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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. 

2011 (P495-496, Two Semesters)

2010 (P493, One Semester)


2011 (P495-496, Two Semesters)


Elisabeth Buehler 
Elizabeth Palmer

The Pursuit of Happiness: Positive Psychology Interventions in a College Population

This paper provides a brief history of positive psychology and reviews empirical studies of positive psychology interventions. The present study aimed to increase levels of subjective well-being (happiness) and decrease levels of depression in college students. Levels of happiness and depression for an experimental and control group were measured through Beck's Depression Inventory, Satisfaction with Life Scale, Authentic Happiness Inventory, and the General Happiness Scale in pre and post-test sessions, which were 13 days apart. In the intervening two weeks, experimental group participants engaged in a variety of nightly positive psychology interventions, focusing on character strengths, gratitute, positive emotion, and goal setting. We analyzed the results using 2X2 Mixed ANOVAs and found that the experimental group reported a significant decrease in depressive symptoms and an increase in happiness compared to their pre-test scores and the control group.

Elizabeth Cummings
Chelsea Hall

Effects of Perceived Depletion on Anxiety and Replenishment

With the prevalence of anxiety among undergraduate students, this research focuses on the effect of ego depletion and subsequent replenishment on varying levels of anxiety sensitivity (AS), state anxiety and alexithymia. Individuals completed the Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI) and Toronto Alexithymia Scale-20 (TAS-20), as well as the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory-Form Y (STAI-Y) to measure different variables associated with alexithymia as well as both trait and state anxiety. After completing the 'e' task, an accepted method of inducing ego depletion, participants were asked to prepare an impromptu speech that lead to increased levels of state anxiety. In order to counteract the increased state anxiety, participants listened to either classical or rock music. We hypothesized that individuals high in AS and alxithymia would have higher state anxiety levels in comparison to those low in AS and alexithymia. Significant positive correlations between ASI, TAS-20 and STAI-S confirmed our hypothesis. Furthermore, we hypothesized that replenishment in the form of music would significantly decrease the state anxiety of participants. This was supported as we found that individuals who listened to classial music had significantly greater improvements in their state anxiety scores than individuals who listened to rock music. Interestingly, a marginally significant interaction suggested that only those in the non-depleted condition were able to recover significantly from the anxiety-inducing speeh. Prior research has not examined this particular interaction between cognitive depletion and music's replenishing effects, indicating a need for further investigation.

Portia Egan

Bridging Work-Family Conflict and Emotional Labor: The Role of Work-Family Conflict in Emotional Labor and Work Outcomes

The purpose of the current study was to bridge two related yet distinct literatures by investigating the relationship between work-family conflict and emotional labor. University staff, faculty, and administrative members employed at a small, Midwestern university were surveyed about their work and family responsibilities. Results of the study suggest that work-family conflict positively predicts emotional exhaustion, and that this relationship is mediated by surface acting, the most detrimental form of emotional labor. Female employees were also expected to report higher work-family conflict than male employees, however an overall gender difference was not observed. Implications of the present research are discussed.

Laura Hedrick

Religion, Sprituality, and Quality of Life: Correlates of the Spiritual Journey

The present study seeks to determine under what conditions religion and spirituality will have the greatest positive relationship with quality of life. Conditions were tested with three broad varying factors: religious development, measured through ego identity statuses, certainty in religious belief, and religious doubts and conflict; religious motivation, measured through the religious orientations of extrinsic, intrinsic, and quest; and quality of life, both in relation to spirituality using measures of spiritual well-being and sense of purpose in life and in relation to general life quality through measures of happiness and self-actualization. A hypothesized path model for factor relationships was partly supported by the results as some religious orientations better predict quality of life and level of exploration of religion, explored and committed religous identities are linked to higher quality of life, and religious identity status partially mediates the relationship between religious motivation and quality of life.

Heidi Keiser

Flow Propensity, Student Satisfaction, and the Five Factor Model: An Analogue Investigation of Employee Satisfaction

The current study describes an analogue industrial/organizational examination of the inter-relationships among personality and dispositional traits (e.g., the Five Factor Model (FFM) and need for achievement), indices of flow (e.g., the Dispositional Flow Scale-2; Jackson and Eklund, 2002), and outcomes in the workplace (e.g., student satisfaction and performance). Students and academic indices acted as proxies for employees and work-related indices. Overall, basic personality, including need for achievement, were strong predictors of flow, which in turn predicted student satisfaction. Additionally, student satisfaction was a strong predictor of scholastic performance (i.e., grade point average) and in-role performance. Further, flow predicted student performance, above and beyond student satisfaction. A path model is provided that highlights these findings.


2010 (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.