When Danielle Chase ’16 was a first-year student at Thomas College, her psychology professor recommended her to read “The Myth of Repressed Memory” by Elizabeth Loftus.
The book evoked an emotional response in Chase, which inspired her to study memory. Chase realized how powerful research can be and how it can help lead to policy changes.
After reading the book, her professor, Dr. Dana Wohl, presented her with an opportunity to help him with his research.
Dr. Wohl’s study focused on retrieval-induced forgetting, which is about how people itemize things to make it easier to remember, so they can retain more information.
Later that year, she was able to help present the research with Dr. Wohl at the American Psychological Association’s annual conference in Manhattan.
During the conference, she even had the chance to meet the author of the book which first inspired her, Elizabeth Lotus.
Chase says at that point she found her love for psychology research.
“I like the idea that you can have a thought and create a hypothesis and test it,” she said. “You can literally be thinking something one day, decide to test it out and see if your thought is actually true. You actually get results and test it. There’s always a question that has to be answered.”
Last year, Chase began working on her own research about how social contagion effects fraternities and sororities.
“Greek life is a great climate for social contagion because people talk at frats, about frats, watch movies on frats,” she said. “People are also usually very adamant about their opinions on fraternities and sororities too – love them or hate them – based on their experiences with them –in one, saw a movie, went to a party.”
Chase said because of the idea of social contagion, or the spread of information through dyadic interactions (talking), this made Greek life a great climate to study. She says social contagion itself is important to look at because people get their opinions (like what they think of Greek life) from multiple sources.
“It would be difficult to distinguish which source you got which facts or opinions from – yet collectively these facts and opinions form your opinion and decision,” she says. “Social contagion shapes our worlds.”
Chase had the opportunity to present her research at Colby College last month, and after she finalizes her study she will apply to present at the American Psychological Association’s conference in May.
Originally from Caribou, Maine, Chase says she has loved her time at Thomas College because of all the opportunities she has been given.
“The psychology program at Thomas is very generalized and most people who are in the program want to do clinical work,” she said. “But luckily my professors at Thomas have given me many research opportunities because that is what I want to do.”
Thomas College has been very supportive overall of her research, she said. They supported her financially to be able to attend the conference in Manhattan last year.
“It was definitely the best experience that I’ve had,” she said.
Chase is graduating this May after just three years at Thomas. Currently, she is in the process of applying to graduate school and plans to study experimental psychology and eventually earn her Ph.D.
“After, I ideally want to be teaching at a bigger school and have my own lab and do research,” she says.
Chase says she loves presenting her research and doesn’t usually get nervous when people come up to her to ask her about her work.
“If you’re passionate about something, then you want to share it,” she said. “If it’s something that you’ve been working on for such a long time, then you want to tell people about it.”