Today at Sam Articles

This article appeared in Today@Sam, May 2, 2002

Professors Share Research Results

Several psychology students and faculty from SHSU participated in the Southwestern Psychological Association's annual meeting in Corpus Christi April 18-20.

Edward Clouser and Rowland Miller presented data from their research on close relationships, "Music Preferences and Satisfaction and Commitment in Romantic Couples."

Deborah Olson, Marsha Harman, and A. Jerrry Bruce exhibited their research entitled, "Romantic Relationship Satisfaction: Adult Attachment and Fear of Intimacy."


Matt Menefee, Thomas Kordinak, Bruce and Harman presented some of their results from a psychology of religion research project, "Religious Pluralism, Religious Activity, and Use of Religious Coping."

Harman and Bruce also conducted a three-hour continuing education workshop on "Intervening with Bullies and Their Prey."

Christopher Wilson presented a paper along with a video segment on research conducted in his lab on the topic, "Naloxone Exacerbates Ketamine-Induced Hyperactivity in Rats." Those who had assisted in conducting this research with Wilson were Maria Meshell, Jenny Maisel, Jeffery Smith, Michelle Manley and Kelly Clone.

Dr. Wilson

This article appeared in Today@Sam, April 9, 2000

Embarrassment Expert

Rowland Miller, professor of psychology at Sam Houston State University, is a foremost expert on embarrassment. One of his most recent credits is in the "It's a Fact" department in the April issue of Reader's Digest.

Miller photo
Answering the question, "Why do people blush when they are embarrassed?" Miller says that blushing may be a symbolic, nonverbal way of acknowledging a mistake and seeking forgiveness.

"You can't fake a blush, and you can't control it," Miller is quoted as saying. "Blushing allows us to offer an authentic apology."

The article explains that when you become embarrassed the brain sends signals that cause blood vessels in the face, ears and neck to expand, and receive more blood--resulting in a blush.

Article published, July 17, 2001 in Today@Sam

Sam Houston State Psychology Professors
Do Ear Research

Sim Hearing Research Photo

Saying just the right thing to a loved one to trigger a pleasant, heartfelt response is not always an easy thing to do. Sometimes, words of love can go in one ear of the person and straight out the other.

Thanks to research done by two psychology professors at Sam Houston State University, the answer to such a dilemma might be as easy as left and right.

According to a recent study conducted by Teow-Chong Sim and Carolyn Martinez, sweet nothings are best whispered into your sweetheart's left ear. Emotional words, the research suggested, get through to people better when spoken through the left ear.

The results of the study are consistent with the findings of earlier investigations on the role of the right hemisphere of the brain in the processing of emotional information. Past studies have shown that the left-hemisphere is the center for language and the right-hemisphere is responsible for non-language functions such as visuo-spatial tasks, music, and emotion.

Sim and Martinez concluded their findings after an experiment using 62 participants from general psychology classes at Sam Houston State, all of whom received extra credit towards the course grade for their participation.

The method and objectives of the study were explained to each participant before the experiment began. Each person then was given a set of headphones to listen to sets of words. Each set consisted of an emotion word on one ear and a non-emotion word on the other ear in a random pattern.

Both words in each pair had an equal number of syllables and were synchronized to begin and end at the same moment. There were eight trials, and each trial consisted of six sets of words with a one second gap between sets. The first two trials were practice trials. There were equal numbers of emotion and non-emotion words.

After listening to the word pairs, each participant was asked to solve 25 sets of simple arithmetic problems of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Finally, they were instructed to recall the words they had heard a few moments earlier. The results showed a left-ear advantage for emotional words.

The pair's research has received attention from media all over the world. USA Today, CNN, National Public Radio, as well as radio stations from South Africa and Bogota, Columbia have all run details of the study. Recently, Sim was interviewed by "Voice of America," a radio show out of Washington D.C. that is broadcast overseas as well as in America.

Articles have also appeared in news publications in Germany, Italy, and Australia.

"My co-researcher, Carolyn Martinez, and I were surprised at the world wide coverage of our study," said Sim. "We are planning on expanding the study to include other populations such as the clinical and cross-cultural population.

"We are also planning on using some other forms of auditory stimuli such as nonverbal cues that may connote emotions," he added. "The focus will continue to be on brain organization."

Sim said a manuscript of the experiment is nearing completion and will be submitted for publication in a cognitive psychology journal.

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Article published August 22, 2006, in Today@Sam

Prof Says Anxiety Has No Impact On Baby's Health

A Sam Houston State University psychology professor has found that women who worry during their pregnancies are not endangering their newborn's health.

That question has yielded conflicting results for more than 40 years and was recently sorted out by Heather Littleton, assistant professor of psychology, while doing her post-doctorate fellowship.

"There were a number of reasons hypothesized why a woman's anxiety symptoms during pregnancy-so things like feeling tense, worried, keyed up-(why) having those physiological symptoms would be associated with negative perinatal outcomes of pregnancy," she said. "However, researchers in the field disagreed on whether there was any relationship between anxiety and negative perinatal outcome."

What Littleton and her co-researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston found was that anxiety during pregnancy doesn't appear to raise the risk of low birth weight, long labor or other negative outcomes.

This conclusion, based on a meta analysis of more than 50 studies spanning the years of 1963 to 2005 and including a combined total of more than 15,000 mothers, has received national attention, appearing in such outlets as in the health section of the New York Times, WebMD, Yahoo News, and UPI, as well as at least one medical journal.

"We were able to find studies that assess several perinatal outcomes: intensive labor, use of analgesia during labor, gestational age at birth, Apgar score (which rates the general health of a newborn), and neonatal weight," Littleton said. "Those were the five outcomes that were assessed in enough studies for us to include; at least three studies have been published looking at what their anxiety symptoms associated with that particular outcome.

"What we found was that there really were no significant relationships between anxiety and any of those five outcomes," she said.

Heather Littleton photo The group analyzed studies from all over the U.S. and Europe, "anything that was written in English," Littleton said, which included unpublished studies such as students' dissertations.

"Something else we also found that strengthens our results is that studies that have larger samples of women and studies that use measure of anxiety symptoms that have more empirical support were the ones that were most likely to find no relationship," she said.

While general anxiety was found to have no effect on the outcome of pregnancies, anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder, as well as certain outcomes such as pre-eclampsia, were not included in the Littleton's research due to the lack of information on those topics.

"Those are a couple of key ones (outcomes) that have been hypothesized to be associated with anxiety but haven't been studied enough for us to include them," she said.

Littleton said she thinks the research has attracted so much media attention because of the lack of knowledge and agreement on the topic.

"In general, there has been a lack of research on women's health issues and that instead, I think practitioners have been guided by a lot of anecdotal information or clinical lore, as opposed to doing actual clinical investigation," she said.

Littleton , who joined SHSU's faculty this fall, said she had previously focused her studies primarily on sexual assault among women and body image issues but hopes to continue looking into perinatal issues associated with stress.

She received her doctorate in clinical psychology in 2004 from Virginia Tech before spending the past two years completing her post-doctorate fellowship.

Among Littleton 's current projects, she is working with several SHSU graduate students to do a meta analysis on how people cope with traumatic events and whether that is related to the distress they experience after trauma.



Article published April 24, 2008, in Today@Sam

Harman To Direct Professional And Academic Center For Excellence

Marsha J. Harman

Sam Houston State University will soon be setting the PACE when it comes to excellence in teaching and learning. Beginning this fall SHSU faculty, staff and students will be asked to pick up the PACE. PACE yourself or you'll fall behind.


Despite the bad puns (above), SHSU administrators have decided that a Professional and Academic Center for Excellence (PACE) is a good idea.


Marsha J. Harman, professor of psychology and philosophy, will direct the program, with partial release time from teaching duties. Harman's appointment is effective at the beginning of the fall 2008 semester. Program offices will be in the Humanities and Social Sciences Building.


David Payne, SHSU provost and vice president for academic affairs, made the appointment after a task force study that began in December 2005. Harman chaired the task force, and in a report on their findings reported several conclusions:



"The ideal is that faculty members and teaching assistants will collaborate with PACE to improve teaching at the university," said Harman.

"We are particularly targeting new faculty who may not have taught at the university previously."


Harman said the program will also be open to working with established faculty who want to be more innovative, and will use those faculty members who have already been identified as excellent teachers as examples.


"One goal is to study more closely those instructors who have won Excellence in Teaching Awards to gain insight into what makes their teaching excellent," she said.


Programming will not end with faculty, however.


"All of us comprise the university," Harman said. "We are less able to provide the array of services if even one entity is lacking."


This includes involvement of students and staff.


"Particularly for staff, we want to offer continuing education opportunities to improve skills and job satisfaction," she said. "Student and staff feedback will be essential in planning specific seminars for all entities. So we want to make sure students and staff are on advisory boards."


Harman has taught at Sam Houston State since 1994 and worked in Counseling Services at SHSU for two years prior to that. She has also worked at Lamar University, Montana State University, the University of Houston, where she earned bachelor's and doctoral degrees, and in public schools.


Members of the task force included Mark Adams, Karen Escobar, Bill Fleming, Tatiana Gonzalez, Mark Klespis, Phillip Morris, Dana Nicolay, Keri Rogers, Cindy Simpson, Victoria Titterington and James Van Roekel.


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SHSU Media Contacts: Frank Krystyniak
April 24, 2008
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