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Do dogs help reduce stress? Conference has the answers


7 September 2006
Do dogs help reduce stress? Do temperature and light affect mood? Is there a link between eating behaviour and a person’s preference for food?

These are just some of the questions that will be answered during Southern Cross University’s Department of Psychology Annual Research Conference, being held in Coffs Harbour on Friday (September 8).

Dr Rick van der Zwan said the conference was held each year to showcase the research projects undertaken by fourth-year students in the Bachelor of Psychology.

“All of the fourth year students undertake a research project. Some of these are laboratory based while others are done in the community,” Dr van der Zwan said.

“This conference gives the students the opportunity to present their findings to enrich the University, but also to provide feedback to the community.”

The research topics are varied including: attitudes to breastfeeding; how animals can help people relax; seasonality affective disorder; recreational drug use; and the link between personality traits and travel destinations.

“We have a number of projects looking at animal assisted therapy and at how being with animals can help people relax. One study involved a group of students and how their stress levels were reduced through interaction with a dog," he said.

“We have another study which looks at the self-identity of the Sikh community and another looking at the neural processes that allow people to recognise movement.”

The Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) course, offered at the Coffs Harbour campus, attracts students from throughout Australia.

The program has developed an excellent reputation, ranking first for good teaching and third for overall satisfaction out of 36 universities (including major metropolitan universities) in a national survey administered by Graduate Careers Australia.

“We are attracting people from around the country. We offer a really personal service where all the students get to know their lecturers. The access students get to academics, especially in their senior years, is unprecedented,” Dr van der Zwan said.

The Annual Psychology Conference is being held at the Aqualuna Resort, Coffs Harbour, on September 8. It will be closed by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Clark.

Photo: Psychology students Julie Bennett (left) and Dina Jeffrey will be presenting their research at the conference.

Media contact: Brigid Veale Southern Cross University communications manager 66593006 or 0439 680 748.