February 8, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 34°F


Ithaca College seniors present at psychology symposium

After working to complete the research requirements for their majors, seniors Rebecca Post and Stephanie Miller were invited to present their findings on word recognition in young children at the Young Researchers in Developmental Psychology symposium in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The two students made their mark at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention by being not only among the top five developmental psychology papers, but also the only undergraduate students invited to share their findings.

“We took the initiative to submit our abstract for a poster first, then it was selected, among other posters to be in the symposium,” Post said.“We didn’t realize what a big deal it was until we got there.”

Under the guidance of Nancy Rader, professor of psychology, the duo delved into the minds of infants and toddlers aged nine to 15 months. In their research, Miller and Post used the size of pupil dilation as a measure of heightened attention — innovation currently uncommon to the world of psychology.

With the help of optic sensors and other video-recording technology, Miller and Post constructed a test center within the Ithaca College Cognition Lab. In this lab, the students objectively recorded data in real time. Miller led the duo in data analysis, giving them the evidence to support their thesis that sounds and gestures must be used in tandem for optimal word recognition in young children.

To test this thesis, children were seated in front of a television screen, with a video introduction of various objects to identify. In one video, a gesture that corresponded to the item was made, while a non-related gesture was made in the other, with the optic sensor measuring the dilation of the children’s pupils and a camcorder recording the experiments from behind the television.

From this research, they were able to first prove that a child’s attention is controlled by the speaker’s gestures while introducing a new object to them. According to Post, this paves the way for further exploration into sound-gesture association and studies into how this information could have an impact on the educational system and teaching methods employed.

“It can be very applicable to parents who have children,” Miller said. “Maybe some of us who are working with children outside of school can take some of the stuff we’re learning and apply it that way.”

Though they are not currently working on this project, Post and Miller already have plans in place for publishing their findings in a research paper this semester. Post and Miller will continue to collaborate with Rader, who said she is impressed not only by their outstanding achievements but by the effort they put into getting themselves there.