Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • An Analysis of Mulit-Media Representations of Children's Experience of War by Humanitarian Organizations

    Author:
    Aida Izadpanahjahromi
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Colette Daiute
    Abstract:

    This research examines some of the processes humanitarian organizations use to represent war-affected children. Employing discourse analysis of online imagery guided by principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and theories of child development in war, this study analyzes multi-media representations of war-affected youths in Iraq and Afghanistan from the websites of four humanitarian organizations: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Rescue Committee (IRC), War Child Canada, and Photo-voice (UK). I augment this analysis with a sampling of interviews of key informants to gain their insights about this imagery on their websites. This analysis comprises a complex system of signification that represents and communicates via three interrelated mediational components comprised of mission statements, visual archives, and reflections of key informants within each humanitarian organization. The study assesses humanitarian organizations' ability to foreground the perspectives of war-affected children and their families and to recognize the extent to which these representations reflect diverse and complex experiences of such children in the context of everyday life. This interdisciplinary approach looking across time and context, illuminates some degree of contradiction, even counter-productiveness, between the means and ends of some humanitarian organizations. Systematic analysis based on criteria from the U.N. CRC and on reflections of key informants, indicates that many images of war-affected children foreground economic and public interests (e.g., fundraising, media attention) or the interest of awareness (e.g., lobbying) at the expense of rendering passive the subjects of these images. While such a complex system of signification may appeal to donors and public awareness of sympathy, it also downplays or denies children's right to participate in their own representation and social change. Analysis of these mediational components explains how such images construct specific views of humanitarian organizations about the photographed children, clarifies the power dynamics within each organization, and the criteria in producing and choosing images. In addition to findings about the nature of images of representing children growing up in war circumstances, this dissertation contributes an analytic framework that humanitarian organizations may use to assess their multi-media communications.

  • African American Acculturation and Its Relationship to Subjective Well-Being in African American Women

    Author:
    Sharlene Jackson
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Vera Paster
    Abstract:

    The study, African American Acculturation and Its Relationship to Well-Being in African American women, investigated how African American women maintain a sense of well-being in spite of their devalued social status. One hundred-and-one, middle class, African American women from across the United States completed a demographic questionnaire, the African American Acculturation Scale (AAAS), the Cross Racial Identity Scale (CRIS), the Index of Race-Related Stress (IRRS), the Ways of Coping Questionnaire (WOCQ), the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS) and the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS). Women reporting greater affiliation with black culture and valuing of black identity reported more race-related stress, however, traditional acculturation status and an internalized black identity were not independent predictors of social support, coping efforts or well-being. An identity dominated by attitudes of black self-hatred was a significant, positive predictor of increased efforts at coping and black self-hatred was strongly and negatively correlated with well-being. Although, acculturation status was not an independent predictor of more frequent coping or greater well-being, traditional religious beliefs and practices were strongly and positively correlated with more frequent coping efforts and greater reports of well-being.

  • Parental Reflective Functioning and the Development of Self-Regulation: An Examination of the Relationship between Parental Reflective Functioning and Children's Capacity to Delay Gratification

    Author:
    Melissa Jacobs
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Arietta Slade
    Abstract:

    The ability to voluntarily delay gratification is viewed as a fundamental component of the developing self-regulatory capacities of a young child. Mischel and his colleagues' "marshmallow test" is a simple laboratory procedure designed to simulate the difficulty of voluntarily delayed gratification that has come to be viewed as a powerful diagnostic tool for illuminating stable and consequential individual differences. Fonagy and his colleagues' concept of mentalization (1991), operationalized as reflective functioning (RF), views self-regulation and mentalization as inextricably linked, emerging from one another. Parental reflective functioning (Slade, 2005) assesses a parent's capacity to mentalize about her child. The present study aimed to test the hypothesis that higher levels of parental RF as assessed on the Parent Development Interview (PDI) would be associated with better delay performance on Mischel's self-imposed delay of gratification procedure, as measured by the amount of time the child is able to delay gratification, while the children of parents who exhibit lower levels of parental RF would delay for shorter periods of time on the delay task. The study found no evidence of a relationship between parental RF and the length of time a child was able to delay gratification. These results are discussed in terms of their implications for future research into the development of self-regulation in young children, as well as for attachment and mentalization theory and research.

  • The Effects of Pairing Preferred Stimuli with Non-preferred Staff on the Reinforcing Value of Non-preferred Staff Attention

    Author:
    Jared Jerome
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Peter Sturmey
    Abstract:

    Establishing staff attention as a secondary reinforcer increases the amount of time individuals with intellectual disabilities will engage in on-task behavior when working with these staff; however, increasing the reinforcing value of staff attention by pairing it with primary reinforcing stimuli is an area of research that has not frequently been addressed. In Study 1, three residents aged 42 to 56 years and diagnosed with intellectual disabilities participated in verbal and pictorial preference assessments for staff members. All three residents showed preferences. The experimenter then validated these preferences by instructing the preferred and non-preferred staff to deliver verbal praise and a high five on a progressive-ratio schedule contingent on the completion of socially relevant tasks. All three residents demonstrated higher break points and rates of approach responses when they were attended to by their preferred staff compared to when they were attended to by their non-preferred staff. In Study 2, before each baseline session, non-preferred staff approached the residents on a VT 1 min schedule without presenting any tangible stimuli; break points and approach responses remained unchanged from Study 1. Before each intervention session, non-preferred staff approached the residents on a VT 1 min schedule while presenting them with preferred tangible stimuli. Break points and resident-rate-of-approach responses increased when they worked for attention from their non-preferred staff, but remained unchanged with their preferred staff. A pairing procedure was successful in improving the relationships between residents and previously non-preferred staff.

  • South Asian American Youth Negotiate Ethnic Identities, Discrimination, and Social Class

    Author:
    Jaicy John
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Colette Daiute
    Abstract:

    This dissertation explored how South Asian American youth from diverse ethnic, religious, and social class backgrounds negotiate identity conflicts. Much of social science research cites the context of privilege assigned by the "model minority" stereotype as the commonly accepted perception of South Asians in the United States. Discrimination associated with the events of 9/11, however, challenge this view in positioning South Asians as racial and religious minorities associated with terrorism and distrust. Furthermore, the contexts of higher education contribute to these clashing contexts by instituting ethnic student organizations that support particular versions of identity practices. These multiple conflicts require South Asian American youth to negotiate or manage their identity practices in specific ways. The aim of this dissertation, thus, was to explore how college-aged South Asian American youth negotiate identity conflicts within these multiple contexts. The key research questions guiding this study were 1) What particular conflicts do South Asian American youth experience in practicing their identities? and 2) How do these youth negotiate these conflicts? 3) How does a practice-based framework extend previous claims of identity as static and unchanging? In order to gather a broader understanding of South Asian American youth identity practices, eighteen 2nd generation South Asian American youth between 18-22 years of age from a public and a private university in New York City engaged in an open-ended semi-structured interview based on constructing "identity maps" and discussing an article documenting the rise of hate crimes after 9/11. Discursive analysis, specifically, positioning techniques were used to analyze how youth constructed their selves and their worlds through talk. Findings from this study demonstrate that South Asian American youth construct identity conflicts and negotiations in contradictory ways. The multiple orientations to "model minority", post 9/11 discrimination, and multiculturalism ideologies suggest that South Asian American identity is not a unitary concept but rather shifts and changes according to immediate and broader social contexts. The research design and the findings from this study contribute to emerging psychological literature that defines identity as a dynamic process rather than a static entity of individuals.

  • 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.

  • "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.

  • 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.

  • 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.