Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • 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.

  • THE TRANSFORMATION OF NARRATIVE: AN EXPLORATION OF ALLITERATION'S FUNCTION IN VLADIMIR NABOKOV'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY

    Author:
    Rebecca Block
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Jeffery Rosen
    Abstract:

    The following is a psychoanalytic inquiry that uses the successive publishings of Vladimir Nabokov's autobiography to explore the functions that various versions of repetition play in transforming traumatic or conflicted memories into narratives that represent more symbolized and coherent accounts of the self. The data set consists of the three, successive, published, English language versions of Nabokov's memoirs. These successive versions are useful in that they represent Nabokov's repeated return to the significant memories and material that compose his autobiographical narrative. With each returns, Nabokov made meaningful revisions to his narrative. Consequently, his transformations are tracked over the course of the successive, drafted versions. Specifically, this project focuses on one chapter of Nabokov's autobiography--"Mademoiselle O"--she being a figure who loomed large in the early part of Nabokov's life. This project proposes that repetition manifests in any one of three main forms: as static repetition, as means for transformation, or as a means of creative play. In addition it proposes that these forms of repetition correspond to a continuum of symbolization, with desymbolized stasis on one end and symbolized play on the other. Here, alliteration was identified as a signifier for these varied forms of repetition. Two main hypotheses are proposed. The first states that if alliterative repetition marks emotionally salient material, then the concentration of alliteration in Nabokov's autobiographical narrative would be greater in areas that contain his most conflicted themes--loss and exile. Indeed results reveal significance. The second hypothesis proposes that if alliterative repetition serves a transformative function, then the concentration of alliteration would decline over the course of Nabokov's progressive drafts. Results are not significant but do reveal a trend toward increase in the final draft. The discussion explores various possibilities as to the given results. It is suggested that Nabokov may have increased his use of alliterative repetition because of the pleasure derived out of mastery and play. Alternatively, it is suggested that alliteration might facilitate internalization, in this case where reader internalizes author and work, thus resulting in Nabokov being better remembered by his readers, an elegant solution to his concerns around loss and being lost.

  • Unemployed and Poor in New York: The Impact of Object Relations, Mentalization and Psychopathology on Job Outcome

    Author:
    Emily Bly
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Arietta Slade
    Abstract:

    This study examined the relationships between the quality of internal object representations of self and other (OR), the capacity for reflective functioning (RF) and the presence of Axis II psychopathology and their respective and combined impact on the ability of unemployed, low-income individuals to complete job readiness training, and to obtain and retain employment. Given the intertwining nature of these constructs, it was expected that correlations would exist between OR, RF and Axis II psychopathology and that these constructs would also be related to job outcome, such that those with low OR and RF or those with Axis II psychopathology would experience greater difficulty in completing job training, let alone obtaining and maintaining employment. This research study posed additional research questions to examine the extent to which each of these variables would account for the variance in job outcome. It also sought to investigate the extent to which the predicted relationship between OR and job outcome would be moderated or mediated by Axis II pathology or the degree of RF present, such that an individual with significant psychopathology or low RF capacity would be expected to have poor job outcome regardless of OR scores. Similarly, it examined the question of whether the proposed relationship between Axis II pathology and job outcome would be moderated or mediated by the degree of RF present, such that those with a more developed capacity for RF would have better job outcome despite the presence of Axis II pathology. Results partially supported the study's main hypotheses in that RF and Axis II pathology were not only found to be related, but also to significantly predict job outcome. Moreover, it was determined that in those cases where participants with Axis II diagnoses were able to obtain jobs, their ability to obtain the job was entirely attributable to the presence of relatively higher levels of RF. This finding suggests that the presence of even a moderate capacity to consider and to reflect upon the mental states of self and other confers an advantage on those with Axis II diagnoses in the pursuit of gaining employment. OR findings were less robust although one of the subscales of OR, Complexity of Representations, was found to be significantly associated with RF in the predicted direction. These results are discussed in relation to implications for the design of programs and interventions to assist unemployed and underserved populations.

  • Parental Investment and Song Learning in Zebra Finches (Taeniopygia guttata)

    Author:
    Diane Bogdan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Cheryl Harding
    Abstract:

    Abstract PARENTAL INVESTMENT AND SONG LEARNING IN ZEBRA FINCHES (TAENIOPYGIA GUTTATA) By DIANE M BOGDAN Adviser: Professor Cheryl F. Harding In order to understand the effects of parental investment on learning, we conducted a series of experiments using zebra finches. The aspects of parental investment studied included deposition of maternally-derived hormones (MDH) into eggs, feeding and attention to chicks. Learning was assessed by song copying (mean accuracy, sequential matching and percent similarity to the father's song). We compared digit ratios, a marker for the amount of MDH chicks experienced in eggs, and song copying ability. Our data suggests that maternally-derived testosterone negatively affected the ability to sequentially match notes. To determine if parents were preferentially feeding chicks by hatch order, we weighed chicks at key developmental points prior to fledging. We found that chicks that hatched early were heavier than those who hatched late. Additionally, weight at day 10 was positively correlated with song learning. Acoustic cues are one obvious way that parents might differentiate chicks by hatch order. Therefore, we assessed the begging calls of 10 day old chicks. We found that early-hatched chicks begged at lower amplitudes than late-hatched chicks. We then conducted a playback experiment in which begging calls of 10 day old early- and late-hatched chicks were presented to breeding adults. Adults were more attentive during the early-hatched chicks' playbacks. To determine if attention, in the form of clumping or perching closely together, affected song learning, we observed family groups when chicks were beginning song acquisition (day 25). We found that while clumped with their mates, mothers clumped with first-hatched more than second- or third- hatched chicks. Moreover, clumping behavior was positively correlated with the percent similarity of song copying. Clumping with first-hatched sons may be a way for mothers to give additional access to the father and thereby enhance son's song learning. Finally, we used a multiple linear regression, combining all three forms of parental investment to determine which were more important in song learning. We found that digit ratio 2:3 was positively correlated with sequential matching, nestling weight positively correlated with mean accuracy and clumping with the mother positively correlated with the percent similarity score.

  • Shifts in clinical attention and focus: Exploring the boundaries of reverie in the therapeutic process

    Author:
    Monique Bowen
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Paul Wachtel
    Abstract:

    Therapists have times of greater attention and of less, and each therapist may have the experience of noticing that her attention has shifted from what the patient is saying toward those thoughts that have been stirred. This qualitative study examined psychotherapists' perspectives on shifts in clinical attention and focus in their treatment of their patients, and the ways in which their particular approach to psychotherapeutic work influence how therapists understand and negotiate these potentially complex clinical moments. The study (a) captures how senior psychotherapists view such experiences, (b) surveys the conditions under which clinicians share their responses, thoughts and processes with patients, and (c) examines how therapists negotiate what may be conflicting considerations or principles in arriving at how they handle the experience. Participants were recruited via several training institutes and professional psychological associations, and participated in a semi-structured qualitative interview that both documented and illuminated how senior therapists across theoretical orientations understand and explore shifts in clinical focus toward their own daydreams, fantasy, and interior monologues. This qualitative research study sought to provide an evidence and reference base for research scholars and for diverse groups of psychotherapy students, training therapists, and other practicing clinicians from one corner of psychotherapeutic practice to another. Categories that emerged from the data were then grouped into four domains: 1) Therapists' descriptions of unbidden experiences. 2) How therapists understand these phenomenological shifts in theory and in practice. 3) Therapeutic uses of this particular clinical data. 4) The felt sense that helps therapists identify shifts in attention and clinical focus. Trends in participants' responses to interview questions were identified with particular attention to departures from the clinicians' own standard technical practice or that of their theoretical orientation. The use of the verbatim quotations has enriched this narrative-constructivist approach, as the clinicians' own descriptions of their own unbidden experiences has provided uncommon access to the experiences of participants in this study.

  • THE NEURODEVELOPMENT OF BASIC SENSORY PROCESSING AND INTEGRATION IN AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER

    Author:
    Alice Brandwein
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Sophie Molholm
    Abstract:

    This thesis presents three studies that together explore the neurophysiological basis for the sensory processing and integration abnormalities that have been observed in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) since the disorder was first described over half a century ago. In designing these studies we seek to fill a hole that currently exists in the research community‟s knowledge of the neurodevelopment of basic multisensory integration -- both in children with autism and as well as in those with typical development. The first study applied event related potentials (ERPs) and behavioral measures of multisensory integration to a large group of healthy participants ranging in age from 7 to 29 years, with the goal of detailing the developmental trajectory of basic audiovisual integration in the brain. Our behavioral results revealed a gradual fine-tuning of multisensory facilitation of reaction time which reached mature levels by about 14 years of age. A similarly protracted period of maturation was seen in the brain processes thought to underlie to multisensory integration. Using the results of this cross-sectional study as a guide, the second study employed a between groups design to assess differences in the neural activity and behavioral facilitation associated with integrating basic audiovisual stimuli in groups of children and adolescents with ASD and typical development (aged 7-16 years). Deficits in basic audiovisual integration were seen at the earliest stages of cortical sensory processing in the ASD groups. In the concluding study we assessed whether neurophysiological measures of sensory processing and integration predict autistic symptom severity and parent-reported visual/auditory sensitivities. The data revealed that a combination of neural indices of auditory and visual processing and integration were predictive of severity of autistic symptoms in a group of children and adolescents with ASD. A particularly robust relationship was observed between severity of autism and the integrity of basic auditory processing and audiovisual integration. In contrast, our physiological indices did not predict visual/auditory sensitivities as assessed by parent responses on a questionnaire.

  • Components of Body Ego Transformation linked to Female Homoeroticism: An Exploratory and Qualitative Study

    Author:
    Lisa Braun
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Elliot Jurist
    Abstract:

    This is a qualitative, exploratory study of body ego transformation. Eight components of transformation were arrived at from this researcher's own experience, observations of other females, and identified in psychoanalytic literature. These were then explored in the projective and narrative responses from lesbian, bisexual and queer identified women about their female homoerotic experiences. Nine women ages 25-35 were recruited and interviewed in two sessions using phenomenological methodology. An original projective and semi-structured interview was created to elicit participants' unencumbered responses about their experiences of homoeroticism, so as to minimize the effect of external expectations that might color them. Participants were asked to respond to prompts about erotic parts of their body in a projective format. Subsequently, they were asked to describe their homoerotic thoughts, fantasies, and behaviors across their lifespan. Two women's interviews were chosen based on the presence of substantive, multilayered responses and narrative construction, evidence of a transformation of body ego, and their ability to shed light on the quality of other participant's transformations. These two participants' responses were analyzed in-depth. Speculated components of transformation were identified using psychoanalytic understandings of metaphor and basic principles of Rorschach Inkblot Methodology (RIM). All eight components were cited varying in frequency, intensity, and significance. Components were employed in common and unique ways. The variations in how component were used seemed to reflect participants' life experiences and personality style. Although this was a small sample, the findings indicated that eroticism is a regressive experience from which transformation of body ego can occur.