Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Representations of Colorism in the Jamaican Culture and the Practice of Skin Bleaching

    Author:
    Christopher Charles
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    William Cross Jr.
    Abstract:

    This study deconstructs the images that influence Jamaicans to bleach their skin. Social representation theory (SRT) is used to pinpoint the origins of colorism and then trace its entrenchment in the culture and communications. SRT theorems say (1) the social images have a history; (2) these images are diffused and become embedded in the culture; (3) people use these images to understand their environment and create identities; (4) over time, repeated social exchanges become institutionalized culture; and (5) the images in the culture can be easily triggered and overheard in conversations. History data was collected from colonial and contemporary newspapers; the diffusion data was collected from popular songs, poems, and a novel; identity data was collected from interviews; institutionalization data was captured from participant observation of skin bleaching vendor-customer transactions; dialogic data was collected from a focus group interview. The findings are that the complexion consensus is a historical continuum in old and new newspapers. Colorism is contested in reggae and dancehall songs and literary works. The repeated vendor-customer exchanges reveal that skin bleaching is an established cultural practice. Participants use colorism to define themselves which influences them to bleach their skin. Colorism was heard in participants' conversations about race and skin bleaching. The results suggest that the complexion consensus is a hegemonic representation which influences the beliefs and behavior of the skin bleachers in Jamaica.

  • Morphological Development and Taxonomy of Cortical Neurons in Mouse Barrel Cortex: The Effect of Sensory Deprivation During the Critical Period

    Author:
    Chia-Chien Chen
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Joshua Brumberg
    Abstract:

    Neurons are the basic processing units and the fundamental building blocks of the nervous system, and understanding neuronal morphology provides a necessary first step towards comprehending the composition of the cortical microcircuits that perform cognitive computations within the cerebral cortex. Utilizing a histological impregnation technique that labels neurons in their entirety, detailed morphologies of barrel cortical neurons were investigated and the effect of chronic sensory deprivation explored. This research produced a number of key findings: 1) neurons in layer VI of the barrel cortex, which receives inputs from the contralateral facial whiskers, are composed of six geometrically distinct and morphologically heterogeneous populations; 2) chronic sensory deprivation of whisker-related input spanning across early neonatal development can considerably influence neurons' geometric properties, with structural alterations observed in somatic, apical and basilar dendritic features in layer VI of barrel cortex; 3) cortical response to disruption and restoration of sensation, as assessed by quantifying and categorizing dendritic protrusions, is cortex-layer specific and age-dependent, and a key protein regulating the content of extracellular matrix is upregulated following disruption of sensory experience. The main conclusions drawn from this research were that the composition within cerebral cortex is definable yet highly complex, and neurons respond to the ever-updating sensory environment by modifying their morphology and molecular content within the cerebral cortex. Characterizing neuronal elements provides a framework for better understanding of structure-function relationships within neocortical circuits in general, and how the sensory input provides the essential mechanisms for the appropriate development of cerebral cortex, an important prerequisite for proper perceptual functioning.

  • RE-CONSIDERING FEMALE SEXUAL DESIRE: INTERNALIZED REPRESENTATIONS OF PARENTAL RELATIONSHIPS AND SEXUAL SELF-CONCEPT IN WOMEN WITH INHIBITED AND HEIGHTENED SEXUAL DESIRE

    Author:
    Eugenia Cherkasskaya
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Margaret Rosario
    Abstract:

    Background: Psychoanalytic and sociocultural thinkers and researchers suggest that the etiology of low female sexual desire, the most prevalent sexual complaint in women, is multi-determined, implicating biological and psychological factors, including women's early relational experiences and sexual self-concept that stem from gender dynamics of a patriarchal culture. Further, recent studies indicate that highly sexual women exhibit heightened sexual desire, and high levels of sexual agency and sexual esteem. The study evaluated a model that hypothesized that sexual self-concept (sexual subjectivity, self-objectification, genital self-image) explains (i.e., mediates) the relations between internalized representations of parental relationships (attachment, separation/individuation, parental identification) and sexual desire in heterosexual women. Methods: Six hundred participants completed self-report questionnaires, assessing the above-mentioned variables. Subsequently, 20 women (10 with inhibited desire, 10 with heightened desire) were individually interviewed about their experiences of sexual desire to examine the differences in the phenomenology of female sexual desire between highly sexual and sexually inhibited women. Results: The results partially supported the hypotheses: internalized representations of parental relations (attachment and separation-individuation) significantly predicted sexual self-concept (sexual body esteem, self-objectification, genital self-image), which, in turn, was significantly related to sexual desire. Contrary to the study hypothesis, parental identification did not have a significant relationship with the construct of sexual self-concept. The narratives of highly sexual women embodied powerful and cherished experiences of bodily and relational desire, including a wish for merger, while those of the sexually inhibited women reflected negative affects and cognitions in a sexual context as well as a split between the bodily and the relational aspects of sexual desire. Conclusions: Current findings demonstrate the importance of investigating not only the sexually inhibited women but also the highly sexual women with a particular focus on women's internalized working models of early parent-child relations and their experiences of their bodies in a sexual context in understanding the origins of female sexual inhibition. Treatment of low or absent desire in women would benefit from modalities that emphasize early object relations as well as interventions that foster mind-body integration.

  • PATHWAYS TO HIGH-LETHALITY SUICIDE ATTEMPTS

    Author:
    Megan Chesin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Elizabeth Jeglic
    Abstract:

    The purpose of this study was to develop a model of the trajectory to high-lethality suicidal behavior for individuals with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). An increased number of previous suicide attempts, substance use immediately prior to the attempt, and objective planning were proposed to lead directly to an attempt of higher lethality. Meanwhile, aggression and impulsivity were hypothesized to lead indirectly, through their association with past suicidal behavior, to a higher lethality attempt. Path analysis revealed a revised model that applied only to individuals with BPD. In this final model, impulsivity was found to be significantly associated with higher-lethality suicide attempts and the frequency of an individual's past suicidal behavior. Additionally, the traits of impulsivity and aggression were found to be significantly correlated in the multivariate model. Pathways linking alcohol use at the time of the attempt to the lethality of suicidal behavior and aggression to the frequency of an individual's past suicidal behavior were not found to be significant, and no model using the variables of interest in this study could be determined for individuals with MDD. These results are discussed in light of current theories of suicidal behavior and in terms of their implications for clinical practice.

  • Changing gender: Gender role, class and the experience of Chinese female immigrants

    Author:
    Doris Cheung
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Anna Stetsenko
    Abstract:

    This dissertation analyzes gender role identity development in Chinese female immigrants from diverse work and education backgrounds. This study focuses on Chinese female immigrants, bakery salesladies and social workers, to addresses a gap in the existing literature, which has previously emphasized factory workers and students, on gender role identity development at the interface of social context and activity system dynamics. To understand further the Chinese female immigration experience, this research investigates how gender role identity is manifested across different social contexts and institutions. I administered questionnaires and conducted interviews with Chinese female immigrants residing in New York City. The sample consisted of two groups with different occupations, educational backĀ¬grounds, socio-economic statuses, and levels of cultural assimilation: bakery salesladies and social workers. I captured the process of gender role identity development through participants' own voices and narratives. I analyzed the data and discussed it in light of an activity theory framework. The key finding was that, for both groups, gender role identity was deeply influenced by traditional Chinese ideology including the traditional gender hierarchy, male supremacy, and the values of modesty, and maintaining interpersonal harmony. Bakery salesladies encountered less conflict at work and were more likely to avoid conflict at home. In contrast, social workers expressed a greater predisposition to voice their opinions without being confrontational at work and were ready to halt conversations when they sensed that their husbands were getting upset. Furthermore, in terms of life goals, the bakery salesladies tended to focus on their family needs and perceive the success of family members as their own success, whereas the social workers often had aspirations that went beyond traditional gender roles and valued and aspired to contributing to society. The findings reveal gender role identity to be an active and non-homogenous process of "doing gender" through which women negotiate various positions across cultural contexts, social locations, histories and ideologies within their unique activity systems.

  • FLUID OCCUPANCY: POLITICS AND SPACE IN A TAIPEI NIGHT MARKET

    Author:
    CHI-HSIN CHIU
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Setha Low
    Abstract:

    This dissertation shows how street vendors in Shilin Night Market, in Taipei City, Taiwan, through spatial, social, and material practices, shape and reshape an urban landscape. I find the space they produce to be a vernacular representation of modernity for an authentic urban identity. Dealing with the municipality and local community, street vendors have continually appropriated public and private property in both legal and extralegal situations. Municipal officials and urban planners have followed these spatial practices in an effort to fix, standardize, and tax their vending spaces. Extralegal vendors, provoked by this official scrutiny, developed a spatial practice of "fluid occupancy" supported by social relations, micro politics, and embodied performances to sustain their operation outside legal boundaries. Culturally speaking, the culinary practices of domestic and migrant food vendors, and the clothing vendors' involvement with transnational wholesale trades, stretch the identity of Shilin Night Market from that of a local trading place to a liminal space that subsumes a grounded, place-specific practice within a network of transnational flows. Despite the fact that street vendors created economic and cultural capital as the basis of a thriving market, they eventually became the targets of removal in the political discourse of reframing the market as a tourist space shaped in the spirit of capitalist modernity. To maximize the transnational quality of Shilin Night Market as they seek to forge a cosmopolitan identity for Taipei, municipal officials redeveloped the market into a prominent tourist destination, building a new, indoor market and relocating extralegal vendors into storefront arcades under the privatized governance of a property association. Eventually, some street vendors were incorporated into the municipal prototype, and others have kept contesting unauthorized space. I celebrate the hybridity of this commercial landscape that unifies the steady and the fluid occupancies of public space, as well as the global and the local synergy infused within the setting. My dissertation suggests that modern design practices can pursue process-driven planning strategies that forego displacement and exclusion, seeking instead to balance esthetic and economic concerns with an acknowledgement of the social ecologies of physically and culturally distinct, urban places.

  • The Eye and the Couch: Dialectical and Metaphorical Aspects of Seeing and Being Seen in Development and Psychoanalytic Treatment

    Author:
    Komal Choksi
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Jeffrey Rosen
    Abstract:

    ABSTRACT The Eye and the Couch: Dialectical and Metaphorical Aspects of Seeing and Being Seen in Development and Psychoanalytic Treatment by Komal Choksi The iconic scene of the psychoanalytic setting depicts two individuals present in the same physical space but looking away from one another. This scene invites the question of the role of gaze both in psychoanalysis and in the broader course of human interaction. These are the topics explored in this thesis, which is largely theoretical. The conscious and unconscious associations to looking and being looked at provide the data for a contextual analysis of the use of the psychoanalytic couch which systematically prevents facial-affective reading and interaction between patient and analyst. A review of literature was undertaken to understand the meanings of seeing and being seen with a different conceptual lens adopted in each chapter. The first chapter, covering phylogeny and ontogeny, established the biological roots of gaze and gaze aversion and the unconscious processes involved in visuofacial interaction. The second chapter demonstrated the paramount significance of maternal-infant gazing in the development of both psychic and interaction structures. The coupling of gazing with sexuality, shame, and envy was revealed in the third chapter. The fourth chapter considered gaze in existentialist philosophy in which gaze is alienating, in feminist theory, in which gaze is indicative of power and status, and in current contemporary culture, which is increasingly exhibitionistic and voyeuristic. Literature on the rationale for the couch with an emphasis on the visual dimension was reviewed in the subsequent chapter. The literature demonstrated the persistent associations of libido and aggression to gaze and provided the possible motives for its exclusion in analytic treatment. The last chapter was an attempt to apply these findings to the clinical encounter and consider therapeutic action in both physical-interactive setups - face to face and with the use of the couch. The significance of nonverbal affective communication, shame, analytic voyeurism, regression, internal focus, holding, separation-individuation, loss, and symbolization were considered, along with amodal perceptual functioning and the role of mirror neurons in analytic empathy. It was concluded that the decision to treat a patient face to face or not must involve an attunement to the possible idiosyncratic meanings for the patient of the analyst's gaze and face.

  • Dissertation The relationships among custody and visitation arrangements, parental conflict, and adolescent outcomes in the context of divorce

    Author:
    Kimberly Citron
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Matthew Johnson
    Abstract:

    Experiencing parental divorce during adolescence has been associated with a number of negative adolescent outcomes. A high level of parental conflict has been identified as an important determinant of adolescents' adjustment to their parents' divorce. This study sought to examine the relationships between level of parental conflict, custody and visitation arrangements, and negative adolescent outcomes. This research is based on archival data obtained in the course of a forensic child custody evaluation, and utilized a sample of 89 couples and 196 pre-adolescents and adolescents. Results demonstrated that higher levels of parental conflict were associated with a greater number of negative adolescent outcomes. It was also found that children whose parents had joint custody experienced fewer negative adolescent outcomes than those who were in the sole custody of one parent. These results suggest several important implications for practice, policy, and future research.

  • MERIT- Mentalization Enhanced Remediation an Integrated Treatment - A Comprehensive Intervention for Children with Autism

    Author:
    Jenifer Clark
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Arietta Slade
    Abstract:

    In the treatment of autism two models have evolved that have attempted to integrate aspects from skill based approaches with a more developmental model. These models remain predominantly developmental. Although these more integrated models have taken into consideration the advances that have allowed us to better understand the neuropsychological profiles of children on the spectrum, they do not attempt to intensively remediate many of the areas we know to be compromised. In this dissertation I will propose a treatment model that considers these specific deficits while integrating valuable aspects of various existing models and thereby optimizes the outcome for children with autism. I have been implementing this approach for over 15 years and will support its effectiveness with clinical case vignettes. This approach allows the successful integration of the remediation aspects of ABA with interpersonal approaches. It is extremely effective with children with a more severe constellation of symptoms as it remediates in a thorough and global manner. Mentalization based therapy will be used to foster the developmental approach. Mentalization based therapy offers a less structured treatment which more practically allows the integration of these two previously disparate approaches. Additionally mentalization allows parents and practitioners to better understand the inner world of the child. In this sense the heterogeneneity of each child is considered which is paramount to designing a successful intervention.

  • An Investigation of the Psychological Processes Involved in Juror Rehabilitation

    Author:
    Caroline Crocker
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Margaret Kovera
    Abstract:

    Judges often attempt to rehabilitate jurors who express an inability to be fair during voir dire. The present research examined psychological mechanisms operating during juror rehabilitation. Study One investigated whether the influence of rehabilitative questioning on juror judgments observed in previous research is attributable to informational or normative influence from the judge. I manipulated the presence of two components of rehabilitation (i.e., legal instruction and elicitation of a commitment to forgo bias) within a mock voir dire. I also varied evidence strength to assess whether rehabilitative questioning improves the quality of jurors' judgments. Jurors watched a trial and rendered a verdict. Rehabilitative instructions reduced the number of guilty verdicts for biased and unbiased participants. Rehabilitation did not increase jurors' sensitivity to evidence strength. Study Two tested the hypothesis that traditional suppression rehabilitation will lead to increased accessibility of PTP under conditions of cognitive load. I manipulated exposure to PTP and the type of rehabilitation questioning received (i.e., no rehabilitation, rehabilitation framed in terms of suppression, rehabilitation framed in terms of concentration). Efforts were taken to induce a state of cognitive busyness in all participants while they watched the trial; after the trial participants deliberated to a verdict. Exposure to PTP increased the likelihood that participants would vote guilty. In the no rehabilitation and concentration conditions, participants who read PTP perceived the defendant as more guilty than did participants who did not view PTP. However, in the suppression rehabilitation condition, participants who read PTP perceived the defendant as less guilty than did participants who did not read PTP. Rehabilitative instructions and suppression rehabilitation resulted in more lenient judgments than the no-rehabilitation control, suggesting that participants were not well calibrated to the magnitude of their bias, and when prompted to be unbiased, overcorrected in the opposite direction. Although rehabilitated jurors may be motivated to correct for bias, they appear to have difficulty estimating the degree to which biases influence their judgments. It is possible that jurors may be better able to assess the presence of and correct for a biasing influence if it is discrete rather than attitudinal in nature.