Mini-Con 2020

Mini-Con, or Mini Convention, is held every year in the spring to celebrate the terrific work our second year PhD students have accomplished.

Mini-con is a convention style presentation in which each second year student gives a 10 minute presentation based on their second year paper. The presentation encompasses the research they have conducted, data collected, and future prospects, with a Q&A from attendees. The students are evaluated on the professionalism and ability to present research to the scientific community.

Virtual Zoom Webinar

May 28, 2020, 9:00am - 2:00pm


9:00 AM Opening remarks by Michael Miller, Chair

9:10 AM Paige Harris (SOC)

9:30 AM Alyssa Lawson (CPCN)

9:50 AM Richard E. Mayer Award

10:00 AM Coffee Break

10:10 AM Mei Mei (DEVO)

10:30 AM Viki Papadakis (SOC)

10:50 AM Harry J. Carlisle Award

11:00 AM Coffee Break

11:10 PM Shuying Yu (CPCN)

11:30 PM Jordan Garrett (CPCN)

11:50 PM Charles G. McClintock Award 

12:10 PM Closing Remarks by Michael Miller, Chair


9:10am Paige Harris (SOC)

Physical Activity is Associated with Positive Intrapersonal Processes and Interpersonal Outcomes

Abstract: Past research shows that physical activity is associated with a host of intrapersonal benefits, including improved psychological well-being, cognition, and sleep. There is little research, however, examining whether physical activity can also improve interpersonal outcomes. To address this gap, the current study investigates the intra- and interpersonal benefits of physical activity in daily life. Participants (N=173) completed a 14-day diary. Each morning they answered questions about their sleep the night before; each evening they reported on their daily experiences. Guided by our theoretical model, we hypothesized that physical activity would predict both positive interpersonal outcomes (responsiveness and social connection) and intrapersonal processes (positive emotions, cognitive focus, and sleep quality). Using multilevel modeling, results were largely consistent with predictions: On days when participants were more physically active, they were more responsive to close others and felt more socially connected. They also experienced more positive emotions and cognitive focus. Physical activity, however, was unrelated to sleep quality. Additional analyses suggest that positive emotions and cognitive focus may mediate the link between physical activity and interpersonal outcomes. These findings provide promising initial evidence that physical activity may foster both intrapersonal and interpersonal well-being.


9:30am Alyssa Lawson (CPCN)

Generative Learning Strategies that Promote Understanding of a Multimedia Lesson

Abstract: Self-explanation is an effective strategy for learning new material. However, research has not fully determined if the benefits of self-explanation come from having individuals self-generate an explanation, which would be in line with theories such as the generative learning theory, or if the benefit comes from simply having a concise explanation of the material. This set of experiments aimed to answer this question by comparing various types of self-explanation (open-ended self-explanation and focused self-explanation) to a condition where the explanation was given in either an immediate test or delayed test (Experiment 1). Additionally, self-explanation was compared to a condition where participants were tasked with rewriting the explanation in order to understand the benefits of a simpler generative learning task (Experiment 2). Experiment 1 found that both self-explanation conditions led to better learning compared to a given explanation, but this effect was only seen when there was a delay between learning and testing. Additionally, Experiment 2 found that adding a generative aspect to the given explanation, by having participants rewrite the explanation, produced learning that was similar to the learning that developed from open-ended self-explanation. Overall, these studies demonstrated support of the generative learning theory in that engaging in generative practices while learning, either through self-explanation or rewriting a given explanation, leads to better learning after a delay. 

10:10am Mei Mei (DEVO)

Body Odor Attractiveness and Ovarian Hormones in Women

Abstract: Women’s odor samples during the fertile window are on average rated as more attractive than samples from the luteal phase. However, little research has examined relationships between women’s odor attractiveness and their estradiol and progesterone concentrations. In this study, we examined the effects of estradiol and progesterone on women’s odor attractiveness throughout the menstrual cycle. Forty-six women wore underarm pads overnight every five days for 30 days. They also provided daily luteinizing hormone tests, and saliva samples on the mornings of odor collection days. Sixty-six men rated the odor samples for pleasantness, sexiness and intensity. These ratings were regressed on the donors’ estradiol and progesterone concentrations using multilevel modeling. Consistent with previous research, we found that odor samples during women’s fertile window were rated as more attractive than samples collected outside the fertile window. In addition, there was a between-women effect whereby men rated the odors of women with higher mean estradiol concentrations as more attractive, which supports the position that men have evolved to attend to women’s general reproductive condition. We found only null within-women effects of estradiol and progesterone on within-women changes in odor attractiveness, such that these hormones did not explain the fertile window shift in attractiveness. 

10:30am Viki Papadakis (SOC)

Social Class, Social Tuning, and Environmental Action

Abstract: The present study examined whether one’s social class background fosters different self-construals, which in turn affects social tuning (i.e., the ways in which people adjust their own personal beliefs as a reaction to the beliefs of others) to different environmental messages. Participants interacted with a research assistant wearing a t-shirt: (a) in support of pro-environmental action, (b) in opposition to pro-environmental action, or (c) with no messaging (i.e., control). It was hypothesized that those from lower social class backgrounds (vs. higher social class backgrounds) would be more likely to align with social cues (i.e., social tuning) regarding environmental action, as mediated by self-construal (i.e., less independent self-construal). Results showed that, although social class background did not lead to the expected differences in self-construal, self-construal and the social cue condition interacted such that those with more independent self-construals engaged in more pro-environmental behavior with anti-environmental messaging than with pro-environmental messaging, whereas those with less independent self-construals were not impacted by the social cue condition. These findings provide initial evidence that self-construal may affect social tuning towards different environmental messages. Future research can leverage these findings to encourage pro-environmental behavior in socioculturally-diverse contexts. 

11:10am Shuying Yu (CPCN)

Age-related changes in spatial navigation are evident by midlife and differ by sex

Abstract: Accumulating evidence suggests that distinct aspects of successful navigation—path integration, acquiring spatial knowledge, and navigation strategies—change with advanced age. Yet, few studies have established whether navigation deficits emerge early in the aging process (prior to age 65) or whether early age-related deficits vary by sex. Here, we probed healthy young (ages 18-28) and midlife (ages 43-61) adults on three essential aspects of navigation. First, path integration ability shows negligible effects of sex or age. Second, robust sex differences in spatial knowledge acquisition are observed in young adulthood and persist, but are diminished, with age. Third, by midlife, men and women show decreased ability to acquire spatial knowledge and increased reliance on taking habitual paths. Together, our findings indicate that age-related changes in navigation ability and strategy are evident as early as midlife and that path integration ability is relatively spared in the transition from youth to middle age.

11:30am Jordan Garrett (CPCN)

Tracking the contents of spatial working memory during an acute bout of aerobic exercise

Abstract: Recent work has shown that early visual processes are enhanced during an acute bout of low-intensity physical activity. Concurrent aerobic exercise may also influence cognitive functions dependent on these processes, such as visuospatial working memory. Here, we investigated whether the selectivity of spatial memories is modulated by brief bouts of exercise. Participants (N = 34) performed a spatial change detection while seated on a stationary bike under two conditions: rest and while cycling at a low-intensity (50 W at 50 RPM). Concurrent with the task, sixty-four channel electroencephalography was recorded and gaze-contingent eye-tracking ensured that fixation was maintained throughout each trial. We used an inverted encoding modeling technique to estimate location-selective response functions (RFs) from topographical patterns of alpha-band (8-12 Hz) activity. In both conditions, there was evidence of a spatial selective response during both the target and retention period. Notably, this is the first time such a response has ever been reconstructed while in a physically active state. When comparing the two conditions, spatial selectivity was found to degrade in the retention period during exercise. Generalization analyses of modeled patterns underlying RFs indicated that the same unitary process supporting the maintenance of remembered locations in a resting state was also present when engaged in exercise, though this process was degraded during the latter. So, unlike earlier stages of earlier stages of information processing, concurrent exercise has an aversive effect on visuospatial working memory.


Courtney Durdle (CPCN)

Can Criterion Shifting Manipulate Free Recall?

Abstract: Many people tend to implicitly assume that their own memories are accurate representations of how an event happened. However, the human mind is not a tape recorder, and a person’s recall of a “memory” actually involves a series of decisions about what information is relevant. These decisions are difficult to make because memories can be vague and ambiguous. This reality causes people to set decision criteria on a spectrum of familiarity, where the memorability of old stimuli (i.e. the amount of familiarity) dictates whether a person makes the decision to say “I remember that.” To date, the research into what causes people to shift this threshold has primarily been conducted in the realm of recognition memory. This prompts the question: are there other areas of memory research where people utilize criterion thresholds, such as in experiments studying the free recall of episodic memory? The goal of this study is to investigate how criterion manipulations will affect the recall of participants, especially when those participants experience stress during the encoding of an episodic event. The study will help determine whether people utilize a threshold for memory strength during the recall of a stressful episodic memory (such as a violent crime), and whether that threshold can later be manipulated in either direction by the instructions given during the witness’s recall. This new research could have practical consequences for the legal system, particularly eyewitness testimony. An eyewitness will be called on to remember the events of a crime by many different people, starting with the intake statement by responding officers or detectives and ending with trial preparation with attorneys. All of these people may give different instructions to eyewitnesses about how they should recall the event, which means the entire process gives an eyewitness multiple opportunities to shift their decision criteria. Research on criterion manipulation of episodic memory recall could lead to procedural changes within the criminal justice system to ensure witness statements are as accurate as possible.

Sara Leslie (CPCN)

Criterion Shifting and Metacognition:  Relating Decision Strategies to the use of Confidence Judgments

Abstract: “Have I seen this before?" When people answer this question in conditions of uncertainty, they not only solicit memory but concurrently engage a decision process. That decision can be affected by context, or by the type of error considered more desirable to avoid. Individuals vary in the extent to which they utilize strategic decision-making and adaptively change their response criterion when they make such recognition memory decisions, but the origin of this variability is unknown. We examined whether adaptive decision-making in the form of criterion shifting was related to metacognition, characterized here as the accuracy of confidence judgements, or to biases in confidence reporting. Examining data from 126 participants, we found that higher metacognition was associated with greater criterion shifting, while a bias towards high confidence responding was associated with lower criterion shifting. This association was found at different levels of uncertainty and under different confidence-reporting conditions. Individual differences in the use of adaptive decision strategies may thus relate to measures of metacognition. Such relationships may be important to consider when using response patterns to analyze the nature of recognition memory, and further examinations of these associations may help elucidate the bases of both inter-individual variability and intra-individual stability in the use of decision strategies.