Monthly Archives: December 2022

Isabelle Teasel: Honors College Thesis Presentation

Senior lab member, Isabelle Teasel, gave a presentation on 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.

Resilience is defined as “the process of successfully adapting mentally, emotionally, and behaviorally to difficult traumatic experiences through life,” and optimism is defined as “the positive attitude that good things will occur, and an individual’s aims will be fulfilled.” Isabelle explained the resilience paradox which suggests that high resilience can lead to overconfidence, being too tolerant of adversity, or even unhealthy or “toxic” optimism; however, too low of resilience may lead to adverse mental health conditions and learned helplessness. There is also presence of an optimism paradox in which high optimism leads to impractical expectations and overconfidence while low optimism leads to higher life stress and maladaptation. High resilience will lead to an unhealthy amount of optimism, creating a viscous cycle of disadvantages for the affected individual. State, trait, and health anxiety and their connection to resilience and optimism are where there are gaps in literature that Isabelle would like to fill.

This lead her to the question of “Will the paradoxical nature hold true when interconnected together?” The current study will examine resilience, optimism, and anxiety within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hypotheses are stated as followed: (1) The paradoxical nature of optimism will hold true in relation to the levels of the three types of anxiety, resilience, post-behaviors, and COVID-19 Inventory. (2) The paradoxical nature of the resilience will hold true in relation to the levels of the three types of anxiety, resilience, post-behaviors, and COVID-19 Inventory. (3)The paradoxical nature of the three types of anxiety will hold true in relation to post-behaviors and COVID-19 Inventory.

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.

Isabelle is currently cleaning the date from the Reactions to COVID-19 database and will be conducting statistical tests to analyze the paradoxical nature of the given variables. Limitations include the online nature of the study, attrition between T1 and T2, and limited diversity. Future directions may include rerunning the study trio compare to 2 years after the initiation of the pandemic or targeting specific groups (i.e., those who had COVID) in research.

Amazing progress, Isabelle! We can’t wait to see what you do next!

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Congrats to Taylor

Taylor’s research application, “I’ll Believe it When I see it:” Behavior Change and Person Perception, has been awarded for the Provost Graduate Research Award – Fall 2022.

Congratulations, Taylor!

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Lazo Dordeski: Manuscript

Toward the end of November, Lazo Dordeski, a post-undergraduate research assistant, presented his current manuscript, “Non-violent Behaviors and Depression in Victims and Perpetrators” which builds off of his previously conducted research in the FF-PTG Lab.

Prior research has indicated that individuals who identify as either victims or perpetrators were more likely to report experiences in bother, creating the Victim-Perpetrator Overlap [VPO]. VPO conceptualized the increase of offending at the risk of being a victim and victimization may increase the risk of becoming a perpetrator. The overlap can be observed across various violent and non-violent transgressions (i.e., petty theft to sexual violence). A relationship between depression and victims/perpetrators has been discovered in the populations of adolescent victims of bullying, patients with depression, and perpetrators clinically diagnosed with depression. Depressed patients had a higher prevalence of repeat victimization; while perpetrators had more risk factors for intimate partner violence.

The purpose of Dordeski’s study is to examine the differences between non-violent behaviors (i.e., racial slurs, stealing, and exclusion) and depression within both victims and perpetrators. Hypothesis 1 states that individuals who were only victims of having racial slurs used against them would show higher depression than perpetrators who only used racial slurs against others and those who experienced overlap which would show higher depression than those who experienced neither. Hypothesis 2 states that individuals who are only victims of exclusion will have higher levels of depression than individuals who experienced overlap, which would show higher levels of depression than perpetrators who only excluded others and those who experienced neither, which would report even levels of depression.

A total of 397 participants were used from the previously collected Smith (2020) study. Data was collected through the Qualtrics survey tool. Participants were randomly assigned to two conditions of answering questions about 1) perpetrator experiences first or 2) victim experiences first. The survey included responses to PTGI-X, filler scale questions, filled conditions, and repeated PTGI-X. Measures used for analysis were the Victimization and Perpetration Scale and Beck Depression Inventory through the statistical tests of one-way ANOVAs and post-hoc analyses using LSD. No significant differences between the perpetrator-only group and the group that didn’t experience either. Findings suggest that exclusion is impactful on reported feelings of depression among victims, even though some of them excluded others themselves.

Limitations identified by Dordeski included sample size with skewed distribution, college demographic, and measures that focused on more violent behavior. Potential future directions would be to make a greater emphasis on non-violent behaviors, focus on group differences and how this could increase victim/perpetrator susceptibility, and increase diversity/intersectional samples to improve external validity.

Congratulations, Lazo! We are proud to send you off to the next stage of your career. Dordeski will be attending the Master of Arts in Counseling program at Oakland University starting January 2023. Wishing you nothing but the best!

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Amber Efthemiou: Article Presentation

First-semester undergraduate research assistant, Amber Efthemiou, recently presented the article titled, “The Effects of Mindfulness and Self-Compassion on Improving the Capacity to Adapt to Stress Situations in Elderly People Living in the Community” (Perez-Blasco et al., 2016).

The concept of self-compassion embodies kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Mindfulness specifically encourages openness, curiosity, and acceptance through the non-judgemental awareness of the present moment. Interventions based on mindfulness have been found to be effective in clinical and non-clinical contexts in hand with increasing one’s ability to cope (i.e., emotion-focused and problem-focused) and resilience. Elderly adults, especially, can benefit from such mindfulness interventions due to the experience of hardships related to aging. Self-judgement, isolation, and rumination can be prevented with the improvement of emotional regulation and self-perception of aging.

Perez-Blasco et al. (2016) aimed to improve resilience levels, reduce stress, reduce age-related anxiety and depression, and change coping strategies through the evaluation of the effectiveness of mindfulness and self-compassion in older adults. Participant criteria included age of 60 years or older, not under institutional care, and being cognitively healthy. The measurements used were the Brief Resilient Coping Scale, Depression Anxiety Stress Scales, and Coping Strategies Questionaire. The intervention program lasted 10 consecutive weeks with one 2-hour session a week in a group setting. The formal practice held different forms of meditation; while the informal practice consisted of daily mindful activities.

To determine whether groups were homogenous prior to treatment, chi-squared tests, t-tests for independent samples, and Mann-Whitney U-tests were performed. The repeated measures ANOVA was conducted to analyze the intervention’s effects. Results showed a significant increase in resilience, positive reappraisal, and avoidance along with a significant decrease in anxiety and stress. For coping results, there was a significant decrease in problem-solving coping, negative self-focused coping, overt emotional expression, and religion. Conclusions indicated mindfulness leads to resiliency later in life with self-compassion as a useful tool in therapy. Self-compassion led to positive responses to aging and age-related events. Cathartic emotional expression and impulsivity decreased leading to a greater capacity for introspection through emotional awareness. There was a notable change in the meaning of a stressful situation, a decrease in religion, and no significant improvement in social support.

Limitations of the presented study were the small sample size, absence of double-blind assessment with lack of control for potential covariates, and some low ETA squared obtained. Implications would be included set up a mindfulness program adapted to elderly people to obtain greater benefits for this population. Efthemiou believes the demonstrated interventions could be used for those who are 75 and older along with those in a care facility/nursing home.

Wonderful presentation, Amber! We are eager to see how you pursue this line of research.

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