Since 2008, the PTG lab led by Dr. Kanako Taku has conducted a series of social and clinical research on how people experience various changes as a result of highly stressful, potentially traumatic life events, centering around the construct of posttraumatic growth (PTG). PTG is what brought Dr. Taku to the US, to lead a lab with students at Oakland University and colleagues around the world, and this work continues to be inspired and motivated by the memory of Shelby.
In 2019, the lab changed its name to FF-PTG (Free Form PTG) Lab, challenging both established research and ourselves. We now study various content, meanings, and forms of changes, including crystallization of socio-emotional status, tipping point, non-linear changes, and continuity and discontinuity within the field of clinical, social, cross-cultural, and personality psychology.
In 2023, Dr. Taku agreed to serve as Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Loss and Trauma (Taylor & Francis), aiming to foster more inclusive research topics, targets, and authors, especially people who have been stigmatized or have little resources, believing that the meanings and values of loss and trauma changed tremendously from mostly pathological to more holistic and they can change even more to be inclusive.
Our lab always recruits creative and motivated students and researchers from around the world to foster collaboration. Just so you know, we are still having fun with weekly themed two-slide presentations and step-backs at lab meetings. The lab keeps going, and the lab keeps growing, but in a non-linear way!
Some of the FF-PTG lab members recently attended the 2022 American Psychological Association (APA) Conference that was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota from August 4th-6th. It has been more than 2 years since we attended a conference in person! They were able to present on their recent research projects as well as network and learn from other researchers in the psychology field.
Kaylie and Joey were first to present their poster titled The Role of Dichotomous Thought on Aversive Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic. This research, which originated from Joey’s Master’s Thesis, found that both dichotomous thinking (thinking in polar opposites) and gender were significant predictors of anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic but not depression. They believe these findings may be due to how dichotomous thinking typically involves thoughts of the environment which aligns more with anxiety than depression. Whereas depression may align more with thoughts of oneself.
Joey and Kaylie’s next presentation was titled Isolation, Self-Construal, and Aversive Mental Health During COVID-19. They predicted that self-construal (how an individual constructs their identity in relation to their in-group) and isolation would predict depression and anxiety. Their findings showed that self-construal and isolation were in fact predictors of depression but only isolation predicted anxiety. Their research shows that those who view themselves as overlapping with their group may be more susceptible to depression with the increase in isolation caused by COVID-19. In addition, this highlights that isolation impacts both depression and anxiety which may have been more brought on during the pandemic restrictions and protocols.
Matt, a fellow graduate student in the Psychology Department, presented a data blitz talk, which was also derived from Joey’s Master’s Thesis, titled Religion and Precautionary Behavior During a Global Pandemic. Matt and Joey were able to find that stronger religious beliefs may lead to less belief in (1) the efficacy of masks, (2) scientific evidence and research, (3) government guidelines, along with (4) wearing masks to prevent COVID-19. These research findings help us to better understand how religion has impacted human behaviors during the pandemic.
Taylor gave a data blitz talk as well, titled Examining the Rationale Behind Perceived Severity of Modern and Traditional Types of Depression. She presented on the differences between modern-type (MTD) and traditional-type (TTD) depression by identifying the reasons behind the perceptions made of them when participants were shown vignettes of individual “X.” Findings showed that X with TTD was perceived as more severe than X with MTD, coinciding with previous research. However, people relied on different information to make judgements of X with low severity ratings; having a “heavy workload” for TTD but “complaining about workload” for MTD. Yet, for both MTD and TTD, high severity depression ratings were based on experiencing “negative physical symptoms.” This shows that people place more severity on the physical symptoms someone is experiencing with depression than the other behaviors.
Overall, fantastic work, FF-PTG Lab! We cannot wait to attend next year!
Williams, K., Rhodes, J., & Taku, K. The role of dichotomous thoughts on aversive mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic (03 – Society for Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Science Division).
Rhodes, J., Williams, K., & Taku, K. Isolation, self-construal, and aversive mental health during COVI-19. (08 – Society for Personality and Social Psychology Division).
Lico, M. P., Rhodes, J., Kozak, A. T., & Taku, K. Religion and precautionary behavior during a global pandemic (08 – Society for Personality and Social Psychology Division).
Elam, T., O’Brien, C., & Taku, K. Examining the rationale behind perceived severity of modern and traditional type of depression (08 – Society for Personality and Social Psychology Division).
Kana participated in the Saturday main stage headline session with Dr. Maryam Jernigan-Noesi and answered a few questions, such as:
What does posttraumatic growth look like?
What is the first step toward growth after a traumatic experience?
Is PTG something that requires support from a trained professional?
What do you do to set yourself up for growth?
Taku, K. (2021, August). Growing from our Traumatic Experiences. Invited interview for the Main Stage session, “The Science of Resilience – Bounce Back from Adversity”, at the 129th American Psychological Association (APA) Annual Convention, Online.