BYU–Hawaii psychology students present at national convention

Friday, 12 June 2009

April Courtright | University Relations | 12 June 2009

Extensive research fueled by the effects of lip color and lipstick on perceptions of attractiveness in women qualified BYU–Hawaii psychology students for the twenty-first annual Association for Psychological Science convention in San Francisco, California, this past May; this experiment was patterned to a similar version previously done at Harvard University. Coupled with their perception of attractiveness experiment, BYU–Hawaii students also presented on personal sacrifice in genetic and social ingroups and outgroups, utilizing the Harvard Implicit Association Test to accurately measure prejudice. This is the third time BYU–Hawaii students were able to attend this convention, and, noted Dr. Ronald Miller, this convention is where you can find the future scientists of the world. (Attendees pictured above; back row: Thomas Dearden, Dr. Ronald Miller, Lacey Goforth, Alexa Kiene, Yoko Tsui; front row: Shelley Winward, Valeria Jaramillo, Sunny Griffin, Ofa Hafoka, Kazumi Yasutani)

Dr. Miller has been working on the perception of attractiveness and social-grouping projects for some time, and students working with Dr. Miller as acting research assistants were able to get involved as well. For Dr. Miller the question has always been whether or not undergraduate students do the kind of research that qualifies them for the convention—and the answer is yes.

The Association for Psychological Science is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing scientific psychology at both the national and international level. The program unites psychological researchers and academics, and covers the entire spectrum of innovative research in psychological science. (

There were nine BYU–Hawaii students that were able to attend. Other students who had worked on the projects previously were also credited with the results.

Also in attendance at the convention were speakers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford and Oxford universities, and other notable attendants.

Shelly Winward, a junior from California, found the whole experience helpful. She was able to meet with experts in their respective fields, ask them questions, and then attend classes that outlined graduate school preparation.

Lacey Goforth, a senior from Bend, Oregon, felt it was quite the experience to present alongside colleagues from Harvard, Columbia, and other Ivy League schools. The two projects BYU–Hawaii students presented were based on theories of evolutionary psychology, and, because of that, they were able to share their views about attending a Christian school and attest that Mormons can be good scientists too.

Thomas Dearden, from Cincinnati, Ohio, remarked that the most interesting thing happened to him after their research presentation on the (Harvard-based) Implicit Association Test. They had developed an argument against the test, showing that it was more subjective than most people thought, so afterwards a Harvard professor approached him and for ten minutes grilled him about the design. After the Harvard professor reviewed listed arguments others had come up with against the test, he stated, 'Well, keep up the good work,' and walked away. The students' ability to make an impression with a study that went against Harvard's original arguments was exhilarating.

--Photo courtesy of Yoko H. W. Tsui