Dr. Mark Sibicky, McCoy Professor of Psychology, was recently named the William Van Law Plankey Professor.

Dr. Mark Miller, Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, made the announcement.

The Plankey Professorship endowment provides faculty with resources to assist in their research projects with undergraduate students. Sibicky will begin his term in this position at the start of the 2015 academic year.

“One of my favorite things about teaching at Marietta College is the opportunity to work closely with undergraduate students on research,” Sibicky said. “My research keeps me connected to the field I love, but by involving undergraduates I also have the opportunity to teach in ways not always possible inside a classroom.”

Sibicky and Dr. Chris Klein recently established a social cognition lab in the Psychology Department that will constitute the hub of the student-assisted research projects.

Sibicky’s excitement about this addition is evident.

“First it allows me to systematically pursue my research on the influence of lay person’s belief systems about human nature (e.g. free will, mind-body dualism),” he said. “Second, the lab affords me the opportunity to attract and work closely with a number of undergraduate students (and several graduate students).”

Sibicky is interested in researching people’s beliefs about human beings and how these beliefs influence social and cognitive behavior. Sometimes called “folk psychology” it involves, in part, studying how lay people use their own implicit theories of psychology to understand themselves and others.

Sibicky plans to have approximately seven to 10 undergraduate students join the social cognition lab research team each year. Over the course of the next few years, research team members will help conduct a program of experiments on free will and other belief systems.

The student research projects Sibicky has proposed focus on investigating the influence of free will beliefs on attributions of responsibility.

One of the experiments likely to be enacted in the Fall will deal with how beliefs in free will are associated with attitudes toward assisted suicide.

“Students’ interest stems from the Brittany Maynard case reported in the news.  The question they hope to investigate is whether priming free will beliefs will increase levels of acceptance toward assisted suicide,” Sibicky said.

Another group of students will investigate how free will beliefs and gender role attitudes influence perceived responsibility for sexual assaults on college campuses.

Whether they wish to be involved in data collection and/or SPSS data analysis or choose to play a larger role as co-researchers, student involvement with a research project will depend on their personal level of interest. In the case of being a co-researcher, students will co-design the experiment, be in charge of data collection and analysis, and present findings at a professional conference or prepare a manuscript.

Besides deliberate skills, Sibicky believes there is a lot to be gained from being a part of a research team.

“I believe being a member of a research team and lab can develop a lifelong passion for research in students,” he said. “No matter a student’s eventual career, research can help students identify with their chosen major and discover they are personally capable of making an intellectual contribution to a field of knowledge.”

Sibicky hopes his research will be of interest to many undergraduates and will provide them and himself important professional and educational benefits.

“Long ago as an undergraduate student, I myself joined a psychology research team and it changed my life,” he said. “I truly believe doing research with students makes us both lifelong learners.”

MANDEE YOUNG