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Congratulations to Dillon Rubalcava and Desman Wilson, recipients of J. Steven Reznick Diversity and Psychological Research Grants for Spring 2019.

The Reznick Diversity and Psychological Research Grant supports students from underrepresented backgrounds or those who are interested in conducting research with, or applicable to, populations traditionally underrepresented in research. The students receiving this $2,000 award may use the funds to offset the need for other part-time work, to cover the costs of carrying out research, and/or to attend a professional conference.

The J. Steven Reznick Diversity and Psychological Research Grant honors Dr. Reznick, a close friend and colleague in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. He earned his B.A. in Psychology from UNC Chapel Hill, M.A. from Wake Forest University, and Ph.D. from University of Colorado. He was a proud alumnus of UNC Chapel Hill and served on our faculty from 1998 until his death in 2016. Dr. Reznick made many contributions to enriching diversity in student experiences at UNC Chapel Hill and we thank him for his lifelong commitment to education, research, and Carolina. The Reznick Research Fund honors Dr. Reznick and encourages undergraduate students who conduct exemplary research on topics of concern to diverse populations as well as undergraduates from groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in psychological research.

Dillon is a junior Psychology major who is also majoring in Biology. He has been working in Dr. Kristen Lindquist’s laboratory for over two years studying emotions from a psychological constructionist perspective, which posits that emotions emerge from basic psychological “ingredients” (e.g., valence, arousal) that may be situational or individual-specific. Dillon is interested in examining a new emotion-related construct and individual trait he has conceptualized and refers to as “emotional realism.” This construct reflects the extent to which an individual identifies with their emotions and uses that affective information in shaping their in-the-moment reality. He speculates that being high in emotion realism may interact with stereotype threat, explaining why people may experience different levels of threat related to, for example, their race/ethnicity or gender.

Desman Wilson is a junior Psychology major who recently started working in Dr. Kurt Gray’s laboratory. He is broadly interested in the role of moral responsibility in technology. Desman has particular interests in the context of the criminal justice system where there is increasing use of decision-making via artificial intelligence (AI). However, he points to cases where algorithms intended to be the most fair in parole decisions actually demonstrated clear racial bias, predicting higher rates of recidivism for black defendants, resulting in unfair outcomes. Preliminary research he has been involved in indicates that people are more forgiving when a machine shows racial bias than when a human does, with the difference perhaps due to decreased attribution of moral motivations to machines. Desman hopes to examine different types of bias in the AI context, including racial bias and gender bias, and how people understand machine-generated bias.

Congratulations to Dillon and Desman on receiving this prestigious grant!

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