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SENIOR THESES IN PSYCHOLOGY

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. 

FALL 2020 & SPRING 2021 (P493, ONE SEMESTER) 

Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 (P493 One Semester)

NAME

ABSTRACT

Joseph Boise

A COMPARATIVE INVESTIGATION OF TOOL USE BY DIFFERENT GROUPS OF NONHUMAN ANIMALS

This literature review thesis examines the topic of tool use in non-human animals. While tool use was long thought to be uniquely human, the last 50years or so have produced evidence of tool use across a wide array of other species. This paper examines laboratory and field studies of tool use in three groups of animals: primates, birds, and aquatic mammals. Observational and experimental research has concluded that certain types of these animals are able to use tools,manufacture tools, as well as teach and learn from others how to employ tools with surprising levels of efficiency. These conclusions imply that non-human animals' cognitive capabilities far exceed what we once thought them to be, and that we should continue to not only study, but preserve the populations of tool users before we drive them to extinction.

Cayden Bonaccorsi

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONTRIBUTING FACTORS FOR THE ONSET OF ANOREXIA NERVOSA

An abundance of exploratory research suggests that Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is the most deadly form of psychopathology. AN is characterized by a pursuit of thinness, a fear of weight gain, and low body weight and affects female populations much more than males. Many approaches for understanding AN onset suggest that adolescent populations typically have higher rates of AN diagnoses than other age groups, which allows for substantial research on these more at-risk populations. The detrimental effects and the challenging treatment of AN illuminate how important it is to understand the role that various factors can play in the onset of AN. This paper will consider AN onset by examining the psychological and environmental contributing factors that are largely associated with “abnormal” developmental experiences that contribute to AN onset or occur as symptoms of AN. This approach shines a light on the negative influences of these factors on critical developmental points, that if caught early enough on, can truly help prevent AN onset. With this understanding, individuals can now easily identify and comprehend the contributing factors’ functions in making individuals more prone to developing AN.

 

Keevan Chandless

EXERCISES EFFECTS ON COGNITION

Scientists are always trying to improve and prevent decay of cognition by various means. It is well-established that exercise is one of these ways to improve various domains of cognition. This study aims to determine what effects exercise has on cognition. Specifically, this study aims to determine what effects aerobic and anaerobic exercise have on attention and memory in healthy individuals and if the effects are similar or vastly different. The literature search for this study was conducted using the APA PsycInfo database. Exclusion criteria include: a population that includes participants who have a chronic illness (e.g. Alzhiemers),  a learning disability (e.g. dyslexia), or an attention, mood, anxiety, personality, and psychotic disorder (e.g. ADHD, depression, general anxiety, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia). Participants of the study were also required to be human and there was no minimum required sample size for a study to be included. Results indicated that aerobic exercise had significant positive effects on selective attention, sustained attention, long-term memory, and short-term memory. In addition, Anaerobic exercise also saw significant positive effects on selective attention, sustained attention, and long term memory, but there was no significant effect found for short term memory. The results suggest that aerobic and anaerobic exercise have similar effects on cognition, but that aerobic exercise appears to be superior due to its greater variety of improvement on cognition.

Blane Cook

THE UNIVERSALITY OF EMOTIONAL EXPRESSION: AN UPDATED REVIEW OF THE WAYS EMOTIONS ARE EXPRESSED ACROSS CULTURES

The universality of emotional expression debate has continued for over 100 years (Ekman, 2017). Most of the research in this field involves aspects of facial expression. To fully develop theories and findings about the universality of emotional expression, we must study all aspects of emotional expression across as many cultures as possible. With today’s access and technology, this idea is more achievable than ever. In this review, the most updated literature involving emotional expression of the face, body, touch, and voice will be addressed and applied cross culturally. Suggestions on what is still required to study is included to better support or deny the universality of emotional expression.

Jacob Correa

UNDERSTANDING THE EFFECTS OF BODILY POSTURE ON FEELINGS, BEHAVIOR,  PHYSIOLOGY, & PERCEPTION

The differences in our body posture have been found to have expansive effects upon our feelings, emotions, behavior, and physiology. Furthermore, empirical evidence shows that different body postures embody information that is nonverbally communicated and can affect others’ perceptions of us (e.g., posing powerfully and being perceived as more competent (Gurney et al.,2017). The current thesis reviews the postural literature to offer an up-to-date understanding upon what is confidently and reliably known and not known to produce effects on feelings, behavior, physiology, and perceptions. Specifically, the review differentiates the postural literature from power poses, with high-power poses and low-power poses, and postures, with upright and slouched postures. Furthermore, the research is concluded by contextualizing postural manipulation for practical personal benefit.

Re'Nae Dillard

 

EATING DISORDERS IN MEN: EXAMINING TRENDS OF BIAS AND NEGLECT 

This review examines the underrepresentation of men in eating disorder research, diagnosis, and treatment. Eating disorders have long been considered a female issue, but recent evidence indicates that men also struggle with pathological eating and that their needs are largely overlooked. Men often do not seek treatment because of the stigma associated with male eating disorders or because they are unaware that men can have eating disorders. For men who do seek treatment, screening measures often fail to identify the presence of a disorder because the constructs assess female concerns. Recent research suggests that eating disorders in men may be partially predicted by personality factors, social influences, and key individual attributes and experiences. This literature review evaluates the current research on male eating disorders and addresses the major concerns in this area of research. Many of the studies to date are limited by a number of methodological issues, and future research should address these shortcomings while implementing male-specific instruments that focus on the body image and eating concerns that are most relevant to men.

Desire Garcia

DEPRESSION RISK FACTOR FOR ADOLESCENTS

Adolescence is a developmental stage characterized by many educational transitions and pubertal changes. During this stage, depression symptoms tend to increase compared to childhood and adulthood. The purpose of this literature review is to examine known risk factors of depression among adolescents. As race/ethnicity and gender are identities explored during this time, risk factors associated with these will be examined. Internalization of low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction were found to serve as risk factors for adolescents. For gender minority individuals, family and peer relationships served as a bigger risk factor compared to cisgendered individuals. Moreover, low SES can lead to more risk factors compared to adolescents with higher SES. Lastly, researchers have found that ecological factors (e.g., social experiences, adjustment) are more predictive of depression symptoms than demographic factors.

Kennedi Gilbert

UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACTS AND INTERSECTIONALITY OF EARLY LIFE ADVERSITY

This literature review thesis examines a variety of types of early life adversity and their outcomes with respect to human functioning, with a particular focus on physical abuse/neglect and perinatal adversity. Early life adversity is important to investigate because of the scope of the problem--a large number of people are frequently exposed to early life adversity and suffer long lasting consequences that may alter how individuals’ behavioral orientation. Increasing our understanding of the consequences of early life adversity will likely be helpful in our attempts to lessen and/ or prevent these impacts. The evidence reviewed demonstrates that early life adversity is linked to a range of negative outcomes in physical health, psychological function, and social/familial interactions. Finally, this review discusses future directions of research geared towards prevention and treatment measures.

Ashley Harter

TREATMENT STYLES FOR ADOLESCENTS WITH ANOREXIA NERVOSA: FUTURE STRATEGIES FOR IMPROVEMENT

The present literature review seeks to assess and critique the current popular treatment options for adolescents with anorexia nervosa, as well as evaluate the numerous barriers and inequities there are when seeking treatment for an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa. In addition, the present review will seek future implications and strategies for how mental health services can strive to create a more inclusive, destigmatized, and appropriate treatment option that is crafted for the patient. Current treatment relies heavily on the assumption that the patient comes from a heteronormative parental relationship with the socioeconomic accessibility to invest in the treatment of their child, which is not the case for every patient. Overall, the purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of one of the deadliest mental illnesses known, their primary causes, and projecting a future of more accessible treatment options based on what is empirically known today.

Emily Hopp

FACETS OF EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP THROUGH GROUP CULTUREAND LEADER CHARACTERISTICS

Effective leaders are necessary in today's society, and it is important to know how to find and grow strong leaders. The present literature review delves into effective leadership and what makes an effective leader. Some important facets of leadership are leader personality and creating an effective group culture. Regarding leader personality, some important traits are, in relation to the Big Five Index, extroversion, agreeableness, and openness. Some other important characteristics are emotional intelligence and being a participative leader who works closely with their groups and subordinates. These characteristics all tie together in the sense of being understanding and working with groups and subordinates. In relation to group culture, some important things to consider are self-efficacy, cohesion, humor, and voice. It is important for leaders to promote these among both individuals and entire groups. While all of these things are not exclusively important for effective leadership, and there is no perfect mold for a leader, they are some traits and tools that make an effective leader.

Yuzhen (Diana) Jiang

EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE ON IMPROVING ATTENTION

This literature review thesis examines the empirical evidence on improving attention. It first introduces the factors that are related to attention, as suggested mostly by correlational studies. Grit, creativity, curiosity, and self-regulatory ability appear to be positively related to attention, while screen usage is negatively related to attention. The paper then discusses various types of approaches aimed at improving attention. Mindfulness and physical exercise both appear to be effective approaches, while video-game training tends to benefit only visuospatial attention. Several situational factors such as engaging in creative activity and feeling of threat and challenge can also affect attention. Overall, the evidence reviewed suggests that a range of interventions can modify human attention, opening possibilities for large-scale enhancement programs and interventions.

Maria Johnson

EMOTION REGULATION STRATEGIES IN INDIVIDUALS WITH DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY DISORDERS

Emotion regulation can be difficult for individuals with Major Depressive Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. This difficulty can lead to dysfunctional emotion regulation strategy use, maintaining or increasing disorder symptoms. There are neural correlates related to this outcome as well, such as lower or higher activation in certain areas of the brain compared to healthy controls. It is still unknown whether emotion regulation strategies are a cause or a symptom of these disorders and it is also hard to discern whether emotion regulation is difficult because of their disorders or because these individuals do not use many functional emotion regulation strategies, making it harder for them to effectively do so when instructed sometimes. When determining what may be the most beneficial for these patients, studies suggest that adaptive strategy use such as reappraisal would be the best and most effective to help reduce symptoms among depression and anxiety patients.

Aiping (Ivy) Li

PRIMING EFFECTS AND THEIR MARKETING IMPLICATIONS

Priming is a form of implicit memory; more specifically, it refers to the exposure to a stimulus that facilitates the response to a subsequent stimulus. With increased research on priming, recent studies have looked at how priming is applied in different contexts. This paper focuses on three types of priming that are highly relevant in marketing, which are affective priming, phonological priming, and identity priming. The reviewed studies mainly explained how priming predicted consumers’ evaluations and purchasing decisions. By reviewing the theoretical support, research procedures, and statistical analysis of previous priming studies, some factors were found to interfere with the strength of priming, such as participants’ cognitive capacity, ethnicity, and prior knowledge. For instance, studies in phonological priming revealed that participants’ exposure to the word “bye” enhanced their purchase intention. Also, the phonological priming effect was strengthened when participants experienced cognitive constraints. However, the lack of external validity, the manipulation of brand knowledge, and the control of priming stimuli were the drawbacks that might be attributed to the inconsistent findings in priming studies. Lastly, this paper also makes suggestions on how future studies should address these limitations to better understand the application of priming in marketing.

Sydney Majka

THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CONSPIRACY BELIEFS

Conspiracy theories have long captured the imagination of the public, and in particular the events of the past year have sparked a national discussion on the causes and effects of conspiracy beliefs. This literature review explores the psychological mechanisms underlying belief in conspiracy theories. Specifically, the motivations that draw individuals into conspiracy belief will be examined through the lenses of epistemic, existential, and social factors. The unique role that social media and the Internet can play in the spread of conspiracy beliefs will also be explored, including the degree to which individuals who are already predisposed to conspiracy beliefs might self-select into online communities where such theories are prevalent. By understanding the mechanisms by which individuals are drawn into conspiracy belief, officials can more effectively develop strategies to prevent the sometimes harmful impacts of conspiracy beliefs.

Nanako Norimoto

CULTURAL AND INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES OF TACTILE COMMUNICATION

Nonverbal communication plays an essential role in all communications; however, there have not been many tactile communication studies. This review explains the importance of the communicative function of touch from the infant to adulthood. Although the similarity of tactile behavior has been observed, the focus of this paper is to understand why some differences in tactile behavior occur. This review draws from previous research of tactile behavior and attempts to understand the forces that shape one’s use of interpersonal touch. The review identifies a few possible explanations for cultural differences: the distinctiveness of individualistic and collectivistic culture, geographic locations, and gender roles shaped by cultural expectation. There are also a few potential explanatory factors for individual differences in use of touch: intracultural difference, personality, and socioeconomic status. This conclusion points to the importance of understanding cultural and individual differences that inform tactile behavior, as well as the need for further research.

Greta Raser

MORAL PSYCHOLOGY AND POLITICS: EVOLVED MORAL INTUITIONS AND THEIR LINKS TO CONTEMPORARY POLITICAL ISSUES

This literature review thesis explores the evolutionary based theory of moral psychology called the Moral Foundations Theory and its innate processes that serve as factors in moral judgments regarding contemporary political issues. This thesis describes the theoretical foundations underlying the Moral Foundations approach, and then proceeds to review empirical sources on its general applicability. It then examines how the approach may be applied to political ideology, as well as the connection to the emotion of disgust. Next, the review continues to explore relations between pathogen and sexual disgust sensitivity and politics. The final section of the thesis body takes a close look at how moral foundations can be applied to climate and environmental issues. The studies reviewed also explored the impacts of framing different issues regarding the various foundations and how this may be a political tactic moving forward, further expressing the relevance of the Moral Foundations Theory. Future research should account for the wide range of political ideologies and broaden the knowledge on the cultural reach of the theory.

Victoria Salanty

THE EFFECTS OF MINDFULNESS PRACTICE ON STRESS

This paper addresses the effectiveness of mindfulness programs on reducing stress levels. This paper focuses on certain populations that are often more affected by larger amounts of stress.Stress is common in the workforce among several kinds of employees as well as within students at universities. Stress can have many negative effects on an individual’s behavior. For example, one negative effect may be stress-eating unhealthy and excessive amounts of food. Large assessments of literature provide evidence to believe that practicing mindfulness can help individuals to reduce their levels of stress, as well as the negative emotions and behaviors that stress causes. Different mindfulness programs seem to have similar effects on people’s stress.The continuation of the mindfulness practice seems to be the most helpful in consistently keeping stress levels lowered. Not all results were found to be statistically significant due to different limitations within the studies. Future research could focus on addressing and improving upon these limitations, to conclude more powerful results. Overall, mindfulness seems to be of some help to reduce stress across multiple populations. Whether someone needs an immediate release of stress or a continuous practice, mindfulness could be helpful in lowering stress when needed.

Helina Samson

THE EFFECTS OF MINDFUL PARENTING ON CHILDREN AND THEIR PARENTAL RELATIONSHIPS

The present paper examines the relationship between mindful parenting and the effects it has on children and the relationship between parents and their children. The paper reviews different sources of literature in an attempt to understand mindful parenting’s effects on preventative and curative practices. Mindfulness is discussed as a theory of time and presence, and as a multi dimensional tool to help break cycles of automaticity, listening with full attention, have nonjudgmental acceptance of self and child, emotional awareness of self and child, self-regulation in the parenting relationship, and compassion for self and child . Mindfulness is then applied to parenting practices, and is discussed further in terms of its impact on children in clinical (autism and ADHD) and non-clinical settings (cognitive and social development, and externalized behaviors). Then, mindful parenting’s impact on parents is briefly discussed, as well as its indirect effects on the relationship between parent and child both pre and postnatal. Overall, findings show promising evidence towards mindful parenting being a feasible mechanism for holistic and sustainable therapy, however, there is not enough evidence yet to make causal conclusions. In future research, mindful parenting can be integrated into other forms of therapy to provide a holistic form of care.

Sophia Silcox

SEX DIFFERENCES IN HUMAN JEALOUSY: AN EVOLUTIONARY PERSPECTIVE

This literature review paper examines the topic of sex differences in human jealousy as a function of sexual and emotional infidelity using an evolutionary perspective. This paper reviews a series of experimental studies conducted in multiple cultures that test the prediction that in straight relationships males are distressed more often from sexual infidelities, while females are more bothered by emotional infidelities. This approach began with work done by Buss et al. (1992), demonstrating a sex difference in jealousy, and many similar studies have found a similar pattern of results. The paper also discusses methodological critiques of the early research, an alternate theoretical approach, and responses to those critiques and approaches. The paper concludes with a discussion of extensions of the approach to sex differences in jealousy in non-straight individuals, as well as novel relationship environments such as the internet.

Madison S. Smith

EXERCISE AS A TREATMENT FOR ANXIETY: RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN PHYSICAL AND MENTAL HEALTH

With the continued rise in individuals seeking help for mental disorders, treatment for anxiety disorders is all the more necessary. While pharmacotherapy is often utilized for this aim, the related financial burdens and lack of consistency in successful drug options necessitate a search for alternative forms of treatment. This literature review considers the psychological intersection of physical activity and mental health, examining in depth how exercise can impact levels of anxiety. The effects of exercise on anxiety are considered for both sedentary and athletic populations. Factors such as frequency, duration, intensity, type of exercise, and length of intervention are referenced as mediators in this relationship. Hypotheses related to benefits of exercise on mental health, preliminary research on neurotransmitters implicated, and future directions for research are also included.

Jane Thompson

SEX DIFFERENCES IN HUMAN JEALOUSY RESPONSES TO INFIDELITY

This literature review examines human jealousy and sex differences in jealousy responses to sexual and emotional infidelity. This paper reviews experimental studies from a variety of cultures looking at the differences in how men and women respond to infidelity. The sex difference that consistently emerges shows that women tend to find emotional infidelity more distressing while men tend to find sexual infidelity more distressing. Additionally, this literature review contrasts the evolutionary approach to explaining sex differences in jealousy responses with the social-cognitive approach. In general, the research in this area supports the evolutionary perspective. This paper also highlights extensions on the evolutionary explanation which include studies that focus on cross-cultural research, age, sexual orientation, family members, and internet infidelity. These extensions are largely consistent with the evolutionary approach.

Sanskriti Tripathi

AN EVOLUTIONARY APPROACH TO PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS:A FOCUS ON COVID-19 AND PREVENTATIVE EMOTION REGULATION STRATEGIES

This literature review examines a range of psychological disorders using an evolutionary perspective, focusing primarily on mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia, and investigates how an evolutionary lens can facilitate understanding of vulnerability to these disorders. The review also applies an evolutionary perspective to how the COVID-19 pandemic may be interacting with evolved vulnerabilities to increase the prevalence of disorders, and whether emotion regulation approaches might help address the problems induced during the pandemic.

Gongxu Wang

IMPACTS OF SCREEN USE: PERSPECTIVES FROM EVOLUTIONARY PSYCHOLOGY

This literature review explores the influences of screen use and screen time on physical health, psychological health, performance, and relationships. Most of the research covered in the literature review finds a negative relation between screen use and physical health, psychological health, performance, and interpersonal relationships. However, several studies find that the relation between screen use and performance and psychological health can be positive. Overall, screen use appears linked to more negative influences than positive influences. It is essential that parents, policymakers, and game publishers understand the potential impacts of screen use to reasonably manage their students’, children’s, or customers’ time spent on using these devices, and to prevent game addiction or smartphone addiction.

Rina Yin

TRAINING EFFECTIVENESS: THE ROLE OF MOTIVATION, TRAINING TRANSFER, AND OTHER FACTORS

Training, as an effective method for organizations to equip their employees with abilities in order to meet the organizational goal, is sometimes questioned with whether it does work. To determine the factors that affect training effectiveness, researchers are working on it for decades. Individual, environmental (contextual), training design factors were found to be crucial as antecedents for training effectiveness. Training transfer, as the most important step to make the skills actually applied in work, is studied a lot. Motivation, as a pivotal role to make the transfer of training happened successfully, is often studied together with training transfer. The relationships between the antecedents and training effectiveness are complex, and they are needed to be investigated to increase the outcomes of training.

 

Fall 2020-Spring 2021 (P495-P496, Two Semesters)

NAME

ABSTRACT

Sage Klinger

PARENTS’ PERCEPTIONS OF THE IMPACT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC ON CHILDREN’S LEARNING EXPERIENCE AND OVERALL MENTAL HEALTH

Given that the current COVID-19 pandemic has changed all facets of society, it is important to research populations that have been especially impacted.The purpose of this paper is to examine research related to the role of technology and SES in learning, as well as children’s mental health associations during a pandemic.Through our review of previous literature, we found that SES, individual differences, and social presence influence children’s learning experiences, and that e-learning can be beneficial or detrimental depending on those factors.Further, we identified a pattern that children experience negative mental health effects when living through a pandemic and adhering to stay-at-home orders.Given these previous findings, the purpose of the survey research is to investigate how children have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic from the parents’ perspective.Since the pandemic is still ongoing, this study will contribute to the limited research in this area.The results from our study indicate that parents perceive their children to have experienced a decline in learning since the onset of the pandemic, but there are no learning differences between children completing different school formats.We also found that parents perceive their children to have lower social and emotional well-being since the onset of the pandemic, and this differed depending on the school format and other factors.