Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

Filter Dissertations and Theses By:

 
 
  • Slavery's legacies: An investigation of trauma, attachment, parent-child relations, survival and resistance during African-American enslavement as understood through two female slave narratives

    Author:
    Deshaunta Johnson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Diana Diamond
    Abstract:

    In this dissertation I put forth that slavery has been under-theorized in psychodynamic literature as a potent cultural and historical traumatogen, the effects of which still reverberate through the process of transgenerational trauma transmission. In making this case, I will critically discuss the narratives of two female slaves; Harriet Jacobs memoir entitled Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861), and Annie Burton's Memories of Childhood Slavery Days (1909). These narratives are used to illuminate the nature of trauma, the role of attachment relationships in trauma transmission, and to investigate the conditions of parenting, caregiving, resistance and attachment during slavery. Psychodynamic perspective prove powerful in elucidating inter and intra-racial tensions related to narcissistic rage, trauma, aggression, and forms of resistance to multiple oppressions

  • The Motivation to Defend Shared Beliefs: A Functionalist Account

    Author:
    Adam Johnson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Curtis Hardin
    Abstract:

    Past research shows that political and ideological disagreements with affiliatively-relevant others tend to be experienced as aversive and potentially damaging to the relationships in which the disagreement arises. While social psychology offers many proximate explanations for this tendency, the more ultimate evolutionary explanations of this automatic, pervasive, and "hot cognition" phenomenon have been under-explored. The current research argues that because high levels of belief consensus within groups increase trust, cooperation, and prosociality among group members, and because these group-level features were adaptively advantageous especially in the context of intergroup competition, then people should be motivated to defend shared beliefs with other ingroup members - and thus find disagreements aversive - when faced with fitness-relevant threats to the group that require high levels of ingroup cohesion. Two experiments tested this prediction by manipulating participants exposure to evolutionarily relevant and non-relevant intergroup threats and then measuring participants' aversion to ideologically-inconsistent beliefs (Exp. 1 & 2), their desire to share beliefs with other ingroup members (Exp. 1), and their attitudes toward ingroup members who challenged shared beliefs (Exp. 2). Results from Experiment 1 showed that in a national intergroup context (American ingroup vs. Chinese outgroup), participants demonstrated greater aversion to ideologically opposing beliefs and greater desire to share beliefs with other ingroup Americans when faced with the evolutionarily-relevant threat of highly-cohesive male outgroup. Results from Experiment 2 showed that in a political intergroup context (Republicans vs. Democrats), somewhat contrary to predictions, participants showed greater aversion to ideologically-inconsistent beliefs and less favorable attitudes toward ingroup members who challenge shared beliefs when primed with highly-creative (vs. high power) male outgroups. Implications for potential ways to reduce political polarization are discussed.

  • SUCCESSFUL AGING: USE OF COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY IN AN ADULT DAY PROGRAM

    Author:
    Wendy Johnson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Anna Stetsenko
    Abstract:

    This dissertation investigated the relationship between learning digital communication technologies in an intergenerational intervention and successful aging among older adults. The specific goal of this study was to uncover the effects of this intervention on the cultural constructions of aging in an urban Adult Day Program in Trinidad and Tobago. This mixed method study utilized the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS; Sheikh & Yesavage, 1986), a life satisfaction scale, well-being measurements, open-ended survey questionnaires and a focus group session. The results from the quantitative items indicated no significant differences after the intervention; however, the focus group discussion and open-ended surveys provided useful information on the processes involved. This study has implications for the design of similar intergenerational programs throughout Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean islands which can promote conditions for successful aging.

  • "That's Not Fair!": Children's Judgments of Moral Behavior and Maternal Fairness in Transgression Encounters

    Author:
    Marla Johnston
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Herbert Saltzstein
    Abstract:

    This study investigated how children evaluate good/bad and how they judge maternal reactions as fair/unfair.  Of particular interest was whether evaluations and judgments during transgression encounters are influenced by the child's age, the domain in which the encounter occurs (Moral, Social-Conventional, Personal or Prudential), variations in story intention/outcome, and the mother's reaction to the transgression. Mothers of twenty-five 3-12 year old children documented multiple real-life discipline encounters they experienced with their child via online questionnaires. Three of each mother's self-reported encounters along with three additional hypothetical stories were coded for domain, written into a storybook format, and read to their child during in-person interviews.  Each child evaluated how good/bad the protagonist of each story was and how fair/unfair the mother in the story was. Results indicate that older and younger children differ in their moral evaluations of encounters in the Moral, Social-Conventional, and Prudential domains. Evaluations of good/bad and fair/unfair vary as a function of age, story intention/outcome, and maternal reaction.

  • Sensitizing Jurors to Factors Influencing the Accuracy of Eyewitness Identification: Assessing the Effectiveness of the Henderson Instructions

    Author:
    Angela Jones
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Steven Penrod
    Abstract:

    Recently, the New Jersey Supreme Court determined that jurors may not be able to effectively evaluate eyewitness evidence (New Jersey v. Henderson, 2011). Research generally supports this contention, finding that jurors do not take into account factors surrounding the commission of the crime and identification when determining the reliability of an identification (Devenport et al., 1997). Courts have implemented various safeguards to assist jurors in evaluating eyewitness evidence, including judicial instructions and expert testimony. The New Jersey Supreme Court proposed the use of judicial instructions and suggested their use would reduce the need for expert testimony. The current studies tested the efficacy of various forms of Henderson instructions and expert testimony. In the first study, jurors were sensitive to the quality of police practices on their own. Expert testimony resulted in skepticism by reducing convictions regardless of eyewitness identification quality. No version of Henderson instructions sensitized jurors to the quality of witnessing and identification conditions. Therefore, I conducted a follow up study to examine modifications to the Henderson instructions. The modified instructions incorporated features from the I-I-Eye instructions (Pawlenko et al., 2013), such as a condensed format, prompts designed to draw jurors' attention to how each eyewitness factor impacts identification accuracy, and making the instructions general in nature and not tailored to the facts of the case. I also examined whether having jurors evaluate the eyewitness evidence through the use of interrogatories would influence their verdict decision. The modified version of Henderson sensitized jurors to the quality of witnessing conditions compared to the original Henderson instructions. This effect occurred regardless of whether jurors evaluated the evidence before or after determining a verdict. These results suggest the original Henderson instructions are having little impact on jurors' decisions. Thus, courts may wish to delay implementation of these instructions until further research can establish their effectiveness.

  • Black Like Me? A Narrative Study of Non-Anglophone Black U.S. Immigrant Selves in the Making

    Author:
    Yvanne Joseph
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Michelle Fine
    Abstract:

    Abstract Black Like Me? A Narrative Study of Non-Anglophone Black U.S. Immigrant Selves in the Making by Yvanne Joseph Adviser: Professor Michelle Fine The passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act abolished discriminatory national origin quotas that favored European immigrants. The U.S. has since experienced steady flows of immigrants of color. These diverse groups have brought their racial, social, cultural and historical experiences, which adds greater complexity to the existing Black/White and ingroup/outgroup models that shape group relations, and psychological theorizing about identity. This dissertation focuses specifically on the smaller, less visible, yet growing segments of these immigrant populations. It presents a study of the lives of ten individual immigrants of African descent originating from a non-Anglophone country within Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. Using a narrative identity framework, informed by critical race and cultural theories, life story interviews were conducted. The objectives of this inquiry were threefold. First, this study sought to understand how diverse groups of individuals construct, and make-meaning of their identity development while situating each life within a global/local and temporal context. Specific attention was devoted to the formative role played by historical experiences, different cultures, migration, and the power dynamics framing the varied localities of each individual's development. Also considered was the specific influence other individuals and groups have had in shaping conceptions of self/others. Second, this study documents how being Black and an immigrant is socially and subjectively experienced within race, and across differences in ethnicity and nationality. Third, this study explores the distinct changes, opportunities and difficulties each individual negotiates as his/her hybrid racial and cultural identity challenge dominant stereotypes and static conceptions of group identity. The findings highlight nuances in meaning-making and in narrative constructions of self. For this dissertation, two sets of narratives emerged. One small group constructed narratives focused on the historical, cultural and political nature of racial identity and its intersections with class, gender and nationality--illustrating the influence that social location plays in navigating different environments marked by power dynamics. The other set of stories focused on multiple adaptation and movements within and across national borders. Both sets of narratives speak to the human capacity to assert agency and adapt to change. They also magnify the multidimensional and elasticity of identity. The implications of these findings for studying persons and groups in psychology are discussed.

  • The Ecology and Ontogeny of Odor Fear Learning

    Author:
    Patricia Kabitzke
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Christoph Wiedenmayer
    Abstract:

    Predator odors have been found to induce unconditioned fear in adult animals and provide the opportunity to study the mechanisms underlying unlearned and learned fear. The clinical application of this research is to explore the causal relationships between aversive events and psychopathologies such as PTSD. However, trauma often occurs early in life but most current investigations use adult animals in paradigms that employ stimuli with little ecological relevance in limited environmental contexts. Additionally, predator threats change across an animal's lifetime, as do abilities that enable the animal to learn or engage in different defensive behaviors. Thus, the first objective of this study was to determine the combination of factors that successfully induce unlearned fear to predator odor across development. Cat odor effectively induced fear-related behavior across development using the behavioral measure of freezing, especially in infant (PN14) and juvenile (PN26) rats. Once these parameters were understood, they were exploited to develop a learning paradigm to predator odors that could be used in early life. Cat odor produced unlearned, innate fear in infant and juvenile rats, but contextual fear learning occurred only in juveniles. The mechanisms underlying the development of this learning in early life were then explored. It was hypothesized that contextual fear learning is mediated by norepinephrine. Systemic injections of the â-adrenergic antagonist propranolol before exposure to the cat odor reduced the unlearned fear response and memory acquisition whereas injection of propranolol after exposure to cat odor inhibited contextual fear learning in juvenile rats. We suggest that NE mediates the formation of contextual fear memories by activation of the transcription factor CREB in the hippocampus in juveniles but not in infants. Levels of phosphorylated CREB (pCREB) were increased in the dorsal and ventral hippocampus in juvenile, but not infant, rats that had been exposed to cat odor but not in animals exposed to a control odor. Further, propranolol blocked these increases in pCREB. Taken together, these results indicate that, although innate fear occurs within the neonatal period, contextual fear learning is a relatively late-occurring event, is hippocampal dependent, and mediated by norepinephrine.

  • Telework and Organizational Citizenship Behaviors: The Underexplored Roles of Social Identity and Professional Isolation

    Author:
    Lauren Kane
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Kristin Sommer
    Abstract:

    Although telework--a flexible work arrangement in which employees work from a remote location at least some of the time--has been increasing in practice, little research has investigated its implications for employee behaviors and performance. The main focus of this study was to identify the mediating processes that explain the relationship between telework frequency and OCB performance, and to determine whether personality moderates the psychological consequences of teleworking. Survey data were collected from 286 teleworkers and 62 of their coworkers across organizations from a range of industries, jobs, and locations. Coworkers were recruited in order to assess teleworkers' OCBs, but OCBs were also measured via teleworkers' self-reports, as coworker ratings were more difficult to obtain. Two mediational processes were investigated: teleworkers' perceptions of professional isolation, and their identification with their work group and their organization. Individual differences in proactive personality and need to belong were also assessed. Hypotheses positioning professional isolation and identification as partial mediators of the telework-OCB link were not supported. Also contrary to predictions, the personality variables of proactive personality and need to belong did not moderate the relationship between telework and these proposed mediators. However, a serial mediator model provided a better fit to the data. In this revised model, telework frequency was positively related to professional isolation, which was negatively related to both organizational and work group identification, which were subsequently positively related to self-rated OCBs. Telework frequency also bore a direct, positive relationship to identification when controlling for the effects of professional isolation. Lastly, there was a negative direct effect of telework frequency on self-rated OCBs, suggesting that the more frequently individuals teleworked, the fewer OCBs they tended to perform, even after controlling for the mediational roles of professional isolation and social identification. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.

  • COGNITIVE CONTROL AND CONFLICT PROCESSES IN GERIATRIC DEPRESSION

    Author:
    Theodora Kanellopoulos
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Lisa Ravdin
    Abstract:

    Major depressive disorder is often accompanied by disturbances in aspects of cognitive control that impair goal-directed behavior. In particular, depressed individuals have been found to have deficits in conflict processing, which manifest as inadequate inhibition of maladaptive environmental stimuli and thought patterns. Insufficient cognitive inhibition of irrelevant negative information may contribute to, and perpetuate the depressive syndrome. Prior studies have hypothesized that the neural network that underlies conflict processing consists of the dorsal anterior cingulate and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This network has been shown to be compromised by depression in young adults, as well as by the aging process. However, the temporal properties of conflict processing, within this conflict-control network, have not been fully examined in geriatric depression. In this study, the N2 event-related potential was recorded during a Stroop paradigm administered to 44 depressed and 24 healthy older adults. Depressed subjects exhibited smaller N2 amplitudes to incongruent relative to congruent stimuli. Among healthy non-depressed subjects, there was no difference in N2 amplitudes between conditions. Notably, there were no overall differences in task accuracy or reaction time between the depressed and non-depressed groups. Larger N2 amplitudes were associated with executive dysfunction (i.e., poorer performance on a set-shifting measure) in healthy older adults; however, this relationship was not observed in the depressed group. These results suggest that neural processing abnormalities within the conflict-control network may exist in geriatric depression, above and beyond those attributable to normal age related changes. Furthermore, alternate neural networks may be recruited for successful conflict processing in depressed older adults. Additional characterization of abnormalities within specific conflict processing networks, as well as examination of how these abnormalities relate to the course and treatment of depression can help inform pharmacological and psychotherapeutic interventions.

  • THE RELATIONSHIP AMONG ATTENTION, DAILY BEHAVIOR AND DISEASE SEVERITY IN PATIENTS WITH ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE

    Author:
    Lillian Kaplan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Nancy Foldi
    Abstract:

    Introduction: Complex instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) and basic activities of daily living (BADL) are typically impaired in Alzheimer disease (AD). It is unclear, however, how attention versus global cognitive impairments selectively impact functional decline. We hypothesized that performance on attention tasks would predict functional impairment, and specifically be predictive of IADL. Method: Twenty-seven newly-diagnosed participants with AD were assessed on (1) global cognition: Mattis Dementia Rating Scale-2 (DRS-2); (2) attention: a) RT on simple detection, b) covert orienting, c) speed and errors on executive attention, D-KEFS Trail Making Test (TMT) Condition-4; (3) a) caregiver ratings of IADL/BADL: Modified Lawton-Brody, Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI). Results: Forty eight percent of the participants had only IADL impairment, while the remaining participants had both IADL and BADL deficits. There were no differences in demographics or cognitive status between those with and without BADL deficits. Hierarchical regression revealed that errors on the TMT Condition- 4 accounted for the majority of IADL variability. After accounting for the TMT Condition-4 errors, the changes in variability of IADL associated with DRS-2 and NPI were minimal. Neither global cognitive scores nor attentional measures predicted BADL performance. Conclusions: IADL impairments are primary deficits at the time of diagnosis of AD, and as hypothesized, a measure of executive attention best predicted the variable daily demands of IADL. As global cognitive scores did not predict the more variable IADL impairment, these findings suggest that measures of higher executive attention are more sensitive to IADL, and may better inform clinicians and caregivers of potential difficulty with daily tasks faced by patients with early AD.