Senior Abstracts for 2015
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 2015.
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.
Folarera Moninuola Fasawe
Olivia Kate Jacobs
Natasha R. Kalra
Rachel A. Lippin-Foster
Lauren Claire Piccirillo
Julia Tosca Rabin
Can Race Influence Perceptions of an Ambiguous Police – Civilian Confrontation?
128 minority and nonminority participants were presented with a scenario of a black or white officer and a black or white civilian in a conflict where the civilian was tased. It was ambiguous as to whom the initial aggressor was and participants were asked to judge the actions of either party. Multiple hypotheses predicted main effects for officer race and suspect race on the dependent variables rating appropriateness of officer and suspect actions. One marginally significant interaction was found for minority participants who believed a suspect’s side of the ambiguous conflict more if the civilian and officer were both black. The predicted significant main effects and interactions were not found. The study indicates that minority and non-minority participants react to ambiguous scenarios differently. In particular, it seems that minority participants are sensitive to the racial combination of officer and suspect; non-minority participants react the same, regardless of the racial combination. For most dependent variables, minority and non-minority participants reacted to the scenario the same. The lack of significance for the main variables measuring actions was attributed to the high prevalence of discourse on racial police brutality in the media, and the fact that some participants may have discovered the study’s true purpose. Future studies replicating this one could ask participants to respond to questions rating the believability of the officer and suspect’s story.
Can Mental Toughness Be Developed in Youth Athletes Through the Completion of Individual Physical Challenges
Abstract Mental toughness is considered by many elite athletes, coaches, and sport psychologists to be the most important mental skill required to achieve performance excellence. It is considered to be the mental factor that separates good athletes from great athletes when physical, technical, and tactical skills are held constant. Ultimately it allows athletes to out perform their physical ability. While most research has focused on psychological skill training to develop mental toughness, this study focused on the use of physical challenges to develop mental toughness. Youth athletes ages 8-14 participating in a summer ski racing camp were participants in this study. Participants completed various physical activities including rock climbing, ropes courses, and mountain biking. The athletes completed baseline, camp post-test, one week follow-up, and two month follow-up mental toughness, self-efficacy, and anxiety measures. Parents also completed a baseline and two month follow-up of the same measures about their children. Post-activity surveys were also conducted. Athletes with a lower mental toughness baseline reported significant increases in mental toughness and self-efficacy scores, and a significant decrease in anxiety scores. Parents also reported their children’s changes in mental toughness, and task difficulty was the best post-activity predictor of mental toughness scores.
But First, Let Me Post a Selfie: A Study of the Frequency of Sharing Photos on Facebook and the Direction of Social Comparison for Individuals Who Stake Their Self-Worth on Public-Based Contingencies
Past research indicates that individuals who stake their self-worth on any of the following domains: others’ approval, competition, or appearance are more likely to share photos on Facebook (Stefanone, Lackaff, & Rosen, 2011). We attempt to replicate these results and also investigate whether Facebook users are affected by the number of virtual ‘likes’ their photos receive. Our study also assessed participants’ tendency to socially compare themselves to others on the site. Specifically, we ask if the domain in which individuals stake their self-worth (others’ approval, competition, or appearance) is an indicator of the direction of social comparison (upward or downward) they engage in. We were not able to show that the three domains predict the tendency to upload photos. In fact, individuals who stake their self-worth on competition were less likely to upload photos to Facebook. Correlational analyses revealed that participants who scored highly in any of the three domains felt better if others ‘liked’ their photos and felt worse if others did not ‘like’ their photos. A final correlational analysis showed that participants who scored highly in any of these domains had a tendency to engage in both upward and downward social comparisons on Facebook.
Hypocrisy Induction to Increase College Students’ Condom Use: A Dissonance-Based Safe Sex Intervention
Despite the effectiveness of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancies, only 49% of college students consistently use condoms during sexual intercourse. The current research utilized hypocrisy induction, a dissonance-based intervention, to increase condom use among undergraduate students. This research consisted of two studies: the first was administered in-person, and the second was conducted via the Internet. Studies 1 and 2 measured the immediate and long-term effects of hypocrisy induction on college students’ use of and motivation to use condoms. For both studies, it was hypothesized that hypocrisy participants would demonstrate greater intent for and frequency of safe sex at the one-month follow-up. In both experiments, hypocrisy participants’ long-term motivation to practice safe sex was significantly higher than control participants’. However, hypocrisy participants’ condom use did not increase in Studies 1 or 2. Implications and limitations of the experiments and results are discussed.
A Case Study and Analysis on the Implications of Team Impact on Chronically Ill Children and The Collegiate Athletic Team Involved
Children with cancer face life-threatening issues concerning their health but the psychosocial and development issues remain even once the child is in remission. These children will often face difficulties such as being teased by peers, restrictions on activities, and distress about their medical condition (Brown, 2004). Furthermore, pediatric cancer patients may be excluded by their peers in social settings because of skewed perceptions of the illness (Miller, 1995). To develop children’s psychosocial and developmental self, pediatric cancer patients will often go to oncology summer camps or specialized programs which allow them to be in a more comfortable situation around kids who are going through similar situations (Martiniuk et al., 2010). In these environments, kids learn skills on how to socialize with their peers and resolve issues that they can use when they return to their normal social situation. This study explores the implications of mentoring through the Team Impact organization on children’s psychosocial and emotional development.
Folarera Moninuola Fasawe
Single and Married: The Measure of Unconscious Bias Attributed to Single and Married People
Society has created a norm that marriage leads to happiness. By doing this, the contrast is created where single people are stereotyped as lonely. This causes for there to be discrimination by the larger society towards people who are single. This study sought to explore the evidence of the unconscious bias attributed to marriage and singles of college students by using the Implicit Association Test (IAT). The implicit association test measures the differential association of married and singles with negative and positive words. The research shows that participants attribute words having to do with singles with negative words such as death, vomit, and tragedy, and attribute words having to do with marriage with positive words such as rainbow, sunshine, and happy. These results show that singles are still associated with negative words and married couples are still associated with positive words. This implication can be seen by the discrimination faced by singles in the US. Also, this study correlated variables such as age, gender, class year, political ideology, nationality, ethnicity, level of religiosity, current parents’ education status, parental marital status (married, widowed, divorced), attitude to marriage and relationship with mother and father to the IAT test results. The result of this study was significant and shows that participants have an unconscious bias towards married people and against singles. Participants made faster responses when associating positive words with words having to do with marriage than words having to do with singles.
Knowledge of Cholesterol and Coronary Heart Disease Risk Among College Students
Previous research suggests a lack of knowledge regarding cholesterol levels and Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) risk among college students. Prevention and education interventions are often directed at an older demographic, ignoring the fact that atherosclerosis is a long-term process and that risk is therefore present in young adults. The current study involved evaluating serum cholesterol levels using a home-testing device, as well as assessing overall knowledge of coronary heart disease risk through a brief survey. There were 49 participants in the study (13 male, 36 female). Consistent with previous research, results indicated that students had low levels of knowledge regarding present and future risk factors for CHD. Average total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol levels were within normal range, despite 6% of students being at borderline risk based on high total cholesterol levels, and 18% being at risk based on low HDL levels. Future research should consider the addition of an educational intervention either as a population based program, or as a physician-directed follow up to cholesterol screenings. These both have the potential to help increase awareness of risk, which has been shown to be significantly related to engagement in health behavior change.
Good Talk: Augmentative and Alternative Communication and the Journey to a Device
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) encompasses any type of communication, apart from oral speech, that is used to express an idea. These systems take a variety of forms, including picture boards, manual signing and electronic speech generating devices. In observing the students at a local school for autism, there appeared to be a lack in understanding/awareness among staff regarding why their students utilized an AAC system, specifically an electronic device. Over the course of this semester, I observed three students using electronic devices and conducted an interview with an augmentative specialist to better understand the augmentative evaluation process and the criteria that are assessed in determining if a device is a good fit for a student. Factors such as cognitive abilities, motor skills, communication needs, user environment, as well as the cost and durability of device are all taken into account when assessing a student’s potential candidacy for a device. This information was then compiled into a presentation with the aim of making staff members more aware of the elements determining why their students have/do not have devices.
Measuring the Attitudes and the Likelihood of Concussion Reporting by Testing Implicit Attitudes in Collegiate Football Players
Concussions are an important issue because of their high prevalence in the United States’more than 300,000 sports-related concussions occur annually (Guskiewicz et al., 2005). Previous research and literature has shown that concussion reporting in football players tends to be low, thus testing implicit attitudes may give more insight into players’ attitudes towards concussions and better reflect actual reporting patterns. The current study presented in paragraph form two scenarios of a football player getting a concussion. The ‘like’ scenario matched the player in the scenario to the participant by class year, position, and previous concussion history and the ‘unlike’ scenario gave a similar scenario but with alternative demographics. After each respective scenario, the participant was asked the likelihood that the player would report their concussion to the trainer, and a series of behavior and attitude questions related to concussion reporting. Preliminary analysis of the results showed that players were less likely to report a concussion in the ‘like’ scenario, suggesting their true implicit attitudes towards concussions and reporting. Results suggest that examining implicit attitudes about concussion reporting may provide a more accurate reflection of actual reporting patterns, and knowing the differences in implicit attitudes among class years, positions, and previous concussion history can aid in future concussion education techniques, as well as helping trainers understand players’ motives and attitudes.
Olivia Kate Jacobs
Correlates and Predictors of Hookup Regret Among College Students
Hookups, casual sexual encounters that occur outside the context of a committed relationship, have become increasingly prevalent among college students and young adults (Garcia, Reiber, Massey, & Merriwether, 2012). Hookup culture has strong social norms associated with it, the most prevalent being that they are casual, and research has shown college students to rate their peers’ comfort with hooking up as significantly higher than their own (Lambert, Kahn, & Apple, 2003). The norms of hooking up contradict desire for a relationship, which may occur after engaging in a hookup. Research has shown regret to be a common negative reaction to hookups (Eshbaugh & Gute, 2008; Oswalt, Cameron, & Koob, 2005). The present study assessed the relationship between the social norms of hooking up and tension between relationship desire and perceived expectations (dissonance). The study also investigated how dissonance and agreement with social norms relate to regret of engaging in hooking up. College students (N = 259) completed a web-based survey. Tension, agreement with social norms, relationship desire, and number of hookups over the previous year were predictive of hookup regret. Women reported significantly more tension between relationship desire and the normative expectations of hookup experiences. For women, regret was positively correlated with the social norm ‘College students are expected to hookup.’ Regret was not correlated with anything for male participants. The results could indicate that college students are engaging in hookups because they think they are supposed to. Potential contributors to demonstrated gender differences are discussed.
Natasha R. Kalra
Numbers and Shapes: Is Math Learning Enhanced by a Fantastical Context?
A recent push for increased achievement in the younger years has led to a decline of play in school (e.g., Adams, 2011; Henley, McBride, Milligan, & Nichols, 2007). However, research continually illustrates the value of play in the early years, specifically in terms of how it may enhance learning and achievement (e.g., Hirsh-Pasek, Golinkoff, Berk, & Singer, 2009; Hurwitz, 2002; National Research Council et al., 2009; Weisberg, Hirsh-Pasek, & Golinkoff, 2013). A recent study revealed that exposure to new vocabulary words in a fantastical context, as opposed to a realistic context, enhanced learning in preschoolers (Weisberg, Hirsh-Pasek, Golinkoff, Nicolopoulou, & Dickinson, 2015). The present study sought to determine if this finding is generalizable to mathematics. Preschoolers were taught mathematical concepts with either realistic or fantastical storybooks and toys. Results indicated that receiving the intervention, either realistic or fantastical, led to enhanced learning of shapes, but not numbers, as compared to receiving no intervention (i.e., in the control group). These findings could provide the necessary motivation to make important changes in current preschool curricula to increase math learning and achievement.
Developing Leadership Skills in Adolescent Girls
Abstract A recent report recommended that Maine invest more in girls and women in Maine. One recommendation was to create opportunities for girls to engage in leadership education. This case study examined the development of leadership skills in adolescent girls through participation in a leadership education program and a social justice event. I acted as both the facilitator and the researcher. Mixed-methods were used for data collection. Results showed that the program gave the girls a comfortable space to learn about leadership skills through program topics and the facilitator’s behavior. The social justice event emerged as a critical instrument for enhancing the girls’ development of leadership skills. Giving adolescent girls the opportunity to take activist roles allowed them to grow through experience as well as feel empowered to become agents of change in their communities. Keywords: adolescent girls, leadership education, development, activist
When You Tell My Story: The Impact of Vicarious Perspective-Giving on Subordinate Group Members’ Attitudes
Previous research has found that intergroup contact has different effects on participants’ outgroup attitudes based on their membership in a subordinate group versus a dominant group. Perspective-giving, a type of intergroup contact where one participant shares his or her perspective with an outgroup member, has been shown to be a successful method of improving positive outgroup attitudes for subordinate group members. No research has been identified that tests the effects of vicarious perspective-giving, which the current study defines as witnessing another ingroup member give his or her perspective to an outgroup member. The current study compares the effects of direct perspective-giving and vicarious perspective-giving on the outgroup attitudes of subordinate group members. In Study 1, female students at Bates College completed a task in which they used Facebook chat to either present their own perspective as a female student to a male student, or witness another female student giving her perspective to a male student. Participants completed a questionnaire measuring their attitudes towards male students at Bates College before and after the task. It was found that direct perspective-giving did not change participants’ attitudes towards male students, and vicarious perspective-giving actually led to a decrease in attitudes towards male students. Study 2 examines the prevalence and effect of direct and vicarious perspective-giving at a storytelling program at Bates College called the Dinner Table Conversation series. Many participants did experience both types of perspective-giving during the program, but the effect this had on their outgroup attitudes is unclear. Implications for both studies are discussed.
Artistic Insight: The Relationship Between Depressive Realism, Depression, and Creativity
Empirical, biographical, and clinical research indicates a relationship between creativity and mood disorders. Although traditional models suggest that depression hinders creative thinking and production, research demonstrates that depressed moods produce powerful emotive states and reflective thought patterns. This combination of thought process and emotion generates insights into the human condition and, in turn, creative thinking, suggesting that some aspect of the depressed mind facilitates creativity. The depressive realism hypothesis proposes that depressed individuals perceive a more objective reality than the non-depressed (Alloy & Abramson, 1979). The current study hypothesized that depressive realism mediates the relationship between depression and creativity. Sixty-eight participants from Bates College were assessed for current levels of depression, using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D; Radloff, 1977), their creative ability, using the Abbreviated Torrance Test for Adults (ATTA: Goff & Torrance, 2002), and whether they display depressive realism, using Alloy and Abramson’s (1979) judgment of contingency task. Contrary to predictions and past research, this study found no significant relationship between depression and judgment of contingency or depression and creativity. These results are most likely due to issues with the sample and the testing measures. However, this study found a significant relationship between judgment of contingency and creativity, indicating that greater objectivity leads to greater creativity. This finding suggests that with different methods, future research might reveal depressive realism to be a link between depression and creativity.
Peer and Self-Perceptions of Learning Differences
Bates College currently defines learning differences as reading, writing, and math learning disorders; Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder; psychoemotional disorders; auditory, visual and sensory motor disorders; and temporary medical issues such as concussions. In order to explore peer and self-perceptions of learning differences at Bates, two studies were conducted. Study 1 consisted of two focus groups with students who have diagnosed learning differences and three focus groups with students who do not have diagnosed learning differences to gain an understanding of perceived stigma on campus, and whether some learning differences and accommodations are more legitimized than others. Analysis of the data using Grounded Theory Method resulted in three broad categories for participants with learning differences (language, peer and self-perceptions, and experiences with learning differences) and three broad categories for participants without learning differences (basic knowledge, experiences with learning differences, and peer perceptions). Study 2 aimed to systematically measure perceptions of learning differences by utilizing two Go/No-Go Association Tasks (GNATs) to test implicit bias. The affective GNAT tested whether participants associated learning differences with general positive words more than with general negative words or vice versa, while the evaluative GNAT followed the same format but used positive and negative terms related to competency. Participants showed a greater association between learning differences and negative terms than positive terms for both the evaluative GNAT, t(109) = -2.77, p = .007, and the affective GNAT, t(109) = -6.18, p < .001, demonstrating negative implicit bias against learning differences.
Rachel A. Lippin-Foster
The Influence of Perceived Investigator Competence on Eyewitness Identification Decision
The current study aims to determine if automatic judgments of competency made about an investigator will bias the eyewitness identification decision. It was hypothesized participants would choose from a photospread when it was paired with a competent investigator, even if the instructions were unbiased. It was predicted that eyewitnesses would choose less when given unbiased instructions versus biased instructions in the babyfaced investigator condition. Competency was operationalized by the extent to which the investigator was babyfaced. Participants (N = 95) viewed four crime videos and four photospreads paired with either a babyfaced or non-babyfaced investigator, and completed a questionnaire for each photospread/investigator combination. Results did not support the prediction: those in the non-babyfaced condition did not choose at rates similar to rates in the non-babyfaced, biased condition. However, for the first photospread only, participants were marginally more likely to choose from a photospread when presented with a babyfaced investigator versus a non-babyfaced investigator in the unbiased instructions condition (all participants made identifications in the biased instructions condition). In addition, babyfaced investigators were perceived as less competent than non-babyfaced investigators.
Student Engagement Among Third Grade Special Education Students as They Navigate Two Classroom Settings; an Integrated Classroom and Resource Room
The re-established special education laws passed in 2004 in the United States drastically increased the services available for special education students in regular school districts and restructured the ways in which support was administered to this population. This study observed three elementary, special education students enrolled in a regular, integrated classroom and a resource room classroom. These settings represent two special education classroom models, both of which aim to serve students in their least restrictive learning environment (LRE) and integrate them into the regular school district. When evaluating the effectiveness of specific classroom models student engagement has become a commonly used marker and assessment (J. Fredricks et al., 2011). This current research observed three student engagement types, behavioral, affective, and cognitive, among student participants within each classroom environment. Results indicated that students displayed different amounts and types of student engagement within their respective classrooms. These findings suggest that students are engaging with their classwork in different manners depending on which classroom setting they are apart of. Thus, having access to two classroom models had a positive impact on student academic performance and led to a greater opportunity for students to engage in their classwork across all engagement dimensions.
Lauren Claire Piccirillo
The Relationship Between Women’s Color Choices and Their 2D:4D Ratio
Research has shown that prenatal androgen exposure in adults can be measured by looking at 2D:4D ratios of the hands. Studies have also suggested that adult drawing behaviors may be correlated with levels of androgen exposure during prenatal development in women. The current study explored drawing behaviors, specifically color choice, in adult women’s drawings in relation to 2D:4D ratios. There were 79 participants in this study, all of whom were female undergraduates ages 17-22. All of the participants in this study performed a coloring task and had their second and fourth digits on both their left and right hands measured. Correlational analyses revealed a positive relationship between coolness of colors and ratios, such that the use of cool colors corresponded to higher, more feminine, 2D:4D ratios, r(77) = .321, p = .004. These findings inform the ongoing debate over 2D:4D ratio, early androgen exposure, and its effects on adult women’s behavior.
Julia Tosca Rabin
To Be Politically Motivated or Not?: A Cross Cultural Analysis of Political Motivations in Emerging Adults
Abstract The purpose of this study was to qualitatively and empirically measure how political motivations differed cross culturally among emerging adults. Using a total of 143 participants between the ages of 18 and 23, data were collected both in Chile, from students who attended Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso, and in the United States, from students who attended Bates College. Both interviews and surveys were administered. The interviews collected qualitative data on how participants defined the phase of life they were in, as well as their political motivations and how these motivations related to their peers, family and national culture. Comparatively, the survey empirically measured emerging adulthood, dialectical thinking and political activism. Qualitative findings illustrated certain culturally specific themes, such as apathy and pessimism for Americans and solidarity and political conviction for Chileans. Quantitatively, Americans scored significantly higher when asked if they felt they were experiencing a time of self and identity exploration, while Chileans scored significantly higher on questions measuring dialectical thinking. In terms of political activism, results were not significantly different between Chileans and Americans. Future research should incorporate a more heterogeneous American sample, and continue to study the effects of religiosity and gender on political activism. Word Count: 198
Religious Gestures Promote Helping in Theory, But Not in Practice
The current study sought to examine whether religious gestures increase generosity. Participants first read a simple passage about a young boy, Michael, and then completed a gesture, varying by gesture type (religious vs. non-religious) and gesture level (active vs. passive). Generosity was measured in two ways, in theory and in practice. After completing the activity, participants were asked to rate their willingness to help Michael, measuring generosity in theory. Participants were later given false letters about a client and a legal company and asked to donate time to help phone-bank, measuring generosity in practice. It has been found that religion increases prosocial behavior, thus the religious gesture would act as a prime for religious values, leading to an increase in generosity. It was hypothesized that there would be significant main effects of both activity and religiosity, with an increase in generosity in both the active (versus passive) and religious (versus non-religious) gestures. It was also predicted that there would be a significant interaction, with generosity higher in the active (versus passive) religious condition, but with generosity equivalent for active and passive gestures in the non-religious condition. Results indicated a significant main effect of religion in theory but not in practice, such that religious gestures led to an increase in willingness to help Michael, but not to donate time. Future research should examine the temporal effects of generosity to fully understand religion’s effect on prosocial behavior.
Democracy of Music Taste: Individual Differences and Music Omnivorousness
Music plays a prevalent role in people’s everyday lives. Social psychologists have found that personality traits correlate with preferences in specific musical genres, for example, agreeableness with preference for conventional music and neuroticism with intense and rebellious music (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2003). However, no research has yet explored how personality traits predict the range of music an individual listens to. The phenomenon of music omnivorousness is explored by sociologists as they speculate the shift from a music taste for ‘highbrow’ music to a more eclectic music taste is due to the upper middle class individuals’ desire to signal cultural tolerance. An online survey was administered to 189 undergraduate Bates College students to examine how individual differences predict music omnivorousness. Specifically, the Big Five Inventory (John & Srivatava, 1999) and the Motivation to Respond Without Prejudice Scale (Plant & Devine, 1998) were employed to measure individual differences and an adaptation of the Short Test of Musical Preferences (STOMP-R) (Bonneville-Roussy et al., 2013) was employed to measure musical omnivorousness. The results indicated that openness to experience and internal motivation to respond without prejudice were positively related to music omnivorousness. Keywords: music taste, personality, motivation to respond without prejudice