Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • Ambient Text and the Urban Environment

    Author:
    Rebio Diaz Cardona
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Setha Low
    Abstract:

    This dissertation explores the notion that texts become a key element in person-environment relations in the contemporary urban context. As we witness the rise of mobile communication and ubiquitous computing, there are more people spending more time using more text to do more things in more places. Texts of the most diverse styles, dimensions, and sources mediate people's relations with the environment and their activities in it. Drawing from observational work carried out in East Harlem/El Barrio in New York City, I consider texts as a type of `stuff' that we frequently encounter and enter in contact with on our way to encountering and entering in contact with other things in the urban environment. Texts are one of the means whereby the urban environment makes itself usable and available to us. Furthermore, in the contemporary context of technological change, texts become a basic means through which the network society (Castells, 1996, 2001) becomes visible, operable, tractable, and usable in the environment and in daily life. The central argument, then, is that our relationship to texts is being reconfigured by a number of emerging urban dynamics for which texts in turn do important work. Instead of the view that other media are driving attention away from text, I explore the alternative view that texts gain new relevance as a component of the urban environment and of the emerging network society. I look for the roots of this new relevance in three larger spatial processes: ubiquitous access to information and communication technologies, increased global mobility of populations, goods, and information, and the open, shared and participatory nature of the Internet and wireless communication. Texts are a key part of how the relationships between people, things and environments are re-spatialized in the contemporary context of global mobility and connectivity. In such context, text using becomes a key mode of engagement with environment, self, and others, while texts become a key urban infrastructure, supporting the hooking up of the space of flows and the space of places, and thus supporting the emergence of the network society.

  • The Effect of General-Case Training, Instructions, Feedback, and Rehearsal on the Acquisition of Music Sight-Reading by Advanced Flute Students

    Author:
    Nancy Dib
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Peter Sturmey
    Abstract:

    Sight-reading music enables the performance of music that has not been previously learned. Without sight-reading skills, required behavior (e.g., learning new work, performing new music, and passing musical exams) is equivalent to learning a piece of standard repertoire. Therefore, all students should learn to sight-read. To date, no research has been done on the use of applied behavior analysis for teaching students how to improve music sight-reading. Sight-reading may be more efficiently taught if it is approached by planning for generalization of music-related behavior in music education. Therefore, the current study taught advanced flute students to improve their sight-reading skills with a treatment package that included general-case training, instructions, feedback and rehearsal. This study used a multiple-baseline-across-subjects research design for three advanced flute students during their regular lessons. There was a systematic decrease in sight-reading errors as treatment was introduced across subjects. Note errors and rhythm errors decreased by an average of 10% and 42% respectively. Frequency of repetitions and hesitations decreased by an average of 7 and 2 respectively. Therefore, the training package was effective in improving music sight-reading. Future research should investigate the use of general-case training and/or behavioral skills training in other flute-playing behavior, as well as in the teaching of other instruments. Future research should also investigate the components of the current package individually to determine if they would be as effective separately.

  • Voicing Care: Discourse, identity and the making of family caregivers

    Author:
    Jennifer Dobbins
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Suzanne Ouellette
    Abstract:

    Caring for a loved one was once considered a family matter - invisible work nested within the private sphere of home. Current advances in medical technology, altered illness patterns, extended life spans, and changes in traditional family structure have rendered family caregiving increasingly visible. Psychological/ medical literatures on family caregivers have traditionally focused on caregiver stress, strain, and burden; however, people actually experience caring for loved ones as part of a lived life. Research tools and perspectives that reflect the embeddedness of caregiving in social life are urgently needed. This qualitative study is based on the construct of caregiver voice. Voice is the manifestation of a given orientation toward caregiving and is used to explore the ways in which family caregivers create/negotiate/ understand the caregiver role through their interactions with others. Three caregiver voices are discussed: Caregiver as Patient, Caregiver as Kin, and Caregiver as Advocate. Each voice represents a different conceptualization of the family caregiver as it emerges from the intersection of historical influences, social organization, cultural meaning and personal experience. Utilizing multiple read method (Brown, Debold, Tappan, and Gilligan, 1989) informed by positioning theory (Davies and Harré, 1990), the study explores the patterns and positionings of these three voices as they emerge through the exchanges of a virtual support group for family caregivers. Posts made by group participants over a 6-month period (N=138) are analyzed for levels of caregiver labeling and identity, and for the presence and prevalence of the three caregiver voices. Simple summary statistics are used to describe patterns of interaction between and across the voices. Finally, a conversational thread (an original post and eight responses to the post) is analyzed how the Patient, Kin and Advocate voices appear, disappear, overlap and counterbalance each other over the course of an exchange. Key findings are used to support voice as a useful construct in the study of family caregiving, and the utility of positioning theory combined with multiple read method in the examination of caregiver narratives. Implications for future research are discussed.

  • MyDigitalFootprint.ORG: Young People and the Proprietary Ecology of Everyday Data

    Author:
    Gregory Donovan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Cindi Katz
    Abstract:

    Young people are the canaries in our contemporary data mine. They are at the forefront of complex negotiations over privacy, property, and security in environments saturated with information systems. The productive and entertaining promises of proprietary media have led to widespread adoption among youth whose daily activities now generate troves of data that are mined for governance and profit. As they text, email, network, and search within these proprietary ecologies, young people's identity configurations link up with modes of capitalist production. The MyDigitalFootprint.ORG Project was thus initiated to unpack and engage young people's material social relations with/in proprietary ecologies through participatory action design research. The project began by interviewing New Yorkers ages 14-19. Five of these interviewees then participated as co-researchers in a Youth Design and Research Collective (YDRC) to analyze interview findings through the collaborative design of an open source social network. In taking a medium as our method, co-researchers took on the role of social network producers and gained new perspectives otherwise mystified to consumers. Considering my work with the YDRC I argue that involving youth in designing information ecologies fosters critical capacities for participating in acts of research and knowledge production. More critical participation in these ecologies, even proprietary ones, is necessary for opening opaque aspects of our environment and orienting data circulation toward more equitable and just ends.

  • Measuring Relational Preferences Within an Equivalence Class

    Author:
    Erica Doran
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Lanny Fields
    Abstract:

    Two experiments used post-class formation within-class relational assessment test performances to evaluate whether participants demonstrated preference for certain members of an equivalence class based on the type of relation that existed between class members. This research also examined certain procedural factors that influenced the percentage of participants who formed classes, referred to as yield. In Experiment 1, two 5-node 7-member equivalence classes, consisting entirely of nonsense syllables, were established using the simultaneous protocol. After class formation, the effects of the different relations between stimuli were evaluated using within-class relational assessment tests. Only one of the six participants in Experiment 1 successfully formed classes, but that one participant showed an absolute preference for transitive relations over equivalence ones, and for baseline relations over symmetrical ones. Experiment 2 was identical to Experiment 1, except that one of the nonsense syllable stimuli in each class was replaced by a pictorial stimulus. Under these conditions, class formation was enhanced, with classes being formed by 5 of 13 participants. During the relational assessment tests, each of these participants demonstrated essentially complete preferences for transitive relations over equivalence relations and for trained baseline relations over symmetrical relations. Thus, this research demonstrates that the members of equivalence classes are differentially related to each other based on relational type.

  • In the Cockpit: The Political Ecology of Integrated Conservation and Development in Cockpit Country, Jamaica.

    Author:
    Jason Douglas
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Cindi Katz
    Abstract:

    In response to the top-down nature of many environmental protection efforts and the technical approaches that prove detrimental to the livelihoods of people located in and around conservation areas in the Caribbean, community based participatory resource management and sustainable livelihood programs have become commonplace in the environmental protection discourse. However, they often negatively affect the people at the bottom of these programs by promising livelihood improvements that rarely come to fruition due to the tensions between conservation and development. In this dissertation, I present an ethnographic account of attempts at integrated conservation and development in the bauxite rich Cockpit Country of central Jamaica. This research concerns the environmental practices and values, and collaboration of people "participating" in Local Forestry Management Committees (LFMC) that were established to provide economic alternatives to bauxite mining in Cockpit Country. I conducted research for this dissertation in various phases from 2008 to 2010, culminating in five months of fieldwork in 2010. Working with The Nature Conservancy, USAID, The Forestry Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, The Windsor Research Centre, Cockpit Country residents participating in LFMCs, and Cockpit Country residents who did not participate in these programs, I examined the alternatives to the agricultural practices currently employed in Cockpit Country communities and the bauxite mining proposed by the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) in the area. Using archival data, interviews, surveys and participant observation, I examined the problems and potentials of the LFMCs and their affiliated programs. My analysis concerns the relationships among the people at the top and bottom of these programs, their varying conceptions of nature, and their collaboration in the development of livelihood practices intended to promote an equitable and participatory process of integrated conservation and development.

  • Perceptions of Risk, Sexual Behaviors, and HIV Prevention in Commercial and Public Sex Venues: A Study of MSM Venue Attendees

    Author:
    Martin Downing, Jr.
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    David Chapin
    Abstract:

    In recent years there has been a resurgence of new HIV cases in the United States among men who have sex with men (MSM). Some of these men may be at an increased risk for HIV transmission by engaging in sexual encounters at commercial or public sex venues. Indeed, researchers have consistently found reports of unprotected sex among men during venue attendance. Conceptually, there is a need to understand how the physical and social context of sex venues may influence decisions to engage in high risk behaviors while emphasizing new directions for policy-oriented research that reflect the current state of sex venue use rather than a contemporary history of public health fears and controversy. This dissertation empirically examines sexual behaviors of men who attended any of seven sex venue types during the previous month relative to HIV risk perceptions, spatial preferences for public sex encounters, perceptions of venue design, and venue-specific approaches to HIV prevention. Specifically, 204 MSM--recruited online through message discussion boards and LGBT academic e-mail listservs--completed an Internet survey. The findings suggest the potential influence of both physical (private spaces, low lighting, & condom availability) and social (non-verbal communication, perceived condom use of other venue patrons) forces on risky or safer behavior occurring at several venue types. Moreover, the results demonstrated that MSM who perceive moderate levels of behavior-specific and venue-specific HIV transmission risk still pursued risky sexual encounters during their venue attendance. This raises concern that despite some awareness of HIV risk, unprotected sex remains a health threat for those MSM who attend sex venues. In addition to these findings, two distinct frequency patterns (low and high) of Internet use to seek partners for public sex encounters were revealed through a cluster analysis. Men in the high frequency group were more likely to be HIV-positive, engage in unprotected anal-receptive intercourse, and have a preference for venues that offer opportunities to have multiple partners compared to men in the low frequency group. Knowing that some venue users initiate commercial and public sex encounters on the Internet may be useful for targeting appropriate HIV/STI interventions.

  • The effects of Lee Silverman Voice Treatment on the facial movement of Parkinson's disease patients and the way they are perceived by others

    Author:
    Aleksey Dumer
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Joan Borod
    Abstract:

    Parkinson's disease (PD) is characterized by impaired facial movement, a deficit that, as previous studies suggest, leads others to attribute negative traits to PD patients. Given the associations between facial movement and vocal parameters, it was hypothesized that the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT; Ramig, Fox, & Sapir, 2004), an efficient voice treatment for PD patients, would reduce parkinsonian facial movement deficits (Hypothesis I) and result in more positive perceptions of PD patients' personality and behavior (Hypothesis II). Fifty six participants -- 16 LSVT patients with PD, 12 articulation treatment (ARTIC) patients with PD, 17 untreated PD patients, and 11 demographically-matched controls without PD -- produced monologues about happy emotional experiences on two occasions: Time 1 and Time 2. LSVT and ARTIC were administered during a one-month period between the two occasions. The monologue production task was adapted from the New York Emotion Battery (NYEB; Borod, Obler, & Welkowitz, 1992). Healthy adult observers (n=110) rated participants' personality and behavior based on participants' videorecorded facial movement. The Facial Action Coding System (FACS) was used to examine changes in the quantity and variability of facial movement (AU Lability and AU Variability, respectively) and complexity of facial expression (AU Complexity). The increase of LSVT patients on a canonical variate of AU Lability, AU Variability, and AU Complexity was significantly greater than that of ARTIC patients. Additional analyses showed that this result was due to increases in AU Lability and AU Variability of LSVT patients. The personalities of LSVT patients and non-PD controls were rated significantly more positively by observers viewing video clips recorded at Time 2, relative to those recorded at Time 1. Changes in the examined facial movement parameters of LSVT patients did not mediate changes in observers' ratings of those patients. These findings suggest that LSVT reduces facial movement deficits in PD and possibly results in a more positive perception of LSVT patients' personalities. Results are discussed in the context of studies showing the psychosocial impact of PD patients' communication problems and preliminary evidence regarding the mechanisms underlying LSVT's effect.

  • The Writing on the Wall: Environmental Meaning, Academic Success, and Social Reproduction in Urban Public Schools in New Jersey

    Author:
    Valkiria Duran-Narucki
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Susan Saegert
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the role of the physical environment of public urban school buildings and the ways in which in contributes to the production of academic outcomes and social reproduction. There is empirical evidence of the relationship between school building quality and measurements of academic achievement. The main goal of this study is to learn how the physical environment of the school affects academic achievement. In addition, this dissertation explores the role of school building condition in the reproduction of social inequalities. A theoretical framework crafted from ecological psychology and Pierre Bourdieu's critique of everyday life was used. Two high schools housed in new buildings and two housed in old buildings in a low income community in New Jersey were studied. The final analysis uncovered five types of school affordances: Functional, social, emotional, communicative, and identity affordances. In addition, the role of habitus in the transmission of social structure at schools was described.

  • GENETIC VARIANCE CONTRIBUTES TO OPIOID AND DOPAMINE RECEPTOR MODULATION OF SUCROSE AND FAT INTAKE AND SUCROSE-CONDITIONED PREFERENCES IN INBRED MOUSE STRAINS

    Author:
    Cheryl Dym
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Richard Bodnar
    Abstract:

    Whereas genetics and pharmacology influence nutrient consumption, the current dissertation used inbred mouse strains to examine genetic variance in the dopaminergic and opioid modulation of sucrose and fat. The first and second specific aims measured intake of a sucrose solution in 8 inbred and 1 outbred mouse strains following administration of opioid (naltrexone (NTX)), dopamine D1 (SCH23390), and D2 (raclopride) receptor antagonists. NTX inhibited intake strongly in C57BL/10 and C57BL/6, moderately in BALB/cJ, C3H/He, CD-1 and DBA/2, weakly in 129P3 and SJL/J, and not at all in the SWR/J mouse strains. SCH23390 attenuated sucrose intake across five (129P3/J, SJL/J), four (C57BL/6J, BALB/cJ), three (SWR/J, C3H/HeJ, C57BL/10J, DBA/2J) and two (CD-1) of the doses tested. Raclopride was wholly ineffective in attenuating intake. In the third specific aim, intake of a fat solution (Intralipid) was measured in 8 out of 9 prior strains following NTX and SCH23390 administration. NTX attenuated intake at four (DBA/2), three (SWR/J, SJL/J), two (CD-1, C57BL/10), one (C57BL/6, 129P3) and none (BALB/cJ) of the doses tested. SCH23390 reduced intake at five (DBA/2, SWR/J, CD-1), four (SJL, C57BL/6), three (129P3), one (C57BL/10) and none (BALB/cJ) of the doses tested. A high correlation was found in the strain-dependent abilities of SCH23390 and NTX to suppress Intralipid, but not sucrose intake, suggesting differential pharmacological mechanisms responsible. The fourth specific aim investigated genetic variance in experiential factors by examining whether SCH23390 and NTX alter acquisition and expression of a sucrose-conditioned flavor preference (CFP) in BALB/cJ and SWR/J inbred mouse strains. Mice received either vehicle, SCH23390 or NTX prior to acquisition: alternate daily exposure to a sucrose solution mixed with one flavor (CS+/S) and saccharin solution mixed with another flavor (CS-/s) or expression: a two-bottle choice test with the two flavors mixed in saccharin. In expression, strong CS+ preferences were reduced by SCH in BALB and SWR mice and by NTX in SWR mice. In acquisition, CS+/S was reduced by SCH in both strains, and by NTX in BALB/cJ. Sucrose-CFP was reduced by NTX BALB/cJ mice and SCH in SWR/J mice. Taken together, future studies are needed to reconcile the divergent results between strains, pharmacological systems, and nutrients to fully understand their influence on nutrient consumption and CFP.