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Phi Beta Kappa

Undergraduate Research Day

2017 Awards

Phi Beta Kappa Award for Integrative Excellence in the Liberal Arts ($1,000) to:

Jasper E. Hunt, “How Telling is Author Voice? Further Associations Between Personality and Writing”


Phi Beta Kappa Award for Excellence in the Liberal Arts ($500 each) to:

Sydney T. Stein, “Intertwining Origin Stories in How I Met Your Mother

Anne M. Chenchar, “The Use of Magic in Roman Sexuality”


Integrated category:

How Telling is Author Voice? Further Associations Between Personality and Writing
Jasper Hunt with Dr. Robin Barry; Psychology; University of Wyoming; Poster and Oral Presentation; Department of Psychology; Laramie, WY

Just as everyone has a unique personality, so too does everyone have a unique style of writing. The differences in writing styles are so pervasive that individuals’ writing styles persist across writings on different topics, and writing styles are distinguishable in samples from several different domains (e.g. academic publications, diary entries, and school assignments; Pennebaker & King, 1999). Indeed, the consistency of writing styles is on par with individuals’ responses to questionnaires (Pennebaker & King, 1999). Existing research into differences in writing style focuses largely on formal writing samples, such as letters (Broehl & McGee, 1981), published books (Foster, 1996), and the aforementioned academic publications, diary entries, and school assignments (Pennebaker & King, 1999). Yet these analyses do not capture the breadth of things people write. Individuals often write informally, as when they make notes to themselves. The present study aims to address this issue through a novel application of linguistic analysis, thereby supporting the ecological validity of studies examining associations between writing styles and personality characteristics. In this study, 86 cohabiting couples completed self-report questionnaires that assessed multiple personality characteristics. Each couple-member then wrote for 10 minutes about a time when they felt emotionally vulnerable, with many writing in list formats. Afterward, couples had conversations about their vulnerabilities and completed further questionnaires. Writing samples were later digitized and analyzed using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC; Pennebaker, Francis, & Booth, 2001) software. Finally, correlational analyses were used to examine the associations between individuals' writing tendencies and their personality characteristics.

Liberal Arts category:

Magic Use in Roman Sexual Performance
Anne Chenchar with Dr. Laura DeLozier; Classics; University of Wyoming; Oral presentation; UW Classics Program; Cheyenne, WY

The Roman civilization was incredibly dynamic as it grew and accepted new citizens over the years of its rule. Through the diversity of the culture Romans integrated superstition, and magic use into their society. Roman society put value on the ability to produce viable offspring, and be a competent sexual partner in marriage. Through the stress of this value, Romans who fell short sexually turned to magical practices to help heal them. This idea was so prominent in the society that Gaius Petronius wrote Satyricon a novel about a man and his journey of magical sexual healing. The goal of this project is to investigate the different magical practices that the Romans utilized to cure them of sexual dysfunction. Primary texts in translation from the Roman Empire were used as well as secondary scholarly articles to gain a better understanding of the practices used by the Romans. Magical use through spells and potions were examined, as well as the social aspects of magical use to increase sexual performance.

The Blue French Horn: Intertwining Origin Stories in How I Met Your Mother

Sydney Stein with Dr. Leah LeFebvre; Communication and Journalism; University of Wyoming; Oral presentation; Honors; Breckenridge, CO

This study investigates the intertwining origin stories in the television show, How I Met Your Mother. The TV show follows the main character, Ted Mosby, as he tells his future children about his search for their mother with the help of his best friends – a commonly asked relationship question. While minimal research regarding origin stories exists, this popularized show enables a wider audience and room for investigation. Therefore, this study bases its conceptualization from Sternberg (1986), who proposed love be portrayed in triangles encompassing intimacy, passion and decision/commitment. Through application of intersecting love stories in How I Met Your Mother, origin story research will be expanded to include fictional familial and romantic love. Ted, the narrator, tells the story of how he met the mother to his future children to reaffirm his love for the Mother, while subtly using it to position himself close to another main character, Robin. The narrative analysis demonstrates key components of non-fictional love in a fictional analysis and allows the audience to explore the antenarrative in which Ted re-lives his husband-wife origin story and explores how he ignited a flame for an old love.

2016 Abstracts

Birdsong, Music, and Value Judgments

Catherine Cloetta and Dr. Jonathan Prather

Department of Zoology and Physiology

University of Wyoming

Oral Presentation

Honors Jackson, WY

Can birdsong be classified as music? This is a question posed by ornithologists and musicologists alike, and one that integrates the disciplines of science and philosophy in its quest for an answer. The task of answering such a question is complicated by the broad spectrum of behavior that is birdsong and the lack of an indisputable definition of music. After examining the essentials of music and the basics of birdsong, I observed significant parallels between the two. The question, “Is birdsong music?” is ultimately subjective. How does one make such a judgment? When listening to music, it doesn’t take long to start tapping a foot, or conversely, hit the “skip” button. In this short period, there is undoubtedly an intricate network of synapses that play their part in integrating external experience and motor action. Birds also make judgments, not with regard to whether birdsong is music, but to whether they value a particular song. Our lab is embarking on an optogenetic study of the avian brain (specifically the caudal mesopallium, where there are high-order sensory neurons specialized for processing song features) to understand how female Bengalese finches (Lonchura striata domestica) assign value to their male counterparts on the basis of song alone. The circuitry that underlies song preference demonstrated by female Bengalese finches may provide insight into the value judgments made by human beings, if only to the slightest degree. Deciphering this aspect of human cognition could shed light on how we answer such philosophical inquiries as, “Is birdsong music?”


Understanding the Human-Elephant Conflict in India: A First-hand Perspective

Anne N. Reed1, Dr. Ramesh Sivanpillai2

1. Department of Zoology and Physiology, 2. Department of Botany & WyGISC

University of Wyoming

Oral presentation

Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources Cheyenne, WY

UW Center for Global Studies

Numerous incidents of human-elephant conflict occur in India, especially in ecological hotspots. In Southern India there are many conflicts that occur between the wildlife and humans, however, one of the largest, in terms of impact, which has been escalating since the 1980s is the human-elephant conflict. Loss of habitat due to fragmentation and land conversion are forcing the elephants into urban areas in search of food and water. Elephants raid crop fields and farmers have been trying various approaches such as digging trenching and erecting electric fences to prevent these animals from destroying their livelihood. Following a literature-based research, we visited Coimbatore, India in summer 2015. Talking to stakeholders and witnessing these sites in person provided insights about the magnitude of this problem, and how it is impacting human lives. This presentation will highlight the first-hand knowledge gained from visiting this conflict zone.


Pip’s Spatial Education in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations

Roslyn Fleming

Michael Edson

English Department

University of Wyoming

Oral Presentation

English Honors Program Ringoes, New Jersey

The concept of “spatial education” explains character actions and transformations in literary texts. In Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1861), the main character Pip observes how people function in different environments, thereby learning that certain behaviors, attitudes, and interactions proliferate in each space and in the process, learning that his own expectations of environments need to be modified. Although scholars have discussed spaces’ representation and how spaces and characters reflect one another, it is important also to understand how physical spaces foster particular interactions and behaviors that disrupt ascriptions of class identities/characteristics to those spaces. When we study the interactions, spaces, and characters of certain locations, we recognize Pip’s changing expectations and behaviors that allow him to successfully operate in each space. Pip’s observations of the interactions at the workplace and home of Jaggers, the London lawyer, and the physical appearances of these spaces evade Pip’s expectations of what it means to live/work in London. In contrast to Jaggers’s office is Pip’s residences, Barnard’s Inn and the Temple, which reveal Pip’s learning process of what it means to be a London gentleman, as he adopts certain behaviors and fashions his homes in particular styles. Pip’s experiences at the class-ambiguous marshes, raise expectations that the London gentlemen class live in environments that mirror their socioeconomic standing. However, Pip’s spatial education in the novel demonstrates a person’s qualities cannot be deduced by their class association nor can class identity be assumed by one’s possessions and behaviors.

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