Student Research Wins Recognition

January 7, 2019

It’s a particular thrill to share your research to your classmates and professors – but even more so when you can present it to professionals in your field of study. 

That’s just what psychology major Allison Koneczny ’18 did when she presented her research about gender and coping skills at the Ohio Psychologists Association conference in April of 2018.

Koneczny’s work was well-received — so much so that in fact she won the award for the best undergraduate empirical research poster, which included the opportunity to publish her research in “The Ohio Psychologist.” (You’ll find the paper on page 28.)

Koneczny’s research, titled “Self-Distancing and Emotional Reactivity: How Gender Moderates Effects of Coping,” examines how subjects react to negative events in their lives, and if self-distancing (reframing the event in the third-person) can elicit a lower emotional reaction. Koneczny looked at gender differences in her study, because past research indicated “women tend to ruminate more than men and are twice as likely to have depression.”

“I was able to put all of the skills I had learned throughout my internships and classes to use in order to design my own study.”

She laid out a meticulous study with 64 subjects, male and female, and asked them to write about a negative event in their lives. The subject group was asked to write about the event in the third-person, using “you” as a pronoun, to test her hypothesis that self-distancing the event using this method would help them lower their emotional reactivity. The control group was not given any instruction on pronouns when given their assignment.

The results did not align with her hypothesis. But Koneczny has no regrets and learned a lot from the experience. 

“Completing my senior research under the guidance of Dr. Henshaw was an incredible experience in my academic career,” she says. “I was able to put all of the skills I had learned throughout my internships and classes to use in order to design my own study to help me learn more about a topic I find fascinating - coping with challenging life events in meaningful ways.” 

“Through this research, I was able to experience all of the steps of the process: design, data collection, analysis, write-up, presentation, and finally, publication. The opportunity solidified my love for psychological research. In fact, I couldn’t get enough! Now I’m working for a research lab at University of Michigan’s psychiatry department, and I still find myself referencing the research methods I learned from this project and from the mentorship of Dr. Henshaw.”

Erin Henshaw, associate professor of psychology, was Koneczny’s advisor on the project. 

“Year-long senior research projects are one of Denison’s best, but also most challenging, learning opportunities. This is because they require so much of a student: the skill and creativity to synthesize research literature and draw out of it a unique, testable question, followed by the self-discipline and reasoning ability needed to follow that question to a clearly communicated conclusion,” says Henshaw.

“Allison embraced and really welcomed the challenges that came with this project, which made advising her research a true joy for me. I admire her independence, work ethic, and maturity, and I can’t wait to see the contributions she will make to psychological science in her future career.”

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