During their first semester, new lab members identify research interests and present an article to reflect that interest to the lab. Recently, first semester lab member Alex introduced the lab to a physiological perspective of studying PTG by presenting an article that examined the relationship between resting-state brain activity and self-reported PTG scores. Researchers Fujisawa, Jung, Kojima, Saito, Kosaka, and Tomoda (2015) used an fMRI to perform brain imaging of participants and then used a statistical approach to divide areas of heightened brain activity into comparable units. This made it possible to test the relationship between activated brain regions and self-reported PTG scores. Results show significant differences in varying brain regions between individuals with higher PTG scores than those with lower scores. For example, individuals with higher PTG scores also had heightened activity in a region of the brain (the supramarginal gyrus) that is associated with reasoning about the beliefs and intentions of others. Alex would like to further the physiological study of PTG by examining the relationship between different forms of memory and PTG. He would also like to study brain function as it relates to memory enhancement in response to trauma. Great job on your article presentation, Alex, and good luck with your research endeavors!
Recently, Dr. Taku, Whitney, Lauren, and Velinka shared a presentation at a Psi Chi hosted event, commemorating Shelby Jane Seyburn, a former PTG lab member who suddenly passed in June of 2017. In attendance were Shelby’s parents, brothers, family and friends as well as many OU faculty and students. The presentation covered Shelby’s research accomplishments during her time with the PTG lab, an overview of the Teen Parent Program that Shelby developed, and the ongoing work taking place in the PTG lab. Dr. Taku began the presentation by sharing Shelby’s early experiences with the lab. She recalled how eager Shelby was to join the lab and start learning about the phenomenon of posttraumatic growth (PTG). Dr. Taku then provided a brief explanation of PTG, explaining that it is defined as the positive psychological changes that can occur through the struggle of traumatic experiences, and clarifying the common misconception that PTG and posttraumatic stress are opposing ends of the same spectrum. She pointed out that the process of growth includes struggle and can be fostered with social support, an area of particular interest to Shelby. Next, Lauren shared how, after identifying her research interests, Shelby devoted much of her time furthering PTG research by studying the role of social support and resilience in predicting personal growth. She was able to do this through psychoeducational high school intervention programs and conference presentations. Lauren showed the audience several of Shelby’s conference presentation posters and the particular findings that propelled each subsequent project. Lauren then explained that Shelby eventually developed a desire to reach out to teen parents after attending a town hall meeting in Pontiac with other PTG lab members, after which the Teen Parent Program began to take shape. Next, Whitney and Velinka gave an overview of the development and implementation of the Teen Parent Program. Whitney first explained the two-pronged purpose the program: to educate teen parents about social support, PTG, and nutrition (another area of interest to Shelby) and to measure the effect of the program on the teen parents. Then, Velinka explained that the first round of sessions was implemented in the fall of 2017, and she provided a session-by-session overview through a brief description of the overarching goal and associated activities of each session. Next, Whitney shared preliminary findings from the first round of sessions and future plans of the program, which includes expansion to other schools, incorporating Shelby’s love for nutrition education, and eventual dissemination of research findings. Lastly, Dr. Taku drew the presentation to a close by sharing the ongoing work in the PTG lab. She noted the unique way each lab member is furthering research of PTG and that Shelby continues to be an inspiration toward that end. The presentation came to close with a special introduction of the foundation created in Shelby’s honor, The Shelby Jane Seyburn Foundation (https://shelbystrong.life). Funds raised will 1) help undergraduate and graduate students attend research conferences which would otherwise require self-funding, 2) help expand the Teen Parent Program, and 3) further the research of PTG and resilience through many avenues. Overall, the commemoration event was a special time to recall and share Shelby’s many accomplishments, highlight the way her research continues to blossom, and to be encouraged by future research of PTG through many different avenues. The PTG lab is incredibly grateful to Psi Chi for hosting the event and to everyone who attended and expressed support and encouragement!
Lauren recently gave her Honors Thesis Defense Prep Presentation entitled “Posttraumatic Growth and Illusory Growth: Attitudes Toward Growth Types and the Impact of Individual Differences.” Lauren’s presentation outlined the purposes, hypotheses, and results of her three studies. Study 1 was meant to assess if participants could distinguish between posttraumatic growth and illusory growth and to identify attitudes toward each of the growth types. Lauren clarified the differences and similarities between posttraumatic growth (PTG) and illusory growth. For example, she explained that PTG requires shaken core beliefs and the social support of others to make meaning from stressful life experiences. Lauren contrasted this by explaining that illusory growth occurs without these variables and that the motive of reporting growth is to reinforce the ego. These differences were illustrated, but not identified, in short fictional stories called vignettes that were read aloud to the participants. Study 2 involved determining how the presentation order of the two vignettes affected attitudes toward the respective growth types. She answered this question by administering a survey condition that introduced the PTG vignette first, and one that introduced the illusory growth vignette first. Study 3 investigated the influence that narcissism has on attitudes toward PTG and illusory growth. Specifically, Lauren found that narcissism made an impact on attitudes toward PTG. She recommends that future directions should further assess other narcissistic traits in terms of attitudes toward growth types. She will be incorporating feedback to further improve her outstanding presentation for her Honors Thesis Defense. Good luck Lauren!
Reema Gowda is a junior in high school who is also completing her second year interning with the PTG lab. Recently, Reema shared a presentation of her individual exploratory study using data from research previously conducted in the PTG lab. Reema’s presentation, entitled “Types of Medical Trauma Affecting PTG,” is an extension of the research she presented last semester to the lab. During the summer of 2017, Reema began examining the effects of illness, injury, and family issues on PTG and presented her findings to the lab in October. Since then, Reema has narrowed her focus and compared PTG levels between individuals who experienced medical trauma and/or accidents. She accomplished this by calculating and comparing mean PTG total scores as well as mean scores of the five PTG domains to identify potential differences. The findings provide insight into the effects of experiencing multiple traumas and highlight the importance of further exploration of the effects of specific types of traumas on PTG. Reema plans to continue her work by examining differences between PTG and PTSD, exploring how PTG may vary by age, and the possibility of illusory growth after medical trauma. Great job, Reema! The PTG lab is behind you as you move toward your next goal!
Jenna recently presented her Honor’s Thesis Defense Prep Presentation entitled “Exploring Military Experiences: Clarifying the Relationship Between Resiliency and Posttraumatic Growth.” The purposes of her research are to clarify the relation(s) between resiliency and posttraumatic growth (PTG), to examine respective relations among related variables, and to compare two measures of resiliency: The Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC) and Workplace Resiliency Inventory (WRI). Jenna assessed growth motivation, altruistic attitudes, and several other variables to clarify the relationship between resiliency and PTG. Among many significant results, she found that growth motivation positively correlates with PTG and both measures of resiliency. She addressed issues surrounding the literature’s differing conceptualizations of resiliency by analyzing the similarities and differences between the CD-RISC and WRI, as well as their respective relations to other variables of interest. More specifically, she found key areas of differentiation between the two measures when comparing against other variables such as social support and coping. Jenna plans to use the results from this study to guide her future research. She hopes to replicate her results in other populations and incorporate longitudinal research designs in her field of research. Jenna is conducting her research with the ultimate goal of developing and implementing a Resiliency/Posttraumatic Growth Training Program. Good luck Jenna!
Lauren recently gave a presentation entitled “Improving the Review Process and its Integrity.” The purpose of her presentation was to share lab member feedback regarding the current revision process and to open discussion about the process of revising fellow lab members’ work in efforts to improve efficiency. Lauren accomplished this by gathering all of the lab members’ perspectives on the current review process and compiling it to propose changes to improve the process going forward. These overarching changes include focusing on content-related revisions, being clear and concise with suggestions, and creating a timeline for the review process. The presentation also included suggestions to improve the integrity of responding to revisions. In particular, Lauren stressed the importance of helping the reviewer to understand how their comments were received by being clear with responses to revisions by avoiding ambiguous responses comments such as “It’s strange/ I’m confused” and providing clear suggestions in order to improve the work overall. She used examples of revisions from empirical journals to demonstrate a professional model of the revision process. This included thoroughly acknowledging each comment, explaining how the comment was addressed, and providing rationale for why the comment was accepted or rejected. Using this, she was able to make applications to the PTG lab’s process. The ultimate product was a structured paper revision rubric on which lab members can organize constructive criticisms in addition to positive feedback. The lab plans to implement this rubric into all revisions processes throughout the lab. Thank you, Lauren!
First year graduate student Alvin recently presented his proposal for his master’s thesis research entitled “Achievement Moderating the Relationship Between Failure and Positive and Negative Outcomes.” According to his review of the literature, while many researchers have examined positive and negative impacts of failure, little to no work has been done to examine how the combination of failure and achievement experiences impacts individuals. In order to address this gap in the literature, Alvin plans to conduct two online research studies exploring various achievement and failure experiences. More specifically, Alvin is interested in examining how resiliency, deliberate rumination, and achievement might moderate the relationship between failure and both positive and negative outcomes. Positive outcomes of interest include wisdom, posttraumatic growth, and intrinsic motivation while negative outcomes of interest include depression, fear of failure, and intrusive rumination. Alvin hopes to implement his research findings by working to help individuals who have experienced failure by motivating them to improve their goal setting strategies, and teaching them healthy ways to examine failure experiences.
Jess presented her Master’s Thesis proposal entitled, “Redefining Negative Personality Traits and Coping Techniques After Impacts of Stress and Trauma”. The purposes of this research are to 1) determine links between negative personality traits, maladaptive coping, and trauma, 2) explore potential positive implications of maladaptive coping strategies and negative personality traits, 3) work toward the redefinition of negative personality traits and coping in light of trauma, and 4) build a framework for new interventions for trauma survivors. Jess’ thesis research will consist of two studies. The first study will involve semi-structured interviews with combat veterans, followed by a brief online survey, and the second will consist of a week-long series of inventories regarding daily stress with undergraduate students. More specifically, daily stress is defined as minor life stressors that occur consistently in an individual’s life, and is linked to greater susceptibility to negative outcomes such as anxiety and depression. Not only does Jess plan to use the findings from her research to work toward the development of interventions, but she also hopes to expand her research to individuals dealing with personality disorders, as well as individuals facing different forms of trauma.
Recently, Whitney presented her dissertation proposal entitled “Psychological Growth, Distress, and Educational Impact of Dolphins and Dolphin Assisted Therapy in Children”. This summer, Whitney will be conducting her dissertation research through Dolphin Assisted Therapy and Swim-With-Dolphin programs in Florida and Hawaii. The main goal of this research is to provide efficacy data for such programs for children by examining variables such as posttraumatic growth, emotion regulation, social support, and more. In doing so, Whitney’s study will be the first to examine the impact of wild Dolphin Assisted Therapy on human psychology, the first to address posttraumatic growth in relation to interactions with dolphin, and the first to compare captive versus wild swim with dolphin programs. Moreover, this research aims to highlight the mechanisms behind animal assisted therapy for the ultimate purpose of the development of clinical interventions. We are all excited to see what she finds!
The PTG Lab is pleased to introduce our two new undergraduate members!
Alex is a junior at Oakland University majoring in psychology with a minor in biology. He decided to join the lab in order to gain rigorous lab work experience and deepen his understanding of PTG. More specifically, Alex is interested in the biological effects of PTG and how it relates to physiological changes in the brain. Upon graduation, Alex plans to pursue a PhD in behavioral neuroscience or neurobiology. Alex can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicholas is a junior at Oakland University working toward a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in biology. He joined the lab because of his interest in how individuals change following a traumatic event. Specifically, he is interested in seeing how those dealing with severe medical diagnoses, as well as those closest to them, change following the diagnoses. He plans to begin the application process to medical school next year in order to work toward his goal of becoming a physician. Nicholas can be reached at email@example.com.
Welcome, Alex and Nicholas!