For his senior thesis, “Capturing Emotional Suppression as it Naturally Unfolds in Couple Interactions,” psychology major Jordan Dworkin set out to discover how people regulate their emotions when interacting with romantic partners. Dworkin, who also minored in statistics and mathematics, also wanted to determine if there were consequences to certain types of emotion regulation.
“In general, we found that suppressing emotions was very common during these interactions,” he says. “It also appeared that certain patterns of regulation in the conversations (i.e., consistently suppressing negative emotions) were related to less satisfaction with one’s marriage.”
Dworkin was invited to present a poster of an early version of his research at the Society for Affective Science Conference in Oakland, Calif., in April, and was able to attend thanks to funding from the Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center. “It was an incredible opportunity,” he says. “And being able to talk to and get feedback from other people in the field helped me greatly.”
Dworkin is now heading to the University of Pennsylvania, where he will start the biostatistics Ph.D. program. His future work isn’t directly related to his course of study here at Haverford, but, he says, “my enjoyment of the thesis experience has led to me to consider eventually applying my biostatistics training to psychology research.”
How did your advisor help you develop your thesis topic, conduct your research, and/or interpret your results?
My thesis advisor was Marc Schulz, professor and chair of the psychology department at Bryn Mawr College. Among many other important roles, Professor Schulz was great at challenging me to continually think harder about my ideas and conclusions. Every time I thought I had the literature figured out he would ask me to incorporate a new theory, and each time I was sure I knew what my data meant he would point out conflicting results I still had to reconcile. Though difficult, this process did a lot to improve the final product.
What is your biggest takeaway from the project?
I think my biggest takeaway from this experience was the importance of finding fulfillment in the quality of your research, instead of simply in the outcome. One of the more humbling experiences I had with my project occurred near the end, when it appeared that my hypotheses would not be supported. While that ended up not being the case, in the moment I was still forced to come to terms with that possibility after a year of work. That feeling encouraged me to find value in aspects of my research other than the results.
Photo: (cc) Nick Ortloff/Flickr
“What They Learned” is a blog series exploring the thesis work of recent graduates.