Author Archives: vmarton2

Qandeel’s Master’s Thesis Proposal Presentation

Q Presentation PhotoFirst year master’s student Qandeel recently shared her master’s thesis proposal titled College Cohort of Gender Roles & Sex Roles in Coping Due to Life Adversity and Trauma: Belief and Optimism. Qandeel identified that research which examines sex and gender differences are often inconsistent in their use and assessment of the terms. She explained that stereotypical attitudes about gender still pervade pockets of society (e.g., femininity equated with emotion expression and nurture versus masculinity equated with suppressed emotions and assertiveness). Therefore, Qandeel plans to specifically assess both biological sex and gender through measures of one’s own gender identification, respectively. Doing so will help clarify some of the discrepancies associated with an empirical understanding of the topics. In addition, Qandeel aims to examine how potential sex and gender differences emerge in relation to trauma, optimism, coping, and posttraumatic growth, which could have valuable clinical implication. We are excited to see what she finds. Good luck, Qandeel!

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Megan’s Master’s Thesis Proposal Presentation

Megan - Presentation PhotoFirst year master’s student Megan recently presented her Master’s Thesis proposal. Megan is interested in examining attitudes and perceptions towards child abuse across generations and cultures. While searching through the literature, Megan identified potentially harmful punishments or treatments towards children that are commonly overlooked, such as refusal to vaccinate or grounding.   She suggests that attitudes and perceptions about traditional and non-traditional forms of child abuse will vary depending on age and cultural background and that attitudes about what is acceptable or not acceptable will vary depending on the age and sex of the child. Megan hopes to expand the dialogue about the potential harmful effects of non-traditional forms of child abuse by assessing opinions regarding what should be classified as abuse. We are excited to see how Megan’s study develops. Good luck, Megan!

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Jess’s Master’s Thesis Presentation

Jess Presentation Photo 1Recently, Jess presented an overview of her master’s thesis. While reviewing research related to trauma, personality, and coping, Jess identified that traits and psychological constructs are often interpreted from a dichotomous perspective – good/bad, positive/negative – which does not necessarily reflect the reality of one’s lived experiences. Therefore, Jess framed her master’s thesis to deconstruct dichotomous thinking. The purpose of her study is fourfold: 1) to find the link between negative personality traits, maladaptive coping, and trauma, 2) identify adaptive implications of maladaptive coping and negative personality traits, 3) redefine negative personality traits, disorder, and coping in light of trauma, and 4) set the framework to de-pathologize personality disorders, while implementing new interventions for trauma survivors. Jess suggests that maladaptive coping strategies may be used in adaptive ways by individuals with higher levels of negative personality traits, thereby providing ample rationale for a reconsideration of a dichotomous understanding of coping strategies and psychological constructs. She proposes that an optimal balance model would better serve those who struggle in the aftermath of traumatic experiences, both in the short-term and long-term. Jess is currently in the process of collecting data and we look forward to hearing more about her findings. Great job, Jess, and good luck with your research!

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Alex’s Article Presentation

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For Alex’s second semester research article presentation to the lab, he chose an article with some relation to the research study over which he is principal investigator, entitled A Survey about Images of Psychosomatic Disorder or Posttraumatic Growth. Alex chose an article that was aimed at examining if defensive styles moderate the relationship between well-being and PTG. Defensive styles were categorized as neurotic, immature, and mature defensive styles, with the supposition that neurotic and immature defensive styles are associated with illusory growth, while mature defensive style is associated with authentic PTG. The researchers suggest that level and type of defensive style will provide valuable insight into interpreting self-reports of personal growth.  Results revealed that neurotic type of defensive style was associated with self-reports of PTG, which was suggested to indicate the presence of illusory growth. Results also revealed that mature defensive style moderated the relationship between PTG and positive and negative affect, respectively, which the researchers interpreted as support for the moderating effect of defensiveness style on the relationship between PTG and well-being. However, Alex challenged the idea of assigning positive and negative affect as a substitute for well-being, especially after the well-being scale did not yield significant results to support the stated hypothesis. The presentation led to engaging discussion about research design and implementation. Great job, Alex, on a thought-provoking presentation!

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The PTG Lab Welcomes New Members

The PTG Lab would like to welcome four new members!

Olivia - Website bio photoWelcome to new graduate student lab member, Olivia! Olivia is a first-year master’s student with a bachelor’s degree in Applied Psychology and a minor in early childhood from the University of Michigan-Flint. She is currently interested in the short term and long-term effects that trauma and abuse can have on children. Additionally, she is interested in creativity and the development of the creative process. She hopes to connect these two interests for her master’s thesis. Olivia got involved with the PTG lab because it compliments her interests and future goals, and she is looking forward to working alongside others with similar interests. She plans to apply what she learns in the PTG lab to a future career as a child psychologist at a children’s hospital. Olivia can be reached at ostorch@oakland.edu.

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The PTG Lab also welcomes new graduate student lab member, Megan! Megan is a first-year master’s student with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Michigan-Flint with minors in early childhood and substance abuse. During her time at Oakland University, she plans to study PTG in those effected by trauma at all ages, especially in children. Megan joined the lab to expand her knowledge of PTG, examine how individuals are affected by trauma over time, and identify different coping methods utilized after trauma. In the future she hopes to work with children who are victims of abuse and neglect in the foster care system. Megan can be reached at meganhubarth@oakland.edu.

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The PTG Lab would also like to welcome new graduate student lab member, Qandeel! Qandeel is a first-year master’s student with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Oakland University. She hopes that the research skills she develops in the PTG Lab will help her with a future career as a clinical psychologist. After completing a master’s degree, Qandeel aspires to obtain a PsyD in clinical psychology and eventually open her own private practice to pursue what she loves. Qandeel can be reach at qminal@oakland.edu.

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Finally, the PTG Lab would like to welcome Brooklin, our new undergraduate research assistant. Brooklin is currently a junior at Oakland University, majoring in psychology. She became interested in joining the lab because she would like to learn about how posttraumatic growth is relevant to society, at large, and how the construct benefits people on an individual level. During her time in the lab, Brooklin hopes to study many aspects of posttraumatic growth, especially the way it can be fostered in veterans. After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans to attend graduate school for industrial and organizational psychology. Brooklin can be reached at Bmadams234@oakland.edu.

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APA 2018 Annual Convention

Several PTG lab members recently had the opportunity to travel to San Fransisco, California and present their studies at the 126th meeting of the American Psychological Association from August 9th-12th.

img_7942.jpgJenna, Alvin, and Dr. Taku developed a poster presentation of their project, titled Impact of Life Events and Stressors Related to Posttraumatic Growth. The aim of the study was to investigate how how particular life stressors (e.g., death of a loved one, academic issues) would relate to specific PTG domains (i.e., Appreciation of Life, Relating to Others, Personal Strength)Alvin did a great job presenting their work. Jenna also worked on another project with Dr. Taku and Dr. Matthew McLarnonimg_7933-e1536606772214.jpg, title Resiliency, Posttraumatic Growth, and Growth Motivation in U.S. Military Personnel, in which they examined the relationship between two perspectives of resiliency and their relations to growth motivation and posttraumatic growth. Dr. Taku presented the poster on behalf of the group. Jess presented the project she worked on with Lauren and Dr. Taku, titled The Influence of Dark Triad Personality Traits on Perceived Trauma. The purpose of the study was to assess how certain aspects of the Dark Triad influence an individual’s perception of a most impactful event when multiple events are experienced.

Jess and Velinka presented their project with Dr. Taku, titled The Relationship Between Interpersonal Stressors, the Dark Triad, and PTG.  The purpose of their study was to examine how the relationship between individuals with Dark Triad traits and PTG changes depending on types of interpersonal stressors. Lastly, Lauren, Velinka, and Dr. Taku developed a project titled How Narratives of Authentic and Illusory Growth are Perceived. The purpose of the study was to assess differences in perceptions of authentic and illusory growth through the use of narrative vignettes.

APA 2018 proved to be another rewarding experience and even allowed for the opportunity meet Dr. Taku’s colleague and friend, Dr. Jane Shakespeare-Finch who traveled from Australia. Overall, lab members were excited for another opportunity to share their work and learn about research being conducted around the world.

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26th Annual Meeting of Minds Conference

The  Meeting of Minds conference provides a yearly opportunity for  undergraduate students from Oakland University, University of Michigan-Dearborn, and University of Michigan-Flint to share research accomplishments through oral and poster presentations. On May 11th, U of M-Dearborn hosted this year’s event, and lab members Lauren, Alex, Nicholas, and Velinka attended and shared their projects. These studies have been also published in Meeting of Minds online Journal.

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Lauren and Alex presented their project titled Can Hearing About Posttraumatic Growth Increase Self-Reported Growth? They examined self-reported PTG differences in those who were exposed to either PTG and Depression narratives. Contrary to their hypothesis, Lauren and Alex found that those who were exposed to Depression narratives reported higher PTG than those who were exposed to PTG narratives. The findings suggest that, when exposed to a negative narrative and then asked to reflect on oneself, participants may be motivated to maintain cognitive well-being.

IMG_7411Velinka presented her and Jenna’s collaborative project titled The Desire to Foster Personal Growth in First- and Second-Generation Immigrants: A U.S. Sample. Their study examined the difference between first- and second-generation immigrants’ desire to foster personal growth (i.e. growth motivation) in those whose country of origin is collectivist. In spite of notably small sample sizes, the results yielded marginally significant group differences in certain aspects of growth motivation. The findings suggest that, as immigrants acculturate to new country norms, they may also develop new desires to experience personal growth.

IMG_7413Nicholas and Velinka presented  their project titled Does Type of Stress Affect Posttraumatic Growth? Examining Differences Among the Different Aspects of Growth. Their study examined PTG domain differences between participants who reported family related stress due to parental divorce and those who reported family-related stress due to cancer. They found significant differences between the groups when it came to the Personal Strength domain but not the other PTG domains. Even still, this suggests that growth after traumatic events may vary depending on the type of event.

Overall, the conference was a success and another great opportunity to share the hard work of many!

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Jess & Whitney’s Presentation at the Evolutionary Perspectives on Death Conference

IMG_7331Recently, graduate students Whitney Dominick and Jess Kopitz shared a poster presentation at an annual conference hosted by the Department of Psychology at Oakland University. Over the past several years, the Department of Psychology has hosted an evolution-focused conference, and this year’s event was titled “Evolutionary Perspectives of Death.” The goal of the conference was twofold: to enrich one’s understanding of death and dying, and to recognize the value of interdisciplinary collaboration. During a portion of the conference, graduate students had the opportunity to give a poster presentation. Whitney and Jess’s study titled “Cross-Cultural Differences in Perceptions of Death in Japanese and American Undergraduates” examined four death-related components: 1) emotions evoked by thoughts of death (sorrow versus anxiety), 2) focus on self versus others, 3) mention of reincarnation, and 4) mention of living a fulfilling life. Whitney and Jess predicted that participants from Japan and America would differ in each category, with Japanese participants predicted to mention reincarnation more than Americans and American participants predicted to mention fulfillment in life more than Japanese. All their hypotheses were supported, suggesting significant cultural differences in the way death is perceived and cognitively processed. Well done, Jess and Whitney!

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Honor’s Defense Presentations

          Recently, Lauren and Jenna presented their Honor’s Thesis Defense Presentations to their respective committees and other attendees. Both Lauren and Jenna are graduating from Oakland University following the Winter 2018 semester and then beginning their graduate programs in the fall. The purpose of presenting an honor’s thesis defense is to share an individual research study to a preselected committee for final approval before being awarded departmental honors upon graduation.

IMG_7297Lauren’s study, titled “Posttraumatic Growth and Illusory Growth: Attitudes Toward Growth Types and the Impact of Individual Differences,” was designed to apply a multifaceted examination of posttraumatic growth and illusory growth through the use of vignettes and self-report perceptions of each growth type over the course of three studies. Lauren’s defense committee included Dr. Taku, Dr. Keith Williams, and Dr. Deb McGinnis, all of whom provided letters of recommendation for Lauren’s graduate program applications. While Lauren and Dr. Taku worked together on Lauren’s study over the past year, the presentation created an opportunity for Drs. Williams and McGinnis to learn about Lauren’s research abilities, since they had each previously only knew Lauren from an academic perspective. Following the presentation, Lauren responded to individual questions from her committee and was then excited to receive unanimous approval of her defense. After graduation, Lauren will begin her graduate studies beginning Fall 2018. Lauren has been accepted into the Master of Social Work program at University of Michigan. Her practice area is Aging in Families and Society, and she has also been accepted into the Geriatric Scholarship Program.

IMG_7305Jenna’s presentation, titled “Exploring Military Experiences: Clarifying the Relation Between Resiliency and Posttraumatic Growth,” was designed to 1) clarify the relation between resiliency and PTG, 2) examine relations between the two concepts and other related variables (e.g., altruism, growth motivation, social support), and 3) compare two measures of resiliency. Jenna’s defense committee included Dr. Taku and Dr. Matt McLarnon, each of whom first introduced Jenna to the concepts of PTG and resiliency and got her interested in studying the relation between the two. In addition, both Drs. Taku and McLarnon served as advisors to Jenna for her study over the past year during development, implementation, and analyses. After the presentation, Jenna responded to questions from her committee and other attendees and was thrilled to receive unanimous approval of her defense. Upon graduation, Jenna will move to Florida to begin her graduate studies beginning Fall 2018. Jenna has been accepted into the PhD program in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at the University of Central Florida. The PTG lab recognizes the hard work that both Lauren and Jenna put into their respective research studies and is excited for them as they begin their graduate programs in the fall!

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Alex’s Article Presentation

IMG_7259During their first semester, new lab members identify research interests and present an article to reflect that interest to the lab. Recently, first semester lab member Alex introduced the lab to a physiological perspective of studying PTG by presenting an article that examined the relationship between resting-state brain activity and self-reported PTG scores. Researchers Fujisawa, Jung, Kojima, Saito, Kosaka, and Tomoda (2015) used an fMRI to perform brain imaging of participants and then used a statistical approach to divide areas of heightened brain activity into comparable units. This made it possible to test the relationship between activated brain regions and self-reported PTG scores. Results show significant differences in varying brain regions between individuals with higher PTG scores than those with lower scores. For example, individuals with higher PTG scores also had heightened activity in a region of the brain (the supramarginal gyrus) that is associated with reasoning about the beliefs and intentions of others. Alex would like to further the physiological study of PTG by examining the relationship between different forms of memory and PTG. He would also like to study brain function as it relates to memory enhancement in response to trauma. Great job on your article presentation, Alex, and good luck with your research endeavors!

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