Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • SOCIAL ASPECTS OF DEVELOPING AND SUSTAINING VOLUNTARILY REDUCED CONSUMPTION ACTIVITY IN NEW YORK CITY

    Author:
    Kirsten Firminger
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Colette Daiute
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines the social aspects of voluntarily reduced consumption activity using the principles of cultural historical activity theory. Voluntarily buying less is viewed as ongoing interactive social process that is initiated and sustained as individuals engage with their surroundings. Data was collected from 320 online survey respondents living in the New York City Metro area, followed by a purposeful sampling of 24 participants for in-person, follow up interviews. Interviews revealed the social contextual influences on initiating voluntarily reduced consumption activity. For example, family experiences, personal life changes, and historical events played a role in individuals' choice to voluntarily buy less. Individuals who choose to voluntarily reduce how much they buy experience both social supports and barriers to their activity. Many interview respondents treated voluntarily buying less as a sensitive topic of conversation, not to be openly discussed with others who did not hold the same opinions or values. Those participants adopted techniques to determine who the topic could be broached with while avoiding conflict with those who it may cause problems. Having social support and resources made a noteworthy difference in the viability of adopting many practices, such as reducing the amount of gifts exchanged at the holidays or acquiring used goods instead of buying something new. Social pressure to consume or support for buying less changed based upon specific situations, environments, and individuals with whom the respondent was interacting. Significant others were an important source of support for voluntarily buying less through actions such as sharing responsibility, reinforcing practices or providing skills. Having children presented particular challenges to buying less, as well as an opportunity to pass along one's values and practices. Family and friends were often a resource for skills and information for practices including repairing goods or doing things for oneself. However, friendships that were not supportive were a particular sore spot for some interview participants. Making compromises, not talking about their values and practices, or reducing the amount of time they spent with their friends was a source of strain, anger, and feelings of social isolation. While a few developed new friendships that supported their buying less values, others enacted conflict-reducing practices in order to negotiate social interactions with their friends. Interview participants' choice of employment influenced how much pressure they felt to maintain social norms and communicate status through purchasing of goods such as clothing and technology. The impact of living in New York City was very noticeable when interview participants talked about the support they received from their participation in local social groups, organizations, and communities. Some interview respondents felt their voluntarily reduced consumption activity may influence others. However, not all participants were motivated by the thought that their voluntarily reduced consumption activity was making an impact on a larger scale. A few even feel that what they are doing may have a negative impact on others.

  • PROBLEM SOLVING THROUGH TOOL USE IN ASIAN ELEPHANTS

    Author:
    Preston Foerder
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Diana Reiss
    Abstract:

    Spontaneous problem solving without evident trial and error behavior has been referred to as insight. Surprisingly, elephants, thought to be highly intelligent, have failed to exhibit insightful problem solving in previous cognitive studies. I conducted ten experiments investigating problem solving through tool use on three Asian elephants. Experiment 1 was designed to test means-end recognition. Trays with food placed on one end were positioned outside the bars of the elephants' stalls. Each of the elephants pulled the tray, showing understanding of the means-end relationship. In Experiments 2 and 3, I tested if elephants would use sticks as tools to reach food trays placed just beyond their trunk reach or use sticks to knock out-of-reach fruit from an artificial tree. None of the elephants employed sticks to accomplish either task. A chain pulling problem to attain food through a multi-step solution was presented in Experiment 4. All elephants solved the problem and one completed the task immediately, suggesting insightful problem solving. In Experiment 5, I investigated if elephants, when presented with different types of potential tools, a movable platform and sticks, would show tool use to reach food suspended overhead, out-of-reach. Without prior trial and error behavior, a 7-year-old male showed spontaneous problem solving by moving a large plastic cube, on which he stood, to acquire the food. In Experiments 6-8, I tested if the elephant would generalize this ability to other positions and objects, which he demonstrated. In Experiment 9, I examined if tool use with sticks differed in relation to suspended food or an object. No difference was found. Social learning was tested in Experiment 10 by having one elephant demonstrate the solution to a tool use problem while a second elephant observed. No social learning was exhibited. The elephant's behavior in experiments 5-8 was consistent with the definition of insightful problem solving. Previous failures to demonstrate this ability in elephants may have resulted not from a lack of cognitive ability but from the presentation of tasks requiring trunk-held sticks as potential tools, thereby interfering with the trunk's use as a sensory organ to locate the targeted food.

  • LGBTQ Experiences with the Courts: The Role of Gender Nonconformity and Assertiveness

    Author:
    Alexis Forbes
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Kevin Nadal
    Abstract:

    Using lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) and non-LGBTQ participants, a pair of studies explored the influence of LGBTQ identity and gender nonconformity (GNC) in experiences of discrimination in court settings. A one-way ANOVA tested whether LGBTQ participants were more likely to score low on the treatment in court scale. Additionally, two separate multiple regression analyses tested whether high scores on the Gender Nonconformity Scale (GNCS; Forbes & Nadal, under review), were associated with low scores on a measure of treatment in court. It was discovered that LGBTQ identity did not have a statistically significant effect on factor in treatment ratings. However, the higher an individual's score on the GNCS, the more likely it was that they would report negative court experiences. Additionally, the LGBTQ participants scored statistically significantly higher in GNC than non-LGBTQ participants did. The findings suggest that, with their higher levels of GNC, LGBTQ people may be more likely to encounter discrimination in the courts than non-LGBTQ people. For Study 2 it was theorized that assertiveness was a form of GNC for cisgender females and, using a multiple regression analysis, tested the three-way interaction between participants' sex assigned at birth and scores on the assertiveness and GNCS measures. Interestingly, the congruity between gender presentation (i.e., masculine or feminine) and assertiveness score was a better predictor of treatment than was the congruity between sex assigned at birth and assertiveness (i.e., female with low assertiveness scores). The implications for including measures of GNC as a standard for LGBTQ research are discussed.

  • The Knowing Body: Participatory Artistic-Embodied Methodologies for Re-Imagining Adolescence

    Author:
    Madeline Fox
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Michelle Fine
    Abstract:

    Braiding critical youth studies, social science methodologies, participatory action research, performance studies, and art, this dissertation investigates how we can produce knowledge collectively toward reimagining adolescence. Polling for Justice was a multi-generational participatory action research project that took place between 2008 and 2011. Polling for Justice was interested in understanding young people's lived experiences at the intersections of education, criminal justice, and public health in New York City. The study centered on a city-wide survey and a series of data-driven focus groups. The Polling for Justice research collective used participatory artistic-embodied methodologies to make sense of, and later perform, the mostly quantitative data. This dissertation argues that art can be considered a meaning-making process, and that social science scholarship can benefit from incorporating artistic approaches into the analysis process. Through a careful examination of data from the Polling for Justice study, parts of life stories from Polling for Justice researchers, and key moments from the participatory process of analyzing findings using artistic-embodied methodologies, this dissertation details how we can turn to art to engage in knowledge production towards re-imagining adolescence in the social sciences.

  • DIFFERENTIAL RELATIONSHIPS OF MISMATCH NEGATIVITY AND VISUAL P1 DEFICITS TO PREMORBID CHARACTERISTICS AND FUNCTIONAL OUTCOME IN SCHIZOPHRENIA

    Author:
    Tamara Friedman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Daniel Javitt
    Abstract:

    Abstract DIFFERENTIAL RELATIONSHIPS OF MISMATCH NEGATIVITY AND VISUAL P1 DEFICITS TO PREMORBID CHARACTERISTICS AND FUNCTIONAL OUTCOME IN SCHIZOPHRENIA By Tamara Friedman Adviser: Daniel Javitt, M.D., Ph.D. Sensory deficits have been consistently observed in patients with schizophrenia, and previous studies have explored relationships between either auditory or visual deficits and various clinical characteristics and patients' global functioning. The present dissertation is the first to assess with EEG both auditory and visual deficits in the same patient sample and to relate each type of deficit to symptoms, present functioning, and premorbid functioning. The first study assessed visual deficits associated with schizophrenia during the concurrent presentation of auditory and visual stimuli. Patients with schizophrenia and healthy controls were presented with both parvocellularly-biased and magnocellularly-biased stimuli while passively listening to an auditory paradigm intended to elicit mismatch negativity responses. By comparing the present visual results to those of a very similar study, which included different visual stimuli, we underscore the importance of utilizing appropriate stimuli in assessing visual deficits in patients with schizophrenia. The purpose of the second study was to assess auditory deficits associated with schizophrenia. Duration, frequency, and intensity deviants were embedded in the auditory mismatch negativity paradigm to which the participants listened during the visual task. Mismatch negativity deficits were assessed, relative to each of the three deviants. We demonstrate that the mismatch negativity results are characteristic of patients with schizophrenia, regardless of the simultaneous visual task in which the participants are engaging. The third study relates the findings of the auditory and visual deficits in patients with schizophrenia to clinical characteristics, including symptoms, present, and premorbid functioning. Differential relationships suggest that different underlying pathophysiological mechanisms may account for impaired visual and auditory neurophysiological dysfunction. This knowledge could help in the treatment and management of schizophrenia.

  • Motor Control Mechanisms of Whisking in Rat

    Author:
    Wendy Friedman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    H Zeigler
    Abstract:

    Rhythmic movements underlie a large number of critically important motor behaviors. How different levels of neural organization and control interact to produce these movements, then, is a central question in motor control. Using the whisker system in rat we investigate the role played by the motor cortex, a key structure in the generation of complex movements, in the control of whisking. We begin by measuring the movements of the whiskers and the mastacial pad, controlled by the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles, respectively, to clarify the interaction of these two components in the organization of whisking. We find that though both contribute to movement kinematics, the whisker alone makes a relatively larger contribution. We next investigate the relationship between local field potential activity and exploratory whisking and find that brief increases in vMCx activity precede both whisking onset and changes in whisking patterns. Lastly, we investigate the relationship between unit activity in the rhythmic subregion of vMCx and whisking in head-fixed rats engaged in one of two behavioral tasks. We find that spike rate is most often correlated with whisking amplitude/velocity, and that this relationship is independent of behavioral context. We also find occurrences of significant coherence between whisker movements and unit activity, which vary with behavioral task. These results suggest that, though the motor pattern underlying whisking is generated subcortically, vMCx plays a role in both initiating movement and modulating kinematic properties of whisking.

  • Cisgenderism in Gender Attributions: The Ways in Which Social, Cognitive, and Individual Factors Predict Misgendering.

    Author:
    Erica Friedman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Sarit Golub
    Abstract:

    The current program of research investigated the ways in which social representations of gender, cognitive processes, and individual factors can be integrated to predict "misgendering," an example of cisgenderism in which people are categorized as a gender with which they do not identify. I proposed an (In)consistency Processing Model of Gender Attribution in which perceivers make a gender attribution by interpreting the stereotype-(in)consistencies of a target's gender characteristics through either a biology- or identity-based schema. Five studies were conducted to test different aspects of this model, the first of which was a secondary data analysis on a sample of students from Hunter College who participated in the lab. Participants from the remaining studies participated online and were recruited from Amazon's Mechanical Turk. Participants were more likely to reject a target's gender identity when the target's genitals and chromosomes were stereotype-inconsistent with the target's gender identity. Gender judgments were made quickly overall, but slower when target characteristics were stereotype-inconsistent. In other words, people processed gender consciously, rather than automatically, when characteristics were unexpected. Participants who knew transgender people were less likely to misgender and faster at making gender judgments, but only when targets had stereotype-inconsistent chromosomes suggesting limitations to the knowledge they gained from their contact with transgender people. Allies to transgender people and people with less gender essentialist beliefs were less likely to misgender people and did so with similar response times to the rest of participants, suggesting they spent time consciously attempting to affirm targets gender identity. People who were initially found to be less likely to misgender ("adjusters") were more likely to misgender when their efforts to affirm target identity were constrained by a distraction or by added stereotype-inconsistent information about the target. Study findings imply that cisgenderism operates implicitly on the gender attribution process. While some people may be able to temporarily focus their efforts on affirming people's genders, these efforts are conditional and easily destabilized. These findings have important practical implications for researchers, activists, service organizations, and governments invested in the ethical recognition of people's own gender self-designations.

  • Motor Control Mechanisms of Whisking in Rat

    Author:
    Wendy Friedman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    H Zeigler
    Abstract:

    Rhythmic movements underlie a large number of critically important motor behaviors. How different levels of neural organization and control interact to produce these movements, then, is a central question in motor control. Using the whisker system in rat we investigate the role played by the motor cortex, a key structure in the generation of complex movements, in the control of whisking. We begin by measuring the movements of the whiskers and the mastacial pad, controlled by the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles, respectively, to clarify the interaction of these two components in the organization of whisking. We find that though both contribute to movement kinematics, the whisker alone makes a relatively larger contribution. We next investigate the relationship between local field potential activity and exploratory whisking and find that brief increases in vMCx activity precede both whisking onset and changes in whisking patterns. Lastly, we investigate the relationship between unit activity in the rhythmic subregion of vMCx and whisking in head-fixed rats engaged in one of two behavioral tasks. We find that spike rate is most often correlated with whisking amplitude/velocity, and that this relationship is independent of behavioral context. We also find occurrences of significant coherence between whisker movements and unit activity, which vary with behavioral task. These results suggest that, though the motor pattern underlying whisking is generated subcortically, vMCx plays a role in both initiating movement and modulating kinematic properties of whisking.

  • THE IMPACT OF MOOD DISORDERS ON COGNITIVE FUNCTION IN POSTMENOPAUSAL WOMEN UNDERGOING TREATMENT FOR EARLY-STAGE BREAST CANCER

    Author:
    Margery Frosch
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Arietta Slade
    Abstract:

    PURPOSE: Many post-menopausal women who are treated for early-stage breast cancer report experiencing cognitive difficulties following adjuvant chemotherapy. However, the generalizability of the results of a number of studies that have attempted to document the association between adjuvant chemotherapy and cognitive dysfunction has been limited due to inconsistencies in the investigative methods used, thus introducing the possibility that other factors are contributing to reports of cognitive problems. The current study examines the possibility that a history of mood disorders in post-menopausal breast cancer patients predisposes them to cognitive difficulties following adjuvant treatment. METHODS: Sixty-five postmenopausal women with non-metastatic breast cancer were administered the SCID-I before adjuvant therapy (Time 1) to determine psychiatric status. Thirty women were found to have a history of mood disorder, while thirty-one women were found to have no history of mood disorder. Participants were administered neuropsychological tests before adjuvant therapy (Time 1), six months after treatment (Time 2), and at a final six-month follow-up (Time 3). Cognitive domains measured included motor, language, attention/concentration/working memory, visuospatial, memory (verbal and visual). RESULTS: Group comparisons found significant differences in several domains at Time 1 (attention) and Time 2 (visual spatial and visual memory), but in each case the mood disorder group means were higher than the group means of the non-mood disorder group. No significant results were found at Time 3. CONCLUSION: In postmenopausal women, a history of mood disorder was associated with higher performance in selected cognitive domains. Reasons for these paradoxical results are explored and suggestions for future research are proposed.

  • THE IMPACT OF MOOD DISORDERS ON COGNITIVE FUNCTION IN POSTMENOPAUSAL WOMEN UNDERGOING TREATMENT FOR EARLY-STAGE BREAST CANCER

    Author:
    Margery Frosch
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Arietta Slade
    Abstract:

    PURPOSE: Many post-menopausal women who are treated for early-stage breast cancer report experiencing cognitive difficulties following adjuvant chemotherapy. However, the generalizability of the results of a number of studies that have attempted to document the association between adjuvant chemotherapy and cognitive dysfunction has been limited due to inconsistencies in the investigative methods used, thus introducing the possibility that other factors are contributing to reports of cognitive problems. The current study examines the possibility that a history of mood disorders in post-menopausal breast cancer patients predisposes them to cognitive difficulties following adjuvant treatment. METHODS: Sixty-five postmenopausal women with non-metastatic breast cancer were administered the SCID-I before adjuvant therapy (Time 1) to determine psychiatric status. Thirty women were found to have a history of mood disorder, while thirty-one women were found to have no history of mood disorder. Participants were administered neuropsychological tests before adjuvant therapy (Time 1), six months after treatment (Time 2), and at a final six-month follow-up (Time 3). Cognitive domains measured included motor, language, attention/concentration/working memory, visuospatial, memory (verbal and visual). RESULTS: Group comparisons found significant differences in several domains at Time 1 (attention) and Time 2 (visual spatial and visual memory), but in each case the mood disorder group means were higher than the group means of the non-mood disorder group. No significant results were found at Time 3. CONCLUSION: In postmenopausal women, a history of mood disorder was associated with higher performance in selected cognitive domains. Reasons for these paradoxical results are explored and suggestions for future research are proposed.