Undergraduate Research

Jessia Norris ’23

OUR Featured Researcher: Jessia Norris ’23

Jessia Norris
Photo credit: Tanya Rosen-Jones '97

Jessia Norris (she/her) is majoring in psychology and French. She conducts research under the mentorship of Assistant Professor of Psychology Sara Verosky. Her project is titled “Emotion Word Use by English Second Language Speakers: An Analysis of Speaker Status, Extraversion, and Vocabulary Size.”

Please describe your project:

As a psychology and French double major, I am interested in what factors influence the ways that people talk about their emotions. This project investigates how many emotion words people use when describing a sad personal memory. I looked at whether native and non-native English speakers and extraverts and introverts differ in their emotion word use. I also investigated whether non-native speakers with larger English vocabulary sizes used more emotion words than non-native speakers with smaller vocabularies. I found that non-native speakers used somewhat fewer emotion words than native speakers. Extroverts and introverts used equal numbers of emotion words. Vocabulary size did not affect emotion word use. I collected the data for this project with an online survey, and I used linguistic analysis and statistical processing software to analyze the data.

A brief summary (the elevator speech) of your research project:

I investigated how native and non-native English speakers used emotion words when describing sad memories. Specifically, I looked at whether native or non-native speaker status, extraversion or introversion, and vocabulary size influenced the number of emotion words people used when writing about these memories. I found that non-native speakers used slightly fewer emotion words than native speakers, and that the other two factors did not influence people’s word use.

Why is your research important?

Non-native speakers of a language need to learn new ways of describing their emotions and communicating them to others. In social situations, incorrectly using emotional terms can have social repercussions - like embarrassment - that grammatical errors do not cause. My research investigates different factors that support non-native speakers’ emotion word use, which can inform both future research in emotion discourse and applied second language teaching.

What does the process of doing your research look like?

I collected written descriptions of people’s memories online, and asked participants to fill out a survey assessing their linguistic history, levels of extraversion, and English vocabulary size. I then used linguistic and statistical processing software to analyze the relationships between word use and these other factors. Since this work takes place on computers, I spend a lot of my time in my advisor’s lab.

What knowledge has your research contributed to your field?

This project evaluates several possible factors that might influence people’s emotion word use identified in past research. I found that non-native speakers use somewhat fewer emotion words than native speakers. I also found that levels of extraversion and vocabulary size do not influence people’s emotion word use. These findings add further specificity to which factors influence emotion discourse in the real world.

In what ways have you showcased your research thus far?

I wrote a 30-page write up of the study, which I defended to my thesis committee. I plan to share a poster of the study at the Psychology Department’s annual celebration of research in May.

Jessia atands beside a large sign that says "SPSP"How did you get involved in research? What drove you to seek out research experiences in college? 

I loved the research methods course I took within my major, and my professor encouraged me to seek out research opportunities within the department. After that conversation, I reached out to another psychology professor, and worked as a research assistant in her lab for two years. This work helped me discover my love of psycholinguistics research, which I pursued for my honors project as well.

What is your favorite aspect of the research process?

Working with my data is my favorite part of the research process. It is incredibly rewarding to actually see the results of a project I spent months planning.

How has working with your mentor impacted the development of your research project? How has it impacted you as a researcher?

I have been lucky to have incredible mentors in the psychology department. My faculty mentors have helped me grow as a researcher, and helped me think about how I can translate these skills into a career after college.

How has the research you’ve conducted contributed to your professional or academic development?  

My research experiences helped me discover that I love working with data. Building my CV helped me secure a professional research assistant position in a psychology lab for my gap year after college.

What advice would you give to a younger student wanting to get involved in research in your field?

Oberlin professors are very welcoming and excited to work with students. They want to get students engaged in their research, so don’t be afraid to reach out to meet with them!