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Psychology major Mark Palmieri (Southington, Conn.) is curious about how humans interpret information. He is studying individual differences in understanding nonverbal communication for his senior honors thesis.

“In my project, participants watch a video with no audio to answer multiple-choice questions. They also complete two questionnaires,” says Palmieri, whose subjects are fellow students. “These measures will help me understand the manner in which people interpret nonverbal cues.”

Palmieri will look at what the cues are interpreted as saying about a relationship between two people, since humans differ in their ability to read what body language, for example, is saying, notes his thesis adviser, Susan Basow, Dana Professor of Psychology.

“Mark is an amazing student, both very bright and creative in his thinking,” she says. “He’s learning a lot about the topic and also how to conduct psychological research. He may be able to get a publication out of it.”

Palmieri says the project is a chance for him to apply the knowledge and skills developed in classes. “I am excited to have an opportunity to learn about the process of designing and running a study while researching a topic of particular interest to me,” he adds.

He says Basow “challenges and encourages me to push forward with my research.” As the topic becomes more complex, he says, the professor has helped him understand the details and express his ideas.

“She helped teach me not only about my topic, but also about the crucial aspects of research,” says Palmieri. “I have grown as a researcher because of my experience working with her.”

The student calls Lafayette a good environment for developing a thesis project because students are encouraged to explore ideas from many different disciplines and are aided by faculty in their endeavors.

“Within my department, students present research ideas on a wide variety of psychological issues and have been successful in fulfilling their research desires,” he says. “One of the greatest assets of the department is a faculty with diverse research interests that encourages students to explore.”

A graduate of Southington High School, Palmieri is house chaplain for Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, works off-campus implementing behavioral programs for a child with autism, and spent the fall of his junior year studying abroad in Madrid, Spain.

Categorized in: Academic News