Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • Rules are Made to be Broken: Multisensory Interactions at Two Stages of Cortical Processing

    Author:
    Ian Fiebelkorn
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Sophie Molholm
    Abstract:

    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

    Author:
    Desiree Fields
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Susan Saegert
    Abstract:

    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

    Author:
    Carole Filangieri
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Andrea Li
    Abstract:

    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

    Author:
    Virginia Fineran
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Michele Galietta
    Abstract:

    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.

  • Perception of Emotion across the Adult Life Span in Three Communication Channels

    Author:
    Katherine Finley
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Joan Borod
    Abstract:

    The current study examined age-related differences in emotion perception skills in 116 healthy adults, aged 20-89. Subjects completed identification and discrimination emotion perception tasks involving positive and negative emotion stimuli in three channels of communication: facial, lexical, and prosodic. The emotion tasks were from the New York Emotion Battery (NYEB; Borod, Obler, & Welkowitz, 1992). Participants were screened for cognitive functioning, psychiatric and neurological history, dementia, and perceptual skills, using procedures from the NYEB, and were matched across age groups for demographic variables. Associations among demographic characteristics (gender, ethnicity, and educational level), nonemotional control tasks from the NYEB, and emotion perception tasks were examined using multiple regression. Age was also included in these analyses in order to directly evaluate the effects of age and the effects of these other variables. We examined age-related differences in emotion perception, in general, and explored whether age-related differences varied as a function of communication channel and valence in the context of the general decline with age hypothesis, the right hemi-aging hypothesis, and the positivity bias. In light of research showing that relationships among cognitive functions become more homogeneous, or less specialized, with age, we examined relationships among the three emotion channels within the context of the hemispheric asymmetry reduction with old age (HAROLD; Cabeza, 2002) and dedifferentiation models. For all three channels of communication, older adults performed worse than younger adults. Years of education predicted performance for lexical tasks only. Age emerged as the most significant predictor of performance on emotion perception tasks, and neither ethnicity nor gender generally emerged as significant predictors of performance. Interrelationships among channels were stronger for older adults (i.e., 70- and 80-year-olds) than for their younger cohorts. Results are discussed in the context of neuropsychological and psychosocial theories of aging and emotion. The finding that older groups encountered significantly more difficulty with emotion perception tasks is consistent with the general decline hypothesis and aspects of the right hemi-aging hypothesis. There was no positivity bias demonstrated among the older participants. Abilities within participants were more homogeneous in older age groups, suggesting that emotion perception skills become less specialized with age.

  • Peer Pyramidal Training: Effects on Direct Support Staff Teaching Skills and Generalization of Trainer Skills

    Author:
    Lori Finn
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Peter Sturmey
    Abstract:

    Training is important to ensuring that staff members have the skills they need to provide effective and quality services to individuals with intellectual disabilities, but human services agencies often have limited resources to devote to training. The experimenter used two concurrent multiple-probe-across-participants designs to assess the effectiveness of a peer pyramidal training program on staff performance in a day habilitation program for adults with psychiatric disorders and intellectual disabilities. In the first design, the experimenter assessed the teaching skills of peer trainers as they taught their co-workers to implement (1) responses in which the trainers received specific instruction in how to teach (training responses) and (2) responses in which the trainers had no instruction in how to teach to others (generalization responses). In the second design, the experimenter assessed the effect of the peer training program on the staff members' ability to use positive reinforcement and prompting procedures to teach consumers and to document behavioral incidents. Peer trainers improved their use of teaching skills while instructing staff on training responses as a function of the training program. Further, these effects generalized to the instruction of staff on the generalization responses. All staff improved their performance on all responses that the peer trainers taught them following implementation of the pyramidal training program. All participants reported a high degree of social validity. These results extend the research on pyramidal training and suggest that, for human services agencies with widespread budgetary constraints, direct support professionals may be able to train one another effectively.

  • SOCIAL ASPECTS OF DEVELOPING AND SUSTAINING VOLUNTARILY REDUCED CONSUMPTION ACTIVITY IN NEW YORK CITY

    Author:
    Kirsten Firminger
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Colette Daiute
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the social aspects of voluntarily reduced consumption activity using the principles of cultural historical activity theory. Voluntarily buying less is viewed as ongoing interactive social process that is initiated and sustained as individuals engage with their surroundings. Data was collected from 320 online survey respondents living in the New York City Metro area, followed by a purposeful sampling of 24 participants for in-person, follow up interviews. Interviews revealed the social contextual influences on initiating voluntarily reduced consumption activity. For example, family experiences, personal life changes, and historical events played a role in individuals' choice to voluntarily buy less. Individuals who choose to voluntarily reduce how much they buy experience both social supports and barriers to their activity. Many interview respondents treated voluntarily buying less as a sensitive topic of conversation, not to be openly discussed with others who did not hold the same opinions or values. Those participants adopted techniques to determine who the topic could be broached with while avoiding conflict with those who it may cause problems. Having social support and resources made a noteworthy difference in the viability of adopting many practices, such as reducing the amount of gifts exchanged at the holidays or acquiring used goods instead of buying something new. Social pressure to consume or support for buying less changed based upon specific situations, environments, and individuals with whom the respondent was interacting. Significant others were an important source of support for voluntarily buying less through actions such as sharing responsibility, reinforcing practices or providing skills. Having children presented particular challenges to buying less, as well as an opportunity to pass along one's values and practices. Family and friends were often a resource for skills and information for practices including repairing goods or doing things for oneself. However, friendships that were not supportive were a particular sore spot for some interview participants. Making compromises, not talking about their values and practices, or reducing the amount of time they spent with their friends was a source of strain, anger, and feelings of social isolation. While a few developed new friendships that supported their buying less values, others enacted conflict-reducing practices in order to negotiate social interactions with their friends. Interview participants' choice of employment influenced how much pressure they felt to maintain social norms and communicate status through purchasing of goods such as clothing and technology. The impact of living in New York City was very noticeable when interview participants talked about the support they received from their participation in local social groups, organizations, and communities. Some interview respondents felt their voluntarily reduced consumption activity may influence others. However, not all participants were motivated by the thought that their voluntarily reduced consumption activity was making an impact on a larger scale. A few even feel that what they are doing may have a negative impact on others.

  • PROBLEM SOLVING THROUGH TOOL USE IN ASIAN ELEPHANTS

    Author:
    Preston Foerder
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Diana Reiss
    Abstract:

    Spontaneous problem solving without evident trial and error behavior has been referred to as insight. Surprisingly, elephants, thought to be highly intelligent, have failed to exhibit insightful problem solving in previous cognitive studies. I conducted ten experiments investigating problem solving through tool use on three Asian elephants. Experiment 1 was designed to test means-end recognition. Trays with food placed on one end were positioned outside the bars of the elephants' stalls. Each of the elephants pulled the tray, showing understanding of the means-end relationship. In Experiments 2 and 3, I tested if elephants would use sticks as tools to reach food trays placed just beyond their trunk reach or use sticks to knock out-of-reach fruit from an artificial tree. None of the elephants employed sticks to accomplish either task. A chain pulling problem to attain food through a multi-step solution was presented in Experiment 4. All elephants solved the problem and one completed the task immediately, suggesting insightful problem solving. In Experiment 5, I investigated if elephants, when presented with different types of potential tools, a movable platform and sticks, would show tool use to reach food suspended overhead, out-of-reach. Without prior trial and error behavior, a 7-year-old male showed spontaneous problem solving by moving a large plastic cube, on which he stood, to acquire the food. In Experiments 6-8, I tested if the elephant would generalize this ability to other positions and objects, which he demonstrated. In Experiment 9, I examined if tool use with sticks differed in relation to suspended food or an object. No difference was found. Social learning was tested in Experiment 10 by having one elephant demonstrate the solution to a tool use problem while a second elephant observed. No social learning was exhibited. The elephant's behavior in experiments 5-8 was consistent with the definition of insightful problem solving. Previous failures to demonstrate this ability in elephants may have resulted not from a lack of cognitive ability but from the presentation of tasks requiring trunk-held sticks as potential tools, thereby interfering with the trunk's use as a sensory organ to locate the targeted food.

  • LGBTQ Experiences with the Courts: The Role of Gender Nonconformity and Assertiveness

    Author:
    Alexis Forbes
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Kevin Nadal
    Abstract:

    Using lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) and non-LGBTQ participants, a pair of studies explored the influence of LGBTQ identity and gender nonconformity (GNC) in experiences of discrimination in court settings. A one-way ANOVA tested whether LGBTQ participants were more likely to score low on the treatment in court scale. Additionally, two separate multiple regression analyses tested whether high scores on the Gender Nonconformity Scale (GNCS; Forbes & Nadal, under review), were associated with low scores on a measure of treatment in court. It was discovered that LGBTQ identity did not have a statistically significant effect on factor in treatment ratings. However, the higher an individual's score on the GNCS, the more likely it was that they would report negative court experiences. Additionally, the LGBTQ participants scored statistically significantly higher in GNC than non-LGBTQ participants did. The findings suggest that, with their higher levels of GNC, LGBTQ people may be more likely to encounter discrimination in the courts than non-LGBTQ people. For Study 2 it was theorized that assertiveness was a form of GNC for cisgender females and, using a multiple regression analysis, tested the three-way interaction between participants' sex assigned at birth and scores on the assertiveness and GNCS measures. Interestingly, the congruity between gender presentation (i.e., masculine or feminine) and assertiveness score was a better predictor of treatment than was the congruity between sex assigned at birth and assertiveness (i.e., female with low assertiveness scores). The implications for including measures of GNC as a standard for LGBTQ research are discussed.

  • The Knowing Body: Participatory Artistic-Embodied Methodologies for Re-Imagining Adolescence

    Author:
    Madeline Fox
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Michelle Fine
    Abstract:

    Braiding critical youth studies, social science methodologies, participatory action research, performance studies, and art, this dissertation investigates how we can produce knowledge collectively toward reimagining adolescence. Polling for Justice was a multi-generational participatory action research project that took place between 2008 and 2011. Polling for Justice was interested in understanding young people's lived experiences at the intersections of education, criminal justice, and public health in New York City. The study centered on a city-wide survey and a series of data-driven focus groups. The Polling for Justice research collective used participatory artistic-embodied methodologies to make sense of, and later perform, the mostly quantitative data. This dissertation argues that art can be considered a meaning-making process, and that social science scholarship can benefit from incorporating artistic approaches into the analysis process. Through a careful examination of data from the Polling for Justice study, parts of life stories from Polling for Justice researchers, and key moments from the participatory process of analyzing findings using artistic-embodied methodologies, this dissertation details how we can turn to art to engage in knowledge production towards re-imagining adolescence in the social sciences.