Kayla Benson: Thesis Defense Update

Kayla Benson, a third-year Ph.D. student, recently gave a presentation in preparation for her thesis defense. The purposes of Benson’s study, “Growing Toward the Common Good: Collective Action Engagement as Evidence for Posttraumatic Growth”, include understanding the collective action behaviors as an indication of action-focused growth and constructive posttraumatic growth [PTG] and the relationships between community identity and collective action. The study will also strive to evaluate narcissism and optimism as potential components restricting constructive PTG.

Benson hypothesizes (1) people who are high in PTG will engage in more collective action interventions overall; (2) When individuals believe that their identities are strongly connected to the community, they will engage in more collective action behaviors; and (3) individuals who display patterns of illusory growth (high PTG, low in collective action) will be higher in narcissism and/or optimism. A total of 168 participants ranging from the ages of 18 to 47 years old (M=20.21, SD=3.19) participated in the study. The items that were measured in the online survey were posttraumatic growth, narcissism, optimism, altruism, social identity, and COVID-19 collective action.

After the completion of data analysis, hypothesis 1 of those who report PTG in response to events high in event centrality (constructive growth) will report more collective action behaviors than those who report PTG following low centrality events (illusory growth) was not supported. However, if using altruism as the outcome, the first hypothesis is partially supported, since constructive growth is higher than the low PTG group but no different from the illusory group. Hypothesis 2, narcissism and/or optimism will be higher in participants defined as having illusory growth, was not supported. It is important to note that the results were consistent with the literature that PTG is positively associated with optimism.

Hypothesis 3, individuals defined as experiencing constructive growth will engage in more mask-wearing when not required by a local mandate, was not supported. In fact, there were no differences found between groups in terms of masking when it was not required. It was found through additional correlation analysis that narcissism and a sense of community had small correlations with masking when it was no longer required.

Benson states the limitations of the study include: data collections initiating 1.5 years after the start of the pandemic, college student [only] sample, measurement error with the ‘COVID-19 Collective Action’ variable, study format, and the definitions of constructive versus illusory growth. There are potential future directions with the data which could investigate the interesting patterns recognized through Benson’s study. For example, there could be an examination of the four types of identity relating to other individual differences in numerous ways or further exploration of the PTG subscale could be performed.

Congratulations on the completion of the “Growth Toward the Common Good: Collective Action Engagement as Evidence for Posttraumatic Growth”, Kayla! We are eagerly awaiting your defense presentation in the upcoming months.

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