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ETBU’s Erin Berry wins undergraduate research competition at Southwestern Psychological Association

May 6, 2024

East Texas Baptist University senior psychology major Erin Berry recently won the undergraduate research competition at the Southwestern Psychological Association (SWPA) conference in San Antonio, Texas. Berry's project, Will Funny Chickens Cross the Road?: Humor Styles and First Impressions, secured her victory at the esteemed event. 

Berry submitted her abstract for the competition in November 2023, under the guidance of her project supervisor, Professor of Psychology Dr. Jennifer Mobley. Selected as a finalist in December 2023, Berry presented her research at the SWPA's annual conference March 28-30, 2024.

The research evaluated whether a positive humor style, such as lighthearted jokes, will increase the sense of likability in a first impression and, inversely, if a negative humor style will decrease the sense of likability in a first impression. The research also assessed the likability of two college students who did not know one another but shared a similar humor style.

“I wanted my research project to be something I was passionate about, would enjoy researching, and unique in the field,” Berry said. “I find joy in humor and often like to share jokes or puns during basketball games and practices to relieve stress or connect with others. However, I questioned the consequences if a joke or humor is not well received by my teammates or incoming recruits. In considering the topic, I learned that there are four types of humor: two positive and two negative. However, there was gap in the psychology literature distinguishing between types of humor styles that could be similar or dissimilar between two individuals during a first impression and the consequences if the humor style is positive or negative.”

Competing alongside finalists from Sam Houston State University, Angelo State University, and Oklahoma State University, Berry delivered a compelling presentation, culminating in her announcement as the winner of the undergraduate research competition on Friday, March 29.

“The Department of Behavioral Sciences adequately prepared me to present my work through a curriculum that provides ample time and opportunities to learn about research and writing, and practice the presentation processes,” Berry continued. “Most importantly, the department is tight-knit and full of faculty and staff who are committed to supporting individual research. Dr. Mobley helped me present my work and equipped me with the tools and resources to be successful. I appreciate her devotion to the Lord and the Kingdom of God through the field of psychology.”

This historic win marks the first time an ETBU student has achieved such recognition at the SWPA. The faculty of ETBU’s Department of Behavioral Sciences extend their congratulations to Berry for her outstanding achievement.

Erin Berry, daughter of Bret and Sheila Berry, has been actively involved during her time as a student at ETBU. She is a member of the ETBU Honors program and Tiger Women’s Basketball team, and has served in leadership roles for several on-campus organizations including Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Tiger Camp, Thrive, Psi Chi International Honors Society, Phi Gamma Mu International Honor Society. Additionally, Erin has invested her time in a number of local and regional organizations including Mission Marshall, Children’s Village of Tyler, HWY 69 Mission-Jacksonville, Bullard Little Dribblers Basketball Association, and Strutters of the Texas Rose Parade.