Academic Spotlight: Kristen Soforic, North Central College
By Jane Donahue For The Sun March 7, 2013 5:46PM
Naperville resident Kristen Soforic, a senior at North Central College, was recently recognized for her research project, “The Effect of Induced Hypocrisy on Texting While Driving." The project was accepted for presentation at the 2013 Midwestern Psychological Association conference in May in Chicago, and also won a regional research award from Psi Chi, the international honor society for psychology. | Courtesy of North Central College
Updated: April 11, 2013 6:29AM
Naperville resident Kristen Soforic, a senior at North Central College, recently was recognized for her research project, “The Effect of Induced Hypocrisy on Texting While Driving.” The project was accepted for presentation at the 2013 Midwestern Psychological Association conference in May in Chicago, and also won a regional research award from Psi Chi, the international honor society for psychology.
“I was surprised to learn that we won this award,” said Soforic, 21. “It’s an honor to have our hard work recognized.”
The project examined how to “effectively reduce texting while driving and increase advocacy behaviors through the induced hypocrisy paradigm.” Simply put, the hypocrisy paradigm is based on something many are familiar with: saying one thing and doing another thing.
The research project was a collaborative effort between Soforic, North Central graduate Nick Petkunas and Professor Heather Coon. It is a replication of a study that Petkunas had worked on the year before with North Central student Randi Purcell.
“The acceptance for presentation isn’t the impressive part — it’s winning an award that makes it impressive,” Coon said. “I believe the project won an award because it is inventive and relevant to current events and because Kristen was able to clearly communicate that.”
Soforic said the project took about three months to complete, and she learned many things during the process.
“I gained a deeper appreciation for the research process,” she said. “I learned what it meant to ask a theory-driven research question: how to take a well-established theory in social psychology (cognitive dissonance) and use it to answer my own question. I also learned that no study will be perfect, no matter how much you plan, and how unforeseen complications can require researchers to repeat a study several times before they begin to see the expected results.”
As a result, she’ll be at it again.
“I have decided to redesign and rerun the study this spring as my senior honors thesis,” she said. “We learned a lot in the process of conducting these two studies — what to do and what not to do, what worked and what didn’t work. With this last re-creation, I am hoping we can use the lessons from the previous studies to make the manipulations and results as strong as possible.”
Professor Coon said Soforic is “one of the most impressive students I’ve known at North Central, especially in how she thinks about research questions.”
“She has a probing, analytical mind, is relentlessly organized and is a bit of a perfectionist, so she noodles ideas to death sometimes,” her professor said. “And that can make an excellent researcher. Researchers need to ask: Is this the best way to test the question? What about this? She really thinks about the issues on a theoretical level and is an excellent communicator of her ideas.”
Soforic plans to pursue a doctoral degree in social psychology after graduation in December.
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