Alumni Dissertations and Theses

 
 

Alumni Dissertations and Theses

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  • RELIGION, SPIRITUALITY AND THE FAMILY IN THE LIVES OF AFRICAN AMERICAN ELDERLY MEN

    Author:
    Rhea Benjamin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Steve Tuber
    Abstract:

    The purpose of this study was to provide information about the ways in which African American elderly men raised in the South in Mississippi, during the height of Segregation, managed to survive and live successful lives. The study seeks to illustrate how these men incorporated religion, spirituality and their families as sources of strength and psychological buffers against the many adversarial circumstances that they faced. Qualitative data were drawn from the interviews of eleven subjects, representative of stellar examples of success within their communities. The method of analysis was grounded theory developed by Glaser and Straus. Patterns that emerged from the data were sorted, categorized and identified as codes. An analysis of the codes revealed the following major findings regarding these men. For these men life in Mississippi was limited and difficult because of Segregation. As a result their options about how they would live their lives were gravely influenced and they were under threat of danger on a daily basis. The findings also suggest that these men used religious affiliation, which in many instances is culturally inherent, as a means to cope with the psychological pressures as well as seeking support from their family, and community. Despite the circumstances these men went through, there is much to learn from black males who do thrive. In my sample of now elderly black men, I suggest that these men were able to negotiate and withstand horrific trials, similar to the present day challenges being faced because of a belief in a higher power and deep faith in religion. The study seeks to highlight the ways that these men have used their belief in God to lead successful lives.

  • The Impact of Emotions on Stereotyping and Discrimination in Workplace Selection: The Role of Certainty Appraisals

    Author:
    Daniel Benkendorf
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Kristin Sommer
    Abstract:

    In the present studies, an appraisal tendency approach (e.g., Lerner & Keltner, 2000, 2001) was adopted to make predictions regarding the role of emotional certainty in the use of stereotypes in a workplace context. This approach suggests that emotional certainty increases reliance on heuristic processing strategies, as evidenced by greater use of stereotypes. The current research examined stereotypes associated with physical attractiveness (Studies 1 & 3) and age (Study 2). In Studies 1 and 2, participants completed an emotional memory task designed to induce one of four specific emotions representing two different levels of emotional certainty. They then reviewed interview footage, a résumé, and qualifying criteria before rating the hypothetical job candidate's personality and employability. In Study 3, participants completed four measures of dispositional emotion: anger, fear, happiness, and hope. All other features of the study were identical to Study 1. In Study 1, emotions high in certainty (compared to uncertainty) led to more favorable personality and employability ratings for attractive (compared to unattractive) candidates. In Study 2, the same pattern of results emerged for younger (compared to older) candidates. However, in Study 3, contrary to predictions, trait emotions characterized by high certainty (compared to uncertainty) did not lead to more favorable personality and employability ratings for attractive (compared to unattractive) candidates. Taken together, the findings contribute to a growing literature suggesting that certainty appraisals, when associated with temporary, incidental emotions, are a useful predictor of the likelihood that stereotypes will be applied in decision-making.

  • The Effects Of Certain And Uncertain Reinforcement Procedures On The Quiz Submission And Performance Of College Students

    Author:
    Melody Berkovits
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Alicia Alvero
    Abstract:

    College instructors often provide homework so that their students can review class material; however some students do not take advantage of these review opportunities. This study compared the effects of a certain reward and a lottery reward on the quiz submission rates and accuracy of 112 college students. In Baseline, quizzes were for practice only and had no programmed contingency; in the Certain condition, two extra credit points were available for submission of a perfect quiz; and in the Lottery condition, students who submitted a perfect quiz were entered into a lottery with one winner (actual probability varied) for two points of extra credit. Submission rates averaged 36.50% for Baseline, 62.00% for Certain and 51.67% for Lottery. A one-way repeated measures ANOVA, followed by Fisher's LSD, found the differences in submission rates between all conditions to be significant at the .0001 level. Accuracy rates averaged 82.82% for Baseline, 93.80% for Certain and 93.99% for Lottery. A one-way repeated measures ANOVA, followed by Fisher's LSD found the mean score for the Baseline condition to be significantly lower than the mean scores for the Certain and Lottery conditions (p < .01), but did not find a significant difference between the latter two conditions (p < .05). This study demonstrates that when all other factors (e.g. magnitude) are equal, certain rewards are more effective than lottery rewards at increasing quiz submissions. It is possible that the lottery was less effective than the certain reward, due to the uncertainty (indirect contingency) inherent in the Lottery condition. These results have implications for business settings that use lottery rewards in an attempt to motivate a large number of employees at low costs. Future research should examine the roles of magnitude, probability and contingency in predicting the relative effectiveness of a lottery reward.

  • Fructose-conditioned flavor preferences in the rat: dopaminergic and opioid substrates in the nucleus accumbens and amygdala

    Author:
    Sonia Bernal
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Richard Bodnar
    Abstract:

    Systemic dopamine (DA) D1 (SCH23390) and D2 (raclopride) receptor antagonists reduce acquisition and expression of fructose-conditioned flavor preferences (CFP) in rats. Given DA involvement in nucleus accumbens shell (NAcS) and amygdala (AMY) in learning of food reward, the first and second aims examined whether NAcS or AMY D1 or D2 antagonism altered acquisition and expression of fructose-CFP. In expression, food-restricted rats with bilateral NAcS or AMY cannulae were trained to drink a flavored fructose (8%) and saccharin (0.2%) solution or another flavored 0.2% saccharin solution. Two-bottle tests with both flavors in saccharin solutions occurred 10 min following NAcS or AMY doses of 0, 12, 24 or 48 nmol of SCH23390 or raclopride. CFP expression following vehicle (76-77%) was significantly reduced by SCH23390 (48 nmol: NAcS, 62%; AMY, 66%) and raclopride (NAcS: 24 nmol, 63%; 48 nmol, 68%). In acquisition, rats received 12 nmol of SCH23390 (D1) or raclopride (D2) in the NAcS or AMY 10 min prior to one-bottle training sessions. Yoked controls received vehicle with limited CS intakes, whereas untreated controls were not injected or limited. Two-bottle tests revealed initial CFP in all groups that remained stable in untreated and yoked controls, but were lost over six test sessions in the AMY D1 and NAcS D1 and D2 groups. Thus, D1 and D2 receptor blockade in the NAcS and AMY significantly attenuated expression, but not initial acquisition of fructose-CFP, and hastened extinction of fructose-CFP. Systemic naltrexone (NTX), an opioid receptor antagonist, suppressed sweet intake, but failed to affect acquisition or expression of fructose-CFP. Because opioids in the NAc and AMY are implicated in food reward, the third and fourth aims examined whether NTX in these sites altered expression of fructose-CFP. Food-restricted rats with bilateral NAc or AMY cannulae were trained and tested in identical protocols using NTX doses of 0, 1, 25 or 50 ug. Significant CFP was observed following all NTX doses in all sites. Thus, DA, but not opioids modulate flavor-flavor conditioning through a regionally-distributed limbic brain network.

  • The Effects of Changing Values of Concurrent Fixed Ratio Schedules on Mand Allocation in Children with Autism

    Author:
    Haven Bernstein
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Peter Sturmey
    Abstract:

    Teaching situations with children with autism usually involve concurrent schedules of reinforcement. During concurrent schedules, manipulation of the schedule of reinforcement for one response affects the occurrence of alternative responses. This study evaluated the effects of four sets of unequal and one set of equal concurrent fixed-ratio schedules on the allocation of two mands in three children with autism. All three participants emitted a higher rate of mands for a highly preferred item than for a less preferred item determined by an initial preference assessment during a concurrent FR1/FR1 schedule. All participants increased mands for the less preferred item when the schedule value for mands for the highly preferred item was at some value greater than FR1. In terms of behavioral economics, positive cross price demand for the less preferred item as a function of increasing FR values for mands for the highly preferred item showed that all three participants substituted a less preferred item for a highly preferred item. This substitution, along with a negative own price demand for the highly preferred item as a function of increasing FR values for mands for that item, indicated some degree of demand elasticity for the highly preferred item. In addition, an increase in response variability measured by the number of switches from one mand to the other accompanied the increase in mands for the less preferred item at FR values greater than FR1 for the highly preferred item for two of the three participants. Comparison of measures of demand elasticity to more traditional measures of matching and maximization show that the former provides a more detailed account of response allocation during concurrent schedules. These finding have implications for the use of behavioral economics in the analysis of behavior change interventions during concurrent schedules in applied settings where a single behavior occurs at an inappropriate frequency and in the absence of desirable alternative behaviors.

  • Individual Differences in Electric Fishes: An Animal Model of Personality

    Author:
    Rebecca Berry
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Christopher Braun
    Abstract:

    Individual differences in animals have recently been described in behavioral ecology as behavioral syndromes: suites of correlated behaviors within individuals that are consistent across environmental situations. A central idea behind the behavioral syndromes approach is that behaviors do not occur in isolation; rather, they are integrated with other behaviors within the limited biological machinery of one individual. Electric fish are ideally suited for studies of behavioral syndromes because their behavior can be easily measured and tracked due to their unique electric organ discharges (EODs). It is also a good system to present realistic electric signals that mimic social interactions. Using a cohort of 22 Microsternarchus sp. a neotropical knifefish, we carried out a series of behavioral experiments, including a) a free exploration experiment, b) a terrestrial challenge, c) a novelty response experiment, d) a playback experiment with an aggressive sympatric species, and e) a jamming avoidance experiment. With the exception of the playback experiment, all were performed twice on all available individuals over the course of two years. Behavioral responses including EOD rate, locomotor activity, responses to novel as well as threatening stimuli, and reaction times were measured. Through principal components analysis and correlational analysis we determined that Microsternarchus sp. exhibit behavioral syndromes in activity, reactivity, aggression/dominance and possibly behavioral flexibility, integrating electric signaling behaviors with components of exploratory behavior and responses to stimuli. For example, individuals with the highest EOD rates spent more time swimming around a novel environment, than individuals with lower EOD rates, thus these behaviors form part of an activity syndrome.

  • Producing Bodies, Knowledge, and Community in Everyday Civilian Struggle over Surveillance

    Author:
    Michelle Billies
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Michelle Fine
    Abstract:

    In a global context of rapidly expanding security practices, those cast as social threats are themselves often most risk of harm. In this dissertation, I develop the concept surveillance threat (ST) to describe the perception or experience of impending or actual harm faced by targeted civilians when they are stopped or screened by law enforcement. Singled out by race and other lines of sociocultural force, those stopped risk physical, legal, sexual, and spatial consequences. Yet focusing solely on the risk of harm limits the full meaning of this encounter. As I show in my research, civilians persistently struggle against these threats. Using the police practice of "stop and frisk" in New York City as a case study, I analyze ST and civilian response from the civilian perspective. In my mixed methods approach, I bring together survey and narrative data on stop and frisk, widening the unit of analysis from unidirectional harm to multidirectional struggle. Shifting attention to the interaction as a dynamic reframes these relations of power as more than a simple, imbalanced opposition. Instead, based on my findings, I theorize an embodied civilian psychology of responsiveness to threat that enables those targeted to engage the encounter as an active site of conflict. I find civilians consistently claim their rights, protect themselves and others, assert social power, construct critical knowledge, and pursue justice. Applying Abu Lughod's (1990) insight <“>where there is resistance, there is power,<”> I then study how civilians enact urban civil life through their interactions with police, recognizing a collective imaginary civilians draw on to influence the conditions of their daily lives. With concern for the ways police practice is restructuring urban environments by enforcing particular raced sexualities and genders, I bring a special focus to civilian constructions of racialized, sexual, and gender-infused space.

  • Meaning Making at the Interface of Gender, Disability, and Policy: Physically Disabled Women in London and Coventry, England Explore the Covention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

    Author:
    Heidi Bjorgan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Anna Stetsenko
    Abstract:

    Historically, persons with disabilities are socially, culturally, and economically underprivileged and neglected worldwide (WHO, 2006, 2011) and this is especially true of women with disabilities. The intersection between women's gender and their disabilities, although overlooked for many decades, has been described as the phenomenon of a dual handicap. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD, 2006) was created to protect the rights of all people with disabilities and, for the first time in history, identified women with disabilities as a population that has unique rights and needs that warrant special legislation and protection. This qualitative study explores the lived experiences of physically disabled women living in England, while contextualizing them within the discourse on disability rights within the sociocultural and historical-political context (England). The lived experiences of physically disabled women are posited to be mediated by human rights documents as well as by political discourses and practices that surround and accompany these documents. Framed in socio-historical cultural theory (Vygotsky, 1978) and Bakhtin's (1986) dialogical works, this study investigates how policy documents are meaning-making systems (Daiute, 2008, 2010) that shape and serve as the tools to organize and frame disabled women's experiences. Narratives collected through group meetings with 18 physically disabled women in London and Coventry, England, were first analyzed using a values analysis (Daiute, Stern, & Lelutiu-Weinberger, 2003) to understand the interactions between the CRPD and women's lives. Then a discourse analysis of group narratives and policy documents (Daiute, 2008) was conducted across the CRPD (2006) and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1979) as activity- meaning making systems. Finally, a historical analysis of disability and gender within the UK and the UN was conducted. The major findings indicate that the intersection of gender and disability is historically absent within UK and UN activity-meaning systems (Daiute, 2008, 2010) as enacted in the CRPD and CEDAW treaty. The values analysis revealed disability and diversity education at local levels (schools, councils, hospitals) and their own participation in local politics, specifically for Lambeth, with a high level of value expressions. Surprisingly, both groups given their right to have a family and a home took an opposing view to the CRPD values. Interestingly, both groups described social practices such as staring, being ignored by others as being issues within their daily lived experiences, but still provided a subjective view to Article 6: Women and Disabilities. The study suggests that there is a need for further research on disabled women's perspectives and experiences within the discourse of human rights in order to develop socio-political practices that support rather than isolate disabled women.

  • Place Attachment and Mobility in the Lives of HIV positive Men

    Author:
    Libby Black
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Susan Saegert
    Abstract:

    This study explored how transformative effects of an HIV diagnosis inform our sense of place and connectedness to a setting/place attachment and the influence on our use and movement in social space. Using Bourdieu's Sociological perspective I explored the notion of `knowing' or `habitus,' by investigating the nature of a person's position and the conditioning (social learning) of that position which can be viewed as a transformative process that effects, changes, and creates both the position and the conditions that govern practice. Methods: The research included semi structured interviews and (2) focus groups, where one set of groups had the specific objectives of the study disclosed to them, and the researcher surveyed the respondents on the types of questions and information they believed needed to be collected to capture their sense of social space. The final group was presented with the results of the initial group and asked to critique and inform the results. A total of 36 subjects were interviewed or were a part of the focus groups. Using cognitive mapping, I explored the places they frequent, noting physical settings, how these settings were used, evaluated and perceived and how they spent their time. Research findings: The findings reveal themes related to respondents' sense of place and connectedness and their sense of connection to those people and places they deem significant. There are examples of life philosophies that appear connected to positioning and are connected in influential ways to ones sense of `constriction' or `expansion.' When dealing with socially impoverished, isolated men, and their HIV diagnosis, their positioning and conditioning in social space, it appears their `situatedness' directly effects and instructs their `practical sense,' or everyday practices and this allows creative and instructive thinking that transforms their experience of becoming HIV positive into an experience of expansion and growth. Broader, the meanings people attribute to their histories, suggests how one comes to choose, use, and is transformed by the spaces supportive of them, are themselves products of the same cultures and social structures that produce and reproduce the `practical sense' of an agent.

  • AN ITEM STIMULUS APPROACH TO UNDERSTANDING TEST ITEM DIFFICULTY

    Author:
    Victoria Blanshteyn
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Charles Scherbaum
    Abstract:

    Understanding what makes test items difficult is an important step in understanding how individuals solve items on a test and in mapping the cognitive processes that are involved. However, there remains a gap in understanding how general stimulus features of items (e.g., length of a test item) impact the difficulty of items for a range of item types. In an effort to reduce this gap, the current study tested the impact of item stimulus features on item difficulty. The proposed difficulty framework utilized the radical and incidental approach of item generation theory (e.g., Irvine, Dann, & Anderson, 1990), which allows items to be decomposed into the factors that are hypothesized to impact difficulty as well as examine the impact of different item stimulus features on difficulty. To test the proposed framework, the current paper incorporated linear latent trait modeling (Fischer, 1973), an IRT-based analytical approach that expresses item difficulty in terms of underlying factors of stimulus complexity rather than individual parameters. Results indicate that certain item stimulus features, including language ambiguity, negative wording, constructed-response items, and colloquial knowledge impact item difficulty. Implications for test development are discussed.