Karol Maybury
Associate Professor of Psychology

Ph.D., University of California, Davis
M.A., University of California, Davis
B.A., Regis College

Whether studying what really makes people happy or myth-busting psychological folklore or profiling public personalities, Associate Professor of Psychology Karol Maybury’s students rise to her expectations.

“Students at UMF are so grateful for these experiences. Maybe it’s because many of them are the first in their family to go to college. I love the Maine work ethic. They want to extract every possible experience from the university,” Maybury said.

Student research is a hallmark of Maybury’s courses. It is just as important to apply information, as it is to understand that information, according to Maybury. “The ability to apply knowledge in unique and unexpected ways is a key component of a strong liberal arts education. I don’t know what specific challenges my students will face in five or ten years when they are on the job. I want them to be skilled in the process of finding the best information available and producing a strong solution for the problems they’ll need to solve,” Maybury said.

Decoding Personalities

In Maybury’s course on personality theory, students learn Freudian, humanistic, trait and other major theories of human personality. Next, her students apply that knowledge by creating psychological profiles of public figures — from Lady Gaga to Vincent Van Gogh.

“Trait theory is a descriptive theory of personality. If I know your levels of agreeableness, extroversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness and openness, I have a pretty good map of your personality,” Maybury explained. “Freudian personality theory, on the other hand, is not descriptive but dynamic. If we want to understand why the author of the Oz stories, L. Frank Baum, created such strong female characters, we might first examine his childhood using Freud’s psychoanalytic theory.”

Presenting at Professional Conferences

Maybury and four of her students were invited to a recent American Psychological Association conference in Florida to present their research on bullying. Their research group worked for two years examining the reaction of those who observe bullying and the situations under which observers are likely to belittle the victim.

“We’re curious about the observers of school bullying and how observers make judgments about victims, particularly the phenomenon of victim denigration, which is like a second assault,” Maybury said. Victim denigration can cause bystander inertia, preventing people from acting to prevent further bullying, she added.

Working on their project in the mornings before classes, the students came up with four victim characteristics which bullies were likely to target. The research project is ongoing, but the preliminary results are intriguing, Maybury said.

“We looked at four characteristics: weight, sexual orientation, parents’ sexual orientation and Asperger syndrome. We found that observers tended to denigrate and blame all victims, but to our surprise, those with Asperger syndrome were blamed for being bullied more than the others. We also found that adult observers were least likely to intervene when overweight victims were bullied, which suggests that this is a less visible type of bullying.”

The group research project also is currently considering differences in the ways males and female bully one another. Male to male bullying tends to be direct and often physical, whereas female to female bullying tends to be primarily verbal such as smear campaigns and gossip, Maybury said.

Gearing up for Graduate Study

One psychology major recently presented her individual research at the Eastern Psychological Association in Pittsburgh, according to Maybury. The student replicated a study on how people tend to view others’ lives as happier than their own.

“She studied this intriguing idea that we tend to overestimate how happy other people are and underestimate how many negative emotions they feel. We think everyone else is happy. We look at their Facebook status, which is their personal highlight reel, and think we’re the only one dealing with negative emotions,” Maybury said.

“Here is one of our seniors, presenting alongside professional psychologists and graduate students. She said she felt confident presenting her work, which tells me that our program is helping students achieve important skills that many folks don’t achieve until later in their careers.”

Maybury also observed that “In addition to a strong G.P.A., frequently graduate schools are seeking students who have conducted research. I think we are unique at UMF because we get undergraduates involved in research, which more and more graduate schools are requiring.”

A Nourishing Environment

One of Maybury’s favorite spots on campus is the lounge tucked in a corner of the UMF Psychology Building. It’s a room where students and faculty come to work on group projects, compile data, study or just talk to each other.

“When I leave at night, there are students in the lounge, and there are students there when I arrive in the morning. It’s a homey department — students hang out here. There’s a definite community. Students are kind to one another. They look out for each other and support each other. It’s a wonderful thing,” Maybury said.

Maybury and her fellow faculty members believe being accessible to students is very important to maintaining that supportive atmosphere. “At UMF, I feel like one-to-one interaction is valued. It’s a nourishing environment. We talk with our students, learn their interests and help guide them to the right instructor and program. There’s a degree of individual attention that’s rare at the university level. There’s a real open door policy.”

Raising Strong Girls

Creating a more nourishing environment is also a core element of Maybury’s research on gender. Growing up with two brothers, with whom she is still close, Maybury noticed the inequality between the way some boys and girls are treated at home, at school and in the media.

Maybury was recently appointed the national chair of the Committee on Adolescent Girls by the American Psychological Association, Society for the Psychology of Women. She and her students produce a monthly podcast on the latest research on raising strong girls in a culture with mixed messages about positive womanhood. “Our work is about helping parents and teachers, giving them insight into the best social science to help girls become women who make healthy choices,” Maybury said. “We need to take research findings out of the ivory tower and share it with the people who need it: parents, counselors, and teachers.”

Through the podcast and community presentations, Maybury’s goal is to share what parents and other adults need to know about how to raise strong, healthy girls. For instance, girls who participate in refereed sports such as soccer, lacrosse and field hockey are less likely to develop eating disorders than girls who participate in judged sports like gymnastics, dance and figure skating, Maybury said.

“When we do longitudinal studies, we find girls who are involved in scouts are significantly more likely to succeed. It seems like they take scouting ideals like entrepreneurship and character development and apply them later in life. Scouting is a particularly healthy activity for daughters.”

From the Sea to the Mountains

“The day I signed my contract with UMF, my husband and I told our kids they weren’t going to school. We were going to drive up to our new home town and see what it’s like. We came here and rented skis and skied for the first time at Sunday River. Now we regularly go cross county skiing at Titcomb Mountain. Since moving here, we’ve seen moose and a black bear,” Maybury said.

“My family and I moved here from Cape Cod, which was a good life, but we yearned for a simpler existence, fewer crowds and more time in nature. Life is peaceful here. We’ve adopted two stray kittens. I love life in Maine. I love my job. I feel like I won the lottery,” Maybury said.