Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • THE IMPACT OF ATTACHMENT ON SEXUAL RISK TAKING, ATTITUDES AND TRAUMA IN ADOLESCENCE: A STUDY OF NEW YORK INNER CITY YOUTH

    Author:
    Elizabeth Baumann
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Denise Hien
    Abstract:

    The present study examines how attachment impacts sexual behavior, attitudes and sexual risk taking among Latino American and African American adolescents on the Lower East Side of New York City. This population was chosen because inner city teens are at particular risk of HIV/STD infection and because past research suggests a high prevalence of sexual risk among inner city youth. The current study is a secondary analysis of an established study at the Hunter College Center for Urban and Community Health investigating adolescent sexual risk in the context of HIV/AIDS. Participants in this study were 120 Latino and African American adolescent residents of the Lower East Side of Manhattan who completed questions about their sexual and risk taking behavior and knowledge of STDs using a computer-administered battery. The overall purpose of this study is to examine the relationships between these high-risk adolescents' sexual behavior in the context of their attachment organization, sexual attitudes and values, and risk behavior. The study predicted that the way a teenager feels comfortable being intimate with others in the world would have an impact of how he perceives himself as a sexual being. The goal of this study of adolescent sexual behavior using an inner city multi-racial sample was to examine the extent to which insecure attachment and trauma were predictive of sexual risk taking. Investigators accomplished this by examining key variables that were hypothesized to play a role in sexual risk taking behavior. Study results provided some support for the hypotheses and revealed several valuable findings. Results revealed that attachment insecurity was significantly related to sexual risk behavior. Moreover, it was determined that adolescents with higher avoidant attachment were more likely to have had sex and engaged in sexual risk behavior. Adolescents with high attachment anxiety were also more likely to participate in risky sexual behavior. The relationship between attachment organization and these risk behaviors were in part but not significantly mediated by PTSD symptoms. These findings are discussed in relations to implications for understanding attachment in adolescent non-white samples as well as public health and clinical practices for adolescents in urban settings.

  • The Road to Recovery: A Neural Characterization of Cocaine Abstinence

    Author:
    Ryan Bell
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    John Foxe
    Abstract:

    Cocaine addiction is a significant public health issue with an outsized effect on the individual and society at large. A principal reason for the immense social and personal costs associated with cocaine addiction is the difficulty in remaining abstinent. Utilizing diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), current cocaine dependence has been associated with deficits in white matter integrity and atypical neural activation in multiple cognitive control regions. However, while the neurobiological and behavioral deficits associated with current cocaine dependence have been well-characterized, it is relatively unknown if these deficits persist after the cessation of cocaine use. To elucidate neurobiological functioning during cocaine abstinence, we conducted three experiments utilizing either DTI or fMRI methodology in cocaine dependent (CD) individuals at varying periods of abstinence. The results of these investigations show that as a group, abstinent CD individuals do not display the same neurobiological deficits as current users. We speculate that the absence of these deficits may be partly due to the intensive drug-treatment programs the participants were enrolled in. However, when we conducted subject-level examinations, we found that abstinent CD individuals displayed neurobiological functioning related to the duration of abstinence. We postulate then that continued abstinence may be responsible for an amelioration of neurobiological deficits or reflect preexisting differences that allow for extended abstinence. Additionally, we observed participant-level differences that were not a function of duration of abstinence leading us to speculate that recovery occurs at temporally different rates in some individuals. Overall, it appears that while a majority of recovering individuals do not display the neurobiological deficits associated with current cocaine users, there exists a subset of individuals that continue to display these deficits. We hypothesize that those individuals who continue to display neurobiological deficits will have the greatest risk of cocaine relapse.

  • Guided Tours: The Layered Dynamics of Self, Place and Image in Two American Neighborhoods

    Author:
    Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Setha Low
    Abstract:

    This work complicates our understanding of the creation, knowledge and experience of everyday experience in two heterogeneous neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York and Oakland, California. This project incorporates conceptual, epistemological and methodological questions. The concern with the everyday is explored by addressing how everyday places are known and experienced, weaving local with global, personal with political, embodied with ideological, in two neighborhoods marked by American post-World War II urbanism. Challenging conceptions of the role of the expressive, the individual and the visual in research, the work shows that a combination of embodied walking and expressive representational photographic strategies--my "guided tours" method--can show us new ways of knowing about the physical and phenomenal everyday world. The evocative and embodied power of being physically in place--through walks or drives--is juxtaposed with a process of photographic production and reflection, utilizing photography's evocative relationship to the real as a prompt for storytelling. From this unique method, this work develops a typology of "layered dynamics" to understand how everydayness is continually created through processes of knowing, negotiating and experiencing, as places and lives are woven together. These layered dynamics are the intersecting and changing forces and motions that come from and change lives in a neighborhood; they characterize the system of a place, and constitute the everyday experience of places we inhabit.

  • Guided Tours: The Layered Dynamics of Self, Place and Image in Two American Neighborhoods

    Author:
    Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Setha Low
    Abstract:

    This work complicates our understanding of the creation, knowledge and experience of everyday experience in two heterogeneous neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York and Oakland, California. This project incorporates conceptual, epistemological and methodological questions. The concern with the everyday is explored by addressing how everyday places are known and experienced, weaving local with global, personal with political, embodied with ideological, in two neighborhoods marked by American post-World War II urbanism. Challenging conceptions of the role of the expressive, the individual and the visual in research, the work shows that a combination of embodied walking and expressive representational photographic strategies--my "guided tours" method--can show us new ways of knowing about the physical and phenomenal everyday world. The evocative and embodied power of being physically in place--through walks or drives--is juxtaposed with a process of photographic production and reflection, utilizing photography's evocative relationship to the real as a prompt for storytelling. From this unique method, this work develops a typology of "layered dynamics" to understand how everydayness is continually created through processes of knowing, negotiating and experiencing, as places and lives are woven together. These layered dynamics are the intersecting and changing forces and motions that come from and change lives in a neighborhood; they characterize the system of a place, and constitute the everyday experience of places we inhabit.

  • RELIGION, SPIRITUALITY AND THE FAMILY IN THE LIVES OF AFRICAN AMERICAN ELDERLY MEN

    Author:
    Rhea Benjamin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Steve Tuber
    Abstract:

    The purpose of this study was to provide information about the ways in which African American elderly men raised in the South in Mississippi, during the height of Segregation, managed to survive and live successful lives. The study seeks to illustrate how these men incorporated religion, spirituality and their families as sources of strength and psychological buffers against the many adversarial circumstances that they faced. Qualitative data were drawn from the interviews of eleven subjects, representative of stellar examples of success within their communities. The method of analysis was grounded theory developed by Glaser and Straus. Patterns that emerged from the data were sorted, categorized and identified as codes. An analysis of the codes revealed the following major findings regarding these men. For these men life in Mississippi was limited and difficult because of Segregation. As a result their options about how they would live their lives were gravely influenced and they were under threat of danger on a daily basis. The findings also suggest that these men used religious affiliation, which in many instances is culturally inherent, as a means to cope with the psychological pressures as well as seeking support from their family, and community. Despite the circumstances these men went through, there is much to learn from black males who do thrive. In my sample of now elderly black men, I suggest that these men were able to negotiate and withstand horrific trials, similar to the present day challenges being faced because of a belief in a higher power and deep faith in religion. The study seeks to highlight the ways that these men have used their belief in God to lead successful lives.

  • The Impact of Emotions on Stereotyping and Discrimination in Workplace Selection: The Role of Certainty Appraisals

    Author:
    Daniel Benkendorf
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Kristin Sommer
    Abstract:

    In the present studies, an appraisal tendency approach (e.g., Lerner & Keltner, 2000, 2001) was adopted to make predictions regarding the role of emotional certainty in the use of stereotypes in a workplace context. This approach suggests that emotional certainty increases reliance on heuristic processing strategies, as evidenced by greater use of stereotypes. The current research examined stereotypes associated with physical attractiveness (Studies 1 & 3) and age (Study 2). In Studies 1 and 2, participants completed an emotional memory task designed to induce one of four specific emotions representing two different levels of emotional certainty. They then reviewed interview footage, a résumé, and qualifying criteria before rating the hypothetical job candidate's personality and employability. In Study 3, participants completed four measures of dispositional emotion: anger, fear, happiness, and hope. All other features of the study were identical to Study 1. In Study 1, emotions high in certainty (compared to uncertainty) led to more favorable personality and employability ratings for attractive (compared to unattractive) candidates. In Study 2, the same pattern of results emerged for younger (compared to older) candidates. However, in Study 3, contrary to predictions, trait emotions characterized by high certainty (compared to uncertainty) did not lead to more favorable personality and employability ratings for attractive (compared to unattractive) candidates. Taken together, the findings contribute to a growing literature suggesting that certainty appraisals, when associated with temporary, incidental emotions, are a useful predictor of the likelihood that stereotypes will be applied in decision-making.

  • 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.

  • 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.