Behavioral Sciences

Behavioral science students are encouraged to enrich their classroom learning with hands-on experiences and to reflect on their personal experiences from an academic perspective.

Anthropology & sociology students enjoy integrative study along with stimulating field experiences to prepare for careers that require people-management skills. Psychology students receive ample opportunities to apply classroom learning in the field, particularly through internships. And wellness & alternative medicine students explore the behavioral, physical and health sciences through interdisciplinary studies and hands-on training.

Our master's program in counseling, meanwhile, combines a core of courses in general counseling, elective courses and a 600-hour internship specifically tailored to a student's occupational interest.

The Science of Laughing Babies

Laughing Baby, photo by Stefan Hard of the Times Argus

It’s not uncommon to see an otherwise respectable adult making silly faces and absurd noises to make a baby smile or laugh. But JSC Professor of Behavioral Sciences Gina Mireault suspected that babies weren't being given credit for being “clowns” themselves.  This suspicion gave rise to a research project, overseen by Mireault and involving a number of undergraduate research assistants, that has been dubbed “The Laughing Babies Study.”  The researchers have been observing how infants discover humor and amusement and how those relate to bonding and attachment.

 

Though there have been similar studies done on older children, the study is one of the few ever done on infants, Dr. Mireault explains. “The goal of the study is to figure out what babies understand about the world,” she says. “What do they understand about relationships?” The researchers are looking at how humor affects the quality of an infant’s relationship with his or her caregiver, and how it influences their emotional health.

 

In addition to learning more about human development, one specific aim of the project is to provide JSC psychology majors with direct, hands-on research experience. The study involves 20 babies from the local area who have been evaluated from the age of 3 months through their first birthday. Over the past two years of the study, JSC students have made multiple visits to each participating family, videotaping and observing parents’ interactions with their infants.

 

The JSC students involved in the project are not only gaining valuable research experience, but also presented their findings at a national conference and on Capitol Hill to promote undergraduate research opportunities. Plus, they generated interest among the local media and their peers on campus. “It has stirred up quite a bit of excitement and intrigue in students,” Mireault says, “to know that research like this is going on right under their very noses.”