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MIC Student Takes Home Coveted Psychology Prize at PSI All Ireland Student Congress

MIC B Ed in Education & Psychology student Sarah Ryan-Purcell with graphic from  PSI All Ireland Student Congress 2024

A B Ed in Education and Psychology student at Mary Immaculate College (MIC) has won one of only six prizes at the prestigious Psychology Society of Ireland All Ireland Student Congress 2024.

Fourth year student, Sarah Ryan-Purcell, from Blackrock in Cork, was Highly Commended in the Oral Presentation competition in the undergraduate section of the event.

Hosted this year by Dublin City University on 22 and 23 March, the annual congress takes place every year and sees Psychology students from all over Ireland present their research, and are judged on both the quality of the presentation and the content.

Sarah said it was “the cherry on top” to get the award because it was very enjoyable just to get to present her research at the Congress.

“I submitted my dissertation on Friday and spoke at the Congress on Saturday so I was absolutely over the moon to get the commendation. Being up there and presenting amongst peers was a really nice way to round off the dissertation journey. I was delighted for my classmates too and the adjudicators told us afterwards that they were really impressed with the standards from MIC."

Sarah’s research project was titled: The Troublesome P's. Investigating the Relationship Between Perfectionism and Academic Procrastination. Do Conscientiousness and Achievement Goal-Orientation play a role.

"As a sufferer of perfectionism and academic procrastination, I wanted to see the relationship between the two. If we could find out more, we could develop ways of mitigating the negative effects of these, particularly procrastination because it's associated with lower academic achievement, poorer physical health, lower subjective wellbeing—lots of negative outcomes. Nine in 10 third level students procrastinate at some point during their academic degree,” Sarah explained.

Her findings were that perfectionistic tendencies predict academic procrastination i.e. perfectionists often delay starting tasks because they may be daunted by trying to do it perfectly, or so that they can attribute any failure to the delay rather than personal incompetence—protecting their self-esteem. She noted that perfectionistic tendencies are positively related with Mastery Approach goal-orientation i.e. these people are likely to try to master a subject or to build knowledge and skills versus out-performing their peers. A recommendation was that researchers using the causal-steps approach to mediation analysis “should identify and measure as many co-variates as possible, such as conscientiousness in my case, and include these in their mediation model so that they can control for their effects and improve the validity of their results”.

Sarah’s thesis supervisor, Dr Niamh Higgins, Assistant Professor in Psychology at MIC, added her congratulations: “This is a wonderful achievement for Sarah. Her research sheds light on the relationship between perfectionism, achievement goals and academic procrastination in undergraduate students. I’m delighted that she has received this well-deserved recognition of her dedication to developing and carrying out this research study to a very high standard.” 

Prof. Niamh Stack, Head of the Department of Psychology at MIC said that “to witness the impressive research skills and genuine desire to contribute to positive change of soon to be psychology graduates from across Ireland during the PSI All Ireland Student Congress was inspiring”. 

“It was a particular source of pride to see such high calibre representation at the congress from students studying psychology at MIC. Twenty five students from across the BA Arts programme and the B Ed in Education and Psychology programme presented their work at the congress and as in previous years it was a real privilege to see the fruits of their hard work and collaborations with supervisors, shine on a national stage. Sarah joins an impressive list of MIC psychology alumni who have been recognised in these Student Congress awards in previous years and was a very worthy winner; the high calibre of presentations across the board this year made judging a near impossible task.” 

Also congratulating Sarah on her achievement was Dr Claire Griffin, coordinator of the Bachelor of Education and Psychology programme at MIC, who said: “We are absolutely delighted for Sarah. The standard at the Annual Student Congress is always extremely high and it is fantastic that the quality of her research was recognised at national level. I was also heartened to see the high number of MIC students presenting this year. The effort put in by all, and Sarah’s highly commended accolade, is testament to the ability, hard work, dedication and diligence of the students and supervisors at MIC.”

Prof. Stack added that as some students could not attend the national event, she is greatly looking forward to MIC Psychfest on 4 April where every Psychology final year student will have the opportunity to present, showcase and celebrate their research.  

“From attending the Congress and seeing the programme for our upcoming PsychFest, it is clear to me that the future of psychology is in good hands and it is a real joy to see MIC psychology students so well placed in this future.”

There are several programmes with Psychology as the primary discipline, or as a key component, available at MIC including the BSc in Psychology; the B Ed in Education and Psychologythe Bachelor of Arts programme offers Psychology as a subject and in the postgraduate offering, the Professional Doctorate in Educational and Child Psychology.