“Because you can’t pass up California in January”: Senior Marissa Belau presents at professional psychology conference

Simpson Senior Marissa Belau recently had the chance to present her academic work at a professional psychology conference – twice!

Here is what Marissa had to say about her experience:



At the end of January this year, I boarded a plane for California and said goodbye to Iowa’s winter weather. I wasn’t running from the snow and cold, however, I was running toward an opportunity that, thanks to the support of Simpson’s Departments of Psychology and Undergraduate Research, I had been lucky enough to be afforded – I was going to present research at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) Conference in San Diego.

Earlier this fall, as I began finalizing preparations to wrap up my senior research project, I was approached by Dr. Sal Meyers of the Psychology department, who suggested that I submit an abstract for consideration to present my completed project at the SPSP Conference in January. Upon finding out my project had been accepted, I was ecstatic; no Simpson student had presented at this conference before, and being able to break into this level of academia as an undergraduate was a phenomenal opportunity. Additionally, I had been invited to not only present my own research project, but also a project another student and I had assisted Dr. Meyers with the semester before! I would be presenting twice in San Diego! MarissaBelau3

The original project I took to the SPSP Conference investigated gender-related workplace biases by examining college students’ evaluations of hypothetical male and female employers. I had hypothesized that (a) the same professional biography would lead to more favorable evaluations if attributed to a male than a female employer, and (b) perceived role congruency would mediate these effects. In other words, when students read a potential employer’s biography, they would rate it more favorably in terms of likeability, competence, overall leadership ability, etc. if they were told the potential employer was a man instead of a woman. My results showed that while females were more likely to report they would like to work for a male employer than were males, and that these participants preferred communal leadership qualities over agentic (while male participants showed no preference), in most cases, college students did not evaluate male potential employers more favorably than female potential employers.

The second project I helped present at the SPSP Conference was one I had worked on with Dr. Meyers and Tayler Peterson (’15) during our Psychology of Gender class in the spring of 2015. This project investigated the relationship between conforming to masculine and feminine norms and endorsing “hookup culture.” Our results indicated that norms of masculinity were positively related, and norms of femininity negatively related, to endorsing hookup culture. In other words, the more a person conformed to masculine norms and rejected feminine norms, the more likely he or she was to also endorse hookup culture.


Participating in this conference was one of the best experiences I have had at Simpson. Not only was this an amazing opportunity for me to present research to a high-caliber audience, but it was also a chance to network with graduate students, professors, and other professionals in the field I hope to someday enter. Indeed, while participating in a conference session, I was able to speak with a woman who currently holds my dream job (psychological non-profit consultant), as well as the Director of the Center for Ethical Leadership in Australia about future internship and research possibilities. In addition to forging these connections, I was also able to observe a number of professional presentations and engage with others about complex research topics, both of which are skills I hope to continue to develop in graduate school.

Had it not been for the support of my advisor, Dr. Meyers, I would not have felt confident submitting my research to the SPSP conference. Had it not been for Simpson’s support of Undergraduate Research, I would not have been able to afford this opportunity. And had it not been for this experience, I doubt I would feel as prepared as I do today to continue my education this fall by pursuing a Masters of Applied Psychology from the University of Southern California.

Congratulations again and best of luck with your graduate studies, Marissa!