Towards the end of the semester, Taylor presented her senior thesis project that will be submitted to the 2022 Society for Personality and Social Psychology conference titled An Empath’s Ability to Read People: Examining the Relationship Between Empathy and Emotion Recognition Ability.
The current literature has established that individuals with higher levels of empathy are better at accurately identifying facial expressions. Taylor’s study further examines this phenomenon by looking at the general relationship between emotion recognition ability (ERA) and empathy, as well as the role of empathy in recognizing specific emotions.
It was predicted that higher empathy scores would correlate with higher ERA and that higher empathy would correlate with higher ERA for individual emotions. A sample of 420 undergraduate students was recruited for an online survey that included the Questionnaire Measure of Emotional Empathy and Standard Expressor Version of the Japanese and Caucasian Facial Expressions of Emotion.
The first hypothesis regarding ERA and empathy was supported and the second hypothesis making predictions about individual emotions was partially supported for disgust, fear, sadness, happiness, and surprise. Empathy was not positively correlated with anger or contempt. These results reveal that empaths have an easier time recognizing emotions on a general basis, but struggle with correctly detecting some negative emotions. Taylor’s study provides helpful insight on useful ways to develop emotion recognition workshops that benefit both those with different levels of empathy, like targeting curriculum for correctly recognizing and responding to specific emotions for individuals with low empathy.
Examining outside factors like traumatic experiences and personality traits in a future study may be beneficial because they could be influencing an individual’s ability to recognize particular emotions. Amazing work, Taylor! We really enjoyed witnessing the development of this project.
Second-semester undergraduate lab member, Victoria Kaznowski, recently gave a presentation on the article titled Examining connection to nature and mindfulness at promoting psychological well-being.
The purpose of the presented study was to examine the relationship between nature connection, mindfulness, and psychological well-being by proposing a model demonstrating the nature well-being relationship. A survey measuring mindfulness and connection to nature (CN) was administrated to 360 undergraduates from a midwestern university enrolled in an array of courses. Students were compensated for their participation by receiving extra credit. Researchers hypothesized three potential mediating pathways from nature to psychological well-being: cognitive restoration, increase in positive affect and decrease in negative affect, and mindfulness. It was predicted that CN and mindfulness have indirect and direct associations with psychological well-being and that indirect associations are mediated by mindful attention and mindful awareness.
Results showed mindful attention and mindful awareness significantly mediated several connections between connection to nature and psychological well-being. Connection to nature could facilitate mindfulness and might be interacting with the direct attention relief provided by natural environments. Mindful awareness was found to significantly moderate the effect of perceived stress on life satisfaction. This suggests it may help individuals adopt a more temporary perspective of thoughts experienced during unpleasant circumstances. Mindful acceptance significantly moderated perceived stress and positive states of mind contrary to expectations. It was also discussed that nature exposure could be an avenue to overall mindfulness.
To further her investigation, Victoria used the data collected from the ARFID Study to examine if individuals participation in outdoor activities and exposure to nature relates to trait anxiety and social anxiety levels. After primary data analysis, an inverse relationship between nature observation and social anxiety was revealed. Those with lower levels of social anxiety had more exposure to nature through participation in nature observation activities.
Nature observation, a variation of connecting to nature, could facilitate mindfulness and may be beneficial in alleviating feelings of social anxiety. Victoria will be participating in a nature immersion program during the summer, which might aid in the preparation for her senior thesis. We are looking forward to future findings! Amazing job, Victoria.
Last week, Isabelle gave her first presentation in the lab titled Unmotivated or Motivated to Fail? A Cross-Cultural Study of Achievement Motivation, Fear of Failure, and Student Disengagement that focused on the Quadripolar Model of achievement motivation.
The Quadripolar Model categorizes students into groups based on level of success orientation and level of fear of failure and is used to predict which individuals may be susceptible to self-handicapping, defensive pessimism, and helplessness when it comes to academics. The purpose of the article being presented was to incorporate and strengthen research on achievement and motivation related to success orientation, fear of failure, and disengagement through a cross-cultural comparative design based on the self-worth theory. One study was conducted in Japan and another study was done with an Australian sample that both assessed the students’ tendency to approach success, failure appraisal, and patterns of adaptive learning. It was predicted that fear of failure would positively associate with maladaptive coping mechanisms and specifically positively associated with self-handicapping in the self-protector group. For failure acceptor students, the researchers predicted that there would be an interaction between success orientation and fear of failure in helplessness attributes. Another prediction was that success orientation would negatively associate with self-handicapping and helplessness while positively associating with defensive pessimism.
The interaction between success orientation and fear of failure on helplessness and self-handicapping were significant cross-culturally, with Australian students having higher rates of self-handicapping overall than Japanese students who had low success orientation scores. Japanese students were less vulnerable to adopting the maladaptive coping mechanisms, but the different cultures had no impact when it came to success orientation. Among the self-protection strategies, self-handicapping was most common among self-protecting students with helplessness, truancy, disengagement significantly correlating with fear of failure. Furthermore, researchers discovered trends of low self-esteem and poor academic performance in self-handicapping students. Isabelle is currently looking further into self-handicapping with a focus on long-term effects on academic achievement in the student population. Awesome work, Isabelle! We are looking forward to seeing where this line of research takes you!
Senior undergraduate member, Kat Fraus, successfully defended her independent senior’s thesis titled “A Multitude of Events on PTG in Adolescence” that investigates the cumulative impact of childhood trauma among teenagers.
Kat set out to identify if adolescents attribute multiple life events to PTG and if there are specific aspects of PTG associated with experiencing multiple traumatic events. Kat also identified the possibility of a curvilinear association between trauma severity (number of events, stress, etc.) and levels of PTG and tested for both linear and curvilinear relationships. Before running data analyses, it was hypothesized that certain types of PTG would be attributed to experiencing multiple events and if enough adolescents reported severe trauma, a curvilinear relationship between PTG and various measures of severity should be demonstrated.
Data previously collected from a sample of 139 high school students, ages 15 to 17, were used to test her predictions, revealing partial support for both hypotheses. Most participants attributed the growth to a single event resulting in the relationship between PTG and multiple events was not significant, although multiple events were attributed to changed priorities, increased self-reliance, and establishing a new path in life PTG domains. Significant linear relationships were found with measures of Posttraumatic Stress Symptomology, event severity, and PTG. Curvilinear relationships were shown between stress and counting on others as well as events and negative life outlook.
Not many studies on PTG have been done with the adolescent population, so this project has added to the understanding of how younger people experience growth after trauma. Amazing work, Kat!
In other exciting news, Kat is graduating with a Bachelor’s in Psychology this semester and will be attending graduate school in the fall at the University of Michigan! She will be studying in the Master’s of Social Work program with an interpersonal practice and integrated health/mental health concentration. We will miss you but are very much looking forward to seeing you flourish in the next step of your academic career. Congratulations!!
A second-year Master’s student, Kara Pado, successfully defended her master’s thesis titled “Perceptions of Tipping Points of Alcohol Abuse Tendencies in Undergraduate Students“.
Kara studied the importance of tipping points, specifically in how our perceptions of tipping points relate to the perceptions of alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use in undergraduate students has become increasingly prevalent, reaching levels greater than those of the general population. Kara hypothesized that (1) individuals would indicate a later tipping point when evaluating the problematic behavior in the self-condition than they will when evaluating a peer, (2) students who reported a higher level of alcohol consumption would indicate a much larger threshold for a tipping point of alcohol abuse disorder in both themselves and a peer, and (3) participants who reported that their parents that were more accepting of alcohol will identify larger tipping points in potential alcohol abuse tendencies.
Kara then collected data from college students and analyzed 354 responses. She found that while students, on average, reported earlier tipping points indicative of problematic drinking behaviors for themselves, rather than their peers, many factors including current quantity of alcohol consumption, current frequency of alcohol consumption, and parental alcohol use all played a role in determining what quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption would constitute problematic behaviors in both themselves and their peers! Very interesting!
It would be beneficial to collect more data on current alcohol consumption, the perceptions of alcohol consumption behaviors, and the individual influences that play a role in making decisions regarding alcohol consumption among undergraduate students. This additional data would allow undergraduate institutions to effectively develop preventative measures and recovery plans for students impacted by dangerous alcohol consumption behaviors.
Excellent job! Congratulations, Kara!! We look forward to your future research in this field!
A second-year Master’s student, Colin O’Brien, successfully defended his master’s thesis titled, Types of Change in Anxiety Regarding Mass Shootings in Response to New Information.
He investigated how different types of information about mass shootings can affect an individual’s state anxiety, while also defining and examining the type of change taking place. CJ also examined the association between trait anxiety and changes in state anxiety. A total of 364 participants recruited from a midwestern university were randomly assigned to one of three conditions, in which they read either emotional information (news media), unemotional information (statistics), or a filler article. Before and after reading these articles, CJ asked participants to respond to questions from the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. CJ then analyzed his data by using R and SPSS. He found that participants experienced alpha changes in anxiety after reading either article related to mass shootings, but not after reading the filler article. Also, CJ found that individuals higher in trait anxiety were more likely to experience negative alpha changes after reading the filler article and were more likely to experience beta changes across all three conditions. These results demonstrate that information about mass shootings is likely to elevate anxiety levels regardless of its emotionality, which may be relevant for professionals attempting to educate about mass shootings. CJ’s thesis also illustrates the connection between trait anxiety and changes in state anxiety, and that constructs other than the construct being changed may need to be considered when testing for alpha and beta changes.
Dr. Dominick presented an update on her latest research project, “COVID-19, social support, and posttraumatic growth“. The purpose of her study is to examine the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic on posttraumatic growth (PTG), core belief disruption (CBI), perceptions of social support, and usage of alternative support sources. The aspects of social support include human connection, pets, and social media. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on PTG, social support, and CBI and the relationship between different types of stressful events (mainly the pandemic and politics) and their impact on PTG, social support, and CBI were examined through repeated measures ANOVA and independent sample t-tests.
Dr. Dominick predicted that the data would show an increase in PTG, increase in CBI, decrease in perceptions of support, and increase the use of alternative support. The three time points for data collection that have already been completed were March 31st, April 30th, and September 30th, 2020. The final round of data collection will take place March 20, 2021, about a year after the first survey and beginning of the pandemic.
The presentation included current findings from the first three time points of data collection which included participants from all around the United States. Interestingly, only 33% of the participants reported the COVID-19 pandemic as the most stressful event of the last six months. This subgroup reported a significantly higher level of PTG than the participants who reported other events as most stressful, such as racial justice and political events. Politics were reported as the most significant issue by 25% of participants and correlated with significantly lower PTG than participants who reported other issues as most significant. However, it is important to keep in mind that data was last collected before the 2020 Presidential election.
The longitudinal change of PTG was broken down into the five different domains of PTG in order to get a closer look. Overall PTG levels did not show did significant change, but there was a notable improvement in the “New Possibilities” and “Strength” domains.
It was also found that those who live alone could have a higher chance of loneliness with less social support. Unexpectedly, these participants demonstrated a lower attachment to pets and also did not report any changes in CBI or PTG over time. While those who owned pets correlated with a higher core belief disruption and an increased attachment to their pets.
Despite the limitations, Dr. Dominick strives to examine the impact of the pandemic and politics longitudinally. She believes there will be changes in the data results because of COVID-19 vaccination administration and eased regulations throughout the United States. We are looking forward to hearing more about your findings, Dr. Dominick!