Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Adjustment and Change Among Bisexual Women: A Longitudinal Analysis

    Author:
    Jane Caflisch
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Margaret Rosario
    Abstract:

    Higher levels of psychological distress have been found among representative samples of bisexual adults than among comparable samples of gay, lesbian, or heterosexual adults, yet significant variability in mental health outcomes has also been found between bisexual individuals. This longitudinal, mixed-methods study (Time 1 N=50, Time 2 N=40) aimed to examine why bisexual women may be at heightened risk for distress, and also to identify factors associated with psychological adjustment among this population. Theories that associate bisexuality with cognitive dissonance and identity diffusion were reviewed and critiqued, and an alternative model of identity integration for bisexuals, built around toleration of multiplicity and paradox within one's self and one's relationships with others, was proposed. It was hypothesized that the capacity to tolerate paradoxical aspects of bisexuality would be predicted by personality organization, differentiation-relatedness, and attachment. Further, it was hypothesized that mental health outcomes among this population would be predicted by the following factors: 1) capacity to tolerate paradoxical aspects of bisexuality, 2) experiences of internally- and externally-imposed pressure to "resolve" one's bisexuality into a binary model, 3) experiences of community support for and stigma against bisexuality, 4) experiences of emotional attachment and sexual excitement as integrated versus split in romantic relationships, and 5) need for cognitive closure. The interaction between capacity to tolerate paradoxical aspects of bisexuality and degree of change over time in sexual attractions, behaviors and/or self-identifications was also hypothesized to predict mental health outcomes. Multiple linear regression analyses were conducted to examine relations between hypothesized predictors and outcomes, controlling for socio-demographic covariates. Qualitative data were then revisited to elaborate on patterns identified through quantitative analyses, and to illuminate additional dynamics from the focused interviews. In particular, qualitative analyses were used to examine the ways in which change over time in sexual attractions and self-identifications were understood by participants and integrated into their self-concepts; to understand the extent to which different participants experienced emotional and erotic aspects of relationships as integrated or split with male versus female partners; and to consider the ways in which participants' attempts to negotiate these dynamics were shaped by internal, relational and environmental factors.

  • NEURAL SUBSTRATES OF VISUAL PROCESSING AND OBJECT RECOGNITION DEFICITS IN SCHIZOPHRENIA

    Author:
    Daniel Calderone
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Pamela Butler
    Abstract:

    Mounting evidence has shown that patients with schizophrenia have preferential deficits of the magnocellular versus the parvocellular visual system. Experiment 1 examined this deficit in schizophrenia patients utilizing an electrophysiological paradigm. Patients showed preferential magnocellular deficits in electrophysiological response indicative of impaired contrast gain (response amplification at low contrast) and contrast gain control (inhibition of responses at high contrast), which are used preferentially by this pathway to optimize responses. Patients also displayed deficits in psychophysical contrast sensitivity, further showing deficient contrast gain in the magnocellular pathway. These electrophysiological and psychophysical deficits were associated with neuropsychological and emotion processing deficits, which predicted functional outcome. Experiment 2 utilized functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the neural underpinnings of the paradigms used in Experiment 1. fMRI responses to magnocellular- and parvocellular-biased contrast stimuli from the electrophysiological paradigm showed that contrast gain (i.e., signal amplification) was related to increases in volume of relatively weak occipital activation, while contrast gain control (i.e., signal inhibition) was related to strong a occipital activation over a smaller volume. Inhibitory contrast gain control was also linked to negative parafoveal activation, which was less apparent for patients. fMRI responses to a contrast sensitivity procedure showed reduced volume of occipital activation to low spatial frequency (LSF), but not high spatial frequency (HSF), stimuli for patients, indicating a general deficit in activation volume for LSF stimuli which are preferentially processed by the magnocellular system. Experiment 3 examined consequences of magnocellular dysfunction for object recognition in schizophrenia. Patients showed deficits in fMRI activation to LSF object stimuli over a widespread cortical network, indicating a loss of early-stage low resolution object information. Patients instead showed an increase in activation to HSF object stimuli in some areas, suggesting compensation for LSF deficits with HSF information. Together, these three experiments further elucidated the neural substrates of preferential magnocellular deficits in schizophrenia, and demonstrated that such deficits may propagate to higher cognitive processes such as object recognition.

  • HOUSEHOLD DENSITY AND ACADEMIC STANDING AMONG COMMUNITY COLLEGE STUDENTS: THE EFFECTS OF TIME ORIENTATION AND SPATIAL SELF-REGULATION

    Author:
    Grace Campagna
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Gary Winkel
    Abstract:

    The purpose of the study was to develop a multifactorial model tracing paths from housing affordances to academic outcomes in higher education. The study sought to connect two areas of psychological research: on one side, the adverse effects of environmental stressors and inadequate self-regulation upon life course prospects and, on the other, the affective, behavioral, and cognitive elements of purposive self-regulation used by college students toward long-term goal attainment. The study design was cross-sectional and used self-reported survey data as well as official academic records for 490 student participants. Three new measures were developed. The first, Housing Inadequacy, gave a subjective assessment of domestic environments by comparing availability of household features with their rated importance to individual students. The second, Perceived Housing Stress, was adapted from the Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen & Williamson, 1988), an existing validated measure of global appraised stress, to identify stressors specific to the home setting. The third, Spatial Self-Regulation, introduced a new construct with two components: the ability to recognize whether a setting is conducive to one's goals and the ability to engage or change that setting in order to move toward those goals. In the current study, the affective, behavioral, and cognitive aspects of Spatial Self-Regulation were measured in both home and campus settings. Two existing measures were used. Temporal factors from the Zimbardo Time Perspectives Inventory (Zimbardo & Boyd, 1999) were hypothesized to attenuate or amplify adverse effects of Housing Inadequacy and Perceived Housing Stress in predicting academic motivations and strategies. These motivations and strategies were measured using components of the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (Pintrich, Smith, Garcia, and McKeachie, 1993), an instrument widely used in higher education assessment. Structural equation modeling was used to refine, integrate, and confirm linkages among the above variables. A statistically significant model linked sub-factors for Housing Inadequacy, Perceived Housing Stress, Spatial Self-Regulation, and Time Orientation with Motivated Strategies for Learning. Since the model reliably predicted GPA, the study presented a new approach to explaining college student academic standing as an outcome of the interaction of person-level variables with environmental factors.

  • The Role of the Dorsal Hippocampus in the Contextual Control of Appetitive Responding

    Author:
    Vincent Campese
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Andrew Delamater
    Abstract:

    Four experiments were run using rat subjects in order to assess the impact of manipulations to the dorsal hippocampus (DH) on the contextual and temporal control of extinguished appetitive learning (e.g., magazine approach). Subjects were trained to associate discrete stimuli with food in specific locations or at specific times. The subjects then had these associations extinguished by means of omitting the food reinforcers following stimulus presentations. In order to assess contextual and temporal modulation of learning the stimuli were tested within as well as outside of the contexts or times where/when they were extinguished. Control subjects showed reduced responding when stimuli were presented within their extinction contexts (physical and temporal) whereas responding recovered outside of these extinction contexts (i.e., renewal and spontaneous recovery). In order to assess DH function in these different instances of response recovery, neurotoxic lesions of the DH prior to tests or temporary muscimol-induced inactivation of the structure were used. The results of these studies indicate that while DH manipulations fail to affect conditional control of appetitive extinction learning by physical contexts, they do impair control when temporal contexts are used as a conditional cue.

  • The Role of the Dorsal Hippocampus in the Contextual Control of Appetitive Responding

    Author:
    Vincent Campese
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Andrew Delamater
    Abstract:

    Four experiments were run using rat subjects in order to assess the impact of manipulations to the dorsal hippocampus (DH) on the contextual and temporal control of extinguished appetitive learning (e.g., magazine approach). Subjects were trained to associate discrete stimuli with food in specific locations or at specific times. The subjects then had these associations extinguished by means of omitting the food reinforcers following stimulus presentations. In order to assess contextual and temporal modulation of learning the stimuli were tested within as well as outside of the contexts or times where/when they were extinguished. Control subjects showed reduced responding when stimuli were presented within their extinction contexts (physical and temporal) whereas responding recovered outside of these extinction contexts (i.e., renewal and spontaneous recovery). In order to assess DH function in these different instances of response recovery, neurotoxic lesions of the DH prior to tests or temporary muscimol-induced inactivation of the structure were used. The results of these studies indicate that while DH manipulations fail to affect conditional control of appetitive extinction learning by physical contexts, they do impair control when temporal contexts are used as a conditional cue.

  • Child Development Theory as a Mediator of Novice Teachers' Ethnotheories to Increase Learning and Justice in the Classroom

    Author:
    Nancy Cardwell
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Colette Daiute
    Abstract:

    Many urban public schools use teaching methods that isolate and silence children to compel compliance (Schwebel, 2004; Saltman & Gabbard, 2003; Baumrind, 1991). In these contexts, black and brown children are disciplined more often and harshly than white, sent through the court system 70% of the time (Alexander, 2012). Novice teachers, appearing expert without expertise, use unconscious personal theories or ethnotheories to compel compliance, projecting an illusion of expertise without understanding the consequences for children's development and achievement (Elliott, Stemler, Sternberg, Grigorenko & Hoffman, 2010; Skovholt, 2004). An advance in the field would be to learn how ethnotheories interact with formal theories, like child development theory (CDT), to mediate pedagogical choices in the classroom. In this qualitative study, I interviewed 12 participants to learn about CDT as a mediator of classroom practice to increase learning and justice in diverse educational contexts (Daiute, 2014). I found that the unconscious use of ethnotheories reproduced injustice by subordinating children's needs to teacher's experiences and constrained learning through silencing, isolation and exclusion (Kahn & Kammerman, 2001; Harvey, 1999). I further found that the conscious use of ethnotheories mediated by CDT interrupts injustice by placing children's needs at the center and teachers adjusting their teaching approaches to create opportunities for children to tell their story, connect with each other in an inclusive, rigorous, respectful learning environment (Young, 2011; Harvey, 1999; Kenyon & Randall, 1997). Given this, teacher educators can use frequent guided reflections to support novice teachers' restorying their ethnotheories mediated through the lens of CDT situated within a global context (Kenyon & Randall, 1997). Researchers need to examine the effectiveness of this practice in relation to increasing academic achievement by investigating how novice teachers consciously use their ethnotheories mediated by CDT to adjust their teaching approaches to support increased academic success. In conclusion, CDT becomes a mediator of novice teachers' ethnotheories and a tool to adjust their classroom practice toward increased learning and justice by encouraging children to narrate their experiences to create multiple points of entry for meaningful academic lessons (Daiute, 2014; King & Cardwell, 2009; Cardwell, 2002; Kenyon & Randall, 1997).

  • An Empirical Analysis of Adult Romantic Attachment and Sexuality

    Author:
    Belinda Carrasco
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Diana Diamond
    Abstract:

    The purpose of this dissertation was to empirically explore the relationship between adult romantic attachment and sexual functioning in a sexual partner who is viewed as an attachment figure, a target of caregiving or both. Guiding this dissertation was the expectation that underlying the four prototypical patterns of adult romantic attachment is a distinct pattern of positive and negative working models of attachment of self and other that shape the way individuals experience and engage in sexuality. We analyzed the responses of 81 female students and young adult community volunteers from the New York City area and Westchester County, who responded to self-report measures regarding sexual satisfaction, capacity for stability of sexual relationships and functioning in the sexual response cycle, in addition to responding to adult romantic attachment questionnaires. Results revealed that secure attachment is related to sexual satisfaction, low permissiveness and tendency to seek sex in committed relationships. The findings also indicated that the capacity to experience pleasure and stability of sexual relationships, in combination with the physical aspects of sex, such as arousal, excitement and orgasm, are the essence of a securely attached relationship. By contrast, insecure attachment was found to be positively correlated with little commitment and dependency in romantic relationships, as well as sexual dissatisfaction. In specific, dismissive and fearful women downplayed the importance of sexual relationships, reported higher levels of aggression, as well as reported optimal sexuality functioning in areas that only entail physical aspects of sex and do not include components of affection, tenderness and mutuality between people. Results also indicated that women who have a preoccupied attachment status showed less sexual satisfaction than other insecure women, and more sexual dysfunction defined by a lower capacity for orgasm, arousal, sexual excitement and openness to varied sexual practices. Overall, the results indicated that ambivalent/preoccupied women are attuned to their attachment needs and gear their sexual behavior towards getting those needs gratified. In other words, in anxious women the hyper-activation of the attachment system overrides the capacity to experience sexual pleasure, satisfaction, commitment to a relationship and the experience of orgasm, and thus experience and interpret sexual activity as a reflection of their relationship status.

  • Searching for Food (Justice): A qualitative case-study of the food environment and practices in a low-income micro-neighborhood in Long Island City, Queens, NY

    Author:
    Christine Caruso
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Gary Winkel
    Abstract:

    Abstract Searching for (Just) Food: A qualitative case study of the food environment in a low-income micro-neighborhood in Long Island City, NY by Christine Caruso Adviser: Professor Gary Winkel Problems of food access, food insecurity and hunger, are linked to numerous adverse health outcomes including increased rates of morbidity and mortality due to diet related diseases. In addition, these inequities highlight social justice problems, such as spatial segregation and neighborhood deprivation, within the larger food system. This project aims to explore the links between food systems, access, and food practices among low-income residents living in an underserved food environment in order to better understand the current barriers and struggles related to accessing healthy and desirable foods. This project focuses on the Queensbridge micro-neighborhood located within the larger neighborhood of Long Island City, in Queens, NY. Given the complexity of the issues surrounding the food system and the differential impacts on people across various socio-economic statuses the aims of this study include gaining a better understanding of the issues and processes involved among low-income community members related to the ways in which they source and consume food in the conventional and alternative food systems. The primary research questions informing this dissertation are: what are participants' perceptions of their food environment(s), particularly around the areas of quality, value, and taste of available products? What are the socio-cultural factors present in the micro-neighborhood that gets inscribed into the food environment, and how do these characteristics influence purchasing decisions? And, what is the level of awareness, attitudes toward and use of alternative food networks (AFNs) among community members? I will address these questions through conducting participant observation, in-depth interviews, and archival research with members of a community-based advocacy organization, as well as community members living in and around the Queensbridge micro-neighborhood, and staff members and volunteers of area community-based organizations. Findings in this dissertation focus on participants' perceptions and experience of the food environment in this community utilizing a food justice framework to interrogate the forms of race and class based differences that undergird residents' food practices.

  • Sex Differences in Systemic and Central Morphine Analgesia in Rats: Organizational-Activational Gonadal Hormone Interactions and Roles of Gonadal Hormone Accumulating Nuclei

    Author:
    Giuseppe Cataldo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Richard Bodnar
    Abstract:

    Sex differences in morphine analgesia are commonly seen following systemic and intracerebral administration with male rats displaying greater analgesic magnitudes and potencies than females. The purpose of this dissertation research was to elucidate further possible neural mechanisms which elicit these differences. Due to its common roles in both antinociceptive and reproductive behaviors, we hypothesized that the ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (vlPAG) is subject to sex differences upon morphine analgesia sensitive to organizational-activational manipulations of gonadal hormones as well as lesions of hypothalamic estradiol-containing nuclei. Thus, the first experiment examined the organizational manipulation of gonadal hormones and effects of adult ovariectomy or estradiol replacement and systemic morphine analgesia. To assess the generalizability of these effects, the second experiment evaluated these differences upon morphine analgesia elicited from the vlPAG as well as the interaction between organizational and activational gonadal hormone manipulations. The third experiment then evaluated the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) and the medial preoptic area (MPOA) hypothalamic estradiol-containing nuclei's contribution to and their possible role by which female rats display a smaller opiate analgesic effect. Adult ovariectomy minimally affected morphine analgesia in neonatal vehicle-treated females, while significantly reducing the magnitude but not the potency of morphine analgesia in neonatal androgenized female rats. This suggests a limited organizational-activational gonadal hormone interaction in the mediation of systemic morphine analgesia in female rats. In marked contrast, neonatal androgenized female rats displayed significantly greater magnitudes of vlPAG morphine analgesia than neonatal vehicle-treated female rats. Adult ovariectomy significantly enhanced the magnitude and potency of vlPAG morphine analgesia in female rats treated neonatally with either vehicle or testosterone with the latter effect suggesting a strong organizational-activational gonadal hormone interaction in the mediation of vlPAG morphine analgesia in female rats. Lesions of the VMH and MPOA strongly suggest that they act to tonically inhibit endogenous pain-inhibitory circuits in the female, but not male brain, and that removal of circulating gonadal hormones by ovariectomy and/or excitotoxic destruction of these estrogen receptor accumulating nuclei disinhibit the female analgesic response to systemic morphine. Collectively, these results strongly implicate the vlPAG, organizational and activational effects of gonadal hormones as well as hypothalamic estradiol-containing nuclei in mediating sex differences in morphine analgesia in rats.

  • Sex Differences in Systemic and Central Morphine Analgesia in Rats: Organizational-Activational Gonadal Hormone Interactions and Roles of Gonadal Hormone Accumulating Nuclei

    Author:
    Giuseppe Cataldo
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Psychology
    Advisor:
    Richard Bodnar
    Abstract:

    Sex differences in morphine analgesia are commonly seen following systemic and intracerebral administration with male rats displaying greater analgesic magnitudes and potencies than females. The purpose of this dissertation research was to elucidate further possible neural mechanisms which elicit these differences. Due to its common roles in both antinociceptive and reproductive behaviors, we hypothesized that the ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (vlPAG) is subject to sex differences upon morphine analgesia sensitive to organizational-activational manipulations of gonadal hormones as well as lesions of hypothalamic estradiol-containing nuclei. Thus, the first experiment examined the organizational manipulation of gonadal hormones and effects of adult ovariectomy or estradiol replacement and systemic morphine analgesia. To assess the generalizability of these effects, the second experiment evaluated these differences upon morphine analgesia elicited from the vlPAG as well as the interaction between organizational and activational gonadal hormone manipulations. The third experiment then evaluated the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) and the medial preoptic area (MPOA) hypothalamic estradiol-containing nuclei's contribution to and their possible role by which female rats display a smaller opiate analgesic effect. Adult ovariectomy minimally affected morphine analgesia in neonatal vehicle-treated females, while significantly reducing the magnitude but not the potency of morphine analgesia in neonatal androgenized female rats. This suggests a limited organizational-activational gonadal hormone interaction in the mediation of systemic morphine analgesia in female rats. In marked contrast, neonatal androgenized female rats displayed significantly greater magnitudes of vlPAG morphine analgesia than neonatal vehicle-treated female rats. Adult ovariectomy significantly enhanced the magnitude and potency of vlPAG morphine analgesia in female rats treated neonatally with either vehicle or testosterone with the latter effect suggesting a strong organizational-activational gonadal hormone interaction in the mediation of vlPAG morphine analgesia in female rats. Lesions of the VMH and MPOA strongly suggest that they act to tonically inhibit endogenous pain-inhibitory circuits in the female, but not male brain, and that removal of circulating gonadal hormones by ovariectomy and/or excitotoxic destruction of these estrogen receptor accumulating nuclei disinhibit the female analgesic response to systemic morphine. Collectively, these results strongly implicate the vlPAG, organizational and activational effects of gonadal hormones as well as hypothalamic estradiol-containing nuclei in mediating sex differences in morphine analgesia in rats.