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Larson Lab

In the Larson Lab, we investigate how self determination theory (SDT) applies to vocational psychology. SDT asserts that people’s sense of their competence, autonomy to make their own choices, and their sense of relatedness directly affects their well-being. SDT also asserts that the environment can either help or hinder people’s well-being directly or indirectly by strengthening or weakening their competence, autonomy, and relatedness.

  • Student samples: (1)) Mary's thesis examined how peer support and faculty support relate to academic major satisfaction and the extent to which the SDT needs of volitional autonomy, perceived competence, and relatedness mediate those relationships. Perceived competence in the major fully mediated the relationship between faculty/peer support and academic major satisfaction. (4) Elly's thesis examined how interpersonal sensitivity, a personality trait linked to depression and anxiety, affects well-being directly and indirectly through the need to connect with others (relatedness satisfaction), the need to not be rejected by others (relatedness thwarting), and the need to not be distant or isolated from others (relatedness dissatisfaction). She found that relatedness satisfaction and relationship thwarting/dissatisfaction both fully mediated the relationship between interpersonal sensitivity and positive affect; moreover both of these variables partially mediated the relationship between interpersonal sensitivity and negative affect. Mary's dissertation examined the three psychological needs as mediators of the relationship between faculty nonverbal and verbal supportive behaviors in the environment and academic major satisfaction. She found that perceived competence in class and relatedness in class both fully mediated the relationships between both types of faculty supportive behaviors and academic major satisfaction. 
  • Faculty samples: (1) We found that tenure-track faculty’s need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness mediated the relation between the faculty’s campus environment (e.g., chair support, promotion and tenure support) and faculty wellbeing. (2) Matt's thesis found that for non tenure track faculty or term faculty, need for relatedness mediated the relation between department support, administrative support, and personal/family support and faculty wellbeing. (3) Kent's thesis examined mean differences of a racially diverse national sample of term faculty and examined the cross racial validity of the SDT model for four distinct racial term faculty groups. (4) We found that the SDT needs of relatedness and volitional autonomy fully mediated the relation between campus environmental supports and term faculty well-being in a large national sample. 

​In the lab we also examined the inclusive classrooms. In particular, Spurty and I examined a sample of international and racial and ethnic minority students’ discomfort due to inappropriate comments made to them by faculty and other students both inside and outside the classroom. We also examined comments made by female students as well. 

We  also have examined other avenues of vocational psychology: (a) Spurty's dissertation examined public and private stigma as well as parental stigma and the differential effect of parental stigma on Asian international students compared to Asian American students and European American students, (b) Katie's dissertation examined the social cost of career undecidedness;  and (c) Dusty's dissertation examined how punishment and reward seeking may influence career choice.

The Larson Lab currently includes two graduate students and one undergraduate research assistant.


Elly Frickey
Elly Frickey

Elly Frickey is our 2018-2020 lab coordinator originally from Minnetonka, MN. Elly is a third year counseling psychology student

Kent Crick was our 2017-2018 lab coordinator and is currently the RA for one of our NSF ESCEL grants originally from Evansville, Indiana.


Kent Crick
Kent Crick 

Matt Seipel, a 4th year student, ran the lab in 202015-2017   Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Matt Seipel, is a third year counseling psychology student and served as the lab coordinator for the 2015-2017.

Spurty, Dusty, and Mary are celebrating and sending off our prdoctoral interns at Dr. Meifen Wei’s house who graciously hosted the event. Spurty Surapaneni, originally from Riverside, California, is currently a tenure track clinical assistant professor at the counseling center at the University of Florida - Gainesville and served as our lab coordinator from 2013 – 2015.  Dusty Baker is currently a staff psychologist at Innovative Learning Resources in Des Moines Iowa and is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mary Schenkenfelder, a 6th year student, is originally from a suburb south of Chicago was the ISU ADVANCE graduate assistant in 2015-2016. She is now on internship at Creighton University Center for Health and Counseling in Omaha, NE. 

Mary, Dr. Larson, Dusty, Spurty, and Katie are celebrating end of year at The Spice in downtown Ames. Katie Pesch is a psychologist in private practice in Charlotte, North Carolina and is originally from Madison, Wisconsin. She served as the lab coordinator from 2011 to 2013.