Author Archives: phicks2

Congratulations and Lab Member Updates!

The FF-PTG has some exciting news to share about some of the members of the lab.

Kaylie, a masters student was accepted into a clinical Ph. D. program through Bowling Green State University! She will be pursuing her research passions with Dr. Carolyn Tompsett. Dr. Tompsett is partnered with the local juvenile court and researches substance abuse and juvenile delinquency using a community framework. Kaylie is planning to research the role of trauma within the context of juvenile delinquency as well as the effect of trauma on the development and maintenance of antisocial behaviors. We are so proud of your achievements and are excited to see what your future project entail Kaylie!

Paxton, an undergraduate student and current lab manager, has been accepted into Oakland University’s BA/MS program. This means that along with getting his bachelors degree he will immediately begin working towards getting his Master’s. Paxton will be staying with the FF-PTG lab as a graduate student! He will continue to pursue his topics of interest when it comes to researching tipping points while working on his thesis. The current study has just been awarded the Provost Research grant! This means he now has funding to further investigate these topics meaning more research is possible! During the summer he will be continuing his study on tipping points as well as working on other projects!

Isabelle, the former lab manager, research assistant, and Honor’s College student, is graduating. She will be leaving the lab and pursuing a career within the medical field. Isabelle aspires to earn an MS in Cardiovascular Perfusion to become a CCP. She currently is observing various perfusionists in the state of Michigan through Trinity Health, Corewell Health Beaumont, and Comprehensive Care Services. Since 2018, Isabelle has worked in healthcare for Corewell Health Beaumont. She will be continuing to work with the organization as a Nuclear Medicine Assistant along with Rochester General Surgery as a medical scribe to further develop her professional skills for her future career.

We are so proud of the outcomes of our lab members. We know that wherever each of them go success will follow them! The FF-PTG is a place to facilitate individuals passions for research and psychology. We cannot wait to see what the future holds for each of our assistant; for those who are leaving the lab for future pursuits and those staying alike!

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Isabelle’s Honor’s College Thesis Defense Preparations

Isabelle, the former lab manager of the FF-PTG lab, presented her Honor’s College thesis on the paradoxical nature of resilience, optimism, and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Resilience is a familiar topic in the PTG lab being a person’s ability to easily return to a normal state after experiencing trauma. Instead of experiencing negative or positive outcomes, resilient individuals return to a typical baseline easily. Resilience can be positive, but having too much resilience can have several consequences, including being overconfident, an unhealthy tolerance of adversity, and unhealthy optimism. Previous research has also linked high resilience to learned helplessness. Optimism operates in a similar vein to resilience; having the right amount can be beneficial. Having too high or low levels of optimism can lead to negative outcomes with high optimism having impractical expectations, and low optimism leading to increased stress. Some research even suggests that lacking pessimism rather than having some optimism can be more beneficial to positive health outcomes.

Due to how recent the COVID-19 pandemic is, many of these variables have been unexplored in this specific context. Especially when considering potential paradoxes, which can be described as a seemingly contradictory relationship, between optimism, resilience, and anxiety. For example, individuals who have high optimism should not be experiencing high anxiety because of the fact that they are optimistic. Isabelle’s thesis data hope to observe these relationships and clarify some of these paradoxes. The study suffered some limitations which include high attrition; many respondents did not complete part 2 of the survey which removed the possibility of observing the relationships longitudinally. The sample also suffers from a lack of diversity. Isabelle hopes to rerun the study to gather longitudinal data after 2 years to see if these paradoxes still exist in the behaviors of those affected. She also hopes to examine whether differing experiences, such as those who had COVID or those who are and are not vaccinated could show differences in these relationships.

Isabelle was able to share her presentation at the ICE festival hosted by the Honor’s College at Oakland University. This was a chance for her to present her topic in front of many of her peers. We are proud of your accomplishments and cannot wait to see your next steps, Isabelle!

Recently, Isabelle successfully defended her thesis in front of friends, family, and faculty advisors. She demonstrated several paradoxes in the relationships between the core concepts and behaviors and attitudes during the COVID-19 pandemic. One example includes the significant association with precautionary behaviors (i.e., wearing a mask) and health anxiety with some individuals expressing high health anxiety but low post behaviors. What made this project especially difficult was the lack of a scientific consensus on the definition of a “paradox” and only use of qualitative data in previous research. Isabelle hopes that future research can enlighten on what paradoxes in attitudes and behaviors can look like in the fields of psychopathology and healthcare and then into society through the use of empirical data. Excellent work Isabelle!

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Avery’s Article Presentation

Avery Machuk, a new member this semester, presented a research article to the members of the FF-PTG lab. The article titled “The Protective Effect of Agency on Victims of Humiliation” investigated if agency and emotions can influence the effects humiliation can have on an individual after an embarrassing experience.

In order to understand this topic we have to define some terms. Agency in this case is the ability of an individual to actively respond back to an individual. If someone is the cause of the humiliation one is feeling, and the person can confront them about it afterward, this would be considered a high agency. Being able to confront the person who humiliated you in this way may decrease feelings of internalization; when an individual takes what someone says and begins to think that way about themselves as well. Previous research also observed agency having connections with self-esteem; an important factor in how one might respond to humiliation. The researchers hypothesized that if victims of humiliation could respond to the perpetrator of the humiliation in an agentic way then the negative emotional effects associated with the humiliation would be diminished. They also tested whether the hostility of the humiliation would affect the emotions felt, such as anger and shame, and the internalization of the humiliation.

They tested this hypothesis through a series of experiments. The first experiment asked individuals to self-report their feelings based on a humiliating scenario they were asked to think about as if they had experienced it. They were then divided among those who did or did not confront the perpetrator of the humiliating scenario and recorded what their responses would be. In the second and third experiments, the participants were put into potentially humiliating scenarios. The participant answered questions to the best of their ability and the researcher, regardless of correct their answer was, told them they were wrong. This response from the researcher could either be hostile or non-hostile. In experiment two the participants could not respond (non-agentic) while in the third the participants could (agentic). The results showed significantly lower feelings of shame, humiliation, and internalization in the agency condition compared to the non-agentic condition. Experiments 2 and 3 showed mixed results with internalization and humiliation both being lower in the agentic condition, but not shame.

The results showed that agency can have some effects in alleviating the negative emotional effects of humiliation. The hypotheses were supported to varying degrees. Several limitations exist in this experiment, including the first experiment being solely based on self-reports. The experiments were conducted in a lab setting which could have influenced the participants responses. Lastly, the sample was all from the same university so the results should be replicated with different populations to further consolidate the findings. This research can have a positive impact on the world. These application include anti-bullying programs which would encourage standing up against to a bully in a productive way. Research on the subject of humiliation can also decrease the negative feelings experienced by those who experience discrimination. Working to reduce the negative impact a situation can have and empowering those by encouraging responding in a productive way may help as this research demonstrates.

Thank you for sharing your research interests with us Avery, and we are excited to see how this shapes your future projects!

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Lewis’s Thesis Defense Preparation

Lewis Luttrell, a first-year Masters student, has been preparing to defend his thesis on poly-culturalism as a method of increasing intergroup relations. Intergroup relations are the interactions between members of different ethnic or cultural identities. When groups interact in hostile ways this can be described as an intergroup threat. America is experiencing increased intergroup threats currently with many issues regarding racial discrimination, injustice, and civil unrest. That is why researching ways to decrease intergroup threats is more important than ever. Polyculturalism may have practical use in decreasing intergroup threats.

Polyculturalism is an approach to interethnic relations where culture focuses on the shared aspects between different ethnic groups that are all a part of one whole. This method differs from other interethnic ideologies such as colorblindness, where differences between groups are de-emphasized or ignored completely, and multiculturalism, in which each race or ethnicity is individually given attention. What these interethnic theories lack, however, is the influence each group can have on one another. Appreciating these influences that build each culture may better alleviate tension that contributes to intergroup threats. One source of intergroup threat is social dominance orientation. This idea posits that one’s own ethnicity or race is superior to others. This construct has associated with discrimination, prejudice, and intergroup threat. Lewis hopes that by teaching poly-culturalism feelings of threat can be reduced as well as feelings of social dominance. Lewis’s experiment will be conducted online and further investigate the potential benefits of teaching poly-culturalism. The study will also be collecting data over time to pinpoint the direct effects that learning poly-culturalism can have on perceptions of threats.

As some may be aware intergroup relations in the United States is especially tense. Research on topics of intergroup relations will have a significant impact on our society. As Lewis points out, previous programs have been ineffective with some even contributing to bias. Lewis states that if poly-culturalism is successful in reducing threat it could potentially change the ways in which we teach our youth about other cultures. It can also impact our society and how we recognize individuals of different cultures and contribute to reducing future intergroup conflicts.

We are proud of the progress Lewis has made and we wish him luck when it comes to defending his thesis!

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Research Series Talk: Amber & Paxton

Undergraduate members of the FF-PTG lab made their debut presenting for the department of psychology during their research talk series. Amber Efthemiou and Paxton Hicks presented their respective topics among other undergraduates in different labs.

Amber’s presentation was about the effects of losing specific loved ones on PTG. Specifically, how loved grandparents could indicate higher rates of PTG and resilience more so than the death of other relatives. The idea behind this is thought to be that those who experience the death of a grandparent may have more of an expectation of their death. If a grandparent dies of old age or health-related conditions this may be more expected than the sudden death of a parent. Participants in the study were divided by the types of death experiences, whether that was a grandparent, anyone other than a grandparent, or multiple deaths (grandparents included). Results showed that there were significant differences between PTG for those experiencing the death of a grandparent and those experiencing the death of someone else. None of the groups differed significantly in resilience. Future research should consider the types of relationships an individual has with any type of relative. Individuals in this study could have been close with their grandparents which made the potential for growing stronger, while others had a distant relationship with an aunt. The types of relationships and their closeness could be a factor in the amount of PTG experienced.

Paxton was able to present an upcoming study that will be conducted. Many of the details cannot be shared but what can be is the study’s focus on prosocial lying. Prosocial lies are those that benefit someone else rather than the teller of a lie. For example, parents who tell their kids that Santa is real are a form of prosocial lying. Telling the kids that Santa is real makes the children happy with little to no benefit to the parent telling the lie. Another example is complimenting a friend’s outfit that you may not like. You tell them it looks good despite your own truthful opinion to not hurt their confidence. Paxton successfully completed an application for the Provost Research Award Grant to get funding which is still being reviewed.

We are excited and proud of your members for presenting some of their work so far! Amber and Paxton were able to share information on topics they are curious about with a larger audience! We look forward to the future of both members’ projects!

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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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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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Kaylie’s Master’s Thesis Defense

Thesis season is here at the FF-PTG Lab! Kaylie Williams, a Master’s student, defended her thesis on conspiracy beliefs and different thinking styles. Conspiracy beliefs are alternatives to widely believed explanations for an event. These conspiracy beliefs often assume that one explanation is staged and often is done to harm others. The ways in which people think would influence how they interpret and begin to believe, the information provided by a conspiracy belief. In Kaylie’s research, different thinking styles were used to attempt to change the way people think about conspiracies. These thinking styles were measured in order to observe which are consistent with conspiracy beliefs. Some of the thinking styles included In her experiment, abstract and concrete thinking were used in an attempt to influence an individual’s conspiracy beliefs. It was hypothesized that abstract thinking would show increased conspiracy beliefs. As for concrete thinking the opposite would be true. In general, as well individuals higher in the following were hypothesized to show higher conspiracy beliefs as well: symptoms of PTSD, antisocial behaviors, vaccine hesitancy, low medical trust, paranoia, and more openness to experience.

Of the many hypotheses, there were a couple that was either fully or partially supported. The first of which is medical trust and vaccine hesitancy. The medical trust had a significant negative correlation with conspiracy beliefs. Unfortunately, the same was not found for vaccine hesitancy. The rationale is that vaccine hesitancy may have measured individuals more cautious of the vaccine rather than outright believing conspiracies related to the vaccine. As seen in previous research, Kaylie was able to replicate the positive relationship between paranoia and conspiracy beliefs. The thinking styles did not influence individuals’ conspiracy beliefs with every thinking style intervention resulting in higher conspiracy beliefs. This may not have in fact been the fault of the experiment, but survey fatigue. With how many measures were used for the first portion of the experiment it may have caused participants to become tired and lose focus. This fatigue, rather than the experiment’s priming, may have had a stronger influence on the participant’s responses for the second portion. Kaylie plans to collect more data to address the issue with the priming used in this experiment. Other limitations include the sample being a college sample, and only with individuals in the USA, the fact that this was an online survey and potentially dishonest answers from the participants. Hopefully, by addressing this issue we can see if the priming is successful, and how the different thinking styles may affect believing in conspiracies. We are excited for your next round of collecting data and wish you the best Kaylie!

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Kayla’s Master’s Thesis Defense

Kayla Benson, a Ph.D. student, presented her thesis defense titled Collective Action as Evidence for Posttraumatic Growth during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Kayla’s purpose for the thesis was to investigate collective action behaviors during COVID-19 and whether it could be an indicator of constructive PTG growth. Collective action is when people in a group work towards a common goal. Whether it was wearing a mask, avoiding large social gatherings, or remaining quarantined when sick, the pandemic presented an opportunity to investigate these preventative behaviors as collective actions.

Kayla gathered data from 354 participants, 302 of them were eligible for the analysis. These participants were recruited through Oakland University’s SONA system for credits. When it came to analyzing the data, it was found that there were no significant differences between those experiencing constructive PTG and engaging in more COVID-19 precautious behaviors. However, when exploring whether altruism could be different for those experiencing constructive PTG it was found to be different than those experiencing low PTG. Other interesting results include that while narcissism did not differ between the groups, optimism was different between constructive and low PTG; with the former being the higher of the two. Lastly, another analysis was run for participants who responded when there was no local mandate for wearing a mask. 204 participants were included in this analysis to see if wearing a mask would be more common for those experiencing constructive PTG despite the mandate being disbanded. The results unfortunately found no difference in mask-wearing behavior. Kayla is in the process of collecting more data related to this topic in order to conduct future analyses. There are several future directions for this field of study. One potential direction includes investigating the phenomenon of individual and collective trauma in stressful times. Utilizing a longitudinal design may also help to investigate other factors that would indicate constructive PTG growth. We cannot wait to see what you find next, Kayla!

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