Author Archives: Dr. Hill

Assistant Professor of Psychology
Utah Valley University

Dr. Anton Tolman, Psychology

We at HPL/BaCN approached faculty in the Behavioral Science Department at Utah Valley University to see (1) what they’re working on and (2) what advice they have for undergraduates. Here is what we learned.

Q: What is your research focus? 

AT: Interests include teaching and learning in higher education, risk evaluations for dangerous offenders, psychopathy, and the psychology of evil. 

Q: What current research/creative projects are you working on?

AT: Current projects include student metacognition, power dynamics in the classroom, and student resistance to learning. In addition, there are versions of those projects that are investigating faculty perceptions, as well.

Q: What are your goals with these projects?

AT: To help students improve their learning, to create a more effective learning environment, and promote integrative thinking in college courses.

Q: What other research interests do you have?

AT: Although I’m currently working on teaching and learning in higher education, I’m also interested in forensic psychology, abnormal psychology, and the psychology of evil. These areas are those that I have researched, but haven’t recently.

Q: What opportunities are available to UVU students who would like to get involved in research?

AT: Opportunities to work with me are limited, at the moment. I am willing to talk with motivated and self-directed students to see if we can figure something out. Once I finish my book on student resistance and the paper on the psychometrics of meta-cognition, I’ll have more time to individually mentor students. 

Q: Currently, or in the near future, are you available to facilitate research opportunities with students?

AT: I can meet for discussions now for helping students prepare and get up to speed for later projects. Most likely, I’ll have more availability in January 2016.

Q: What advice do you have for undergraduate students?

AT: Get involved in research early! Do not put off your research methods or statistics courses–get them done as sophomores. Use your own initiative to develop projects that fit with or support the work of others. Seriously consider graduate schools that are not just in Orem, Provo, or SLC. Develop a project that you are personally interested in.

Many thanks to Dr. Tolman for his time to contribute to our research and creative activity highlights!

UVU Behavioral Science Faculty Highlights

We here at HPL/BaCN are excited to announce that we’re kicking off our fall 2015 semester blogging activities with highlights of the research and creative activities of the faculty within the Behavioral Science Department at UVU. We hope that these posts will help UVU students connect with faculty doing work that interests them. Happy researching, everyone!

Fun Research Websites? Is that Even Possible?

Sometimes, as I’m hunting for interesting internet tidbits for my students, I encounter a truly interesting, science-focused site. I’ve compiled a small sampling of my favorites (or those suggested by colleagues). I hope you enjoy!

Discover magazine hosts a blog called Neuroskeptic. The name would lead you to believe that the site is dedicated to skeptical inquiry into neuroscience, however, there are many other interesting topics presented, such as plagiarism in journal articles, alcohol related violence, and history’s heroes and villains. The post I’ve had the most fun reading recently was the Etymological Map Of The Brain. I never knew where all those names came from!

Zeistgeist: Psychological Experimentation, Cognition, Language, and Academia
I met Rolf when I was a student at Florida State University. Aside from being both brilliant and pleasant as a professor and human being, he is also an excellent writer. He often meditates on interesting scientific topics. A recent post, Why Do We Make Gestures (Even When No One Can See Them)?, captured my curiosity and that of my students. As a teaser, your memory has a lot to do with it!

Had I Been A Reviewer (HIBAR)
Dan Simons has a fun blog in which he acts as a post-publication reviewer. As a reviewer for a journal, it’s been very interesting to read another reviewer’s thought processes as they go through an article. However, Dan is not just limited to HIBAR posts. He also summarizes some fantastic research in a way that is accessible for my students. Take, for example, How Experts Recall Chess Positions. It turns out that meaning matters!

Daniel Lakens
Daniel Lakens’ Blog has an interesting twist on HIBAR. This interesting post illustrates how social media, and specifically twitter, can allow researchers to evaluate research post-publication in How a Twitter HIBAR Ends Up as a Letter to an Editor.

Retraction Watch
If you’ve ever wanted insight into the nitty-gritty of scientific research, Retraction Watch is the place to get it. The name is a little misleading because the site doesn’t just focus on retractions; rather, there is information about the review process and the occasional legal proceeding. One of my favorite posts is Overly Honest References: Should We Cite The Crappy Gabor Paper Here?. Talk about a lack of proofreading from the researchers, reviewers, and editors! 

Seriously, Science?
Despite all of the posts mentioned above being interesting and thought-provoking, sometimes I just need to read something light-hearted. Seriously, Science? provides me with that outlet. Why not read about penguins running on treadmills or about the dimensions of the average sex toy?

Have fun reading science!

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Studying

There’s a new book out called “Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.” According to the authors, those awesome study habits you have… well, they’re not so awesome. You might be thinking,

“What??? They’ve worked so far!”

If you want what you’ve learned to last for more than a few days, then it’s time to do something different! Here’s a list of items that Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel suggest people don’t understand about effective learning.

(1) If you need to put forth some effort to learn it, you’ll remember it better.

For some reason, people think that if it feels easy to learn, then they’ve learned it better. That’s not the case. If something feels easy to learn, that’s a clue that you probably won’t remember it very long. The authors make an analogy to writing in sand… it’s easily washed away.

(2) You don’t really know what you know and what you don’t.

Unless you take a test or quiz, you really don’t know what you know. Some things help us feel good, but don’t help us learn–like rereading the textbook.

(3) Reading that chapter again–yeah, it doesn’t help.

What’s funny is that we’ve been told our whole lives to “practice, practice, practice!” But, it doesn’t work. It just makes us feel like we know it. The only way to know for sure is to test ourselves.

(4) Taking quizzes–Yeah! That helps!

Quizzing yourself gives you practice recalling the material (which you’ll have to do on the test anyway). Also, it helps you know what you know v. what you don’t know. Quizzing might be the easiest and most effective study tool to add to your toolbox!

(5) Learning styles don’t matter.

I know they told you all throughout elementary and high school that if you’re a visual learner, you should learn in a visual way, but research shows (over and over) that learning styles just don’t matter. You can learn in any way!

(6)  Take a break! You need it!

You’ll remember more by breaking up your practice into smaller chunks than by either cramming the night before or studying for long blocks of time. Studying is like making jello. You need to give it time to set. That’s what the break is for! You’re letting your learning “set.”

(7)  Mix it up!

Don’t just study math or science or psychology in one big block–rather, switch between them. By switching back and forth, you’re creating effortful learning. More effortful learning means it will stick in your memory better!

You want me to write EVERY DAY?

Student requesting a book in the library (1964). Image provided by LSE Library via Flickr Creative Commons.

Student requesting a book in the library (1964). Image provided by LSE Library via Flickr Creative Commons. No known copyright restrictions.

When I was hired at as an Assistant Professor at Utah Valley University, my new boss handed me two books.  The first was Advice for New Faculty Members: Nihil Nimus by Robert Boice and Publish and Flourish by Tara Gray. To be honest, those books went straight to my bookshelf. They looked interesting, but during my first year, I definitely didn’t have any time to read them.

The other day, I had to go to a doctor’s appointment right after class. I knew they were going to squeeze me in, thus I needed to bring something to read in the waiting room. Because Publish and Flourish was the shorter book, I grabbed that one. Not only short, but it was an easy read.  Tara Gray  wrote conversationally, filled the book with practical advice, and gave me small goals, broken into steps, that I could start immediately. I quickly discovered that I needed to change the way that I approached writing.

Eerste Wereldoorlog, loopgraven

From the Nationaal Archief. Housed on Flickr Creative Commons. No known copyright restrictions.

While I knew that writing was a part of my job, I saw it as a war between my teaching and my research; how do I battle enough time away from one to the other. Because it was an unattractive fight, I surrendered before I began.  Despite making effort every day to find time to write, I never did… maybe not never, really not often.  I had turned into a “binge writer,” as Tara Gray calls them.  Those are people who sit down and write infrequently, usually for more than three hours at a time. Yup!  That’s me! Usually this writing was deadline driven.  For example, the IRB had a full board meeting on a specific day, and I needed to make sure that I got the application done and submitted on time.  Because of that binge writing, I would churn out a draft that was “good enough,” run my eyes over it, have my administrative assistant go over it for obvious spelling and grammar errors, and then start gathering signatures.  Even I can see that those sorts of products were not my best writing.

Does “binge writing” sound like something you do as a student?

Not only am I a binge writer, but so are my students. After all, it is a very efficient use of time to essentially vomit words out on a page in one large writing session, read through it one time to make sure nothing is glaringly wrong, and then turn it in. It’s an efficient way to get a relatively reasonable grade without huge amounts of effort.  I can’t blame them for doing it because I do it, too.  However, it’s not the best way to write.

Wells Cathedral Clock (Inside Face)

Wells Cathedral Clock (Inside Face). From Cornell University Library. No known copyright restrictions.

Tara Gray had some pretty specific advice about how to avoid binge writing and be more productive and cited research to support it.  Her first suggestion was for me to manage my time by writing daily and recording the minutes I spent each day writing. That seemed rather daunting until she noted that the writing could be for a very short time, something as small as 15 minutes a day.

Ok, I can do 15 minutes a day.

The next important step, at least for me, was to find a writing sponsor.  This is a person to whom I can report my minutes writing.  Each day I email my sponsor with my total number of minutes written, rather than my total log that includes my start time and stop time. By having to be accountable to my sponsor, I’ve been much more likely to write.  I also keep a week-long log for myself. That way I can have a record of the progress I am making. That has really helped me. Even if I’ve only written for 15 minutes, I feel like I’ve almost completed my day!

So far, writing each day is working for me.  Tara Gray reported that people who wrote every day and tracked their minutes were somewhere between 4-6 times more productive than those who did not.  Further, she reported that those who wrote daily and recorded their minutes were less productive than those who also were accountable to someone for writing those minutes. Can you imagine how much quality writing you can get done if you make 15 minutes a day for it? It will make that term paper fly by!

Give it a try… write for 15 minutes!


Replication: Is it worth it?

Milgram Generator

Stanley Milgram in front of the famous “shock generator” used in his obedience experiments











I think just about every college psychology major wonders what would happen if someone replicated the original Milgram Obedience Experiment or any of Milgram’s explorations of obedience from the 1960s to the 1970s. Would I get the same results today if I encouraged a participant to punish a failing learner by applying electric shocks? Are there enough differences between the current generation and those individuals who participated in Milgram’s experiments that we’d see more or less disobedience? Is it even possible to get an Institutional Review Board (IRB) to allow a replication of Milgram, especially considering that Milgram’s obedience studies are often cited as a reason why government regulation of the research process is necessary (e.g., Jerry Burger’s APS IRB OpEd)? For decades, no one dared try. The closest anyone came was using a “virtual learner” (Slater et al., 2006) rather than the actual human confederate needed for a true replication (for a summary of other non-exact replication examples, see Miller, 2009).

In 2009, Jerry Burger published a partial replication of Milgram’s original work. He describes in a 2007 APS Observer article that he thought it would be impossible to get through an IRB. However, with some careful planning and extensive screening of participants, he was able to gain approval for his replication of Milgram’s 5th experiment. I think that most of us were surprised, nay “shocked” (e.g., Miller, 2009), upon discovering such an important replication was given the ethical “go-ahead” by an IRB. Perhaps more importantly, Burger’s (2009) work challenged what is traditionally seen as the role of scientific investigation, at least in one sense. “The most important characteristic of any new study or conceptual analysis is the degree to which it extends the line of inquiry, for example, by testing theoretical ideas, by suggesting new methods, or by posing further questions for research (or stimulating others to do so)” (Miller, 2009, p. 21). By replicating Milgram’s work, Burger (2007; 2009) has opened the metaphorical door to other researchers to explore obedience again, allowing decades-old questions and explanations to be revisited.  This is wonderful!

Perhaps more importantly than replication alone, Burger’s (2009) successful replication, at least in part, brought to prominence the idea that replication is important. Usually, replications are incorporated into existing work to establish that that work and it’s products are valid. However, considering that null results are often not published (Winerman, 2013), even many successful replications do not mean a study is valid (Francis, 2012). As long as we keep in mind that repeated successful replication (reliability) is not the same thing as validity, as my old colleague Rolf Zwaan suggests, most psychologists are behind, or even excited about, the idea of replication. As evidence of this, the Association for Psychological Science has initiated a replication initiative that offers funding to conduct registered replications.

This may be an excellent opportunity for both psychologists and the undergraduate students they supervise! Consider approaching your research mentor about potentially participating in a registered replication.


Burger, J. M. (2007). Replicating Milgram.

Burger, J. M. (2009). Replicating Milgram: Would people still obey today? American Psychologist, 64, 1–11.

Francis, G. (2012). The psychology of replication and replication in psychology.

Slater et al. (2006):

Winerman, L. (2013). Interesting results: Can they be replicated?

Zwaan, R. (2013). How valid are our replication attempts?

Great Publish and Prosper Post!

My good friend, Dr. Nate Lambert, is a faculty member in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University.  In his spare time, he writes a blog for the APA called “Publish and Prosper.” Aside from being an entertaining writer, Dr. Lambert provides some fabulous advice!  His post from earlier this month, called “7 Things You Must Know to Get Into Your Dream Grad Program” is particularly valuable for UVU psychology undergraduates as sometimes students find it difficult to get grad school/career advice specific to (1) psychology and/or (2) a field other than clinical or counseling because they don’t know where to look.  For UVU students, taking BESC 3100: Grad School and Career Prep during your sophomore year is your best option. For those who haven’t had the chance to take it yet, referring to Dr. Lambert’s article can give you some direction until you can take BESC 3100. Dr. Lambert points out that the first thing to do is figure out an area of psychology and some research topics that really interest you. The next most important thing is RESEARCH! He suggests:

Get Research Experience.  Getting research experience is SO important for preparing for your dream graduate program for a number of reasons:

1. It is a good test to see if you would actually really like doing research and whether you belong in graduate school to begin with.

2. It can help you figure out what you are most interested in studying (or it can eliminate some topics) by exposing you to the actual research process on potential topics.

3. It will set your application apart from the rest because you will have real world experience in doing research and as a result you are a step ahead of most applicants on what matters most to the professors who will hire you as their apprentice.

It’s never too early to start seeking out research experiences. On my team, I am willing to accept first semester freshmen, if they are willing to prove to me that they have the drive to succeed. Often, students don’t realize that graduate schools want to see more than one letter from a research mentor (specifically in research-related areas of psychology), which means you’ll need to work on more than one research team to get the letters you need. In order for your research mentor to get to know you well enough to write a letter of recommendation for you, you are going to have to spend a significant amount of time working for them.  My team members know that I need at least two semesters of consistent contact to be able to write a solid letter for them. Finding a research mentor during the last semester of your senior year just won’t cut it.

By now, you probably realize that an undergraduate research experience is valuable.  But, how on earth do you find someone to work with? Dr. Lambert suggests the following:

To find a research opportunity keep your ear open, check bulletin boards, ask department secretaries, and talk to fellow students. Look up all the professors in your department and seeing who is doing research you may be interested in. Email the professor and let her know how interested you are in her topic. Volunteer your time to help in any way on any of her projects that she could use help with. Also, suggest that if she isn’t taking students, you would love to know if she is aware of any other professor who might be looking for some extra help because you are interested in getting experience for graduate school. When you get a research position, make sure that you do a rocking job so that you can learn everything you can and so that you can get a killer recommendation from the professor.

For UVU psychology students, you should go to the Behavioral Science Department website to view the faculty members. Scroll down to the Full-Time Faculty section. On the whole, three letters from full-time faculty members are required by graduate programs. That doesn’t mean you can’t work with a part-time (adjunct) faculty member. It just means the adjunct letter will have to be a supplement to the three you get from your full-time faculty letter writers. Once you identify the faculty members you might like to work with, visit their professional pages. Usually, faculty members will list their contact information and their research interests on their UVU Professional Page.  For example, you may want to look at mine.  Aside from seeing what I look like, you can find all my contact information.  I list my research interests, current projects, and research assistant opportunities on my page. Other faculty members do not.  You may need to email them directly to get a feel for what they are doing.

If, after reading this, you still feel a little lost, contact your advisor. Their contact information is on the same page as the faculty and staff list. All the Behavioral Science advisors teach BESC 3100 and are able to give you excellent advice on research experiences.

HPL Online!

The HPL team is excited to have a new home on the internet! While we are starting small, we are planning big things! We hope to be a hub of information related to teaching, research, and graduate school for undergraduate psychology students at UVU. In time, we hope to expand to offer graduate students information on how to best prepare for their future role in the professoriate.

Please be patient with us as we get started. We are growing slowly every day.