OUR Featured Researcher: Kasia Tuzzolino '22
Kasia Tuzzolino (she/hers) is a Psychology major conducting mentored research under Professor Clinton Merck. Her project is titled “The White Christmas Study".
Please describe your project:
Due to the common portrayal of a “white Christmas” in the media, many Americans idealize the idea of snow falling on or around the Christmas holiday. For those who live in regions that experience snowfall, this may foster a sense of nostalgia for past white Christmases “just like the ones they used to know.” This study investigates how this nostalgia shapes memory for the number of white Christmases experienced in the past and, in turn, how these memories influence estimations of snowy Christmas holidays in the future. Participants tended to estimate a steep decline in white Christmas occurrences over time, both when remembering these occurrences in the past and estimating them in the future. Moreover, predictions of future white Christmases were related to climate change attitudes, suggesting that nostalgia can be utilized as a potential strategy to promote sustainability.
Why is your research important?
The White Christmas study gives us an insight into the complexity of our cognitions by highlighting culture’s impacts on memory and the links between remembering the past and simulating the future. Our results indicate that climate change beliefs are impacted by the perceptions of the past, offering potential strategies to increase awareness of the threat of climate change.
What does the process of doing your research look like?
My research consisted of completing a literature review. With the survey data being already collected/analyzed, I was tasked with finding connections to existing research and completing a final write-up.
What knowledge has your research contributed to your field? What are your findings so far?
There are not many psychological studies discussing how nostalgia may impact one’s interpretation of the future. We demonstrate that a sense of longing for the past can impact predictions of future outcomes and apply these ideas to the pressing issue of climate change.
In what ways have you showcased your research?
Professor Merck and I are currently in the process of publishing an article for our study. I am also planning to present the findings at the APS conference in Chicago.
How did you get involved in research?
I knew I wanted to participate in research after taking Research Methods I with Professor Darling. It was the first class in my academic career where the homework never felt like work to me. That class motivated me to reach out to professors and engage in scientific research.
What is your favorite aspect of the research process?
I enjoy completing puzzles and strategy games. The research process is like a puzzle, where you have to figure out how different elements fit together to create a bigger picture. The White Christmas study was rewarding to write up because I had to weave all of these seemingly unrelated factors together into a single narrative and contribute to the broader study of memory psychology.
How has working with your mentor impacted the development of your research project? How has it impacted you as a researcher?
I have been fortunate to work with Professor Merck as he has been incredibly supportive during my path to becoming a researcher and has been a mentor to me in terms of my professional career and personal identity. Whether you are in his classroom, during office hours, or lab, you can tell that he takes teaching seriously but also makes it an engaging and enjoyable experience for his students.
How has the research you’ve conducted contributed to your professional or academic development?
I have always been interested in asking speculative and existential questions. Conducting research, especially psychological research, has been valuable because I am learning how to use the tools that will help me answer my own questions I have of the world.
What advice would you give to a younger student wanting to get involved in research in your field?
Don’t be afraid to reach out to professors. Not only do they offer great resources, but they also are extremely interesting people waiting to meet students and help them on their academic journey.