OSWEGO – SUNY The current research project of Quinn Ceilly, senior psychologist and cognitive scientist at Oswego, focuses on common challenges such as anxiety, overthinking and related issues that may merit further investigation, with support from a campus grant.
A Fall 2021 Student Scholarly and Creative Activity (SCA) grant for “The Costs and Benefits of the ‘Hyper Brain’: How Intelligence, Anxiety, Overthinking and Rumination Interact” will enable Ceilly to “explore cognitive and physiological responses to short-term stress.” to further explore the relationships between overthinking tendencies, rumination and fear,” she explained.
“I’ve always been very interested in the human mind and how it works, particularly how physiological symptoms/reactions to stress and anxiety can manifest themselves to a greater extent in some people than in others,” Ceilly noted.
Ceilly wants to examine these relationships — particularly overthinking and anxiety, overthinking and rumination, and the interrelationships between these three tendencies — and explains that these don’t get as much research attention as other topics like alcohol and drug use and issues like depression.
To that end, Ceilly defines rumination as the recurring contemplation of emotions and their causes, while simultaneously considering various potential negative consequences while responding to negative feelings — which, much like fear and overthinking, can be a popular emotion, particularly among college students.
At the Psychological Sciences Laboratory at 303 Mahar Hall, Ceilly works with student volunteers to study whether cardiac responses, such as heart rate and heart rate variability, correlate with different people’s tendencies to overthink and ruminate. She will perform these physiological tests during selected parts of the experiment.
“The experimental procedure consists of self-report measurements of rumination, overthinking, and anxiety,” Ceilly said. “In addition, two tasks designed to induce mild stressors are presented. A mindfulness exercise will also be performed at the end of the study to encourage relaxation and return to baseline after participants complete these moderately strenuous tasks.”
Participants may receive a $10 compensation for their participation and time to recognize their contribution to this study. In addition, psychology students can enroll through the SONA research participation software tool, giving them additional credits in some psychology courses.
Create better understanding
“Among the broader benefits of this research is a better understanding of anxiety, overthinking, rumination and associated physiological symptoms and their interrelationships in overthinking individuals,” said Ceilly, an Oswego County native and Paul V. Moore High School graduate student in the central square.
The hope is that this project can “advance and expand research that offers new insights into why some people experience anxiety, overthinking, and rumination to a greater degree than others,” Ceilly added. “These findings could increase public awareness and perhaps enable more specialized support for these individuals.”
Research may also help develop a better understanding of cognitive and physiological responses to stress, which could lead to better development of techniques to reduce “harmful thoughts about one’s perceptions of their experiences, actions, and performance in specific situations, as well as interventions which prevent controlling further mental distress,” Ceilly explained. “A better understanding of the factors involved in both maintaining and controlling physiological responses to acute stressors could enable better interventions that promote health in the short and long term.”
Ceilly credited the “considerable support and guidance” of her faculty mentor in psychology, Dr. Leigh F. Bacher, to.
“It is very evident that she is a lifelong learner and I am very grateful that she agreed to continue working with me on my research project after leaving SUNY Oswego,” said Ceilly. “I look forward to continuing to work with her as we progress through the data collection and analysis phases of this research project.”
Bacher was instrumental in helping Ceilly narrow her research project by providing literature for review, guiding abstract concepts into concrete topics, and teaching her to find valid and workable measurements.
“She is extremely knowledgeable in her field and is always open to discussion, from interview advice to answering academic questions to suggestions in response to more general inquiries,” Ceilly said. “She has also helped me grow as a writer in the sciences and as a researcher by providing me with relevant scholarly articles and other academic resources that describe how to achieve effective and concise scholarly writing and how to create a successful research proposal created and project.”