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From Perceptual Symbols to Abstraction and Back Again: The Bitter Truth about Morality
Year of Dissertation:
The representation and processing of abstract concepts is a poorly understood and controversial area of research in the cognitive sciences. Some traditional and recent approaches argue that abstract concepts are represented in symbolic, amodal channels that are proposed to be distinct from the brain's perceptual centers (Burgess & Lund, 1997; Paivio, 1986, 1991; Pylyshyn, 1973; Schwanenflugel & Stowe, 1989). On the other hand, research in grounded and embodied cognition has shown that sensoriperceptual states can influence cognitive processing in numerous ways (Barsalou, 1999, 2008, 2010), even for abstract concepts like morality (e.g., Schnall, Haidt, Clore, & Jordan, 2008). The present research investigated a prototypical abstract concept (morality) and explored the extent to which perceptual information influences the processing of moral judgments. Although various studies have linked physical disgust to moral disgust, surprisingly little research has investigated morality in conjunction with taste. Across three experiments, it was found that gustatory disgust is indeed linked to moral disgust, and this effect is more pronounced in political conservatives than political liberals. Experiment 1 revealed that bitter tastes elicited significantly harsher moral judgments than sweet or control (i.e., water) tastes. Experiment 2 reversed the directionality of this effect and showed that reading about moral transgressions, virtuous, or control events instantiated gustatory disgust, delight, or neutral taste perceptions, respectively. Experiment 3 replicated the basic methodology of the first experiment (but using a within-subjects design) and significantly reduced the effect by asking participants to suppress their perceptual and emotional experiences. Taken together, these taste perception experiments provide additional support for the idea that moral processing draws from perceptual and embodied information, specifically embodied disgust. A new theory is proposed (Distributed Embodied Network Theory) for explaining how perceptual symbols might ground abstract conceptual representations. According to this view, two classes of perceptual information (sensorimotor and affective) provide the foundation for abstract representations and can also be used to predict the abstractness and concreteness of diverse conceptual representations.
GAY MEN'S AND THEIR RELIGIOUS RELATIVES' NEGOTIATION OF SEXUAL ORIENTATION, RELIGION, FAMILY VALUES, AND HOMOPHOBIA
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Building upon recent work studying how people use cultural tools and strategies to mediate conflicts (Daiute, 2010; Etengoff & Daiute, Forthcoming; Vygotsky 1934/1978), this dissertation explores systematically how gay men, their religious relatives, and therapists negotiate conflicts around religious, sexual, and familial issues. In addition, the dissertation studies how gay men and their allies use and modify religious and secular objects and systems, such as biblical text and therapy, to address the often conflicting demands of sexuality and religion. This dissertation analyzes the conflicts and negotiational efforts that emerge within intrapersonal, interpersonal, metaphysical and intersystem contexts for gay men and their religious families. Therefore, the principal research questions guiding this study are: How is the process of sexual orientation and sexual orientation disclosure negotiated within a religious, familial, and societal system?; What are the salient conflicts that emerge in religious families of gay men who have recently disclosed their sexual orientation?; How does one's own or a relatives' sexual orientation mediate religious orientation and activities such as bible study?; What religious and secular objects and activities do actors across the activity-meaning system use to negotiate conflicts? In contrast to much scholarship on gay men from religious backgrounds that focuses only on the negative impacts of institutionalized homophobia, this work focuses on how inter-group and inter-personal relations can be improved for gay men and their religious family allies. Due to the unique socio-religious context of the participants in this study, this dissertation employs an applied activity-meaning system framework to explore how individuals and their socio-religious contexts are reciprocal agents of construction and human development. Therefore, the theoretical bases of this dissertation are Vygotsky's (1934/1978) cultural historical activity theory and relational complexity theory (Daiute, 2012). In addition, mediational strategies in this study are defined within the relationally complex framework of humanization (Bell & Khoury, 2011). These developmental theories are particularly relevant to gay men and their religious families due to their multifaceted interactions within relational, familial, religious and social contexts. Fifty participants comprised of gay men (n=23), their key religious family member (n=15), and clinicians (n=12) were sampled to give voice to the multiple social relationships of gay men brought up in very religious Jewish and Christian families. All participants completed semi-structured interviews and gay men and their family allies were also asked to write a letter to a religious figure. Multiple forms of narrative construction were used to expand the unit of analysis to include the study of how families make-meaning of the interactions between their sociocultural and sociorelational experiences. In addition, the letter writing task was designed to empower participants to engage the power-laden contexts of religion and sexuality as participant-activists as opposed to only participant-observers. Narrative analyses began with the following four process steps: (a) identification of conflict(s) and difficulties present within narrative, (b) identification of family and individual negotiation efforts, (c) Identification of cultural tool use such as religious texts, (d) characterization of the mediational strategies. This coding system was inductively derived from the narratives and informed by cultural historical activity theory. Analyses of participants' relational uses of religious and popular objects support the argument that development is a meaning-making process occurring within sociocultural and historical contexts. Furthermore, results indicate that participants' use of religious and popular objects was often a goal directed and aimed at affecting sociorelational and sociocultural change within their activity system. In addition, findings indicate that gay men's and their religious family allies' awareness of the sociocultural contexts of each other's lived experience is an important component in the successful negotiation of post-disclosure conflicts within religious and familial contexts. Moreover, analyses suggest that both gay men and their religious family allies successfully negotiated the conflicts between their family system, religious values, and social stigma experiences by focusing on humanization strategies such as recognizing the shared human experience and the diversity of the gay community. This investigation also illustrates that exploratory semi-structured interviews engaging participants in such acts of humanization can potentially yield substantial improvement in family dynamics. While prior research indicates that sexual minorities can overcome the negative romantic effects of social stigma by engaging in meaning-making activities (Frost 2011), the present results suggest that this meaning-making intervention paradigm can be expanded to include other familial relationships and systems as well.
Inter-Religious Relationships and Anxiety in the Regulation of Automatic Inter-Religious Prejudice
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Shared reality theory predicts and evidence suggests that inter-religious relationships are motivated to maintain or regulate interpersonal interactions with others. However, this motivation has been given little attention within the automatic attitude literature. This research is centered on the idea that automatic prejudice is moderated by two fundamental themes, shared reality and anxiety. These themes are reviewed to determine the degree to which participants socially tune to ingroup versus outgroup religious experimenters. In Experiment 1, automatic inter-religious attitudes toward Christian and Jewish experimenters were assessed via a subliminal prime procedure. Religious orientation (extrinsic, intrinsic) and regulation of inter-religious relationships were also investigated. Paternal shared reality but not maternal shared reality moderated the effect of experimenter religion on automatic inter-religious attitudes. This finding was also similar among highly devoted Christian participants. In addition to measuring implicit inter-religious prejudice, Experiment 2 measured explicit measures of affect, intergroup anxiety and blood pressure reactivity in addition to implicit prejudice. Christian participants negative affect, systolic blood pressure, and pulse decreased as a result of interacting with Christian and Jewish experimenters. Religious experimenters did not significantly affect Christian and Jewish participants automatic inter-religious attitudes but only components of intergroup anxiety (belief similarity and intergroup interactions) were context dependent. The effects were found not to be moderated by level of devotion or parental shared reality. This research suggests inter-religious relationships among fathers but not mothers affect inter-religious prejudice and these effects are further attributable to anxiety and blood pressure for Christians but not Jews.
Functional Differentiation Between the Left and Right Hemisphere for a Sub-Region of Wernicke's Area is Revealed with fMRI-Guided, Single-Pulse TMS.
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During the past two decades, studies of neural organization have been bolstered by the addition of functional and structural brain-imaging techniques capable of localizing and correlating brain activity to cognitive functions. With potential clinical applications abound, localizing language-related activity prior to neurosurgery is an interest shared by both neuroscientists and neuroradiologists who are interested in protecting essential language regions in neurosurgery candidates. Since imaging is correlative, however, it does not distinguish essential brain activity from supporting and associated activity and therefore cannot be used independently to determine hemispheric language dominance. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), on the other hand, is a non-invasive technique that stimulates targeted brain regions directly and can therefore inform causative structure/function relationships. The goal of this study is to develop non-invasive techniques that definitively identify hemispheric language dominance. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) was used to locate language-related regions in 36 right-handed participants. In most participants, there were two clusters of activation within classic Wernicke's territory. We termed these dorsal and ventral Wernicke's areas. On a separate day, fourteen of the thirty-six participants returned to participate in a single-pulse TMS experiment which targeted dorsal and ventral Wernicke's areas and their right-sided homologues. Picture naming latency was decreased following TMS of left-sided dorsal and ventral Wernicke's areas as well as right-sided ventral Wernicke's homologue. No effect was observed following TMS of dorsal Wernicke's homologue. These results highlight the advantages of using cross-modal imaging techniques by providing direct evidence in support of modern theories of neural language organization that propose a bilateral sub-region of Wernicke's area involved in phonological processing, and a unilateral left-sided component involved in integration and relay of semantic information to other cortical regions.
Subgroup Differences and Predictive Ability of Psychometric and Neuropsychological Intelligence Measures
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Researchers recognize that the current models of intelligence are insufficient at making causal connections between the intelligence measure and intelligent behavior. Different approaches to intelligence are under investigation to incorporate within current models of intelligence and include psychometric, neuropsychological, and cultural components. Currently there is a lack of research that incorporates both psychometric and neuropsychological intelligence measures in a predictive model of performance. The purpose of the current study is three-fold. The first objective is to test the predictive relationships of neuropsychological and psychometric intelligence batteries, an alternative psychometric intelligence assessment, and a personality measure in relationship to academic performance. The second objective is to examine racioethnic and gender subgroup mean differences on all predictors of performance. Subgroup mean differences, which can lead to adverse impact, have been found on a variety of verbal and nonverbal intelligence assessments (Hough, Oswald, & Ployhart, 2001). Research has demonstrated that performance differences are often moderated by the type of measure used which also raises concerns about the construct validity of psychometric intelligence assessments. The third objective of the research is to examine the construct validity of neuropsychological intelligence, traditional psychometric intelligence, and alternative psychometric intelligence. There is little empirical evidence which demonstrates that differences in cognitive functioning in the brain result in differences in scores on psychometric assessments. That is, there are few links (i.e., construct validity evidence) connecting cognitive functioning to intelligent performance on psychometric assessments. Hypotheses pertaining to prediction of different measures, subgroup mean differences, and statistical relationships among the intelligence measures were tested. The results indicate that the neuropsychological intelligence battery was the only significant predictor of academic performance. All intelligence measures exhibited subgroup mean differences, however they were smaller compared to what is typically reported in the literature. The Black/African American mean score on the neuropsychological battery was one-third of a standard deviation below the White/Caucasian mean score, and Hispanics demonstrated minimal mean score differences compared to White/Caucasians. Additionally, construct validity evidence emerged for the intelligence measures. A discussion of the findings including their implications is included.
Assessing the Effects of Behavioral Skills Training on Adult Teaching Responses, Learner Acquisition, and Learner Disruptive Behavior Across Responses and Instructional Skill Sets
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Behavioral Skills Training (BST) is a teaching package consisting of instructions, feedback, modeling, and rehearsal that has been effective for training staff to provide intervention to people with developmental disabilities. The purpose of the current study was to assess: (a) whether prior studies demonstrating the effectiveness of BST could be systematically replicated in a variety of teaching procedures, (b) whether the instructional skills that staff acquired during training on one response generalized to a variety of instructional programs, (c) whether positive changes in staff performance corresponded to positive behavior change in learners and (d) whether positive changes in learner behavior generalized to novel programs. Results systematically replicated and extended prior studies by demonstrating that BST resulted in positive behavior change across staff, learners, instructional programs, and various types of teaching skills. Further, for all types of instructional procedures staff displayed generalization of teaching skills to novel responses and learners displayed increases in correct responding, indicating that BST is an effective and efficient intervention procedure.
Rules are Made to be Broken: Multisensory Interactions at Two Stages of Cortical Processing
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Research over the past few decades has illuminated the multisensory brain. While information from the various senses is first processed in segregated channels, this segregation is more the exception than the norm. It has now been convincingly demonstrated that the senses can begin to interact at the onset of processing in early sensory cortices (e.g., Foxe et al., 2000; Foxe & Schroeder, 2005; Lakatos, Chen, O'Connell, Mills & Schroeder, 2007; Lakatos, Karmos, Mehta, Ulbert & Schroeder, 2008; Lakatos et al., 2009; Molholm et al., 2002; Murray et al., 2005). These multisensory interactions continue as environmental stimuli proceed to be processed in higher-order cortical areas, but the rules and outcomes change. The following experiments were designed to investigate the neuroanatomic and neurophysiologic underpinnings of multisensory interactions at two stages of processing: (1) an earlier stage at the onset of cortical processing, where multisensory interactions contribute to detection and selection, and (2) a later stage of cortical processing, where multisensory features are combined into a coherent object. We also focus on the rules that govern these interactions. Basic rules for multisensory integration were first established in the cat superior colliculus (Meredith & Stein, 1983; Meredith & Stein, 1986; Meredith, Nemitz & Stein, 1987). These rules state that multisensory integration is more likely when (1) the unisensory components arise from approximately the same location (i.e., the spatial rule), (2) the unisensory components occur at approximately the same time (i.e., the temporal rule), and (3) the unisensory components elicit weak responses when they are presented in isolation (i.e., the rule of inverse effectiveness). While these seminal rules have provided useful guidelines, more recent research has shown that they are not applicable to all multisensory interactions (e.g., Murray et al., 2005; Stein, London, Wilkonson & Price, 1996; Teder-Sälejärvi, Di Russo, McDonald & Hillyard, 2005; Van der Burg et al., 2008a). Here we provide further evidence that the rules for multisensory integration, as well as its outcomes, depend on several factors, including the stage of cortical processing and the observer's strategic goals.
From property abandonment to predatory equity: Writings on financialization and urban space in New York City
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Financial markets, actors and imperatives are increasingly central to today's global capitalism, even in areas of the economy traditionally distinct from finance, such as real estate. This financialization changes the role of mortgage capital in urban space from building place-bound wealth to facilitating the extraction of value from place. This dissertation addresses questions about how financialization operates in the rental market, specifically its relation to: earlier processes of urban disinvestment, ongoing social and political struggles around urban space, the meaning of home and social reproduction. These questions correspond to broader theoretical debates about the contingent relationship between today's urban context and landscapes inherited at the end of the 1970s, the constraints and possibilities for today's community-based organizations and the consequences of finance's permeation into everyday life. Using qualitative, archival and geographic methods, the research design revolves around a long temporal frame beginning with the 1970s urban crisis of property abandonment and continuing through the present. Geographic data was used to analyze relationships between property abandonment and private equity real estate investment. Archival data and interviews with veteran (n=11); mid-career (n=5); and emerging (n=9) nonprofit professionals provided insight on community responses to disinvestment and financialization. Focus groups (N=5) with tenants (n=27) addressed social and psychological consequences of financialization. Today's financialization of housing shapes uneven geographies of power: finance can make itself felt in property, but is often beyond the reach of community organizations and the city. Concentrated in low-income, minority neighborhoods, investors' financial risks undermined tenants' ontological security and social reproduction. Community organizations' development of discursive, data-driven and spatial tactics speaks to the political possibilities of contemporary community practice to contest financialization. The findings are relevant to efforts of community organizations to contest urban inequality, concerns about planning economically sustainable cities and policy approaches to affordable rental housing. This study contributes to research on geographies of financialization; in particular it responds to the need for critical attention to the socially and spatially uneven nature of processes associated with financialization of the domestic.
Neural Mechanisms Underlying the Perception of Three-Dimensional Shape from Texture: Adaptation and Aftereffects
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Input into the visual system is two-dimensional (2D) and yet we effortlessly perceive the world around us as three-dimensional (3D). How we are able to accurately extract 3D shape information from the 2D representations that fall on the retina remains largely unknown. Although much research has been conducted that investigates higher levels of form processing (i.e. face recognition), less is known about the mechanisms that underlie the perception of simple 3D shape. Previous studies in our lab have shown that our ability to perceive 3D shape from texture cues relies on the visibility of orientation flows -- patterns that run parallel to the surface curvature of a 3D shape. Using the psychophysical technique of selective adaptation, we have further characterized the neural mechanisms that underlie the accurate perception of 3D shape. In Experiment One, we examined whether orientation flows that are defined by second order contours convey 3D shape, whether they induce 3D shape aftereffects, and whether these aftereffects are invariant to the patterns that define the orientation flows. Aftereffects were obtained and 3D shape was conveyed using stimuli in which orientation flows were defined by two classes of second order contours, and adapting to second order stimuli caused 3D shape aftereffects in first order stimuli. These results can be explained by the adaptation of 3D shape-selective neurons in extrastriate regions that invariantly extract first- and second order orientation flows from striate and extrastriate signals. In Experiment Two, we were interested in determining to what extent these neural mechanisms are invariant to differences in spatial frequency. We chose adapting/test stimuli that differed in spatial frequency by a factor of three, consistent with documented frequency bandwidths of V1 and V2 neurons. Shape aftereffects were obtained, indicating that these neural mechanisms are invariant to differences in spatial frequency by a factor of 3. Furthermore, these neural mechanisms are invariant to the patterns in which spatial frequency was varied (i.e., stimuli in which the orientation flows were created by first- or second order properties). Both of these properties are indicative of neurons that are located in extrastriate cortex. In Experiment Three, we were interested in testing to what extent these neural mechanisms were selective for retinal position by misaligning adapting and test stimuli by 2º, which corresponded to a single convexity or concavity in our corrugated surfaces. Our results suggest that 3D shape-selective mechanisms that respond to luminance modulated orientation flows appear to be sensitive to shifts in position of 2º. Overall, our results indicate that there are 3D shape mechanisms that are pattern invariant, invariant to differences in spatial frequencies by a factor of 3, and that exhibit position selectivity to shifts in retinal position of 2º. Taken together, these results implicate 3D shape mechanisms that are located in extrastriate cortex.
Multimodal Emotion Perception in Borderline Personality Disorder
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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a chronic disorder characterized by pervasive difficulties in the emotion regulation system. While it is clear that individuals with BPD frequently exhibit intense emotional reactions, lack abilities to effectively manage such emotions, and often engage in serious maladaptive behaviors as a consequence of intense emotions, many aspects of the process by which this sequence occurs are not well understood. One crucial aspect of emotion regulation is the processing and perception of cues from the environment. To date, processing of emotional cues in individuals with BPD has been understudied. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is twofold. First, a thorough overview of the literature on the development of both emotion regulation and emotion processing will be presented. Next, theories linking emotion processing, emotion regulation and the development of BPD will be critically analyzed. Finally, a study designed to investigate perception and processing in individuals with BPD versus a healthy control group will be presented, and the results will be discussed. The study presented is the first known study to not only examine emotion perception in BPD using a unitary measure of facial and auditory emotion perception, but to also compare the emotion perception measure to a measure of social perception.