Projects for Distinction Conducted by Stockton University Alumni

You will find here abstracts and full papers reporting Projects for Distinction completed by former Psychology Majors at Stockton University

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Abstract: The following research sought to address the best source of information that could be used to influence an individual’s attitudes and behaviors towards concussions. The hypothesis of the research was that those who read a narrative about concussions by a celebrity would be influenced more than those who had read one by a stranger or expert. The sample consisted of 69 college students from Stockton University who were asked to read one of three narratives by different sources. Following voluntary consent, they read one of the three narratives and were asked to answer a survey related to their attitudes and behaviors towards concussions. The results were scored to determine who would be least likely to participate in risky behaviors that would lead to concussion. No statistically significant results were related to the source of information the individual read. There was a significant difference in attitudes and behaviors based on age between those 19 (M = 27.82, SD = 2.30) and 20 (M = 24.60, SD = 3.27), p = .031, and for those who had no (M = 27.52, SD, = 2.37) vs 3 or more (M = 23.50, SD = 5.20) previous concussions, p = .024. Lack of significance is likely due to the small sample size and further research is needed to understand what source of education would best impact an individual in relation to concussions.

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Abstract: Older adults reflect on their lives during Erikson’s final stage of psychosocial development, “ego integrity versus despair”. Over the years, non-pharmacological interventions were created for older adults in order to achieve this final stage, one being Guided Autobiography (GAB). GAB is typically completed after ten weeks with two-to-three-hour weekly sessions. The older adults would write a two-page paper focusing on a theme before each session. At the session, older adults would read their writings to one another and then have a discussion regulated by an instructor. The current study hypothesized that GAB could improve quality of life, one’s presence in their meaning in life, life satisfaction, and self-perceived cognition. Additionally, it was hypothesized that a person’s purpose for reminiscence would focus more on one’s identity, connecting with others, and teaching others. The results did not produce significant results; however, there were small to moderate effects for quality of life and life satisfaction. Additionally, there were large effect sizes for changes in the different purposes in reminiscence. Furthermore, GAB experience was positive for both participants who experienced GAB on Zoom and in-person. These results show that in a future lockdown, older adults can reduce isolation through an online program like GAB since the experience was enjoyable and did not depend on the format it was received. Despite the current study’s small sample size, GAB was still shown to have some benefits.

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Abstract: Stigma negatively impacts perceptions of individuals who have mental illnesses, and in turn, contributes to self-stigma, unwillingness to seek treatment, and unwillingness to have a relationship with a person who has a mental illness (Byrne, 2000). This study was driven by Gordan Allport’s contact hypothesis, which states that one’s contact with a stigmatized group will decrease stigma associated with the group. The current study evaluates how both stigma and benevolence toward people with bipolar disorder are impacted by knowing someone with bipolar disorder and the rater’s subjective social status. There was not a significant difference in stigma scores for individuals who have contact with someone who has bipolar disorder compared to someone who does not have contact with someone with bipolar disorder, but individuals who know someone who has bipolar disorder scored higher on benevolence than those who do not know someone with bipolar disorder. Subjective social status was significant as a predictor of stigma, while subjective social status was not a significant predictor of benevolence toward people with bipolar disorder. This study provides partial support for contact theory, and enhances our understanding of how positive and negative attitudes about people with bipolar disorder are affected by contact and social status.

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Abstract: Empowerment can influence many parts of a person’s psychology, including the use of in/out group short-cuts when forming an opinion. Looking at this relationship when it comes to political opinions and political parties, subjects were randomly assigned to be given one of three versions of a description of a farm subsidy policy where one version contained a cue suggesting Democrats support & Republicans oppose the policy, another version contained a cue suggesting Republicans support & Democrats oppose the policy, and the third version did not indicate which political party supports or opposes the policy. They then had to rate their own support for that policy. It was found that higher levels of empowerment are generally related to higher use of such short-cuts, meaning that subjects would indicate more support if they were assigned to the condition that indicated that the political party they self-identify with were said to support the policy and indicated less support for the policy if they were assigned to the condition that indicated that the political party they self-identify with were said to oppose the policy. These results were inconsistent with the original hypotheses I developed for this study. In addition to this counter-intuitive finding, it was found that subjects who feel like they are less influenced by their political leaders’ opinions are actually more influenced by the part-support cue given during the experiment.

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Abstract: The coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted society as a whole and left a significant impact on the lives of many individuals, placing a strain on mental health across the globe. Previous research has found need for structure, loneliness, body image, and social media use, which have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, to be separately implicated in many psychological issues. The current study examined how these risk factors (i.e., need for structure, loneliness, perceived body image, and social media exposure) predict mental health outcomes (i.e., social anxiety, depressive, and disordered eating symptoms) all together in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 239 participants were included. Results revealed that need for structure, loneliness, and social media exposure were significant predictors of social anxiety. Results also identified loneliness, body image, and social media exposure as significant predictors of disordered eating and depressive symptoms. Last, when examined all together, the overall model for risk factors predicting mental health outcomes was significant, Wilks’ Λ = .779, F(3, 230) = 21.796, p < .001, partial η2 = .221. Loneliness and social media exposure were associated with mental health outcomes at high levels. These results emphasize the importance of talking with others, reaching out for support, and staying connected to reduce symptoms and improve mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Implications for continuing coping strategies are discussed.

Paper 

Abstract: Research has demonstrated that many college students underutilize mental health services. Specifically, racial/ethnic minority students are even more likely to underutilize mental health services. Previous studies have identified stigma as one of the biggest barriers to mental health treatment. Different types of stigma that have emerged as contributors to the underutilization of services include perceived public stigma, self-stigma, personal stigma, and social network stigma. Furthermore, acculturation has also been identified as a cultural factor contributing to the underutilization of mental health services. The current study aimed to 1) examine differences in the presentation of perceived public stigma, self-stigma, personal stigma and social network stigma, among African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and European Americans, 2) examine how mainstream acculturation and heritage acculturation may explain differences in the presentation of each type of stigma among racial groups, and 3) identify race, stigma, and acculturation as predictors of mental health service utilization.  Results revealed significant differences in the presentation of perceived public stigma specifically, among Hispanic Americans who identified with higher rates than European Americans. Results also identified race and low heritage acculturation as significant predictors of perceived public stigma, and Hispanic Americans and African Americans presented higher levels of perceived public stigma compared to European Americans. Low heritage acculturation and low mainstream acculturation were also identified as significant predictors of personal stigma. Last, results identified personal stigma, self-stigma, social network stigma, mainstream acculturation, and identifying as Asian American as predictors of mental health service utilization.

Paper

Abstract: Intrusive thoughts are a symptom of many psychological disorders that often result in high levels of distress or thought suppression. In response to distressing events, defense mechanisms are used by individuals in order to cope. Which defense mechanisms are utilized determines an individual’s defense style, which can be mature, neurotic, or immature and can affect the extent to which one is able to cope with the stressor. Those who are unable to cope with their stressors are symptoms and are in psychological treatment can be grouped as a clinical population, while those who are not in treatment would be considered a non-clinical population. This study investigated differences between the clinical and non-clinical groups in relation to levels of thought intrusion, thought suppression, and defense styles. It was hypothesized that those in the clinical group would score higher in thought intrusion levels while the non-clinical group would score higher in thought suppression levels. It was also hypothesized that the two groups would significantly differ in defense style scores. Instruments were given to those in a partial care program (the clinical group) and students at a university (the non-clinical group) that would evaluate thought intrusion and thought suppression levels (the White Bear Suppression Inventory) and defense style (the Defense Style Questionnaire 40). These hypotheses were partially supported, as the clinical group scored significantly higher in thought intrusion and thought suppression levels. Additionally, the clinical group had a significantly higher level of immature defense style than the non-clinical group, but there were no other significant differences between the populations.

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Abstract: This research study outlines an experiment that examined how realistic and biased portrayals of American television affected social stigma towards mental health in American society. This study was a 2x2x3 mixed factorial design and measured the levels of stigma each participant has after viewing video clips of popular television shows depicting characters with the mental illnesses major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder - type I. Each participant watched a realistic depiction of mental illness and a biased depiction of mental illness and completed the Attitudes to Mental Illness Scale (AMIS) after each video. The overall aim of the proposed research was to explore the damaging effects that biased depictions of mental illness in the media have on people in particular, levels of stigma towards individuals with mental illnesses. Results showed that participants who could accurately identify which videos were biased versus realistic had lower stigma levels than those who could not (F(2,108) = 6.03, p < .05). There was a significant interaction between video order, identification and video content: participants who watched the realistic video first and accurately identified the content of the video had significantly lower social stigma levels after watching the realistic video (F(1,107) = 5.29, p < .05). Overall, this research found some evidence to support the hypotheses that stereotyped content in media and accurate identification of mental illness relate to social stigma levels.

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Abstract: Previous studies have reported a positive relationship between doodling and working attention and memory processes (Andrade, 2009; Boggs et al., 2017; Kercood & Banda, 2012). The present study aims to investigate why this positive dual-task relationship exists through empirical testing of the Daydream Reduction Hypothesis; stating that doodling improves learning performance due to its ability to reduce daydreaming. In order to test this hypothesis, a close replication of Andrade (2010) was conducted, with an additional shadowing component that manipulated the participants’ ability to daydream. A significant negative relationship was found between shadowing and attention, suggesting that the shadowing component impaired participants’ performance. Results between doodling and attention and memory were found to be non significant. If the shadowing component were substituted for a task less cognitively demanding, it is possible that we would be able to replicate the results of Andrade (2010), and discover why doodling has been observed to improve learning performance.

Paper 

Abstract: Postpartum depression affects as many as 18.6% of women, and postpartum anxiety affects between 10.4% and 16.2% of women. Previous research has found social support and perfectionism to be implicated in many psychological issues, postpartum depression and anxiety included. This study examined social support as a protective factor against postpartum depressive and anxiety symptoms and perfectionism as a risk factor; associations between subscales of social support and postpartum depressive and anxiety symptoms; social support as a moderator between the relationship of perfectionism and postpartum depressive and anxiety symptoms. A total of 596 postpartum participants were included. Participants completed measures on postpartum depression, anxiety, social support, and perfectionism. Multivariate regressions revealed perfectionism was not significantly associated with depressive or anxiety symptoms, Wilks’ L = .99, (2, 592) = 1.98, = .14. Social support was a significant protective factor against depressive and anxiety symptoms, Wilks’ L = .86, F (2, 592) = 46.89, p < .05, partial η2 = .14. Further analyses revealed that all social support subscales were significantly associated with depressive and anxiety symptoms, with support from friends having the largest effect size, Wilks’ L = .94, F (2, 591) = 19.14, < .001, partial η2 = .06. High levels of social support significantly moderated the relationship between perfectionism and depressive symptoms, and average and high levels of social support significantly moderated the relationship between perfectionism and anxiety symptoms. These results emphasize the importance of social support for postpartum women’s mental health. Implications for healthcare and policies are discussed. 

Paper

Abstract: Two research studies investigated the relationship between mindfulness, attributional complexity and implicit attitudes, which are unconscious associations and preferences. Mindfulness is an awareness of and attentiveness to one’s experience of the present and attributional complexity is the degree to which one considers a variety of factors when looking to explain the behavior of others. In Study 1, 66 undergraduate students were randomly assigned to either an experimental condition to take part in a 10-minute mindfulness induction or a control condition to listen to a 10-minute control audio recording. After the manipulation, participants completed the black/white Implicit Association Test (IAT) and the Attributional Complexity Scale (ACS).  Results revealed a non-significant difference in IAT performance between conditions, as well as a non-significant interaction between condition and attributional complexity. In Study 2, 202 participants recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk completed the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), the ACS, the Marlowe Crowne Social Desirability Scale (MC-SDS), the Racial Argument Scale (RAS) and the Symbolic Racism 2000 Scale (SR2K). Scores on the ACS were negatively correlated with scores on both the RAS and the SR2K, and scores on the MAAS were negatively correlated with RAS scores. Additionally, a regression model with ACS and MAAS scores significantly predicted scores on the RAS and SR2K while controlling for social desirability. Dispositional levels of attributional complexity and mindfulness can be used to predict both directly- and indirectly-measured prejudice toward African Americans.

Paper

Abstract: Perception of oncoming vehicle speed was examined with regard to headlight usage. Subjects produced speed estimations during daylight conditions on a two-lane rural road for a vehicle with its headlights on and the same vehicle with its headlights off. The speed of the vehicle, which was controlled to five incremented speeds, was estimated to be greater in videos where the vehicle’s headlights were on. This finding suggests that headlight usage may be an effective means of compensating for individuals’ tendency to underestimate vehicle speed by increasing the contrast of the vehicle in the visual field.

Paper

Abstract: The bilateral eye-movement manipulation facilitates cognition on a range of cognitive tasks, including executive functions tasks that require a high level of mental effort and sustained attentional-control. The aim of the current study was to investigate the relationship between bilateral eye-movements (BEMs) and frontal-midline theta (FMT) activity, a well-established electroencephalogram (EEG) marker for increased attentional-control. Participants were randomly assigned to either a 30 s central-control condition or a 30 s BEM condition and had their resting-state brain activity recorded before and after the 30 s manipulation task. EEG data from 60 participants was utilized for analysis. Analyses determined that BEMs had a significant impact on positive and negative mood compared to the control group. Changes in FMT power were calculated before and after exposure to post visual manipulation and displayed a general increase in FMT for the BEM condition and a general decrease for the control condition. In addition, analysis of the theta frequency band for lateral electrode sites revealed significant effects at frontal and parietal brain regions after the visual manipulation. The BEM condition demonstrated an increase in frontal theta power and decrease in posterior theta power pre versus post manipulation when compare to the center-control condition. These findings offer support for the occurrence of a neural change after exposure to BEMs.

Paper

Abstract: This study investigated whether affiliation with Greek lettered organizations, and gender of a student, influences the student’s level of depression, self-esteem, and sense of support. These levels will be measured using self-report questionnaires which include the Rosenberg Self- Esteem Scale, Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, and Beck Depression Inventory. Both male and female college students, 66 and 241 respectively, answered a survey of their affiliation with Greek lettered organizations and the questionnaire pertaining to depression, self-esteem, and sense of support. Of these total participants, there were 138 non-Greek students, 130 sorority sisters, and 39 fraternity brothers. The results of this study found no significant results to support the hypothesis. However, one lean in support of Greek lettered organization was found for self-esteem. Greeks were found to have a higher level of self-esteem. The sample size tested in this study was not even proportioned, so a faulty procedure may be to blame. However, a faulty hypothesis may be a factor as well due to improper analysis of past research. Further testing will need to be done on this topic.

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AbstractThis study investigated whether family communication predicted adolescent decision-making about sexual behaviors and the relationship and communication between adolescents and their parents.  Various topics related to sexual behaviors were measured by surveys and questionnaires on family communication.  Male and female college students (N=148) answered questions on a survey pertaining to their perceptions of family communication when they were younger, read a scenario, and answered a questionnaire on sexual behaviors.  Results demonstrated that females significantly reported better communication with their mothers than males.  Males significantly reported better communication with their fathers than females.  Females were more likely to report that their communication with mothers would have an effect on their decision to have sex than their communication with their fathers.

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Abstract: Evidence has shown that pictures, and more importantly color pictures play a large role in recall (Spence, Wong, Rusan, & Rastegar, 2006). The present research compared memory for textual information when that information was presented alone (text only), supplemented with a black and white picture, or supplemented with a color image My research found that when color images are combined with textual information was an increase in recall over the same images in black and white. The secondary goal of my research was to see if there is a relation between the subjects’ learning style (visual or verbal) and recall. I found that verbal learners had an increase in recall for the text only information and that visual learners had an increase in recall for text information supplemented with color images. 

Paper

Abstract: The ability to detect the emotional prosody of others is important for effective communication and empathy. Prior research has shown this to be dominant in the right cerebral hemisphere. Pranayama is the Sanskrit name for the breathing techniques of yoga. Certain techniques in this category, such as Unilateral Nostril Breathing (UNB), have been shown to physiologically shift hemisphere dominance. This research study hypothesized that left-sided UNB (LUNB) would cause a shift to right-hemisphere dominance, which would increase the ability to detect and correctly identify the emotional tone of another. Participants were randomly assigned to 3 groups: a control group (deep breathing through both nostrils), LUNB, and RUNB. Techniques were practiced for ten minutes each. A test of emotional perception was administered to all groups before and after the breathing exercises. Upon initial testing, the groups did not significantly differ in terms of pre-post changes. However, after a second set of analyses were done, where the deep breathing control group was excluded and handedness was accounted for, significance was discovered. Comparing LUNB and RUNB groups did show the LUNB group to be better at detecting fear via prosody.

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Abstract: The current study investigated the potential effects of bilateral eye movements (BEM) and handedness on creativity measured by the Alternate Uses Test.  BEM may increase the state interaction between the left and right cerebral hemispheres, whereas handedness indicates individual differences in trait interhemispheric interaction (IHI). Based on the research reviewed, increases in IHI may enhance creativity.  In order to test my hypothesis that IHI fosters creative thinking I randomly assigned participants into two different groups.  Those assigned to the experimental group performed a BEM task for 30s and a control group performed a similar task, also for 30s, which does not involve BEM.  Following their respective tasks, both groups completed the Alternate Uses Test and their relative creativity was compared.  Participants also completed a handedness measure, where it was predicted that weak-handers will be more creative than strong-handers.  Results indicate no effect of BEM on creativity but that handedness had significant effects on creativity, such that weak-handers significantly outperformed strong-handers on the Alternate Uses Test.         

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Abstract: This study investigated the relationship between degree of understanding and preference for art and music and how it is mediated by the degree of need for cognitive closure (NFC). This experiment tested 59 participants as they viewed and evaluated works of different styles in art (representational vs. abstract) and music (consonant vs. dissonant) based on preference and  understanding factors (understanding artist's meaning, relation to personal experience, and perceived congruence of personal interpretation and artist's meaning). Results supported predictions that greater degrees of understanding were associated with greater preference rating and that NFC mediates preference ratings for abstract art and dissonant music. Individuals with a high NFC reported lower preference and understanding ratings for abstract art and lower preference ratings for dissonant music than individuals with a low NFC. Predictions that empathy and perspective taking would mediate differences in understanding and preference ratings of art and music were not supported.