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Bethel College psychology major wins first at national conference

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -Bethel College senior Michael Klein won first place in psychology at the 2002 Sigma Xi Student Research Conference Nov. 16 in Galveston, Texas. Klein, who is from Durham, was one of only 10 first-place collegiate winners from among the 250 participants from United States and international institutions who had been invited to attend the conference. His presentation was titled "Psychophysiological and Emotional Dynamic Responses to Music: An Exploration of a Two-Dimensional Model." "It feels extremely good to be recognized for this honor, given all the hard work I put into the research," Klein said today, after hearing the results from Sigma Xi. While he is pleased with the results and the $200 that comes with the award, Klein is more satisfied with the hard work and dedication he put into his research. "I learned how to do science. I learned what it’s all about and how it feels to have the unquenchable desire for learning."

Klein’s poster was awarded "the only first place award in what represented some very keen competition in the psychology section," according to Julia Reed, Research Triangle Park, N.C. Reed is coordinator of the student programs for Sigma Xi.

Second place finishers in psychology were Babette Peruche from Florida State University and Nathan Foose of Kansas State University. Jennifer Marcus of Southern Illinois University Carbondale took third. Darius Donohue of Oklahoma State University took fourth.

"We are very pleased that Mike’s work was recognized by acceptance for this national conference," Dwight Krehbiel said. "We are also very pleased with these first-place results." Krehbiel is the Bethel College professor of psychology who has been advising Klein on his undergraduate research.

Undergraduates and high achieving high school students presented original research in any field of science or engineering on posters prepared for the conference. Klein presented a poster of his research about how people emotionally and physiologically respond to music.

For his research, Klein selected participants who listened to different forms of music, such as classical, jazz and tango, and recorded their emotional and physiological responses on a computer. This method of study facilitated the observation of rapid emotional changes over time, a crucial aspect of emotional studies not often addressed.

"Most research on emotion is done with static stimuli, such as pictures," Klein said. "Daily life is in continuous flux, as is music."

Physiological factors included in the studies were measurements of sweat gland activity and muscle electrical activity in the forehead while participants responded. Over all, Klein studied how variables in emotional ratings related to variables in physiological readings.

The data Klein has collected reveals that the muscle electrical activity in the forehead increases as music is noted to be less pleasant. However, sweat gland activity (skin conductance) seems to increase and then decrease throughout a musical excerpt, regardless of the elicited emotion.

"It seems that emotional activation ratings over time do not account for changes in skin conductance," Klein said. "Instead, one may see that the trend in skin conductance is due to habituation to the music stimuli."

Klein has been studying emotional and physiological responses to music since fall 2000. Last spring, he received a Bethel College Study and Research Award to conduct further research during the summer of 2002.

"As I think about it, my continued research on this has made me appreciate music even more than previously. I’ve always loved music, and any chance I have to use it in another context is a good thing. This work has proven to me how beneficial it can be, even under a wide variety of contexts, from therapy, to research and to casual listening that may improve one’s mood," Klein said.

Students under Krehbiel’s instruction have been researching aspects of this topic since he began studying it in the spring of 2000.

"I’ve been interested in emotions for a long time. Music is a unique, natural and emotionally evocative stimulus," Krehbiel said.

Though Klein and others have obtained much information from their respective research, there is still much to be studied on the relationships between music and emotions.

"This is something that can serve as a sounding board for future studies," Klein said.

While at the conference, Klein attended lectures and workshops, and spoke with representatives from graduate schools.

"The conference was a very good experience for me," Klein said. "It provided a good opportunity for me to share my work with not only peers, but professionals as well."

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