By Despina Williams Parker
Recent graduate Briana Tauber (Psychology, ‘14g) was a very visible and active contributor to New Paltz’s Evolutionary Studies (EvoS) program.
The interdisciplinary program introduces students from a variety of disciplines to the core ideas of evolutionary theory. EvoS offerings include courses in anthropology, art history, biology, black studies, communication disorders, English, geology, history, physics and psychology.
Tauber said she was drawn to the EvoS program after taking Psychology Professor Glenn Geher’s Evolutionary Studies course her junior year. Rooted in evolutionary psychology, the course examined the evolutionary origins of human behaviors. “I really loved the material and I wanted to get involved,” said Tauber.
As an undergraduate, Tauber worked as a research assistant in Geher’s Evolutionary Studies lab. During her graduate studies, she continued to contribute to the EvoS program, both as a teaching assistant and president of the campus EvoS Club.
This spring, Tauber took a lead role in organizing the ninth annual Northeastern Evolutionary Psychology Society (NEEPS) conference, held at New Paltz from April 10-13. Tauber organized student volunteers, tracked registrations and juggled a variety of conference tasks. The approximately 200 participants came from five continents, and participated in a variety of lectures, book signings and other events at the Terrace and Lecture Center.
Tauber’s work as the EvoS Club president also garnered the attention of the campus’s Student Association. Tauber accepted the club’s Outstanding Scholarship Award during a ceremony on April 30 in the Student Union Building. The award recognized the club’s efforts in connecting students to distinguished, evolutionary studies speakers.
Tauber’s work in evolutionary psychology culminated with a master’s thesis on the subject of deception detection and trust in mating behaviors. Tauber drew from Geher’s book, Mating Intelligence Unleashed, which she helped edit, in developing her research. Tauber was intrigued by the gaps in the scholarship on how people choose mates, and particularly, their ability to spot the liars from the earnest suitors.
“It’s really relevant now because you have all of this online dating,” Tauber noted. “People fall in love online and they’ve never met this person face to face, and it’s not the person they thought it was.”
Tauber used the online survey generator Survey Monkey to poll over 300 participants on their romantic experiences. Her research revealed several interesting findings. Extroverts proved better at detecting deception than introverts, which Tauber believes speaks to extroverts’ greater experience interacting with people in general, (and presumably, with a greater number of liars.) Women who were more promiscuous were also less trusting of their mates.
Though Tauber graduated this May, she maintains close ties to her psychology mentors. She is slated to co-edit, with Geher and other scholars, a book tentatively titled The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Studies. The book will examine the interdisciplinary nature of evolutionary studies and explore its future in higher education.
Tauber said the opportunities for student/faculty collaborations were among the highlights of her time at New Paltz. She will miss the daily interaction with her psychology professors and peers.
“I’ve spent a quarter of my life here. It’s sad to leave,” she said.