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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. 

2016 (P495-496, Two Semesters)

Fall 2015 & Spring 2016 (P493, One Semester) 




2016 (P495-496, Two Semesters)


Nicole DeFries

Functional Personality Disorders: Relating Executive Functioning and Maladaptive Personality traits

Multiple studies support associations between executive functioning and the Five Factor Model (FFM) of normative personality.  Additional research suggests that executive functioning may also be related to specific personality disorders.  However, changes in how these personality disorders are classified have been suggested in the DSM-5.  Currently, the accepted model for these disorders is a categorical one consisting of three clusters.  It has been recommended that this model be reformed into a trait model, one that mirrors the FFM.  This proposed alternative model of personality disorders consists of five unipolar maladaptive traits (Negative Affectivity, Detachment, Antagonism, Disinhibition, and Psychoticism) that can be assessed using the Personality Inventory for the DSM-5, or PID-5.  Through the use of this inventory and a measure of executive dysfunction (the Frontal Systems and Behavioral Scale [FrSBe]), meaningful relationships were found between this new model of personality disorder and executive functioning using multiple regression analysis of a large normative sample.  While some of the previously established relationships between the FFM and executive functioning were mirrored in the PID-5 model (e.g., a positive relationship between the Apathy subscale and Detachment and between the Disinhibition and Executive Dysfunction subscales with the Disinhibition domain), not all of these relationships were supported, indicating that further analysis is warranted to determine the exact relationships between these PID-5 domains and facets and executive dysfunction, as well as these maladaptive personality traits relationship to the FFM. 

Alyson P. Bright and Grace L. Bishop

guns, violence, and mental illness: reality and perceptions

The relationships between gun control, violent behavior, and persons with mental illnesses (PMI) have received a great amount of media and political attention in recent years. This literature review explores these relationships by examining research on violence in both PMI and the greater population. Despite negative public perceptions of PMI and illusory correlations about the number of violent acts they commit, actual statistics indicate that PMI are no more dangerous than persons without diagnoses. Despite the fact that this review suggests that PMI are not inherently violent, there is still evidence that certain types of mental disorders, such as psychopathy, are correlated with certain violent crimes. In the current empirical study, researchers examined public perception of the relationships between mental illness, violence, and gun control. It was predicted that personal experience with mental illness would be correlated with a decrease in perceived violence in PMI. This hypothesis was not supported by the survey data. However, the results of the study and the literature review suggest that other factors may be more influential in changing negative prejudice against PMI. Future research should examine the effect of educating about mental illness on perceptions of violence.      

Emily K. Hellmann, Risa Kanai and Ashley M. Sipe

Parent and student views of work-family conflict

The purpose of this research is to examine the impacts of work-family conflict on children’s perceptions of work-family conflict, parenting variables, children’s outcomes, marital outcomes, and how personality moderates these relationships. The study consisted of 39 students at DePauw University and one of their parents who have either part or full-time employment who completed an online survey. Results revealed that high level of work-family conflict results in higher parental stress, and parents who are either highly open or highly conscientious are especially vulnerable to higher level of stress. In addition, data also showed that children of parents who show high extraversion or low neuroticism are more likely to value work centrality in their own future lives. The research adds to the literature examining the consequences of work-family conflict for both parents and their children.  

Torine D. Lividini and Ashley E. Ullyot

adult attachment and perceptions of flirting

Attachment, an emotional bond, starts in infancy with a caregiver and persists into adulthood with romantic partners (Hazan & Shaver, 1987). The method an individual will use to form attachments in adulthood can be predicted by their attachment security. Attachment security can be described as the trust that a person has within themselves and others (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991). Flirting may be a behavior people use when forming a romantic attachment (Brumbaugh & Fraley, 2010). For the purpose of our study, we have observed whether there is a relationship between an individual’s self-reported security, their perceptions of flirtation and self-report of flirtation. We have recruited a sample from a Midwestern liberal arts college and they have completed a self-report measure on adult attachment and flirting along with a video perception task on flirtation cues. This study attempted to bridge the gap in the current literature between adult attachment and the recently studied psychological phenomenon, flirtation. 



Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 (P493, One Semester)

Kevin Bunge

Emotional Intelligence: Infancy of a New Field or Passing Fad?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a controversial construct with researchers debating whether it is more accurately defined as an ability, a set of traits, or both. The present research first traces the history of EI, before exploring both sides of the debate. Proponents of ability emotional intelligence (ability EI) utilize maximal performance measures, whereas those of trait emotional intelligence (trait EI) utilize self-report, typical performance measures. While both ability and trait EI predict important life outcomes including academic success, relationship satisfaction, and communication patterns, it remains unclear whether these constructs are uniquely different from traditional measures of intelligence and personality. Some preliminary gender difference findings for both trait and ability EI suggest further investigation could reveal new insights about the field of EI. The reclassification of trait EI as well as directions for future research is also discussed.

Heather Duncan

The Role of Religion in the Pursuit of Happiness

Research generally shows a positive relationship between religious beliefs and happiness. Specifically, intrinsic religious orientations predict well-being whereas extrinsic religious orientations do not. Positive religious coping, a cognitive phenomenon, also contributes to well-being. Measures of purpose in life and meaning interact with religious belief to predict increases in happiness as well. A limitation to these studies includes their correlational approach that does not enable researchers to establish causation. Throughout the studies there are many inconsistencies in measures and definitions. There also appears to be little to no representation of atheists or agnostics. Despite the limitations it is possible to speculate that religion may provide a framework in which individuals can find hope, meaning, and maintain positive and optimistic outlooks that lead to increases in happiness.

Kelly Garringer-Maccabe

Childhood Cancer: Concerns and Coping

With childhood cancer survival rates dramatically increasing, it is necessary to examine the long-term psychological effects of childhood cancer. The present literature review examines childhood cancer and related concerns. Research suggests childhood cancer survivors may be at risk for anxiety-related problems. There are mixed results about depression rates for childhood cancer survivors compared to depression rates in healthy children. The inconsistent results for depression rates may be partially explained by methodological concerns. Appraisals and open, honest communication play a role in effectively managing the challenges of cancer. Interventions during and following treatment may decrease distress and influence long-term psychological functioning. Future studies of psychological support for childhood cancer survivors should incorporate longitudinal studies and focus on coping methods and interventions.

Daryl Mowrey

Physician and Patient Approaches to End-of-Life Decisions

Much recent research has focused on how the medical community handles end-of-life situations. The majority of the research indicates that the current approach to end-of-life care needs to change, starting with the curriculum. The most needed change is physicians’ approach to handling end-of-life care. Research indicates that physicians who do not treat death as another disease, but as a part of life, and focus on providing care for the person as an individual and not just for their specific symptoms, have a more fulfilling experience with end-of-life care. Patients generally maintain their values and beliefs across their life span and desire to be involved with decision making. The interaction between physician and patient should allow both patients and physicians to feel comfortable sharing pertinent information with each other. This literature review will look at studies that assessed end-of-life decision making from physicians’ and patients’ viewpoints as well as the interaction between physicians and patients during end-of-life care.

Bradley Paus

Differentiating Dementias in Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s Diseases

Neurodegenerative diseases often present with cognitive dysfunction as a result of the atrophy that occurs in the brain. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases share much cognitive impairment; however, research has shown that certain deficits are absent from or unique to each disease. Alzheimer’s disease shows global cognitive impairment, most severely in memory and executive functioning. Patients with Parkinson’s disease have cognitive deficits in memory recall, executive functioning and verbal fluency, while attention, recognition and category fluency remain intact. Huntington’s disease shows impairment in all areas except recognition memory and some tests of orientation. In conclusion, dementias can be distinguished in these diseases. Furthermore, these findings can be used to supplement diagnoses and help plan treatments for affected individuals.

Mary Snyder

The Role of Art Therapy, Play Therapy, and Music Therapy in the Treatment of Pediatric Oncology Patients

Increased emphasis is being placed on the well-being of pediatric oncology patients throughout their illness and subsequent treatments. Children often endure extremely painful and invasive procedures throughout their battle with cancer as well as experience treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which result in devastating side effects. The diagnosis of a life-threatening illness, hospitalization, and the undesirable therapies and procedures often result in psychological effects that warrant investigation into kid-friendly therapies that are effective in the reduction of such psychological effects. Of the most common therapies, art therapy, play therapy, and music therapy are investigated. Due to the young nature of the research, the specific benefits of each therapy remain unclear. Future research involving controlled studies with quantitative variables is necessary in order to find the most effective therapy.