Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

Filter Dissertations and Theses By:

 
 
  • Finding Nature in the City: A Case Study of Ecological Restoration in an Urban Park

    Author:
    Elizabeth Kocs
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    William Kornblum
    Abstract:

    This dissertation presents a case study of ecological restoration in an urban park, using a mixed-methods methodology that included a survey instrument, open-ended interviews, behavioral and trace observations, and modified grounded theory methodology for data analysis. The purpose of the study was to identify values that users of four ecologically restored areas of Chicago's Lincoln Park associated with their use of the park areas and to determine the extent to which they experienced contact with nature while visiting the areas. The study was conducted within the framework of a post-occupancy evaluation (POE) of the restoration projects, the Lincoln Park Evaluation Study in the College of Architecture, Design and the Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago, which was commissioned by the U.S. Forest Service. The author, the principal investigator for the POE, developed a set of ten values or benefits associated with park use that were included in the survey instrument and informed the onsite, open-ended interviews with park users--beauty, solitude, tranquility, recreation, health, contact with nature, habitat preservation/restoration, community identity, public life, tourism, and other (to allow respondents to add their own values to the list). The results of the study indicate that users valued contact with nature and habitat restoration most, followed closely by tranquility, solitude, and beauty, with health and recreation next and public life and community identity trailing all others. No new values were added. Data analysis suggested that respondents fell roughly into two camps, those who valued contact with nature most and those who valued habitat restoration most. Respondents who selected tranquility, solitude, or beauty as important values viewed them as secondary to contact with nature or habitat restoration because the former would be unavailable without the latter. The study's results complicates the dichotomy between natural and built environments, as respondents praised the restored areas--arguably built environments--as refuges from the city. A theme that emerged from qualitative data analysis suggests that ecological restoration of urban parks might be related to nature-identities, emotional bonds with types of natural areas, calling for future research to determine the relationship between urban nature and urban residents' nature-identities.

  • WORKING IN THE BUSINESS OF PLEASURE: STIGMA RESISTANCE AND COPING STRATEGIES UTILIZED BY INDEPENDENT FEMALE ESCORTS

    Author:
    Juline Koken
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Jeffrey Parsons
    Abstract:

    The stigma attached to prostitution, as well as the nature of the labor itself, place unique demands on the coping resources of female sex workers. The purpose of this study is to qualitatively identify and explore the strategies used by Internet-based independent female sex workers to manage stigma and the emotional demands of performing sexual and emotional labor, as well as to identify potential relationships between reported coping strategies, demographic characteristics and outcomes on measures of emotional well-being. In-depth interviews were conducted with a diverse sample of 30 female Internet sex workers. Women also completed a measure of burnout, safer sex practices with clients, and demographic information which informed the qualitative analysis. The women in the sample drew on approach and avoidance focused coping strategies to manage the demands of their work as well as work related stigma, and coping strategies were thematically different between women high and low in burnout. Women of color were more likely than white women to meet criteria for burnout and reported confronting racism and discrimination on the job. The majority of the women reported managing the impact of stigma by telling few or no loved ones about their work; many reported feeling socially isolated as a result. Implications: the stigma associated with prostitution impacts the mental health of sex workers and may lead to an increased risk of burnout and social isolation. Women of color face an additional stressor in the form of racism and discrimination on the job. Women lower in burnout expressed greater job satisfaction and enhanced self-efficacy for coping with work related stress; social policy on sex work should attend to the diversity of women's experiences in sex work and the role that venue, race, and class may play in shaping these experiences.

  • PSYCHOSOCIAL SEQUELAE OF HOMICIDE AMONG MURDER VICTIMS' FAMILY MEMBERS: AN APPRAISAL OF DEPRESSION, GRIEF, AND POSTTRAUMATIC STRESS

    Author:
    Sarah Kopelovich
    Year of Dissertation:
    2015
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    L. Thomas Kucharski
    Abstract:

    The current investigation explored what is known regarding the psychological sequelae of the post-homicide experience for murder victims' family members and friends (MVFM). Participants were also asked about whether they felt they had attained closure, a term which populates anecdotal and theoretical accounts of MVFM's experience. Previous literature guided a theoretical definition of closure as a dimensional construct that represents adaptive functioning following a murder, and includes (1) absence of disabling symptomatology, (2) absence of ruminations about the event or murder victim, and (3) subjective return to baseline functioning. This quasi-experiment consisted of a between-subjects cross-sectional design. The dependent variable (DV) was the post-homicide psychological functioning of the participant, consisting of (1) depressive, posttraumatic stress, and complicated grief symptomatology as well as (2) self-reports of closure. The independent variable (IV) is the perpetrators' case disposition. Participants (N = 92) were recruited via organizations that serve MVFM as well as a sample of MVFM selected from a random sample of death row inmates. All participants were administered a structured interview and standardized psychodiagnostic measures by telephone. Of the total sample, 33% of the participants' offenders were sentenced to LWOP, 25% to death (25.0%), 14.1% to a sentence less than LWOP, and 2.2% were found Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity. Twenty-three (25.0%) participants' offenders did not qualify for a penal sentence, as the case was unsolved (n = 10), the trial or sentencing phase was in process (n = 7), or the offender took his or her own life during the course of the murder (n = 4). Participants were, on average, approximately 15 years post-homicide at the time of the interview. Participants were diverse with regard to age and geography, but were disproportionately female (83.7%) and Caucasian (81.5%). The results of the current study indicated that participants were highly symptomatic, with particularly high rates of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Complicated Grief. Few MVFM were amenable to endorsing closure regardless of penal sentence. Sentence of the offender was correlated with PTSD scores and was uncorrelated with scores of depression, complicated grief, and quality of life. The results of the current study suggest a conceptual distinction between these often conflated diagnoses for this population and impart empirical insight into the commonly-held yet largely untested assumption that the DP serves a restorative, if not psychologically rehabilitative, function for survivors.

  • DISSIMILARITY FROM MANAGERS AND PEERS: LACK OF EFFECT ON ATTITUDINAL OUTCOMES

    Author:
    Joseph Kovatch
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    HAROLD GOLDSTEIN
    Abstract:

    The study explored whether dissimilarity between employees and managers or from peer to peer influence attitudes towards an organization and postulated mediating variables in an attempt to help explain the connection using responses to survey data collected in 1999. Specifically it considered the effects of gender, ethnicity, tenure and functional differences as independent variables. Proposed mediators include opportunities for skill enhancement, managerial effectiveness, communication, and workgroup cohesion (in the peer condition). Satisfaction and voluntary turnover acted as dependent variables and the measures of attitudes. Some 27,697 respondents contributed to the manager/employee dyad condition and 4,191 responses formed the workgroup condition sample. Large sample size coupled with low correlation magnitudes suggest a lack of support for hypotheses suggesting dissimilarity and heterogeneity would have an influence on attitudinal outcomes. Partialling out the effects of mediating variables from the independent / dependent relationship generally failed to produce a meaningful reduction. Conversely, mediating variables correlated strongly with satisfaction. Conclusions suggest that surface-level dissimilarity and heterogeneity variables may have only a modest and perhaps fleeting influence on the variables proposed as mediators as well as attitudinal outcomes. All four variables proposed as mediators strongly correlated with satisfaction.

  • A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF REPRESENTATIONS FOR EXECUTIVE FUNCTION IN THE CONTEXT OF HIV MEDICATION ADHERENCE AND METHAMPHETAMINE USE

    Author:
    William Kowalczyk
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Sarit Golub
    Abstract:

    The current research seeks to clarify the relationship between executive function and the behaviors of medication adherence and methamphetamine use in HIV+ men who have sex with men. Executive function is impaired by HIV, and those impairments are associated with difficulties in adherence. Difficulties in adherence lead to greater disease burden and more impairment. Methamphetamine contributes to the problem by exacerbating executive function directly, and by impacting executive function indirectly through disease progression related to poorer adherence, less effective treatment, and by directly increasing the replication rate of HIV. Executive function is the process by which distinct cognitive functions are coordinated in order to direct behavior towards a goal. The construct of executive function and many of the neuropsychological tests used to measure it are multifaceted in nature, making it difficult to delineate specific components of executive function. This inability to accurately differentiate components creates a barrier to targeted intervention development for impacting executive function problems that may lead to nonadherence and methamphetamine use. The present study operationalized executive function in three ways: a) by using individual neuropsychological test variables; b) by averaging individual variables to create a executive domain NPZ score, the standard for the current literature; and c) by using factor scores created through exploratory factor analysis of the individual neuropsychological test variables. These three methods were compared in their association with demographic variables, methamphetamine-use characteristics, disease progression, and adherence variables. The factor analysis yielded a six-factor solution: Executive Inhibition, Decision Making/ Reinforcement Processing, Wisconsin Card Sorting Test Performance, Motor Impulsivity, Slowness of Processing, and Sustained Attention. All three methods for operationalizing executive function predicted adherence behavior while controlling for methamphetamine dependence severity. However, the comparison of the three representations of executive function demonstrated the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. Analyzing the relationship between executive function and HIV-related health behaviors using neuropsychological test variables individually retained specificity, but lacked statistical predictive power. The executive domain NPZ score was a powerful predictor, demonstrating a relationship between executive function and adherence even when controlling for demographic factors. However, this method lacked specificity and was sensitive to misinterpretation. The factor scores were not as powerful, but greatly added to the interpretability of function associated with HIV-related health behavior. These three methods for operationalizing executive function all retain some value for predicting HIV-related health behaviors. The factor scores provide an intermediate level of power between individual scores and an executive domain NPZ score. Most importantly, the convergent and divergent evidence provided by the factor loadings increases the confidence that the factor scores are measuring specific delineated functions than. Clarifying the relationship between specific functions and health behavior is the first step in paving the way to targeting executive function difficulties for intervention development in HIV+ persons.

  • Biological motion processing in typical development and in the autism spectrum

    Author:
    Aaron Krakowski
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    John Foxe
    Abstract:

    Biological motion (BM) analysis and interpretation is a fundamental process of human neurocognition that has been only minimally explored neurophysiologically. In addition to its importance in understanding the underlying roots and development of social cognition, BM processing is a prime candidate domain for exploring the underlying etiology of social cognitive disorders such as the autism spectrum. In an initial experiment, typical adults observed BM point-light displays of a human actor (UM) as well as their spatially scrambled counterparts (SM), in both an unattended distractor task as well as an explicit attention task. Results showed a neurophysiological response manifested as three phases of activity over parieto-occipital sites: an early (100-200 ms) automatic phase that was task-invariant; a mid-level activity (200-350 ms) that was amplified by attention; and a later phase of activation (400-500 ms) that only manifested when BM was explicitly attended. In contrast, in follow-up experiments with typically-developing children (TDs), BM processing that distinguished UM, SM, and inverted motion (IM) occurred later (250 ms onward) and appeared as only one contiguous window of activation that was unaffected by attention. It was also observed that children with an autism spectrum disorder (cASD) demonstrated both typical BM behavioral ability as well as typical BM-related electrophysiological activity as manifest in the interactions between group and the three BM stimulus-responses (UM, IM, SM). Notably, all three stimulus-responses individually generated similarly distinct between-group effects from quite early (129 ms) suggestive of more general visual processing dysfunctions in the disorders. In addition, a more powerful secondary analysis detected between-group effects even in the differences between the responses evoked by the UM and SM conditions, suggesting the presence of specific BM-processing dysfunctions in ASD. The role of such sensory deficits in the development of social impairments in the disorders such as in theory-of-mind is discussed.

  • PSYCHOMETRIC PROPERTIES OF A MULTICHANNEL BATTERY FOR THE ASSESSMENT OF EMOTIONAL PERCEPTION

    Author:
    William Krause
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Joan Borod
    Abstract:

    Perceiving the emotions of others is an important, even critical, skill for success in social interactions. The lack of this skill has been associated with decreased social competence and poor interpersonal relationships (Shimokawa et al., 2001). It frequently co-occurs with psychopathology. Furthermore, there is a large and rapidly growing literature examining the neural substrates of emotional processing. Studies have examined the processing of particular emotions, as well as how emotions conveyed through different modalities are processed. The New York Emotion Battery (NYEB; Borod, Welkowitz, & Obler, 1992) includes tests for the perception of eight discrete emotions across three communication channels: facial, prosodic, and lexical. The NYEB has been used to study psychiatric and neurological conditions, as well as normal aging. For the current study, data were collected from 122 healthy, right-handed adults, ages 20-89. Paarticipants completed emotion perception and nonemotional control tasks from the NYEB. Perceptual tasks included both identification and discrimination of emotion. All participants completed a screening battery which included measures of cognitive, perceptual, and affective functioning. The aims of the current study were: 1) To establish the internal consistency reliability and construct validity of the NYEB. 2) To examine the structure of its observed and latent variables and compare those structures to theory. 3) To describe any demographic or response biases of the NYEB. Results indicated that the NYEB has very good internal consistency for identification tasks, but lower internal consistency for discrimination tasks. Performance on the NYEB (both overall and in its identification subtests) is strongly determined by a general factor of emotion perception ability. Individual identification subtests often display a moderately strong second factor, but are still good measures of general emotional perception ability. Analysis of hierarchical grouping of the battery's emotions provides support for the approach/withdrawal classification of emotions (as it relates to perceived emotions). Individual emotions varied in how accurately they were perceived and how frequently they were named in responses. Overall, the NYEB has good psychometric properties, should be a valid and useful instrument for assessing emotion perception deficits in psychopathology, and has potential to be adapted into an abbreviated form.

  • NEUROANATOMICAL AND BEHAVIORAL CHARACTERIZATION OF MICE DEFICIENT IN HEPARIN-BINDING GROWTH-ASSOCIATED MOLECULE

    Author:
    Jason Krellman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Susan Croll
    Abstract:

    Heparin-binding growth-associated molecule (HB-GAM) is an extra-cellular matrix-associated protein involved in a variety of neurodevelopmental processes that has neurotrophic and neuroprotective effects. Previous studies suggest that HB-GAM knockout mice exhibit cognitive inflexibility, anxiety, and motor impairment and that the brains of these animals possess increases in cortical neuronal density. Collectively, these features are most similar to the pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs). Therefore, the current studies sought to further characterize the neuroanatomical and behavioral phenotype of HB-GAM knockouts within the context of the hypothesis that these animals might serve as an animal model of the PDDs. Consistent with this hypothesis, HB-GAM knockouts demonstrated cognitive inflexibility, heightened anxiety, and both a contextual and social neophobia. In addition, the knockouts' brains were shown to possess cortical neuronal area decreases and cortical neuronal packing density increases. These data suggest that multiple abnormalities similar to those observed in individuals with PDDs characterize the phenotype of HB-GAM knockouts. The validity and limitations of HB-GAM knockouts as an animal model of the PDDs are discussed, as are suggestions for future studies of these animals.

  • Teaching Gaze Shifting in the Context of Requesting and Joint Attention to Toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorder

    Author:
    Ivana Krstovska-Guerrero
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Emily Jones
    Abstract:

    Impairment in eye gaze, including gaze shifting (GS) and making eye contact in early social communication is severely impaired in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This study examined the effectiveness of prompting and reinforcement to teach GS in the context of responding to a request and initiating joint attention to four toddlers with ASD. Intervention lasted 3-9 weeks with all toddlers demonstrating GS to mastery across both contexts. Toddlers also showed generalization to a repertoire of social-communication behavior, including increases in smiling. Some improvements in symptoms of autism and overall functioning were observed. Results suggest a promising brief intervention to address the earliest form of social communication that remains a part of successful social-communication interactions throughout life.

  • THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LEVEL OF EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE, EMOTIONAL AWARENESS, AND SYMPTOMS OF PSYCHOLOGICAL STRESS AMONG HOMELESS PARENTS

    Author:
    Jason Kruk
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Peter Fraenkel
    Abstract:

    This study examined the relationship between symptoms of psychological stress and levels of emotional intelligence and awareness among parents living in a homeless shelter. The literature indicates that homeless parents are exposed to a large number of stressors and traumata, but that their level of emotional intelligence and awareness may affect the degree to which they are affected by those stressors. This study is designed to explore the extent to which their emotional intelligence and level of emotional awareness is associated with their ability to exist in a traumatic environment with lower likelihood of psychological symptomatology, pathological dissociation, and demoralization. Although the study does not directly measure the relationship between emotional intelligence/emotional awareness and interpersonal coping methods, psychological symptoms, dissociation, and demoralization are symptoms of poorer psychological coping. Emotional intelligence was assessed using the Mayer/Salovey Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) and Emotional Awareness was assessed using the Levels of Emotional Awareness Scale (LEAS). Levels of psychological stress were assessed with the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI), the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES), and the Psychiatric Epidemiology and Research Interview for Demoralization (PERI-D). A negative relationship was hypothesized to exist between the measures of emotional intelligence and awareness and the measures of psychological stress. The results of this study indicate partial support for its' hypotheses. As predicted, participants in the study are contending with a greater degree of symptomatology, dissociation, and demoralization than the general population. Additionally, their affect regulatory capacity as measured by the MSCEIT and the LEAS is limited compared to the general population. A significant negative relationship between psychological stress and affect regulatory capacity was not found. However, this pattern was evident for participants who engaged in pathological forms of dissociation. The statistical power of this study was limited by the small sample size (n=42), which may have obscured small but significant correlations that were consistent with the studies' hypotheses. Therefore, future research with larger samples is needed to ascertain more precisely the nature of the relationships that may exist between these variables. Future research is needed to develop sound typologies of homeless families in order to better direct policy and intervention with this population. Additionally, longitudinal research that can ascertain the extent to which affect regulatory capacity predicts good outcomes for this population is necessary in order to further the efficacy of clinical work with these families. Finally, evaluations of programmatic interventions designed to increase emotional knowledge and general affect regulatory capacity are needed.