Senior Abstracts for 2014
As is true for most majors at Bates, all psychology seniors must complete a senior thesis. This archive lists the name, title and a brief summary (abstract) of the projects of select seniors who graduated in 2014.
Please check out our complete Senior Thesis Archive.
Note: indicates an empirical thesis project and indicates a community-based learning thesis project.
Click a name to view that student’s abstract, or scroll down to view all students.
Emily Creed Diepenbrock
Caroline Elizabeth Hinkle
Simone H. Schriger
James H. Smith
Nina E. Tupper
Implementation and Evaluation of a Girls Group: A Support Group for Girls with Emotional Behavioral Disabilities
This study explores the impact of a friendship-themed girls support group for girls diagnosed with Emotional Behavioral Disabilities (EBD). The goal of this study was to address common challenges of this population of girls and to evaluate the benefits a friendship-themed girls support group. The girls group aimed to provide the girls with an environment in which they could feel supported and focus on improving relationships and interpersonal skills. The participants in this study were four girls ages 10-12 diagnosed with EBD in a special needs school in Southern Maine. The measures of this study included qualitative data collected via semi-structured interviews, with the participants and four of the staff members, regarding the benefits of the girls group and the general needs of these girls in the future. The findings indicated that the girls group yielded several benefits for the girls. Additionally, the results suggested that many of the girls’ needs, due to their gen! der and EBD, could be addressed via future gender-based interventions.
The Effect of Grapheme-Color Synesthesia on Object Trimming and Binding
Synesthesia is a rare condition where some individuals, when presented with a stimulus in one sensory modality, experience sensation in another sensory modality. The current experiment examined the perceptual experiences of an individual with grapheme-color synesthesia (a type of synesthesia where letters and numbers create sensations of perceiving different colors). Specially, this study sought to better-understand two newly discovered visual illusions (object trimming and object binding) by examining the way these illusions are perceived by a synesthete. Experiment 1 demonstrated that our grapheme-color synesthete does in fact associate certain numbers with particular colors using a masked digit identification task. Experiments 2 and 3 then assessed whether or not the object trimming and object binding illusions are affected by the synesthetic colo! r experiences of our participant. These illusions both involve situations where a number is falsely seen as another number (e.g., under certain conditions the number 8 can appear to be the number 6, or vice versa). By examining how a grapheme-color synesthete experiences these illusion we can determine whether the synesthetic experiences of the participant are occurring in stages of vision that precede or follow the stages of processing where these illusions take place. Results indicate that the object trimming illusion occurs at earlier stages of visual processing, and the object binding illusion occurs at later stages of visual processing, relative to grapheme-color synesthesia.
Enhanced Cognitive Control in Task-Switching for Varying Levels of Bilinguals
Because of a lifetime of juggling two languages, bilingual people have cognitive advantages that extend to other mental tasks. Many studies have found that bilinguals have more efficient inhibitory processes and better problem solving, working memory and selective attention than monolinguals. There is also evidence that through the process of switching languages on a regular basis bilinguals have developed the ability to switch non-linguistic tasks more effectively. Specifically, bilinguals with more experience and higher levels of fluency will perform better than less experienced bilinguals. This study aimed to test the difference between monolinguals and bilinguals in task switching paradigms, including a further distinction between bilinguals who frequently or infrequently code-switch and whether this code-switching is accidental or intentional.! It was predicted that frequent code-switchers, particularly those who code-switch intentionally, would have faster reaction times and higher accuracy than accidental or infrequent code-switchers and monolinguals. These findings would suggest that the non-linguistic cognitive advantages found in bilinguals are, in fact, related to a lifetime of practice. No differences between bilinguals and monolinguals was found, however, most likely due to age of acquisition of the bilinguals in this study compared to other studies and that some bilinguals learned English after two other languages.
Emily Creed Diepenbrock
The Effects of Engagement in Outdoor Activities on the Psychological Well-Being of Youth
Within the United States stress levels and mental health disorders are increasing while overall human psychological well-being levels are decreasing (Selhub & Logan, 2012). Martin Seligman’s Well-Being Theory breaks down the broad concept of well-being into five elements (positive emotions, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, and achievement) and suggests that when these five components are present in one’s life their personal well-being will increase (Seligman, 2011). Research has shown that exposure to outdoor environments is an effective way to activate these well-being characteristics (Lyubomirsky, Dickerhoof, Boehm, and Sheldon, 2011; Selhub & Logan, 2012). This study further explores this relationship between engagement in outdoor activities and the psychological well-being of youth, by leading weekly nat! ure walks for 2nd – 8th grade children living in the River Valley Village community in Lewiston, Maine. Based on observations, detailed field notes, and a semi-structured focus group discussion structured around a photo-voice project, the participants involved in the nature walks showed verbal and behavioral signs of positive relationships, positive emotions, accomplishment, and engagement. The presence of these four well-being elements during the nature walks suggest that engagement in outdoor activities positively influences the psychological well-being of the youth living in the River Valley Village community.
Caroline Elizabeth Hinkle
Analysis of Cognitive Mediators in the Relationship between Oxytocin and Affective Processing
Social cognition is a broad domain composed of many facets, including emotion recognition, integration of social cues, attention, reading of facial expressions, trust, bonding, and attachment. The neuropeptide oxytocin seems to be a key mediator of social functioning, both in clinical and non-clinical settings. While oxytocin has shown promise as a potential therapy for those with impaired social cognition, it has not yet been determined if too much oxytocin is harmful. It is speculated that, within certain individual difference groups, oxytocin may make emotional stimuli even more salient, prompting hypersensitivity and ultimately withdrawal from social situations. The present study aimed to clarify this conjecture by examining the degree of correlation between peripheral oxytocin levels and affective processing skill! s in a sample of young adults and, further, to determine if three different executive functions mediate this relationship. Tests of affective processing included the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), the Emotional Stroop Test, and the Reading the Mind in the Eyes Task, while tests of cognitive function included a selective attention test and a novelty detection task. Self-report scales were used to provide additional information about affective individual differences in the sample. Peripheral oxytocin was measured with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays from saliva samples. Correlation analysis found that oxytocin levels correlate negatively with sensory sensitivity and attention to emotion, and that sensory sensitivity goes on to correlate with several aspects of affective processing.
T’i vs Ch’ng T’i: Cultural Values and Emotional Expression in the US and Vietnam
Previous research suggests that cultural display rules, which are consistent with the behavioral norms and values of a culture, influence the emotional expression of people from different cultures. Studies have found that members of collectivistic and individualistic cultures differ in the extent to which they express emotions. The current study extends investigations of emotional expression among members of collectivistic and individualistic cultures, examining the influence that interaction person, social situation, and perceived closeness to interaction person may have on the expression of emotions. A total of 134 individuals (64 Americans and 68 Vietnamese) participated in this study. All participants were college-aged undergraduate students or recent university graduates. Findings from this study suggest that across interacti! on targets, both US and Vietnamese participants reported the greatest expression of emotion to family members. Furthermore, US participants differed in their expression of emotion between domains of social value and self-reported behavior. The implications of these findings are discussed in relation to cultural dimensions and other characteristics.
Effects of co-witness information on lineup instructions
Research into eyewitness identification has shown that a number of variables can affect eyewitness identifications. One common example of a variable that can decrease false identifications is for the administrator of the lineup to inform the witness that the suspect may or may not be in the lineup, known as unbiased lineup instructions (Malpass & Devine, 1981). Since many crimes have multiple witnesses, an interesting area of research explores how information about a co-witness can affect another witness. The current study expands on work done by Douglass, Smith and Fraser-Thill (2005) as well as Levett (2013) studying co-witness information. The present study explores how lineup instructions and co-witness information interact with each other. Participants (N = 76) viewed a mock crime video together, creating a co-witness situation. When the lineup was administered,! each participant-witness received different combinations of co-witness information and lineup instructions. The results show that co-witness information does not have the power to make unbiased instructions ineffective and displays the resilience of unbiased instructions as a procedural tool to reduce false identifications.
Do Reentrant Processes Facilitate Feature Binding?
This series of five experiments examined whether reentrant pathways in the visual system aid in the binding of visual features. The experiments studied the involvement of reentrant processes in the binding of color, orientation, shape, and motion. Experiments #1 and #2 examined color and orientation. Experiment #1 (N = 24) demonstrated that reentrant processes were necessary only when binding was required, while Experiment #2 (N = 26) showed that reentrant processes were necessary for binding but were also necessary when binding was not required. Experiment #3 (N = 20) and Experiment #4 (N = 21) demonstrated that reentrant processes were used when participants were required to respond to shapes. These data may indicate that binding is always needed when seeing shapes. Experiment #5 (N = 23) examined color and motion, but the results were inconclusive because participants di! d not perceive motion in the displays used. Together, the findings of these five experiments indicate that reentrant processes always enhanced performance when binding was required but also facilitated performance in some instances when binding of features was not required. Implications of this research and future directions are discussed.
The Effect of Regulatory Fit on Sport Performance: Motivating Athletes through the Pre-game Speech
Research surrounding regulatory focus theory suggests that situations of regulatory fit result in improved task performance. The potential benefits of regulatory fit have particular value in the realm of sport; particularly, if the regulatory focus of a coach’s pregame speech matches the chronic focus of his or her athletes. The purpose of the present study was to test the effect of regulatory fit, between individuals’ chronic regulatory focus and the focus of a coach’s pregame speech, on performance in a golf putting task. The chronic regulatory focus of sixty-three undergraduate students from Bates College was assessed using the Lockwood Scale (Lockwood, Jordan, & Kunda, 2002). Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions in which the situational regulatory focus was manipulated by framing a coach’s pregame speech as promotion focused, prevention focused, or both promotion and prevention focused. Following the manipulation, participants were aske! d to complete a golf putting task. Contrary to expectations, results did not support the hypothesis that regulatory fit would result in improved performance. However, results did show improved putting performance for participants in the combination condition in comparison to the promotion condition and the prevention condition. Findings from the current study suggest that coaches include both promotion and prevention focused instructions in their pregame speeches in order to improve athlete performance.
The Videotape Inoculation Technique and Post Identification Feedback Effect in Eyewitness Identification Procedures
Legal psychology research has revealed the robust post-identification feedback effect on eyewitness confidence (i.e., that it inflates confidence reports of inaccurate witnesses) (Wells & Bradfield, 1998). The current study, as a methodological adaptation from Dorison (2012) and Tupper (2013), explored if the videotape inoculation (viewing a video of an eyewitness’s own identification process) could reduce the post-identification feedback effects on decision certainty. Participants (N=81) watched a grainy security footage clip of a male suspect and were then told (with warning instructions) to make an identification decision from a target-absent photospread, while being videotaped head-on (Kassin, 1985). Two variables were manipulated in a 2(Videotape Inoculation: Yes vs. No) x 2(Feedback: Confirming vs. No! ne) factorial design and participants were randomly assigned to one of the four conditions. All participants were given questionnaires that assessed eyewitness decision confidence and other eyewitness judgments. Results showed that the videotape inoculation manipulation could reduce the effects of feedback, specifically when focusing primarily on na’ve, first-year students.
Simone H. Schriger
Chilean University Students’ Understandings of Dating Violence: A Qualitative Study
This exploratory study examined Chilean university students’ understandings of dating violence. In 2013, a law stipulating legal sanctioning of dating violence was proposed and, if passed, will be the first to achieve legal recognition of violence between non-cohabiting partners in Chile. Quantitative research suggests that dating violence is extremely prevalent in Chile, though statistics alone do not paint a full picture of this issue. In order to gain a multidimensional understanding of what dating violence means to Chilean university students, I used the qualitative approaches of focus groups and interviews. At five geographically diverse Chilean universities, I sought to gain a richer understanding of dating violence in Chile within the context of newly proposed legal changes. I used grounded theory to find major the! mes in participants’ understandings of this issue, allowing students’ own words to contextualize dating violence within contemporary Chile. Data analysis revealed the importance of machismo, jealousy, technology and cultural norms to university students’ understandings of dating violence, and suggested that problems exist, including unrecognized victims and a lack of resources for survivors.
The Role of Gender Typicality in Blaming a Mental Illness: Assessing Jury Bias
A jury should be impartial in determining a defendant’s guilt. A study by Wirth and Bodenhausen (2009) has shown that individuals feel less sympathy towards persons with gender-typical disorders compared to when persons were gender-atypical. In a national, Web-based survey experiment, the relationship between jury bias and blaming mental disorders that were designated as either gender-typical or gender-atypical were examined. One hundred and twenty-five participants from the United States watched a video of a mock defendant. Respondents read mock jury instructions and watched a video in which the mock defendant blamed his mental illness for committing a crime (blame) or did not (no blame); the videos reflected cases either a male-typical disorder (alcoholism) or a male-atypical disorder (depression). Findings revealed that participants judged a ! male defendant with alcoholism (gender-typical) as guiltier than a male with depression (gender-atypical). These results can be explained in part because participants assessed gender-atypical cases as more biologically-caused. While there was no signifiant interaction between a defendant’s mental illness and a defendant blaming his illness for committing a crime, there was a significant interaction between participants’ gender and the defendant’s illness on perception of guilt; female participants rated a male defendant with a gender-typical disorder as guiltier than a male defendant with a gender-atypical disorder.
James H. Smith
The Effect of Induced Positive Emotions on Self-Other Overlap in Introverts and Extraverts
Abstract The presence of positive emotions increases the degree to which we report feeling connected to our peers (Fredrickson, 2013). When positive emotions are present, our social awareness expands from a constricted ‘me’ toward an inclusive ‘we’ (Fredrickson, 2009). More extraverted individuals experience more positive emotions during everyday life (Costa & McCrae, 1980). The current study explored the effects of induced positive emotions on self-other overlap in introverted and extraverted individuals. Sixty-two student participants (31 introverts and 31 extraverts) were recruited from Bates College to complete a 48-question self-report extraversion subscale of the NEO-Personality Inventory from Costa and McCrae (1992), and two variations of the Inclusion of Other in the Self (IOS) Scale (Aron, Aron & Smollan, 1992; Fredrickson, 2009). IOS scales were completed both before and after a positive emotion induction asking people to write about their best friend. A two-sample ! t test for independent groups, a 2 x 2 mixed factorial ANOVA, and a correlation analysis were used to analyze the results. Although trending in the predicted directions, extraverts were not more ‘one’ with their peers than introverts before the induction. Following the induction, introverts and extraverts increased their perception of self-other overlap with their best friends. Introverts gained more self-other overlap than extraverts after the induction, but not significantly more (i.e., no interaction). The correlation results indicated that introverts were likely to feel more ‘one’ with their best friends than extraverts after experiencing positive emotions, relative to how they felt before the positive feeling occurred.
Examining the Relationship between Status Disclosure and Social Support among People Living with HIV
Ongoing research has revealed the positive association between status disclosure and social support among people living with HIV. The current report aims to enhance these findings by more closely examining the relationship between disclosure and social support from a qualitative perspective. A convenience sample of 8 in-treatment, HIV-positive participants was recruited for semi-structured interviews. Gender breakdown was six male (three men who have sex with men; 3 heterosexual) and two female. Interviews were transcribed and coded for emergent themes. Three broad categories were identified (i.e., barriers and/or challenges to disclosure; process of disclosure; and positive effects of disclosure), in which nine main themes emerged: 1) Difficulty disclosing immediately after diagnosis; 2) Stigma and/or ignorance coming from! others; 3) Feeling that others either deserve or do not need to know; 4) Fear of people talking, and the need to take control; 5) Acceptance as a form of social support; 6) Empowerment; 7) Social support among members of the ingroup; 8) Emotional support; and 9) Self-respect. Results indicated that disclosure experiences varied along with life experiences of the study participants. Intervention development should be tailored to client-specific needs so that individuals living with HIV are readily engaged to deal with the disclosure process.
An Exploratory Evaluation of the Bates College Purposeful Work Infusion Project
As colleges seek to create environments in which students can flourish academically and personally, research has indicated that tailored college courses have the ability to shape engaged learning experiences in ways that enhance student well-being. Bates College’s Purposeful Work Infusion Project (PWIP) is an intervention aimed at promoting student well-being through a model that tailors college courses through curricular infusion. The Project exposes students to topics regarding meaningful work, an area of particular interest for college students. This study serves as a pilot test, evaluating the effects of the Purposeful Work Infusion Project on students’ levels of engaged learning, flourishing, career decision-making self-efficacy, and career identity development by looking at these measures pre- and post-curricular infusion interventio! n. The results of the pre-intervention evaluation indicate that the curricular infusion is best suited for students not in their first year of college, though students in the older class years showed few differences across all measures. Based on these findings, this study provides recommendations for future research and the future direction of the PWIP regarding college class years, well-being, exploration, and purposefulness.
Nina E. Tupper
Eyewitness Self-Awareness and Confidence: Will Videotaping the Identification Procedure Eliminate the Post Identification Feedback Effect?
Previous research has shown the robust effects of the post-identification feedback effect, including reports of increased retrospective confidence on accuracy and other judgments (Wells & Bradfield, 1998). This current study adapts the videotape inoculation method (Dorison, 2012) to determine whether the effects of confirming feedback can be eliminated when eyewitnesses view a videotape of their identification. Participants (N=73) watched a mock crime video, and were asked to identify the perpetrator from a target-absent lineup. Two variables were manipulated. First, participants either watched the videotape of themselves identifying the suspect (videotape inoculation group) or not. Second, participants were randomly assigned to receive either confirming feedback or no feedback. All pa! rticipants completed questionnaires and reported confidence ratings at the end of their sessions. Results found some support that the videotape inoculation manipulation may reduce the effects of feedback. There was a marginally significant interaction between videotape and feedback, especially on the dependent variables of certainty, easy, view and seconds.
Do Media Images Influence the Degree to which People Implicitly Associate Themselves with Exercise and What Drives Exercise Behavior
Poor body image and the detrimental behaviors individuals often engage in to accommodate these sentiments is one of the most widespread emotional / psychological phenomena in our society. Strong pressure from the media and our culture have caused an expectation and desire, especially for women, to be extremely thin. Research has shown that a person’s reasons for exercising have an important influence on the health and psychological benefits they receive. This study attempted to discover how the media influences exercise habits and beliefs. Participants in the experimental group were primed with magazine articles featuring extremely attractive and thin women. They were asked to answer a number of questions related to their desire to look like these women. The control group viewed pictures ! of flowers. All participants completed an Implicit Association Task (IAT) measuring how much they associate exercise with themselves. A final survey measuring participants’ concern about exercise was then administered. Results did not show a significant difference between the control and experimental group but a main effect of the IAT was found indicating that all participants associated themselves more with exercise than sedentary behavior. Results also showed that in the experimental group, when individuals had high concern for exercise, participants responded shower to the exercise paired with self block while in the control group they respond faster. The magazine pictures still had a negative effect on participants’ association of themselves with exercise, causing participants to compare themselves to these photos and consequently feel inadequate.
An Examination of How Restrictive and Non-Restrictive Eaters Suppress Chocolate Cravings When Deprived
When individuals restrict their food intake or deprive themselves of a desired food, cravings are amplified. When individuals actively try to control their cravings, they oftentimes succumb to the restricted food, and consequently overeat. Research has identified mechanisms to control food cravings, but little research has determined if mechanisms differ between restrictive and non-restrictive eaters. The current study examined the strategies that forty-one (41) chocolate-deprived females used to suppress cravings, and whether restrictive eating style (restrictive vs. non-restrictive) and craving severity (craver vs. non-craver) influenced participants’ overall deprivation experience. Restrictive eating style and craving severity generally did not affect participants’ craving experience. Similar strategies were used across all participants. Consistent with previous research, participants used thought suppression, distraction, and thought expression as strategies to supp! ress their chocolate cravings. In addition, participants used their social networks, the deprivation instructions as a guideline, and the knowledge of health benefits as suppression strategies. These strategies have not been identified in previous research.