Monthly Archives: December 2021

Isabelle’s Article Presentation

Second-semester undergraduate research assistant, Isabelle Teasel, recently gave a presentation on the article titled, How Right Now? Supporting Mental Health and Resilience Amid COVID-19. The purpose of the study was to understand the experiences of individuals disproportionately impacted by the global pandemic in order to create a culturally-informed mental health communication model aimed at education on resilience resources. The major research questions asked were (1) how do HRN audiences define and discuss resilience amid the COVID-19 pandemic?, (2) what kinds of mental health resources and supports do HRN audiences need to be resilient amid the COVID-19 pandemic?, and (3) what factors inhibit resilience or predict challenges to resilience among HRN audiences?

The researchers used qualitative and quantitative data collection methods like an environmental scan of articles on the internet about the pandemic, social listening via messages given on social media about emotional health and COVID-19, and a national survey. Results from the various types of data collected revealed the mechanisms of gaining resilience as community cohesion, social networks, common goals, faith, relying on past experiences, and looking toward the future. The researchers were also able to break down how specific populations define resiliency. For example, adults over 65 and their caregivers see resilience as actively coping with induced challenges; while adults experiencing violence defined the term as actively seeking emotional support and safety resources. Results also provided an understanding of what each group already does to cope with adversity and the specific support they need. This information is extremely helpful for developing effective messages on mental health resources for the different people in our population.

Isabelle’s Honor’s College Thesis is also on the topic of COVID-19 called, The Paradoxical Nature of Resilience, Optimism, and Anxiety in Relation to COVID-19. The project focuses on paradoxical relationship between resilience, optimism, health anxiety, and trait anxiety in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and how these anxieties may be influencing an individual’s behavior longitudinally during the pandemic. Isabelle hopes that the study will contribute to psychology and healthcare workers’ understanding of the pandemic’s impact, therefore bettering their ability to treat individuals experiencing decreased mental health at this time. This is a very timely project and we anticipate the results to be helpful for increasing awareness and resources for those who are struggling. Great work, Isabelle!

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Kaylie’s Master’s Thesis Proposal

First semester Master’s student, Kaylie Williams, recently introduced her Master’s thesis titled, Types of Thinking Behind Belief in Conspiracy Theories and Changing Belief in Conspiracies which focuses on what influences people to believe in conspiracies, how to change those beliefs, and the relationship between mental illness, trauma, and conspiracy beliefs. Different types of thinking have been found to influence conspiratorial beliefs, so this project will include analytic thinking and intellectual thinking priming tasks followed by active listening and teaching with evidence therapeutic techniques in an attempt to decrease conspiratorial thinking.

The study will collect data from university students and the broader community virtually through online questionnaires, thinking style priming tasks, and therapeutic interventions. It starts with the survey which measures PTSD symptoms, paranoia, thinking style, self-esteem, antisocial behavior, personality, and general conspiracy beliefs. Participants will then be primed with either a thinking style or engaged in a therapeutic technique. The priming tasks involve reading a passage and completing a series of either “how” tasks or “why” tasks to prompt them to think about how they would go about achieving a goal or why they want to achieve that goal. Participants in the therapeutic technique conditions will engage in either an active listening session where the focus is listening to the participant’s beliefs or teaching with an evidence session focused on explaining why certain conspiracies are not true. There will be a control group and the participants’ levels of general conspiratorial belief will be measured in all before and after the intervention.

Kaylie hopes her research will contribute to our understanding of how thinking styles influence conspiratorial beliefs and motivate the proposal of interventions for those who believe in conspiracies. The results could also lend to an understanding of what types of individuals are most vulnerable to being convinced that conspiracies are true, which benefits the development of specific treatments for maladaptive levels of these beliefs. Belief in conspiracy theories has resulted in individuals and groups of people engaging in violent acts, so strengthening our grasp on the issue could benefit the safety of those affected by these acts and the people whose beliefs cause them. This is a very intriguing project, Kaylie! We look forward to hearing more as it further develops.

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