SCU Honours student explores social interaction

Psychology Honours student Rory Julian. Photo: Southern Cross University.

RORY Julian, a Psychology Honours student at Southern Cross University Coffs campus, has presented his thesis project at SCU’s 18th Annual Psychology Honours conference, 29 and 30 September, a two-day, on-campus showcase of 24 research projects by SCU students.

Rory set out to examine the positive effect of social interaction on our wellbeing: enjoying a cuppa with a friend, getting together for a night of trivia or having a Lego playdate with your fellow bubs…how do we feel about these social connections?

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He also investigated whether we savour different kinds of conversations depending on how old we are.

“Savouring is prolonging positive emotions by being intentionally mindful and attentive during past, present and future experiences,” said Rory.

“Communication savouring is applying this concept to language and social interactions,” Rory said.

“The fact that we are social creatures means we do get happier the more we interact with people around us, especially if you are trying to savour those moments.”

To conduct his study, Rory consulted with internationally renowned researchers Dr Margaret Pitts and Dr Jian Jiao from the University of Arizona, USA to develop a world-first Communications Savouring Index (CSI) to determine whether age groups differ in how they communicate and how they savour communication.

Fascinated by the results, Rory said, “We found younger adults savour communication the most; middle adulthood savours it the least; while older adults are also quite high but below younger adults.

“It’s kind of a U-shape as we go through life,” said Rory.

“We’ve also measured wellbeing and found a similar U-shaped trend.

“We’ve found a significant positive correlation between communication savouring and well-being.

“The higher your communication savouring score, the higher your wellbeing score.”

Rory said the findings indicate our capacity for deriving enjoyment from interactions tends to change with the weight of responsibility.

“Across the board it’s known that middle adulthood has the lowest levels of happiness and highest levels of depressive symptoms.

“A mixture of work pressure, family life, economic status, relationships and the like, mean our energies are occupied and there is less time to cultivate and enjoy interactions with others for the simple joy of it.”

Rory relocated to Coffs from Sydney to pursue his research under the supervision of well-known pleasure expert Dr Desiree Kozlowski.

Last week’s conference is the culmination of the one-year Bachelor of Psychological Sciences with Honours degree and moves students closer to a career as a registered psychologist or researcher.

Dr Eric Brymer, Psychology Honours course coordinator, said he was impressed by students’ research topics.

“So many of these studies will have great impact, which is a fantastic testament to the quality of the work produced by the students and the support of their supervisors,” said Dr Brymer.

“The Honours year is an enormous milestone for psychology students, and they should be rightly proud of their achievements.

“This conference is an opportunity to engage with the community and showcase their hard work.”

Learn more about studying psychology at SCU at


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