Students Present Research at Annual Conference

May 29, 2024

Three Eastern psychology undergraduates recently presented their research findings in symposia presentations at the 2024 Rocky Mountain Psychological Association’s annual conference. 

“It is competitive,” Jillene Seiver, senior lecturer and associate chair of the psychology department, said of the selection process that led to the students’ conference participation. “Symposia needs to be interesting and meaningful to be chosen.” Seiver began taking students to this conference in 2019, and their first symposium presentation was accepted in 2020.

Eastern’s students, Ray Orthmann, Terreca Defehr and Victoria Layden, chose their own research topic, collected data and designed PowerPoint presentations to explain the significance of their findings. 

Their symposium talk, “Balancing It All and Feeling Good About It,” discussed executive functioning, which is a set of cognitive processes necessary for the control of behavior.  

Ray Orthmann studied the role of executive dysfunction as it relates to happiness. “Executive dysfunction relates to a person’s ability and skills to function in life, including initiation, task switching, focusing, and many more,” Orthmann said. “I wanted to look at individuals with a high level of executive dysfunction and a high level of happiness, then look at their personality.” 

Orthmann was interested in this research because prior studies suggest “happy” individuals have a particular behavior profile. But Orthmann hypothesized that individuals with high levels of executive dysfunction might prove an exception to these previous findings.

While Orthmann’s work related executive function to personality, Victoria Layden investigated its relation to learning comprehension. 

“I chose my research topic after noticing two key trends in online learning and video content,” she said “First, I observed the increasing utilization of video-based learning in education, especially with the rise of online courses. Second, I noticed that many platforms now offer options to adjust the playback speed of videos, giving users more control over their learning experience. These observations led me to question how the ability to adjust video playback speed impacts learning outcomes and user engagement.” 

Layden’s research began in 2023 after she received the Len Stern Student Research Award, which provided her with a grant. The grant covered part of the conference cost, in combination with funds granted by the psychology department. Layden eventually discovered that increasing the video speed by 2x “did not significantly decrease performance on a follow-up quiz.”

The contributions of Terreca Defehr, one of Eastern’s 2023-2024 McNair scholars, served as a bridge between the work of Orthmann and Layden. 

“I was interested in self-worth and work-life balance,” Defehr said. Her research found a positive correlation between personal view of paid work and individuals’ core-self evaluation results. 

“I want to thank Dr. Seiver and the McNair Scholar program for their support in introducing me to the world of research and changing the trajectory of my educational goals,” said Defehr. 

Thanks to their conference participation, each of these seniors are now equipped with the experience of presenting research at a conference with over 1,500 attendees — an experience they will use as they pursue master’s degrees. 

“Dr. Seiver was a wonderful mentor and guided me through the whole process,” Orthmann said. “The whole psychology department is ready to help you with advice or bits of knowledge.”