Senior Abstracts for 2009
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 2009.
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.
Christopher W. Berry
Priya Dahanukar Brandes
Hiu Man Christine Chiu
Leah A. Citrin
Stephanie Delude Connors
Samuel K. Hewett
Sarah Elizabeth Jordan
Perry Middleton Kleeman
Amy Laurel Werblin
Christopher W. Berry
An Experimental Approach to the Roles of Focus and Achievement Motivation in Flow and the Autotelic Personality
Flow, a deeply positive psychological state colloquially recognized as “being in the zone,” has many components. Until recently, these components have been studied almost exclusively by correlational research, which has identified perceived challenge-skills (CS) balance and focus as potentially crucial precursors to a flow state. In addition, this research has identified the autotelic personality, a theoretical set of personality characteristics enabling more frequent flow experiences. The ability to attain CS balance and complete focus are included in this set of characteristics. The current project investigates the role of CS balance, focus, and autotelic personality in flow, and establishes the role of achievement motivation type in the autotelic personality through a series of three experimental measures.
An Investigation of Automatic-Processing: Extracting Race and Gender Information from Faces using a Task-Choice Procedure
Much experimental research has examined the concept of automaticity. Many argue that automatic mental processes are stimulus initiated, unavoidable, and cannot be interrupted (Posner & Snyder, 1975; Neely & Kahan, 2001). One way to study whether mental processes are automatic in this sense is to use a dual-task procedure. The present study seeks to determine whether race and gender information is extracted automatically from faces using one such dual-task procedure, the task-choice procedure. The sample consisted of 40 undergraduate college students. Results indicate that gender but not race information is extracted automatically from pictures of faces.
Priya Dahanukar Brandes
The Effect of Musical Valence on Moral Reasoning and Moral Judgments
Recent research conducted by Joshua Greene attempts to reconcile the differences between how philosophers and psychologists have understood human morality and moral judgments. Greene has proposed that there is a cognitive component and an emotional component to moral decision-making which are both necessary but competitive in nature. The cognitive component of the model appraises the situation and serves to control the initial emotional response. This study aims to see how emotional load impacts cognitive control over initial affective reactions in moral dilemmas. Using a sample of 94 undergraduate students with random assignment to experimental condition, participants were presented with a music clip in order to induce positive, negative, or neutral affect, followed by a series of 25 moral judgments. While results indicated that music was a powerful mood modulator, results did not support the hypothesis that positively-valenced mood would prompt greater utilitarian responding while negatively-valenced mood would elicit non-utilitarian choice. Results are discussed in the context of Greene’s model of moral reasoning. Criticism that violent or depressing music can lead to young adult suicide and violence is also discussed.
The Mediating Effects of Social Support on the Link between Humor and Physical Health
The idea that humor can improve one’s health has been a theory for years in both research and popular media. Past studies have examined whether or not laughter improved immediate physiological symptoms such as blood pressure, and other studies have attempted to look at how humor affects stress. The current study explores whether there are adaptive and maladaptive types of humor and then determines if one leads to more social support and further, better physical health. Participants were 185 undergraduates from Bates College and they completed a questionnaire with measures for sense of humor, perceived social support, and physical symptoms. What was found was that all significant correlations between humor and health could be attributed to optimism, extraversion, or neuroticism.
The Relationship Between Self-Concept Differentiation and Divorce
The present study looked at whether or not children of divorce tend to act more differently between their parents than children of married parents. The study looked at 210 students from Bates College (46 divorced; 164 Married). The method was based of Donahue et al. (1993) and the theory of self-concept differentiation. The study was conducted using an online survey where participants rated personality traits for times when they were just with one parent, this done for both mother and father. The results found that children of divorce tended to differentiate more than those with married parents. High differentiation was correlated to low authenticity and low well-being. Research can help develop treatment methods for children of divorce.
The Psychological and Emotional Responses to Injury of Division III Athletes
Athletic injuries are widespread and often prove to be traumatizing in a variety of respects beyond the physical pain. This distress is also widely associated with numerous psychological and emotional factors such as experiencing feelings of guilt, loss, anger, social stress, fear in returning to sport, changes in self-identity and self-esteem over time. Through a multidimensional questionnaire the affective and psychosomatic responses and adjustments that Division III athletes experienced as a result of athletic injury are explored. This study focuses on social support, gender, athletic identity, self-esteem, number of times injured and/or severity of the injury. Seventy one currently or previously injured athletes representing twenty-five club and varsity sports teams at Bates and Bowdoin Colleges participated in this study. Results reveal no significant difference in self-esteem between previously and currently injured athletes. Currently injured athletes felt significantly more isolated than previously injured athletes. No significant differences in preference for expert or non-expert social support based on gender were revealed. A high propensity for seeking social support was noted from both genders. Equal amounts of male and female athletes feared returning to sport. Higher athletic identity was correlated with more restructuring in the lives of athletes. The more severe an athlete’s injury was, the more feelings of devastation and depression were experienced. Male athletes had higher mean reorganization scores than did female athletes. The number of times an athlete sustained the same injury had no significant effect on whether or not she feared returning to the same sport. The number of times an athlete sustained the same injury was not significantly correlated with levels self-esteem.
Hiu Man Christine Chiu
“Shld i txt u bk now or wait til l8r?” How Delayed Responses in Text Messages Affect Relationships
Previous research contradicts whether text messaging promotes or hinders social relationships. The current study examined how delayed responses in text messaging affect people’s relationships. A total of 239 undergraduate students (162 females and 77 males) read three series of text messages presented as occurring between the participants themselves and three target respondents (an imaginary same gender friend, romantic partner, and opposite gender friend) and rated their relationship satisfaction. Participants were randomly assigned to a delayed or immediate condition. The only difference between the two conditions was the response time from the target respondents. Overall, participants rated higher relationship satisfaction when target respondent was a romantic partner. Female participants, as expected, reported higher relationship satisfaction in the immediate condition across all three relationship types. Male participants, in contrast, expressed a reversed pattern when communicating with a romantic partner and an opposite gender friend.
Leah A. Citrin
Determining the Function of Aggressive Behaviors: A Case Study
The present study assessed the behavioral function of one student’s aggressive behaviors in a school setting. The participant was a 13 year-old boy who suffered brain injury at five-days old and currently exhibits aggressive behaviors. Using a daily behavior log, the problematic behaviors were recorded in as much detail as possible, including the antecedent, behavior, and consequence. The data were coded into four major categories of behavioral function: escape (e.g., when a request or demand is made of the individual), attention (e.g., while people are talking around but not to the person), sensory consequences (e.g., when the individual is left alone), and tangible motivators (e.g., to obtain a toy, food, or activity). Results showed that physical aggression occurred most often to escape, to receive attention and to gain tangible motivators. Verbal ‘punch’ behaviors occurred most often to receive attention, to escape and to gain tangible motivators. The results from the behavior assessment can be used to develop specific programs that may help decrease the student’s problematic behaviors.
Stephanie Delude Connors
The Effect of Motivational Interviewing as the Primary Weight Reduction Strategy in Obese Cardiac Patients — Recipient of the Drake Bradley Award in Statistics
Heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, increases dramatically with obesity. The current obesity epidemic, now in progress in the U.S., makes this reality especially alarming. The American Heart Association reports that 66 % of adults in 2005 were overweight and recent studies suggest that the obesity rates in the American population continue to increase. Exploring potential ways to alter the unhealthy behaviors which produce obesity and related risk factors for CHD remains a challenge for medical research. One approach, the behavioral change method of Motivational Interviewing (MI) has gained recent attention. MI is a client-centered method for enhancing an individual’s intrinsic motivation to change by exploring and resolving personal ambivalence (Rollnick, Miller & Butler, 2007). The current study examines the effectiveness of MI as the primary weight reduction strategy in a sample of obese cardiac patients in northern New England. (N = 56). Participants in the experimental group (N = 28) received MI weight-loss intervention and participants in the control group (N = 18) received standard dietary and nutrition counseling. Results indicate that the sample, as a whole, lost a considerable amount of weight over time. However, a significant difference for weight loss did not exist between the two groups at follow-ups. Implications and future directions of MI are discussed.
The Involvement of the Anterior Cingulate Cortical Subregions in Impulse Control in Bipolar Disorder: A Structural MRI Study
Bipolar I Disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness characterized by dramatic moods, ranging from an energetic high to an irritable, hopeless low. Previous literature suggests that abnormalities in a frontal-subcortical circuit of the brain are majorly responsible for BPD (Drevets et al., 1997). Specifically, Benes et al. (2001) cites reductions in the volume of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Because previous research has shown the subregions of the ACC have distinct functionality (Davis et al., 1997), each of the four known subregions were examined independently in the current study. This study used high-resolution structural MRI data to calculate volumetry of the four subregions of the left and right ACC (dorsal, rostral, sucallosal, and subgenual) and the number of commission errors on the Conners’ Continuous Performance Test, Second Edition (CPT-II: Conners, 2000) to index impulse control. Statistical analyses of volumetry revealed a significantly larger left rostral ACC volume for controls compared to BPD individuals and a strong trend for a larger right subcallosal ACC volume for controls compared to BPD individuals. In terms of neuropsychological performance, statistical analysis showed a positive association between CPT false positive error rate and right subgenual volume such that, as right subgenual volume increases, so does impulsivity as measured by the CPT.
The coming out process, stress and coping, and resiliency outcomes in Jamaican gays: An exploratory study of a homophobic environment
Jamaica is an extremely homophobic society as evidenced by homophobic dancehall lyrics, the acceptance of hate speech, killings of gay activists, and a homophobic religious culture rooted in Christianity. This study sought to examine the coming out process and resiliency outcomes of gays in Jamaica. More specifically, it sought to determine to whom they disclosed their sexual identity, what coming out meant for them, the challenges they faced, ways in which they dealt with these challenges, and the impact these challenges had on them. Phone interviews and an online discussion board were used to gain insight into 10 gay participants’ experiences. Grounded theory was used to analyze participant narratives. The Jamaican experiences were compared to the existing literature on U.S. experiences. Findings indicated both universally and culturally specific aspects of experiences in Jamaica and the United States. Implications of emergent new themes on culturally similar environments in the United States are discussed.
Samuel K. Hewett
The Effect of Music, Silence, and Noise on Introverts and Extroverts during a Cross-Modal Negative Priming Task
Negative priming is the slowed response time to a target stimulus that has been previously ignored compared to one that was not previously ignored (Tipper, 1985). The current study examined how introverted and extroverted individuals performed in a cross-modal negative priming task with the distraction of music or noise. Fifty-four participants went through three sets of 128 trials of a cross-modal negative priming task, one in silence, one with noise, and one with music. Participants also took the Big Five Personality Inventory (John, 1999) to determine personality, and answered questions determining awareness of auditory distractors to categorize participants as cognizant or naïve. A 3 X 2 X 2 X 2 ANOVA showed a significant reaction time for extroverted-naïve participants in the music trial only. No other significant negative priming results were found. This is consistent with past research, demonstrating that extroverts and naïve participants would experience the most negative priming. It is unclear why negative priming was not found for other noise trials. Implications and limitations are further discussed.
Sarah Elizabeth Jordan
From “Not Sure” to “Positive:” Jurors’ Perceptions of Eyewitnesses’ Confidence Inflation
This study examined mock jurors’ perceptions of changes in an eyewitness’s confidence from the time of the identification to the trial (i.e., confidence inflation). In a 2 (confidence inflation: same vs. inflated) x 2 (witness knowledge of defendant’s sexual orientation: aware vs. unaware) between-groups factorial design, 120 participants read one of 4 fictitious trial transcripts in which a man was being tried for the armed robbery of a woman who had negative attitudes toward gay individuals. Participants completed a questionnaire evaluating their perceptions of the defendant and eyewitness. When the eyewitness exhibited confidence inflation, mock jurors evaluated the eyewitness as less accurate and rated the defense’s case as stronger compared to when she did not exhibit confidence inflation. When the eyewitness knew the defendant was gay, jurors rated the eyewitness as less accurate, were less confident in the accuracy of her identification, evaluated the eyewitness’s view as worse, and evaluated the defendant as less guilty (compared to when the witness was unaware). Implications of the results are discussed.
Perry Middleton Kleeman
Effects of Relaxation on Pain and Stress in a Physical Therapy Setting
Relaxation therapy is used as a common intervention for individuals suffering from a variety of problems such as pain, stress, anxiety, and insomnia. Its effects in aiding physical therapy patients in the recovery process, specifically in alleviating pain and stress, are lacking. Four individuals seeing a physical therapist for chronic low back pain and joint pain due to arthritis participated in a 5-week relaxation program. A small N multiple baseline design was used to assess the program. Participants taking part in the study listened to a 6-mintue relaxation tape before their normal therapy appointment. Pain and stress ratings were examined prior to and immediately following each relaxation intervention. Contrary to the hypothesis, the relaxation training did not have an effect on patients’ pain and stress ratings. At program termination, participants completed a final evaluation form to assess their satisfaction with the program. From the evaluation form it was determined that patients expressed a perceived benefit from the relaxation training that they felt was not captured by the pain and stress questionnaires. Future research is necessary to determine if relaxation training has an effect on physical therapy patients. Future research should consider including a larger sample size, control groups, and more extensive pain measures.
The Effect of Exposure to Breast Cancer Media on Perception of Body Image
Social Comparison Theory states that people evaluate themselves by examining themselves in comparison to others (Festinger, 1954). Brown et al. (1992) found that psychological closeness was a key variable in whether you would elicit these effects. The current study examined the effects of exposure to breast cancer media on participants’ (N=58) perceptions of body image. The measure of Body Apperception (MBA) examined concerns for appearance and body integrity in breast cancer patients, and the Body Esteem Scale (BES) looks at participants’ self-evaluations of body and appearance, or overall body esteem. It was hypothesized that when exposed to breast cancer media, participants with first-degree relatives with cancer would report lower body image scores due to assimilation effects. In contrast, participants with no first-degree relatives with breast cancer would have better body image scores due to contrast effects. Findings were not significant for the total scores of Body Apperception and Body Esteem, but in selected areas, esteem scores were in the predicted direction. Women with first degree relatives with breast cancer who were exposed to breast cancer imagery had significantly lower body esteem scores than those in the control condition or without a family history of breast cancer.
Handwriting Instruction for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: An Ethnographic Study
Handwriting is an extremely important, although often overlooked skill. Although the research literature has documented handwriting instruction for typically developing students, little attention has been given to handwriting instruction for special needs populations, particularly students with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The present study explored and described a handwriting class for four students with ASDs. Data were collected through classroom observations, surveys of teachers, and examining student work samples. The results indicate that these students were able to learn to write as well as improve their letter recognition skills. It was found that these students were taught handwriting through multisensory methods, based upon a commercial handwriting program. Limitations and future research possibilities are also discussed.
The Impact of Attachment Types on Memories of Past Relationships
This study looks at relationship history and quality in college-age individuals and the role that individual attachment styles may play. The three different types of attachment are formed due to a caregiver’s ability to provide instinctual needs. This relationship is usually formed with a primary caregiver, often a parent, and plays a crucial role in an individual’s life, directly impacting adult relationships. The current study attempts to determine if attachment styles impact perceived trust, conflict, overall satisfaction, and quantity of past relationships. 130 participants were included in this study, all of which completed a web-based survey. The findings indicate that attachment type and gender may impact memories of past relationships. Not all of the hypotheses were supported, but several trends were found. Implications of these findings could help guide future relationship theories by showing that attachment type may be an important predictor of a successful relationship in addition to aiding the development of commercial tools for relationship assistance. Limitations of the current study are discussed.
Steps toward an Anti-Tobacco Marketing Campaign For Emerging Adults
The purpose of the study was to find out what media channels are most frequently accessed by emerging adults (18-25-year-olds) in Androscoggin County, Maine. A further purpose was to determine what may be unique about this age group that needs to be taken into consideration when crafting anti-tobacco messages. A 22-item survey assessed emerging adults’ tobacco consumption and media use. The results indicated that four-year college students and community college students differed in terms of media use, frequency of tobacco consumption, consumption of tobacco products, and starting age. Students from both colleges cited similar reasons for their tobacco use as well as perceived personal downsides of tobacco use. These findings have real-world implications for anti-tobacco social marketing campaigns for emerging adults in Androscoggin County, Maine.
The Effects of an Online Cognitive Dissonance Intervention on Maladaptive Body Attitudes
Research suggests that college age females possess maladaptive eating attitudes and behaviors that can be successfully reduced through cognitive dissonance interventions. Building on previous research, this experiment uses an online intervention and takes psychological and physiological measures to determine whether dissonance actually occurs. In part 1, baseline measures were assessed and disordered eaters were removed from the sample. In part 2, participants were randomly assigned to the cognitive dissonance, expressive writing or control condition. Part 3 assessed maladaptive eating attitudes at four week follow-up. Results indicated that participants in the cognitive dissonance experienced a significant decrease in thin ideal internalization between the baseline and post-intervention assessments. Implications and limitations of these results are discussed.
The Effect of Gender on Sexual Fluidity
The purpose of this study was to explore and compare how males and females at Bates College experienced fluidity in their sexual orientation(s). Previous research has indicated a high prevalence of fluidity in sexuality among females, and a lesser understanding of the nature in which fluidity in sexuality exists among males. There were approximately 154 participants in this study, all between the ages of 18-22, varying in class, sexual orientation and gender. Participants were recruited via the internet (e.g. Facebook.com and Bates email); where they were given a web link directing them to a web-based survey. Findings included a prevalence of fluidity in sexuality among both males and females at Bates College, existing more within females than within males.
The Role of Attention in Toddler Verb Learning from Impending and Ongoing Models
Previous research has demonstrated that 24 month olds comprehend and produce verbs learned from impending models better than verbs learned from ongoing models (Tomasello & Kruger, 1992). Tomasello and Kruger theorize that the ongoing condition’s inferiority may lie in its increased attentional demands—infants must attend to both the modeled verb and its referent action. The current study aimed to replicate their work and test this and an alternative theory based on the generation effect. Participants learned verbs taught under both conditions and completed a parallel attention-demanding task in one condition. Data were collected from 20 22-50 month old children. Contrary to Tomasello and Kruger (1992) and all hypotheses, no differences were found in comprehension and production between the impending and ongoing condition, the attention task had no effect on verb learning, and the impending and ongoing conditions did not differ in attention task performance.
Motivated Self-Perception and Subjective Temporal Distance in Recall of Autobiographical Memories
Building on past research that has found evidence for motivated self-perception as well as differences in subjective distancing from past events, the present study examines motivational influence on the perceived subjective distance of autobiographical memories. Participants were induced to believe that introversion is conducive of success or failure and were then asked to recall a past personal introverted behavior. The manipulation successfully influenced participants’ self-ratings on introversion but no differences in subjective distancing emerged across conditions. High self-esteem individuals’ subjective distance ratings were positively correlated with their trait-success beliefs about extraversion. Low self-esteem individuals’ subjective distance ratings were negatively correlated with their self-ratings on introversion. Findings are discussed in light of the existing literature on the self-concept.
Amy Laurel Werblin
God for President: Religiosity, Policy Content, and Political Endorsement in Voting Behavior
The merits and disadvantages of prayer in public schools are contentious in religious and political spheres, where outlooks are varied. This study examines how voter behavior on a policy that is either in favor of or opposed to prayer in public schools is influenced by political party endorsement and religiosity. Current research indicates that political party endorsement strongly influences voters’ choices, even when the content of policy has negligible effects (Cohen, 2003), but questions remain as to the limits of this effect. This study expands Cohen’s model by investigating the ways in which religiosity of particular voters interacts with the content of a pro, or anti-prayer policy as well as partisan endorsement of that policy. Predictions imply an interaction will occur between religiosity and political party endorsement.
Distress Levels and Psychosocial Needs of Newly Diagnosed Cancer Patients
Psychological distress, accompanied by a range of psychosocial needs and concerns, is highly prevalent among cancer populations. The present study analyzed distress levels and psychosocial needs in newly diagnosed cancer patients at CMMC in order to identify at-risk patients through examination of differences in distress levels and number or type of psychosocial needs based on demographic and clinical characteristics. The sample included 512 patients who completed the self-report Patient Needs Survey, consisting of the NCCN Distress Thermometer (DT) and the Patient Problem List, at their initial oncology appointment. Results indicated that 49% of patients reported moderate to severe levels of distress, with a mean DT score of M = 3.77 (SD = 3.08). Distress scores were significantly different based on gender, with women reporting higher distress levels than men, but only marginally different based on cancer diagnosis, findings that are inconsistent with previous literature. Patients expressed a range of psychosocial needs, with emotional concerns being the most commonly reported, followed by informational and practical concerns. The mean number of needs reported was M = 4.18 (SD = 4.21), with data indicating a marginally significant difference in needs based on gender, with women reporting more overall needs than men, but no significant difference based on cancer diagnosis. Results indicate the importance of early screening for distress and suggest the need for future research that assesses differences in distress based on a wider range of demographic and clinical characteristics. Further, results of the present study will allow oncology social workers at CMMC to develop psychosocial interventions targeted at managing distress and meeting the needs of at-risk patient subsets.