Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • An Investigation of Factors that Create and Mitigate Confirmation Bias in Judgments of Handwriting Evidence

    Author:
    Jeffrey Kukucka
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Saul Kassin
    Abstract:

    Over a century of basic cognitive and social psychological research shows that humans naturally seek out, perceive, and interpret evidence in ways that serve to validate their prevailing beliefs (i.e., confirmation bias; Nickerson, 1998). In criminal justice settings, a priori beliefs regarding the guilt or innocence of a suspect can likewise guide the collection, interpretation, and appraisal of evidence in a self-verifying manner (i.e., forensic confirmation bias; Kassin, Dror, & Kukucka, 2013). Recently, confirmation bias has been implicated as a source of forensic science errors in wrongful conviction cases (e.g., National Academy of Sciences, 2009; Risinger, Saks, Rosenthal, & Thompson, 2002). Accordingly, many have suggested procedural reforms to mitigate the detrimental impact of unconscious bias on judgments of forensic evidence. Three studies tested the effects of exposure to case information and evidence lineup use on judgments of handwriting evidence in a mock investigation. In Studies 1 and 2, participants who were aware of a suspect's confession rated non-matching handwriting samples from the suspect and perpetrator as more similar to each other, and were more likely to misjudge them as having been authored by the same individual. The findings of Studies 1 and 2 thus further raise growing concerns over allowing forensic science examiners access to case information that can unwittingly produce confirmation bias and result in erroneous judgments. In Study 2, the use of a simultaneous evidence lineup increased choosing rates relative to an evidence "showup," and produced a corresponding decrease in judgment accuracy. In Study 3, sequential evidence lineups dramatically reduced false identifications relative to simultaneous lineups, without causing a significant reduction in correct identifications. By showing parallel effects between forensic evidence lineup identification and eyewitness lineup identification, Studies 2 and 3 suggest the potential value of evidence lineups as a means of protecting against bias and reducing systematic error in judgments of forensic evidence.

  • Do anger management treatments help angry adults? A meta-analytic answer

    Author:
    Grazyna Kusmierska
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    William Gottdiener
    Abstract:

    Poorly managed anger could be a serious social and psychological problem. Despite the need for effective anger treatment models, little is known about what works and what does not work for various categories of angry people, and what could be done to better help them. This study was conducted to assess the efficacy of anger treatments with adults and to test four participant characteristics and three study characteristics presumed to moderate treatment effects. To that end, 74 anger treatment outcome studies were meta-analytically synthesized. The individual reports were included if they tested anger treatment with adults, used measures of anger, and provided data in a format for which an effect size was calculable. There was no limit as to the treatment model or modality, or the study's publication status. Randomized controlled trials, nonequivalent control group studies and single group pretest-posttest studies were included, but single-case studies were not included. A post-hoc decision was also made to include only studies reporting treatments that consisted of 1-18 sessions. The overall mean effect size was g = 0.584. The results were heterogeneous indicating the existence of moderator variables. One of the moderator variables was the population from which the participants were recruited. The treatment effect sizes ranged from large in people with intellectual disabilities and psychiatric outpatients, to small in medical patients, drivers, and veterans. Another moderator variable was the participants' gender. The effect sizes were larger in women than in men participating in anger treatment. The participants' cognitive and anger severity levels did not moderate treatment effects. There were no moderating effects of study design and treatment modality either. There was an association between the publication status of the individual reports and treatment effect sizes, with published studies reporting larger effect sizes than the unpublished studies. This meta-analysis confirmed that the majority of people who participate in anger treatment benefit from it. The current study also uncovered two participant characteristics that moderate treatment effects, identified areas that require more research, and indicated what participants' data should be included in individual reports to advance prospective meta-analyses of anger treatment outcomes.

  • Ten Fingers and Ten Toes: Mothers of Children with Down Syndrome Constructing the Sociocultural Meaning of Disability and Motherhood

    Author:
    Priya Lalvani
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Anna Stetsenko
    Abstract:

    Advisor: Professor Anna Stetsenko This qualitative study concerns the lived experiences and negotiated identities of mothers of children with Down syndrome in the context of the meaning of disability and normalcy in society. The study explored mothers' experiences of the birth and diagnosis of their children with Down syndrome, their perceptions of parenthood, their understanding of cultural attitudes towards disability, and their negotiations of the social world on behalf of their families. Additionally, the study examined mothers' beliefs about inclusive education and their support for particular educational programs for their children. Data were collected from 19 mothers of children with Down syndrome through semi-structured interviews, which were audio-recorded, transcribed, coded and analyzed. The findings highlight the existence of oppressive interpersonal and institutional discourses on families of children with disabilities, centered on notions of damage, burden, and stigma. The mothers in this study strongly resisted dominant discourses about families of children with disabilities, rejecting the notion that being the parent of a child with Down syndrome is a negative experience. Instead, they represented their lives and those of their families in terms that emphasized the more normative aspects. Furthermore, they rejected notions of otherness in their descriptions of their children, and defined normative motherhood as encompassing a wide variety of tasks, roles, and challenges. The findings are indicative of transformations in these mothers' understanding of what is like to parent a child with Down syndrome and suggest that they located disability not only in their child, but also in the environment. For a majority of the mothers, the social implications of having Down syndrome were among the most pressing issues, and concerns regarding social acceptance strongly influenced their beliefs about inclusive education. The results of this study strongly support a need for a conceptual shift in understanding the experiences of families of children with Down syndrome; one that shifts its gaze from the "problem" of Down syndrome to the problematic constructions of normative motherhood and of the otherness of children with Down syndrome.

  • Internalizing and Externalizing Pathways to Suicidality in Abused and Neglected Children

    Author:
    Elise Landry
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Cathy Spatz Widom
    Abstract:

    This dissertation examines major depressive disorder (MDD), substance abuse and/or dependence (DA), antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), and borderline personality disorder (BPD) as potential mediators of the relationship between child abuse/neglect and suicidality in middle adulthood. Children with documented cases of physical and sexual abuse and neglect (ages 0-11) during 1967-1971 were matched with non-maltreated children and followed into middle adulthood (approximately age 40). Mediators were assessed in young adulthood (approximately age 29) through in-person interviews between 1989 and 1995. Suicidality was assessed via self-report during 2000-2002 (N = 892). Logistic regressions were used to test whether: (1) Children with documented histories of child abuse/neglect (as well as specific types of abuse/neglect) were at increased risk for suicidal ideation and suicidal behavior in middle adulthood in comparison with matched controls; (2) Children who have documented histories of abuse/neglect were at increased risk for lifetime diagnoses of MDD, DA, ASPD, and BPD in comparison with matched controls; and (3) Diagnoses of MDD, DA, ASPD, and BPD mediate the relationship between child abuse/neglect and suicidality. Interactions for sex and race were also examined and separate analyses were conducted for males, females, Blacks, and Whites. Child abuse/neglect was associated with increased risk for suicidality in middle adulthood and only MDD mediated the relationship between child abuse/neglect and suicidality. When specific types of abuse/neglect were considered, ASPD mediated the relationship for neglect and suicidality, while MDD and BPD mediated the associations for physical abuse and suicidality and multiple forms of maltreatment and suicidality. Separate analyses for males and females revealed significant sex differences. MDD acted as a mediator between child abuse/neglect and suicidality only for females, BPD was a mediator between child abuse/neglect and suicidality for males, and ASPD was a mediator for both abused/neglected males and sexually abused females. While MDD significantly mediated the relationship between child abuse/neglect for Whites, none of the diagnoses mediated the relationship between abuse/neglect and suicidality for Blacks. These results suggest the importance of considering the roles not only of internalizing symptoms but also of externalizing symptoms in suicide risk assessments among the maltreated population.

  • Daytime Napping: Effects on Relational Memory

    Author:
    Hiuyan Lau
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    William Fishbein
    Abstract:

    DAYTIME NAPPING: EFFECTS ON RELATIONAL MEMORY by Hiuyan Lau A plethora of theoretical models and empirical data suggest that sleep strengthens various types of memory. However, the role of sleep in a fundamental feature of memory, relational memory - the flexible representation of items not directly learned prior to sleep - is less clear. At the same time, the effect of daytime naps - relatively brief periods of diurnal sleep - on memory is not well explored. In the present research, a series of three studies were conducted to investigate the effect of daytime napping on three different forms of relational memory: 1) inferential associations of separately learned items, 2) the abstraction of general concepts, and 3) relational memory built on shared contextual elements. Results from all three studies indicate that daytime napping facilitates relational memory. In addition, Study II demonstrates that the effect of daytime napping on relational memory is not dependent on whether the nap immediately follows learning or occurs after a brief (approximately two hours) delay. However, the significant difference in task performance between subjects with and without a nap is not sustained after one week, as shown in Study III. Consistent with the majority of existing literature, slow wave sleep, among all sleep stages, appears to be the strongest contributor to relational memory. Yet it alone cannot fully explain the effect of sleep on relational memory, suggesting that mechanisms independent of sleep stages may be involved. Overall, the results from the present research imply an active role for sleep in multiple memory processes that are not limited to the mere strengthening of memories, but also the binding and reorganizing of separately learned memory traces for flexible use at a later time.