Rob Wright, a BYU-Idaho psychology department faculty member, runs a research program intended to help psychology students get to graduate school and excel in the field.

Wright has been with the university since 2013. He leads the health psychology emphasis. 

Wright teaches health psychology and experience research in psychology. Before coming to BYU-I, he completed his doctoral education at Portland State University. He did his dissertation on stress and coping among nurses. He also completed a two-year postdoctoral research at Oregon Health & Science University.

Spencer Garcia, a graduate of Wright’s program who is now pursuing a doctorate at the Georgia Institute of Technology, mentioned how much Wright does to see his students succeed.

“He goes above and beyond and sets people up for more than they could have achieved on their own.” Garcia told BYU-I’s News and Notes publication.

The students in the research program identify questions, gather data and try to answer the questions. This study program led to the development of the health psychology emphasis at BYU-I. Wright chooses about six students per semester for his research team. 

The team from the Winter 2023 semester researched dating at BYU-I. It looked into dating apps and compared dating on campus to dating through apps. The research suggested that there was not enough data on dating apps.

“We are seeing that people are getting married for their first time later on in life and that they are having less children,” Wright said. “We are seeing the effects of that even now, today, on campus.”

Wright spoke about a survey they conducted about dating and the results they received.

“It is rather peculiar, the dating context here in Rexburg,” Wright said. “On one hand it is very traditional in many ways, and on the other, there (are) a lot of women who end up paying on the date.”

Wright mentioned that people are starting to shift to an equality-focused view on dating.

The group of psychology students who participated in Wright’s research program this semester. Photo courtesy of Rob Wright.
The group of psychology students who participated in Wright’s research program this semester. Photo courtesy of Rob Wright.

“Traditional perspective and a shift going towards this egalitarian type of viewpoint where it should be both of them — Both of them should be equal when it comes to asking on a date or paying,” Wright said. “The sexes should be equal.”

The data shows this.

“Our data shows that even though we may think that these might be contrasting or different — opposite, maybe even — What we’re seeing is our data so far is that they are running together,” Wright said. “People are holding traditional perspectives while they are holding egalitarian perspective, suggesting that they’re not mutually exclusive, but that there’s some type of a shift — an evolution with dating perspectives.”

The research team focused on both men and women, and then it separated the sexes. They talked about dating quality and identified red flags in dating.

“Men brought up the concern about feeling unsafe, compared to women in our focus group,” Wright said. 

Natalie Johnson, a senior studying health psychology, was one of the members of this semester’s research team. She learned a lot about men’s and women’s perspectives on dating and what women expect on dates.

“Everyone has a different perspective,” Johnson said. “Even though we all kind of come from the same culture and the role at the same school, something that stood out to me was the concerns of safety.”