Author Archives: taylorlelam

Congrats Whitney!

Recently, fifth-year PhD lab member, Whitney, successfully defended her dissertation titled, The Impact of Dolphins on Children’s Mental Health: Longitudinal Analyses of Three Interaction Programs. Whitney conducted 3 separate studies where she analyzed (1) the impact of swimming with wild dolphins and whale watching on the psychological factors of children, (2) the impact of Wild Dolphin Assisted Therapy on children, and (3) the impact of differing lengths of captive dolphin interaction programs on children’s mental health and educational variables.

For the first study, she predicted that psychological factors such as social support, emotion regulation, empathy, posttraumatic growth (PTG), sense of awe, and knowledge of dolphin welfare would increase over time and show a greater change in participants of the dolphin condition rather than the whale watching condition. For study 1, she also predicted that the childrens’ heart rate would decrease more in the swim-with-dolphin condition than the whale watching condition. Whitney found that emotion regulation, sense of awe, and PTG changed over time for the children but more so in the whale watching conditions than the swim-with-dolphin condition, partially supporting her prediction. She also found that heart rate remained stable in the swim-with-dolphin condition and decreased in the whale-watching condition, not supporting her prediction.

For the second study, Whitney predicted that heart rate would decrease over the span of the 5-day program for the children along with stress levels. Meanwhile, she predicted that the childrens’ comfort in water and positive emotions would increase over the span of the program. Lastly, she predicted that the program would be perceived as enjoyable, as well as, helpful among the participants, and those feelings would carry on at least one month later after the program ended. Her results showed that heart rate decreased for some of the participants over the span of the program, partially supporting her prediction. She also found that stress and anxiety levels also decreased for some of the children, partially supporting her prediction. Overall, the children found the program to be enjoyable and helpful, fully supporting her prediction.

For Whitney’s third study, she predicted that educational and psychological variables would increase over the span of the program and continue for one month after. She predicted that the programs with a longer time duration would be more effective than the shorter programs. Along with that, she predicted that time touching the dolphins would influence the impact that the dolphin interactions had on the children, assuming that the more time touching the dolphins, the greater the changes will be. Lastly, Whitney predicted the children would find the program enjoyable and helpful. Her results showed that swimming with captive dolphins can aid with emotion regulation, knowledge of dolphin welfare, and heart rate but there is little long-term impact. She found that there were no significant differences between the program length’s effect on the children, except when it came to the perceived support from the parents. More time touching the dolphins did correspond with higher knowledge of dolphin welfare and overall, the participants found the dolphin interactions to be entertaining and enjoyable.

Overall, Whitney’s research shows that dolphin interactions programs are more than just fun, they can help with learning about the dolphins, increasing feelings of calm while decreasing stress and anxiety, and they provide feelings of social support. Her research leaves a lasting impact on considering dolphin interactions as a means of therapy for children undergoing stressful life experiences and daily hardships. Whitney has dedicated a significant amount of time and energy into her research, providing amazing results! We can’t wait to see what you plan to do next! Good luck, Whitney, and awesome job!

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Congrats Olivia!

Recently, second-year Master’s student, Olivia, successfully defended her master’s thesis titled, Challenges are Meant to be Overcome: A Sense of Growth as One Predictor of Children’s Creativity. The study analyzes the relationships between Posttraumatic Growth (PTG), Creativity, and Personal growth among children (8 – 11 years of age) and impacts of environmental factors and caregiver roles on creativity. Olivia found that creativity is positively correlated with both PTG and personal growth with her participants. The children who expressed having faced a challenge in life had higher levels of creativity than those who did not express having a challenge. As hypothesized, results indicated that the participants levels of extraversion significantly predicted creativity.

On the contrary, caregivers levels of extraversion had no significant effect, indicating that levels of creativity may have more to do with the children personality types regardless of their parents personality type’s influence on the children. It was also found that the various levels of the “openness” personality trait of the children and caregiver play no significant role on the children’s level of creativity. These results indicate that for those who experience hardships or challenges, it is possible that growth can be experienced greater when creative avenues are used regularly, along with allowing children to express themselves in ways that follow their personality traits. Wonderful work Olivia, we have been so excited and amazed by the work you have done over the last two years! We are excited to see what comes next for you!

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Congrats Q!

Second year master’s student, Qandeel, recently and successfully, defended her master’s thesis titled, The Roles of Femininity, Masculinity and Androgyny in Female College Students Coping with Adversity, Optimism, and Posttraumatic Growth. Q examined the masculinity, femininity, and androgyny of college-aged females, both in America and Pakistan, in regard to their ability to overcome struggles and remain optimistic. She was interested in determining whether levels of masculinity, femininity, and androgyny had any effect on females who have endured traumatic and stressful life events.

She predicted that (1) feminine females in Pakistan would have lower optimism levels than feminine females in America. With this, she believed that androgynous females from both countries would have the highest optimism levels overall. She also predicted that (2) femininity and optimism levels would significantly predict higher posttraumatic growth (PTG) levels following a traumatic event. Lastly, she predicted that (3) Americans would rank their female participants as first having first masculine, feminine, and then androgynous traits while Pakistan would rank their females as first having feminine, androgynous, and then masculine traits. Q’s results showed some significance altogether. She found that androgynous females have higher levels of optimism than feminine females in America and that femininity and PTG had a positive relationship. Lastly, Q found that Pakistan does rank their females in the order of having first feminine, androgynous, and then masculine traits. Overall, Q’s study allows societies from different cultures to see that females can be feminine, masculine, and androgynous. Through her study, Q was able to reveal the effect that feminine, masculine, and androgynous traits can have on an individual’s PTG and optimism beliefs after going through hardships. With these findings, therapeutic interventions can begin to be put in place for those who have experienced negative events and the interventions can be tailored to their gender identification. Congratulations Q! You did a great job and we are very proud of you!

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The PTG Lab Welcomes New Member

Welcome to Emilee Causey, our new undergraduate research assistant! Emilee is currently a junior at Oakland University, double majoring in psychology and sociology. She joined the lab due to her interest in positive psychology and wanted to learn how posttraumatic growth and positive psychology intertwine. Emilee plans to study various aspects of PTG, especially how overcoming trauma can lead to an overall improved wellbeing. After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans to attend graduate school for counseling psychology to study techniques successful in marriage and family therapies. Emilee can be reached at  

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Olivia & Whitney’s Research Colloquium Presentations

Second-year master’s student, Olivia Rothig, and fifth-year PhD student, Whitney Dominick, presented an update of their respective current studies at the most recent Psychology Department’s Research Colloquium. The Research Colloquium hour provides a monthly opportunity for students and faculty to gather and view presentations of current psychological research at Oakland University. The presentation hour is open to all OU students and faculty.

Olivia presented results from her master’s thesis entitled, The Relationship Between Growth and Creativity in Children. She conducted a study that analyzed creativity, personal growth, and posttraumatic growth (PTG) in children between the ages of 8-11 years old. She found that creativity is positively correlated with both PTG and personal growth in children and that the level of extraversion and openness within the children plays a significant role in that relationship. However, Olivia did not find significant results on the caregiver’s level of openness on the relationship between the children’s PTG and creativity. Overall, Olivia’s research suggests that daily life stressors might encourage positive outcomes like creativity.


Whitney shared results from the third part of her doctoral dissertation titled, The Impact of Captive Swim-With-Dolphin Programs on Children’s Mental Health and Environmental Attitudes. She conducted a study that examined children’s educational and psychological aspects before and after interacting in a swim-with-dolphin program. She found that swimming with captive dolphins can help with emotion regulation, knowledge of dolphin welfare, and heart rate in children, but her findings suggest little long-term impact. She also found that the length of the program impacted the children’s environmental awareness and conservation behavior. Lastly, her participants enjoyed interactions with dolphins, found it to be entertaining and novel, and many of the children wanted to stay longer and/or do again.

The PTG Lab is extremely proud of Olivia and Whitney for representing the lab well with their fascinating research. Both presentations sparked curiosity in the audience and prompted many follow-up questions. We look forward to the completion of each of their studies and further presentations that will incorporate even more fascinating results! Wonderful job, Olivia and Whitney!

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Q’s Master’s Thesis Presentation

Second year master’s student, Qandeel, recently gave her master’s thesis presentation titled, The Roles of Femininity, Masculinity, and Androgyny in Female College Students Coping with Adversity, Optimism, and Posttraumatic Growth. Q examined the relationship of optimism beliefs and PTG due to adversity in college females in Pakistan and America based on their masculinity, femininity, and androgynous traits. She wanted to show cultural differences on which country (Pakistan or America) shows ranking of masculine, feminine, or androgynous traits in college aged females. She predicted that (1) females in Pakistan who are more feminine will have lower optimism levels, females in America who are feminine will have higher optimism levels, and females who are androgynous in America and Pakistan will have higher optimism levels overall, (2) females in America and Pakistan who have higher feminine traits and optimism will have significant PTG levels and (3) there will be cultural differences between America and Pakistan in regards to their ranking of masculine, feminine, and androgynous traits in females. Q found that in the American sample, females who displayed feminine and androgynous traits had higher optimism levels. She did not find a significant link between femininity, optimism, and PTG, however, she did find cultural differences between the countries in their rankings of feminine, masculine, and androgynous traits in females. Q believes that her research can help future cultural research on PTG and coping mechanisms based on the gender spectrum for different countries. She also believes that therapeutic interventions can be put into place for those who have experienced negative events that can be tailored to their gender identification. Amazing work Q, we look forward to hearing more of your results!

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Jo’s Article Presentation

First semester undergraduate lab member, Jo, recently gave her first article presentation titled Secondary Traumatic Stress, Burnout, and Compassion Satisfaction in a Sample of Spoken-Language Interpreters that was published by Christopher J. Mehus and Emily H. Becher. The researchers of this study wanted to analyze the level of secondary posttraumatic stress (SPTS), burnout, and compassion satisfaction in spoken-language interpreters and compare them to the population normed score. They predicted that refugee interpreters who may have similar personal histories with their clients, would exhibit higher levels of SPTS. The results showed that burnout and the prediction that refugee status would increase SPTS was not significantly different than the population norm. This suggests that the interpreter’s ability to connect to their clients, develop high compassion satisfaction, and find meaning within their work may protect them against burnout and SPTS. These results help to facilitate the discussion of interpreter psychological support programs by understanding what affect’s their psychological states from the impact of their client histories. The researchers believe that future directions should seek to better understand the psychological impact of interpreting and how it influences the overall quality of their relationships through interpreting. Jo would like to use this article to build upon her own interests in examining how signed interpreters may be influenced by SPTS. Good job on your presentation, Jo!  

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Whitney’s Dissertation Update

Fifth year PhD student, Whitney, recently presented the third part of her dissertation on The Impact of Captive Swim-With-Dolphin Programs on Children’s Mental Health and Environmental Attitudes. She conducted a study that examined childrens’ educational and psychological aspects before and after interacting in a swim-with-dolphin program. She looked at the childrens’ knowledge of dolphin welfare, environmental attitudes, and conservation behaviors along with their perceived social support, emotion regulation, and empathy. Whitney also analyzed heart rate changes and the impact of physical touch between the dolphins and the children. She incorporated stress and trauma measures in the study, such as posttraumatic growth (PTG), as well. She found that swimming with captive dolphins can help with emotion regulation and heart rate but not empathy or environmental attitudes which may indicate very little long-term impacts from the program. Whitney found that conservation behaviors were positively correlated with human support, as well as, empathy. She found that younger participants were more aware of the environment than the older participants, whereas older participants perceived more support from their parents in comparison to the younger participants. Whitney did not find any significant correlations between stress symptoms and psychological variables but she is still analyzing the data for results on physical touch. She believes that these findings could help create programs to increase various educational and psychological aspects in children such as their overall emotional and behavioral health. Amazing work Whitney, we look forward to hearing more of your results!

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Brooklin’s Michigan Academy Proposal

Recently, second year undergraduate lab member, Brooklin, presented her exploratory analysis on one of the lab’s current studies as a preparation for an upcoming psychology conference known as Michigan Academy. Her presentation titled, Optimism & Resilience. An Exploratory Look at the Survey using Vignette Data, looked at the relationships of the two traits among undergraduate college students in hopes of finding aids for student’s chances of scoring jobs after graduating. Based on previously conducted research regarding the relationships between optimism and resilience, Brooklin choose to examine the relationships between the two while looking at different scales of comparative and adjusted optimism. With the data collected thus far, she found significant relationships between the scales and she plans to continue examining them with a larger sample size as research continues to be collected. Great job, Brooklin, we can’t wait to see what more you find!

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Kara’s Master’s Thesis Proposal

First year master’s student, Kara, recently presented her master’s thesis proposal titled Identifying the Tipping Point of Recognition of Depressive Symptoms in Undergraduate Students based on Self-efficacy. Based on previous research conducted, Kara is interested in looking at depressive symptomology and how it impacts college student’s perceptions of tipping points and self-efficacy. Kara aims for her research to help aid in determining self-efficacy at early ages and to better understand tipping points among younger populations for implementable courses of action. Kara has expanded and refined her idea (based on her presentation) and will also be looking at various disorders that are prevalent among college students such as alcohol abuse. She mentions that there is a high prevalence of alcohol abuse and binge drinking in the undergraduate population which can be predictive of future problems with alcohol abuse disorder. She is excited to focus on other metal and psychological disorders while maintaining her main idea of determining where people perceive tipping points of these disorders to be. Great work Kara, we cannot wait to learn more!

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