Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • 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.

  • Between sites: Critical convergences at the personal, interpersonal, and institutional levels in a service learning course

    Author:
    Kendra Brewster
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Michelle Fine
    Abstract:

    Set within the context of the increasing emphasis on civic engagement and transformative education, this work addresses service learning as a form of civic engagement that holds both the risks of acriticality and critical potential. This study examines the capacity for the critical consciousness and relationality that define the primary commitments of critical service learning (see Kinefuchi, 2010). Thus, this study is grounded in the ways that the circuits of privilege and dispossession were breached in a service learning course where college students travelled to mentor adolescent girls who were in a secure residential facility. The narratives of former service learning students were analyzed to excavate the service learning experience at three sites which contextualize moments of critical dialogue: the personal, the interpersonal, and the institutional level. Three themes emerged from the analysis: (1) the position of the mentor between being an agent and recipient of transformation; (2) the discourses of sameness and difference deployed to forge solidarities; and, (3) the negotiation of the boundary between the inside and outside as a marker of the personal-societal dispossession of the service learning site and those within it. The findings indicated that people blur the line that separates self/other as they acknowledge mutual impact, implicate themselves in constructing a vision of girls' well-being, and grapple with counter/representations of the facility and the girls from their temporary position as `insiders' within the facility. These findings are held in tension by participants' intermittent recognition of the facility as a space of dispossession, however, and their resistance to writing themselves into it. The findings suggest that the positions, discourses, and critical meanings are moments across this service learning experience that can be `visual aids' for intergroup processes. The future directions based on this work suggest intentionally deploying these moments in order to explore the flows of comfort, connection, remembrance, trauma, loss, and disintegration on which circuits of dispossession and privilege run (Ayala & Galletta, 2012; Fine & Ruglis, 2009).

  • The Role of Homophobia and Gender Role Beliefs in Judgments of Same-Sex Intimate Partner Violence

    Author:
    Michael Brown
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Jennifer Groscup
    Abstract:

    The primary purpose of this study was to examine whether straight and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals differ in their perceptions of same-sex and opposite-sex IPV, and whether gender-role beliefs and homophobia can help explain any differences. We were also interested in whether factors such as the type of violence depicted and participants' gender moderated perceptions of intimate partner violence. Using a 2 (type of violence: situational couple violence vs. intimate terrorism) x 2 (gender of batterer: male vs. female) x 2 (gender of victim: male vs. female) between-groups design, 240 straight and 240 LGBT participants were randomly assigned to an experimental condition and asked to read a vignette of a domestic altercation. Participants completed a questionnaire designed to assess how they perceived the batterer's and victim's responsibility for the situation, the seriousness of the situation, how likely the abusive behavior was to reoccur, and how likely the abusive behavior would get worse over time. Participants also completed a demographics survey and measures of gender role beliefs and homophobia / internalized homophobia. Overall, both straight and LGBT participants attributed less blame to batterers and more blame to victims, and perceived the abuse as less serious, when the scenario involved a same-sex couple. However, contrary to our hypotheses, participants' gender role beliefs and homophobia / internalized homophobia did not fully account for these findings. Participants' gender and the type of violence depicted were significant moderators for several of the relationships examined; however, these effects were relatively small and inconsistent. Social, clinical and legal implications of these findings are discussed - along with directions for future research.

  • The Role of Homophobia and Gender Role Beliefs in Judgments of Same-Sex Intimate Partner Violence

    Author:
    Michael Brown
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Jennifer Groscup
    Abstract:

    The primary purpose of this study was to examine whether straight and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals differ in their perceptions of same-sex and opposite-sex IPV, and whether gender-role beliefs and homophobia can help explain any differences. We were also interested in whether factors such as the type of violence depicted and participants' gender moderated perceptions of intimate partner violence. Using a 2 (type of violence: situational couple violence vs. intimate terrorism) x 2 (gender of batterer: male vs. female) x 2 (gender of victim: male vs. female) between-groups design, 240 straight and 240 LGBT participants were randomly assigned to an experimental condition and asked to read a vignette of a domestic altercation. Participants completed a questionnaire designed to assess how they perceived the batterer's and victim's responsibility for the situation, the seriousness of the situation, how likely the abusive behavior was to reoccur, and how likely the abusive behavior would get worse over time. Participants also completed a demographics survey and measures of gender role beliefs and homophobia / internalized homophobia. Overall, both straight and LGBT participants attributed less blame to batterers and more blame to victims, and perceived the abuse as less serious, when the scenario involved a same-sex couple. However, contrary to our hypotheses, participants' gender role beliefs and homophobia / internalized homophobia did not fully account for these findings. Participants' gender and the type of violence depicted were significant moderators for several of the relationships examined; however, these effects were relatively small and inconsistent. Social, clinical and legal implications of these findings are discussed - along with directions for future research.

  • Children's Tolerance of Word-form Variation

    Author:
    Paul Bruening
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Patricia Brooks
    Abstract:

    This study compared children's (N=96, mean age 4;1, range 2;8-5;3) and adults' (N=96, mean age 21 years) tolerance of word-onset modifications (e.g., wabbit and warabbit) and pseudo affixes (e.g., kocat and catko) in a label extension task. Trials comprised an introductory phase where children saw a picture of an animal and were told its name, and a test phase where they were shown the same picture along with one of a different animal. For `similar-name' trials, participants heard a word-form modification of the previously introduced name (e.g., introduced to a dib, they were asked, `which animal is a wib?'). For `dissimilar-name' trials, participants heard an entirely new word (e.g., introduced to a dib, they were asked, `which animal is a wuz?'). Specific types of modifications were repeated within each experiment to establish productive inflectional patterns. Across all experiments, children and adults exhibited similar strategies: They were more tolerant of prefixes than onset-modifications involving substitutions of initial consonants, and they were more tolerant of suffixes than prefixes, which may reflect a statistical tendency for inflections to adhere to the ends of words. Additionally, participants parsed novel productive inflections from stems when choosing targets. These findings point to word learning strategies as being flexible and adaptive to morphological patterns in languages.

  • Children's Tolerance of Word-form Variation

    Author:
    Paul Bruening
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Patricia Brooks
    Abstract:

    This study compared children's (N=96, mean age 4;1, range 2;8-5;3) and adults' (N=96, mean age 21 years) tolerance of word-onset modifications (e.g., wabbit and warabbit) and pseudo affixes (e.g., kocat and catko) in a label extension task. Trials comprised an introductory phase where children saw a picture of an animal and were told its name, and a test phase where they were shown the same picture along with one of a different animal. For `similar-name' trials, participants heard a word-form modification of the previously introduced name (e.g., introduced to a dib, they were asked, `which animal is a wib?'). For `dissimilar-name' trials, participants heard an entirely new word (e.g., introduced to a dib, they were asked, `which animal is a wuz?'). Specific types of modifications were repeated within each experiment to establish productive inflectional patterns. Across all experiments, children and adults exhibited similar strategies: They were more tolerant of prefixes than onset-modifications involving substitutions of initial consonants, and they were more tolerant of suffixes than prefixes, which may reflect a statistical tendency for inflections to adhere to the ends of words. Additionally, participants parsed novel productive inflections from stems when choosing targets. These findings point to word learning strategies as being flexible and adaptive to morphological patterns in languages.

  • The Effects of Social Influence, Power, and Tangible Rewards on Need-Fulfillment, Coworker Attraction and Helping Behaviors

    Author:
    Stefanie Bruno
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Dr. Kristin Sommer
    Abstract:

    Much of the research on influence in the workplace has focused on identifying strategies to obtain compliance from coworkers and the effectiveness of such strategies. Little is known about why people want to influence others. Recent theory and research suggest a link between influence and need-fulfillment, interpersonal attraction, and helping behavior. Three studies were designed to examine these links and to observe how common workplace elements, specifically power and rewards, impact the psychological and interpersonal benefits of successfully influencing coworkers. Studies 1 and 2 examined how the possession of power by either the source or target of influence moderates the outcomes of having influence. In Study 1, participants attempted to persuade a subordinate in a simulated fund-raising task using either harsh or soft forms of power. In Study 2, participants attempted to persuade either a leader or a peer to change his or her stance on mandatory comprehensive exams. In Study 3, participants either received a reward for attempting to influence a peer, regardless of the outcome (engagement-contingent), were rewarded only if they successfully influenced a peer (performance-contingent), or were asked to influence a peer without any expectation of rewards. Participants in all three studies were given false feedback indicating whether their influence attempts were successful. Following the manipulations, participants' need-fulfillment, liking for the target and willingness to help the coworker were assessed. Across studies, participants in the successful compared to unsuccessful influence conditions reported greater attraction to and willingness to help the target of influence and higher task satisfaction. Contrary to expectations, no reliable effects were found for need fulfillment. Perceptions of similarity and task satisfaction partially mediated the effects of influence on interpersonal attraction. Finally, the results indicated that influencing someone using soft power tactics (Study 1), or in conjunction with a performance-contingent reward (Study 3), was associated with the highest willingness to help. The helping effects were not mediated by similarity, reciprocity, need fulfillment or voluntariness. The theoretical and organizational implications of the findings and ideas for future research are discussed.

  • "Who do you think you are?": A multidimensional analysis of the impact of disparities in higher educational attainment within families of first-generation college graduates

    Author:
    April Burns
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Michelle Fine
    Abstract:

    This project explores the impact of disparate educational attainment between first-generation college graduates and their family members. This is a conscious shifting of the unit of analysis, from the changing social position and power of an individual student/graduate, to the relational capacity, tensions, and strategies of the family unit that is inclusive of the graduate. This shift in the unit of analysis, from the individual to the family, interrogates the function of higher education by broadening the range of outcomes associated with post-secondary education and credentialing beyond the economic advancement of the graduate. There are currently very few studies of this population that investigate post-degree attitudes and experiences and none of which ask questions about family relationships. Few if any studies have addressed how educational disparities within the family are perceived by other family members, particularly parents and siblings. This work investigates the nature of this affect/effect, primarily from the perspective of the graduate, but also reaching toward a greater understanding of the perspective of family members as well. Three broad areas of inquiry guide this exploratory first investigation of family narratives surrounding the higher educational attainment of first-generation college graduates: In what ways are educational values and justice beliefs (e.g., support of meritocracy), affected by the higher educational successes of one (or some) member(s) of the family? 2) How are family relations and power dynamics impacted by disparate levels of educational attainment within the family? and 3) What are the ideological dilemmas (Billig et al., 1988) of first-generation college graduates and family members, and how are these dilemmas negotiated? A mixed-method design was employed, consisting of a narrative analysis of interviews with first-generation college graduates' (N=13) and family members' (N=5) and an anonymous web-based survey (N=340) broadly assessing first-generation college graduate attitudes about their college experiences, post-college family relationships, current educational values and ideological dilemmas related to educational differences within the family of origin. A principal components analysis of survey items, and bivariate analyses were conducted to test relationships between factors and independent variables; a grounded theory approach was taken in the analysis of open-ended survey items.

  • THE EFFECTS OF PERSONALITY DISORDER TRAITS ON INDIVIDUAL THERAPY OUTCOMES IN INDIVIDUALS AT CLINICAL HIGH RISK FOR SCHIZOPHRENIA

    Author:
    Kathryn Byars
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Michele Galietta
    Abstract:

    Despite a high prevalence of comorbid personality disorder traits in those considered to be high risk (or prodromal) for schizophrenia (Woods et al., 2009), and the known negative effects of personality disorders on treatment in schizophrenia (e.g., Tyrer et al., 2000), little is known regarding the effect of personality disorder traits on the treatment of prodromal individuals. Using a ten-year sample from the Recognition and Prevention (RAP) Program at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York, this dissertation used retrospective, naturalistic methods to investigate personality disorder traits and the ways in which these traits affected both the assessment and the treatment of prodromal symptoms. Results did not support that personality disorder traits moderated treatment outcomes, but did support that particular treatment techniques were used more often with certain personality traits (e.g., borderline personality disorder) or symptom severities. In addition, it was found that, overall, particular treatment techniques were associated with reductions in negative symptoms, but not with positive symptom or global functioning changes. Results also indicated that aspects of the suspiciousness and hallucinations scales from the Structured Interview for Prodromal Syndromes (SIPS) were associated with personality traits and not predictive of transition to psychosis. These results suggest that treatment planning could use symptom presentation on intake to determine the most effective treatment techniques. Further research is required to further the diagnostic and predictive ability of assessment measures, including the important determination of whether currently considered prodromal symptoms may be better accounted for by personality traits.