Recently, 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!
Author Archives: vmarton2
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.
Lauren’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.
Jenna’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!
During 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!
Recently, Dr. Taku, Whitney, Lauren, and Velinka shared a presentation at a Psi Chi hosted event, commemorating Shelby Jane Seyburn, a former PTG lab member who suddenly passed in June of 2017. In attendance were Shelby’s parents, brothers, family and friends as well as many OU faculty and students. The presentation covered Shelby’s research accomplishments during her time with the PTG lab, an overview of the Teen Parent Program that Shelby developed, and the ongoing work taking place in the PTG lab. Dr. Taku began the presentation by sharing Shelby’s early experiences with the lab. She recalled how eager Shelby was to join the lab and start learning about the phenomenon of posttraumatic growth (PTG). Dr. Taku then provided a brief explanation of PTG, explaining that it is defined as the positive psychological changes that can occur through the struggle of traumatic experiences, and clarifying the common misconception that PTG and posttraumatic stress are opposing ends of the same spectrum. She pointed out that the process of growth includes struggle and can be fostered with social support, an area of particular interest to Shelby. Next, Lauren shared how, after identifying her research interests, Shelby devoted much of her time furthering PTG research by studying the role of social support and resilience in predicting personal growth. She was able to do this through psychoeducational high school intervention programs and conference presentations. Lauren showed the audience several of Shelby’s conference presentation posters and the particular findings that propelled each subsequent project. Lauren then explained that Shelby eventually developed a desire to reach out to teen parents after attending a town hall meeting in Pontiac with other PTG lab members, after which the Teen Parent Program began to take shape. Next, Whitney and Velinka gave an overview of the development and implementation of the Teen Parent Program. Whitney first explained the two-pronged purpose the program: to educate teen parents about social support, PTG, and nutrition (another area of interest to Shelby) and to measure the effect of the program on the teen parents. Then, Velinka explained that the first round of sessions was implemented in the fall of 2017, and she provided a session-by-session overview through a brief description of the overarching goal and associated activities of each session. Next, Whitney shared preliminary findings from the first round of sessions and future plans of the program, which includes expansion to other schools, incorporating Shelby’s love for nutrition education, and eventual dissemination of research findings. Lastly, Dr. Taku drew the presentation to a close by sharing the ongoing work in the PTG lab. She noted the unique way each lab member is furthering research of PTG and that Shelby continues to be an inspiration toward that end. The presentation came to close with a special introduction of the foundation created in Shelby’s honor, The Shelby Jane Seyburn Foundation (https://shelbystrong.life). Funds raised will 1) help undergraduate and graduate students attend research conferences which would otherwise require self-funding, 2) help expand the Teen Parent Program, and 3) further the research of PTG and resilience through many avenues. Overall, the commemoration event was a special time to recall and share Shelby’s many accomplishments, highlight the way her research continues to blossom, and to be encouraged by future research of PTG through many different avenues. The PTG lab is incredibly grateful to Psi Chi for hosting the event and to everyone who attended and expressed support and encouragement! Please click the link for more information.
Reema Gowda is a junior in high school who is also completing her second year interning with the PTG lab. Recently, Reema shared a presentation of her individual exploratory study using data from research previously conducted in the PTG lab. Reema’s presentation, entitled “Types of Medical Trauma Affecting PTG,” is an extension of the research she presented last semester to the lab. During the summer of 2017, Reema began examining the effects of illness, injury, and family issues on PTG and presented her findings to the lab in October. Since then, Reema has narrowed her focus and compared PTG levels between individuals who experienced medical trauma and/or accidents. She accomplished this by calculating and comparing mean PTG total scores as well as mean scores of the five PTG domains to identify potential differences. The findings provide insight into the effects of experiencing multiple traumas and highlight the importance of further exploration of the effects of specific types of traumas on PTG. Reema plans to continue her work by examining differences between PTG and PTSD, exploring how PTG may vary by age, and the possibility of illusory growth after medical trauma. Great job, Reema! The PTG lab is behind you as you move toward your next goal!