Recently, graduated lab member, Taylor, presented updates to her senior thesis study titled, Individual Differences in Emotion Recognition. Her study focuses on investigating the relationship between emotion recognition ability (ERA), experiences of traumatic events, and posttraumatic growth (PTG). Past research has linked both PTG and ERA to increased levels of empathy, with PTG also being connected to higher levels of emotional intelligence. Given that there are gaps in the literature regarding direct links between PTG and ERA, and specific types of trauma events, Taylor hypothesized that individuals who experienced higher levels of PTG will be more likely to accurately recognize emotions in others. Additionally, she hypothesized that individuals who have experienced relationship trauma, such as family conflicts or the death of a loved one, will be better at recognizing emotions, specifically, fear in others. In order to test these hypotheses, participants in her study filled out both a trauma checklist and a measure of PTG along with an assessment in emotion recognition ability, which had participants observe images of people and identify what emotion was expressed in the photo.
Overall, the results show that individuals with relationship traumaexperience are better at recognizing emotions in others, regardless of growth, indicating that improvements in emotion perception may be dependent on the type of trauma experienced. Those with relationship trauma may also be better at specifically identifying fear in others. The lack of significant results regarding PTG and ERA suggests that the self-report nature of PTG might only reflect surface-level transformation but not indicate deeper cognitive changes in individuals. Taylor aims for her research to help develop a better understanding of the ways that PTG can impact day-to-day communications and individual’s interpretations of them. Amazing work Taylor, we can’t wait to learn more from your study!
First semester undergraduate lab member Victoria recently gave a presentation on the article titled Why is nature beneficial?: The role of connectedness to nature. The study wanted to directly investigate the relationship between nature and well-being, with a sense of belonging to the natural world as the primary mechanism. Prior studies focus on the restorative qualities of nature without exploring the other possible mediating factors. The major research questions asked were: (1) does an increase in connectedness to nature mediate nature’s effect on positive mood? and (2) does exposure to nature affect participants’ ability to reflect on their personal problems? The authors proposed the questions to determine the extent to which an individual’s environment can be healing. To answer these questions, the researchers randomly assigned a group of college students into two groups, one of which would spend 10 minutes on a walk in a nature preserve, the other group walking around a downtown urban environment. After the 10 minute walk, each group was given 5 minutes of reflection time and then filled out a survey to measure (1) connectedness to nature, (2) positive and negative affect, and (3) situational self-awareness.
The analysis revealed that the ability to reflect was significantly correlated with connectedness to nature and positive affect while negatively correlating with public self-awareness. This suggests that if individuals are less concerned with appearance to others, they can better pay attention to what they are experiencing internally. Overall, the study shows strong support for connectedness to nature as a mediator of nature’s effects on well-being and increased reflection skills. Victoria has a strong passion for the outdoors and believes that once the mechanisms of nature’s healing effects are identified, nature can be used more effectively in clinical practice. She hopes that this research will help practitioners explore nature’s health benefits outside of the more common uses like attention restoration and stress recovery. Great work, Victoria! We are excited to learn more!