets of objects using summary statistics. 

The Behavioral Neuroscience Lab broadly investigates stress-related psychopathology in women with the goal of understanding the individual differences in psychological and physiological factors—such as obesity, binge eating, cortisol stress reactivity, and chronic stress—contribute to stress-induced eating. 

Research in the Memory and Cognition Lab addresses three broad issues: the relationship between episodic memory and other cognitive mechanisms such as attentional control, differences in episodic memory between young and healthy older adults, and how long-term memory can be improved in both of these groups.  

Research in the Social Cognition Lab focuses on two areas of social psychology: aspects of intergroup relations and stereotypes, particularly regarding issues of race and social class; and aspects of the implicit cognition of religion, applying experimental research techniques to understand the cognitive effects of religious schemas and religious group membership. 

The Cognition and Aging Lab aims to better understand how humans produce language, with specific emphasis on factors that influence spoken and written word retrieval in younger and older adults. The lab also investigates how language production is supported by cognitive processes such as memory and attention, and how engagement with emotion influences word retrieval and language fluency. 

In affective computing, a system can detect a user’s feelings during the learning process and respond appropriately. The Learning Technologies Lab works with an interdisciplinary team of cognitive psychologists, computers scientists, and Rhodes students who have come together for one such endeavor.