Thesis Student Abstracts (2007-on)

2014 Abstracts:

Rebecca Crochiere, 2014

The Effect of Stereotype Threat on the Experience of Flow

While many empirical findings have supported the notion of stereotype threat and its negative effect on performance, no published research has yet explored whether stereotype threat has a relationship with the positive psychological concept flow, though stereotype threat and flow represent seemingly opposite phenomena. An experiment was conducted to determine if a stereotype threat manipulation would not only produce performance decrements, but also diminish flow when participants played a visual-spatial, computer videogame Tetris. Ninety-five female college students were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: an explicit, nullified, or control condition, with instructions explicitly stating the stereotype, invalidating the stereotype, or alluding to the stereotype, respectively. ANCOVA tests, using length of time having played Tetris as the covariate, showed that participants in the explicit condition experienced significantly less flow than those in the nullified or control, though experimental groups did not differ in Tetris performance. These findings suggest that negative stereotypes worsen experience by reducing flow.

Rachel Fowler, 2014, Neuroscience 

The Effect of PTSD and Childhood Trauma on Negative Expectancy Bias: an N400 Study

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a psychological disorder that occurs after a traumatic experience, characterized by the symptoms of reexperiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal. Childhood trauma (CT) is strongly associated with the development of PTSD, and is known to have lifelong negative effects on individuals. Recently, theoretical and clinical research has suggested individuals with PTSD have exaggerated negative expectancies about the world and the self. The presence of a negativity bias, as described by Ehlers and Clark’s cognitive model of PTSD, may lead to the prevalence and maintenance of PTSD symptoms. This study used the N400, an event-related potential (ERP), to investigate whether PTSD and childhood trauma could predict the presence of a negativity bias. We tested expectancy for negative, positive, and incongruent outcomes in ambiguous sentences for individuals without PTSD or CT, individuals with PTSD but without CT, individuals with CT but without PTSD, and individuals who had both. Results showed that neither PTSD nor CT accurately predicted the presence of a negativity bias, and the negativity bias was not enhanced by the PTSD/CT interaction. These findings suggest that an automatic negativity bias, as measured by the N400, may not be a feature of PTSD or CT.

Abigail Karp, 2014, ES - Conservation Psychology

The Effect of Goal Setting and Reminders on Environmental Behavior

Most previous research on the effect of feedback on energy consumption has investigated single-family households and only one type of feedback. This experiment looked at the effect of goal setting and reminders, through direct feedback, on self-reported pro-environmental behavior (PEB) and energy consumption in a college dormitory. All of the freshmen living in floors 3 - 6 in Hadley dormitory at Middlebury College were presented with energy saving tips, as well as the option of setting an energy conservation goal. Direct feedback was provided to half of the residents, the experimental group, through an iPad which displayed floor level energy use. The iPad included a different color background and an injunctive norm (smiley face or frown face) depending on whether the floor was using more or less energy compared with baseline consumption. In addition, these students had the ability to bring up historical data of their floor’s energy usage on the display. The other half of the residents, the control group, did not receive any feedback on electric use. Self-reported PEB and the amount of energy consumed (floor level data) were measured for all participants. Study data indicates that all participants increased their pro-environmental behavior over the course of the project and that the iPad feedback/reminder had no meaningful effect on this increase. The iPads did, however, lead to a significant reduction in the experimental group’s energy consumption compared to the control group that did not have the iPad feedback/reminders. Implications of this research for implementing energy saving interventions are discussed.

Nuttida Rungratsameetaweemana, 2014, Neuroscience

The Influence of Internal and External Arousal on Memory

Numerous studies have documented that memory is better for emotional experiences than for neutral ones. Amongst the three predominant theories that have been put forth to explain this emotional memory enhancement, the attention-narrowing hypothesis and priority-binding theories suggest that emotion primarily influences memory by attracting attention, and thus enhancing encoding of emotion-inducing items. In contrast, the arousal-biased competition theory posits that emotion influences memory through both encoding and consolidation. The present study examined the effects of external source of arousal on memory for to-be remembered items that are inherently emotional or neutral. In particular, the present study investigated the effects of arousing or neutral sounds on memory for emotional and neutral scenes by presenting sounds either before (encoding condition) or after the scenes (consolidation condition) to further our understanding of how arousal influences memory processes. Participants viewed visual scenes (neutral or emotional) that were presented either before or after external sounds (neutral or emotional). All participants returned after two days for a memory recall test of the previously presented scenes. The results showed that emotionally arousing sounds affected memory for neutral and arousing pictures via different memory processes. Specifically, arousing sounds influenced memory for neutral pictures only through encoding processes, while arousing sounds affected memory for arousing pictures only through consolidation processes. This dissociation pattern of results cannot be readily explained by existing theories, and thus the present study suggested that a new theory is needed to account for the notion that emotional arousal affects different memory processes depending on the inherent arousal of to-be-remembered items.

Sara Sobolewski, 2014, Neuroscience

Examining Negative Expectancy Biases in PTSD using the N400 ERP Response

The current study used the N400 event-related potential (ERP) to investigate negative expectancy biases in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The N400 is thought to reflect the cognitive effort needed to integrate a stimulus into a given context and occurs with a larger amplitude when more effort is needed for integration. In sentence reading tasks, unexpected words reliably elicit larger N400 amplitudes than do expected ones. N400 was recorded in thirty-nine participants during a sentence reading task. Ambiguous sentence stems were completed with either positive (“Someday I believe I will… prosper”), negative (“Someday I believe I will… suffer”), or incongruent (“Someday I believe I will… squeak”) word endings. Participants also completed the Posttraumatic Cognitions Inventory (PTCI), which assesses trauma-related negative cognitions, and the Posttraumatic Symptom Scale (PSS) which was used to split participants into PTSD (n=18) and non-PTSD (n=21) groups. Results showed that there were no significant differences in ERP responses between PTSD and non-PTSD groups; however, regression analysis showed that PTCI World scores predicted N400 amplitudes to the negative condition. These findings provide preliminary evidence for a strong correlation between negative world views and a negative expectancy bias as indicated by the N400 response.


2013 Abstracts:

Danielle Baker, 2013

Nature Immersion and Breathing Exercise Effects on Directed Attention and Stress

The current study compared two different types of relaxation activities, a nature exercise and a deep breathing exercise, on directed attention, physiological stress, and mood. The basis for this research was Attention Restoration Theory, which proposes that directed attention (cognitively demanding focus) rests while being in a natural environment (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989). Another area of research suggests that deep breathing reduces physiological stress and may strengthen mental awareness (Matsumoto & Smith, 2001). Data was collected from a sample of 122 Middlebury College students. Participants performed a nature immersion exercise, performed a deep breathing exercise, or chose their own break activities. In line with my hypothesis, results showed that the nature group reported significantly higher attentiveness and positive affect than the breathing group and control group. However, contrary to my hypothesis, objective measures of attention and physiological stress did not differ between groups. These findings suggest that attention and mood improve in a natural environment more than a built indoor environment. Future research should look at how movement (sitting versus walking) and change in view affects the benefits of nature. 

Caitlin Barrett, 2013

Communication and Hookup Satisfaction Among College Students

The present study sought to provide new descriptive information regarding communication in college students’ hookups, and explored what types of benefits general and sexual self-disclosure may have for emotional and physical satisfaction with these interactions. The present study expanded the scope of previous research citing a link between communication and satisfaction in committed relationships by investigating these phenomena in a new context, namely college-student hookups. The study used self- disclosure theories to analyze the factors associated with self-disclosure in hookups and how this may relate to satisfaction. Participant’s responses (n= 545) to an online survey illustrated that, as predicted, partners who were more familiar with one another or who wanted to begin a committed relationship disclosed more information with their hookup partner than those who did not. In addition, with some exceptions, verbal sexual, nonverbal sexual, and general communications were significant predictors of physical and emotional satisfaction in hookups. Consequences of these findings for research on self-disclosure and hookups are discussed.

Olivia Blahut, 2013

To Give or Not to Give? Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction and Contributions to the Public Good

This study expands upon the existing body of research about basic psychological need satisfaction and pro-social behavior.  Participants (n­=364) played a simulated public goods game in which they had the opportunity to “free-ride” or “cooperate.”  Previous studies have indicated personality differences as predictors of behaviors in these games; the current study explores the ways in which basic need satisfaction, attitudes, and self-transcendent values may interact to influence the likelihood of cooperation.  Although this study was largely motivated by an interest in environmental pro-social behaviors, cooperation was measured in both an environmentally-framed and a human rights-framed public goods game.  Results indicate that factors predicting cooperation in a public goods game include the frame of the game, self-transcendent values, and participants’ attitudes.  Level of need satisfaction was not a significant predictor of cooperation in any public goods game.  

Mariam Boxwala, 2013

Internalization in a Religious Setting: Examining the effects of social facilitators in sermons on participants' internalization of a pro-social behavior

Internalizing a behavior, performing it for one’s own values, produces greater engagement and enjoyment of that behavior. According to Self-Determination theory, satisfying two psychological needs promotes the process of internalization; these needs are autonomy and relatedness. Autonomy is the need to feel choiceful in a situation, and relatedness is a need to feel included and supported. This paper examines the effects of psychological needs satisfaction on participants’ internalization towards merciful behavior in a religious setting. Participants were asked to read one of four sermons about mercy which differed in their level of autonomy and relatedness satisfaction. Subsequently, they were asked to write a letter of forgiveness, demonstrating “mercy” to someone whom they had been hurt by in the past. It was expected that participants who read sermons calibrated highly for relatedness and autonomy satisfaction would demonstrate more internalized motivations for the activity, and more engagement in the activity. The results of this study suggest that people’s motivations for forgiveness behavior are not influenced by differences in autonomy support, or relatedness between sermons. However, task engagement was related to internalization of the activity and to level of need satisfaction. The findings highlight the role of functional significance and religiosity as they are related to individuals’ ability to internalize multidimensional pro-social behaviors such as that of forgiveness. Future directions in research point towards the expansion of SDT as a discipline to include measures which can better account for functional significance of an environment and the complexity and range of behaviors within the human experience.

Marea Colombo, 2013

Hot Cognition and Theory of Mind

ToM is an integrated set of mental‐state concepts that underlies one’s ability to predict, explain, and interpret human behavior. The majority of research on ToM has focused on children aged 3‐5 years. Surprisingly, little research has looked at young adults and their ToM. More recent studies, however, have found evidence that young adult’s ToMmay continue to develop in young adulthood. I argue that while young adults may appear to have robust ToM, they may not be as good at ToM under emotionally hot cognitions. I used a virtual game of ball‐toss, Cyberball, to either include or ostracize participants (n=51). For included participants, I attempted to create an emotionally cold condition, a condition thatis similar to how participants are typically tested for ToM abilities. For the ostracized condition, I attempted to simulate emotionally hot cognition. A multivariate analysis indicted that participants who were ostracized were significantly worse at an affective measure of ToM, the Two Image Emotion task; F (1,49) = 4.82 p = 0.026. On the other hand,there were no significant differences between the scores or participants who were ostracized or included on a cognitive measure of ToM, the Strange Stories task; F (2,48) =0.16, p = 0.856. The present research provides evidence that participants who are behaving under emotionally hot conditions experience deficits in affective ToM.

Emily Dodge, 2013

Middle School Students' Evaluations of the Effectiveness of Autonomy-Supportive Versus Controlling Teachers

This study examined the paradox between middle school students’ desire for autonomy from their teachers and students’ tendency to evaluate autonomy-restrictive teachers as more effective. Clarifying this paradox is important since students may be endorsing the very controlling strategies that harm their academic and socioemotional well-being. One hundred eleven middle school students read a vignette detailing a hypothetical teacher who taught hypothetical students a lesson while employing an autonomy-supportive or autonomy-restrictive (i.e., controlling) instructional style. Participants then judged the teacher’s global, academic, and socioemotional effectiveness as well as their affinity for her. Limited evidence of the paradox was found: ratings of the autonomy-supportive teacher’s effectiveness demonstrated a halo effect such that she was considered more effective in all dimensions save two components of academic effectiveness, facilitation of learning and hypothetical students’ projected task performance, where participants deemed the two teachers equally effective. Self-Determination Theory can explain the non-paradoxical evaluations (i.e., those that are consistent with participants’ desire for autonomy), whereas a distinction between product- and process-oriented academic effectiveness may explain the paradoxical ratings (i.e., those that are inconsistent with participants’ desire for autonomy). Implications for interventions in light of the halo effect are discussed.

Kyle Harrold (NSCI), 2013

The Effect of an α2 Subunit Selective GABAA Receptor Agonist on Cognitive Flexibility in a Rat Model of Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a debilitating psychiatric disorder characterized, in part, by severe cognitive impairments. These impairments greatly impede a schizophrenic patient’s ability to function in society, and are not well-treated by current medications. One such cognitive impairment is cognitive inflexibility: the inability to adapt one’s cognitive/behavioral responses to changing environments or task requirements. We used a maze-based task measuring rat cognitive flexibility to test whether a novel drug, TCS1205, which is a selective agonist of GABAA receptors containing α2 subunits, could block cognitive flexibility deficits induced by the NMDA receptor antagonist MK-801. TCS1205 was injected into the prefrontal cortex before rats were tested on a cognitive shift paradigm. We found that TCS1205 administration blocks the impairing effects of MK-801 in a dose-dependent manner, while having no effect when administered alone. Our data support the hypothesis that deficiencies in inhibitory neurotransmission within the prefrontal cortex contribute to schizophrenia-associated cognitive problems.

Amanda Mulligan, 2013

Let's Talk About Sex: Factors Associated with College Students' Sexual Communication Apprehension

The primary goal of the present study was to investigate potential experiences and variables that might serve to increase the likelihood that people will communicate effectively with a sexual partner.  Sexual communication has been shown to increase sexual satisfaction and reduce risky sexual behaviors.  Research suggests that discomfort with talking about sex-related topics may hinder such conversations.  Given that novelty may reduce general communication apprehension (Buss, 1980), we tested whether variables such as experiences with sexuality education and parent and peer conversations about sex influence levels of sexual communication apprehension and sexual communication.  Our findings from students’ responses (N=522) indicate that a full-term sexuality course and quality conversations about sex with a best friend predicted lower levels of sexual communication apprehension.  Sexual communication apprehension and quality parent-child conversations predicted actual sexual communication with a sexual partner.  And lastly, sexual communication predicted both contraception use and sexual satisfaction. Gender differences emerged across all variables.  Implications of these results are discussed. 

Shannon Muscatello, 2013

Rose-Colored Glasses or Prescription Lenses: Self-Enhancement and Self-Verification in Friends With Benefits Relationships and Dating

This study investigated the differences in the continuum of self-verification and self-enhancement in Friends With Benefits Relationships (FWBRs), dating relationships, and friendships. It further explored differences in satisfaction and commitment in relation to this variable within FWBRs and dating relationships. The role of rejection sensitivity was also explored. Participants were 598 Middlebury College undergraduate students who were given an online survey. Survey instruments included the Interpersonal Qualities Scale (IQS) and the Self-Attributes Questionnaire (SAQ) on which participants rated themselves and how they believed their partners would view them on personal attributes. One-way ANOVAs showed that people in FWBRs self-verify while those in dating relationships self-enhance. Regression analyses showed that people are more satisfied in FWBRs when they self-verify and in dating relationships when they self-enhance. Participants also answered the Rejection Sensitivity Questionnaire (RSQ) where they read five hypothetical scenarios in which they asked something of their partners and rated their level of concern in asking and the likelihood of a favorable response. Higher concern and lower likelihood resulted in higher rejection sensitivity. Rejection sensitivity was found to be higher in FWBRs than in dating relationships, but was not found to account for the satisfaction related to self-verification or self-enhancement.

Deirdre Sackett (NSCI), 2013

Effect of NMDA Receptor Blockade, Neurosteroid, and Response Option on Performance of a Task Measuring Cognitive Flexibility in Rats

Schizophrenia is a debilitating psychiatric disease marked by cognitive deficits, psychosis, and hallucinations. Of these symptoms, cognitive deficits are often the most detrimental to an individual, as they interfere with social and vocational skills, and are difficult to treat. One such cognitive ability impaired in schizophrenia is cognitive flexibility, or set-shifting, which is the ability to shift between rules or behavioral strategies as circumstances require. NMDA receptor malfunction on GABA neurons may lead to disinhibition of glutamate and other neurotransmitters, which then causes impairments to cognitive flexibility. This study used male Sprague-Dawley rats to study whether the neurosteroid allopregnanolone, a GABAA receptor positive modulator, could alleviate cognitive flexibility deficits induced by the NMDA glutamate receptor antagonist MK-801.This study also sought to characterize an operant box task using two types of nosepoke modules. Rats were trained on an operant task requiring them first to learn a discrimination rule based on either the presence of a lighted nosepoke hole, or the location of a nosepoke hole in the test chamber. Rats were then given injections of a control solution, MK-801, or allopregnanolone, alone or in combination, and trained on the alternative discrimination rule. Results suggest that the effects of drug treatment were dependent on the type of response option, and the direction of rule shift. MK-801 impaired cognitive flexibility relative to controls, and allopregnanolone, when co-administered with MK-801, alleviated cognitive deficits in a dose response curve, but only in controlled-access response modules in rats performing a light to side rule shift.
Angela Santee, 2013
A Self-Determination Theory Perspective on Communication with Children in the Interview Setting: The Importance of Psychological Need Support
This study evaluated the relationship between psychological need support and children’s recall performance in an interview setting. Video recordings of forty-six adult-child interviews conducted for a previous study by McCauley, Langrock, and Allen (2007) were analyzed. Children in the original study attended an educational presentation on tarantula spiders and were interviewed eight weeks later using either the Cognitive Interview or the NICHD Structured Interview protocol. The quantity (i.e., number of facts) and quality (i.e., accuracy) of the information provided by each child were recorded. For the present study, a coding scheme was developed to measure support of the three basic psychological needs outlined in Self-Determination Theory—autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Independent observers rated one-minute clips pulled from the rapport-building and substantive portions of each interview on each type of psychological need support, taking into account their observations of the interviewer’s need-supportive behaviors and the child’s demonstration of his/her needs having been met. Results supported the hypothesis that children’s recall performance would be higher in instances where psychological need support was high. When interview type was controlled for, observer ratings of each psychological need predicted total facts recalled. Only the observers’ child-oriented ratings of psychological need support were significant predictors of total facts recalled.


2012 Abstracts:

Michelle Alto, 2012

How Full Is Your Bucket? Testing a Socio-Emotional Learning Program

Socio-emotional learning has been targeted as an important goal in elementary education (e.g., Zins et al., 2004), but as schools have begun to implement various programs to pursue these socio-emotional learning goals, they have frequently done so without empirical evidence regarding program efficacy and without strong theoretical underpinnings. This quasi-experimental study addresses both these issues by empirically testing a socio-emotional learning program known as the “Bucket-Filling Program,” (e.g., McCloud, 2011; Rath & Reckmeyer, 2009) in which children’s invisible “buckets” serve as a metaphor for their feelings of psychological fulfillment, as understood from the perspective of self-determination theory (e.g., Deci & Ryan, 1985; 2002). Three guest teachers taught the program to 108 1st through 6th grade children over 6 ½ weeks, meeting twice per week in half hour sessions. Serving as controls, 160 students in other classrooms did not receive the program. Throughout the study, children in both conditions completed questionnaires tapping their sense of classroom community and socio-emotional knowledge and behavior. In addition, 5th and 6th grade students in experimental classrooms completed a questionnaire investigating self-determination theory as an explanatory framework for understanding children’s perceptions of socio-emotional fulfillment. Findings raised the question of whether the Bucket-Filling Program might sensitize students to the quality of their classroom community, as opposed to universally improving that sense of community. In addition, self-determination theory was supported as a framework for understanding socio-emotional fulfillment.

Emily Bennet, 2012 

Finding Your Way: The Effects of Sex and Stress on Human Spatial Navigation Abilities

In the current study, we investigated the effect of stress on spatial navigation abilities, and examined whether these effects varied by gender. Further, we investigated whether stress altered navigation strategies. The study followed a 2 (stress v. control) x 2 (male v. female) design (n=81). Stress was induced immediately prior to a virtual reality (VR) task using a (a modified Trier Social Stress Test (TSST). In a series of 4 trials, participants navigated through a VR campus environment to a specific endpoint. The first two trials served as experiment-directed learning trials. On the first self-directed trial (Trial 3), participants were asked to navigate to goal on their own using the most efficient route possible. On Trial 4, participants self-directed in the world with environmental manipulations, and identified their believed goal location on their own by signaling with the joystick.  The primary measures of performance were path length and travel time on Trials 3 and 4, and distance between the perceived and actual endpoint on Trial 4. We hypothesized that males would produce shorter path lengths and time measures than females for Trial 3, and smaller distances between the perceived and actual goal location on Trial 4. Moreover, we predicted that male performance would tend to be facilitated under stress, while female performance would not change. Finally, we hypothesized that, under stress, both males and females would show more tendencies toward stimulus response attention.  As predicted, males tended to have shorter path lengths and took less time to reach the goal in Trial 3 and were closer to actual goal on Trial 4 than females. While stress effects were less apparent, there was a trend for an interaction of stress and sex on the distance between the perceived and actual goal for Trial 4, with stressed males triggering presumed endpoints significantly closer to the actual goal than stressed females, but no sex difference for controls. As predicted, males reported higher use of spatial learning strategies, and females of stimulus response learning strategies. However, stress did not have a significant impact on these strategy scale scores. This research could have practical implications for real life situations involving wayfinding under stress, such as driving or flying in hazardous conditions.

Ellen Dahlberg, 2012

An Investment Model Analysis of Friends With Benefits Relationships

The present study sought to expand on previous research investigating friends with benefits relationships (FWBRs) utilizing the investment model of relationships. Data from three groups of undergraduate college students (those currently involved in a FWBR, those currently involved in a romantic relationship, and those assigned to consider a hypothetical FWBR) revealed that many of the relational processes highlighted by the investment model which are present in romantic relationships are also found in FWBRs. Results showed that satisfaction and investment size significantly predicted commitment, as the investment model suggests, but relationship alternatives did not. Furthermore, this study looked at whether individuals in FWBRs engage in two investment model mechanisms shown to maintain well-being in relationships, accommodation and derogation of alternatives. As predicted, greater commitment was associated with greater accommodation in response to problematic situations within the relationship. However, unlike the model’s predictions, greater commitment was not associated with greater derogation of alternatives. Overall, individuals who were the most committed to their FWBR were those who wanted it to become romantic in the future. These findings suggest that contrary to the emphasis of some previous research, FWBRs are not purely sexual; they have relational aspects similar to those found in romantic relationships.

Sarah Harney, 2012

The Effects of Rapport and Autonomy support on Children's Food Recall

The goal of this study was to understand the role of rapport in interview settings between adults and children.  A sample of 52 children (4-12 years old) participated in an after-school event that involved eating snacks.  After a two-day average delay, the children were interviewed about what foods they ate at the event.  Ratings of global rapport were assessed from three perspectives—the interviewer, the child, and independent observers. The interviewers’ global rapport ratings were not correlated with the children’s global ratings, but were correlated with those of the independent observers.  In addition to the global rapport ratings, specific rapport-related behaviors were measured. Prior research had shown these behaviors to be indicative of rapport level, but in this study only some of the behaviors were actually correlated with global rapport ratings, and not always in the expected direction.  No significant relationship was found between global rapport ratings and food recall.  However, the level of autonomy support by the interviewer was correlated with a greater number of total facts recalled.  These results have implications for health professionals that deal with nutrition-related diseases and conditions.

Claire McIlvennie, 2012

Individually Helping the Environment Together: Relatedness, Social Norms, and the Attitude-Behavior Gap

The present study examined the ability of psychological need fulfillment and social norms to influence the attitude-behavior gap in the pro-environmental sphere. Specifically, goals of this research focused on replicating the findings of Yoshida (2010), which indicated a three-way interaction between attitudes, social norms, and need for relatedness on frequency of environmental behavior and extending those results through the addition of behavioral choice measures and the experimental manipulation of social pressure. Data from a sample of 642 Middlebury College students indicated that individuals whose need for relatedness is met are more likely to act in congruence with their attitudes. Further, contrary to my hypothesis, results show that these individuals, compared with those whose need for relatedness was not met, were more likely to perceive that their friends held pro-environmental beliefs. Unlike Yoshida, perceived social norms exerted the strongest behavioral influence over individuals whose needs for relatedness were met, rather than those for whom this was not true. Thus, these results only partially support those of Yoshida (2010). These findings raise questions regarding the nature of the need for relatedness-social norm relationship, which should be further investigated in future research given the ability of both need for relatedness and social norms to facilitate pro-environmental behaviors.

Lisa Mulcahy, 2012

The Influence of Disciplinary Knowledge on Epistemic Belief Change within a Domain

The present study investigated the influence of prior domain knowledge on epistemic belief change within that domain. Domain-specific beliefs for neuroscience and topic-specific beliefs for cell phone radiation health risks were measured before and after an epistemic belief intervention, and the mechanisms of change model was used to investigate the factors of intervention that may promote belief change. Participants were 30 undergraduate students at a small liberal arts college with either low or high prior domain knowledge for neuroscience, and were randomly assigned to one of four intervention conditions: dual position text with a conclusion task, dual position text with a facts-listing task, informational text with a conclusion task, and informational text with a facts-listing task. Results showed that participants with low prior domain knowledge had more sophisticated beliefs than those with high prior domain knowledge, and that belief change occurred, but not to the extent or in the direction expected. Further research is needed to better understand the nature of epistemic belief change, the role of the mechanisms of change model, and the influence of prior domain knowledge.

Holly O'Donnell, 2012

First-Year College Students' Use of Facebook and the Transition to College

The use of cell phones, email, social networking and other new technology may be changing the way emerging adults experience the transition to college as it is now much easier to maintain long-distance precollege relationships. In this study, we looked at how the use of Facebook is related to the transition from high school to college. We conducted a study with both correlational and experimental components investigating emerging adults use of the site and how it relates to friendsickness, self-esteem, social comparison and college adjustment. Participants were 89 first-year students at a small, residential, liberal-arts college in New England who matriculated in the fall of 2011. Although the experimental study manipulating Facebook use in the lab did not show significant results, the correlational study indicates that Facebook is making the transition to college more difficult for some in two main ways. First, it is inviting a sense of nostalgia, homesickness and focus on old friends for many and secondly, Facebook provides creates opportunities for social comparison.

Sara Woodworth, 2012

Hookups as a Context for Relationship Initiation Among College Students

The overarching goal of the present study was to better understand the role of hookups in relationship formation. Research investigating Reis and Shaver’s (1988) interpersonal process model of intimacy has shown that personal disclosure, partner responsiveness, and emotional intimacy play an integral role in the development of various types of relationships, but researchers have not examined these relational processes in the context of hookups.  The present study sought to investigate whether hookups can provide an environment conducive to these relational exchanges and serve as a context for relationship initiation.  The roles of the sexual aspects of hookups, alcohol intoxication, and attachment style were also considered. College students’ (N = 869) responses to an online survey about recent hookup experiences confirmed that self-disclosure and partner responsiveness predicted emotional intimacy in hookups.  These three variables, along with sexual satisfaction, sexual intimacy, and (less strongly) attachment style, also predicted relationship formation following a hookup.  Implications of these findings regarding the relational qualities and outcomes of hookups are discussed.



2011 Abstracts:

Stephanie Halgren, 2011

I Know What You Did, but I’ll Help You Anyway: Predicting Prosocial Behavior with Causal Controllability and Genetic Relatedness

Many people engage in prosocial behavior without pausing to consider the underlying reasonsfor their actions. What factors influence a person’s likelihood to help someone in need ofassistance? Previous research has determined that causal controllability influences helplikelihood: people are more likely to help someone who could not avoid a problem, rather thanan individual who brought about a problem. This effect occurs through a pathway involvingresponsibility judgments, sympathy, and anger. Similarly, genetic relatedness influences helplikelihood: people are more likely to help, and provide more help, to individuals with whom theyare strongly related. The present study was conducted to examine whether causal controllabilityand genetic relatedness interact to influence help likelihood. One hundred and seventy-twoundergraduate students were presented with a hypothetical scenario, in which they rated theiremotions and likelihood to help a sibling, cousin, or acquaintance who either caused, or did notcause, a car accident that left him a paraplegic. Unexpectedly, genetic relatedness drove helplikelihood, while controllability determined responsibility judgments, feelings of sympathy, andfeelings of anger. Consequently, this finding demonstrates that the effect of controllability onhelp likelihood can be deactivated, such that genetic relatedness drives help associated with aparaplegia scenario (as it does with life-or-death scenarios).

Stephen Jewell, 2011
Compassion and Economic Decisions: Incidentally Promoting Cooperation in a Trust Game
Although compassion is an emotion that has been shown to increase prosocial behavior,whether general feelings of compassion can increase a person's likelihood to trust has not beenresearched. The current study investigates the effects that compassion, as well as pride andsadness, have on trust, measured by the amount of money a player gave away in an economictrust game. It was hypothesized that compassion would increase trust while sadness and pridewould decrease it, but emotion had no effects on how much money participants gave. However,interactions were found between emotions and participants' social value orientations on amountgiven and perceptions of risk. Also, emotional reactions to receiving a fair split back in the trustgame are discussed. 
Kevin Madore, 2011

Eliciting Children’s Food and Movement Recall: Can the Interviewer’s Questions Make a Difference?

This study examined if the revised Cognitive Interview would improve children’s recall for bothfood and movement compared to a control protocol. A sample of 35 children (5-12 years old)participated in an after-school event that involved both eating snacks and engaging inmovements. After a one- to three-day delay, the children received either the Cognitive Interviewor a control interview about what they ate and did at the event. The Cognitive Interviewsignificantly improved older children’s (8-12 years old) recall for food compared to the controlinterview. There was no significant effect of interview group for food recall for the youngerchildren (5-8 years old). Similarly, older children interviewed with the Cognitive Interviewrecalled significantly more movement information compared to those interviewed with thecontrol protocol. The reverse pattern was true for the younger children. Overall, children’s recallwas very accurate regardless of their age group or interview group. These findings haveimportant implications for health professionals who rely on the information they elicit fromchildren to diagnose and treat obesity, food-borne illness, diabetes, and physical injury.

Jonas Schoenefeld, 2011

The Beast in the Backyard: Impacts of Local Climate Change Information and Values on Pro-Environmental Behavior and Climate Policy Support

This study investigated the impact of local and global climate change information, as well as general value orientations on perceptions of climate change importance, willingness to take action and climate policy support. Data from a sample of 99 Vermont residents show that individuals with self-transcendent values (concerned about larger communities) are more likely to think climate change is important, take action and support climate policy than individuals with self-enhancing value orientations (concerned about themselves). In addition, local and global climate change information was most effective for individuals with self-transcendent value orientations: local information elicited significantly higher ratings of climate change importance than no information (control group). Regarding climate policy support, a trend revealed that global information yielded higher ratings than the control group for individuals with self-transcendent value orientations. Results suggest that policy makers and public communicators should be cognizant of their audience‘s general value orientation. Local and global climate information appears to be particularly effective for populations where self-transcendent value orientations prevail.

Cloe Shasha, 2011

Promoting Far Transfer with the Testing Effect: Learning Mathematical Probability Principles to Solve Analogical Word Problems

Recent evidence shows that a combination of studying and testing can enhance a memorymore than strictly studying over that same amount of time, as measured by a test afterward. Thisis a phenomenon known as thetesting effect. Most testing effect studies have focused on testingto improverote memorization. The present study investigated whether the testing effect aids theapplication—ortransfer—of learning to new situations. In this study, 64 participants learned tosolveanalogical word problems that required the application of mathematical probabilityprinciples. In the first phase of the experiment, half of the participants studied some wordproblems and their solutions repeatedly while the other half of the participants both studied andsolved those word problems. A day later, all participants were tested on new probability wordproblems. These new problems were designed to assess whether participants were able to applythe probability principles that they learned to new problems. Results suggested that preliminarytesting did not improve participants’ ability to solve new problems on the final test, and that allparticipants were most accurate on new problems that were most similar to old problems. 

Nichole Wyndham, 2011

Earning the “Right” to be Bad: Environmental Behaviors and the Moral Licensing Effect

This study was designed to observe the influence of past behaviors on moral decisions.  Recently, researchers have described a moral licensing effect in which individuals were found to act immorally after engaging in a good deed.  To examine the licensing effect, we asked a group of 175 Middlebury College students to recall a past situation in which their behavior did, or did not, benefit the environment (license v. cleansing v. control).  Participants were then asked to choose between two proposed initiatives (moral v. self-serving).  If moral licensing were operating, the students who recalled a situation in which their behavior benefited the environment should have felt free to favor the self-serving initiative.  Instead, results show participants’ responses were not influenced by a licensing effect.  Overall, participants chose to support a moral initiative, especially if they believed they would personally benefit from this action. 


2010 Abstracts:

Aviva Bannerman, 2010

Behavioral Effects of Unique Perspective Taking Methods in Mildly Aggressive Situations between Strangers: A Casual Approach

Perspective taking, which inhibits aggressive and enhances constructive interpersonal responding, can be done by imagining how the other feels or imagining oneself in the other’s position. Eighty-six participants assigned to an imagine-self, imagine-other, or control condition, read vignettes describing an aggressive stranger and indicated their likelihood of engaging in constructive or destructive responses and their anger level for each. Participants’ behavioral responses to a contrived anger-provoking situation were also recorded. No condition effects were found. The effectiveness of the condition manipulation and the specificity of perspective taking effects are discussed.

Elizabeth Bacon, 2010

An Eye Tracking Study of Attention in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Hypervigilance is a common symptom reported by individuals suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Characterized by an increase in attention to threatening, potentially threatening, or trauma-relevant stimuli, hypervigilance often takes the form of constant visual scanning of one’s environment, alertness to unusual noises or activity, and a tendency to perceive ambiguous information as threatening (APA, 2000). The present study aimed to both duplicate and extend previous work examining attentional bias in PTSD using eye tracking methodology in a foreground/background task. Sixteen (fifteen male) Iraq and Afghani war veterans with and without PTSD viewed slides depicting either a U.S. soldier(s) or an Iraqi soldier(s) in the foreground, while the background of all slides was composed of a complex scene such as a busy city street. Tracking viewing behavior and pupil dilation provided insight into what participants perceive as threatening and how the pattern of visual scanning is affected by clinical diagnosis.

Kelly Ann Bennion, 2010

Recognition Memory and the Testing Effect: Does Recollection Make a Difference?

An experiment investigated whether engaging in recollection during an intervening recognition test produced the testing effect. After studying paired associates that were presented in one of the four quadrants of the computer screen, participants in the recognition condition took a multiple-choice test on the pairs, participants in the recognition with source monitoring condition took a multiple-choice test that also required them to indicate the location of the pairs, and participants in the control condition restudied the word pairs. Results revealed the testing effect; those in the recognition condition remembered the paired associates better than those who restudied. Adding a location source judgment (requiring recollection), however, did not exacerbate the effect. Results also showed evidence of the negative suggestion effect; on the final test, participants more often chose lures that were presented on the intervening multiple-choice test than those not presented on the intervening multiple-choice test.

Carolyn Birsky, 2010

Predicting the Psychological Effects of College Women’s Hookup Experiences

Previous research suggests that college women experience a mixture of psychological effects – both positive and negative – after engaging in hookups. Few studies, however have investigated what factors of a hookup may be predictive of these psychological effects. Female college students (N = 557) were asked about their most recent hookup experience in order to examine what factors were predictive of regret, self-blame, rumination, and positive feelings post-hookup. Sexual desire/satisfaction, relational intimacy, social benefits, intoxication, the level of sexual intimacy, stranger status, and sociosexual orientation were tested as predictors of the four psychological effects being investigated. Overall levels of regret, self-blame, and rumination were low. Several factors, however, were found to be predictive of these effects. Sexual satisfaction, relational intimacy, and sexual intimacy were the strongest predictors of regret, self-blame, rumination and positive feelings.  Weaker but still significant, intoxication, stranger status and sociosexual orientation were also predictive of college women’s psychological well-being post-hookup. Perceived social benefits of the hookup were not predictive of psychological effects. Implications of these findings for future research are discussed.

Amber Harris, 2010

Knowing Who and What to Believe: Examining the Relationship Between Epistemic Beliefs and Motivation during Adolescence

Epistemology, or the study of beliefs about knowledge and knowing, asks how people know who and what to believe. As part of a larger four year, cross-sectional and longitudinal examination of students’ epistemological development, this project takes a closer look at how students’ epistemic beliefs may be related to motivation and other learning variables. Students from local Vermont public schools (initially in 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th grades) were assessed through a think-aloud online search task, a retrospective interview, and a follow-up survey. The results of the current study suggest that students’ epistemic beliefs, motivational goals, and academic achievement are part of an inter-related system, and that the relationships between these variables may change throughout the course of adolescence. By clarifying the nature of the relationship between these variables, the results of this research would allow teachers to more effectively design instruction to meet the needs of all students in their classroom.

Kat Hartley, 2010

Friendly Persuasion: Considering How and When Social Norms Motivate Pro-Environmental Behavior

Research suggests the influence of social norms on individual behaviors and attitudes, but the extent and moderators of this influence are unclear.  The current study explored how social norm information about a ‘category’ of behaviors (here, environmental behaviors), influences relevant attitudes (i.e., willingness to support pro-environmental polices).  195 college students answered the NEP and ERBI and then received social norm information indicating they were above the norm (performing more pro-environmental behaviors), below the norm, or consistent with the norm.  Hypotheses focused on how individuals’ baseline levels of ‘green-ness’, and outcome expectations for conformity interacted with normative influence.  Data partially supported hypotheses, finding that participants told they were below the norm would be more motivated to protect the environment if they did not expect to lose benefits through conformity.

Julia Kim, 2010

Facial Processing in Children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are associated with severe impairments in social functioning, which is a significant deficit found in those with Autism, Asperger’s, and PDD-NOS.  As a significant source of social information, faces provide nonverbal cues that facilitate social interactions.  Emerging studies have begun to investigate facial processing strategies in individuals with ASD.  Such strategies are considered to be a marker of the social impairments that lie at the core of these disorders.  In the present study, we investigated facial processing strategies between ASD children and neurotypical children with respect to various facial stimuli—human, anamorphic, and cartoon faces.  Eye-tracking data was collected with respect to the eyes and mouth of all face types.  The results of the present study are contrary to suggestions that those with ASD attend preferentially to the mouth over the eyes of a face.  However, the results do provide support for the general trend that ASD individuals are typically avoidant of the eyes of a face as they attend to the eyes less and to the mouth region more in comparison with typically developing peers.  This finding highlights the underlying atypical processing strategies that are found in ASD individuals relative to their neurotypical cohorts. 

Yuki Shinoda, 2010

What determines how teachers respond to student’s problems?: Examining the Effects of Perspective-Taking, Attributions, and Emotions

The current study examined attributions and emotion - potential determinants of teachers’ responses to students’ problems -, and whether perspective-taking instructions would dictate adults’ behavioral responses by influencing their attributions and emotional reactions. It was hypothesized that perspective-taking would lead adults to indicate more generous attributions of child problems, more “other-oriented” emotions (e.g, sympathy) and more autonomy supportive responses. The present study also investigated whether adults would respond differently to chronic versus non-chronic problems. Eighty-seven college students read vignettes describing child problems, and answered questions examining attributions, emotions and behavioral responses. The results indicated limited effects of perspective-taking and possible effects of problem chronicity and child sex. Interpretations of the findings, methodological issues and recommendations for future research are discussed.

Kelly Stewart, 2010

Effects of Writing on Depression, Anxiety, and Visual Attention

While research demonstrates a relationship between writing about a past trauma or upsetting experience and attaining benefits on a variety of measures, from physical health, to affect, psychological health, and academic performance, the mechanism by which writing imparts benefits remains poorly understood. The present study posited that writing about a past upsetting experience, using reappraisal and benefit-finding strategies, would predict decreases in depression and anxiety, and increases in attentional allocation to positive emotional pictures. Twenty-one undergraduate students at Middlebury College participated for course credit and were assigned to write about a past upsetting experience or their strategies of time management in college for 15 minutes a day, for 4 consecutive days. They returned to the lab 4 weeks later for follow-up measures. Contrary to our hypotheses, both groups showed lower anxiety at the four week follow-up, and the time management group showed decreased depression and increased attentional allocation to positive emotional pictures from baseline to follow-up, while no significant difference across time was found for the upsetting experience condition. Implications for the importance of emotional engagement and the relationship between writing and attentional bias are discussed.

Caleigh Waldman, 2010

Childhood Nature Experience and Adult Environmental Behavior

The current research explores the relationships among childhood nature experiences and adult environmental attitudes, sustainable lifestyle choices, and parenting behaviors in order to investigate the extent to which childhood nature experiences are important for raising individuals who will protect the natural world and perpetuate these ideals to the next generation. It was hypothesized that those individuals with greater childhood nature experiences would have more pro-environmental attitudes, practice more sustainable lifestyles, and greater facilitate their children spending time outside as opposed to those adults who did not have frequent or notable childhood nature experiences. The study found no direct relationship between childhood nature experiences and either environmental attitudes or lifestyle choices; however, there was an interactive relationship between the three variables, whereby individuals with many childhood nature experiences and pro-environmental attitudes were found to live the most sustainable lifestyles. In addition, parents with greater childhood nature experiences were found to greater value and facilitate those experiences for their children. Further research opportunities and practical implications of the data are discussed.


2009 Abstracts:

Emery Feighery, 2009

N400 ERP Response as a Measurement of Semantic Expectancy in Trauma Survivors

Semantic biases in trauma survivors were assessed using the N400 ERP response as a measurement of expectancy. Eighteen trauma survivors were recruited from the community. Subjects were interviewed and their post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis was determined by a clinical psychologist. Ambiguous sentences that could be sensibly completed with a military or non-military ending were presented to subjects one word at a time. The sentences ended with expected, unexpected, or military words. Subjects’ EEG was continuously recorded throughout the task. Subjects with PTSD were found to have a reduced N400 response across all three conditions compared to subjects with no PTSD. The PTSD group also trended toward an inverted N400 pattern than normally seen in a healthy population. War veterans with PTSD showed a nearly significant reduction in N400 amplitude to the trauma condition relative to the unexpected condition. These findings provide more evidence for general cognitive deficiencies associated with PTSD, such as attentional problems, rather than differences in semantic expectancy in this population. However, there is some evidence to suggest that information-processing biases may also play a role in these differences. Future research should repeat this experimental design with a larger and less variable subject pool to substantiate these initial findings.

Jennifer Kurland, 2009

An Eye-Tracking Study of Attentional Biases in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder 

This study looked at attentional biases in motor vehicle accident (MVA) survivors with and without Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by examining avoidant and hypervigilant tendencies in attention using an eye tracking device. Participants viewed a series of 20 slides for 10 seconds each. Slides were either War slides or Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) slides and each slide contained two photographs, side by side. One photograph was negatively valenced (e.g. a photograph of a child throwing a piece of rubble in a war zone or wrecked car) and the other photograph was neutral (e.g. a child throwing a ball or a car in a showroom). The eye tracking device recorded pupil fixations and dwell time, as an indication of attention, as well as pupil size, as an indication of arousal. Results showed preferential attention directed towards negative MVA photographs for all MVA participants as well as larger pupil size while viewing both types of negative images. Significant positive correlations were also found between the Hypervigilance Scale and the amount of time spent looking at negative war pictures. The results support the notion that trauma survivors in general attend more to stimuli that are related to their trauma while those who exhibit hypervigilant tendencies show a more generalized attentional bias towards negative material. Understanding the attentional biases and patterns of physiological arousal demonstrated in this study will contribute to the understanding of the way individuals with PTSD perceive their environment.

Cordelia Ross, 2009

PTSD and Semantic Expectancy: An N400 Study 

The present study examines attentional biases to and semantic expectancy of trauma-relevant information in PTSD using the N400 event-related potential (ERP) component. The N400, an indicator of semantic expectancy, was examined using a modified sentence task that included expected, unexpected, and trauma-relevant endings. Given their attentional biases, people with PTSD should expect trauma-relevant endings to ambiguous sentence stems. Because expectancy is indicated by smaller N400s, it was hypothesized that individuals with PTSD would produce smaller N400s to trauma words than those without PTSD. Fifty-eight individuals participated in this study, of which 23 had PTSD. As hypothesized, results indicate that compared to those without PTSD, individuals with PTSD exhibited smaller N400 amplitudes to trauma-relevant sentence endings relative to expected sentence endings. These findings suggest that individuals with PTSD, regardless of trauma experience, have semantic expectancies of combat-related trauma-relevant words.  This study provides neurophysiological evidence consistent with theoretical models and clinical reports that the psychopathology of PTSD is associated with attentional biases towards threatening or trauma-relevant information.

Ari Silverman, 2009

From First Base Around to Home: Relationship Outcomes as a Function of Hookup Intimacy Levels and Personality Dimensions 

This study divided hookups into 3 intimacy levels: low (not involving genitals), moderate (genital stimulation) and high (intercourse) and investigated relationship outcomes, psychosocial motivations, regret and guilt, and impact of adult romantic attachment, impulsive sensation seeking, and controlled orientation. A convenient sample of 174 (87 males, 87 females) college students completed an online survey, revealing that hookups generally did not impact relationship outcomes, except for those seeking romantic relationships. Impulsive sensation seeking and anxiety in females were positively associated with number of hookups. Impulsive sensation seeking, avoidant attachment, and controlled orientation were all positively associated with the extent of intimacy individuals were likely to have engaged in within a hookup. Implications of these findings and future directions are discussed.

Catherine Timmins, 2009

Still Connected?: A Longitudinal Analysis of Emerging Adult-Parent Communication and Relationships After College 

As cell phone and email become more accessible, communication between parents and emerging adults becomes easier and more frequent. Previous research examined the influence of communication between college students and their parents on parent-child relationships. In the current study, we looked at communication after students graduate from college. We conducted a longitudinal analysis of the changes in communication during college compared to after graduation, aspects of the parent-child relationship including companionship, mutuality, control, and conflict, parental behavior regulation and graduates’ perceptions of adulthood. Participants were 169 graduates from a small residential college in New England and a large research university in the Midwest who participated in a communication study two years ago and who completed our online survey in December. Results indicated that emerging adults who have recently graduated from college communicate with their parents significantly more than they did in college. High frequencies of total communication and student initiated communication were correlated with positive scores on a global measure of relationship, and high levels of companionship. Parental behavior regulation was correlated with frequency of communication, control, and conflict. Overall graduates were satisfied with their amount of communication with their parents and reported positive relationships with their parents.

Julia Tomasko, 2009

Comparing Strategies to Reduce the Social Misinformation Effect

This experiment compared strategies for reducing memory errors that occur when people are exposed to misinformation from another person. Misinformation has been shown in previous research to harm people’s memory such that they believe that things that were suggested to them were actually experienced, particularly when the misinformation has a social source. In this experiment, participants viewed different versions of photos containing both high and low expectancy items and provided each other with misinformation before taking an individual memory test. One-third of the participants were warned that their partner may have mentioned items that were not present, one-third received more specific metamnemonic instructions that have reduced the misinformation effect in other contexts, and the final third served as a control group. Results indicated that the misinformation effect occurred in all groups, and that it was reduced in the metamnemonic but not warning group. Rates of accurate memories were similar in all groups, though participants in the metamnemonic group were better able to distinguish between studied and unstudied items. Results are discussed in terms of the relative efficacies of metamnemonic instructions and warnings, as well as the applicability of these findings to eyewitness memory situations.

Margaret Whitaker, 2009

Mother-Child Reading of Emotion-Themed Picture Books: Age Differences and Associations with Emotion Understanding 

This study examined age differences in mother-child book reading and determined whether these habits were associated with a child’s emotion knowledge.  Nineteen children and their mothers read an emotion-themed picture book.  Children’s emotion knowledge was assessed through vignettes requiring the child to identify basic emotional responses.  Mothers controlled extra-textual conversations about emotions.  In addition, dyads with a younger child engaged in more emotional discussions than older child dyads.  Mother-child discussions were related to the child’s emotional understanding.  Specifically, maternal emotion-related questions and child emotion-related assertions and responses were positively associated with children’s knowledge about emotions.  Since emotion knowledge has positive future implications, the results of this study could influence how mothers read and discuss emotions with their children. 


2008 Abstracts:

Alex DeLisi, 2008

Changes in Understanding and Acceptance of Evolution in College Students: A Two-Year Study

The failure of a vast number of Americans to accept basic premises of evolution, an accepted scientific theory, suggests inadequate training in scientific literacy and epistemic understanding. This has sparked two phases of research on beliefs about evolution. The first study examined students’ understanding of the scientific theory of evolution as well as factors that facilitate the acceptance of it. In the spring of 2006 (Time 1), 333 college students were surveyed through a Web-based questionnaire on factors relating to their understanding and acceptance of evolution. A second wave of the study was conducted in the spring of 2008 (Time 2) that investigated the processes of understanding and acceptance change of evolution in 122 students from the original sample.  Between Times 1 and 2, students increased in both their understanding and acceptance of evolution and our results lend support for a relation between these constructs. Additionally, a number of factors were found that promote increases in understanding or increases in acceptance of evolution across the two years. Only one factor, an increase in the emotional salience of evolution between Times 1 and 2, was shown to be associated with both an increase in understanding and acceptance of evolution. These studies will help future science education researchers craft conceptual models of how individuals come to understand and accept evolutionary theory.  In turn, these conceptual models will be adopted by science educators to create an educated populace that recognizes evolutionary theory based on an understanding of the nature of science.

Jessie Evangelista, 2008

The Effects of Socioeconomic Status on Teacher-Student Relationship Quality

This study investigated the relation between children’s socioeconomic status (SES) and relationship quality in teacher-student relationships.  Specifically, it was hypothesized that students of lower SES would experience lower-quality relationships than students of higher SES, and that SES would moderate specific relations among children’s expectancies and perceptions of their teachers and relationship quality due in part to the implications of SES for teachers’ and students’ expectancies of each other.  Eighty-one students in 4th-6th grades and their sixteen teachers reported on teacher-student relationship quality at three time points over the course of a year.  Results suggest that students receiving free or reduced lunch (i.e. lower SES) perceive less support from their teachers, have worse relationship quality, less warmth, and more conflict in their relationship with their teachers than students not receiving free or reduced lunch (i.e. higher SES).  In contrast, teachers reported no such differences.  Findings regarding SES as a moderator were suggestive but not statistically significant.  Possible explanations are discussed and related to basic and applied issues, particularly in the context of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Katie Fisher, 2008

Describing Heterosexually-Identified Young Adults with Same-Sex Inclinations

The aim of this study was to further describe heterosexually-identified young adults who experience same-sex orientated attractions or engage in same-sex sexual behaviors. In pursuit of this goal, 504 heterosexually-identified young adults, ranging in age from 18 to 24 (191 males and 313 females) were separated into two groups (consistent, inconsistent) based on whether reported sexual attractions and behaviors were consistent with their heterosexual identities. Participants in the inconsistent group were more comfortable engaging in casual sex without love and more frequently sought higher levels of sexual excitement and novel sexual experiences. Furthermore, they reported more favorable attitudes toward homosexuality yet attached a great deal of shame and negativity to their own same-sex attractions, perhaps explained in the finding that these participants also reported greater fears of negative evaluation. Lastly, the study offered preliminary findings suggesting that the same-sex behavior of heterosexually-identified males involves alcohol less frequently and is more explicit than the same-same behavior of females.

Amelia Goff, 2008

Parent-Child Shared Book Reading: Differences in Discrete Emotion Discussions

Current research has focused attention on the importance of parents engaging in spontaneous talk centered on emotion with their children as an essential step in encouraging emotional competency. Boyle (2006) hypothesized that engaging in reading emotion explicit books could potentially serve as an equally rich environment for parents to encourage their child’s emotional development. This study sought to extend this finding by exploring the nature of the emotion laden extra-textual dialogue during these interactions, based on which specific emotions were discussed, as well as the gendered make-up of the dyad. It was hypothesized that elements of emotion discussions, for example, including proportion of specific emotion talk, word use, and attributions of emotion, experiences would differ when addressed by mothers and fathers with sons and daughters. Some hypotheses were supported with findings for differences based on emotion type, child gender as well as parent gender. Contrary to expectations, differences in the ways parents approached the task based on the sex of the child were less consistent with predicted conformity to gender-appropriate roles. This may indicate that emotion-explicit books are an affective vehicle to neutralize stereotyped teaching of emotional understanding.

Mercedes Huff, 2008

The Role of Insular Cortex in Cognitive Flexibility 

Cognitive flexibility, or the ability to shift attention away from a previously relevant rule to another that has recently become relevant, is central to healthy functioning in both humans and non-human animals. Previous results have demonstrated a double dissociation in brain regions responsible for distinct types of cognitive flexibility, such that the dorsolateral PFC (or the mPFC in rats) mediates ED set-shifting, while the OFC mediates RL. However, there has been no previous examination of the role of insular cortex in these types of cognitive flexibility, despite its strong anatomical and functional connections to these regions. It was hypothesized that inactivation of the insula would disrupt performance in both tasks of cognitive flexibility. To examine this hypothesis, rats underwent surgery to implant guide cannulas directed at the insula. Subsequently, microinjections of the GABAA agonist muscimol (1nmol/hemisphere or 5nmol/hemisphere) were used to temporarily inactivate the insula before being tested on either an ED set-shift or RL task. A control group underwent the same procedures, but vehicle was used in the place of muscimol during the injection. In the ED set-shift task, vehicle animals demonstrated the highest levels of perseveration, while those animals in the 5nmol/hemisphere group did not successfully utilize the Set 1 rule during Set 2. Treatment did not have any apparent effects in the RL task. Thus, preliminary evidence suggests that the insula mediates aspects of cognitive flexibility, specifically as measured by an ED set-shift task.

Libby Marks, 2008

Examining semantic expectancy in trauma survivors using the N400 

The present study investigated semantic expectancies in trauma survivors, as determined by using event-related potentials to examine N400 amplitudes.  Thirty-three participants (19 male, 14 female) completed a sentence viewing task, in which sentence endings were expected, unexpected, or trauma-relevant.  Trauma-relevant words were associated with military experience.  EEG data were recorded throughout the task.  While results did not reveal any significant findings in N400 amplitudes with respect to military experience, significant results were found with respect to PTSD diagnosis.  Participants with PTSD diagnoses show attenuated N400 amplitudes to trauma-relevant sentence endings compared to participants without PTSD diagnoses.  Findings indicate that PTSD symptoms influenced individuals’ expectancies of trauma-relevant stimuli, while military experience did not.  The novel methodology used in the present study succeeds in confirming past research that has established attentional biases that accompany PTSD.  However, because no previous studies have specifically examined electrophysiological manifestations of attentional biases using the N400 ERP component, this study needs to be replicated.  Future research should also limit trauma types included in the study, as well as control for the possibility of a negative valence effect. 

Elise Tarbi, 2008

Does the way you PAY ATTENTION influence your spatial abilities?

This study investigated whether sex differences in spatial attention could explain sex differences in spatial ability as measured through a visuospatial task of line judgment. Participants in this study were 61 right-handed (30 males, 31 females) undergraduate students. The tasks administered were the paper-and-pencil Judgment of Line Angle and Position task (JLAP-15), the Uniform Field of View task (UFOV), the Campus Building Perspective task (CBP), and the Dabbs map task. It was predicted that males would perform better than females on the JLAP, UFOV, and CBP, as well as referencing more geometric properties of space on the Dabbs map task (i.e. cardinal directions and distance references). Additionally, it was expected that high performance on the JLAP would correlate with high UFOV and CBP performance, as well as more geometric references on the Dabbs map task, as these tasks were intended to measure different aspects of spatial attention. While a robust sex difference on the JLAP was not evident, the expected sex differences were found on the UFOV, CBP, and Dabbs map task. Thus, this study suggests that males and females do indeed attend to space differently. Furthermore, while this sex difference in attention did not correlate with JLAP performance as expected, the relationships among the three spatial attention tasks suggest that the way males and females attend to space influences the way they orient themselves and as a result, how they engage with space.

Caitlin Taylor, 2008

Adults’ Perceptions of a Child’s Recall: What Matters? 

Adults often discredit a child eyewitness's statements due to negative perceptions about children's cognitive abilities based on a child's age (eg. Newcombe & Bransgrove, 2007; Lamb, Sternberg, & Esplin, 1994; Leippe & Romanczyk, 1987; Ceci & Bruck, 1993) or sex (eg. Quas et al., 2002; Goodman et al.,2002). The present study sought to expand upon the prior research by investigating what factors may be related to the likelihood a child will be believed. More specifically, the study sought to examine the extent to which perceptions of credibility are based on the child age, gender, and verbal ability. In addition, the study assessed the extent to which the participant's gender, experience with children, and general perceptions of child victims affect ratings of credibility. One hundred and sixtyMiddleburyCollegestudents participated in the study and watched videos of children being interviewed about an event they had experienced at school. The participants were asked to rate the children’s credibility. Results indicated that child age significantly affected ratings of credibility. Younger children were rated as significantly less credible than older children. Additionally, participant and child gender interacted such that female participants rated female children as being more credible. Other factors, such as the attractiveness of the child’s personality and adults’ attitudes of child victims predicted credibility ratings. The implications of these results as well as possibilities for future research are discussed.

2007 Abstracts: 

Katherine Belon, 2007

How Much Do People Worry? Everyday Worry, Gender, and Perceptions of Worry in the Parent-Child Relationship

Worrying is a normative phenomenon, but most research has overlooked everyday worrying to focus on pathological worrying. Previous research implicates gender and parenting as important factors to consider. This study examines possible gender differences in everyday worrying and the relationship between students’ and their parents’ worrying. Participants included 188 college students and 65 of their parents who participated in an online survey. Measures included the Worry Domains Questionnaire, the Penn State Worry Questionnaire, other assessments of worrying, questions about students’ perceptions regarding the parent-child relationship and parental rearing style, and measures of gender attitudes and orientation. Results indicated that worrying is indeed a gendered experience. Across multiple measures, female students and parents reported more worry than males. Students also perceived their mothers as worrying more than fathers. Students who perceived their parents as high worriers reported higher levels of worrying themselves, indicating an intergenerational transmission of worrying. Interestingly, however, students’ perceptions of how much their parents worry were generally inaccurate. Furthermore, students that perceived their relationships with their parents in positive ways as measured by questions and measures regarding the parent-child relationship tended to report less worry, while negative perceptions were associated with more student worry. Finally, parents were more accurate in predicting how much their children worry, especially mothers. These results highlight the gendered nature of worry experiences and the importance of the parent-child relationship.

Molly Rose Bowman, 2007

Symptomological Predictors of P300 Characteristics in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Despite a marked increase in the amount of neurobiological research on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), studies of attention-related psychopathological characteristics other than a clinical diagnosis of PTSD have resulted in mixed findings. Based on Kimble et al’s (2001) finding that dissociation predicts P300 peak amplitude and latencies above and beyond depressive profiles and PTSD status in combat veterans, our study assessed the predictiveness of those same psychometric variables on P300 characteristics in 3-Tone (frequent, target and novel) and 4-Tone (frequent, target, novel and distractor) auditory tasks. While many studies of PTSD engage populations of combat veterans recruited from treatment centers, we recruited both combat and non-combat trauma victims. Regression analyses indicated that depression significantly predicted attenuated novelty P300 amplitudes, while dissociation showed no significant relationship. One explanation for these findings is related to biological research showing that hippocampal atrophy (found in depressed individuals) is related to attenuated novelty P300 amplitudes. Another possibility is that because continuous scores on PTSD symptom scales, depression scales, and dissociation scales are highly correlated, our findings may indicate that P300 amplitude and latency is not dependent on any one predictor, but is a reflection of general psychopathology associated with PTSD.

Alex Citrin, 2007

Children’s Memory Project: The Effect of Time Segmentation Training On Children’s Recall

This study examined the effects of training children to use time segmentation, organizing an event sequential order, as a memory mnemonic to recall a target event. Fifty-two children (56% male) ages 3-6 years old were recruited from local day care centers and elementary schools in Middlebury and Brandon, Vermont. Children attended an educational presentation on tarantula spiders and were interviewed 8 weeks later using the NICHD interview protocol paired with either a training or standard rapport segment. In both conditions quality rapport was established however in the training condition children were introduced to, taught, and given the opportunity to practice using the memory mnemonic of time segmentation. It was hypothesized that training in this technique would aid recall during the interview and that for children in the training condition there would be a carry-over effect of this mnemonic. Transcripts from the interviews were coded for three types of time segmentation statements (prompted, elaboration, and spontaneous) and recalled facts based on a checklist. The number of time segmentation statements made by the child was analyzed using a 2 (Segment: rapport, interview) x 3 (Response Type: prompted, elaboration, spontaneous) within subject and a 2 (Interview Type: training, standard) between subjects repeated measures ANOVA. Post-hoc t-tests were used to pull apart these interactions and correlation analyses were conducted to asses the association between time segmentation statements and recall. A carry-over effect was found for the number of time segmentation statements used from the rapport to interview segment in the training condition, however, there was no association found between time segmentation statements and recall.

Rachel Fong, 2007

Neurochemical Mechanisms of Glucose-induced Cognitive Enhancement: Interaction between Glucose and Dopamine Receptor Subtypes

Extensive research has found that glucose enhances memory in healthy young adults as well as in elderly people. Rodent studies have also shown that administration of glucose, via intraseptal, intrahippocampal and systemic injections, facilitates learning and attenuates age-related cognitive deficits. A potential mechanism by which glucose may enhance memory is through interaction with the mesolimbic dopaminergic system. The mesolimbic dopamine system has long been suggested to mediate the brain reward pathway, which can induce learning and approach behavior. Moreover, recent theories also propose that dopamine may act as a marker for salient environmental stimuli and underlie motivated behavior. We hypothesized that different dopamine receptors would mediate the glucose-induced cognitive enhancement since ATP-sensitive potassium channels have been found to link glucose metabolism and neuronal excitability, which in turn modulates dopamine release. Spontaneous alternation was used to assess male Sprague-Dawley rats’ spatial working memory after systemic administrations of glucose and selective D1 antagonist, SCH 23390, or D2 antagonist, eticlopride. Glucose was found to improve alternation performance compared to control rats. SCH 23390 and eticlopride blocked the glucose facilitation to a similar extent when injected with glucose, but they did not alter the subjects’ alternation scores when injected with saline. No significant treatment-dependent difference was observed in the total numbers of arm entries or the temporal pattern of arm entries between all groups, indicating that the selected doses of dopamine antagonists did not produce motor or motivational deficits; the drug effects were likely to be cognitive.

Nancy Fullman, 2007

Parents on Speed Dial: The Psychological Implications of Frequent Student-Parent Communication in Emerging Adulthood

Past research has indicated that frequent student-parent communication is related to increased levels of parental dependency and regulation for first year college students attending a small liberal arts college. In an effort to expand these findings, the present study involved surveying students at a large research university across all four years in order to examine the frequency of student-parent communication, developmental outcomes, and quality of relationship with parents. We found that students average communicating with their parents almost twice a day (m = 13.22) and that this differed little by year in school, parents initiated more communication than students, and females reported initiating as well as receiving more contact than males. High levels of communication were related to increased parental dependency and heightened parent regulation of academics and behaviors. Although frequent student-parent communication was associated with good relationship quality (e.g., companionship), more parental control and conflict were related to frequent contact.

Laura Kwoh, 2007

It Comes With the Territory: Exploring Parental Worries of Mothers and Fathers of Kindergarten-Aged Children

This study examined the parental worries expressed by mothers and fathers of kindergarten-aged children and possible factors that influence their worrying. Parents were interviewed about their childrearing beliefs and experiences, including their parenting worries; both their verbal and metacommunicative responses were analyzed. Results indicated that mothers worry more than fathers and were more likely to frame their responses to characterize themselves as “extreme worriers.” Content analyses indicated that both mothers and fathers appear to worry about a variety of issues including their child’s safety, peer influences, health and their abilities to parent their children. Quantitative and qualitative evidence converged to suggest that worrying is an affective experience that is more salient to mothers than fathers, although many fathers anticipated worrying more in the future when their child is older. Contrary to expectations, maternal employment status, child gender, and child birth order did not affect the amount of worries expressed by mothers and fathers. Instead, parent gender emerged as most important in line with the common cultural conception that worrying is a part of parenting that may be perceived as more salient to the mothering role.

Lok Man (Charlene) Lam, 2007

The Role of Hope in Coping with Collegiate Stress

The present study examined the role of hope in coping with two types of collegiate stress in college students. One hundred twenty-one undergraduate students completed an online survey which assessed their level of hope in the academic and social domain, appraisals of these stressors, coping responses for each stressor, as well as symptoms of anxiety/depression. Results indicated that students appraised the two types of stress differently and responded to each stressor with a variety of coping strategies. More specifically, secondary control coping mediated the association between stress and symptoms of anxiety/depression in the academic domain, and that hope agency served as a significant moderation in this association. For students with higher levels of hope agency, both primary control and secondary control coping significantly reduced the association between stress and adjustment. Neither hope nor coping played a mediating or moderating role in this association in the social domain. The importance of including hope in understanding the stress and adjustment is highlighted in this study and implications of these findings are discussed.

Chak Fu (Jeff) Lam, 2007

Feeling Competent About your Work: An Examination of Self-Determination Theory in the Workplace

Although studies of Self-Determination Theory have investigated important concepts such as basic need satisfactions in the workplace, relatively little is known about the way work environments and employees’ personality may jointly influence the internalization of extrinsic motivation. The current study addresses the gap in the literature by examining the interactive effects of a personality variable (general causality orientation) and an environmental variable (basic need satisfaction) on job-related outcomes (job satisfaction and organizational commitment), and the way in which such effects are mediated by the level of employees’ self-determined work motivation. Results indicated that employees low on autonomous orientation exhibited a greater level of the internalization of extrinsic motivation when their need for competence was satisfied, compared to when it was not satisfied. Internalization of work values, in turn, predicted positive job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Practical implications are discussed.

Heather Viani, 2007

The Effect of Question Phrasing and Associative Memory on Children’s Recall

The aim of interviewing is to gather a complete and accurate account of the target event as possible. Interviewers can control the phrasing (open ended or closed ended), syntax (simple or complex) and timing (immediate or held) of questions to aid children’s recall. Additionally, the interviewer, through paraphrasing, may alter the social environment in which the child answers the question. These four factors, along with verbal intelligence and age, were examined to determine how they affect the quantity and quality of children’s responses. In the current study, children, ages 3 to 8 years, were interviewed after a six week retention interval on a staged target event. The target event consisted of a spider informational presentation, a craft and a physical activity. Interviews were transcribed and coded for question phrasing, syntax, probe type and the dependant variables of accuracy and completeness. Children’s verbal intelligence and age were also assessed to examine the role individual differences play in the quantity and quality of information gathered through interviewing. Invitations and directives elicited better quality information, measured by proportion accuracy and the proportion of new information, than forced choice questions. In examining the syntactic form of the question, it was found that children responded to simple questions with a larger quantity and better quality of information than complex questions. Paraphrasing did not either directly or indirectly increase the quantity and quality of the interview. While held probes elicited a larger quantity of information, immediate probes elicited more accurate responses by children than held probes.

Ben Wiechman, 2007

Assessing the Durability of the Undermining Effect: The Impact of Extrinsic Rewards on College Students' Intrinsic Motivation

While much research by Self-Determination theorists has investigated the impact of extrinsic rewards on the intrinsic motivation of children, not much research has examined the undermining effect in older populations. In addition, one criticism raised by opposing theoretical perspectives is that, because of their short-term design, many studies rooted in self-determination theory do not provide a complete picture of the undermining effect as they fail to look at the impact of rewards on intrinsic motivation over time. Thus, this study assessed the durability of the undermining effect in 61 undergraduate college students by having all participants engage in a “hidden Nina” activity and rewarding some and not others for doing it. Participants’ intrinsic motivation was then assessed through self-report and free choice measures. Neither dependent variable evidenced the undermining effect, although unpredicted effects of gender were found. Results are discussed in terms of their theoretical implications and directions for future research