Psychology students, faculty present research at national conference

April 19, 2018

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Three University of Wisconsin-Platteville psychology students presented their research about college students’ hook-up experiences at the Society for Research on Adolescence Biennial Meeting April 12-14 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A faculty member also presented research at the conference.

Student researchers included Rachel (Baird) Ahrenholtz, a senior psychology major from New Glarus, Wisconsin; Sydney Hahlbeck, a senior psychology and criminal justice major from Appleton, Wisconsin; and Melody Hayden, a junior psychology major from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. All are, or were, enrolled in an independent study course with Dr. Julie Hill, assistant professor of psychology at UW-Platteville.

Students presented two posters that were part of a large research project they conducted for the independent study course. Their research began in spring 2017 and continued over the past year.

Hahlbeck presented “Emerging Adults’ Hook-up Motivations as Predictors of the Positivity and Negativity of their Most Recent Hookup Experience.” In this study, UW-Platteville students answered questions about their most recent hook-up experience. The most surprising result was that those who were more motivated by the potential to enter a romantic relationship were more likely to experience positive outcomes after the hook-up, and this motivation was not related to negative outcomes.

“It was inspiring to be surrounded by so many intelligent and curious people,” Hahlbeck said, in regards to presenting. “The conference was a great learning opportunity and sparked my interest in conducting future research projects.”

Ahrenholtz presented “Emerging Adults’ Motivations for Never Hooking Up and Their Desire for a Hook-Up.” Hill noted that previous research in this area has always overlooked the group of students who have not had this experience, so this study was the first of its kind. Results showed that approximately 15 percent of the sample was interested or very interested in hooking up in the future. These participants were more likely to cite a lack of opportunity as the reason why they had not hooked up. Additionally, these students were more likely to be sexually inexperienced. On the other hand, approximately 54 percent of the sample had no desire to hook up in the future and they were more likely to cite personal values as the reason why they had not.

“SRA was truly inspiring and renewed the passion I have for research,” said Ahrenholz. “My favorite part had to be the unique opportunity to talk with other researchers as a peer. I even spoke with one individual I had quoted in past papers. SRA and this experience with my fellow classmates and Dr. Julie Hill has me excited about my future endeavors in psychology.”

Hayden assisted with both parts of the project and attended the conference to help present the posters. In addition, she will present “Hook-Up Motivations and Outcomes of Two-Year College Students Compared to Four-Year College Students,” at the Pioneer Creative Activities and Research Day, sponsored by UW-Platteville’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, on Wednesday, April 25 at UW-Platteville.

Hayden’s study replicated the other two projects with two-year college students, as they are typically not included in hook-up research. Results of her research
revealed that a significantly smaller proportion of students at two-year institutions have had a hook-up than at four-year institutions. There were no other major differences between the two-year and four-year college students’ hook-up experiences.

“The conference allowed us to ask researchers questions about their research and see into their process on a more in-depth level than the average undergraduate student,” said Hayden. “It was also helpful to see how professionals acted with one another with questions and ideas. The SRA conference was also helpful in showing how conferences run, which will be needed in my future.” Hayden’s career goal is to become a psychology researcher specializing in sexuality. She hopes to bring her research to more conferences like this one.

Hill presented a separate, unrelated poster titled “Sexual Identity Development and Depressive Symptoms During Emerging Adulthood.” This research found that many college students have conflicting positive and negative thoughts about engaging in sexual intercourse, which might be reflective of continued sexual identity development. Higher levels of conflicting feelings were predictive of more depressive symptoms for those who have had sexual intercourse. Conversely, for those who had not engaged in sexual intercourse, conflicting feelings were not predictive of depressive symptoms.

“The students are planning to continue researching in graduate school and perhaps even in their careers,” said Hill. “By attending a national conference like SRA, they were able to see what the next steps in their career paths might look like. Additionally, at SRA, the students had the unique opportunity to talk to the researchers who conducted some of the research that they read in preparation for conducting their own study. One of those researchers even came to see the students’ posters, which was a very exciting moment.”

To view student and faculty posters, visit:
• Sydney Hahlbeck:
• Rachel (Baird) Ahrenholtz:
• Dr. Julie Hill:

For more information about the conference, visit:

Funding support for the conference and research was provided by UW-Platteville’s College of Liberal Arts and Education Dean’s Fund, Department of Psychology, Faculty Professional Development Committee and 2017 Pioneer Summer Research Funding from the Office of the Provost.

High-impact practices, such as Hill’s and the students’ research and presentations at the national conference, are an important component of UW-Platteville’s 2017-18 strategic work plan, which includes the institutional priorities of improving student learning, data-informed decision making, budgeting and planning, supporting student success through retention and recruitment initiatives, and campus climate.

Written by: Laurie A. Hamer, University Relations Specialist, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191,


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