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Eye on Psi Chi: Spring 2012

Psychology and Political Engagement
Martha S. Zlokovich, PhD, Psi Chi Executive Director

When it comes to politics, many courses in psychology provide information that can inform constituent decision-making and promote engagement in the political process. Think about your first psychology courses, in particular research methods and statistics. What are the most basic questions you must answer before making a decision about the validity and generalizability of findings presented in a research article? How are psychological topics relevant to political decisionmaking and political involvement?

Applying Psychology to Voting
Put your psychology background to work in judging political arguments, poll results, and advertising. For example, when you hear about poll results, can you identify the population of interest and whether the sample was representative? Are the differences significant? What are the estimated error ranges and what do these mean for the topic in question? When listening to debates or watching advertisements, can you tell if statements are being made that present significant correlational results as if causation is known? What evidence is cited to support each side’s arguments? What techniques of persuasion and influence are being used in political advertisements, polling, or debates? What emotions do ads try to evoke and why? Can you verify any of the claims by finding reliable sources?

An important part of studying a science—like psychology—is learning to ask the right questions and seek the right information to answer those questions. These skills can serve you well whether your questions are about your latest research interest or politics.

Voting at the Chapter Level
Psi Chi students can become involved in politics in their local chapters. You could run for a chapter officer position, ask the chapter to revise chapter bylaws, decide what events to hold at meetings, or consider how to spend chapter funds. Just as with government voting opportunities, your involvement in chapter voting can make you an active participant in shaping the future of an entity or organization, in this case Psi Chi.

Voting in the 2012 Psi Chi Board of Directors Election
By the time you read this column, Psi Chi’s 1,123 chapters will have had the chance to vote for the next President of the Board of Directors. In addition, chapters in three regions will have had the chance to vote on their new regional Vice-Presidents (chapters in the other three regions vote on their Vice-Presidents next year). These three Vice-Presidents and the President-Elect will serve as members of the 11-person Board of Directors and help to shape Psi Chi’s future as an organization.

Notice I said that 1,123 chapters had the chance to vote, not that they all did vote. Many Americans have followed the Republican presidential candidate debates over the last few months. Some of us live in states that have already been inundated with political advertising on TV, robo calls, and political fund-raisers. Some of us have had the opportunity to vote in a presidential primary this year. Unfortunately— just like with Psi Chi’s elections—many who are eligible to vote will not exercise that right.

Psi Chi’s Mission Statement emphasizes the Society’s goal of producing ethical and socially responsible citizens and psychological scientists. That means becoming a participant in both your Society and your country. One way to become a participant is to educate yourself about the issues and candidates so you can vote responsibly. Psi Chi provides information to members about candidates and Constitutional changes when they are on the ballot. Whenever the Board proposes a Constitutional change, members may write letters for or against the changes. These letters are then posted online for all members to read before chapter voting begins and chapters record their votes with the Society.

The mission of Psi Chi is to produce a well-educated, ethical, and socially responsible member committed to contributing to the science and profession of psychology and to society in general (Psi Chi, 2012).

Voting in the 2012 U.S. Elections
When it comes to U.S. local, state, or national politics, college students can vote from their home district via absentee ballot or switch their residency to the city where their university is located. Each state has somewhat different voting rules, so go to to see the details for both your home state and county, and your university’s state and county before you decide where to maintain your residency and vote. (Note: Determining your residency for the purposes of voting is not the same thing as determining your residency for the purposes of paying in-state tuition.) At the site you can also verify whether or not you are already registered to vote in a state, find out how to switch your residency to vote where you live now, find your polling place, learn about candidates, and read the voting FAQ’s for the state where you live or attend university. More information about voting and primaries is available on the National Association of Secretaries of State website HERE

"The right to vote stands as one of our greatest American freedoms. Many Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice to secure this right. Today, across the world, people in other countries struggle to win the right to vote for their own people. Here at home, our government does best when it follows the informed choices made by the American people at the voting booth. Registering to vote is the first step young Americans can take to begin a lifetime of responsible, effective citizenship (Missouri Secretary of State, 2012).

Missouri Secretary of State. (2012). Missouri first vote. Retrieved from Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan website: HERE

Psi Chi National Council, (August, 1998). Motions 1991-2011. [Motions made by the Psi Chi National Council/Board of Directors between August, 1991 and December, 2011]. Psi Chi Document Collection (Motion 1998-3). Psi Chi Central Office, Chattanooga, TN.

A high school teacher in Pensacola, Florida, inspired Dr. Martha S. Potter Zlokovich to pursue psychology as a career. She completed her BA in psychology at UCLA, and MS and PhD in developmental psychology at the University of Florida.

Dr. Zlokovich joined Psi Chi in 2008 as its second Executive Director, leaving Southeast Missouri State University after teaching there for 17 years. This move, however, was not her first involvement with Psi Chi. She served as chapter advisor since 1993, as Midwestern Region Vice-President (1998-2000), and as National President of Psi Chi (2003-04). In 1996, Southeast’s chapter won the Ruth Hubbard Cousin’s National Chapter of the Year Award, and several chapter members have won Psi Chi Regional Research Awards at MPA and/or had their research published in Psi Chi's Journal.

At Southeast, Dr. Zlokovich taught Child Development, Adolescent Development, Lifespan Development, Advanced Child Psychology, and Introductory Psychology for Majors. She also served as chair of the department. Her research interests have focused on student study habits, study beliefs, and persistence to graduation as well as adolescent and young adult contraception and sexuality.

Dr. Zlokovich and her husband Neil have two sons and a daughter-in-law. Aaron (Truman State University, 2010) and Stephanie live in Lexington, KY and Matthew is a senior civil engineering major at the University of Alabama.

Copyright 2012 (Volume 16, Issue 3) by Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology


Eye on Psi Chi is a magazine designed to keep members and alumni up-to-date with all the latest information about Psi Chi’s programs, awards, and chapter activities. It features informative articles about careers, graduate school admission, chapter ideas, personal development, the various fields of psychology, and important issues related to our discipline.

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