Lab News


Congratulations to Victoria Parker, doctoral candidate in the IMPETuS Lab, who recently authored an op-ed in The Atlantic discussing her research on false polarization in American politics! The focus of Victoria's research is how liberals and conservatives exaggerate each others' views on cultural topics, such as racism and free speech. In her op-ed, entitled 'Conservatives and Liberals Are Wrong About Each Other', she writes about the implicatations of "walking around with an exaggerated mental representation of what other Americans stand for"; namely, dislike for one's opponents, unwillingness to engage with one's opponents, and hesitation to voice extreme views. Read Victoria's op-ed here!

Undergraduate Honours Thesis Poster Conference 2022

Congratulations to IMPETuS Lab members Emma Kehoe and Gillian Sherman, who recently presented their Honours research at the annual Undergraduate Honours Thesis Poster Conference!

Emma presented her poster on censorship and vaccine trust, entitled "What they aren't telling you: The truth about forbidden knowledge & critical thinking", co-supervised by Dr. Anne Wilson and PhD student Victoria Parker. This research investigated the effects of framing information as forbidden knowledge on critical thinking. When a news article about  COVID-19 vaccinne risks was framed as 'forbidden', participants perceived it as more censored than the control irrespective of political orientation, but as expected conservatives also perceived the headline as significantly more censored than liberals. Conservatives also failed a quantitative reasoning test significantly more often than liberals in the forbidden condition, demonstrating that conservatives’ critical thinking about vaccine risks was impeded when they thought they were consuming forbidden knowledge. These findings are particularly important given that critical thinking is essential in the current media environment.

Gillian presented her research on judgements of online situations, entitled "Ghosts of tweets past: Personal growth and judgements of long-past offensive tweets", co-supervised by Dr. Anne Wilson and PhD student Andrew Dawson. In her thesis, Gillian examined how evidence of subsequent personal growth, made either publicly or privately, affected how people weigh a past immoral act in the present. Participants who identitied as Democrats were more critical of a public figure who made an offensive tweet but showed subsequent evidence of personal growth, compared to participants who identified as Republican. Participants also judged the figure less harshly in the present when personal growth was evident than when it was not.

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Congratulations Dr. Erin Shanahan!

Congratulations to Dr. Erin Shanahan who successfully defended her PhD Dissertation entitled "Is it just a dream? How attributions for successful and unsuccessful social mobility attempts maintain the myth of the American dream" in August. She was awarded the Academic Medal of Excellence for her dissertation, as well as the Governor General’s Academic Medal!  Erin has recently accepted a position as Behavioural Science Associate at a market research firm in Toronto, HotSpex.

Congratulations Andrew Dawson!

Congratulations to Andrew Dawson, who successfully defended his Master's thesis in September titled "A Tale of Two Tweets: What Factors Predict Forgiveness of Past Transgressions on Social Media?" and welcome as he begins the PhD program!

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2019 WWW Conference 

The 2019 WWW (Waterloo-Western-Wilfred Laurier) Conference is a one-day social psychology mini-conference that takes place every Spring. It involves the social psychology area faculty and graduate students from the University of Waterloo, Western University, and Wilfred Laurier University. The conference gives the opportunity for students to present and share their research, as well as fostering collaboration and community between researchers at the three schools. The conference was hosted at Laurier this year on May 15, 2019, and was organized by the lab’s own Erin Shanahan, Victoria Parker, and Esther Abel, as well as Sarah Wall from the Cavallo Lab. The conference was a huge success and a wonderful day of learning, sharing, and networking!

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IMPETuS lab members at WWW

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Victoria Parker presenting her research

Lazaridis Marketing Research Symposium 2019 

IMPETuS lab member Esther Abel presented her recent work, entitled "Ignorance is Bliss: Examining Predictors of Responses to Inspirational Bullshit" at the 5th Annual Lazaridis School of Business and Economics Marketing Research Symposium on April 26th, 2019.



Esther enjoyed presenting her work for the School of Business, and took home the 1st place Best Poster Prize! Congratulations, Esther!

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The IMPETuS lab is incredibly proud of PhD student, Victoria Parker, for her recent achievements at Laurier's Three Minute Thesis competition which was held on March 27, 2019. Once again this year, Victoria was tasked with presenting a major research study, entitled “Diverging Definitions: The Consequences of Defining "Feminism" Differently” in under three minutes without the use of props or notes. Despite fierce competition, Victoria's presentation dazzled the audience and judges alike, earning her the "Honourable Mention" award for the second year in a row. Congratulations on your incredible work and accomplishments, Victoria! 






To watch Victoria's presentation, press play on the clip above or click here.


Two Honours Thesis students from the IMPETuS lab presented their research at the Laurier Undergraduate Thesis Conference on March 29th, 2019. Congratulations!

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Sarah Tchabushnig's project, entitled "Framing Apologies for Historical Injustices" explored how framing an apology can influence support for racial equality among black and white participants. The main effects of framing were not significant. However, she did find a significant main effect of race, such that black participants supported racial equality policies more than white participants. It was also found that white participants were more likely to report thoughts of progress whereas black participants were more likely to report thoughts of work yet to be done. Finally, a significant interaction between time and race revealed that white participants view the past as more unjust and the present as more just than black participants. Ultimately, this contributes to the literature by showing how one’s group membership can result in understanding the past and present differently and the consequences this can have on intergroup understanding.

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Vivian Nelson's Undergraduate Thesis project, entitled "A Year in Slow Motion: How People who are Fearful of Being Single Perceive 365 Days" was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Anne Wilson and Ph.D student Sarah Wall. The research sought to investigate the relationship between subjective duration (how quickly or slowly time seems to be passing) and emotional response to a future time spent being single. Taken together, results from this project complement past research which demonstrates that people with higher fears of being single perceive longer subjective duration of time spent being single (which in turn may predict more negative reactions to singlehood). 

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Victoria Parker (MA), with Dr. Anne Wilson


Esther Abel (MA, MSc), with Dr. Anne Wilson


Congratulations are in order for IMPETuS lab members Victoria Parker and Esther Abel, who each successfully defended their Masters research in September 2018 and attended Laurier's Fall 2018 Convocation. 

Esther’s work, Boundaries of Fostering Happiness: Implicit Theories of Happiness Predict Reactions to Positive Psychological Interventions, looked at how the individual differences in whether or not people believe happiness is controllable predicts their attitudes towards activities designed to facilitate greater well-being. This in turn predicts the change in positive affect they experience following participation in these positive psychological interventions. 

Victoria's work, The Great and Widening Divide: Political False Polarization and its Consequences, explored interpersonal biases wherein a perceiver believes an opponent's position is much farther away conceptually from where that opponent actually reports their position to be (AKA false polarization). Over three studies, Victoria explored in which instances false polarization occurs, and downstream consequences of falsely perceiving opposing party attitudes.

Both Esther and Victoria are each pursuing their PhD under Dr. Wilson. We are happy to have them continue their academic journey with the IMPETuS lab! 


The IMPETuS lab is proud to recognize recent graduate, Jaslyn English (MA), as she starts an exciting new job as of August 2018. Jaslyn is now working as a User Experience Researcher for the top-rated Dashboard company, Klipfolio. While we miss you in the lab, we know you will be a huge asset to their team! Congratulations!


IMPETuS lab member Esther Abel presented her research findings at the Cape Breton University (CBU) Summer Presentation Series on August 8th, 2018 in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Esther quite enjoyed presenting her Masters research at her Alma Mater, as CBU is the institution at which Esther completed her BSc in Psychology! Way to go, Esther!

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Esther presenting her research. August 8th, 2018, Sydney NS.


Congratulations to our recent graduates! Your hard work, dedication, and pure talent has paid off!


IMPETuS lab members Esther Abel and Erin Shanahan both presented research at the annual CPPA conference, held in Toronto, Ontario from May 24-25th, 2018. Both students presented research posters, and Erin also gave an incredible talk. Thank you both for showcasing your research!  

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Erin presenting her poster.

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Esther presenting her poster.

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Erin giving a presentation.


Congratulations are in order for our Masters candidate Victoria Parker on her recent accomplishments at Laurier's three minute thesis competition. Victoria was tasked with presenting a major research study, entitled “The Great Political Divide: Reality and Illusion?” in under three minutes without the use of props or notes. While the competition was fierce, Victoria's concise and compelling presentation impressed the audience as well as the panel of judges. Victoria was awarded with "Honourable Mention" for her incredible work. Congratulations! 






To watch Victoria's presentation, press play on the clip above or click here.


The IMPETuS lab's own Esther Abel participated in the annual WLU Thesis Poster Conference on March 22nd, 2018.


Esther showcased her research on the relationship between implicit theories of emotion and positive psychological intervention, and did an outstanding job of fielding questions about her work. Bravo, Esther!

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Many students from the IMPETuS lab attended the annual Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) convention, held in Atlanta, GA from March 1-3rd, 2018. Students thoroughly enjoyed presenting research, attending talks and seminars, and making personal connections with other researchers. Here are some photos of our superstars in action:


Check out the portrait project "This Is What a Feminist Looks Like" by local artist Sean M Puckett, that features some of the IMPETuS lab members!



Students from the lab presented their projects at the Canadian Psychological Association's Annual Convention. Here are some of their rock star moments!



Dr. Wilson's undergraduate and graduate students recently presented their thesis projects at Laurier's poster conference. Congratulations!

To Seize the Day or Seize the Dream? The Role of Implicit Theories in Short-term and Long-term Goal Pursuit

Leah Brassard


When presented with a conflict between long-term goals or the indulgence of immediate pleasures, individuals differ in their preferences. The present research explores the role that an individual’s implicit theory plays in this selection process. We predicted that individuals adopting an incremental theory (that one’s abilities are malleable) would choose long-term goals, while those holding an entity theory (that one’s abilities are fixed) would choose immediate pleasures. We also predicted that these effects would be stronger for individuals low in life satisfaction, and that perceived control would mediate the effect. Undergraduate students from Wilfrid Laurier University (N=334) participated in an online survey on goal choice. Results indicate that implicit theories did not have a main effect on goal choice, however an interaction indicated that for those low in satisfaction, entity theorists preferred short-term to long-term goals. A mediation model of perceived control was also significant, suggesting entity theorists choose short-term goals in part when they feel a lack of control over long-term goals.

When Life Changes You: Examining the Relationship Between Perspective-Altering Experiences and Identity, Behaviour, and Values

Emily-Marie Pacheco

The current study seeks to explore the kinds of events people identify as perspective altering experiences. Little past research has examined perspective-altering events, defined as an event or experience that profoundly influences the way an individual perceives or interacts with themselves, others, or the world. Undergraduate university students (N=220) retrospectively reflected on a time in their life when they experienced a perceived perspective-altering event. We collected both open-ended descriptions of these events and their perceived impact, and a number of closed ended measures characterizing the events. Individual differences were also measured, including big 5 Personality, Self-Esteem, Self-Continuity, and Individualism/Collectivism. As hypothesized, event immersion was positively correlated with reported behaviour and perspective change towards one’s self and the world. However, contrary to our expectations, collectivists did not significantly differ from individualists on reported experiences. This research will provide a platform for a better scientific understanding of a fundamental, but currently under-investigated, human experience.

Onward and Upward: Investigating the Puzzle of Inclining Subjective Life Satisfaction Trajectoy Estimates

Erin Shanahan


Young adults typically expect their life satisfaction to improve into the future. Surprisingly, however, expecting large improvements in future life satisfaction has been linked with maladaptive functioning (i.e. depression). This may occur because expected improvements in life satisfaction often do not come about, which may lead to disappointment. We wondered whether these results suggest that believing in life satisfaction improvement is maladaptive, or whether it is the way some people think about life satisfaction improvement that may be maladaptive. We created a scale to capture differences in how individuals think about future satisfaction. Items assess the extent to which individuals have a plan for improving satisfaction or are uncertain how to achieve this goal. Results suggested both individual’s with a plan and those who are uncertain report similar levels of expected improvement. However, those who were more uncertain showed a suite of less adaptive beliefs about goal pursuit and attainment.

Rose-Coloured Illusions: Exploring the Downstream Consequences of Illusory Change

Victoria Parker


Researchers have documented how, although people often believe they have changed for the better, perceptions of improvement are often illusory. Perceived growth following self-help programs, positive psychology interventions, or even traumatic experiences are often more reconstructed than real. However, what has received less attention is how these illusions may be related to downstream changes in behaviour and affect. We wondered whether, in some cases, an illusion of change (even in the absence of actual change), might still lead people to experience benefits related to well-being. The proposed research aims to explore this possibility. We hypothesize that participants who perceive illusory change following the completion of an objectively difficult gratitude exercise, will begin to believe that they can change their own well-being. This increased efficacy will subsequently lead them to engage in more happiness-producing activities, increasing subjective well-being over time.

Shutting the Door on the Unknown? Understanding How Economic Uncertainty Predicts Endorsement of Xenophobic Immigration Policy

Jaslyn A. English


What situational factors lead people to vote more conservatively? Regardless of political ideology, past research has demonstrated that situational threat increases state conservatism and endorsement in conservative leaning policy (Nail, McGregor, Drinkwater, Steele, & Thompson, 2009). The proposed experiments investigate the effects of uncertainty threat on xenophobic policy endorsement, mediated by an increase in state conservatism. Further, we are proposing two studies that moderate the threatening effects of uncertainty. First, we propose to use a self-affirmation to bolster self-esteem and protect against the reaction to uncertainty threat. Second, we propose that implicit bias training will interrupt the automatic processing facilitated by uncertainty threat and moderate the effect of uncertainty on endorsement of conservative policy. The proposed research contributes to the understanding of how uncertain voters perceive conservative policy, as well as how to reduce the effects of situational uncertainty on perceptions of xenophobia.



Congratulations to Suzanne Boroumand who is now at The School of Medicine at the University of Ottawa!

Congratulations to Verena Fawzy who is now at Friends University in Kansas pursuing a MSc in Family Therapy!



Congratulations to Dr. Monica Soliman who received her PhD at her Convocation and is now at Carleton University as a Postdoctoral Scholar!

Anne Wilson Identity Motivation and Perception Extended in Time and Society Lab

Congratulations to Dr. Scott Leith who received his PhD along with the university's PhD Gold Medal of Academic Excellence at his Convocation ceremony on Oct 30!


Congratulations to Dr. Cindy Ward who received her PhD along with the Award for Outstanding Work at the Graduate Level at her Convocation ceremony on Oct 30!

And Congratulations to Katie Schuett and Sarah Williams who both recieved their Masters of Arts in Psychology at Convocation on Oct 30!