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Dr. Susan Mohammed receives NSF funding for engineering teams research

Dr. Susan Mohammed recently received an National Science Foundation (NSF) grant entitled “Longitudinal Exploration of Engineering Design Team Performance in Relation to Team Composition, Climate, and Communication Patterns” to study engineering design teams. She serves as a co-principal investigator on this 3-year interdisciplinary project along with Dr. Scarlett Miller (Penn State, Engineering Design and Industrial Engineering, Principal Investigator) and Dr. Kathryn Jablokow (Penn State, Engineering Design and Mechanical Engineering, Co-Principal Investigator). Click here to read more about their research. Congrats Susan!

Dr. Alicia Grandey's Keynote Address at WAOP

Dr. Alicia Grandey will be the keynote speaker at the Work And Organizational Psychology (WAOP) conference in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in November 2019. Click here for more details. Congrats Alicia!

Examining the Link between Puberty and Functional Brain Development

Developmental area student, Junqiang "Jacob" Dai, and his advisor, Dr. Suzy Scherf, recently published a comprehensive review of neuroimaging studies investigating the relation between pubertal and functional brain development in humans.


PSU at SIOP 2019

Earlier this month, our program traveled to National Harbor, MD for the 34th Annual Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology conference! There were several items on the conference program that involved research from PSU I/O students and faculty. We also held our annual alumni reception, where we were able to honor Rick Jacobs for his 40 years of service to the program! See below for pictures taken throughout our time there!

Dr. Kisha Jones interviewed by US. News and World Report and Women's Wear Daily on Chief Diversity Officers

Dr. Kisha Jones was interviewed for two recent news articles on the how some organizations have begun to create Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) positions. One thing she discusses in the U.S. News and World Report article "How Diversity Officers Change Corporate Culture", is some of the challenges that CDOs are up against:

With movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, diversity dominates today's headlines. That these efforts are controversial hints at the pushback diversity officers sometimes face from "people who are resistant to diversity" and "people who feel like they aren't represented in the diversity initiatives," Jones says.

Workers and managers who aren't necessarily opposed to diversity may still find it uncomfortable to talk about, having grown accustomed to "colorblind models" of operating that experts consider to be outdated, Jones says.

In the Women's Wear Daily article "On Staff: Diversity and Inclusion Chiefs--the Hot New Fashion Accessory", the discussion focuses on whether CDOs are implemented in response to consumer backlash towards fashion companies that (unintentionally?) sell products considered to be insensitive and/or offensive. In this article, she discusses what having CDO signals to employees and customers as well as the potential effectiveness of the role:

“I think there’s a lot of tension around diversity — whether racial diversity, gender diversity — that is at the forefront so people are thinking about it and companies realize that these are things that are spilling over into the workforce, too,” she said.

Jones said in the past, some companies had this role in a vice president’s position, but adding it to the c-suite or making it a leader role like at H&M “creates some accountability because someone in that role will have to report to the ceo” and is a move by the board to demonstrate it is taking the issue seriously.

“Just the presence of that [position] sends a signal that diversity is something they’re taking seriously,” Jones said. “We need some time to see how people are able to function in that role and what they’re able to accomplish, but I think that it’s a great start. It’s important.”

Click the links above to check out the full articles. Congrats Kisha!

Dr. Scott Highhouse's Visit to PSU I/O Program

In mid-October, our program hosted Dr. Scott Highhouse, Professor of Psychology and Ohio Eminent Scholar at Bowling Green State University for a visit. He presented a talk entitled:

Intersection of Industrial-Organizational Psychology with Judgment and Decision Making: A Personal Account

Here are some pictures from his visit:


Thank you for coming out Scott, we enjoyed having you!

Dr. Alicia Grandey's work featured on "WorkLife with Adam Grant" and Wisconsin Public Radio

Dr. Alicia Grandey's research was featured on WorkLife with Adam Grant (Episode 5, 4/4/2018, link:
and Wisconsin Public Radio (4/6/2018, link:
Feel free to check these programs out!

Dr. Alicia Grandey and program alum Dr. Lawrence Houston receive media attention

Dr. Alicia Grandey recently wrote an article for The Conversation  entitled  “Black employees in the service industry pay an emotional tax at work,” based on a study with PSU IO program alum Dr. Lawrence Houston. Their research has gotten attention in as well as The Salon, the San Francisco Chronicle and Philadelphia Inquirer. Congrats Alicia!

Gordon Sayre conducting research in Switzerland

Gordon Sayre won the ThinkSwiss Scholarship, permitting him to work in Switzerland with Dr. Laurenz Meier over the summer of 2018. Congrats!

Dr. Susan Mohammed Interviewed by New York Magazine Blog

Dr. Susan Mohammed was recently interviewed by New York Magazine's blog, Science of Us, regarding her opinion on a commonly used method of bringing groups of people together for the first time, icebreakers. Apparently, they can be ineffective if not done properly.

“Icebreakers are generally a first step and they can be valuable in … getting people to know each other,” she says. “But in terms of group cohesion or deep levels of trust or psychological safety or an open climate, it’s just not going to be enough.”

In this interview, she offers strategies for making icebreakers more effective.

And one way to make people a little more engaged, Mohammed says, is to outline right off the bat what they’ll be doing, explain the goal of the icebreaker — are they there to build trust? learn something new about a person? figure out roles for a team? — and to reiterate those same points again once it’s all done.


Dr. Susan Mohammed's Invited Talk at APS 2016

Dr. Susan Mohammed was invited to present her work on temporal orientations and how that affects team performance at the Association for Psychological Science (APS) this past May. Click here for a write up in the APS Observer on the session as well as highlights from what she discussed. Great job Susan!

Dr. Alicia Grandey Interviewed by The New Yorker

Dr. Grandey was recently interviewed by The New Yorker magazine about her research on emotional labor as well as other factors that influence work environments.

Even more salient, Grandey argues, is the feeling of inauthenticity that enforced emotional displays create. In her research, she has found that putting on an emotional mask at work—conforming to a certain image that doesn’t necessarily correspond to how you feel or who you are—drains you of energy that can only be replenished if you then have an opportunity to be yourself. “You have to be able to be real,” she told me. “If we’re expecting people to be super happy and positive to people you’re expected to be positive with as part of your job”—to smile and act upbeat with clients and customers—“if you can’t turn around and be real with co-workers, you are amplifying emotional labor. And you have a real problem on your hands.

Click here for the full story. Congrats!

NSF Workshop on Emotions, Creativity, and Work Climate Hosted at Penn State

Last month, Dr. Alicia Grandey organized an NSF workshop on emotions, creativity, and work climate that brought together researchers in psychology, organizational behavior, and engineering from across the campus as well as around the world.

Click the link below for an overview of the workshop.

Dr. Alicia Grandey's NPR podcast: McDonald's and Emotion Norms in Russia

Dr. Alicia Grandey was recently interviewed as part of the NPR's podcast Invisibilia about emotional labor and how McDonald's is changing emotion norms in Russia!   

Click here for more information on the interview:

Click here to access the full podcast:

Workshop brings together leaders in psychology, engineering design

Professor of Psychology Alicia Grandey hosted a workshop for students and scholars in organizational psychology, business, and engineering design.

“A key point of our workshop is that, despite attempts to design and optimize creativity and production using rational algorithms based on rigorous decision theory, in the end, people in groups make decisions and engage in behaviors that are not always rational, due to the climate in which they work,” said Grandey. “Unfortunately, organizations are often studied through only one lens, at the detriment of complete understanding of productive and innovative workplaces.”

While engineers tend to focus on optimizing the process, psychologists tend to focus on optimizing the people, and business scholars tend to focus on optimizing the organizational context. Grandey and Simpson brought together 45 scholars and students in the three fields because they believe moving forward requires cross-disciplinary discussions from scholars across academic silos.

For more information about the workshop, see the full story at Penn State News.

World Campus student receives two degrees, graduates with highest distinction

Michael Robinson, a student from Great Falls, Montana, was recently featured by Penn State News for his accomplishment of graduating with bachelor's degrees in psychology and nursing through Penn State World Campus:

Robinson, who works full-time as a registered nurse for Benefis Health System, a large medical center in north-central Montana, received an associate degree in nursing from Darton State College in Albany, Georgia (his hometown). He knew there would be “numerous” advantages to continuing on for his bachelor’s degree.

“From increased marketability, to opportunities to move into management, to the ability to pursue graduate study leading to advanced practice roles, the decision to finish my bachelor’s degree was a no-brainer,” he said. “More fundamentally, it provided me with a sense of pride and accomplishment, something you can’t put a price tag on. No one can ever take that away from you.”

The full article can be viewed at Penn State News.

Wadsworth's research featured by NIMH

Research by Professor of Psychology Martha Wadsworth was highlighted by the National Institute of Mental Health's Spring 2015 issue of Inside NIMH.

Research by Associate Professor of Psychology Martha Wadsworth was highlighted by the National Institute of Mental Health's Spring 2015 issue of Inside NIMH.

Chronic stress and its effects are increasingly recognized as primary factors contributing to psychopathology in vulnerable children and adolescents. Preadolescence is a crucial time during which children’s ability to recognize stress and its causes matures, and is a time for building skills for managing stress. It is also a period of increased brain changes and growth in key self-regulatory physiological systems. Therefore, preadolescence might be an optimal time for intervening to prevent the onset of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress symptoms in children faced with chronic stress. Martha Wadsworth, Ph.D.  (Pennsylvania State University) aims to demonstrate that children facing chronic stress from exposure to poverty, discrimination, and violence can acquire and utilize new ways of coping. She and her team will also test whether these new coping skills have positive effects on stress physiology and changes in clinical symptoms. This exploratory evaluation of the Building a Strong Identity and Coping Skills (BaSICS) intervention is an early-stage, proof-of-concept study; if successful, it may yield preliminary data to support the development of an application for a confirmatory efficacy trial.

    Worried? You're Not Alone

    Professor of Psychology Michelle Newman was quoted in an article published by the New York Times.

    Two out of five Americans say they worry every day, according to a new white paper released by Liberty Mutual Insurance. Among the findings in the “Worry Less Report”: Millennials worry about money. Single people worry about housing (and money). Women generally worry more than men do and often about interpersonal relationships. The good news: Everyone worries less as they get older.

    “People have a love-hate relationship with worry,” said Michelle Newman, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Pennsylvania State University, who was not involved in the writing of the report. “They think at some level that it helps them.”

    Dr. Newman's work was previously featured by Time Magazine in a June 2015 article titled "You Asked: Do I Worry Too Much?"

    As human beings, our ability to predict trouble—and outwit it—is one of those cerebral superpowers that set us apart from birds and beasts. But nonstop worrying can be crippling to your life and your immune system.

    “Just having a thought about some potential bad thing that might happen—everyone has those,” says Dr. Michelle Newman, director of the Laboratory for Anxiety and Depression Research at Pennsylvania State University. “But if you have difficulty stopping the worry once it starts, that’s one of the ways we define what’s called pathological worry.”

    The vicious cycle that makes people afraid to talk about climate change

    Paper by Nathaniel Geiger and Janet Swim featured by the Washington Post.

    The recent Journal of Environmental Psychology article "Climate of silence: Pluralistic ignorance as a barrier to climate change discussion" by Nathaniel Geiger (graduate student, social psychology) and Professor of Psychology Janet Swim was featured in an article by The Washington Post.

    In a nutshell, Geiger and Swim find that people are often afraid to talk about climate change with their peers because they wrongly think those peers are more doubtful about climate change than they actually are. This incorrect perception — which the authors dub “pluralistic ignorance” — then makes people fear that others will think they’re less competent, and thus, view them with less respect, if they bring up the subject or talk about it.

    And then, that cascades and suppresses interpersonal conversations that might otherwise help put the issue more on the agenda. “There potentially can be this kind of spiral, where people are silent because they don’t know what other people think and people don’t know what other people think because nobody’s talking about it,” says Geiger, a PhD student in the Psychology Department at Penn State.

    The full article can be viewed at The Washington Post.

    Penn State project to help at-risk youth conquer chronic stress

    Associate Professor of Psychology Martha Wadsworth and the Coping and Regulation of Environmental Stress (CaRES) Lab have received a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to implement an intervention program that fosters positive youth development through a combination of coping skills and positive identity development.

    Stress can cause numerous physical and mental health problems, but for children, stress from problems such as discrimination or poverty are especially harmful because children have little control over these problems. Fortunately, a Penn State intervention program is being expanded for youth facing chronic stress.

    Building a Strong Identity and Coping Skills (BaSICS) is a program developed by the Penn State CaRES Lab designed to teach low-income and minority preadolescent youth healthy ways of coping with stress and divert them from negative outcomes.

    Martha Wadsworth, director of the CaRES Lab and associate professor of psychology, and her research team were recently awarded a $1.1 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to expand and evaluate the effectiveness of the BaSICS program. If the team is successful in achieving its goals in the first two years of the project, it will receive an additional $1.7 million from NIMH for the second phase.

    More information about Professor Wadsworth and the NIMH grant can be found through Penn State News.

    Bierman named Pugh Professor

    Karen Bierman, McCourtney Professor of Child Studies, has been named an Evan Pugh Professor by Penn State University.

    Image of Karen Bierman, Evan Pugh Professor and McCourtney Professor of Child Studies.Karen Bierman, McCourtney Professor of Child Studies, Director of the Child Studies Center, and Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies, has been named an Evan Pugh University Professor, the highest academic honor granted by Penn State University. In the current academic year, Bierman has also received the McCourtney Professorship of Child Studies and been recognized by the College of the Liberal Arts for her success in attracting external support for her research.

    As of May 2016, only 71 faculty members have been named Evan Pugh Professors in the history of Penn State. Professor Bierman is Psychology's second faculty member to be recognized as an Evan Pugh University Professor, following Herschel W. Leibowitz (1977). 

    Evan Pugh University Professors are recognized among faculty who have completed at least five years of service to Penn State and have distinguished themselves as leading researchers, strong leaders in the University community, excellent teachers, and respected colleagues of their academic peers.

    Additional information about Professor Bierman's commendation and the two other recent recipients of the Evan Pugh University Professorship can be found through Penn State News. A complete historical listing of Evan Pugh Professors at Penn State University can be accessed through the Office of the Vice President for Research at Penn State.

    Shields wins Zalk Award

    Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies Stephanie Shields wins the Sue Rosenberg Zalk Award for Distinguished Service to the Society for the Psychology of Women.

    Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies Stephanie Shields.The Society for the Psychology of Women (Division 35 of the American Psychological Association) has announced that Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies Stephanie Shields is the 2016 recipient of the Sue Rosenberg Zalk Award for Distinguished Service to the Society for the Psychology of Women. Professor Shields is being recognized for her mentorship and support for the psychology community, as well as for her work in organizing the First and Second Institutes for Academic Feminist Psychologists.

    This award recognizes the contributions of an individual who has served the Society for the Psychology of Women, American Psychological Association, in a variety of significant ways over a substantial period of time, as did Sue Rosenberg Zalk. The Award will be presented at the 2016 APA convention and carries a $500 honorarium. 

    At the time of her death in 2001, Sue Rosenberg Zalk, PhD, was book series editor. In the course of over 20 years of service to the division, Zalk was APA program chair and chaired committees and task forces on recruitment, fellows selection, awards, the Hyde Graduate Student Research Grant, mentoring, feminist submissions to mainstream journals, and the urban initiative, and was liaison to Div. 51 (Psychology of Men & Masculinity) and the Association for Psychological Science. She rarely missed an Executive Committee meeting and was forthright, insightful, strategic, and diplomatic in her comments. She also assisted other committee chairs with their responsibilities and was a mentor and friend to many SPW members. 

    Congratulations to Professor Shields for this honor!

    Bilingualism and Language Development Lab on display at national science fair

    The Bilingualism and Language Development Lab (BiLD Lab) represented the National Science Foundation at the 4th Annual USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC.

    The BiLD Lab (PI: Janet van Hell, co-PI: Ping Li) was one of only 26 NSF-supported projects, and one of the only two arts and humanities projects, to be selected to showcase its research in the NSF’s Exhibit Pavilion.  Researchers in the BiLD lab study the neurocognitive processes related to language development, second language learning, and bilinguals’ use of two languages, with a particular emphasis on language development and bilingualism at middle childhood and beyond.

    “This festival gave us the unique opportunity to showcase how we conduct research on second language development and bilingualism using neuroscience techniques and highlight the value of interdisciplinary research by bridging neuroscience and humanities,” noted Janet van Hell, professor of psychology and linguistics, director of the linguistics program, and director of the BiLD Lab.  “This was an excellent outreach opportunity to demonstrate the broader impact of research.

    “The children were highly engaged and curious to learn more about the brain. Our team of all-female researchers (postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students, with multi-cultural background) also reflected the diversity of the scientific community and showed these children that women are actively and successfully involved in STEM research.”

    For more information, see the full news story at Penn State News.

    Trying, and failing, to forget has lasting effects

    Research conducted by Avery Rizio (post-doctoral scholar) and Nancy Dennis (Associate Professor of Psychology) in the Center for Language Science has been featured in a recent article from Penn State News.

    Avery Rizio, a Penn State postdoc in the Language and Aging Lab in the Center for Language Science, and Nancy Dennis, associate professor of psychology, recently published research in the journal Cognitive Neuroscience that demonstrates how forgetting unimportant or outdated information is not accidental, but is an active neurological process.

    “Our research shows that even when you try to forget information, some of it may be retained, but you will need to work harder to recall this information. This is reflected by increased activity in areas of the brain that are associated with effort and difficult tasks,” Rizio explained.

    . . .

    Their work, combined with previous research, indicates that attempting to forget new information involves inhibition of encoding, the crucial first step in creating a new memory, and that such inhibition persists even if the new item is ultimately remembered rather than forgotten. “Inhibition allows us to forget unimportant information,” Dennis explained. “It seems to have a lasting effect on memory processing and makes the ultimate recollection of these items much more difficult.”

    The full article can be read through Penn State News.

    Psychology faculty recognized for external research funding

    The College of Liberal Arts honored faculty members who received external funding for their research at the Third Annual Researcher Appreciation Reception. Among the faculty honored were several psychology researchers (bolded below):

    In addition to the 21 faculty members who were awarded their first grant at Penn State this year, special recognition was given to those who have received external funding for their research for 15 or more consecutive years. Those honors included Lynn Liben, James Tybout, and Pamela Cole (15 years), Jim Lantolf and Joan Richtsmeier (16 years), John McCarthy, Mark Shriver, and Judy Kroll (17 years), and Ken Weiss, Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus (23 years).

    Karen Bierman, McCourtney Professor of Child Studies and Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Human Development and Family Studies was honored for having 25 years of consecutive funding. She currently has an NIH R01 grant that goes through 2020.

    For more information, see the College of Liberal Arts.

    World Campus students hold digital research conference

    UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – For years, undergraduate Psychology students at Penn State, University Park have gathered in Moore Building for the annual Psychology Department Undergraduate Research Conference.  This year, they were joined by a new group of students.  Twenty-one Psychology majors from Penn State’s World Campus, also presenting their research on a variety of psychology topics.

    Like their University Park counterparts, World Campus students prepared posters describing their research.  However, the World Campus students’ posters were displayed online.  The virtual posters were grouped into categories and displayed in different “rooms” using a program called Hyperfair.  Using an avatar, visitors could roam the rooms, read the posters, and chat with the student presenters.  World Campus students logged in from their home computers and discussed the research presentations in real time with their classmates.  University Park faculty, staff, and students could also join in.  A bank of computers was set up for this purpose directly across the hall from the traditional version of the research conference. 

     “This actually has been a dream since the World Campus Chapter of Psi Chi was formed a little over a year ago” said Brian Redmond.  Dr. Redmond, then a Senior Lecturer in Psychology, was the advisor for Penn State’s World Campus chapter of Psi Chi.  To make the online event a reality, World Campus students worked with faculty and staff to evaluate potential software packages, secure supplemental funding to defray start-up costs, reserve physical space in Moore Building, and set up a digital conference center.

    World Campus students also hosted a brief talk by Penn State Professor Louis Castonguay titled “Practice-Oriented Research in Psychotherapy.” While Dr. Castonguay spoke in Moore Building, his talk was livestreamed into a digital hall and attended by digital avatars for dozens of World Campus students, attending live through Hyperfair.   The talk stimulated questions and comments from both online and physically present audience members, discussing the alignment of clinical practice, research, and theory to improve the research and practice of psychotherapy. “It was a great experience for World Campus students who don’t regularly get to attend talks like University Park students do almost weekly” said Redmond.

    Nature and nurture both matter for children's early behavior problems

    Research by scholars at Penn State and seven other institutions has uncovered new indicators for risk of antisocial outcomes in children, as well as the source of these problems:

    The researchers studied callous-unemotional (CU) behaviors, such as lack of empathy and emotion, and found that toddlers with these behaviors have the worst behavior problems years later.

    “These are signs for parents and doctors to watch out for, as they may signal more than just the terrible twos,” said Luke Hyde, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and lead author on the study.

    “Children with CU behaviors lack empathy and guilt, and may go on to develop antisocial disorders and behavior problems such as fighting, lying and stealing as adults, and may even be at risk to develop psychopathy,” reported Jenae Neiderhiser, professor of psychology at Penn State, who was part of the research team and co-led the collection of data informing this study. “CU behaviors are very distinct from other behavior problems. If we can identify these kids early we may have a better chance of intervening in a child’s development.”

    The full article quoted above can be viewed through Penn State News. Additional coverage can be found through the following sources:

    The results of the study have been published as "Heritable and Nonheritable Pathways to Early Callous-Unemotional Behaviors," published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

    Language in the eye of the beholder

    Jessica Yoest, a senior majoring in communication arts and sciences and one of Clara Cohen's research assistants, demonstrates how to use the eye-tracking device.Research in the Center for Language Science and the Language and Bilingualism Lab in the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese has been featured in a recent article by Penn State News. The article discusses research being conducted by Clara Cohen, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology.

    Although only a small faction of the larger scope of linguistics research, Cohen’s study could potentially unlock new information about how language is processed across the globe, with possible benefits for those with dyslexia and even Apple’s computerized personal assistant, Siri.

    Cohen suggests that for English speakers, determining whether or not a noun is plural might actually occur before a person even hears the “s” at the end of the word. In fact, there are subtle cues in the duration of singular and plural words that could help a listener predict plurality.

    For the full story, see the original article at Penn State News.

    Expectation may be essential to memory formation

    Research by Hui Chen (post-doctoral fellow) and Garrett Swan (graduate student) regarding the role of expectation on memory formation was recently featured in Penn State News.

    A theory that links memory encoding to expectations of future relevance may better explain how human memory works, according to a team of Penn State psychologists.

    Modern psychology posits two major theories to explain the mechanisms of how memories are formed. The first is object-based encoding, storing all information about an object in working memory. The second is feature-based encoding, selectively remembering aspects of an object. For example, if you watch a group of people playing basketball, under object-based encoding theory, the brain remembers all aspects of the ball. In feature-based encoding, the brain remembers that it saw a ball, but may have no recollection of the color if the color of the ball is an unnecessary feature according to the task at hand.

    The proposed theory, expectancy-based binding, suggests that subjects can remember features presented in a visual scene or movie without necessarily remembering which object went with which feature when it is not necessary to do so.

    The full article can be viewed through Penn State News.

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