Dr. Tanya Sharon

Professor of Psychology

Tanya SharonDr. Tanya Sharon (Ph.D., U. of Arizona, 1999) holds the position of Full Professor of Psychology. Her specialty is developmental psychology. She teaches Child and Adolescent Development, Lifespan Development, Cross-Cultural Psychology, a Developmental Psychology lab, Research Methods I, and a seminar in controversial issues in psychology. Her current research explores development among young adults, with a focus on identity and moral development in different cultural contexts.

Education

  • BA., Sociology, cum laude, Bryn Mawr College, 1988
  • M.A., Sociology, Bryn Mawr College, 1989
  • M.A., Psychology, University of Arizona, 1997
  • Ph.D., Cognitive Psychology, Cognitive Science minor, University of Arizona, 1999
  • NRSA Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2000-2003

Courses Taught

  • PSY 101 – Introduction to Psychology
  • PSY 185 – Special Topics: Writing in Psychology
  • PSY 245 – Developmental Psychology
  • PSY 250 – Child and Adolescent Psychology
  • PSY 306 – Research Methods and Statistics I
  • PSY 344 – Investigations in Developmental Psychology
  • PSY 485 – Special Topics in Psychology: Current Issues in Psychology
  • INT 301 – Engaging the World

Specialty

Developmental Psychology

Research Interest

My research has spanned a wide range of interests. My graduate training under Dr. Karen Wynn (now at Yale University) focused on infants’ early number concepts, while my postdoctoral training was under Dr. Judy DeLoache (now at University of Virginia) and explored young children’s understanding of symbols- what makes symbols hard for them to understand, and what factors increase their insight. I have researched young children’s understanding of the fantasy-reality distinction – how they come to realize that Santa Claus is pretend whereas Tiger Woods, although amazing, is still human.

Since coming to Mercer, my research has focused on another age period with many interesting changes: early adulthood. I am particularly interested in catalysts of development, and what helps students thrive during this period. For example, I have supervised student research projects on the development of religious identity among college students, how service-learning impacts students’ moral development, and how identity relates to personality traits like openness and androgyny.

My sabbatical research project last year took a cross-cultural look at identity development. Many developmental psychologists (e.g., Erikson) believe that one of the central tasks for young adults is forming a sense of their own identity- what they value, and who they want to become.Some researchers think that the healthiest identity can only be achieved if one has first explored multiple options (e.g., conservative beliefs and liberal beliefs) before committing to a specific identity. These researchers believe that committing to an identity in a specific area (whether it is religious or political or vocational) without first exploring multiple options represents a ‘foreclosing’ of other possibilities, and thus is not optimal psychologically. However, the research results are mixed: in some studies, on some measures, ‘foreclosed’ students show levels of psychological adjustment that are similar to those of ‘achieved’ students.Thus, one purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that exploration is a necessary component of healthy identity development. The second purpose was to test whether the relationship between identity exploration and psychological health is the same across cultures, especially cultures that vary in the importance they place on the individual versus the larger group or society. The U.S. is a strongly individualistic culture: in politics, popular culture, and many other practices we emphasis the rights and importance of the individual.Many other cultures are much more collectivist: they emphasize the importance of larger groups (family, workgroups, and society as a whole) and the obligations the individual has to them. Taiwan is a more collectivist culture.Thus, working with a colleague at National Chung-Cheng University in Chia-Yi, Taiwan, we collected information from nearly 500 college students on how they view themselves, their psychological well-being, and their cultural orientation.Our results showed intriguing similarities and differences between cultures.When complete, the analyses will be written up for publication.

Publications

  • Sharon, T. (2016). Constructing adulthood: Markers of adulthood and well-being among emerging adults. Journal of Emerging Adulthood, 4(3) 161-167. Doi: 10.1177/2167696815579826 (pdf)
  • Sharon, T. (2012). Learning Times Two Creating Learning Through a Children’s Museum Exhibit. Teaching of Psychology, 39(1), 24-28. (pdf)
  • Sharon, T. (2005). Made to symbolize: Intentionality and children’s early understanding of symbols. Journal of Cognition and Development, 6(2), 163-178. (pdf)
  • DeLoache, J. S., & Sharon, T. (2005). Symbols and similarity: You can get too much of a good thing. Journal of Cognition and Development, 6(1), 33-49. (pdf)
  • Sharon, T., & Woolley, J. D. (2004). Do monsters dream? Young children’s understanding of the fantasy/reality distinction. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 22(2), 293-310. (pdf)
  • Sharon, T., & DeLoache, J. S. (2003). The role of perseveration in children’s symbolic understanding and skill. Developmental Science, 6(3), 289-296. (pdf)
  • Sharon, T. (2001). Sampling issues and the parameters of impossibility. Cahiers de Psychologie Cognitive, 20, 373-380.
  • Sharon, T., & Wynn, K. (1998). Individuation of actions from continuous motion. Psychological Science, 9, 357-362.
  • Jacob, T., Tennenbaum, D., Seilhamer, R. A., Bargiel, K., & Sharon, T.(1994). Reactivity effects during naturalistic observation of distressed and nondistressed families. Journal of Family Psychology, 8, 354-363.

Talks and Presentations

  • Sharon, T. (2017, March).  Processes and Correlates of Identity Development In Two Cultures: United States and Taiwan. Poster presented at the Society for Cross-Cultural Research conference, New Orleans, LA.
  • Sharon, T. (2015, October). Constructing Adulthood: Markers of Adulthood and Well-Being in Emerging Adulthood, poster presented at the 7th Conference on Emerging Adulthood, Miami, FL.
  • Grahe, J., Sharon, T., Hall. S.S., & Klein, R. (2015, October). Crowdsourcing the Study of Emerging Adulthood. Invited discussion session at the 7th Conference on Emerging Adulthood, Miami, FL.
  • Sharon, T. (2013). Research ethics in the social sciences. Invited guest lecture in three HON 105 classes.
  • Holt, Leanne, & Sharon, T. (2013, April). Carryover effect of emotion regulation on decision making under risk. Poster presented at the Southeastern Psychological Association, Atlanta, GA.
  • Coombs, Indienne, & Sharon, T. (2013, April). Examining differences in moral identity through international service-learning. Poster presented at the National Undergraduate Research Council, Chicago, IL.
  • Holt, Leanne, & Sharon, T. (2011, April). Carryover effect of emotion regulation on decision making under risk. Poster presented at the Mercer University’s Undergraduate Research Symposium, Macon, GA.
  • Sharon, T. (2010, March). Theory of mind. Guest lecture in Dr. Creighton Rosental’s Philosophy of Mind course. Sharon, T. (2010, February).  Growing up and growing old: 12 activities for teaching a developmental lab course. Poster presented at the Southeastern Association for the Teaching of Psychology, Atlanta, GA.
  • Hensel, L., & Sharon, T. (2008, November). Designing science for all: An interdisciplinary model of general science education. Poster presented  at the AACU conference on ‘Advancing Learning, Engaging Science’, Providence, RI.
  • Adolphus, E., Hughes, C., Washington, K., Wells, C., Widder, A., & Sharon, T. (2007, April). Mercer united or divided? A survey of religious beliefs among Mercer faculty and students. Poster presented at Mercer University’s Undergraduate Research Symposium, Macon, GA.
  • Sharon, T. (2007, March).  Imagination  and creativity. Guest lecture in an honors engineering class (EGR 102, M. Dyane Aldridge, instructor).
  • Sharon, T. (2007, February). “It’s like an adventure, and at the end I’m not going to be where I am right now, and I’m OK with that”: Catalysts of development at a religiously-affiliated school in the South.  Talk presented at the Mercer University Undergraduate Research Series, Macon, GA.
  • McCormick, M., & Sharon, T. (2007, February).  Religious identity development and spiritual maturation among college students. Poster presented at the Emerging Adulthood Conference, Tucson, AZ.
  • Sharon, T. (2003, April). Symbolic sensitivity and the development of symbolic understanding. Poster presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Tampa, FL.
  • Sharon, T. (2003, October). Intentional Understanding and Childrens’ Understanding of Symbolic Artifacts. Talk presented at the Mercer University Undergraduate Research Series, Macon, GA.
  • Sharon, T. (2002, November).  Learning and the Brain.  Guest lecture in an education class (Emory University, Wendy Newby, instructor).
  • Sharon, T. (2002, April). Symbolic understanding and children’s understanding of intentions. Invited presentation at the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology, Nashville, TN.
  • Sharon, T. (2001, October).  Strategy variation in children’s use of scale models. Poster presented at the Cognitive Development Society Meeting, Chapel Hill, NC.
  • Sharon, T. (2001, April). Children’s understanding of the intentionality of symbols. Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Minneapolis, MN.
  • Sharon, T., & Woolley, J. (2001, April). Do monsters dream? The development of the fantasy-reality distinction. Poster presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Minneapolis, MN.
  • Sharon, T., and Wynn, K. (2000, July). Mechanisms for parsing motion: The role of tangent discontinuities. Poster presented at the International Conference on Infant Studies, Brighton, England.
  • DeLoache, J. S., Troseth, G. T., and Sharon, T. (2000, July). Intentionality and early symbol use. Paper presented at the International Conference on Infant Studies, Brighton, England.
  • Sharon, T., & DeLoache, J. S. (2000, April.) The role of perseveration in young children’s use of scale models: Cause or consequence? Paper presented at the Midwestern Psychological Association, Chicago, IL.
  • Sharon, T. (1999, October). Avenues into symbolic understanding: The role of intentionality. Poster presented at the Cognitive Development Society Meeting, Chapel Hill, NC.
  • Sharon, T. (1999, April).  The role of intentionality in children’s understanding of representations. Poster presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Albuquerque, NM.
  • Sharon, T., and Wynn, K. (1997, April). Infants’ individuation and enumeration of actions.  Poster presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Washington, DC.

Contact Dr. Tanya Sharon


(478) 301-2949
sharon_t@mercer.edu