University of Mary Washington psychology majors Drew Hickey and William “Heath” Sharp were recognized for their outstanding undergraduate research at the Virginia Psychological Association’s spring conference April 25 in Richmond.
They received the Frederick Rowe Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research Paper,
the highest award given for undergraduate research by the association. The honor is determined by a panel of judges who examined nearly 50 presentations by undergraduate researchers from Virginia colleges and universities, including Virginia Tech, James Madison University and Old Dominion University.
Their research, entitled “Does Gender Classification of Faces Benefit from Right Hemisphere Presentation?” looks at the role gender plays when recognizing a face. The duo, under the supervision of Associate Professor Steve Hampton, studied more than 100 people during their yearlong research project.
“They determined that deciding the gender of a face is a much slower process than determining if a face is human (versus, say, a monkey),” said Hampton. “Their research suggests that processing a face proceeds from the primitive, such as ‘what is it?’ to the complex, such as ‘who is it?’. In between these two decisions is the decision about the gender of the face. All of these decisions are made in well under a second and are automatically computed by the brain.”
“It’s important to understand how we process faces,” said Hickey, a senior from Stafford County. At UMW, he helped organize SAVE, a student antiviolence education club aimed at bringing awareness to domestic violence. He also works part-time at Snowden, a mental health facility operated by Mary Washington Healthcare.
Sharp, a senior from Arlington, is pursuing a double major in psychology and Spanish. He has been treasurer of UMW’s club basketball team and plans to pursue graduate school after he graduates.