Imagine yourself sitting at a table, ready to eat lunch. You pick up your sandwich, take a bite, and find that there’s a long hair protruding from between your lettuce and cheese. How do you react? Be careful how you answer; it may determine how desirable you are.
Kristen Lanzilotta ’17, a psychology major and Summer Scholar, is researching how women’s reactions to disgusting situations affect how they are seen in others’ eyes. Under the mentorship of Alex Skolnick, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology — an expert in the emotions of disgust — Lanzilotta is spending the summer conducting surveys, asking participants how they’d feel about a woman who reacted to a disgusting situation in a variety of ways.
“The stereotyped reaction for women is one of helplessness,” Lanzilotta explains. “The aim of my project is to examine the relationship between women behaving in accordance to the gender stereotype of helplessness and their perceived physical attractiveness.”
Lanzilotta theorizes that women who act according to gender roles will be seen as more desirable. “The damsel in distress is a powerful stereotype,” she says. “I want people to understand the implications of applying gender stereotypes to women. They may not only shape how women act, but also how they will be judged by other people superficially.”
Summer Scholars was a natural choice for the project, Lanzilotta says, because it gives her the time and space to find her research style.
“My work on this project differs from my approach to regular schoolwork in that I have assumed more of a leadership role,” she says. “I have to plan, communicate, and delegate to make this project successful.”
Lanzilotta is a regular presence on the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s List, and is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Psi Chi Psychology Honor Society. Outside the classroom, she competes in intramural soccer.
Summer Scholars Project: Women who do not say “Yuck!” Are Women Evaluated Differently Based on their Response to a Disgusting Situation?
Mentor: Alex Skolnick, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology
High School: Merion Mercy Academy, Merion, Pennsylvania