26th Annual Meeting of Minds Conference

The  Meeting of Minds conference provides a yearly opportunity for  undergraduate students from Oakland University, University of Michigan-Dearborn, and University of Michigan-Flint to share research accomplishments through oral and poster presentations. On May 11th, U of M-Dearborn hosted this year’s event, and lab members Lauren, Alex, Nicholas, and Velinka attended and shared their projects.

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Lauren and Alex presented their project titled Can Hearing About Posttraumatic Growth Increase Self-Reported Growth? They examined self-reported PTG differences in those who were exposed to either PTG and Depression narratives. Contrary to their hypothesis, Lauren and Alex found that those who were exposed to Depression narratives reported higher PTG than those who were exposed to PTG narratives. The findings suggest that, when exposed to a negative narrative and then asked to reflect on oneself, participants may be motivated to maintain cognitive well-being.

IMG_7411Velinka presented her and Jenna’s collaborative project titled The Desire to Foster Personal Growth in First- and Second-Generation Immigrants: A U.S. Sample. Their study examined the difference between first- and second-generation immigrants’ desire to foster personal growth (i.e. growth motivation) in those whose country of origin is collectivist. In spite of notably small sample sizes, the results yielded marginally significant group differences in certain aspects of growth motivation. The findings suggest that, as immigrants acculturate to new country norms, they may also develop new desires to experience personal growth.

IMG_7413Nicholas and Velinka presented  their project titled Does Type of Stress Affect Posttraumatic Growth? Examining Differences Among the Different Aspects of Growth. Their study examined PTG domain differences between participants who reported family related stress due to parental divorce and those who reported family-related stress due to cancer. They found significant differences between the groups when it came to the Personal Strength domain but not the other PTG domains. Even still, this suggests that growth after traumatic events may vary depending on the type of event.

Overall, the conference was a success and another great opportunity to share the hard work of many!

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90th Meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association

Lab members Lauren, Jenna, Velinka, Jess, and Alvin attended the 90th annual meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association, from April 12-14 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago. The purpose of the conference is for students and psychologists across the Midwest to share and discuss their research. The conference featured nearly a thousand research presentations across all branches of psychology, and included major addresses and methodology workshops. Additionally, the conference featured programs offered by Psi Chi, the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, and the Society for Community Research and Action.

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Lauren and Jess presented their poster titled Which Dimensions of Narcissism are Influential in Reporting Posttraumatic Growth? which they worked on with Dr. Taku. Particularly, their presentation explained how aspects of narcissism like grandiose fantasy and contingent self-esteem, respectively, influence PTG. Narcissism was a popular topic at the conference, and Jess and Lauren answered many questions from interested attendeesIMG_1605.

Jess presented her and Velinka’s poster titled Examining the Relationship Between the Dark Triad and Posttraumatic Growth, which they worked on with Dr. Taku. This poster presentation examined the association between Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism, respectively, and PTG. Jess got a chance to inform many intrigued attendees about both the Dark Triad and PTG.
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Velinka presented her poster titled Personality Traits and Importance of Nationality: Indicators of Cultural Adaptation? which she worked on with Kyle and Dr. Taku. This poster presentation shared results about how extraversion, openness to experience, and agreeableness relate to the importance one places on nationality. Many attendees stopped to ask questions and found Velinka’s poster regarding immigration research extremely engaging!

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On the final day of the conference, Jenna and Alvin presented their poster titled, Counter-Intuitive Impact of Academic Stressors on Posttraumatic Growth in Bereaved College Students, which they worked on with Dr. Taku. Specifically, their poster presentation shared results regarding how experiencing both academic stressors and the death of someone close, respectively, affect PTG. They did a fantastic job communicating their research and ended the MPA conference on the right note!IMG_1632

 

The conference was a huge success with over 3,300 in attendance, and the PTG lab looks forward to presenting at the 91st MPA conference next year. Next year’s conference is set to be held at the Palmer House Hilton again, from April 11-13, 2019.

Great job Jess, Lauren, Velinka, Alvin, and Jenna for representing the lab well!

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Jess & Whitney’s Presentation at the Evolutionary Perspectives on Death Conference

IMG_7331Recently, graduate students Whitney Dominick and Jess Kopitz shared a poster presentation at an annual conference hosted by the Department of Psychology at Oakland University. Over the past several years, the Department of Psychology has hosted an evolution-focused conference, and this year’s event was titled “Evolutionary Perspectives of Death.” The goal of the conference was twofold: to enrich one’s understanding of death and dying, and to recognize the value of interdisciplinary collaboration. During a portion of the conference, graduate students had the opportunity to give a poster presentation. Whitney and Jess’s study titled “Cross-Cultural Differences in Perceptions of Death in Japanese and American Undergraduates” examined four death-related components: 1) emotions evoked by thoughts of death (sorrow versus anxiety), 2) focus on self versus others, 3) mention of reincarnation, and 4) mention of living a fulfilling life. Whitney and Jess predicted that participants from Japan and America would differ in each category, with Japanese participants predicted to mention reincarnation more than Americans and American participants predicted to mention fulfillment in life more than Japanese. All their hypotheses were supported, suggesting significant cultural differences in the way death is perceived and cognitively processed. Well done, Jess and Whitney!

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Honor’s Defense Presentations

          Recently, Lauren and Jenna presented their Honor’s Thesis Defense Presentations to their respective committees and other attendees. Both Lauren and Jenna are graduating from Oakland University following the Winter 2018 semester and then beginning their graduate programs in the fall. The purpose of presenting an honor’s thesis defense is to share an individual research study to a preselected committee for final approval before being awarded departmental honors upon graduation.

IMG_7297Lauren’s study, titled “Posttraumatic Growth and Illusory Growth: Attitudes Toward Growth Types and the Impact of Individual Differences,” was designed to apply a multifaceted examination of posttraumatic growth and illusory growth through the use of vignettes and self-report perceptions of each growth type over the course of three studies. Lauren’s defense committee included Dr. Taku, Dr. Keith Williams, and Dr. Deb McGinnis, all of whom provided letters of recommendation for Lauren’s graduate program applications. While Lauren and Dr. Taku worked together on Lauren’s study over the past year, the presentation created an opportunity for Drs. Williams and McGinnis to learn about Lauren’s research abilities, since they had each previously only knew Lauren from an academic perspective. Following the presentation, Lauren responded to individual questions from her committee and was then excited to receive unanimous approval of her defense. After graduation, Lauren will begin her graduate studies beginning Fall 2018. Lauren has been accepted into the Master of Social Work program at University of Michigan. Her practice area is Aging in Families and Society, and she has also been accepted into the Geriatric Scholarship Program.

IMG_7305Jenna’s presentation, titled “Exploring Military Experiences: Clarifying the Relation Between Resiliency and Posttraumatic Growth,” was designed to 1) clarify the relation between resiliency and PTG, 2) examine relations between the two concepts and other related variables (e.g., altruism, growth motivation, social support), and 3) compare two measures of resiliency. Jenna’s defense committee included Dr. Taku and Dr. Matt McLarnon, each of whom first introduced Jenna to the concepts of PTG and resiliency and got her interested in studying the relation between the two. In addition, both Drs. Taku and McLarnon served as advisors to Jenna for her study over the past year during development, implementation, and analyses. After the presentation, Jenna responded to questions from her committee and other attendees and was thrilled to receive unanimous approval of her defense. Upon graduation, Jenna will move to Florida to begin her graduate studies beginning Fall 2018. Jenna has been accepted into the PhD program in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at the University of Central Florida. The PTG lab recognizes the hard work that both Lauren and Jenna put into their respective research studies and is excited for them as they begin their graduate programs in the fall!

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Provost Graduate Student Research Awards

IMG_7330Congratulations to both Whitney Dominick and Alvin Nicholas for each being awarded  a Provost Graduate Student Research Award! In order to be considered for the award, students are required submit an application, which includes a detailed research proposal,  to OU’s Research Office. Both Whitney and Alvin submitted applications for their respective studies and both were offered the award! Whitney received the award for her study entitled “The Impact of Dolphin Interactions on Emotion Regulation and Perceptions of Social Support,” which will be a part of her doctoral dissertation. The purpose of her research is to compare the effects of various types of dolphin interactions on personal growth, distress, and psycho-education in children. In order to implement her study, Whitney plans to travel to Florida and Hawaii this summer where she will begin data collection! Alvin received the award for his study entitled “Achievement, Resiliency, and Deliberate Rumination Moderating the Relationship Between Failure and Positive and Negative Outcomes,”img_1627.jpg which will be a part of his Master’s Thesis. The purpose of his research is to test the relationship between amount of achievement and failure experiences and outcomes that are identified after either experience, such as posttraumatic growth or depression. He is currently preparing his online survey and is scheduled to begin collecting data with university students shortly. We are excited that Whitney and Alvin both have an opportunity to implement their respective studies and we look forward to seeing how their studies unfold! Good luck, Whitney and Alvin!

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Velinka’s Honors Independent Study Proposal Presentation

IMG_1601Velinka recently presented her Honors Independent Study Proposal, entitled “Immigrant Youth Well-being and the Role of Perceived Parent-Child Gaps of Acculturation, Family Obligations, and Emotion Processing Tendencies”. Velinka is interested in the acculturation gap-distress between immigrant parents and their children. Acculturation is the process of adapting to a new culture. The acculturation gap-distress model states that differing rates of acculturation occur between parents and their children, cause tension, stress, and may result in youth maladjustment. Velinka would like to quantitatively and qualitatively examine the role of perceived gaps between parents and children experiencing acculturation, attitude towards family obligation, and emotion processing tendencies on youth distress. In addition, she would like to explore if stress related to perceived parent-child discrepancies leads to personal growth. She plans to accomplish this by reaching out to high-schools, community centers, libraries, and Oakland University to locate participants and administer surveys. Overall, she would like to make a contribution to the acculturation gap-distress model, and she hopes to identify the relation between perceived parent-child differences and PTG. We are very excited about her work! Good luck Velinka!

 

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Nicholas’s Article Presentation

IMG_1596First semester lab member, Nicholas, recently gave his first article presentation on a study entitled “Meaning Making and Psychological Adjustment Following Cancer: The Mediating Roles of Growth, Life Meaning, and Restored Just-World Beliefs” by Crystal L. Park, Donald Edmondson, Juliane R. Fenster, and Thomas O. Blank. The purpose of this study was to clarify the meaning making, the process of how persons understand or make sense of life events, relationships, and the self, and how it influences psychological well-being. The results showed that the meaning making process, including positive re-framing of negative thoughts and experiences, relates to better adjustment after experiences with cancer. The researchers also developed a pathway model of the meaning making process that illustrated multiple relationships, including the positive relations between life meaningfulness and psychological well-being. The researchers indicated that future research should account for different stages of cancer, severity of the cancer, and whether patients have had re-occurrences of the disease. Nicholas believes that it is important to examine the meaning making model over a longer period and that additional variables should be assessed that may assist in meaning making. Nicholas continues to pursue his passion with how posttraumatic growth impacts the lives of cancer patients, and we are excited to see how his interests grow in the lab! Well done, Nicholas!

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Alex’s Article Presentation

IMG_7259During 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!

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A Commemoration Event: Sharing the Accomplishments of Shelby Jane Seyburn

IMG_7260Recently, 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,IMG_7254 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 ProgramIMG_7262. 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 uniqueIMG_7253 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! Please click the link for more information.

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Lauren’s Honors Thesis Defense Prep Presentation

lauren-photo.jpgLauren 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!

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