Senior Abstracts for 2018
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 2018.
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.
Kathleen M. DeNoia
Rachel C. Forcillo
Riley Martin Hopkins
Sarah D. Keith
Rosemary M. Kyne
Samuel D. Lagerstrom
Alexandra M. Nason
Connor J. Russell
The Effects of Student Sleep and Motivation Type on Academic Performance
This study examined if there is a correlation between type of motivation according to Self Determination Theory (Intrinsic, Extrinsic, Amotivation), quality of sleep, and academic achievement among college students in the United States. The participants were 115 undergraduates ranging from freshmen to seniors, at a small New England liberal arts college. The study took the form of an online survey constructed through Qualtrics software; test measures included the Academic Motivation Scale (AMS), the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, and open-ended questions. The predicted findings included a link between good quality sleep, intrinsic motivation and higher GPA. However, it was only found that a high presence of amotivation related to a worse quality of sleep, there were no other significant findings from the quantitative data. Categories of factors a ffecting student sleep and motivation were created from the qualitative data. Implications of the findings were discussed.
Does Humorist Identity Affect Reactions to Weight-Disparaging Jokes?
The negative impacts of disparagement humor and weight bias is replete in the literature, but the body of research on the specific effects of weight-disparagement humor is small. The purpose of the current study was to determine if the identity of a humorist would affect a participant’s reaction to a weight-disparaging joke compared to a neutral joke. Participants (N = 120) took a web-based survey, were randomly assigned to one of four conditions varying target weight and type of joke, and were asked questions to determine how humorous the participants found the joke and how much the target matches stereotypes of people who have overweight from their respective condition (1). A 2 (target weight: not overweight v. overweight) x 2 (type of joke: disparaging v. neutral) between-subjects ANOVA was run, among other analyses. We expected to find that participant s would find weight-disparaging jokes told by target who has overweight to be more humorous than weight jokes told by target who does not have overweight. We did not expect to find a significant difference in the neutral joke condition. Ideally, these results would have supported the Benign Violation Theory of humor, as people who have overweight utilizing weight-disparaging humor will seem like a benign moral violation and will therefore elicit humor responses, however they did not. The implications for the findings are discussed. (1). We have consciously chosen to use the phrase “have obesity” rather than “be obese” in an attempt to use people-first language and not identify a person based on the disease that they have. Similar to how we would not refer to a person who has cancer as cancerous or a person who has diabetes as a diabetic, we have consciously chosen to not refer to those who have obesity as the disease that they have. Please see the Obesity Action Coalition (n.d.) for more information. Because many previous studies merely say ‘fat’ when discussing overweight and obesity, it was difficult to differentiate and thus overweight and obesity are included in this people-first language.
Kathleen M. DeNoia
Money Talks: The Effects of Money Priming on Expected Salary and Anticipated Salary Negotiation Behavior
The current study draws upon Kaman and Hartel’s (1994) finding that there exist gender differences in expected starting salaries and anticipated pay negotiation strategies when individuals are applying for jobs. 75 participants recruited from Bates College were randomly assigned to complete a sentence descrambling task which activated neutral concepts (control) or money-related concepts (money prime). All participants then indicated their starting salary expectations and anticipated negotiation strategies for a hypothetical entry-level Business Development Associate position. Results indicated men predicted marginally significantly higher starting salaries than women across both conditions, though women reported significantly higher likelihoods of using aggressive negotiation tactics than men across both conditions . There exist several factors which could have influenced the results of this study, which are explored. The implications of these results and the need for more research in the domains of money priming and gender differences in salary negotiation behavior are discussed.
Rachel C. Forcillo
The Effect of Concrete or Abstract Prosocial Behavior Recall and its Potential to Influence Prosociality in the Present
In this study, we investigate if abstract reminiscence of prosocial behavior considering the global meaning and significance of a past kind act would increase happiness and therefore the likelihood of behaving prosocially in the present more than concrete reminiscence considering the specific, enacted details of one’s past kind act. We have two competing hypotheses that either 1) recalling a prosocial act in the abstract will emphasize the prosocial act’s meaning and increase reported levels of life satisfaction, mood, and therefore the likelihood of prosocial behavior compared to concrete recall or 2) recalling a prosocial act in the abstract will increase the psychological distance of the act, resulting in decreased affect, life satisfaction, and likelihood of prosocial behavior as compared to the concrete condition. Participants were asked to describe a time within the past year when they performed an act of kindness either in the abstract or in the concre te. They then completed happiness measures and indicated if they’d like to help another psychology student with their study and the amount of time they’d be willing to volunteer. There was no significant happiness difference between abstract and concrete conditions, nor was there a significant difference of decision to help or length of helping between abstract or concrete participants. Possible confounding factors, study limitations, and future directions are discussed.
Can a Simple Comment from a Photospread Administrator Affect Eyewitnesses?
False identifications are a significant problem in the justice system (Garrett, 2011). Many factors affect how eyewitnesses perform during an identification. This study observed how social interactions play a role in the identification process, more explicitly, how people take into account comments about the ease and difficulty of an upcoming task. The participants included 93 students who attend Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Participants watched a video of a staged crime, and were randomly assigned upon arrival to the laboratory to view either a target-present or target-absent photospread. They were also randomly assigned to hear whether the upcoming task of identifying the culprit should be either easy or difficult. All participants received unbiased instructions, and were surreptitiously videotaped as they observed the photospread to further observe witness behavior. The study revealed that there is a trend that shows that hearing the ease of a task increases a witness’s tendency to select a photo from a target-absent photospreads.
Riley Martin Hopkins
When Laughter Deceives: The Influence of Target Reactions on Students’ Perceptions of Sexual Harassment
Research has shown that a combination of persistence and high severity of perpetrator behavior can strengthen perceptions of sexual harassment. However, much of the blame and responsibility for sexual harassment is placed on the reaction by the target. Assertive responses, such as verbal rejections, tend to strengthen sexual harassment perceptions more than receptive responses that suggest consent. This study sought to further understand the influence of the target’s reaction on perceptions of sexual harassment. A total of 155 students at Bates College read a vignette that manipulated target reaction and frequency of harassment. Participants responded to statements that assessed their perceptions of sexual harassment and severity in the situation. The study also measured sexual harassment myth acceptance and examined the effects of reading Bates’ definition of sexual harassment on perceptions. Results revealed that target reaction does influence sexual harassment percept ions, such that laughing yielded the weakest perceptions, especially when this interaction had happened between the two characters before. A verbal denial by the target yielded opposite results. This indicates that target reaction can inform the way a third-party individual reads the situation, especially when the persistence of the behavior is considered. Additionally, reading Bates’ definition of sexual harassment increased perceptions. Demographic effects and further implications of myth acceptance are discussed in this study.
Sarah D. Keith
Object Substitution Masking with Color-Related Words: Exploring Depth of Unconscious Perception
Research suggests that when words are rendered unconscious by object substitution masking (OSM) lexical properties are activated. The current study attempted to determine whether humans process the semantic meaning of words masked in four-dot OSM. This is a method of visual masking that utilizes a target object surrounded by four colored dots. The current study included sixty-three participants, all undergraduates attending Bates College, each participating in a Stroop test as well as an OSM task. In the latter task participants were asked to respond to the color of the dots as fast as possible, as well as respond to whether or not the saw a word within the dots. The results of the current study were not statistically significant, but found that for trials with a delayed offset of the dots and where the participant missed the word shown, reaction times were higher for congruent color-related words than incongruent color-related words. The implications of these findings would be that the participant is processing lexical aspects of the word but are not extracting the semantic meaning of the word.
Rosemary M. Kyne
An Exploration of Passion: Examining Individuals’ Views on Passion, Type of Passion, and Overall Life Satisfaction
The concept of passion and its role in creating a meaningful, happy life is one that has recently been of interest in the psychological world. Many individuals see passion differently and label different areas of their lives as ones they are passionate about. This study examines different aspects of passion in individual’s lives and explores the relationship between these aspects and subjects’ overall life satisfaction. It was hypothesized that individuals who are harmoniously passionate about an activity will be more satisfied with their life than individuals who are obsessively passionate about an activity. Additionally, it was hypothesized that individuals whose source of passion was their career/work would be more satisfied with their life than individuals whose source of passion was something else. Using scales such as the Satisfaction with Life Scale and the Passion Scale, 151 individuals completed this study through the online database MTurk. Results indicate that individuals who are harmoniously passionate have a greater life satisfaction than individuals who are obsessively passionate. Additionally, it was found through qualitative data that individuals’ views on passion are related to their overall life satisfaction. These results contribute to the overall field of positive psychology and the role of passion in individuals lives.
Samuel D. Lagerstrom
Verbal and Non-Verbal Witness Behavior: Tools to Postdict Accuracy
How do witnesses behave in lineup procedures? As of 2017, the United States Department of Justice recommends that lineup procedures are videotaped, but the exact purpose of their recommendation to keep these tapes is unclear. To investigate their potential value, this study coded videotapes of simultaneous eyewitness lineup procedures (N = 305) for verbal and non-verbal behaviors indicative of certainty and uncertainty that may postdict eyewitness accuracy. Although accuracy and confidence were not at all related in our sample, our measures of verbal and non-verbal behavior were related to both accuracy and confidence among witnesses in target present and target absent lineups. Videotapes may act as an intervention to illuminate eyewitness error for triers of fact. We recommend videotaping all lineup procedures in order to document verbal and non-verbal cues indicative of accuracy that are present during the identification procedure. Without videotapes, triers of fact are un able to access cues that contain information about certainty and accuracy that could decrease future wrongful convictions.
Dissociation and Childhood Narratives: Reliance on Dissociative Tendencies in Adults Lacking Narrative Support around Negative Emotions in Childhood
The present study proposes narrative elaboration of negative affect in childhood as factor in adult dissociation. Both dissociation and narration are conceptualized as coping mechanisms and it is theorized that dissociation may emerge in the absence of childhood narration as a less adaptive alternative means of dealing with normative negative affect. Undergraduate participants completed a measure of dissociation (DES-C), trauma, and responded to open questions about their retrospective accounts of childhood interactions with caregivers. The present findings reveal a novel association between dissociative experiences and a lack of perceived parental narration around negative emotions in childhood. Qualitative data explores nuances within this relationship, exposing new areas of interest in adults retrospective perceptions of parental affective relationships, potentially implicating this type of communication as a major factor in the etiology of dissociation. These findings open many doors for future research, suggesting fruitful avenues in the treatment of dissociation and related disorders.
Alexandra M. Nason
Contextual Effects on Perceptions of Eyewitnesses
Eyewitness identifications are crucial part of incriminating a culprit, and these evaluations are not just conducted in a police investigation context, but also potentially in a jury context. Given the drastic differences between a police investigation and a criminal trial, and people’s assumptions about these roles in the different contexts, it is important to evaluate how context may affect how eyewitness identifications are perceived. In Study 1, I will look at participants’ evaluations of eyewitnesses when the evaluator is in a police or a jury context. I predict that individuals evaluating eyewitnesses in the jury context will be less sensitive to the eyewitness’s confidence ratings and the instructions given to them. I expect this result because as an eyewitness’s identification moves from the police to the jury context, individuals may be aware that thi s identification has been filtering through the legal system, meaning by the time it gets to a juror, a police investigator and a prosecutor have already looked at the case and made their own evaluations on the accuracy of the identification. In Study 2, I will examine the effects of context and evidence type (alibis vs. strong eyewitness vs. weak eyewitness) on evidence strength and guilt ratings.
Lexical and Semantic Level Processing in Object Substitution Masking
Four dot object substitution masking is a form of visual masking where a target is surrounded by four dots and briefly displayed. When the dots remain after target offset, it has been found that participants have a harder time identifying the target compared to when the dot and target offset are the same. This, and a Stroop-like task (Stroop, 1935) were used to determine if meaning beyond a lexical level can be extracted from unconscious stimuli. Shapes (heart and moon) and shape related words (love and earth) were used as stimuli in both procedures. There were 81 participants in this study, all of whom were undergraduates of Bates College. In the Stroop task, word meaning affected performance. However, there was no evidence that words affected performance when masked. In fact, the estimated Bayes factor indicates that the data were 8 times more likely under a model where the null hypothesis is true.
Implicit Effects of Diminutive Gendered Language Usage
Research suggests that there is a strong explicit association between females and weaker traits as well as traits associated with nurturing, such as low dominance and warmth, rather than traits associated with strength and competence. The current study will attempt to determine whether or not the association between females and non-competence stands today. Furthermore, it also aims at determining whether or not competence is perceived as higher in males versus females as a function of whether or not said people are described as mature or immature, for instance ‘woman’ or ‘girl.’ 86 college-aged students participated, and all participants completed the Modern Sexism Scale beforehand in order to gauge their baseline inclinations towards sexist ideology. Following that, participants completed the Go/No-Go Association Test (GNAT). There were four GNAT conditions, one for each target category (i.e., boys, girls, men and women) and participants completed one of the four. The findings include The predicted findings include a stronger association of females (i.e., girls and women) with competence, a stronger association of mature labeling (i.e., men and women) and competence, and a greater difference in competence association between men and boys than women and girls.
Connor J. Russell
The Prosecutorial Mindset and its Effect on Eyewitness Identification Behavior
Throughout the United States, identification errors continue to be the leading cause of wrongful convictions in our criminal justice system. In the present research, an experiment was designed to determine how anger and social order threat can impact identification rates. These variables were primed using the prosecutorial mindset framework developed by Tetlock (2002). To take this study, participants completed a survey in which they were primed through a staged crime video. Participants were then randomly assigned into either a mindset activation or control condition, each with a corresponding priming paragraph unique to that condition. Individuals were then asked to make an identification from a six-faced lineup with the option to choose, he’s not there. Half of participants received a target-present lineup while the other half received a target-absent lineup. Although participants were more likely to make an identification in the mindset condition for target-absent lineups, the same was not true for target-present lineups. This experiment provides further insight to the malleability of eyewitness’s behavior and the impact of emotion on identification rates.
Depth of Processing in Object Substitution Masking
Object substitution masking (OSM) is a type of visual masking in which a briefly displayed target is surrounded by a four-dot mask. When the dots disappear after the target, participants typically cannot accurately recall the target. The current study seeks to address the ongoing debate in the literature about the extent to which targets are processed in OSM. Studies show that individuals with social anxiety have an attentional bias for processing threat stimuli. Using this bias, Experiment 1 seeks to explore whether socially anxious participants are better than their non-anxious peers in detecting social threat words but not control words, which would suggest that words are processed to a semantic level. Results are insignificant and do not support this hypothesis. However, all participants were significantly better at detection when the target disappeared before the mask. Upon notin g the visual disparity between the target and mask in Experiment 1, Experiment 2 was designed to test whether this recovery effect depends on target- mask incongruence. Results support this hypothesis, but fail to clarify whether this occurs because of shape- or object-level differences. To clarify this, Experiment 3 used two different objects shown at two different orientations for the target and mask. Results show recovery when the target and mask are different objects and masking when the target and mask are the same object. Overall, the current study suggests that targets are semantically processed in OSM, but only when they are objects, not words. Furthermore, this study supports the presence of top- down influences on perception.