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Research Conducted by School of Psychology Graduate Student, Faculty Mentor Published in Prestigious Journal

Tue, 11/19/2019 - 06:20am | By: David Tisdale

A University of Southern Mississippi (USM) School of Psychology faculty member and one of his graduate students recently had their research published in what is considered one of the top journals in the field.

“How Behavioral Economics and Nudges Could Help Diminish Irrationality in Suicide-Related Decisions” in Perspectives on Psychological Science, was submitted by Brian Bauer, a fourth-year doctoral student in clinical psychology from Issaquah, Washington, and Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Dan Capron.

Central to this project are the cognitive biases of individuals, and Bauer and Capron seek to address a research void in this area by examining the types of biases that exist, why and how they come about, and ultimately how these might manifest in suicidal individuals and impact their decision making. Their research further presents an argument for the likely existence of cognitive biases within suicide-related decision making, and how they may influence people to make irrational decisions.

Additionally, the article provides new evidence for using a behavioral economic intervention – nudges - as a potential way to combat rising suicide rates, exploring how nudges can help increase means safety, disseminate suicide prevention skills/materials, diminish well-known biases (e.g., confirmation bias), and uncover biases that may be occurring when making suicide-related decisions.  

After completing his program at USM, Bauer plans to pursue a tenure-track faculty position within a clinical psychology department at a research-focused university.

“Something I really enjoy about cognitive biases is that it is just part of being human,” Bauer said of his research. “It isn’t a deficit or a weakness, it’s just how we are, and it’s something that we all experience many times over the course of our lives. I think that could be powerful for some people to hear.” 

Dr. Capron said that, in his experience, for a graduate student to lead a paper of this caliber is unprecedented and that by most popular metrics, Perspectives on Psychological Science is in the top 10 of highest impact journals in the field of psychology.

“Graduate students are the lifeblood of a research university, bringing fresh ideas and energy to their department. This project really shows the importance of investing in our graduate students,” Dr. Capron said. “Not only will this paper bring national recognition to USM, but this and other work Brian has done were the basis for a $750,000 grant awarded to myself and (School of Psychology colleague) Dr. Mike Anestis last year, so there is a direct financial return on investment as well.

“Thankfully at USM, (Vice President for Research) Dr. (Gordon) Cannon, (Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs) Dr. (Steven) Moser, (College of Education and Human Sciences Dean) Dr. (Trent) Gould, and (Interim Director of the School of Psychology) Dr. (Sara Sytsma) Jordan have been big supporters of our research endeavors, and we have a bright future ahead.”

The School of Psychology is housed in the USM College of Education and Human Sciences. For information about the School of Psychology, visit