Monthly Archives: February 2023

Taylor’s Thesis Proposal

Taylor, a first-year Ph.D. student, successfully presented her thesis proposal to peers and professors alike. In the presentation titled “I’ll believe it when I see it” Taylor details the progress, she has made toward developing her topic of interest. Her research of choice centers around the tipping points in changing one’s initial impression of an individual. In other words, at what point can an individual’s perception of another change despite what the initial impression may have been? How may this impression’s tipping point differ when changing a negative perception to a positive one; from a positive to a negative? Taylor hopes to answer these questions by implementing previous research methods and new techniques alike.

In order to understand this research we have to talk about personal perception. Person perception is a concept where people learn about an individual and then make assumptions based on what they learn. This assumption can also be considered an impression. This impression, whether right or wrong, is created based on what we saw and what it means to us. Our impressions of someone can often affect the ways in which we interact with a person. According to the moral primacy model, morality is an important factor in deciding what we think about a person. Sociability and competency are also factors that decide our impression, but neither are nearly as influential as morality. Morality can be simplified as understanding whether someone is good or bad. If we see someone holding the door open we think that is a good action and the person engaging in that behavior is good.

In Taylor’s proposed research design, different mediums will be used in order to display an individual groin through change. These mediums include visual media, auditory media, and text-based media. Participants will also be divided in whether they see a good person eventually do bad things or the opposite. They will witness this change in the person gradually and then be asked to come back in a week to complete a survey. Taylor hypothesizes that participants who see an individual changing from their initial behaviors will then change their perceptions sooner seeing good people doing bad things, rather than people hearing or reading about bad people doing good things. Taylor’s inspiration from her study comes from gaps in previous literature. Other studies have not considered the medium in which individuals learned about an individual, which grossly underestimates the amount that we learn about a person by seeing or hearing about them.

The practical applications of this research are numerous. For starters, previous literature has established the importance of character judgments we make about others. When we make these judgments we want these decisions to be informed. A good and informed decision can keep us away from danger. What is important about these decisions is that they are correct. If the method by which people learn about a person’s actions can affect the perception of it we can better convey good or bad behavior. These implications ripple into the world of law and politics; if someone has truly learned their lesson from their actions it may be better to see that change rather than hear it from the individual. This research will also help to reduce negativity bias, the phenomenon in which people are stuck with a negative perception of someone despite real changes being made. Thinking that someone “will never change” is unrealistic, and change may be more likely than some people give credit for. Lastly, a study like this will have more practical application in the real world where we see people act in moral or immoral ways daily. Showing people these actions will better replicate how we may happen to see these events.

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Amber’s Article Presentation and Upcoming Research

Amber, a second-semester undergraduate research assistant, recently presented the article, “A Randomized Controlled Trial for an Individualized Positive Psychosocial Intervention for the Affective and Behavioral Symptoms of Dementia in Nursing Home Residents” (Van Haitsma et al., 2015).

Following Amber’s experience working in a nursing home, she found an interest in researching interventions for people with mental health disorders such as Dementia and Alzheimers. The person-centered model of care is based on recognizing the individual’s needs and preferences in caretaking. Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is a model of personality and motivation while the Broaden-and-Build Theory states that positive emotions widen an individual’s behavioral repertoire. There have also been findings within the research of modest effects of using non-pharmacological interventions such as music therapy to reduce behavioral symptoms of dementia. When planning these interventions, it is important to match the activity to skill level and interest.

With that, the purpose of this study specifically was to test the effectiveness of a preference-based activity intervention in nursing home residents with dementia. The researchers hoped to improve effect and behavioral engagement while reducing negative affect and negative behaviors. The authors hypothesized (1) One-to-one activity interventions will reduce residents’ negative affect, verbal, and nonverbal behaviors and (2) Individuals receiving the intervention will have increased instances of positive affect, verbal, and nonverbal behaviors. The sample had a mean age of 88.7 years with moderate to severe cognitive functional impairments and lived in the nursing unit for more than a month.

The participants were divided through random assignment into three groups: (1) Usual Care (UC), (2) Attention Control (AC) + UC and (3) Individualized Positive Psychological Intervention (IPPI). There was a 3 week treatment period where these interventions were applied.

The results showed that overall, the residents receiving IPPI showed the greatest benefit, followed by AC. The AC group showed benefits and more negative behavior. This may be due to the adverse effects standardized one-to-one interventions can have on highly vulnerable populations. Limitations of this study include the lack of diversity in the sample, the line-observation coding system (only observing one behavior state at a time rather than multiple), and the research assistant’s influence throughout the study. Amber also pointed out the issues involving researching individuals in assisted living facilities. Family members can be quite protective of their relatives during their later years in life. In an attempt to protect their loved ones, they sometimes refuse to consent to studies like this. Whether it is the harsh language calling it an experiment, or lacking trust in research it is a struggle to reach this population despite the good it can do. Amber hopes to address these concerns and reduce the stigma associated with researching elderly people.

Future directions of this study include replicating the study with a more diverse sample and the integration of other types of therapy such as CBT or mindfulness training. Amber will be able to use this knowledge and her interests to influence her future research plans regarding behavioral interventions, and cognitively impaired individuals with a diverse age range and population in mind. We are excited to see what Amber accomplishes!

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Amani’s Article Presentation and Upcoming Research

Amani, a second-semester undergraduate member of the lab, successfully presented her topic of job satisfaction and its role in turnover in the workplace. Industrial-organizational psychology, also known as IO psychology, focuses on the functions of the workplace, the workplace environment’s effects on a worker, and the mental states of said workers. IO psychology is Amani’s main focus which is what inspired her research interest.

Jobs offer an opportunity for individuals to put their skills to the test and earn rewards for their work. However, what happens when a worker is dissatisfied with their job. In some cases, people quit their job to find a new ones. Another all too familiar scenario to some is when someone complains about their job frequently and yet stays with the job regardless. Why do some people stay in one unfavorable work environment and others leave? How can job satisfaction serve as a tipping point for a change in someone’s work status? Job status is not limited to employed and unemployed, as some individuals may be retired, non-working/disabled. These are just some of the phenomena Amani is set on addressing. While Amani’s focus is on job satisfaction, other factors are acknowledged as potential influential factors in changes in employment status. Such as, but not limited to, organizational change, workplace incivility, job performance, inefficacy, organizational justice, and job insecurity.

Organizations, like everything, can experience changes. Whether that be changes in leadership, policies, or even the type of work conducted organizations must adjust to accommodate for this change. In some instances, change can cause unintended consequences. For example, if a company hires a new CEO who elects to make cut-offs, this can cause job insecurity, which is the feeling of anxiety experienced when your job is at risk. Organizations in a sense have to enact justice or make things fair. If the new CEO is laying off people to increase his own salary, this can be viewed as unjust. In scenarios like this workers may begin to engage in deviant behavior or those that go against the organization. These behaviors could be a response to the leadership’s decision, but it is not limited to this scenario. Individuals are capable of going against the policy at any point, whether it is stealing money, smoking on the job, being rude to customers, or anything else. Each of these factors can influence the satisfaction one may feel in their work environment which inevitably can affect one’s job satisfaction.

The literature review Amani conducted on the topic of tipping points in employment status lacked not a general consensus on a consistent tipping point. In addition, the literature on this topic was very limited. Only a handful of articles addressing the topic and some were unrelated entirely. Her future research will focus on finding that tipping points; believing job satisfaction is the main influence on job status changes. In her search for answers, the data collected will not only go towards her lab project for the FF-PTG lab but also her Honors College thesis. We are excited to see what the future has in store for your research Amani!

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