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Motivation, Belongingness, and Anxiety in Neuroscience Undergraduates: Emphasizing First-Generation College Students


Gaudier-Diaz, Monica M.; Sinisterra, Manuela; & Muscatell, Keely A. (2019). Motivation, Belongingness, and Anxiety in Neuroscience Undergraduates: Emphasizing First-Generation College Students. Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education, 17(2), A145-52. PMCID: PMC6650254


The growth of undergraduate neuroscience programs nation-wide demonstrates that interest in this field is escalating. By understanding what motivates neuroscience undergraduates to do well and how they generally feel toward their major and environment, educators will be better able to attend to the needs of their neuroscience students. Thus, the present study aimed to characterize the psychosocial profiles of neuroscience majors in the U.S., with a particular interest in potential differences by generation in college, school type, and gender. For this, U.S. institutions that offer a neuroscience major were identified, and program directors/coordinators were asked to share a study survey with neuroscience majors at their school. The survey, which included demographics and measures of motivation, sense of belongingness, and anxiety, was completed by 756 students from 69 different institutions. Results showed that first-generation college students had lower academic performance (i.e., GPA), which was mediated by differences in motivation, and test- and trait-anxiety. Further, students from Liberal Arts Colleges reported valuing neuroscience courses more than students at National Universities, and the desire to meet others expectations, value of neuroscience course work, and anxiety were higher among female neuroscience students than males. Finally, test-anxiety was the strongest correlate of academic performance. These insights help identify potential targets for developing new teaching and advising strategies that could be employed to facilitate success among all neuroscience undergraduates.


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Journal Article

Journal Title

Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education


Gaudier-Diaz, Monica M.
Sinisterra, Manuela
Muscatell, Keely A.

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