Author Archives: emileecausey

Congratulations to the Provost Research Grant Recipients!

Congratulations to all three members of our lab Kayla, CJ, and Joey for each being awarded a Provost Research Grant for their individual projects! We are so excited to see what’s in store for each of your studies!

PhD student, Kayla Benson, was awarded Provost Research Grant for her Master’s Thesis Project, “Growing Toward the Common Good: Collective Action During COVID-19.”

MS student, Colin O’Brien, was awarded Provost Research Grant for his new project, “Causes and Correlates of Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder.”

MS student, Joseph Rhodes, was awarded Provost Research Grant for his Master’s Thesis Project, “Understanding Cultural Differences in Behavior in the Face of a Global Pandemic.”

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Taylor’s Senior Thesis Presentation

Recently, graduated lab member, Taylor, presented updates to her senior thesis study titled, Individual Differences in Emotion Recognition. Her study focuses on investigating the relationship between emotion recognition ability (ERA), experiences of traumatic events, and posttraumatic growth (PTG). Past research has linked both PTG and ERA to increased levels of empathy, with PTG also being connected to higher levels of emotional intelligence. Given that there are gaps in the literature regarding direct links between PTG and ERA, and specific types of trauma events, Taylor hypothesized that individuals who experienced higher levels of PTG will be more likely to accurately recognize emotions in others. Additionally, she hypothesized that individuals who have experienced relationship trauma, such as family conflicts or the death of a loved one, will be better at recognizing emotions, specifically, fear in others. In order to test these hypotheses, participants in her study filled out both a trauma checklist and a measure of PTG along with an assessment in emotion recognition ability, which had participants observe images of people and identify what emotion was expressed in the photo.

Overall, the results show that individuals with relationship trauma experience are better at recognizing emotions in others, regardless of growth, indicating that improvements in emotion perception may be dependent on the type of trauma experienced. Those with relationship trauma may also be better at specifically identifying fear in others. The lack of significant results regarding PTG and ERA suggests that the self-report nature of PTG might only reflect surface-level transformation but not indicate deeper cognitive changes in individuals. Taylor aims for her research to help develop a better understanding of the ways that PTG can impact day-to-day communications and individual’s interpretations of them. Amazing work Taylor, we can’t wait to learn more from your study!

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Victoria’s Article Presentation

First semester undergraduate lab member Victoria recently gave a presentation on the article titled Why is nature beneficial?: The role of connectedness to nature. The study wanted to directly investigate the relationship between nature and well-being, with a sense of belonging to the natural world as the primary mechanism. Prior studies focus on the restorative qualities of nature without exploring the other possible mediating factors. The major research questions asked were: (1) does an increase in connectedness to nature mediate nature’s effect on positive mood? and (2) does exposure to nature affect participants’ ability to reflect on their personal problems? The authors proposed the questions to determine the extent to which an individual’s environment can be healing. To answer these questions, the researchers randomly assigned a group of college students into two groups, one of which would spend 10 minutes on a walk in a nature preserve, the other group walking around a downtown urban environment. After the 10 minute walk, each group was given 5 minutes of reflection time and then filled out a survey to measure (1) connectedness to nature, (2) positive and negative affect, and (3) situational self-awareness.

The analysis revealed that the ability to reflect was significantly correlated with connectedness to nature and positive affect while negatively correlating with public self-awareness. This suggests that if individuals are less concerned with appearance to others, they can better pay attention to what they are experiencing internally. Overall, the study shows strong support for connectedness to nature as a mediator of nature’s effects on well-being and increased reflection skills. Victoria has a strong passion for the outdoors and believes that once the mechanisms of nature’s healing effects are identified, nature can be used more effectively in clinical practice. She hopes that this research will help practitioners explore nature’s health benefits outside of the more common uses like attention restoration and stress recovery. Great work, Victoria! We are excited to learn more!

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Emilee’s Article Presentation and Hypothesis

Second semester undergraduate member, Emilee, recently gave her presentation on the article titled Crushing Hope: Short Term Responses to Tragedy Vary by Hopefulness published by Jason Fletcher in 2018. The article examines the relationship between optimism or hopefulness and experiences of trauma using a previous study’s sample of students from 1995. The study, ADD health, was administered through surveys in different waves from 1995 up until 2008. Given that the study coincided with the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001, Fletcher determined if participants experienced a traumatic event based on whether or not they took their survey before or after 9/11/2001. Fletcher hypothesized that individuals with high levels of hopefulness will: 1.) be less likely to cope with trauma and 2.) experience higher levels of depressive symptoms after a traumatic event. Results showed a large impact on participants exposed to 9/11 only for those who reported “a lot” and “always” levels of hopefulness, supporting the hypothesis.

In addition to her analysis of the article, Emilee’s presentation covered a set of hypotheses she prepared for her Honors College Thesis regarding a similar idea on the topic of resilience and the possible detrimental effects it may have on individuals. In her future analysis, Emilee predicts that participants who are highly resilient will report a lower probability of negative life events happening to themselves – the reverse being true when evaluating a hypothetical other person experiencing the same event. Great work Emilee, we are looking forward to your future findings!

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Kayla’s Master’s Thesis Proposal

Recently, first year PhD student Kayla presented a proposal for her master’s thesis titled Growing Toward the Common Good: Collective Action During COVID-19. Kayla is interested in examining how experiences of COVID-19 may impact action focused growth, in which individuals find meaning in traumatic events by translating growth into action. With her study, Kayla is hoping to gain insight into how action focused growth contributes to collective action and to further understand how the bystander effect relates to people promoting the “common good” during the ongoing pandemic.

Kayla predicts that participants who experience growth in the wake of COVID-19 related stressors will be more likely to intervene during events that prompt action for the “common good” compared to participants who experienced either no growth or no stressors. Additionally, she predicts that individuals who see themselves as heroic will be more likely to take the social risk of intervening when in a group of people. With her study, Kayla hopes to help identify factors that predict who will engage in collective action as a form of action focused growth. Awesome job Kayla, we can’t wait to learn more!

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OU Hosts Founders’ Day Faculty Recognition Event

The annual Founders’ Day Faculty Recognition event commends faculty members whose teaching and research excellence, creative achievements, and community service have contributed to the betterment of society. They honor OU faculty members for their scholarly achievements and dedication regarding research and critical teaching roles in educating the leaders of tomorrow. This year, the FF-PTG lab’s very own director, Dr. Kanako Taku has been awarded as an honoree for her teaching. In regards to her skills in the classroom, Dr. Taku “helps her students find success by using data derived from students, making students more involved and classroom time more engaging.” But her dedication and passion for teaching goes beyond the classroom: “the students that she has supported have found success, earning awards, grants and presenting work at local, national, and international conferences”. Congrats Dr. Taku! The lab is extremely proud of you and all of your accomplishments!

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Colin’s Master’s Thesis Proposal Updates

Colin, second year master’s student, presented updates to his master’s thesis proposal titled Types of Change in Anxiety Regarding
Mass Shootings in Response to New Information
. He intends to examine psychological outcomes, focusing on taking a closer look at the different types of change in anxiety experienced by individuals and their responses to various types of information regarding mass shootings. Recently, he began collecting data for his thesis through the use of online surveys, allowing for preliminary analysis of the responses from the participants. With the data collection being a work in progress, Colin has been able to work on analysis on the different types of changes in anxiety: alpha (linear), beta (non-linear reprioritization & recalibration), and gamma (non-linear reconceptualization). His analysis revealed that regardless of emotional content in information presented to individuals, the discussion of mass shootings alone is enough to raise anxiety levels. Congratulations, as well, to Colin, for being awarded the Provost Graduate Student Research Award
which will aid him in furthering his research!

With his research, Colin hopes to better the current understanding of how various forms of media on mass shootings are impacting individuals not directly involved in the event. He aspires to one-day assist in the creation of active shooter training based on his research, by finding better ways to spread awareness and news within the media. In addition, Colin hopes to discover different therapeutic routes for those both directly and indirectly involved in. Amazing work Colin, we look forward to hearing more about your findings!

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The FF-PTG Lab Welcomes New Member

Welcome to Emily Burley, our new undergraduate research assistant! Emily is currently a sophomore at Oakland University, double majoring in psychology and human resources management. She joined the lab due to her interest in using psychology to help others achieve a better quality of life, and hopes that learning about PTG will help her do so. Emily plans to study PTG as it relates to specific groups of people, such as grade school teachers and people who cause traumatic events by hurting others, both intentionally and unintentionally. After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans to attend graduate school and start a career in psychology. Emily can be reached at

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Emilee’s Article Presentation

First semester undergraduate lab member, Emilee, recently gave her first article presentation titled Is Resilience only skin deep? Rural African Americans’ socioeconomic status – Related Risk and Competence in Preadolescence and Psychological Adjustment and allostatic load at age 19 that was published by Gene H. Brody et al. in 2013. The researchers of this study wanted to analyze the interaction between resilience and negative physical outcomes in a population of disadvantaged African-American preadolescents. They predicted that the preadolescents who exhibited high psychosocial competence despite their lower socioeconomic status would at the same time show signs of stable mental health and increased physical health problems, specifically higher levels of allostatic load (a measure of a person’s stress response). The results showed that higher resilience, or psychosocial competence, in the preadolescents correlated with higher levels of allostatic load and physical health issues at age 19, but these results were found only for the disadvantaged preadolescents. This suggests that resilience is multidimensional, positively affecting mental health while simultaneously negatively affecting aspects of physical health. These results help to facilitate the discussion of the complexity of psychological constructs and the possible “dark side” to ones which are consistently viewed in a positive light. The researchers believe that future directions should seek to explore mediating factors and functions behind the biological and physiological effects of active coping skills. Emilee would like to use this article to build upon her own interests in examining the unexplored sides to common psychological constructs. Great job on your presentation, Emilee!

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Taylor’s Research Study Proposal

Recently, third semester undergraduate student, Taylor, presented her proposal for an independent research study titled, Individual Differences in Emotion Recognition: Examining the Relationship Between Posttraumatic Growth, Empathy, Personality, & Facial Expression Recognition. Based on previous research conducted, Taylor is interested in looking at the relationship between posttraumatic growth (PTG) and emotion recognition ability (ERA) and how the Five Factor Model personality traits of: agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness to experiences, and extraversion may moderate this relationship. Taylor aims for her research to help aid in understanding the ways that PTG can impact day-to-day communications and individual’s interpretations of them. With her research, Taylor hopes to point towards the possibility of promoting PTG in trauma victims that suffer from mental disorders to improve their ERA. This will, in turn, positively impact daily social interactions, aid in creating healthier relationships, and increase success in professional domains. Great work Taylor, we can’t wait to learn more from your study!

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