Research Opportunities Psychology

Human brain Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Research is a key component of the work faculty do in the Department of Psychology, and almost all of their research is done in collaboration with students – both undergraduate and graduate students.

Our Faculty Research

Take a look at the research currently taking place in the department of psychology and the faculty who are leading these projects.

ecook@ric.edu 

Developmental Psychology

Research Interest: Cook explores adolescent risk factors and trajectories of antisocial behavior. Her study uses national data sets to examine the influence of risk factors during adolescence on trajectories of antisocial behavior into adulthood.

Cook is also investigating developmental stressors, physiological reactivity and adolescent risk behavior. Her study examines gender differences in parent-child relationships and peer competency on adolescents' stress reactivity and risk behavior in a community sample of adolescents. To learn more, visit the Adolescent Parent Peer Lab
 

adottolo@ric.edu

Social Psychology

Research Interest: Dottolo’s research explores how social identities are constructed and maintained, and the ways they are shaped by social and institutional structures. Her work in feminist psychology centers on race, class, gender, sexuality and qualitative research methods. 
 

bgoldfield@ric.edu

Developmental Psychology

Research Interest: Goldfield’s interest is in early language development. She examines word comprehension in 14-to-18-month-olds. Using an eye tracker, she compares visual attention on two objects (ex., truck / fish) or two actions (ex., jump / dance) before and after one of the items is labeled (ex., "Look at the truck" or "Look at her jump"). This research is funded by a grant from the Rhode Island IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence.

klacasse@ric.edu

Social and Environmental Psychology

Research Interest: Lacasse is broadly interested in understanding the motivations behind people's concern and willingness to take action to address social problems. Much of her work is conducted in interdisciplinary teams, integrating ideas and methods from several fields to generate new approaches to studying environmental issues.

Current lines of research focus on:

  • How performing pro-environmental behaviors can impact people's self-perceptions and their political attitudes regarding climate change. She also examines the unintended consequences or “spillover effects” of environmental behavior and attitude change interventions.
  • The role of emotional, cognitive and social processes in perceptions of risk surrounding climate change, renewable energy technologies and medical advances.
  • Integrating human behavioral feedbacks into the modeling of the climate and local ecological systems.
     

gladd@ric.edu

Developmental Psychology/Addiction Studies

Research Interest: Ladd is engaged in a cross-sectional (by age) investigation of adolescents' perceptions of scratch ticket images. His research explores if there are developmental differences in how adolescents perceive scratch tickets. The Gambling Studies Project.

tmalloy@ric.edu

Social Psychology

Research Interest: Malloy is interested in the Intergroup Relations Model (IRM), which predicts that intergroup behavior is most proximally caused by intergroup emotion, which is itself caused by ethnocentrism (ex., a belief that one's own group is superior to other groups) and negative out-group stereotypes. Thus, the IRM is a mediational model in which cognitive processes determine affect that, in turn, causes intergroup behavior. Malloy’s experiments will yield data for adequate testing of the theoretical predictions of the IRM. This research is funded by a grant from the Rhode Island IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence.

cmarco@ric.edu

Research Interest: Marco’s interest is in the Young Adolescent Sleep-Smart Pacesetter Program. Her research is funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

rmontvilo@ric.edu

Addiction Studies

Research Interest: Montvilo is conducting an Internet-based addiction counselor education study. Despite government initiatives to use evidence-based research in substance abuse treatment, the transmission of research to practicing behavioral health professionals has been limited. Although some Internet-learning addiction education programs exist, no Internet-based learning modality currently addresses the evidence-based treatment of individuals with co-occurring addiction disorders and medical problems. In an effort to bridge the gap between research and the evidence-based treatment knowledge of community-based practitioners, the Internet-Based Addiction Counselor Education Study (IBACES) will: 

  • Develop and implement a pilot demonstration of an innovative Internet-based program for initially training Chemical Dependency/Addiction Studies (CDAS) students and later community-based practitioners.
  • Disseminate current knowledge about the addiction counseling competencies of professional practice and examine their impact on state certification for chemical dependency counseling.
  • Conduct a randomized, controlled trial to measure knowledge transfer and preparation using the Internet.

This research is funded by a grant from the Rhode Island IDeA Network for Biomedical Research Excellence. 
 

kobrien@ric.edu

Neuropsychology

Research Interest: O’Brien is interested in acute and chronic stress; in particular, social stress on health, cognition and overall well-being. Her current project investigates microaggressions on epigenetic changes in the major stress systems. Broadly, she is investigating:

The autonomic nervous system, including cardiovascular and neuroendocrine (cortisol, oxytocin, testosterone) parameters.

  • EEG on emotion regulation, vigilance and social engagement.
  • Intergenerational effects of stress on epigenetic changes (DNA).
  • Stress associated with intergroup interactions: chronic social devaluation, implicit biases.
  • Social emotion processing via GSR (ex., shame, pride, empathy) in shaping appraisal and behavior (ex., social identity, self-esteem, bias, moral judgments, relationship formation and maintenance).

To learn more, visit their Facebook page.  
 

jspas@ric.edu

Clinical Psychology: Behavioral Medicine and Addiction Studies

Research Interests: Spas is interested in developing and testing innovative interventions that target multiple behavior change. More specifically, by targeting smoking, alcohol misuse, unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyles – the most prominent lifestyle risk factors for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus and some cancers – his goal is to help elucidate the science of multiple behavior change while simultaneously promoting health, wellness and disease prevention.

msumeracki@ric.edu

Cognitive Psychology

Research Interest: Sumeracki’s research focuses on retrieval-based learning strategies as a way to improve long-term and meaningful learning in STEM disciplines. Her projects include investigating ways to optimize retrieval as a learning technique, investigating retrieval-based learning in younger populations of students and examining whether individual differences interact with the effectiveness of retrieval-based learning styles.

dsugarman@ric.edu

Social Psychology

Research Interests: The anointed. According to the Pew Institute, Americans are generally accepting of religious diversity. But what happens when an extremely small group pronounces a theology that stands outside these acceptable limits and behaves in a manner that directly confronts the community's religious and secular norms? Sugarman’s multi-phase investigation examines, via in-depth interviews, members of a small sect and the reactions of the community in which the group resides. 

Sugarman is also exploring patriarchic ideology and partner violence. A continuing debate within the area of partner violence research is on whether patriarchy theory adequately accounts for this phenomenon and whether relationship violence is associated with other factors that this model does not propose. One component of patriarchy theory is its associated ideology (ex., conservative sex-role norms, positive attitudes toward violence use). Over the past 15 years, a myriad of studies have investigated this relationship. A quantitative literature review is needed to summarize what we know and do not know about this association. Do we find this ideology/violence relationship with married partners only or do we find that it arises in dating violence? Does the level of the violence severity moderate this association? Does the source of the sample (ex., clinical versus community) constitute a moderator variable?