The Psychology Department kicked off April by hosting the Psychology Research Symposium at Weber State University. Roughly 200 people were in attendance, filling the Shepherd Union with psychology students, faculty and enthusiasts alike.

Leigh Shaw, a professor of psychology at WSU, said this was the first research symposium held by the psychology department.

“We wanted an opportunity to showcase the amazing work of our students,” Shaw said.

Student posters filled the ballrooms, covering research in topics such as empathetic responses, memory and childhood trauma.

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Blake Tubbs spoke with students about bullying during the Psychology Symposium on April 4. (Ariana Berkemeier / The Signpost)

Shaw said that each year, students in the psychology department work on research, practicums and capstones and that the event allowed these students to present their work in a local setting since many of the students presenting will be moving on to present in larger-scale settings later this month.

The psychology department has about 150 to 200 graduates per year.

“We wanted to be able to show some of the undergraduates what they can do in advanced psychology research,” Shaw said.

Megan Lee, a sophomore majoring in dental hygiene, took time out of her day to explore the symposium. Lee is currently enrolled in a child psychology course and said that she has always found psychology interesting.

“(Psychology is) something you can take for your degree but also applies to your life later on,” Lee said.

In addition to both oral and visual presentations, the symposium had a room dedicated to interactive demonstrations, mostly involving optical illusions.

Haley Pearce, a junior minoring in psychology, helped facilitate the demonstrations room. The room was filled with iPads that each had different optical illusions on screen.

“Everyone will be testing out how trippy their mind can be and how their mind can trick them into seeing something they’re not,” Pearce said.

One of the iPads showed a black and white spiral that appeared to be spinning. Participants were asked to stare at the center of the spiral for 30 seconds and then look into a small mirror. The result was that reflection in the mirror appeared to be warped and wavy for a few moments.

“Our minds are so complex,” Pearce said. “But it’s fun to see how, with that complexity, our minds can trick us.”

The symposium wrapped up with a keynote address from Kirk Thor about his own career in psychology.

“It’s nice to see students be able to bridge the gap from here to their careers,” Shaw said.

Thor graduated from WSU in 1988 with a degree in psychology. Thor spoke about the use of his psychology education in his work, including work done with various organizations like the NFL.

In addition to his own work, Thor also spoke to students about their futures beyond WSU.

“I think the most important thing is you have to find your passion,” Thor said. “Each of you has to find a way to make a difference.”

More information about upcoming psychology events or the psychology program at WSU can be found online.

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