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2015 Student Publication Award Winners

SPSP strives to recognize excellence in research by student members with the Student Publication Award. All papers published in PSPB, PSPR, or SPPS by students in the 2014 calendar year were eligible for consideration. Read SPSP's interviews with this year's recipients, Jiyin Cao, Alyssa Fu, Samantha Heintzelman, and Bo Winegard.

Jiyin Cao, Northwestern University

 1.  Tell us a bit about your research.

My research sits at the intersection of decision-making, social network, and culture. I aim to answer three questions in my research: 1) Globalization has brought people to a more mobile and diverse life. How does this change impact people’s cognition, behaviors and beliefs? 2) How do people mentally construct their social worlds—i.e., their social networks—according to various psychological and situational factors (e.g. gender, status, foreign environment) and how does that contribute to inequality? 3) What are the socio-ecological mechanisms that underlie cross-cultural differences in trust, reciprocity and social perception?

In this publication, my collaborators and I explored the influences of diverse experiences, specifically foreign experiences, on generalized trust. We found that broad foreign experiences, the number of countries traveled, increase generalized trust. We discovered the pattern in a variety of different samples (e.g. Chinese and Americans) and methods (e.g. correlational, lab experiments, and longitudinal). This paper provides a new framework to examine intergroup contact by distinguishing the breadth and depth of foreign experiences. It also reveals the psychological mechanism that underlies the development of generalized trust, a concept that is mostly studied by political science, sociology and economics.  

2. What tips do you have for students trying to publish their research?

My only advice is to start early, despite its imperfection. We hear a lot from our colleagues and collaborators about how difficult publication is. It is so intimidating, as if we, as graduate students, are meant to fail. As a result, we never feel we are ready to start. We also don't want to start (After all, who wants to fail?). The truth is publishing is difficult, but not that difficult, and do not forget that we have our advisors and collaborators there to ask for help. What we need to do is to start. Don't wait until you have everything, because chances are you are never going to have everything. A first draft or study design, despite its imperfection, is much better than nothing. Not only it gives you a sense of achievement and control, but also it provides something tangible that allows other people to help. Publication is a process of trying and improving.

Alyssa Fu, Stanford University

1. Tell us a bit about your research.

In my research, I study how motivation by others takes different forms across cultures. I started with the Tiger Mom controversy, and found that while Asian American compared to European American high school students report feeling more pressure from their mothers, they also report feeling more interdependent with their mothers - that she is connected to them and a part of themselves. In a set of experimental studies, I also found that Asian American compared to European American students were more motivated by their mothers on a difficult academic-like task, particularly when they felt interdependent with their mothers. These studies show that Tiger Mom and her critics can both be right, depending on the cultural lens used to interpret the situation.

2. What tips do you have for students trying to publish their research?

Write everyday! Whatever stage the project is in, spend a little time every day to write about the research, whether it be the methods, results, or thoughts on how to frame the paper. Also, don't hold back on your first draft. When you're staring at that blank document, just write down everything you're thinking about related to the paper. Subsequent drafts are for refining those thoughts to make the paper clear.

Samantha Heintzelman, University of Virginia

1. Tell us a bit about your research.

My research focuses on subjective well-being, broadly, and especially meaning in life.  Much of my work examines the role of coherence, or the presence of environmental regularities and behavioral consistencies, in the experience of meaning in life.  Our previous findings showed that feelings of meaning track patterns and associations in the environment, suggesting an important role for coherence in the experience of life as meaningful.  This paper called upon this expanded understanding of meaning in life to answer the question, “Why are people motivated to feel that their lives are meaningful?” We drew on the feelings-as-information hypothesis to propose a functional approach to meaning in life, suggesting that feelings of meaning serve as sources of information regarding the presence of coherence in our environment.  Importantly, we proposed that this information is then used to direct processing and behavior in a manner that is suited for the characteristics of that environment.  This perspective highlights the adaptive importance of feelings of meaning by connecting people with the outside world.  We posited that we are motivated to experience life as meaningful because this feeling is survival relevant.

2. What tips do you have for students trying to publish their research?

Be sure to actually read the journals you think you want to publish in to get a sense for what types of papers they accept and whether your manuscript is a good fit. Talk about your work often before you submit it and be open to these early critiques. Be persistent without being defensively stubborn—don’t waste important reviewer feedback just because it stings a little.  Let yourself enjoy the good news when a paper is accepted! 

Bo Winegard, Florida State University

1. Tell us a bit about your research.

Some time ago, I was watching a treacly film about a grieving widow. It wasn’t great; but it was very effective. I was moved. Because I am philosopher by birth (or so I like to think), I began to ponder a question that film provoked: Why do humans grieve? Grieving is an apparently costly behavior, and it is not clear what all the anguish that accompanies grief accomplishes. The deceased is gone and cannot return. How, in a Darwinian world, did grief evolve? (Incidentally, this is how most if not all of my research ideas begin: watching bad films. Bad entertainment can be inspire good science!)

I began to read articles about grief and to bounce ideas off of people. One night, Tania Reynolds (one of my co-authors) and I were talking about social signaling. Possibly, grief was a social signal. It did seem remarkably similar to other social signals. It was costly and triggered by a reliable event; furthermore, others did seem to use grief as a guide to a person’s underlying capacities to form strong social bonds.  We expanded our idea, and then we challenged it with as many objections as we could contemplate.

This idea became the paper that was published in Personality and Social Psychology Review, entitled “Grief functions as an honest indicator of commitment.” In the article, we argued that grief is a social signal that honestly displays one’s underlying tendency and capacity to form strong social bonds with other humans; we then raised possible objections and attempted to address them; and finally, we laid out a series of predictions that future research test.


2. What tips do you have for students trying to publish their research?

Trying to publish research can be incredibly discouraging. Articles often get rejected. Important advice: do not get dejected! This happens to everyone. You have to accept and assimilate criticism, but believe in your ideas and keep submitting them. The greatest scientists get rejected. Perseverance is perhaps the most important virtue a young researcher can possess. The first article to which I contributed got rejected four times. The first author told me, "oh...we are definitely going to get rejected; don't get too down about it." His attitude was very important and helpful. I witnessed rejection after rejection; but he remained optimistic. And, at last, it got accepted to a very good journal. So, of course, work hard, write good articles—but, above all, do not let a rejection or two sink your spirits. Think of rejection as a necessary step on the path to publication! 

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