Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • INTERPERSONAL RHYTHMS DISRUPTED BY A HISTORY OF TRAUMA: AN IN-DEPTH CASE STUDY OF ANALYTICAL MUSIC THERAPY

    Author:
    Tanja Auf der Heyde
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Steven Tuber
    Abstract:

    Abstract INTERPERSONAL RHYTHMS DISRUPTED BY A HISTORY OF TRAUMA: AN IN-DEPTH CASE STUDY OF ANALYTICAL MUSIC THERAPY by Tanja Maud Christine Auf der Heyde Advisor: Steven Tuber, Ph.D. This dissertation project is a phenomenological study of interpersonal rhythms within the music therapy treatment of a client with a history of cumulative trauma. An attempt was made to explore whether and how rhythmic interactions within musical improvisations facilitate the repair of ruptures in such rhythms. Towards this aim, the rhythmic interactions between the two participants were analyzed to find evidence for bi-directional rhythmic co-regulation and loose mid-range coordination. Furthermore, this study tracked shifts in the client's mental state by applying a moment-to-moment analysis of the music with four Improvisation Assessment Profiles (IAPs). It was found that musical improvisation allows for ample opportunities for bi-directional co-regulation and loose mid-range coordination. Most of the mental state ratings were within the "optimal arousal state," suggesting that music does, in fact, facilitate regulation on both intrapsychic and interpersonal levels. However, this study also uncovered the importance of spontaneous and planned disruptions in rhythmic interaction, which find their musical expression in syncopations, polyrhythms, and a-rhythmic sections. These experiences are deeply embedded in the body. Thus, they provide the opportunity not only for reconnecting with one's own rhythms, and for reconstructing a disrupted expectation system within an improvisation, but also for finding agency in the playful thwarting of expectations, and for exploring the continuum of separation and connectedness in a musical relationship. In this sense, music acts as a transitional phenomenon, creating an intermediate space between inner and outer worlds. In this "third" area of experiencing, both participants align with patterns that go beyond the sum of their contributions; when this state of flow is reached, one can feel that one is played by the music as much as one is playing it. The results of this study indicate that a close rhythmic analysis of improvised interactions can help music therapists to assess the client's level of trauma as well as to tailor interventions to move them out of the repetitious rhythms of hyper- and hypoarousal. For verbal psychotherapists and psychoanalysts, the implication is that rhythmically aware, embodied listening can open up new dimensions of transference and countertransference phenomena. To this end, clinicians should pay special attention to rhythmic shifts in affect, speech, and bodily gestures.

  • EVALUATING THE INFLUENCE OF DAUBERT'S CROSS-EXAMINATION SAFEGUARD ON ATTORNEYS' AND JURORS' JUDGMENTS ABOUT SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE

    Author:
    Jacqueline Austin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Margaret Kovera
    Abstract:

    The Supreme Court's decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc clarified that federal trial judges were to serve as evidentiary gatekeepers for scientific evidence, evaluating scientific reliability when determining admissibility. When judges fail at gatekeeping and admit unreliable expert testimony, the Court expresses faith in the ability of cross-examination to reveal the reliability of testimony for jurors. For cross-examination to function as the Court intends, attorneys must recognize scientific flaws and craft cross-examination questions that expose scientific threats. Moreover, these scientifically informed cross-examinations must act as a form of scientific training for jurors. I conducted two studies to empirically examine the Court's assumptions regarding cross-examination. In Study One, 95 attorneys read a trial summary that contained expert testimony regarding an intelligence test. I varied the validity (presence v. absence of experimenter bias threat) and reliability (moderate v. high reliability indices on test-retest, inter-observer, and internal consistency scores) of the intelligence test. Attorneys provided lower ratings of scientific quality when the test was unreliable but did not craft cross-examination questions designed to expose the low reliability indices of the scientific test. Attorneys did not provide lower ratings of scientific quality when the intelligence test was invalid; however, a proportion of attorneys did craft cross-examination questions to expose the validity threat. In Study Two, I again varied the reliability and validity of the intelligence test and whether the cross-examination educated jurors about the study's flaws (scientifically informed vs. naïve). Either a judge or an attorney conducted the scientifically informed cross-examinations. Scientifically informed cross-examinations did not assist jurors with evaluating scientific reliability or validity. These studies suggest that cross-examinations may not function as a safeguard against flawed scientific evidence. Although some attorneys may be able to meet the Court's expectations, cross-examination may be an ineffective method of providing methodological training for jurors.

  • Perspective-taking Based Insights into Theory of Mind: An ERP Study

    Author:
    Elizabeth Axel
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Ray Johnson, Jr.
    Abstract:

    Theory of Mind (ToM) is defined as the ability to make inferences about another person's mental state. One account of ToM, Simulation Theory, posits that this ability is accomplished by using one's own mental processes as a model for the other person's mind. This is accomplished in a serial manner by first accessing the processes related to the self before switching to taking the perspective of the other. Hemodynamic imaging studies of ToM have provided evidence that self and perspective-taking processes depend on different brain circuits but cannot identify the temporal aspects of the processes. To determine if these processes occur in the posited serial manner, event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded while participants made evaluations either from their own perspective or from the perspective of another person (i.e., Task: Evaluation, Perspective-taking). The relatedness of the person (target) of the evaluations (i.e., Relatedness: Self, Close Other, CO, Non-Close Other, NCO) was also varied to determine if the brain areas posited to be involved in the processing of the self would be activated differentially. Thus, a three-stage, serial process was hypothesized, suggesting that the perspective-taking process requires an initial anchoring in the self, a decoupling of different perspectives (i.e., self and other) and then a late stage in which the other's perspective is maintained in order to make a decision. The results showed that RTs were similar across conditions. Recordings from 83 scalp sites revealed differential patterns of activation as a function of both Task (Evaluation, Perspective-taking) and Relatedness (Self, CO, NCO). Consistent with the "serial hypothesis," the ERP results provided evidence of three temporally distinct stages during the decision process when the various evaluation and perspective-taking tasks were compared in the electrodes corresponding to TPJ. When Evaluation and Perspective-taking judgments were compared, a first stage (i.e., 200 - 350 ms) was found in which there were no ERP differences as a function of Task, in accord with the idea that perspective-taking processes require an initial grounding in the self. In contrast, during this first stage, effects were seen as a function of Relatedness in which judgments about Self were more negative-going than judgments of CO or NCO. A second stage (400 - 600 ms) became apparent in which the lack of ERP differences between Evaluation and Perspective-taking tasks continued but now the Relatedness effects disappeared. That is, during this middle stage, the ERP activity from all conditions was similar. As a result of its timing, being interposed between the early and late stages, this middle stage may reflect the hypothesized decoupling process (i.e., shift from self to other) that was posited to occur between the self and perspective-taking stages In the third stage (700 - 850 ms) the ERP activity elicited during perspective-taking differed from that in evaluation tasks due to the addition of a negative slow potential over the temporal-parietal junction (TPJ). Relatedness effects returned in this later stage, although in this time period judgments about the self elicited more positive-going ERPs than judgments of CO or NCO. In addition, the results revealed that self-referential evaluations were marked by greater ERP activity over occipital and mid-frontal scalp very early after stimulus onset (i.e., 70 - 360 ms). Increased activity at these locations has previously been shown to reflect the level of attention devoted to stimuli indicating that self-referential evaluation engendered the highest levels of overall attention. Finally, although not addressed in models of ToM processes, the results revealed that the differences in use of control processes varied as a function of both task and the object of the decision. Specifically, compared to evaluation tasks, perspective-taking tasks elicited a larger pre-response negativity (PRN), which has been linked to the use of goal-oriented, strategic monitoring processes. Moreover, within each of these tasks, there were graded effects on the relatedness dimension in which judgments about the self required the least strategic monitoring, followed by the close other, with non-close other requiring the most. In addition, the amplitude of the medial frontal negativity (MFN), which follows the response and has been shown to reflect the residual conflict following a response, also varied as a function of both task and the object of the decision. That is, perspective taking judgments elicited larger MFNs (i.e., greater residual conflict) than evaluations and judgments about the self elicited the smallest MFN with larger MFNs for close other judgments and the largest MFNs for non-close other judgments. In sum, the ERP results from scalp sites overlying the TPJ appear to confirm the role of that brain area in ToM. More important, it was shown that the activity there is not constant during the ToM judgments but rather follows three distinct stages. Hence this supports previous hypotheses stating that the perspective-taking process involves an initial anchoring in Self before a decoupling process begins, followed by the shift to the other's perspective and suggests that the TPJ plays a role in all three of these stages. Further, we extended previous hemodynamic results by showing that the executive processes related to strategic and tactical monitoring play an important role in ToM. Taken together, the results from the present study demonstrate the value of using the ERP as a tool for studying the nature and timing of the processes used when one engages in Theory of Mind operations.

  • Attention shapes our expectations and perceptions: The neural mechanisms of top-down attention during adulthood and development

    Author:
    Snigdha Banerjee
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    John Foxe
    Abstract:

    Top-down attention is the focusing of attention at one's will through knowledge regarding a current task. There is evidence that top-down attention involves the modulation of sensory cortices by higher order regions. However, the mechanisms of top-down attention across sensory modalities, its influence on early sensory inputs, as well as interactions with motivational systems remain unclear. We performed the following set of electrophysiological experiments in typically developed adults and adolescents to examine these areas. 1) The supramodal attentional theory holds that parietally-based attentional mechanisms are shared across sensory modalities. We tested the supramodal theory by examining if lateralized parieto-occipital alpha-band activity, an established metric of top-down spatial attention, was observed in an audiospatial and visuospatial task. In support of the supramodal theory, we observed similar anticipatory alpha-band processes across auditory and visual tasks, but we also found an interaction of supramodal and sensory-specific attentional control processes. 2) There is evidence that top-down attention influences information immediately upon its arrival to sensory cortices, although there is debate in this area. In the current work, volitionally-driven top-down attention was engaged toward one of several overlapping surfaces in an illusion, in which the perceived brightness of the attended surface was enhanced. We observed the attentional enhancement of early visual evoked potentials, indicating that top-down attention shapes the earliest activations in visual cortices. 3) It is well known that motivation impacts attention, but the neural bases of these interactions remain unclear. We examined how level of interest in stimuli influenced top-down spatial attention mechanisms in typically-developing adolescents. Motivation enhanced established attentional processes during the anticipation of high vs. low interest stimuli, but also independently influenced frontal and parieto-occipital activations. These findings provide potential implications to inform clinical measures to improve impaired attentional processes in clinical populations (e.g. individuals with autism spectrum disorders). In sum, these studies revealed the powerful influence of top-down attentional control and its interacting systems on neural activations through several stages of anticipatory and post-stimulus processing during development and adulthood.

  • An Examination of Predictive Variables of Success in Mental Health Diversion Programs.

    Author:
    Virginia Barber Rioja
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Thomas Kucharski
    Abstract:

    Diversion programs were developed to ease the overrepresentation of individuals with psychiatric disorders in the criminal justice system. These programs divert individuals with mental illnesses out of jails into community treatment. Despite the increased popularity of these programs, little is known about the psychosocial, psychiatric and psychological characteristics of the diverted individuals. In addition, despite the importance of using standardized assessment instruments pre-diversion, no published study has attempted to evaluate the utility of risk assessment instruments or measures of malingering, personality or psychopathology in diverted offenders. This investigation attempted to address this gap in the literature through three different studies that (1) described a sample of 61 defendants released from jail in terms of demographical, clinical, and criminological characteristics; (2) determined the utility of the HCR-20 violence risk assessment scheme and the Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL: SV) in the prediction of diversion non-compliance, and recidivism in a sample of 120 defendants, and (3) identified alternative factors that help defendants succeed in diversion through a multiple case-study design. Results revealed that this sample consisted primarily of minority male defendants with extensive histories of prior arrests, significant histories of physical abuse, homelessness and suicidality, and co-morbid substance abuse and psychiatric disorders. The findings provided preliminary validation of the predictive validity of the HCR-20 and PCL: SV with defendants diverted to community treatment. The HCR-20 was found to be superior to the PCL: SV in predicting both non-compliance and recidivism, and the PCL: SV proved to be more useful in predicting recidivism than non-compliance. Results of multiple case-studies found a pattern of characteristics shared by participants who failed diversion regardless of HCR-20 results. These variables included history of physical abuse, family history of substance abuse or criminal behavior, levels of social support, and level of responsibility taken for the instant offence.

  • The Role of Sleep in Odor Memory Consolidation Within the Piriform Cortex

    Author:
    Dylan Barnes
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Donald Wilson
    Abstract:

    Sleep is important for memory consolidation. One potential mechanism of memory consolidation is replay, where recently formed memories are repeated during post-learning sleep. For example, the firing sequences evoked in hippocampus during learning are spontaneously replayed during bouts of slow wave sleep (SWS). The phenomenon of replay during SWS is common in many neocortical systems. Odor memory may also rely on sleep-dependent consolidation, even though olfaction is not a neocortical system. The primary olfactory (piriform) cortex is a three-layered archicortex receiving direct input from the olfactory bulb. Piriform cortical activity during slow-wave sleep-like states is modified by recent odor experiences and becomes highly coherent with the amygdala and hippocampus, suggesting a possibility of replay in the olfactory system. The goal of this research was to describe the role post-training sleep had in odor memory consolidation. The initial study utilized two different types of conditioning: standard odor fear conditioning and differential fear conditioning to examine how olfactory training can affect perceptual odor discrimination. Results from this study showed that animals that undergo differential odor fear conditioning are better able to discriminate similar odors following conditioning compared to animals that undergo standard conditioning. Furthermore, this change in perception is possible through changes in the receptive fields of individual units within the piriform cortex. The next study examined how SWS in the anterior piriform cortex is involved in olfactory memory consolidation following odor fear conditioning. The amount of time animals spent in SWS following conditioning significantly increased compared to baseline habituation days and the amount of time animals spent in SWS following learning predicted how much time they froze to the odor during testing. Finally, the last study assessed changes in both the strength and precision of olfactory memory following modifications made during post-training SWS. Imposing replay of the learned odor during post-training SWS enhanced the strength of the odor memory, while imposing replay of another odor stimulus caused animals to generalize their fear response to multiple olfactory stimuli. Taken together, these results underlie the importance of sleep in the consolidation of both the strength and precision of odor memory.

  • MINORITIES' PERCEPTIONS OF MINORITY-WHITE BIRACIALS: THE ROLE OF IDENTIFICATION FOR COGNITIVE, AFFECTIVE, AND BEHAVIORAL RESPONSES

    Author:
    Sabrica Barnett
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Daryl Wout
    Abstract:

    Research on intergroup relations has a rich history in social psychology, with scholars devoting a considerable effort investigating factors that influence stereotyping, prejudice and discriminatory behavior. The results of these studies suggest that individuals' cognitions, affect, and behaviors are affected by their own group memberships as well as the groups to which others belong. People generally view the groups that they belong to (their ingroup) positively, and view the groups that others belong to (outgroups) stereotypically (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). However, much of the research on social identification and subsequent perceptions has focused on socially distinct groups rather than groups that blur categorical boundaries. As such, there is a dearth of research on how individuals identify with and perceive people who belong to multiple racial groups. To address this gap in the literature, I investigated minorities' identification with minority-White biracials, as well as the downstream cognitive (warmth and competence stereotypes), affective (pride, shame), and behavioral (facilitation, distancing) consequences of identification across three studies. Results demonstrated that Black (Study 1) and Hispanic (Study 2) participants were equally identified with biracials and other ingroup members (Blacks, Hispanics), and were less identified with outgroup members (Whites). In contrast, White participants (Study 1) were most identified with other White people, least identified with Black people, and moderately identified with Black-White biracial people. Moreover, Black participants stereotyped Blacks and Black-White biracials as equally warm and competent (Study 1); Hispanic participants felt equally proud of and were equally willing to help Hispanics and Hispanic-White biracials (Study 2); and both Black and Hispanic participants felt equally ashamed when a Black or Hispanic and Black-White or Hispanic-White biracial person acted in a stereotypically negative manner, and wanted to distance themselves from the wrongdoer (Study 3). In contrast, minorities perceived Whites less positively across measures of stereotypes, emotions and behaviors. Finally, consistent with self-categorization theory (Turner et al., 1987), minorities' identification with minority-White biracials predicted their group-based stereotypes, emotions and behaviors. These results make an important contribution to the limited work on perceptions of biracial people, and extend previous research regarding the role of identification for intergroup perceptions.

  • Components of Emotional Experience and Reaction Time: A study of Normal Aging and Parkinson's Disease

    Author:
    Judy Barry
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Joan Borod
    Abstract:

    We examined whether valence or arousal levels affect decision and movement times in Parkinson's disease (PD) and in healthy aging. For both decision and movement time, we were interested in differences in the speed and variability in responding. We also studied whether emotional experience is altered as a result of the aging process and PD pathology. Participants included 16 young healthy adults, 15 older healthy adults, and 15 non-demented individuals with mild PD. The PD participants were tested on medication. Participants viewed pictures from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS; Lang, Bradley, & Cuthbert, 2001) differing in emotional content and performed self-report valence and arousal ratings during picture presentation. Components of reaction time (i.e., decision time [DT] and movement time [MT]) were assessed during a forced-choice reaction time task. Results demonstrated that DT and MT were differentially affected by emotional stimuli. The PD group demonstrated significantly longer and more variable DTs than did the healthy controls for negative, positive, and neutral pictures; however, only the MTs for negative and neutral images were significantly different or more variable between groups. Although DTs were longer for the older control group relative to the younger control group, MTs were equivalent between the two control groups. Evidence of altered emotional experience in PD was found, as the PD participants rated negative pictures as less negative than did healthy older adults; however, this significant difference was reduced to a trend when individuals with more severe depressive symptomatology were excluded from the analysis. In addition, high arousal images were rated as more highly arousing among the PD group when depressed individuals were not included in the analyses. There was no evidence of impaired emotional experience as a function of aging, as valence and arousal ratings were not significantly different between younger and older adults. Better understanding of emotional processing deficits, which have been associated with poorer quality of life, in healthy aging and PD may lead to a better understanding of the neural bases of emotional processing, as well as offer treatment approaches.

  • THE ROLE OF SEXUAL SATISFACTION IN COUPLE RELATIONSHIP SATISFACTION, INDIVIDUAL STRESS, AND QUALITY OF LIFE

    Author:
    Mae Basow
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Denise Hien
    Abstract:

    One variable frequently found positively associated with relationship satisfaction is sexual satisfaction. In turn, relationship satisfaction is positively associated with both reduced individual stress of each partner and with subjective quality of life. However, little research has examined the relationship among all of these variables. This study examined the possible gender differences in the associations among relationship satisfaction, sexual satisfaction, individual stress, and quality of life. Additionally, this study explored whether the frequency of sex impacts the association among relationship satisfaction and well-being (individual stress and quality of life) for men, but not for women. There were some gender differences in the findings. Specifically, results showed that for men, sexual satisfaction and sexual conflicts were associated with their relationship satisfaction, stress, and quality of life. However, for women, sexual satisfaction and sexual conflicts were not associated with their relationship satisfaction, stress, and quality of life. The results also demonstrated that for both men and women, sexual frequency was not associated with their relationship satisfaction, quality of life, and stress.

  • A Behavioral and Biopsychological Investigation of the Role of the Illusion of Control and Perseverative Chasing Between Problem and Non-problem Gamblers

    Author:
    Brett Bauchner
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Michael Lewis
    Abstract:

    The illusion of control is associated with problem gambling. The perception that one is in control of a random event, when in reality there is no control, can facilitate problem gambling behaviors. The degree or extent of control may activate physiological mechanism of increased excitation and reward that reinforce gambling. In the studies presented here, performance on simulated gambling tasks that provided varying levels gambling participation were compared to physiological measures of behavioral activation in problem gambler and nongamblers. Participants watched video clips of three horseraces scenarios that permitted different degrees of participation and control over wagering. Concurrently saliva samples were collected throughout the experiment. Salivary cortisol levels, a glucocorticoid produced in response to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activation, were increased in problem gamblers in comparison to nongamblers when they were permitted unrestricted wagering. This study provides evidence that that gamblers produce higher levels of salivary cortisol than nongamblers, only when the illusion of control is present within the gambling session. There was no difference between problem gamblers and nongamblers in cortisol production with wins or losses. No correlation was found between participants' ratings of excitability, desirability of control, and production of salivary cortisol and gambling status. In addition, levels of risk-taking and perseverative chasing (chasing after one's losses) were measured using the Balloon Analogue Risk Task using a population of gamblers and nongamblers. Gamblers were found to be both riskier and more likely to chase their losses than nongamblers. The research reported in this dissertation provides support for the hypothesis that the illusion of control and perseverative chasing are two important factors that facilitate problem gambling behavior. Given these findings, treatment strategies for problem gambling may include methods for addressing these important determinants of the behavior.