23rd Annual Trial Research Student Conference

Friday, May 13th, 2016 - 10:30AM-3:30PM
Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E 60th Penthouse Level 901

Comparative Human Development will be presenting the twenty-third annual Trial Research Student Conference! Several CHD graduate students will be presenting the research they have been conducting over the course of their studies in the department. 

Schedule of Event

Click here to download PDF of schedule

BA Theses Panel 10:30-11:45
Sofia Johnson, Lyzz Joyce, Arabella Pluta-Ehlers
Discussant: Roscoe Nicholson

LUNCH BREAK 11:45-1:00
Coffee and light snacks will be provided

Panel 1: Speaking For, About, and With Others 1:00-2:20
Sharon Seegers,Camille Roussel, Talia Gordon
Discussant: Zhiying Ma

Panel 2: The Mediation is the Message 2:30-3:30
Nora Nickels, Gabriel Velez
Discussant: Kristina Lynn Pagel

BREAK 3:30-4:45

Opening Remarks 5:00-5:10
Margaret Beale Spencer, CHD Chairperson
David Nirenberg, Dean, Division of the Social Sciences    

Announcement of the William E. Henry Memorial Award 5:10-5:15
Margaret Beale Spencer conferring David Kern

Keynote Address 5:15-6:45
Professor Professor Robert LeVine, Harvard University
Roy Edward Larsen Professor of Education and Human Development, Emeritus
(AB’51, AM’53, University of Chicago)

Trial Research & 75th Welcoming Reception  6:45-10:00 
Please join us for drinks and a catered dinner in celebration of our 2nd year students’ achievements and to welcome any Alumni who will be coming in for the 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Department. To be held in Swift Hall, 1025-35 E. 58th St. 1st Floor Commons Room.

Keynote Speaker
Professor Robert LeVine, Harvard University
Roy Edward Larsen Professor of Education and Human Development, Emeritus
(AB’51, AM’53, University of Chicago)


Title: Psychosocial Pioneers: The U of C's Committee on Human Development

Abstract: Bob LeVine shares his memories of HD’s 25thanniversary reunion and draws lessons about interdisciplinary psychosocial (and biosocial) science from the history of the Committee on Human Development. He argues that the long survival of HD – and the disappearance of other such programs during the twentieth century – is due to HD’s promotion of theoretical diversity. Instead of attempting to forge a single theoretical position to which all can agree, HD has always encouraged a variety of positions, even when they conflict with each other. Examples are provided from HD’s history. 

Speaker Bio: Robert A. LeVine came to Chicago as a student in 1949 and received his A.B. from The College and M.A. in Anthropology here.

LeVine became a psychological anthropologist and is the Roy E. Larsen Professor of Education and Human Development Emeritus at Harvard University.

He was a faculty member in the Committee on Human Development of the University of Chicago from 1960 to 1976, spending four of those years doing fieldwork in Africa. At the U of C, he was also a member of the Anthropology and Psychiatry Departments and the Committee for the Comparative Study of New Nations.

LeVine has published many books and articles, most recently Literacy and Mothering: How Women’s Schooling Changes the Lives of the World’s Children (Oxford University Press, 2012; paperback edition 2016), which won the 2013 Eleanor Emmons Maccoby Book Award of the American Psychological Association. A popular book, Do Parents Matter?, by Robert and Sarah LeVine will be published in September by PublicAffairs Books.

LeVine was President of the Society for Psychological Anthropology (1980-81), Chairman of the Social Science Research Council (1980-83) and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

BA Theses Panel

Sofia Johnson
Title: Me and My Fellow Zinesters: Using Chicago’s Zine Community to Reconcile Individual and Collective Identity

Abstract: Zines, originally known as "fanzines," are small, self-published books that get distributed across close, cohesive social networks. Marginalized groups of people have distributed printed materials to one another for many years. In particular, zines started out within the emerging science fiction communities of the 1920's, but became most notable in the punk and feminist movements at the end of the 20th century. While they started off as fan material distributed amongst other social groups, a strong community based entirely around making and distributing zines occurred. This tight-knit community is rapidly expanding across the country, as more and more people discover the opportunities for self-expression, personal empowerment, and even identity construction that zines provide.
Within the social sciences, identity can be discussed in many different forms. It is often defined as a process through which social interactions and group membership get sorted into human behavior, at either the individual or group level. However, putting these definitions of identity next to each other produces a strange contradiction; the more salient identity is for individuals, the less strong and more superficial it is for groups.
This study explores zines, and the community of people who make zines, as a possible solution to this contradiction. Through personal interviews and ethnography, it explores what keeps Chicago's zine community together as a community, while still encouraging plenty of individual expression.

Bio: Sofia Johnson is a fourth-year undergraduate at the University of Chicago.
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Lyzz  Joyce
Title: Experience and Learning in US and Maya Infants

Abstract: An important part of becoming a successful member of one’s community is learning to act in culturally scripted and acceptable ways. Cultural transmission of information begins early in life, but how is it that children know what actions should be incorporated into their own repertoire of actions? Natural Pedagogy Theory (Csibra & Gergely, 2009) posits that children use social cues, such as eye contact and gestures, from others around them to learn which actions are culturally relevant. This theory rests on the broad, common usage of child-directed interactions, yet descriptive data on their natural occurrence is sparse. This study used observational data from home visits in the US and a Yucatec Mayan village to examine the natural occurrence of pedagogical interactions directed toward 18-month-olds. These cultures were chosen because previous ethnographic work has emphasized differences in the amount of directed input children receive in each culture (Roghoff et al., 1993; Shneidman and Goldin-Meadow, 2012).  We found that although 18-month olds in the US do see more total actions than 18-month olds in the Mayan village, the proportion of directed actions was similar across cultures - about 15%. Our results indicate that the child-directed actions required by Natural Pedagogy Theory can only account for part of early cultural transmission, as over 80% of actions are not child-directed in both cultures. Further work will explore the relationship between children's home environment and their early cultural learning. 

Bio: Lyzz Joyce is a third year undergraduate in the department Comparative Human Development. She will be beginning work toward her Masters in Social Work next year at the School of Social Service Administration. She is broadly interested in using empirical data on development and social inequality to improve the lives of children around the city of Chicago.
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Arabella Pluta-Ehlers
Title: My Voice, My School? Understanding Ecological Transitions in the Context of School Closings 

Abstract: In this study, I use ecological transition theory to understand how and why school climate changed in conjunction with the widespread Chicago school closings in 2013. I use 5Essentials survey data to show that even though on average climate scores of closed and relocated schools were similar before the consolidation, school climate was rated more negatively in relocated schools the year after the closings. However, relocated schools’ scores rebounded to be more or less on par with welcoming schools and unaffected schools in the following year. Although welcoming schools also went through a similar transition, they did not experience the same decline in scores the year after the closings or increased growth the year after that. These findings suggest that the transition relocated schools experience is in some way different that that of welcoming schools and that while relocation may be initially detrimental to school climate, it does not seem to prevent future improvement.

Bio: Arabella is a graduating fourth year in the college, receiving her BA in Comparative Human Development this spring. She is interested in how institutions shape the development and well-being of children and how we can use knowledge of child development to improve education and address achievement gaps. She will continue to pursue these interests next year aßs a Research Associate with Hanover Research in Washington, D.C.
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Panel 1: Speaking For, About, and With Others

Sharon Seegers
Title: Gatekeeping The Gatekeepers: Why Having Deaf Community Leaders Select Sign Language Interpreters Matters In Hà Nội, Việt Nam 

Abstract: Traditionally scholars have viewed interpreters as neutral conduits capable of translating information without influencing it. However, local socio-political contexts have profound impacts on interpreting as evidenced by recent scholarship in interpreting studies, socio-linguistics, and linguistic anthropology. Interpreters mediate interactions, controlling turns at talk, (Wadensjö 1998), and this mediation can turn into gatekeeping, influencing the ability of users of interpreting to achieve their interactional goals (Davidson 2000). However, the implications of these socio-political contexts for interpreter training and selection processes has received little attention.
This study focuses on sign language interpreting in Hà Nội, Việt Nam, and the sensitivity Deaf community leaders show to the local socio-political context when selecting and training interpreters. In their work, these interpreters are unavoidably positioned between two ideologies: the dominant ideology of sign language as “backwards” and Deaf people as “stupid”, and the Deaf community’s view of sign language as being both central to Deaf culture and the best language for including Deaf people in society (Cooper 2011; 2014). As frequent users of interpreting services themselves, the Deaf community leaders who train the interpreters in Hanoi are highly aware of this context. Thus, their criteria for selecting interpreters focus on finding interpreters who can “open their minds” and re-orient themselves from hearing ideologies to Deaf cultural norms. In doing so, Deaf community leaders not only exercise agency over who becomes an interpreter, but how the field of interpreting and the role of the interpreter are defined.

Bio: Sharon Marie Seegers earned her BA in Political Science with a minor in Language Studies: American Sign Language from the University of California, San Diego. She studied abroad in Việt Nam where she volunteered with the Hà Nội Association of the Deaf. After graduation she researched the emergence of a new sign language and the role of gesture in learning for deaf signing children at Carol Padden’s lab. In 2013, she received a Fulbright IIE to study the development of sign language interpreting in Hà Nội, Việt Nam. Her research interests include deaf studies, interpreting studies, linguistic-anthropology, and the anthropology of disability.
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Camille Roussel
Title: "Protect Me from Pregnancy": Indigeneity and State Relations as seen through a Guatemalan Public Health Campaign

The relationship between the Guatemalan state and its indigenous population reached its most troubled point during the 36-year-long civil war, when the indigenous population experienced what many describe as attempted genocide. Following the conclusion of the war in 1996, Guatemala’s entry into several bilateral agreements as well as pressure from NGOs encouraged the state to begin improving its relationship with the indigenous population. My research explores the changing relationship as the state enters new regimes of care, by examining a public health campaign that seeks to prevent child pregnancy, called “Protect Me from Pregnancy.” Child pregnancy is considered both a health threat, because of the risky nature of pregnancy for young girls’ bodies, as well as a social problem, because these pregnancies are linked to “statutory rape” and the “indigenous tradition” of early marriage. By focusing upon how the “problem” of child pregnancy is constructed as the campaign attempts to educate both the general population and health practitioners, I illustrate how these new attempts to care for the indigenous population create new ways of seeing indigeneity as a social problem.

Bio: Camille Roussel is a second year student in the Department of Comparative Human Development. Her research in Mayan-Q’eqchi areas of Guatemala focuses upon the changing relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous people in Guatemala, especially through new regimes of care. Before coming to the University of Chicago, she completed a M.A. in Anthropology and a B.A. in International Development Studies at the University of Toronto.
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Talia Gordon
Title: “Personal Problems” in Precarious Times: Sharing Practices at a Factory Support Group for US Autoworkers

Abstract: Beginning in the 1970s, deindustrialization and its attendant forces have led to growing uncertainty about job security and diminishing social welfare protection for workers in the United States. Concern about the effects of insecurity on workers’ psychosocial health has prompted questions about who is responsible for providing support. In this paper, I examine how competing cultural notions of self-help and collective responsibility manifest in an industrial workplace program for troubled employees. Formalized in the automotive industry in the 1980s as a company-provided, union-administered worker benefit, Employee Assistance Programs are on-site interventions designed to address a broad range of “personal problems” affecting job performance and productivity. Drawing on an ethnographic study of an EAP support group for autoworkers at a factory in the Midwestern US, I focus on the practices of “sharing” that took place during meetings and the ways in which workers discursively categorized diverse, subjective experiences of distress as “problems” that were commonplace and shared. In the absence of shared experience or typology of problem (e.g. addiction; illness), the act of sharing itself, rather than its specific content, became socially valued. I argue that, somewhat differently than self-help groups as settings of individual enterprise, this group operated as a collaborative therapeutic space where members of an insecure workforce sought to recuperate a sense of collectivity and social support. At the same time, I consider how the recognition of personal distress as commonplace might depoliticize experiences of vulnerability linked to broader social and economic conditions of precarity.

Bio: Talia Gordon received a BA in International Development Studies from McGill University in 2011 and an MA in Medical Anthropology from Wayne State University in 2014. Broadly, her research concerns how encounters with forms of knowledge in institutional settings coalesce with and shape individual experience. Prior work examined conceptualizations of recovery from psychiatric illness among members of a community mental health organization in Detroit, Michigan. Talia is currently interested in tensions between uncertainty and predictability in the everyday, and specifically, how this tension manifests at the intersection of work, health/illness experiences, and forms of care and support in the US.
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Panel 2: The Mediation is the Message

Nora Nickels
Title: Effects of Psychosocial Stress on Hormones and Decision-Making in Men and Women 

Abstract: Stress affects behavior and cognitive and emotional processes through the release of corticosteroids. Research has focused on the effects of stress on decision making, suggesting that the effects and underlying mechanisms of this process vary depending on the context or situation. In some studies, gender has been shown to moderate the effects of stress on decision making, and these differences have been attributed to the interaction between different behavioral and endocrine stress responses and different behavioral and neural involvement in decision making in men and women. The current study used a psychosocial stress paradigm to observe the effects of stress on endocrine function, risk taking, cooperation, and decision-making in a laboratory setting. After partaking in a control or psychosocial stress condition, participants performed several nonsocial and social decision making tasks that focused on risk taking, cooperation, and trust. Saliva samples were taken throughout to measure cortisol and testosterone and to explore endocrine function in a stressful and decision making performance situation. Results show some evidence for an interaction between stress and gender in social decisions making tests. Cortisol increased for both stressed males and stressed females, and testosterone increased in stressed males. Future mediation analyses may reveal that hormonal levels and fluctuations may be possible mechanistic, mediating variables in terms of the differential effects of stress on decision performance in men and women.

Bio: Nora Nickels completed a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences with an additional major in Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame in 2013. She is currently a fellow at the Institute of Mind and Biology at the University of Chicago and specializes in comparative behavioral biology in the Department of Comparative Human Development. Her broader research interests include the neuroendocrine bases of human decision making and cooperation, behavioral and biological responsiveness to social stimuli and psychosocial stress, and individual differences in behavior in relation to sex and stress hormones.
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Gabriel Velez
Title: Identity Status and Civic Engagement: Identity Development in “Post-Conflict” Peru

Abstract: Adolescence is a critical time for (growing social awareness) and the formation of lasting civic ties (Rubin, 2007), with particular consequences for post-conflict societies (Davies, 2004).  While traditional research on youth in post-conflict nations concentrates on trauma, protest, and rebellion (Quaynor, 2012). In contrast, I utilize phenomenological focus centered on youth civic identity. Drawing on Spencer’s Phenomenological Variant of Ecological Systems Theory [PVEST] (Spencer 1995, 2006, 2008), I ask how identity processes relate to civic identity and engagement in Peruvian adolescents, as these youth construct their own citizenship.  I administered an adaptation of the 2009 International Citizenship and Civic Education Survey and the Extended Objective Measure of Ego Identity Status II (Bennion & Adams, 1986) to middle adolescents (N=294) across five diverse schools in Tacna, Peru.  Additionally, a subsample (N=21) of these student were interviewed about their concepts of citizenship.  The results demonstrate that identity exploration influences the development of critical consciousness and civic identity outcomes.  As youth begin to explore who they are, they start to process and reflect on the dissonance in societies marked by inequality, which shapes how they think about citizenship and their country.  For example, youth may respond with similar levels of civic attitudes, but underlying this are  differing mechanisms of identification.  These results support studying youth civic outcomes as dependent on environments and rooted in identity processes.  Promoting positive youth outcomes means not fixing the youth, but rather focusing on the context (Sherrod, 2005).

Bio: Gabriel Velez graduated Magna Cum Laude with Bachelor of Arts in History and Literature from Harvard University in 2007.  He then spent 6 years teaching high school in Peru and Colombia, before beginning his current doctoral studies.  He was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.  His research interests focuses on the intersection of political science and developmental psychology.  He explores how adolescents form civic identities within contexts of conflict, post-conflict and marginalization.  Supported by the Pozen Center for Human Rights, his work also examines attitudes and understandings of human rights by these youth.
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