Author Archives: phicks2

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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