by Bonnie Butcher and Kate Croxton
The University of West Georgia is sending 24 students with the Honors College to the 30th annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR). The conference
takes place at the University of North Carolina in Asheville, from April 7 to April
9. Of the 24 students, 18 will present their research abstracts.
NCUR is an interdisciplinary conference where students represent their colleges and universities and present their research and creative works in oral, poster, and performance or visual arts presentation. It was a competitive selection process for the students; over 4,000 submissions were sent in. The research topics cover more than 10 different disciplines including biology, communications, criminology, English, history, marketing, physics, political science, psychology, and sustainability.
Nicole Mann, Ka’Mariah Latimore, and Heather Rodriguez are three of the 18 students.
Nicole’s abstract, titled “The Connections between Interoception and Empathy,” is a psychology based research project. Her interest began when the topic of interoception was introduced in a psychology class. Through the class, Nicole became aware of the emotional self, and interoception helped make it easier to understand other people and their emotions.
“It was easier to empathize with others,” explained Nicole. “Being the skeptic that I am, I was curious if I was making these changes up in my head or if there was a biological truth. So my research began.”
Nicole researched biological happenings of interoception, which she defined as the perception of sensations from inside the body and includes the perception of physical sensations related to internal organ functions. She discovered that the right anterior insula (AIC) and the cingulate cortices were responsible for the neurological causes of interoception. However, the AIC is also responsible for creating empathy, which Nicole defined as the ability to enter into the life of another person and to accurately perceive his or her current feelings and their meanings. With this understanding, her research then included connections between interoception and empathy.
In her studies, Nicole noticed that the AIC activated when it imitated or observed other people’s emotions. However, in interoception, the AIC instead processed memories, controlled motor responses and behaviors that interact with other people.
“When viewing the interconnectedness of both interoception and empathy through the process of the AIC, one can see that both interoception and empathy are intertwined,” said Nicole.
Nicole hopes her research can help people understand not only themselves but other people, too. Understanding interoception and empathy can help enhance the quality of personal relationships.
“In a world where technology has become a large portion of our lives, many times our personal relationships suffer,” said Nicole. “Through my research, one can see how interoception is needed to understand oneself and others. When comprehension has been reached, people can then begin to understand the emotions of others.”
On the other hand, Ka’Mariah’s research abstract “Does Religion Involvement have an effect on Confidence in the Legal System?” focuses on criminology. She began her research for a criminology class and specifically studied the relationship between faith and religion in the criminal justice system.
“I wanted to find some new and fresh information and hopefully inspire some other researchers to examine the relationship between three variables in a more strategic, more in-depth way,” explained Ka’Mariah.
She received her data from the West Georgia Area Survey. She then took the data and ran it through SPSS 19 to determine the relationship between three variables: religious attendance, confidence in the legal system, and trust in police in the local community.
Her research then yielded interesting results.
“Through OLS regression, I found out that religious attendance has a negative and significant relationship with both confidence in the legal system and trust in the police in the local community,” said Ka’Mariah. “In other words, the more active a person is in their religion, the less faith they will have in the local courts and police.”
Though her research offered negative results, Ka’Mariah hopes that it can gain the attention of other scholars and researchers so they can further explain the relationship and why the three variables interact the way that they do.
“I also think that the research can assist the local courts and police on how to gain back trust,” explained Ka’Mariah. “In order to rebuild trust in the system, one must first identify those who distrust the system.”
Heather’s research, titled “Transforming September 11, 2001 in Georgia: An Oral History Project,” began in a public history course on September 11. The class engaged in a discussion about their individual experiences of that day in history. Heather’s curiosity grew as she heard her classmates’ stories and recognized themes among the group.
“I was inspired to look into the experiences of school children around Georgia and see how the attacks on September 11, 2001 impacted their school experience,” said Heather.
Heather conducted an oral history project interviewing people in Georgia who were between the ages of six and 18 at the time, as well as parents or caregivers of children at the time. In her research she also included newspaper pieces from the time that focused on the children’s experience of September 11.
Heather found that younger children’s primary resource of information about September 11 was their parents and caretakers.
“Most provided younger, elementary age children with simple accounts of the attacks, often breaking down the attacks into moral terms of good and bad,” she said. “While it does appear that parents, caregivers, and schools provided little information for children and teenagers, they instead provided children and teenagers with patriotic values.”
This patriotism took many forms including veneration of those perceived to be on the front lines, attachment to national symbols, and aversion to any actions that could be considered dissent against the government or against national interest.
“Solidarity was also highly promoted during the months following September 11,” said Heather. “Georgia was not unique in its endeavor to shield children and teenagers and in using patriotism to promote government and military support.”