Psychology student examines post Roe v. Wade decision, will present project at Research in the Rotunda

Maddie Gehl

University of Wisconsin-Platteville senior Maddie Gehl never foresaw herself conducting undergraduate research, but after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, it sparked an interest of wanting to see how the ruling would affect college students and dating apps. Now, her research will be showcased at the 19th annual Research in the Rotunda, held on March 8 in the state Capitol. Gehl will present her findings to legislators, state leaders and peers from across the UW System.

“I wanted to conduct an experiment instead of looking through research articles and putting together a meta-analysis. My research advisor [Dr. Chris Wilbur, professor of psychology] and I decided to see how a reminder of the Supreme Court decision would influence college students’ decision about picking a match on Tinder,” said Gehl, a psychology major and women’s and gender studies minor, from Peosta, Iowa. “I find Tinder and the decision to swipe right or left by looking at faces on the application interesting. I asked the question: would women be more selective of men if they read Roe v. Wade first?”

To help answer the question, Gehl has sampled more than 100 UW-Platteville students. She’s hoping to collect more data with students throughout the spring semester. Gehl acknowledged the challenges of researching the effects of a ruling made only seven months ago.

“I would like to see how the decision would impact college women at UW-Platteville,” Gehl explained. “There isn’t a lot of research on how it impacts decision-making and how it impacts women’s choices with men – every day new information comes out.”

As Gehl navigates her data, she emphasized the importance of having the opportunity to embark on undergraduate research. Throughout the process, Gehl states how she has developed stronger critical, analytical and problem-solving skills.

“My project started off with an idea. It has grown and changed. I have learned the ins and outs of research,” she said. I created my own experiment and followed it through. To create and conduct research is one of the most challenging yet rewarding things. I was able to see how my work intrigued others. I have been able to get accepted into other conferences and presentations. It’s beyond what I thought I would ever be able to do.”

Gehl will finalize her project in May but will share her preliminary results at Research in the Rotunda. Currently, the results are trending towards her hypothesis.

“Nothing is significant per se from a psychology statistical point, but the trends are showing that women who read the Roe v. Wade article are more selective,” said Gehl. “I’m excited to represent UW-Platteville. I can’t wait to see what my fellow peers have done over the past year. I’m excited to show off my hard work. I love UW-Platteville; it’s my home. These are the opportunities students have here.”

Although Gehl will graduate this spring, she notes how her career plans may have shifted since becoming an undergraduate researcher.

“I would love to continue to do research, maybe at a post grad level. I can’t even explain how grateful I am for this opportunity. It’s opened my eyes to a whole new world,” she said. “I love advocating for people.”

To learn more about Research in the Rotunda, visit