Sandra Wright, B.A. (Hons.), M.Sc. (Simon Fraser), Ph.D. (Dalhousie)
Phone: (709) 639-2543
My main research interest is animal behavior, which has also led me into the fields of neuroscience and animal cognition. I started with investigating parental behavior in mice, then behavioral recovery from stroke in a rat model and more recently spatial cognition in rats. My current interests are social behavior in dogs, animal -assisted therapy and conservation psychology (an applied area of social psychology).
I have supervised up to two Honours students a year.
My teaching interests are guided by my research interests. The second-year courses, I teach include Survey of Biological Psychology (Psyc 2825), Survey of Learning (Psyc 2225) and Drugs and Behavior (Psyc 2800). The survey courses provide the foundation for third-year courses that I teach. Specifically, in Psyc 3725 (Animal Behavior), the focus is on the suite of behaviors that animals have that allow them to survive and reproduce (and their offspring to do so as well). To that end, this course examines a wide range of species and behaviors (what is it like to be a bat? or a dog? or an octopus?). When I teach Psyc 3825 (Contemporary Issues in Physiological Psychology), the topic is neuropsychology, where the focus is when things go wrong in the brain (due to illness or injury), what influence does it have on cognition and behavior (Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease). The topic I investigate in Psyc 3225 (Contemporary Issues in Learning) is animal cognition. It discusses some basics of learning such as classical and operant conditioning but then goes beyond the basics. The course tries to answer such questions as can animals count or have the capacity for empathy and language. Finally, when I teach Psyc 4925 (Senior Seminar), the topic is either evolutionary psychology or conservation psychology. So, my focus areas in teaching are also animal behavior, neuroscience and animal cognition.
Representative scholarly contributions
Selected Honours Thesis Titles
- I’se the B’y That’s Place Attached: Newfoundlanders and Labradorians’ Place attachment and potential psychological benefits.
- Pretend cellphone use: Awareness and acceptability of avoidance behaviors and maintenance of a positive social status in undergraduate students (social psychology).
- Perceived public stigma on mental illness: The influence of a rural or urban setting, gender and age Discrimination learning in rats (Rattus norvegicus): Comparing room, direction, distance and texture as contextual cues.
- Body image impacts: Women’s exposure to psychoeducational health information and underweight vs. normal-weight women.
- Influence of stroke knowledge on behavior and attitudes: A comparison of nursing and non-nursing undergraduate students.
- Wright, S.L., Martin, G.M., Thorpe, C.M., Haley, K., & Skinner, D.M. (2019). Distance and direction, but not light cues, support response reversal learning. Learning and Behavior, 1-9, DOI 10..3758/s13420-018-0320-7.
- Skinner, D.M., Martin, G.M. Wright, S.L., Tomlin, J., Odintsova, I.V., Thorpe, C.M., Harley, C.W. & Marrone, D.M. (2014). Hippocampal spatial mapping and the acquisition of competing responses. Hippocampus, 24, 396-404. Doi: 10.1002/hipo22233.
- Yager, J. Y., Wright, S., Armstrong, E. A., Jaharus, C. M., & Saucier, D. (2005). Hypoxic ischemic brain damage: A new model for determining the influence of age and sex. Developmental Neuroscience, 27, 112-120.
- Wright, S. L., & Brown, R. E. (2002). The importance of paternal care for pup survival and growth in Peromyscus californicus when required to work for food. Behavioural Processes, 60, 41-52.