From the effect of social media on Pacific cultural identity to the reason the moon looks bigger on the horizon than in the sky, last week’s Psychology poster session showcased the wide range of questions that Waikato’s honours students have worked hard to answer this year.
Organised by Professor Maryanne Garry and PhD student Andrea Taylor, the poster session was an opportunity for Psychology students to present their research in an authentic scientific format while also reaching a wide audience. Presenting to academics, students and supporters, the students were challenged to explain their research in plain English, easily understood by anyone.
Fourth-year student Aurand Tou’s research focused on the relationship between Facebook usage and the self-esteem and cultural identity of Pacific students at the University of Waikato. He found that students who used Facebook more had stronger cultural identities, suggesting a positive relationship between Facebook use and Pacific students' cultural identities.
Aurand says the poster session was one of the highlights of his academic journey. “It was an opportunity to learn a lot about my research and myself. It was a great experience for me and I enjoyed sharing my passions and research with friends and family who have supported me.”
Kayla Jordan presented her research on the effect of traumatic events on memory. She was surprised to find that there was little scientific evidence to support the common assumption that memories of traumatic events are uniquely fragmented and missing important details.
“We found that even shortly after viewing a traumatic event, people's memories were not fragmented or less coherent than people’s memories of positive events,” Kayla says. “This finding goes against the widespread assumption that people’s memories of traumatic experiences are uniquely incoherent.”
Daniel Lett’s research focus was the “moon illusion” – the optical illusion that makes the moon appear larger on the horizon than when it is higher in the sky. Daniel replicated the illusion using virtual reality to test the theory that the moon illusion is caused by our perception of the dome in the sky.
“I found that perceptions of the sky dome’s shape varied between people, which suggests we all conceptualise the world differently to each other.”
Daniel says that, despite his initial reservations about the poster session, it was a great confidence boost.
“The idea was daunting at first, but after practising in and out of class, I felt very calm it. The poster session made me realise how much I knew about my topic – It wasn't until I was talking to people who didn't know the area that I could see just how much I have learnt this year.”
Professor Garry was pleased with the depth of knowledge among the students. “The event was like an incubator. It was an opportunity to provide honours students – our best and brightest future researchers – with the resources they need to develop and grow. It was great to see the wide range of puzzling questions the students have worked to solve,” she says.