Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

After graduating this month with a degree in psychology, Marquis Scholar Tana Zerr (Hamburg, Pa.) will teach English in a Japanese school through the Japan Exchange and Teaching program.

As part of her experience, Zerr will introduce students to American culture, interacting with them in the classroom, at lunch, and in outside settings that will include karate and calligraphy classes after school.

“I feel a mixture of exhilaration and fear, but I feel prepared for the challenge, thanks to Lafayette, my parents, and all my friends,” says Zerr, a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Zerr traveled to Japan earlier this school year to conduct research for her senior thesis on attribution theory, which explores the assumptions people make about why others behave the way they do.

“If your best friend failed a physics exam, you could attribute her failure to not being intelligent or perhaps that she failed to study,” explains Zerr, who was advised by John Shaw, assistant professor of psychology. “Or you could say that the exam was exceptionally hard or the teacher was unfair.”

Zerr administered a survey to 150 students in Japan and 150 in the United States. The results mirrored cultural differences, with the Japanese attributing successes and failures more to personal characteristics, and Americans to the situation. She also discovered that people were more likely to attribute a relative’s success to hard work than to luck.

Last summer, Zerr researched ways to improve learning techniques, particularly for language students, as an EXCEL Scholar with Yoshihiko Ariizumi, assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures.

“Basically, we took a look at lesson plans for introductory Japanese and revamped some of the teaching methods and curriculum to make learning more enjoyable and rewarding for students,” says Zerr. “In particular, we incorporated some motivational methods and principles that I’ve learned as a psychology major.”

The student also has worked with girls aged 9 to 13 in an internship for academic credit at the Bethlehem, Pa., campus of Kidspeace, a national organization that helps children in crisis. The internship was part of the course Advanced Applied Psychology, in which Lafayette students apply their knowledge from academic coursework in the field. Students spend eight to ten hours a week at their internship sites, typically working routinely with a field supervisor and a faculty mentor.

She coauthored two articles with Shaw and Keith A. Woythaler ’01: “Courtroom Pressures Can Alter Eyewitness Confidence” in Psychology in the Courts: International Advances in Knowledge, edited by R. Roesch, R. R. Corrado, and R. J. Dempster; London: Routledge, 2001, pages 223-40; and “Public Eyewitness Confidence Ratings Can Differ from Those Held Privately,” Law and Human Behavior 25.2 (2001), pages 141-54.

Zerr made a presentation presented her research on “The Effects of Motivation on Eyewitness Confidence” at the 14th annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research. She also presented research titled “Situational and Dispositional Attributions in the United States and Japan” at the 16th annual NCUR last month.

A student of the Japanese language, Zerr is a Bible study leader for Lafayette Christian Fellowship, a member of Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection, and the leader for an Alternative School Break team that worked with a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Lexington, Va., to build a new home for a low-income family over spring break this year.

Categorized in: Academic News