Evolutionary Studies Program Hosts Hike

West Trapps Trailhead

West Trapps Trailhead

In conjunction with the campus’ celebration of the Wilderness Act’s 50th anniversary, the Evolutionary Studies program will host a hike up the Millbrook Ridge Trail in the Shawangunk mountains on Tuesday, September 16 from 4-6:30 p.m.

This hike will be free for members of the SUNY New Paltz community. Carloads will meet at the West Trapps Trailhead at 4 p.m. This is a moderate rock scramble with amazing views. Remember to wear good shoes and bring water.

Directions to the trailhead can be found here.

To sign up, please contact EvoS Assistant Nicole Wedberg at wedbergn1@hawkmail.newpaltz.edu. Spaces are limited. Please indicate in your reservation whether you will be driving your car.

Also, please note that LAS is sponsoring a talk immediately after this hike by renowned environmentalist Bill McKibben. His talk will take place in Lecture Center 100 at 7 p.m.  Hike coordinators will make sure that participants are off the mountain in time for this major event.

Visit the Facebook site for the EvoS hike.

Psychology Professor Joins Unique Gathering for a Discussion of Love and Dating

By Despina Williams Parker

A New Paltz psychology professor, a research scientist and an online dating guru walk into a bar. What follows will likely prove to be a fun, stimulating exchange on love and relationships.

The eleventh gathering of the Empiricist League, which “brings together people from Empiricist Leaguescientific backgrounds for the purpose of communicating the power of the scientific method,” will be held Aug. 19 at Union Hall, located at 702 Union Street in Brooklyn. Union Hall is a 5,000 square foot restaurant, bar and live music venue. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and the first speaker begins at 8 p.m.

Department of Psychology Professor and Chair Glenn Geher joins Dr. Bianca Acevedo, a research scientist at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and Christian Rudder, one of the founders of the online dating service OKCupid, for a contemporary look at evolutionary psychology, neuroscience and data analysis.

The Empiricist League welcomes “writers, filmmakers, and oddballs,” and Geher extends a special invitation to New Paltz students and alumni.

“A student who attends will hopefully learn a bit about the ultimate factors that underlie dating and mate selection – and given the venue, they would have an opportunity to see that the discussion of intellectual ideas can be downright fun and exciting,” said Geher.

Geher’s talk, entitled, “Mating Intelligence: Evolutionary Psychology’s Advice for the Lovelorn,” will offer an evolutionary perspective on human mating systems, with a focus on what factors led to monogamy-like systems in our species. Geher, who directs the Evolutionary Studies program at New Paltz, will discuss how we can best understand the concept of love from an evolutionary perspective.

Geher’s peers will approach love from other interesting angles. Dr. Acevedo will deliver a talk entitled, “Sex on the Brain: What Neuroscience Can Teach Us about Love, Lust and Marriage,” and Rudder will explore what data reveals about the habits and desires of online daters. He will explain how data scientists can reveal, with “unprecedented precision how we fight, how we age, how we love, and how we change.”

For more event information, click here.

High-Tech Listening: iPhone App for Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are better than ever; they’re slim, customized, discrete and technologically advanced. They are no longer the devices of the past that your grandparents kept in a drawer only to wear for an occasional outing. They are digital and brimming with connectivity. Hearing aids can connect to any device that is Bluetooth compatible, such as a computer, television, cell phone, land line phone, music device, car system and more. If the target device is not Bluetooth, then an adaptor can be utilized.

Collage of hearing aids throughout history

Hearing aids throughout history

Recently a variety of hearing aid companies have introduced another advancement: iPhone compatibility. Apple’s “Made for iPhone Hearing Aid” program allows the iPhone to act as a remote control for hearing aids. When moving from one sound environment to another, such as entering a noisy restaurant, adjusting the volume or switching the hearing aid’s pre-programmed environment settings is easily done with the iPhone app. In addition, the app can be used to select an input source, such as cell phone, TV or music, so that sound is delivered from the source directly to the hearing aid.

If you would like to find out more about hearing aids, please contact the SUNY New Paltz Speech Language and Hearing Center at (845) 257-3600.



From New Paltz to Japan to England: Alum Pursues Advanced Studies Abroad

William Borchert

William Borchert

William Borchert ’10 lived locally when he was an undergraduate at New Paltz, commuting from his hometown of nearby Marlboro. But for his graduate studies, Borchert decided it was time to conquer some other continents.

After graduating from New Paltz in three years with three majors (biology, history, Asian studies) and three minors (business administration, evolutionary studies, and religious studies), Borchert attended Meiji University in Tokyo to study the Japanese government’s response to pandemic influenza. From there, he went to the University of Tokyo, where he wrote a thesis comparing the effectiveness of treatments for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and earned his master’s degree in international health. The next leg of his journey will take place at England’s Cambridge University, where Borchert is pursuing a Ph.D. in public health.

“I knew I wanted to study medicine in the future, so I didn’t change my majors – I just added them,” says Borchert. “When I graduated, I was a little bit more on the social science side as opposed to the biological science side. Science should never take a backseat, but I realized that medicine is not only science alone. Medicine is also an art.”

He adds, “I’m glad I have that background. It was a good preparation.”

Borchert already had some history with Tokyo, as he studied abroad at Sophia University while he was attending New Paltz. He also worked for the Center for International Programs as an undergrad.

Aside from his Japanese language abilities, Borchert says the skills he gained from his professors and from working in the International Office have gone a long way in his post-New Paltz endeavors. He says he always makes a point to visit his biology professors whenever he’s stateside, and lists biology Professor Jeffrey Reinking and psychology Professor Glenn Geher among those who particularly influenced him.

“Behold the power of SUNY,” says Borchert, who graduated from New Paltz debt-free thanks to federal grants and staying close to home. “I’m very glad I went to a SUNY.”

IDMH Director Discusses Malaysian Airlines Disaster with CCTV America


James Halpern

On Wednesday, July 23, 2014, Psychology Professor and Director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) Dr. James Halpern joined CCTV America, an American division of the international news broadcaster China Central Television, to discuss the recent Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 disaster.

Halpern shared his expertise in disaster mental health practices by answering several questions about the grieving process of those who lost loved ones on Flight 17 when it was shot down on July 17. He addressed such topics as how leaders should help people cope, whether the crash investigation will prolong the grieving process, and what advice he would give family and friends to help victims cope.

Halpern is often requested to provide trauma counseling to victims immediately following major disasters such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Newtown, Conn., school shootings, and Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. He is also regularly sought out by regional, national and international media to comment on best practices in disaster counseling and treatment after national and international crises.

If you are a professor or professional who has a particular area of expertise and you would like to make yourself available for media inquiries about that expertise, please fill out the experts database form on the Office of Communication and Marketing web page at https://www3.newpaltz.edu/experts/.

For more information about the Institute for Disaster Mental Health, please visit: www.newpaltz.edu/idmh

Freeman Reflects on 38-Year Service to Psychology Department

Phyllis Freeman1

Dr. Phyllis Freeman enjoys her retirement party with long-time colleague James Halpern and Department Chair Glenn Geher. The party attracted over 100 attendees, including current students, past students, current colleagues, former colleagues and administrators.


“A liberal arts education should encompass the heart and soul along with engaging the mind.”

Dr. Phyllis Freeman retired in December 2013 after over 38 years of impassioned service to New Paltz’s academic community.

Psychology Chair Glenn Geher interviewed Freeman for the summer edition of The Self Monitor, the department’s alumni newsletter. The following is an excerpt of the lengthy and illuminating interview. Read the full article here.

Undergraduate Preparation

I entered NYU, the University Heights campus (in Bronx, NY) as a pretty naïve freshman, intent on declaring a pre-med major and focused on an eventual career in psychiatry or maybe internal medicine. Going to college and living on campus was especially challenging for me since I had spent two and a half years on home instruction and only returned to public school as a second semester 10th grader. At NYU, I was assigned an academic adviser during orientation and registered for his Intro Psych class during the fall of 1966. He was a junior professor named Philip Zimbardo. Being in his class changed the trajectory of my professional life. He modeled how a passionate, energetic, creative, and somewhat intimidating professor could engage a class, and how an adviser could affect a student’s life choices. I did well academically, and he encouraged me to major in psych (I still have the letter he wrote me on my office wall).

Graduate School

NYU prepared me for the rigors of graduate life at Bryn Mawr College (the oldest graduate school for women in the US). Graduate school involved all-encompassing lab and classroom and library work 24/7. I took care of a fish and a rat colony, fixed and wired experimental equipment, took a full load of five classes even during the dissertation year, and of course, conducted research on animal learning in fish, rats, pigeons, and cats. (I even attempted to classically condition cats while Marty Seligman watched me!) I chose Bryn Mawr from the places that accepted me since it was famous for the study of the evolution of animal learning (one of the founders of the field of Comparative Psychology, M.E. Bitterman, was chair of Psychology). I was an NDEA Fellow for my first three years. I’m not sure why the Defense Department thought that our work on learning would aid the defense of the United States, but this fellowship paid my tuition, and I promised to give back at least three years of teaching in exchange. I think I have repaid that debt!

SUNY New Paltz

On a hot day in August 1975 I arrived via bus to New Paltz for my job interview. I remember being asked by Bob Presbie, a member of the hiring committee and a radical behaviorist, whether I could teach Perception and how I would do it. Despite never having taken a course in Perception (undergrad or grad), I remember saying “of course,” and that I intended to teach a unit on consciousness as part of the course. Bob said something like “But there isn’t anything to consciousness.” The Chair of Psychology, Howard Cohen, also asked me to teach Experimental Psychology (Research Methods) which at the time was a laboratory course that included a unit on animal learning. I knew I could teach students to train rats to lever press! I was offered a one-year, nonrenewable position, substituting for a member of the department on sick leave. My salary was $12,000. I spent that year working late into the night trying to stay one chapter ahead of my students in the Perception text!

The 1970s and 1980s saw a number of positive – and some very challenging – times for our department. The graduate program started and we attracted both undergraduate and graduate students who were among the very best students any university could teach. I offered the first course in Comparative Psych at the College and started research on the behavioral effects of prenatal methadone exposure on the developing rat fetus. Getting money for animal food and bedding was always a struggle, as was passing the rigorous state inspections.

Changes in the Psychology Department

In looking back over the last 38 years, I can identify a number of ways that we have changed for the better from the “old” days:

1. Our department expects outstanding teaching (as it always did) but now coupled with progressive and sustained scholarly publication.

2. Students are more fully involved in our research activities.

3. Many of us are engaged in research activities and teaching that is service-oriented.

4. The psychology field has expanded to now include evolutionary psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and health psychology, cutting-edge research areas.

5. Our department faculty now more closely reflect the diversity of our society.

Teaching Philosophy

I think I’ve been known as a demanding but kind and fair teacher. I know that I have been heavily influenced in my thinking about what should happen in the classroom by exploring the scholarship of teaching along with my own teaching experiences. Numerous authors’ writings about pedagogy have challenged me to teach well and to keep trying to get better. Parker Palmer perhaps more than any other writer has persuaded me that who we are in the classroom is as important as what we teach. I returned to his eloquent essays every few semesters for a reminder of why I teach and why it can matter. Broadly conceived, I believe that a liberal arts education should encompass the heart and soul along with engaging the mind. I know what people are capable of achieving when tested to their limits and when their accomplishments are acknowledged or celebrated. In the classroom and the laboratory, I strived to teach as a full human being. In Palmer’s words I teach to “rejoin soul and role.”

Phyllis Freeman2

Dr. Freeman reunites with former graduate students, Dr. Steve O’Rourke, Dr. Julian Keenan, Dr. Steve Rappleyear, and school psychologist Adam Hammond.

What’s Next

The process of ending a long teaching life at New Paltz has not been easy. As I leave my office of almost 30 years, give away my books, and file my course lectures notes, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for this career, and of course some sadness. I am saying goodbye to colleagues, some of whom I have known for almost 40 years. I am about to say farewell forever to students who I have taught, learned from, and walked next to on their educational journey. Over the last 38 years, more than 30 students who I mentored have earned Ph.D.’s or Psy.D’s in psychology, and many are making their way as academics, clinicians and researchers. I am proud of this legacy.

There is poem by T. Roethke in which he tells us that this is “one of the few professions that permit love.” Love of subject matter and love of students, I think he means. In my classroom, I have challenged students to aim higher, to learn to think like scientists, to grow and to change. My students have challenged me to confront my own views, to crack open my own assumptions, to find ways to present material that matters in their lives, and to have the courage to “be” in the classroom. And yes, they have let me love them while teaching from the inside out. I will take the lessons I have learned about myself from this teaching life to my next role. I feel full with the possibilities ahead of me.

Retired Professor Conducts Research on Tick-borne Illnesses

For some faculty members, “retirement” is not a term to be taken literally.

Suny New Paltz web portraits.

Dr. Phyllis Freeman

After more than 38  “productive and rewarding” years at SUNY New Paltz – including serving as an undergraduate and graduate instructor, an early director of the Honors Program, dean of the Graduate School, and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences — psychology professor emeritus Phyllis Freeman has joined the Hudson Valley Healing Arts Center (HVHAC) as a clinical research associate. She spent her sabbatical year working at the Center, and was thrilled to be invited by Medical Director Richard Horowitz to join the team when she retired in January.

The HVHAC specializes in the treatment of Lyme disease and other tick-borne disorders, and Freeman is currently conducting a number of diagnostic and treatment studies of the MSIDS model (Multiple Systemic Infections Disease Syndrome) developed by Horowitz for chronic illnesses. In addition to coordinating research projects with laboratories, drug companies, and other treatment centers nationwide, she also educates her fellow HVHAC staff on challenges facing chronically ill patients and their caregivers.

“At this point of my life, it is enormously rewarding to put my health psychology research and teaching experiences to use in service to those so ill with long-term tick-borne disease and associated illnesses,” said Freeman.  “Tick-borne diseases are an enormous public health crisis. The latest CDC estimates are that at least 300,000 Americans contract one of these tick-borne illnesses (Lyme disease) each year.”

Freeman’s current research assistant, Meredith Johnson, is a graduate of the Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling program at SUNY New Paltz. She has also joined forces with her former SUNY New Paltz colleague, associate psychology professor Maryalice Citera, to conduct validation studies of the MSIDS model.

Professor Traces History of ‘Hardwired’ Metaphor in Brain and Behavioral Sciences

Giordana Grossi, Professor of Psychology, presented “Hardwired: History of a Misleading Metaphor” at “NeuroGenderings III: The 1st international Dissensus Conference on brain and gender” in Lausanne, Switzerland (May 8-10, 2014). NeuroGenderings is an interdisciplinary network of neuroscientists, social scientists, and cultural scientists which “aims to elaborate innovative theoretical and empirical approaches for questions of sex/gender and sexuality for neuroscientists; to analyze the social and political underpinnings of the ongoing “cerebralization” of human life and especially of sex/gender, and to discuss the impacts of neuroscientific sex/gender research in sociopolitical and cultural fields.”

“Hardwired” is a term borrowed from the field of engineering and refers to the fixedness or unchangeability of a structure or function. In her presentation, Grossi argued for the need to critically analyze how the concept of “hardwired” is used in brain and behavioral sciences, as its meaning is opaque and typically not defined. Indeed, its meaning shifts when used in different contexts, even within the same text. This lack of precision leaves the door open for misinterpretations, especially in works written for the general public, in which information on how the brain develops and changes with experience is rarely discussed.

In her lecture, Grossi explored how the hardwiring metaphor moved from the field of engineering into the brain sciences at the beginning of the 1970s, and showed how such transition was soon accompanied by the reframing of the term’s meaning in terms of origins (i.e., from fixedness to innateness and genetic determinism). She also discussed why the use of the term in brain and behavioral sciences should be discontinued.

Professor Examines the Evolutionary Psychology of Marathon Running

Marathon.By Despina Williams Parker

Marathon running is not evolutionarily natural. So why do runners enthusiastically race for 26.2 miles, sprinting through pain, sweat and unpleasant weather?

Glenn Geher

Glenn Geher

It’s a question Glenn Geher, Professor of Psychology and Director of New Paltz’s Evolutionary Studies Program, attempts to answer in the recent article, “Long May You Run: The Evolutionary Psychology of Marathon Running,” published in the online magazine, Marathon Running.

In it, Geher notes that while early hominids exercised, on average, much more than modern man or woman, they would not likely have engaged in marathon running or the kind of intensive training that prepares one for it.

Geher positions marathon running within the framework of the evolutionary psychology of signs, which he defines as “signals to others as well as signals to oneself.”

Runners get positive feedback from others who marvel at their strength and determination, but they also receive internal rewards. As Geher noted of his own recent 4-hour-43-minute race through the New Hampshire seacoast: “I learned that I’m a hard-worker – that I can put my immediate interests to the side to reach a bigger goal – that I can achieve something extraordinary (even if my time was slower than my times from a decade ago!)”

Geher believes marathoners share a sense of accomplishment and bolstered faith in their innate potential. “From an evolutionary perspective, it strikes me that I learned something about myself with this experience,” Geher wrote of the New Hampshire marathon, “and the many brave souls who ran alongside me (and who often passed me) learned the same kinds of lessons. If I can do this, I must be capable of lots of great things. And this sounds to me, like a pretty adaptive lesson.”

In an interview with LA&S, Geher noted that marathons and other types of extreme, voluntary physical challenges are “something of a luxury and an artifact of modern living.”

“For the thousands of generations in which people were hunters and gatherers exclusively, I don’t think folks would have had much time for hobbies or extra-curriculars,” he explained. “They could have been happy with a job well-done, but I don’t think a guy from 100,000 years ago who said, ‘Kids, I’m going to be running without hunting for food or anything else useful for two hours a day for the next three months – and I’ll be exhausted all day afterwards’ would have necessarily been very popular. I think that many of the ways that humans now challenge themselves are only possible in light of the comfortable lives we’re able to live in a modern society.”

Geher frequently writes about his hobbies and personal interests in his Psychology Today blog, entitled Darwin’s Subterranean World. Geher’s marathon running article was originally published on the blog.

“The blog has been a great opportunity for me to address lots of things that I find interesting from an evolutionary perspective. Topics have ranged from such issues as dog ownership, Bob Dylan’s lyrics and coaching little league to Star Wars, hiking and marathon running,” Geher said.

Read the complete article, “Long May You Run,” here.

– Despina Williams


New Paltz Alumna Brought Enthusiasm for Evolutionary Psychology to EvoS Program

Briana Tauber

Briana Tauber

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.

EP lab at NEEPS 2014

Tauber (second row from back, second from right), joins Psychology Professor Glenn Geher (front row, left), and fellow EvoS enthusiasts at the Northeastern Evolutionary Psychology Society conference in April.

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.