2023 SURE Student Presentation Winner: Elinor Rayburn

A vibrant classroom is an idea incubator where concepts are nurtured and encouraged to grow within the minds of curious and capable students. These students then take these newly-learned concepts and—through guided research—expand and share their discoveries for the greater good.

Such is the case with Kent State University at Geauga junior Elinor Rayburn, a psychology major with a minor in criminology and justice studies. After participating in the 2023 Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Program under the guidance of Professor of Psychology Arne Weigold, Ph.D., she won the research presentation category in psychology and was one of the presenters chosen from among the winners to present at the SURE awards ceremony in October.

From among 172 student participants, Elinor was one of 23 first-place winners in seven research categories. She then became one of seven of the first-place winners selected to present her research at the awards ceremony with a three-minute PowerPoint on “Relations Between Computer Self-Efficacy and Gender.”

Considering the high level of competition among SURE research projects represented, Elinor says, “I feel very honored that our research project and my presentation were selected as the category winner and then among the winners to present at the SURE awards ceremony. I feel that the topic is very important, and I am very happy that everybody felt that I did it justice.”

Dr. Weigold notes, “This is a great honor, and I am very proud of Elinor. She is a strong student who has worked very hard and has done a lot of great work, and it shows.”
Kent State’s Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) is an eight-week program that provides undergraduate researchers the opportunity to work directly with a faculty mentor and gain valuable experience to clarify career and educational goals, enhance research skills, and gain academic insight.

Dr. Weigold has participated as a mentor in the SURE program several times. “It is a wonderful way for students to get research experience, which many need for their graduate school applications,” he says. “The SURE presentations also let students showcase their accomplishments to the KSU community.”

Elinor had joined Dr. Weigold’s undergraduate research lab last spring after learning of the opportunity in one of his classes. Through his lab, she assisted with and took an active role in psychological research projects. When she learned of the SURE program, she was ready to take her research to the next level.

Her research topic involves computer self-efficacy (CSE), which is a person’s confidence in their ability to use computer-based technology. Elinor explains, “Dr. Weigold had previously developed a new measure of computer self-efficacy called the Brief Inventory of Technology Self-Efficacy (BITS), which was why we had planned to include computer self-efficacy as a variable. 

Elinor Rayburn Presenting for the SURE Program

“After I then did further research into the topic, I learned that a relationship has been found between computer self-efficacy and gender, in that men tend to score higher than women. I also found that it had been suggested that the relationship may be more so between computer self-efficacy and masculinity and femininity, thus creating our hypothesis that masculinity and femininity moderate the relationship between gender and computer self-efficacy.”

The hypothesis essentially claims that masculinity and femininity traits change the relationship between gender and computer self-efficacy.

Elinor explains her discovery of a three-way interaction between gender, masculinity, and femininity. “A three-way interaction indicates that each of the three independent variables affects the single dependent variable, meaning that gender, masculinity, and femininity all affect the participants’ computer self-efficacy, with masculinity and femininity changing the direct relationship between gender and computer self-efficacy.” 

In this interaction, men’s CSE generally stayed the same, regardless of their levels of masculinity and femininity. However, for women, as their masculinity increased, so did their CSE, whereas as their femininity increased, their CSE decreased.

Elinor’s observation from the literature that CSE is higher in men than women may not be surprising, considering that computer technology has traditionally been a male-dominated field and computer programs reflect the natures of their creators. However, Elinor says that change is likely on the way.
“It would be logical to assume that, as women become more and more involved in the field of computer technology, their computer self-efficacy will also increase. Especially with society progressively moving away from the concept that technology and computers are male disciplines, there is a strong possibility that women’s computer self-efficacy will become equal or even greater than men’s.”
Elinor says this research is important because technology—which must be used by everyone in society— is becoming increasingly complex and prominent, making CSE increasingly important, especially because CSE acts as a predictor of many student behaviors.
To help create a level playing field for computer self-efficacy, Elinor says, “Interventions can be done in order to increase computer self-efficacy in individuals who struggle with their own belief in themselves when it comes to computer-based technology. Knowing that the relationship between gender and computer self-efficacy is more complex than we had previously thought will enable us to create personalized interventions that reflect the impact of masculinity and femininity.”
Elinor’s research with Dr. Weigold is ongoing, as she is currently collecting additional data from college students, which will provide both more participants and a second sample to see if she can replicate her results.

Elinor plans to graduate from Kent State in Spring 2025 and then apply to Clinical Psychology Ph.D. programs. A Middlefield resident, she graduated from Cardinal High School in 2022. 

Dr. Weigold says, “Elinor’s participation and success in the SURE program will help make her competitive for the graduate programs she plans to apply to, and I think she will go far in our field.”

POSTED: Wednesday, December 20, 2023 11:01 AM
Updated: Wednesday, April 10, 2024 04:38 PM
Estelle R. Brown