Isabelle Teasel: Honor’s College Thesis Update

Senior lab member, Isabelle Teasel, gave a presentation on the progress she has made with her Honor’s College Thesis titled, “The Paradoxical Nature of Resilience, Optimism, and Anxiety in Relation to COVID-19.” The project focuses on the paradoxical relationships between resilience, optimism, and anxiety in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The study’s major concepts are resilience, optimism, and anxiety. Resilience is the process of successfully adapting mentally, emotionally, and behaviorally to difficult traumatic experiences through life and is also the ability of an individual to return to pre-traumatic functioning after they experience trauma. Optimism is defined as a positive attitude that good things will occur and an individual’s aims will be fulfilled. Both resilience and optimism may be paradoxical in nature. Too much or too little of either may lead to overconfidence or adverse mental health conditions, in the case of resilience, and to impractical expectations or even better health in the absence of optimism. Their connection can be understood as high resilience leading to unhealthy, or high, levels of optimism, creating a vicious cycle of disadvantages for affected individuals.

Anxiety is defined as excessive worrying that is hard to control three or more symptoms present (i.e., restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, etc.) and has different variations: trait anxiety, state anxiety, and health anxiety.

The study will not only examine the paradoxical relationships these three concepts have within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, but due to recent changes in the political and social climate within the United States, it will also examine discrimination and xenophobia within the U.S. as well.

The study’s hypotheses are: (1) the paradoxical nature of optimism will hold true in relation to the levels of the three types of anxiety; (2) the paradoxical nature of the resilience will hold true in relation to when individuals have lower trait anxiety and health anxiety; (3) individuals who rank higher on the discrimination and xenophobia scale have higher levels of trait anxiety and health anxiety.

The current study uses data from a prior study titled, “Reactions to COVID-19,” conducted by Olivia Rithig, Dr. Kanako Taku, and Kara Pado, which was approved on March 31st, 2020. The purpose of the original longitudinal study was to examine public perceptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, including emotions, behavioral, cognitive, and physical reactions as well. Data was collected through an online survey at two time points. Time 1 Data was collected on March 30th, 2020, while the Time 2 Data was collected as a follow-up on April 27th, 2020.

Time 1 Data will be used for the current study and will include 604 surveys, consisting of participants who are 18 years or older. The study will include measures of resilience, optimism, anxiety (for each of the three types), xenophobia, and discrimination.

Isabelle’s next steps will be to clean the data collected using SPSS to prepare for data analysis beginning in the Fall 2020 semester.

By understanding the paradoxical relationships between resilience, optimism, and anxiety, and the interactions between xenophobia and discrimination and anxiety, Isabelle hopes to establish a foundation of literature that has yet to be seen in current research.

You’re making amazing progress Isabelle! We can’t wait to see where your study heads next! Good luck!

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