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Senior Theses

Psychology majors demonstrate breadth of knowledge by successfully completing a comprehensive exam, given in three parts that cover major areas of the field (e.g., cognitive, developmental, learning, personality, physiological, social). They also have the opportunity to pursue an area of psychology in greater depth by completing a senior thesis. One thesis option (PSY 495-496) allows a student(s) to perform an empirical investigation of a research problem (review background evidence, design and carry out a study, and write up the findings) over both semesters of the senior year. The other thesis option (PSY 493) is a one-semester in-depth, integrative review of the scientific literature on a topic in psychology. All students will publicly present their work. Both options allow students to apply the skills and knowledge they have acquired over their first three years, and pursue a topic in which they are most interested. 

2014-2015 (P495-496, Two Semesters)

Fall, 2014 (P493, One Semester)

Spring, 2015 (P493, ONE SEMESTER)

 

2014-2015 (P495-496, Two Semesters)

NameAbstract
Alisha Byers

Physiological Response and Trait Predictors of the Flow State

The current study focuses on the degree to which flow and physiological markers of stress are induced by varying levels of challenge-skill balance.  A major assumption of flow theory is that high levels of challenge matching high levels of skill are a prerequisite for entering flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).  Three psychological states—boredom, flow, and overload— were induced with a Tetris game and alpha amylase samples were taken at baseline and then twice each in an experimental task to examine the concentration levels between conditions.  Individual differences in flow-propensity (e.g., autotelic personality) were also assessed using the Five Factor Model and the Dispositional Flow Scale – 2 (Jackson & Eklund, 2002) to examine the relationship between trait or dispositional flow.  The results showed that the concentration of alpha-amylase in the flow condition was not significantly different from the overload condition.  There was also a negative relationship between the personality trait of Neuroticism and the propensity to experience flow, but a positive relationship between the traits of Conscientiousness and Extraversion in the propensity to experience flow.   

Lily Farnsworth and Chloe Jacob

HASSLES AND UPLIFTS OF aDULT cHILDREN AND tHEIR PARENTS

Kanner, Coyne, Schaefer and Lazarus (1981) defined the terms hassles and uplifts as daily occurrences that are either annoying or pleasing, respectively. Past literature examined hassles and uplifts in different populations to understand how they influence daily life; for example, married couples, pregnant women, and parents and their children (Banez & Compas, 1990; DiPietro, Ghera, Costigan, & Hawkins, 2004; Harper, Schaalje, & Sandberg, 2000). The present study is interested in how the relationship of parents and their adult children are influenced by hassles and uplifts. Both of these populations provide a unique perspective to the literature. Adult children in college face a life transition of moving out of their parents’ home (Pett & Johnson,2005). Similarly, parents of adult children are also transitioning and becoming empty-nesters (White & Edwards, 1990). Due to the unique situations and transitions these populations face, the present study examines the daily hassles and uplifts that adult children and their parents experience as well as how they might influence mental wellbeing. Our study consisted of 57 college students and one of their parents, totally 114 participants. The online questionnaire examined hassles, uplifts, and mental wellbeing. Adult children and their parents both reported time management as their most intense category of hassles, and positive self-image as their most intense category of uplifts. The study also found that the more uplifts parents report, specifically from parenting, is related to students with poorer mental wellbeing. Overall, our study is an important addition to the literature on hassles and uplifts in both adult children and their parents.

Chelsea Schumacher

Social Allergies in College Roommates

With so many interpersonal interactions every day, it is not unexpected that some aspects of these interactions are perceived negatively. Some of the behaviors that are perceived negatively because of repeated exposure are referred to as social allergies (Cunningham, Barbee, & Druen, 1997). This thesis investigates some of the aspects of these behaviors, the situations in which they occur, and how individuals tend to react to these so-called social allergies (Amato & Rogers, 1997; Hess, 2000; Wesselmann, Wirth, Pryor, Reeder, & Kipling, 2013). Taken together, these studies demonstrate how social allergens are a complex social phenomenon that requires a specific atmosphere to manifest. While the literature on social allergies is predominantly conducted on close romantic relationships, the focus of the current study is to determine what aspects of the current literature on romantic relationships might apply to college roommates. The current study found, as predicted, that as the presence of social allergies increased, roommate satisfaction decreased and irritation with their roommate increased significantly. Results also indicate that the more dissimilar the roommate pairs believed themselves to be predicted increased irritation with the social allergies. Results also revealed that individuals who were high in other- perfectionism had significantly more social allergies present in their roommate relationship. Contrary to what was predicted, the presence of social allergies was not significantly associated with individual’s reported happiness. Thus, the results from the present study not only show that social allergies exist in roommate relationships, but it also expands on the previous social allergy literature. 

Lesly Solares and Cassidy Stortz

"Hooking-up" among college students: understanding and correcting sexual social norm misperceptions

Previous research indicates that the majority of college students “hook-up”(Lambert, Kahn, & Apple, 2003). Even more alarming is the fact that among the college students who are having sex, less than 40% report consistent condom use (Scholly, Katz, Gascoigne, & Holck, 2005). The present study is composed of two phases. During the first phase 481 females completed a 26-item survey aimed to collect data on the participants’ demographics, own perceptions, descriptive norms and injunctive norms adapted from Barriger and Vélez-Blasini (2013). The second phase was composed of two waves. In the first wave, 80- male athletes completed a parallel survey that inquires about the perceptions of their teammates risky sexual behavior. Each team was randomly assigned to a normative or traditional intervention regarding risky sexual behavior, modeled after Sanderson and Yopyk (2007). In the second wave of this phase, 54 male-athletes from the same teams completed a follow-up survey containing the same items as the pre-intervention survey.  Significant misperceptions were found among all male-athletes. Our normative intervention, containing data from the females, seems to have corrected some of these misperceptions. 

 

 

Fall, 2014 (P493, One Semester)

NameAbstract
Estrealla DeLaTorre

An Evolutionary Approach to Human Relationships: Jealousy and Mate Retention

Many psychologists in various fields including social and clinical psychology have studied jealousy. An evolutionary approach to this topic adds a new and unexplored perspective. Jealousy is defined as an unpleasant emotion commonly associated with romantic relationships. Feelings of jealousy act an alarm to individuals in committed sexual relationships. Following this alarm, mate retention behaviors act as reactions to the threat of infidelity. This paper focuses on the types of jealousy and mate retentions, factors that elicit jealousy and mate retention and critiques of both topics. The central argument of this literature review is both jealousy and mate retention can lead to serve societal impacts and therefore should continue to be studied. 

Philip M. Gastineau

Psychotic Development from Dopaminergic and Serotonergic Alterations through Recreational Drug Use

This review investigates recreational use of drugs, specifically cannabis, methamphetamine as well as LSD and how they directly influence dopamine and serotonin to result in the formation of psychotic disorders, specifically schizophrenia and drug-induced psychotic disorder. Because of the similarity of behaviors, symptoms and diagnosing procedures of these disorders from altered dopamine and serotonin firing, further investigation into medication treatment is needed, especially if individuals are diagnosed incorrectly. Being wrongfully diagnosed and mixing medication with recreational drugs can result in medication given not being effective or worsen symptoms. 

Britni Lee

Do Animals Experience Emotions?

This paper looks at whether or not animals across different species experience emotions.  Behavioral, physiological and neurological responses between animals and humans were compared. I review the studies and highlight the evidence that suggests that animals do express emotions. Studies show that animals and humans have very similar physiological and neurological responses when induced with fear (Hansel & Von Kanel, 2012; Kalin, Larson, Shelton & Davidson, 1998).  Other studies show that different species behave similarly to humans, for example in grief and separation anxiety (Allen, Blatter-Meunier, Ursprung & Schneider, 2010;Goodall, 1990; Storengen, Boge, Strom, Loberg & Lingaas, 2014). This review looks at a variety of species and emotions that are expressed by them. Further research is needed in order to say for certain whether or not they actually do experience emotions, but the current research suggests that they do.

Jack Leibovitz

Non-verbal Communication In The Business World

Non-verbal cues are examined to discover possible benefits to the business world. These cues are examined in order to predict job performance, evaluate first impressions, and examine the effects and outcomes of an interview. Mock interviews with undergraduate students and real interviewers and applicants were utilized to conduct the evaluated research. Non-verbal cues were found to be of use in numerous aspects of the business world. These non-verbal cues were found to be accurate predictors of job performance for careers that require high levels of social skills, reflections of first impressions, and influential in making hiring decisions.  The culmination of literature that focuses on non-verbal cue research has provided evidence in favor of utilizing non-verbal cues in the business world. The author presented limitations of the study that include non-verbal cues and issues of accuracy, interpretation, and suggested future research ideas. A better understanding of non-verbal cues in the business environment can help prevent bad employee management decisions and salvage businesses millions of dollars in profit in the process.

Yue Ma

Prediction of Divorce By Non-verbal Communication

In western cultures, nearly fifty percent of married couples choose to divorce at the end of their marriage. Distressed marriage and divorce not only influenced their own mental and physical health issues, but also brought negative impacts on their children. Thus, it is necessary to study what are some precursors that lead to marital dissatisfaction and are associated with potential divorce. One of the effective approaches to predict divorce is by analyzing couples’ non-verbal communication. Since people value more non-verbal expression than verbal language, especially when the verbal communication doesn’t match with the non-verbal expressions. Distressed couples reported significantly more negative affect and less positive affect than non-distressed couples. Contempt, as one of the negative affect, is viewed as the number one predictor for impending divorce. Deficits in communication skills were also identified in distressed couples. Physiological changes also influenced couples’ function of communication and led to marital dissatisfaction. All of these predictors could be used in marital counseling and marriage education intervention to help distressed couples. Future direction and limitations of this literature review will also be discussed.   

Alexandra N. Reed

Autism Spectrum Disorder Treatment: Applied Behavior Analysis and Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children

This paper explores the existing literature examining the effectiveness of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH) treatment methods for people, especially children, with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Both models have many decades of development and use with autistic children, national training networks, and prominent attention both within the popular media, university teaching, and research (Mesibov et al., 2006; Lovaas, 1987). This paper compares and contrasts the two methods for alleviating symptoms of ASD by looking at research studies and meta-analyses conducted using both methods.  Both methods are found to be effective in treating the core symptoms of autism.  Overall it was found that ABA studies have more scientific merit than TEACCH studies, along with more scientific research conducted (Eikeseth, 2009).  It is suggested that a combination of both ABA and TEACCH methods would be optimal in treating ASD (Callahan, Shukla-Mehta, Magee, & Wie, 2009).  

 Ada Elizabeth Smith

The Behavioral Effects of Priming

Priming can have several useful effects, as well as implications, in various contexts and this literature review will focus on some of those in particular. Priming’s effect on attitudes, feelings, and behaviors in social priming will be examined, as well as the choices we make as consumers due to priming with the consideration of brand familiarity and ad framing. Brand familiarity and ad framing are examined because they producing similar outcomes and are associated with priming. Research examining other factors that can influence the direction of a prime will also be reviewed. This includes the implications of contrast effects of a prime producing opposite behaviors independently and also with respect to the influence that mood and focus have together and separately. 


 Ella M. Smoot

 Get Outside: The Beneficial Effects of Nature

This literature review examines the beneficial effects of nature, the potential mechanisms behind such effects, and how nature can be used as an intervention for therapeutic work.  Analysis of the literature reveals that there are three main theories upon which much of the research is based: the biophilia hypothesis, stress reduction theory and the attention restoration theory.  Beyond these three theories, there are many other factors that have the potential to impact the relationship found between nature and increased positive affect and restoration.  These findings have been applied to using nature as a foundation for therapy. Newer findings are presented suggesting awe as an emotion that may drive the benefits found when exposed to nature.  Time spent in nature has the potential to be a powerful experience that could benefit anyone on a day-to-day basis.  Suggestions for future research include investigating the lasting effects of time spent in nature and the role that fear of natural danger may play in hindering restoration.

 Jacob Weeks

 Pushing the Limits: Chimpanzee Communication, Numerical Competency, and General Representation Ability 

This paper reviews chimpanzees’ cognitive abilities through the general categories of communication, numerical competency, and general representations. Communication is examined through the sub-categories, vocal use: speech, gestural use: sign language, and symbol use: lexigrams. General representations are examined through the sub-categories, self-recognition, reasoning, and the use of scale models/replicas. The information within this paper was gathered through lab studies. General findings for speech found chimpanzees incapable of reproducing words. Findings for gestural use showed chimpanzees possessed the abilities to acquire the use of a limited number of signs using American Sign Language. General findings for symbol use showed the ability for some chimpanzees to learn to use lexigrams fairly well in order to communicate.  Numerical competency results showed chimpanzees’ possess the ability to learn basic numerical concepts using Arabic numerals and real-world stimuli. In general representation results for self-recognition found chimpanzees capable of recognizing themselves using mirrors and television monitors. The general results for reasoning indicated chimpanzee’s ability to use reasoning successfully for certain test conditions. General findings for scale model showed chimpanzee’s could accurately understand and use scale models and replicas. 

Spring, 2015 (P493, One Semester)

NAMEABSTRACT
Jordan Bantista

Attitudes Toward Homosexuals: Heterosexism

Despite recent activism for LGBTQ civil rights, acts of prejudice and discrimination toward homosexuals are still prevalent in Western societies. These negative attitudes and behaviors may be a result of a myriad of factors, including heterosexist ideology, which asserts that any behavior, individual, or relationship that deviates from heterosexual is inherently wrong and requires punishment. In this literature review, I assert that heterosexism is the deeply-rooted motivation for negative attitudes toward homosexuals. I explore several facets that support this heterosexist ideology, such as Gender Role Conflict (GRC) and Right Wing Authoritarianism (RWA), as well as contributing demographic factors, such as gender and race. The effects of heterosexism may include distress within heterosexuals witnessing others violate heterosexuality, homosexuals themselves, and the family of homosexuals.

Sherese Brown   African and European American Disciplinary Strategies and their Effects on Child Development

This paper examined the differences in disciplinary strategies among African American and European American mothers and their effects on child development.  The findings indicated that African American parents prefer to discipline their children physically and as a result it facilitates their children’s development. However, researchers found that European American parents prefer to discipline verbally which in turn aids their children’s development. Although these findings suggested that particular disciplinary strategies are advantageous in certain ethnic groups, it is less clear why some disciplinary procedures facilitate child development while others hinder it. Researchers do not elaborate on how the tactics influence child development. Rather, most studies discuss which discipline is more successful instead of why it is.


 Emma Cooper

  Synesthesia: A review

This paper investigates the research that has been conducted on synesthesia. Synesthesia is an experience in which one sense modality overlaps with another sense modality to produce an enhanced experience of typically banal stimuli. Various hypotheses have been put forth as to the mechanisms underlying synesthesia, as well as to what the relationship with the general population might be. Researchers have also examined the different consequences synesthesia produces, such as its effects on various cognitive processes like memory, perception, and creativity. Research is limited, however, because synesthesia is a rare condition, occurring in about 1-5% of the population. The diversity of the type of synesthesia also limits research because each type has differences associated with each and with non-synesthetes. Future research should examine the less studied types of synesthesia and their effects and differences. Continued research on synesthesia can help us better understand how the brain forms associations in the general population.

 Haichao Fang

The Origin, Mechanisms and Effects of Religion

Religion has been the most puzzling phenomenon because it challenges many fundamental constructs of evolutionary psychology. Scholars who study the evolution of religion debate over the origin of religion for years and the answer of whether religion is an adaptation or a byproduct still remains unclear. The purpose of this thesis is to unwind the puzzle of religion by examining human capacity for religious belief and bodily mechanisms behind this capacity. The thesis reviews both primary and secondary sources that examine scientific approaches to the origins of the capacity for religious belief. Variables including genetic, neural, cognitive, sociocultural and environmental factors all have moderate impact on religious belief of individuals. The effect of religion, ranging from promoting cooperation to offering justification and protection will also be discussed. 

 

 Montinique Garner  

Depression among Young Adults

Depression can take many forms. According to the DSM-IV-TR, it can range from major depression, which includes: a depressed mood most of the day, diminished interest and pleasure, sometimes significant weight loss, fatigue and even thoughts of death, to minor depressive disorder that involves fewer symptoms. The current review focuses on depression in regards to young adults, with some attention to adolescents. The studies reviewed reveal that depression in young adults is due to stress factors such as school and work, identity distress, family, and genetics. The studies reviewed also suggest that some consequences of depression are: physical health issues, suicide/self-harm, mental and emotional distress, social isolation, and self-medication. Interventions include several forms of counseling, such as dialectical behavior training (DBT) and self-managing techniques.

 David Gordon

music and video game effects on spatial cognition


This literature review explores how music and video games improve cognition. Both music and video games are popular forms of entertainment in the United States. Both activities have been studied in psychology for their ability to enhance spatial cognition. Theoretically, people participate in music and video games for a combination of recreational (passive) and training (active) purposes. Therefore, this review will distinguish between passive and active engagement for each activity. Passive music exposure effects will be discussed in terms of the Mozart effect. The initial study discovering the Mozart effect will first be presented, which will be followed by reactions and replication attempts of other researchers throughout the psychological community. Active musical engagement will then be discussed through studies on musical training effects on spatial cognition. While the Mozart effect has been mostly dismissed and attributed to arousal and preference, active musical training continues to produce strong evidence for reliable and consistent cognitive enhancements. The focus of the review then switches to video games. The definition of spatial cognition, which is inherently broad, is expanded within the video game literature to include spatial attentional abilities. While video game research shows that playing video games may induce similar beneficial effects to music on spatial tasks, video games seem to be especially useful for the development of attentional and information processing abilities. 

Haley Pratt

Culturally Responsive Positive Behavior Intervention and Support as a Strategy for Closing the Achievement Gap and the Discipline Gap

Within the United States public school system, students of different racial backgrounds tend to have differing levels of academic achievement. Additionally, the rates of office referrals and other forms of school discipline tend to vary by student race. These gaps in achievement and discipline operate such that, on average, Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native students have lower achievement and higher rates of disciplinary actions than their White and Asian/Pacific Islander peers. A life-long gap in the average educational attainment and income of different racial groups begins with these early differences. Although there are many factors that contribute to the achievement and discipline gaps, including differences in students’ experiences of stereotype threat, self-concept, social support, socio-economic status, and systemic racism, there is evidence to support the use of school interventions to help close the gaps. One such intervention, Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS), may be able to be successfully combined with a culturally responsive approach to teaching to create supportive classrooms for all students. Although the research on this combined intervention approach is still emerging, culturally-responsive PBIS is a promising technique that may help schools close the achievement and discipline gaps.

Dustin Query 

A Generalized Review of the Implications of Mindful Living

  

As exposure to and awareness of mindfulness proliferates, the opportunity for intuitively-derived insight to manifest itself naturally increases in potential. By nature, mindfulness is a consciously attentive, moment-by-moment experiencing of life events that demands both general awareness and total acceptance. In maintaining a simple state of being, individuals may develop a richer understanding of the fundamental mechanisms underlying universal patterns in the conscious existence of humans. The significance of mindful living resides in its therapeutic capacity to restore and maintain physical, mental, emotional, and psychological states of well-being. This review of literature attempts to reveal truths that both support and dispel the salutary expenctancies that mindfulness is unconditionally enhancing. The primary areas under investigation range from clinical applications to the cognitive-emotional fabrications that are underlined by neurological augmentations induced by the cultivation of mindfulness. The main body of the paper then concludes with a section on physiological health implications. The articles reviewed in this paper will delve into why it may be becoming of the essence to commence a mindfulness revolution.

Margaret A. Steele 

THE role of appearance and sex in the workplace: from Interview to outcomes

This review examines attractiveness biases in organizational settings.  It explores both the ‘what is beautiful is good’ and ‘beauty is beastly’ stereotypes as well as some of the implications that these have in interview settings, promotion decisions, and even in customer impressions.  The literature highlights the possible usefulness of these biases. The interactions between sex and job-type with these attractiveness biases are discussed, and the roles of the sex and attractiveness of the rater, as well as the candidate, in the use of different biases are described.

 
 Abigail N. Thompson  

keeping in touch with the elderly: the functions of touch in older adults with an emphasis on older adults with dementia

Research has shown that older adults, specifically those with dementia receive fewer tactile interactions than members of other age groups (Barnett, 1972). This decline, in combination with a deterioration of visual and auditory senses, as well as cognitive declines due to dementia, creates difficulty in communicating (Fisher, 1973; Stevens, Cruz, Marks, & Lakatos, 1998). With a rapidly growing older adult population, the function of touch in older adults, specifically those with dementia, is of heightened importance (Brumback & Leech, 1994). Results of research conducted with older adults and older adults diagnosed with dementia indicate benefits in social, physiological, and cognitive functions (Belgrave, 2009; Kim & Buschmann, 1999; Langland & Panicucci, 1982). This paper analyzes the current state of research regarding the use of touch in older adults with dementia. Further, this paper lays a foundation for future research by assessing the overarching limitations and making suggestions for future research. 

 
 Ruth T. Vo  

Cyber-mating: the mechanics of online dating

Online dating is becoming one of the most popular means of meeting potential mates (Rosenfeld & Thomas, 2012). It allows people to meet more people at the same time from all over the world. It also allows for an easier interface to meet people who match one’s own desired mate preferences—sexual orientation, height, age, and so forth. Yet online dating also comes with its own risks, mainly deception and uncertainty of one’s own safety. It is difficult to discern whether a potential mate is high in aggression and violence, or whether the mate is truly interested in a relationship simply through online dating because of missing nonverbal cues. Despite such uncertainties, millions of people log onto online dating websites and applications each day. Why? And how do people use online dating to meet others? This literature review aims to explore these questions.

Mary White

'til homicide do us part: road rage, sexual jealousy, and sexual control leading to crimes of passion

This review investigates kinds of passion-related responses in road rage, sexual jealousy, and sexual control, which are so anger provoking that they can lead a person to commit a crime of passion. After a brief history and definition of a crime of passion, the genetic and environmental aspects leading to intense anger are considered. Some of the studies in the current literature review seek to determine the traits and characteristics that can trigger the intense anger that can result in a crime of passion. Crimes of passion are explained through feelings of hot-blooded anger and demonstrated in acts of road rage, sexual jealousy, and the need for sexual control. This anger inhibits cognitive abilities and prevents clear thinking and reasonable reactions. Future research could determine interventions to assuage or prevent the escalation of anger that leads to road rage and sexual jealousy and sexual control, thus preventing crimes of passion.