Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • 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.

  • 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.