Missouri State University
Psychology Department Blog

Hiring your family: Is it really acceptable?

When an individual in a position of power selects a family member for a job – in politics or in business – ethical questions arise.

In this WOSU interview, Missouri State University psychology professor Dr. Robert Jones discusses whether nepotism is acceptable. Jones enters the conversation around 17:00.

They also discuss the historical context of presidential appointees.

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A habitat for victimization

Bullying is a scary prospect for parents and children. For victims, it’s even scarier.

Dr. Leslie Echols, assistant professor of psychology at Missouri State University, has gathered first-hand accounts of aggression for her research.

Victimization is the concept of bullying from the perspective of the victim. To discover what it is that makes a chronic victim, Echols has studied the effects of victimization and the school context as an ecosystem.  She believes this has made her a better parent.

“I think it’s a really important message for all parents,” said Echols. “To help their children understand that a lot of the time it isn’t something about them, so don’t take it personally. If you react, you’re more likely to be picked on again.”

Echols’ study focuses on the overall changes in mental health, social and academic success of students who are being picked on, or feel like they are. She has examined middle school settings in Los Angeles to get a more diverse and well-rounded sample.

According to Echols, the majority group in a school setting usually exerts the most power. Also, regions with less diversity tend to report greater victimization.

Social dynamics of friendship

Friendship is a natural attraction, which can help or hinder a student in terms of being victimized. Echols found that two friends who have similar social flaws will cause each other to be more vulnerable over time.

“We find friends like us,” said Echols. “Is it a good thing to be friends with people like us if the things we have in common make us vulnerable?”

Echols found that victims who choose higher “status” friends – those who are more popular than others — usually have a higher social awareness. This helps to reduce the vulnerability for victimization.

The study also shows that gender and race are the two biggest predictors of who will become friends and how the victimization process will evolve over time.





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Reflecting on your sub-conscious prejudices

Bullying and diversity are two hot topics, and they relate directly to the research of Dr. Adena Young-Jones, associate professor of psychology at Missouri State. She developed curriculum for a Psychology of Diverse Populations course, which allows students to discover subconscious preferences, evaluating these subtle prejudices so that they may grow past them.

IAT helps with self-reflection

Read her full feature story

Read full transcript

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Psychology Faculty & Staff Moving to Glen Isle campus location

Please make note of the following information!

Psychology Department Faculty & Staff located in Hill Hall will be moving to the Glen Isle campus location May 30th through June 1st.  If you are unable to contact faculty/staff by telephone, please use email.  

Thank you


Hill Hall will begin a major renovation beginning on June 1, 2017. The Psychology Department will be relocating to the Glen Isle campus location, and will remain there through the end of the Summer 2018 term.

Almost all of the Psychology courses offered will be scheduled in the Glen Isle location – please be sure to check the location of your scheduled courses so you have ample time to commute (whether by personal vehicle or the Glen Isle Bear Line Shuttle service).

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Inequality across the lifespan

A college student using a walker with assistance

Ageism, or discrimination based on age, is a serious issue for the aging population. However, ageism isn’t just focused on the elderly.

“The experience of age discrimination for being older can begin as early as young adulthood,” said Dr. Ruth Walker, assistant professor of psychology at Missouri State University. “The perceived age of a person is relative to the individual doing the perceiving.”

Ageism at any age

Walker’s research focuses on experiences with inequality across the lifespan and how these experiences can affect an individual’s well-being and health.

This provides Walker with a broader understanding of the way ageism happens at any point in a person’s lifespan. Despite age differences, Walker is often surprised at the similarities amongst those she interviews.

“A young male Marine in his early 30s discussed how he is frequently called ‘grandpa’ by younger Marines and was assumed to be too old to complete certain aspects of his job even though he is still a young adult,” said Walker. “These are experiences commonly reported by men in their 60s and older. Experiencing ageism for being older is not an experience isolated to older adulthood.”

Ageism across the decades

Ageism isn’t just limited to a certain time frame, either.

“For example, I interviewed a 74-year-old black woman who described being pregnant at the age of 15 in 1958. She was treated like she had committed a crime,” said Walker. “No one in her neighborhood would talk to her, she lost all of her friends and she was forced to marry the father of her child against her wishes.”

Her experiences were remarkably similar to those of a 37-year-old white woman Walker interviewed who became pregnant at the age of 17 in 1996. The experiences of young parenthood for those women stood in stark contrast to those reported by a 37-year-old white man who became a young single father in 1998.

“He described how he was showered with ‘compliment after compliment’ as well as offers of help,” said Walker. “It is interesting how the experience of young parenthood had remained fairly constant, and negative, across time for women of different races in this particular study, but was a relatively positive experience for the male participant.”

A common misconception

According to Walker, there is one common misconception made about the studying aging and older adulthood in general.

“As with other social identity categories, such as race, gender or class, there are so many stereotypes about aging and older adults that are difficult to overcome,” said Walker. “Though many people believe older adults to be sick or frail, in actuality the proportion of older adults with disabilities has gone down over time. The reality is that most older adults are aging well and living independently in the community.”

For more information, contact Walker at 417-836-4677.

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‘A fire inside me’

The MSU Legacy Wall

“For some, helping others comes naturally.” This is the case for McKinsey Wiltermuth, a graduate child forensic psychology student at Missouri State University.

“During my time at the university, I have had the opportunity to follow my passion for helping others through a variety of organizations and activities both on campus and in the community,” said Wiltermuth.

A Newman Civic Fellow

Wiltermuth was selected as a 2017 Newman Civic Fellow by the Boston-based nonprofit organization Campus Compact. A total of 273 students from across the country will make up the organization’s 2017 Fellows.

“This passion for service has grown during my time at Missouri State, but it began long before my experience as a Bear.”

A passion for community engagement

As a senior in high school, Wiltermuth took a course that focused on what it means to be an ethical citizen. As part of the course, she facilitated the collection of more than 1,000 pairs of shoes for Stomp Out Hunger.

“In this experience, I saw how using my strengths to serve others could genuinely make a difference in my community,” said Wiltermuth. “Knowing my efforts could also help families in need—who might be all across the world—lit a fire inside me.”

About the Fellowship

Named for Campus Compact co-founder Frank Newman, the Newman Civic Fellowship is a one-year experience that emphasizes personal, professional and civic growth.

“The cultivation of community-committed leaders has never been more crucial,” said Andrew Seligsohn, president of Campus Compact. “We rebuilt the Newman Civic Fellowship experience because our country needs more people who know how to bring communities together for positive change. We are thrilled to welcome this group of 273 exemplary students as the first cohort to participate in this new model.”

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Psychology Graduate Student Receives MAGS Excellence in Teaching Award


Taylor Smith is a second year graduate student in the Experimental program on her way to earning a Master’s of Science in Psychology.

As a Missouri State alumna, she knew there was no where she would rather attend for graduate school.  Her Master’s
education as a Bear also provides the opportunity to continue researching in Dr. Adena Young-Jones’ educational psychology research lab; Taylor just began her fourth year with the group.

With Dr. Young-Jones’ mentorship, Taylor has found her passion in teaching with a focus on diversity within and outside of the classroom.  As an instructor and graduate assistant for the Introductory Psychology courses, she spends the majority of her time helping students to succeed in the realm of academia.  Keen to pursue valuable opportunities, Taylor was the graduate representative for Southwestern Teachers of Psychology (SWToP) and a level 1 partner for the Bears for a Just Community Living Learning Community on campus.  Additionally, she coordinates with local middle schools to host and facilitate a workshop for students which encourages critical thinking about diversity while incorporating fun activities.

These and other achievements have not gone unnoticed by peers, faculty, and regional representatives.  Taylor is the 2017 Missouri State University’s Distinguished Teaching Assistant Award recipient.  “There are so many amazing TAs on campus; I could hardly believe I’d won!  Teaching undergraduates has been a priceless experience that solidified my ambition to become a professor of psychology.”  Additionally, she is the first MSU student to be awarded the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools’ (MAGS) Excellence in Teaching Award for her innovative philosophy.  “It’s important to vary teaching methods within the classroom to keep students’ attention and return focus to content mastery and improvement instead of grades.”  Ultimately, she desires to pursue a doctorate within the field of Social Psychology.

See more information on the MAGS Excellence in Teaching Award webpage.

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