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Human Development and Psychology Lab

The Human Development and Psychopathology lab was founded in 2020 by Matt and Zach as a way to get students more involved in research at USI. Our goal was to give students experience that would benefit them in the pursuit of their careers, whether that be via graduate school, mental healthcare, or otherwise. 

What Do We Research?

Social cognition is a broad category describing how people make judgements and decisions, and more broadly how they think, in social situations or about social stimuli. I am interested in theory of mind and empathy, specifically. I want to better understand how people understand one another, how we predict what others are thinking and feeling, and whether we are any good at it.

Current Projects:

  • How adverse childhood experiences are related to theory of mind
  • Designing a measure to reflect the experiences of the autism community- P.I. Bentley Pfingston
  • Testing the double empathy problem, that current measures of theory of mind don't accurately capture empathy in individuals on the autism spectrum and misrepresent the capability of allistic individuals - P.I. Bentley Pfingston & Jillian Walker

Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, describe a variety of circumstances children may experience at home, school, or elsewhere. ACEs have been related to many negative health outcomes later in life, like a higher risk of mental illness and various physical diseases. Our lab is interested in exploring this relationship as it relates to historically underrepresented groups, like first generation college students and Black college students who have personally experienced racism. 

Current ACEs Projects:

  • How ACEs are related to depression and anxiety while controlling emotional regulation
  • How resilience is influences the relationship between ACES and mental health outcomes
  • ACEs and the exclusion Black experiences, how racism, resilience, and mental health are interrelated - P.I. Mikaila Ealum

This area of research is special to me. It is the only research area of mine that benefits everyone involved in a direct and tangible way. Peer-mentors are students who have succeeded in RMS classes who agree to work with me to help their peers succeed. There is ample research showing that peer-mentors improve student success, increase retention and graduation rates, and other great things. It gives the mentor new skills for graduate study or employment, gives the students more resources, and gives me a help in the classroom. 

Current Projects

  • What domains are our peer-mentors succeeding in? Psychological support, academic support, degree support? Do they do as well as faculty in these domains?
  • What qualities makes a mentor? How do they score on empathy measures or other similar metrics? 

Get involved today!