E.F. Patten Prize Winner Annie Bryan brings Psychology to Advertising

Written by Ross Tague, CAS communications intern

As a recipient of the 2017 Patten Prize, senior Annie Bryan has big plans to bring psychology to the business world.

Bryan received the prestigious award after being nominated by three of her professors. She is majoring in Psychology with a social psychology focus along with a minor in marketing.

The Patten Prize is awarded to senior psychology majors who best typify excellence in general academics as well as devotion to and accomplishment within the field of psychology

For Bryan, this commitment is evident through her extensive coursework and involvement in the psychology department. “I’m always fascinated by what I’m learning,” she said.

The fascination continued into an internship she had with an advertising agency in Chicago last summer. Attributing her success in the position to her experience in psychology, Bryan firmly believes in the value of a psychology degree. “I think that any business values somebody who majors in psychology because they think in a different way,” she said. It’s only fitting that her different way of thinking has secured her a job at the same firm after graduation.

For now, Bryan is finishing up her Senior Honors Thesis in the department. Working with her research advisor, Dr. Amanda Diekman, Bryan is focusing her thesis on the topic of benevolent sexism, or “nice sexism” as she describes it. This is the belief that projects women in an overly positive light, such as giving nicer feedback to a female employee versus a male employee.

Annie Bryan 2017

(Annie Bryan with Research Advisor/Mentor Dr. Amanda Diekman)

With aspirations to get an MBA in consumer behavior and become a strategist, Bryan knew she wanted to form her thesis based on something that would relate to business. Fascinated by gender differences discussed in Dr. Diekman’s psychology of gender class, Bryan related benevolent sexism to the business setting of her internship, in which she observed that female employees tended to receive more gentle feedback than their male counterparts. Bryan wanted to look into the issue and determine the underlying cause

Bryan designed and ran research through the social roles lab, studying the effect of benevolent sexism on constructive feedback. She studied 80 to 90 male participants, having them take a questionnaire measuring ambivalent sexism and providing them with a college application essay that she wrote. Some participants randomly got an essay with a male name at the top while others received the same essay with a female name.

Despite her hypothesis that participants scoring high on benevolent sexism would give nicer feedback to the female, it was determined that it was not a predictor for feedback. Overall, the male participants did give nicer feedback to the female essay than the male essay, and Bryan is working hard to understand why.

Preparing Bryan for her thesis was the variety of courses offered and the high expectations of the department. “I’ve been pushed, but I’ve always had great experiences,” she said.

The highlight of her experience in the psychology department, however, are the relationships she’s formed with her professors.

“I think the best thing about the psychology department is how incredible all the professors are,” Bryan said. “I have amazing relationships with so many of my professors.”

Reflecting back on her time in the psychology department, Bryan is thankful for the experiences she’s had. “I have loved my experiences as a psych major, and winning the award has been nothing but wonderful for me."