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SFC at 179 Livingston

Self Awareness and Bonding Lab | St. Francis College

Self Awareness and Bonding Lab

Searching for the Self

The Self Awareness and Bonding Lab at SFC centers on the subfields of social psychology and relationship science, focusing on relationships and self-awareness. Our research examines the development of sense of self in adolescents and adults, as well how this introspective ability leads to the formation of social bonds and relationships with others.

About Us

Marisa T. Cohen, Ph.D.

Dr. Marisa T. Cohen (Ph. D., Graduate Center City University of New York) graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. in Biology and Society and a minor in Education. She then went on to study Educational Psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, with a concentration in Learning, Development, and Instruction. Her research interests include the ability of students to assess their own knowledge, self-regulate, and adequately prepare for exams. In addition, she began a line of research, through the Self-Awareness and Bonding Lab (SABL), focusing on peoples' perceptions of love and infidelity. She is also an active contributor to Psychology Today and writes articles discussing the application of relationship science to peoples’ everyday lives.

Karen Wilson, Ph.D.

Dr. Karen Wilson (Ph.D., St. Louis University) received her Ph.D. in social psychology from Saint Louis University in 2008. Her research interests are in health psychology, close relationships, and the teaching of psychology. Dr. Wilson has conducted and presented research on perceptions of HIV/STD risk in dating relationships and attitudes toward infidelity. Her publications appear the Journal of Social Psychology, the Journal of Family Issues, and Teaching of Psychology. Dr. Wilson has regularly taught courses in research methods, statistics, social psychology, history and systems, and general psychology.

Current Research Assistants

Karen Barahona is currently a junior at St. Francis College. She is majoring in Psychology and is also a part of the Honors Program. Her interests include psychological disorders and the science of relationships. She hopes to pursue a career in psychiatric work and also hopes to own her own practice one day. Aside from her studies, she enjoys singing karaoke with her family and destroying her boyfriend in words with friends.

Lucy Liotta is currently a junior at St. Francis College. She is majoring in Psychology and is also a part of the Honors program. Her interests include abnormal psychology and understanding how brain processes influence behavior. She hopes to eventually pursue a career in Clinical Psychology. Apart from her college studies, she enjoys spending her free time reading, cuddling with her cat and obsessively watching Netflix.

Additional RA bios coming soon. Stay tuned!

Former Research Assistants

Dechen Dolma is a 2016 graduate of St. Francis College. She holds a Master’s Degree in Applied Psychology which she attained through the 5-year BA/MA Psychology program at St. Francis. While a student at the college, Dechen also worked as a Peer Career Counselor at the Career Development Center and regularly helped students and alumni with their resumes, cover letters, and mock interviews. Her interests lie in directly working with people as well as conducting research. Dechen plans to further her study and pursue a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology.

Stephanie Fevrier was an international student at St. Francis College. She majored in Psychology and graduated the BA/MA program in May 2016. She completed her thesis, "The Untold Love Story: A Biological and Psychological Analysis of Romantic Love" in May 2015. She enjoys reading, traveling, going to the beach and learning about the brain. She has a special interest in working with children and hopes to pursue a career in Neuropsychology.

Dunia Gragui graduated the BA/MA Psychology program at St. Francis College in May 2016. She is a Research Associate at Bellevue Medical Center and Tisch Emergency Department, where she assists with medical research. She is interested in pursuing a career in medicine. She believes that her knowledge in Psychology allows her to appreciate differences among patients in relation to their social and personality development, cognitive skills, and physical well-being. As an aspiring physician her primary goal will be not only to ensure the physical well-being of patients, but to also properly understand the impact of the mind on the body.

Shanice Lawrence is a 2015 graduate of St. Francis College. During her senior year, she completed her group thesis, "The Effects of Paper Versus Computerized Assessments on Math Performance". In her leisure time she enjoys writing, reading, and spending quality time with her loved ones. She has a passion for psychology and helping those around her and hopes to one day pursue a career working with children or working in the criminal justice field.

Claribel Lizardo is a 2015 St. Francis College graduate. She has worked as a peer counselor at the college's Career Development Center. Claribel has helped students and alumni transition into the employment world through resume reviews and interview preparation. Her love for counseling has allowed her to take another step into the field as she begins her Mental Health Counseling master's program at Brooklyn College. She is interested in conducting research related to attraction, color psychology, social psychology, and attachment bonds.

Susan McLoughlin graduated from St. Francis College in January 2015 as a Psychology major. She is currently working in the Human Resources Department of a start-up company as she pursues a career in Industrial Organizational Psychology. Susan is currently attending Baruch College to work towards obtaining her Master's degree in this field. She is a first-generation Irish-American and enjoys visiting family in Ireland every summer, reading, traveling, skiing and watching football.

Walter Rada is a graduate of the New York City College of Technology who likes to spend his spare time learning new skills, challenging himself, and attending tech events. Pursuing his passion for technology, he has learned multiple languages, served as the Social Director of the CityTech Computer Club, and worked with professors to help students learn code. He also taught himself how to code on both iOS and Android in his pursuit to become a better software developer. Since graduating, he has been assisting professors in research projects.

Leah Sobel is a M.A. student at New York University in the Department of Applied Psychology. Her research interests include human sexuality, feminist psychology, and interventions for sex education in high schools. She recently graduated with honors from the University of Michigan with a major in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience and a minor in LGBTQ and Sexuality Studies. When she's not obsessively making study guides in the library, Leah enjoys singing too loud, over-analyzing television shows, and unsolicited showing pictures of her dog to strangers and friends.

Research Mission

Our Mission

  • The research conducted in this lab centers on the subfields of social psychology and relationship science, and specifically focuses on relationships and self-awareness.
  • Self-awareness involves the ability to gain a deeper understanding and increased level of consciousness about the self and its components. Research will examine the development of the sense of self of adolescents and adults, as well how this introspective ability leads to the formation of social bonds and relationships with others. These social relationships will be studied as they impact the resulting social growth and development of the individual.
  • Other lines of research will focus on the development of relationships throughout the life span. Research will include, but is not limited to, factors influencing mate choice, fidelity, and peoples’ perceptions of what makes relationships survive and thrive.


Current Research

The Perceived Satisfaction Derived from Various Relationship Configurations

Experimental research focusing on consensually non-monogamous relationships is lacking. This study examined perceptions of relationship satisfaction of participants (N = 321) randomly assigned to conditions in which they were presented with either a passage depicting a monogamous, open, or polyamorous couple. Results demonstrated that there was a significant difference between the groups exposed to the various relationship configurations in terms of the perceptions of the hypothetical couples’ relationship satisfaction, F(2,318) = 3.12, p = .045. Specifically, the monogamous couple was rated as having higher relationship satisfaction than the open couple. Such a study has implications for garnering a better understanding of the preconceived notions we hold about the lifestyles of others. As this area warrants further investigation, exploration is still ongoing.

Dr. Marisa T. Cohen

Development of the Consensual Non-Monogamy Attitudes Scale (CNAS)

The purpose of this study is to collect data on participants’ perceptions of CNM relationships with the goal of creating the Consensual Non-Monogamy Attitudes Scale (CNAS). Additionally, the researchers gave measures of sociosexual orientation and love attitudes to validate the CNAS. The research was carried in two phases. The first phase consisted of handing out the CNAS along with SOI, love attitude scale, and demographic measures. In the second phase, additional responses were collected using the CNAS in order to compute a confirmatory factor analysis.

Dr. Marisa T. Cohen & Dr. Karen Wilson

Completed Studies: Fall 2015 - Spring 2016

Does the Color Pink Color our Perceptions and Desires?

This study examined how the presence of the color pink influenced both judgment of the intimate nature of an ambiguous vignette and the likelihood to use closeness-generating questions when meeting a new partner. Data was collected from 78 participants and a significant difference was found between those exposed to blue paper and those exposed to pink in terms of the number of closeness-generating questions selected (p = .021). This demonstrates the power of color for priming intimate conversations.

Dr. Marisa T. Cohen, Claribel Lizardo, & Shanice Lawrence

Cupids' Target- Does the Color Red Influence Our Perceptions of Attractiveness?

This study examined how the color red influences people’s perceptions of the attractiveness of potential mates. Ninety-five female participants were presented with 12 photos of potential mates, repeating on red, orange, and blue logos. Participants were asked to rate the pictures on a scale of 1 to 7, 1 = extremely unattractive 7= extremely attractive. Results showed no difference in ratings of the pictures based on the color of the bullseye background F(2,270) = 0.056, p = .946. However, the researchers pose suggestions for future investigators.

Claribel Lizardo

Investigating Perceptions of Online Infidelity: When Does it Become Cheating?

With the age of the internet, many people have found it easier to connect with others all over the world. Moreover, the increased use of social media sites, dating sites, and chat rooms has encouraged more and more people to become involved in online facilitated romantic relationships. However, adverse outcomes such as cheating have been shown to be associated with internet use (Clayton, Nagurney, & Smith, 2013). The present study aimed to examine perceptions of online infidelity, and to determine whether a person’s attachment related anxiety correlated with their views on online fidelity.

Stephanie Fevrier & Janal Beyrouti

Completed Studies: Fall 2014 - Spring 2015

An Exploratory Study of Individuals in Non-Traditional, Alternative Relationships: How “Open” Are We?

An “open” relationship is a configuration in which a there is a sexual agreement characterized by implicit or explicit rules for extra-dyadic sexual activities (Hosking, 2013). The general population of those who identify as non-monogamous is largely understudied, as most research in this area focuses on homosexual males. There is also a stigma surrounding those who do not choose to engage in monogamous relationships (Conley et al., 2013). Research on open relationships is sparse, and there is a need to examine perceptions of those engaged in this configuration. Even more important, is the need to understand the perceptions of those within this community, as gathering information from outsiders is largely biased. This exploratory study examined the perceptions of 122 individuals who have been in or were currently in an open relationship, with a majority indicating that the decision to enter this type of configuration between them and their partner(s) was mutual (73%). Results demonstrated permissive attitudes when it comes to behaviors that involve engaging with others, as most interactions are not considered cheating. There is also a focus on rules, which need to be followed. With a better understanding of the structure of open relationships and how to make these romantic arrangements successful, we can promote tolerance for all those looking to experience love.

Dr. Marisa T. Cohen

An Examination of Open Relationships

This study focused on how people define and subjectively view love, relationships, and the various forms of relationship configurations that they are aware of. In order to better understand peoples’ experiences of love, it is imperative to examine their opinions as to what makes a relationship successful. Also, as the discussion of alternative relationships becomes more commonplace in every day conversation, how do we view and categorize various different types of relationships? Do we view people in alternative relationship configurations i.e. open relationships as being less satisfied, or worse, as inferior? In this exploratory research, we assessed how individuals define various relationship configurations, and in turn how they likely they felt these relationships were to survive and thrive.

Dr. Marisa T. Cohen & Susan McLoughlin

The Relationship between Mate Selection Preferences and Academic Motivation

This study examined the relationship between the academic motivation of college students and their mate preferences. Students (N = 109) from a private Catholic college were given questionnaires to assess their attitudes toward education and their ideal mate. Correlations were found between specific components of intrinsic motivation and factors related to the education level of their mates. Based on this, perhaps we should seek out those who place the same value on education that we do.

Dr. Marisa T. Cohen & Dr. Karen Wilson

It’s Not You, It’s Me…No, Actually It’s You: Perceptions of What Makes a First Date Successful or Not

Early communication plays an important role in influencing your perceptions of an individual (Bosson, Johnson, Niederhoffer, & Swann, 2006). The first form of in-person communication we often have with potential romantic partners is during the first date. What is said is certainly important, as are the behaviors exhibited by each member of the dyad. This exploratory study examined how individuals interpreted what potential romantic partners say and do during, or immediately following, the first date. Special attention was placed on the participants’ interpretations of whether or not their date was attracted to them. A survey was given to 399 participants, the majority of which were female (75.4%). Many interesting differences were found between the genders. Certain behaviors, such as steering the conversation to the topic of sex signaled to men that their date was attracted to them. However, women looked for different behaviors to infer attraction on the part of their partner, such as mentioning future plans and kissing them goodbye. With a better understanding of how certain phrases and actions influence others, we can be more aware of the signals we send to others upon our initial encounters with them.

Dr. Marisa T. Cohen

Measuring Trust and Commitment in Long Distance Romantic Relationships

Long distance romantic relationships and geographically close romantic relationships have been intriguing topics of research in the Relationship Science field. Studies have examined predictors of satisfaction (Lee & Pistole, 2012) and attachment (Roberts & Pistole, 2009) in both types of relationships. However, the factors of trust and commitment within these two relationship styles have not been examined in detail. This study focused on the two facets of trust and commitment specifically in long distance romantic relationships. The study also aimed to determine if there is a difference in levels of trust and commitment in long distance romantic relationships compared to geographically close romantic relationships.

Stephanie Fevrier

Without You My Life is Incomplete, or Is It? The Importance of Psychological Well-Being in Romantic Relationships

Being in a romantic relationship does not necessarily mean that an individual is not lonely; the couple may be in a long distance relationship, they may have busy work schedules, or they may not be able to spend all of their time together. Also, if there is a lack of communication in a relationship, that can cause a partner to feel disconnected from the other, creating loneliness. In a society where there is such prevalence placed on being in a relationship to feel “complete”, the purpose of this research is to decipher whether loneliness affects ones overall well being, in turn impacting their romantic relationships.

Dunia Gragui

To Facebook or Not To Facebook: Social Media and Online Dating

Are the people who frequently tweet also those who find love on Tinder? Do people consider Instagram a form of online dating as well as a social media outlet? These are just a few questions to consider in order to take a closer look at peoples' perceptions of online dating and social media sites. The amount of people who use social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter is rapidly increasing (Papp, Danielewicz & Cayemberg, 2012). Because of this, the amount of people that are participating in online dating is also increasing (Stevens & Morris, 2007). This study focused on the relationship between these two outlets in an attempt to determine the correlation between people who use social networking sites and participate in online dating.

Shanice Lawrence


MateMate: A Relationship Primer is now available for download on the iBook store and is free. Get your copy today!

Directions: Relationship formation is a basic human drive, one that can lead to happiness, a sense of well-being, and even serve as a buffer against stress. While there are several articles and smartphone apps that offer suggestions of questions you can pose to your loved one, few contain questions rooted in relationship science. MateMatch provides you with 14 questions to help you tackle some difficult topics with the hope of getting to know your significant other better. Take the time to answer these honestly. In addition, you will also be provided with the background research relating to each of these topics. The questions presented in this exercise can help couples understand what will and will not be tolerated by one another when in a relationship and will encourage them to have a conversation about both the present and the future.

Be open, honest, ready to share, and ready to listen.

Good luck!

Liability Agreement
  • By using MateMatch, you acknowledge and agree that neither the Self-Awareness and Bonding Lab, college, nor its affiliates are responsible for and shall not have any liability, directly or indirectly, for any loss or damage to a relationship, as a result of or alleged to be the result of any information provided by users in answering the questions provided.
  • Under no circumstances shall the lab or its affiliates be liable for any indirect, incidental, consequential, special or exemplary damages arising out of or in connection with accessing or using the primer.
  • This exercise is for informational, educational, and entertainment purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional psychological, medical, financial, legal, or other advice. The developers make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the information shared as a result of using the primer. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require professional assistance, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist.
Privacy Policy
  • Personal information will not be collected as a result of downloading and installing this iBook on your device.

Join us!

We are always looking for new research assistants. To join the team, please fill out our application or email to Dr. Marisa T. Cohen or Dr. Karen Wilson at [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you!

Contact Info

Department of Psychology
St. Francis College
179 Livingston St.
Brooklyn, NY 11201

[email protected]

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