Author Archives: nataliesafo

The Lab’s Instagram Debut

The FF-PTG lab has taken over Instagram! Follow our lab along with fun content @FFPTGLABatOU! We will be posting lab updates and more information that you will NOT want to miss.

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Taylor Elam’s Talk at the OU Graduate Student Conference

Taylor Elam, first year Ph.D. student, recently gave a talk at the OUGSC titled “Shaken by Guilt or Growing with Confidence: Positive and Negative self-evaluations during COVID-19.

Elam explains how we all experience trauma whether that is a major life crisis or a natural disaster. When the COVID-19 pandemic came about, many were forced into their homes and even lost people close to us. These types of adverse events can cause a disruption in one’s core beliefs (CBD). Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG) is defined as the positive psychological changes someone can experience as a result of trauma. This all connects to guilt and confidence through the aim of this study: To examine individual state emotions of guilt and confidence at the beginning of COVID-19, and their associations with CBD and PTG.

Using the Core Belief Inventory (CBI), Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory Expanded (PTGI-X), and the Modified Emotional States Questionnaire, 1000 participants over the age of 18+ with the mean age of 35 were included in this online study. Data was analyzed using a one-way ANOVA. Across the four groups (guilt only, guilt and confidence, confidence only, and neither) there were significant group differences in CBD (f(3,908 = 3.17, p=.02) and PTG (f(3,909 = 6.90, p=.01). The guilt-only group reported more CBD (M=3.35, SD=1.12) than the confident-only group (M=2.92, SD=1.27; p=.02, but the confident-only group reported more PTG (M=2.11, SD=1.28) than guilt-only group (M=1.62, SD=.95; p=.01) and neither guilt or confident group
(M=1.70, SD=1.09; p=.01)

Implications for these findings include providing evidence for the associations that the emotional states have with cognitive processing related to adversity. The findings showed that people who reported more PTG felt more confident, while those whose core beliefs were shaken felt more guilt. Additionally, we are able to use this research for prospective reports during another worldwide traumatic event to analyze current feelings and state emotions. Future directions for this study include possibly looking at influence of current coping mechanisms on state emotions or tipping points that transform guilt into confidence.

Amazing job, Taylor! We are so proud of how far you’ve come and can’t wait to see more!

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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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Paxton Hicks: Article Presentation & Upcoming Research

Second-semester undergraduate research assistant, Paxton Hicks, recently presented the article “I Cheated, but Only a Little: Partial Confessions to Unethical Behavior” (Peer et al., 2014).

Lying is described as the intentional act of conveying incorrect information to mislead another individual and may have several motivations. Confessions are viewed as either someone confessing or not, which can be problematic as some confessions are partial. They provide a grey area to confessions since they are hand-picking what to reveal. The authors of this article propose that partial confessions may minimize guilt and motivate providing part of the information. The purposes of the study include (1) examining the prevalence of partial confessions, (2) the antecedents of partial confessions, and (3) the consequences of partial confessions.

This article included five studies and each study had mean ages ranging from 28-34 recruited from Amazon MTurk. The hypotheses of each study are as followed: H1: Extent of cheating and the likelihood of confessing to all or some of the cheating, H2: Individuals partially confessing will be perceived as more trustworthy than both of those that fully confess or do not confess at all, H3: Do people feel better or worse when partially confessing?, H4: Individuals will perceive others who partially confess as more honest than those who do not confess at all, and H5: Do these results apply to daily life occurrences? How will people classify their confessions? In each of the five studies, participants were given a task and then a questionnaire measuring confession, mood and prospective mood, factors of individuals’ reasons for confessing, and the extent of the confession.

After reviewing the results of each study, Hicks revisited the hypotheses. For H1, it was found that of the 139 confessors, 40.44% were partial confessions, 59-56% were full confessions, and individuals who partially cheat were more likely to fully confess and vice versa. H2 was partially supported as partial confessions were more credible than non-confessions (t(492)= 4.93, p< .01), but not for full confessions. H3 results suggest that partial confessions led to higher levels of actual negative affect across all groups. H4 was supported as partial confessions were higher in credibility ratings than non-confessions (t(437) = 3.14, p < .01). H5 shows that full confessions were significantly higher than partial confessions in all motivation domains of confession except public shame. 

Limitations of the study include that the stakes of the experiment were low (.10-$1) despite the relatively high frequency of cheating/lying as higher stakes scenarios may produce better results. The study included small sample size and the use of parametric tests. Additionally, Hicks recognizes that there may be measurement errors in some of the studies which lead to the curiousness that there may be more human errors included in the data. 

While confessions were not manipulated, this study gives insight into the prevalence and some of the potential outcomes and perceptions. It showed that others’ partial confessions were viewed as more credible than no confession at all and led to many future research directions for Paxton. He will be conducting his own study based on his interest in confessions and lying. We are excited to see what he accomplishes!

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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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Taylor Elam: Master’s Thesis Proposal

Taylor Elam, a first year Ph.D. Student, recently gave a presentation on her research proposal titled, “I’ll Believe it When I See it: Behavior Change and Person Perception”. This project focuses on how and when people change their perceptions of others.

Taylor explains that people can change by changing their habits, behaviors, attitudes, outlook, verbal and/or physical responses, and most recently discovered, personality. Studies so far have focused on how people change through therapy, how impressions are made and how accurate they are, and how to help people change. Elam saw a need for research that studies when we change our perceptions of others whether the perception is accurate or not.

Elam hypothesized that those who watch a video describing a person’s behavior will change their perception of the person sooner than those who read the vignettes. She aimed to explore the influence of participant characteristics, mood, and interpersonal accuracy on person perception change. The study recruited 300 college students 18+, 100 in each group, for an online survey with 4 time points.

The study would include a person named Taylor described in differing settings and behaviors. For example one setting would be:

“Taylor walks into class, smiling. She shakes hands with teachers and greets her classmates. She sits straight up while watching the lecture. She laughs at the jokes during the presentation. “

“Taylor drives to work listening to upbeat music. “

“Taylor cries at home. Her house is messier because she hasn’t cleaned. She slams her backpack down and goes straight to sleep. “

Other settings would switch out the behaviors with sad connotations with happy behaviors. Throughout the 4 time points, participants would experience differing settings of the same story about Taylor through a video, vignette, or a combination of both. Participants would then complete the survey reporting their demographics, psychological status, adversity experience, personality, mood, emotional intelligence, and empathy. They would then complete the task to report their perception of Taylor based off the video or vignettes.

This study called for a repeated measures design with between and within groups. Data will be analyzed using correlation and regression as well as repeated measures ANOVA. Limitations include the potential need for 5 time points to show stability and consistency, the lack of person-memory concept, lack of subject background information, demographics, and previous behaviors.

Taylor did an excellent job designing and presenting her research proposal, and we can’t wait to follow her through this process!

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Amani Qaqish: Article Presentation

Amani Qaqish, a first-semester undergraduate lab member, recently gave an article presentation on the article titled “Effort-Reward Imbalance and Employee Performance With the Moderating Roles of Overcommitment and Humor” (Reizer & Siegrist, 2022).

Effort Reward Imbalance (ERI) is described as when the amount of effort one puts into the workplace should be equally reciprocated with reward but is not. The negative implications of ERI include stress-related mental health disorders and physical disorders. Additionally, to cope with ERI, many engage in overcommitment or the two types of different humor: affiliative humor and self-enhancing humor. Affiliative humor is a joke made during a conversation to bring everyone together which can strengthen interpersonal relationships. Self-enhancing humor is a joke about oneself staying positive during a negative time which can regulate emotions. Amani explains the Broaden-and-Build theory which is the idea of broadened attention focus is positive emotions (considering new possibilities and fostering psychological flexibility). Lastly, to explain the background, the dimensions of employee performance were explained as four parts: task performance, organizational citizenship, creative performance, and destructive deviance (DD).

The presented study had three different hypotheses starting with (1) Employee ERI is related to job performance measures with 4 sub-hypotheses: (a) negatively associated with task performance, (b) negatively associated with OCB, (c) negatively associated with creative performance, (d) positively associated with DD. Hypothesis (2) states that overcommitment moderates the relationships between ERI and task performance (H2A), OCB (H2B), creative performance (H2C), and DD (H2D). Lastly, hypothesis (3) states adaptive humor moderated the associations between ERI and workplace outcomes. Both self-enhancing and affiliative humor diminishes the negative associations between ERI and task performance (H3A), OCB (H3B, creative performance (H3C, and DD (H3D).

Three hundred and ninety-nine adults who worked a minimum of 10 hours per week, worked for their respective employer for at least 6 months, salary employees, had access to the internet and email, and had direct supervisors involved were included in the study. Participants ranged from different genders, ages, education levels, employment, and supervisor-employee relationships. Effort Reward and ERI were measured along with humor scales, task performance, creative performance, organizational citizenship behavior, and destructive workplace deviance through a self-report questionnaire.

Multiple regression was conducted for statistical analysis. Results for H1a, H1b, & H1c show the ER ratio negatively associated with task performance, OCB, and creative performance, ER and DD were unrelated, but the reward measure was negatively associated with DD. ER ratio and overcommitment (OC) are positively correlated, and OC is positively correlated with creative performance. Hypothesis 2 results showed that overcommitment moderated associations between ER ratio and task performance with negative associations between ER ratio and task performance for employees who scored high in over-commitment. Hypothesis 3 results show that humor moderates the association between ER ratio and workplace outcomes. Specifically for H3A, there was a negative association between ER ratio and task performance which reached significance for employees who scored low in self-enhancing humor. For H3B, H3C, and H3D, associations were found between ER ratio and OCB, creative performance, and DD which reached significance for employees who scored low in self-enhancing humor.

This study demonstrated the effects of overcommitment as a moderating effect limited to task performance. It was found that self-enhancement humor reduced the strength of associations for ERI and employee task performance, OCB, and DD. It was found to be a robust predictor of resilience and a stable moderator for job stress-burnout relationships, and affiliative humor was less effective. These findings have important implications for improving balance in the workplace, implementing more group-based programs, interventions to decrease overcommitment and increase humor, and more leader involvement. Limitations of the study include a lack of longitudinal design, not exploring the full range of information inherent in the ERI model, and no empirical insights into the mediating process. There are also opportunities for future research by considering burnout and occupational health problems or looking at other mediators such as a trust or organizational commitment.

Amazing job presenting this article, Amani! She will be using this research to assist her in her literature review throughout the semester!

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Kaylie Williams: Master’s Thesis Update

Kaylie Williams, a second-year Master’s student, recently gave a presentation on her thesis progress. The purpose of the study titled “Psychological Mechanisms Behind Belief in Conspiracy Theories and Changing Conspiratorial Belief”, includes identifying individual differences that influence people to believe in conspiracies and how to change people’s belief in conspiracies through thinking style.

Williams hypothesized that (1) PTSD symptoms, antisocial personality traits, vaccine hesitancy, openness to experience, and general thinking style will correlate with conspiracy beliefs (hypotheses A-E correlating with each variable mentioned), and (2) participants primed to think more concretely will report lower belief in conspiracy theories, while those primed to think more abstractly will report higher belief in conspiracy theories. 355 adults living in the U.S. were recruited for the online study with 288 passing attention checks. Items measured in the study were conspiratorial belief, antisocial behavior, personality surrounding the Big Five, screening for PTSD, public attitude toward vaccination, and thinking style (Analytic, Abstract, and Concrete Thinking).

After the analysis of the data, hypothesis 1 showed no significant relationship between PTSD and conspiracy beliefs (1.A), antisocial traits and conspiracy beliefs (1.B), openness to experience and conspiracy beliefs (1.C), and no significant relationship was found between general vaccine hesitancy and conspiracy beliefs for hypothesis 1.D. However, COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy revealed a slight significant correlation with belief in conspiracies. This result is particularly interesting because COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy was driven by conspiracies themselves which may have arisen due to the novelty of the COVID-19 pandemic & vaccine along with isolation and anxiety from the pandemic. Lastly, hypothesis 1.E showed no significant relationships between external, conservative, and global thinking styles and belief in conspiracies. However, post hoc analyses revealed internal and liberal thinking styles both had small, positive correlations with conspiracy beliefs, while local thinking styles did not reveal a significant correlation with belief in conspiracies. Williams discusses how those who believe in conspiracies may refute outside information, and only base their beliefs on their own thinking rather than allowing outside forces to influence their beliefs, and that novelty is valued within liberal thinking styles.

Limitations of the study were pointed out by Williams surrounding online & self-report measures, the college sample, and the potential for dishonest answers. Also, the study was limited to the U.S. which could influence thinking styles. Potential future directions with this research include adding the Dichotomous Thinking Inventory, a new openness measure, a new trauma measure, and the possibility to force a response to political affiliation.

We are so excited to see Kaylie progress through her Master’s thesis on this fascinating topic and complete data analysis for hypothesis 2. Congratulations on a job well done!

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