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Clarkson students study impact of bullying on language

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POTSDAM - Bullying and social exclusion may affect language and word choice, according to two Clarkson University undergraduate students who will present their research in New York City next month.

Jaime Nassar ‘13 and Michelle Morales ‘14 will share their findings at the Eastern Psychological Association’s annual meeting March 1-4. The two worked with Assistant Professor of Psychology Jennifer M. Knack to determine how past and present stressful experiences can affect speech.

Morales’ research centered on students who remembered past experiences, while Nassar conducted a study using a virtual ballgame where participants thought they were being excluded.

The students in both experiments were more likely to speak in the future tense when experiencing or remembering social exclusion, bullying and stress. They were also more likely to use personal pronouns like “they,” “them,” “we,” and “us” and less likely to refer to themselves as “I,” Nassar said.

Nassar and Morales are looking forward to presenting their research, “Examining the Linguistic Style Used to Recall Past and Current Pain Experiences,” at the conference.

“We’re really interested in the results, to see what other people think of it and to see if they have any other ideas we haven’t thought of yet,” Nassar said.

The link between stress and language can provide another window into the mind, Knack said. The project is part of a larger program of Clarkson research seeking to understand the outcomes of being bullied and experiencing acute social pain.

“It’s one more potential indicator for tapping into the psychological state someone is in,” Knack said.

Knack praised Morales and Nassar for their research, which will also be submitted for publication in a professional psychological journal.

“It’s really exciting for both of them,” Knack said. “It’s a testament to how much effort they’ve been putting in.”

Morales is from Los Angeles and is majoring in psychology and humanities & social sciences. As a McNair Scholar, Morales began research with Knack last summer and continued her work throughout the fall semester. She has also co-designed a new study examining whether forgiveness alters memories of pain; data for this study will be collected during the spring semester. After graduation Michelle would like to attend graduate school for clinical psychology.

Jamie Nassar is from Norwich and is an Honor’s Program student majoring in psychology. After graduation Nassar would like to attend graduate school for occupational therapy. In her senior honors thesis, she’s examining how people respond to acute social stressors, and how stress hormone levels change when excluded versus included in social activities.

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