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.