The FF-PTG Lab Welcomes a New Member

The FF-PTG Lab welcomed a new student this Winter 2022 semester!

Danielle McDonald is currently a senior at Oakland University majoring in psychology. She decided to join the lab to gain more research experience, as well as to gain a better understanding of trauma and posttraumatic growth as a whole. Danielle’s personal research interest revolves around childhood trauma, specifically in children with autism. Upon completing her undergraduate degree, she hopes to pursue a clinical psychology program that specializes in applied behavior analysis research.

Welcome, Danielle! We are looking forward to working with you.

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Taylor Elam: PTG Handbook Chapter Development

Senior researcher, Taylor Elam, obtained the opportunity to write a chapter in a Posttraumatic Growth Handbook with Dr. Kanako Taku. Within her presentation, “Posttraumatic Growth & Resiliency: More Alike or Different?”, she walked the members of the FF-PTG Lab through her progress so far on the material.

Taylor discussed the importance of understanding the overlap and differences of PTG and resiliency to appropriately approach, teach, and implement the concepts in different settings (i.e., clinic).

Taylor also discussed emotions, emotional empathy, Emotion Recognition Ability (ERA), clinical depression (traditional type depression and modern type depression) with expression and perception, and racial and cultural differences. She stated the impact race and culture have on the constructs of PTG, resilience, and ERA should be taken into consideration with individuals’ experiences. These could have a dramatic influence on multiple aspects. Therefore, if race and culture are not taken into consideration, research will be less generalizable and PTG/Resilience programs may be less effective. She proposes using data previously collected in the lab to further explore this idea. Clinical implications include creating programs and therapy practices that educate and promote resilience along with developing interpersonal skills potentially lost or underdeveloped. New programs and practices could also educate individuals on PTG and the new findings on how growth occurs intrapersonally, interpersonally, and, possibly, cognitively through ERA.

We look forward to seeing the end result. Keep up the great work, Taylor!

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Kolton Smith: Master’s Thesis Progress Update

Master’s student, Kolton Smith, presented a progress update on his Master’s thesis, “Victim-Perpetrator Overlap and Posttraumatic Growth”. The Victim-Perpetrator Overlap is when someone who was a victim becomes a perpetrator and vis versa. The study’s purpose is to explore the phenomenon of Victim-Perpetrator Overlap (VPO), Posttraumatic Growth (PTG) in relation to VPO, and if perpetrators report PTG concurrently with offending.

Kolton hypothesized that (1) people who experience PTG as a victim will be less likely to become a perpetrator, (2) people who are asked to reflect on their victim experiences first will be less likely to report instances of being a perpetrator than those who are asked to reflect on their perpetration experiences first, and (3) PTG as a victim will be greater than that of PTG as a perpetrator regardless of condition.

The design separated the participants randomly into two groups on which questions will appear first: victim questions or perpetrator questions. The independent variables are the question order condition and victim/perpetrator experiences. The dependent variables are the reported amounts of PTG (victim and perpetrator) and offenses.

Near the end of the Fall 2021 semester, the preliminary data analysis was performed using the valid 209 OU data sets with 106 participants with Perpetrator questions first and 103 participants with Victim questions first. So far, it has been found that PTGI-perpetrator is positively correlated with PTGI-victim, PTGI-perpetrator only slightly correlated with total perpetrator experiences, PTGI-victim significantly correlated with total victim experiences, and PTGI-victim very slightly correlated with total perpetrator experiences.

At this point, data collection is continuing with a community sample and preliminary data analysis is progressing. You are making great progress, Kolton! Keep up the great work.

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Isabelle’s Article Presentation

Second-semester undergraduate research assistant, Isabelle Teasel, recently gave a presentation on the article titled, How Right Now? Supporting Mental Health and Resilience Amid COVID-19. The purpose of the study was to understand the experiences of individuals disproportionately impacted by the global pandemic in order to create a culturally-informed mental health communication model aimed at education on resilience resources. The major research questions asked were (1) how do HRN audiences define and discuss resilience amid the COVID-19 pandemic?, (2) what kinds of mental health resources and supports do HRN audiences need to be resilient amid the COVID-19 pandemic?, and (3) what factors inhibit resilience or predict challenges to resilience among HRN audiences?

The researchers used qualitative and quantitative data collection methods like an environmental scan of articles on the internet about the pandemic, social listening via messages given on social media about emotional health and COVID-19, and a national survey. Results from the various types of data collected revealed the mechanisms of gaining resilience as community cohesion, social networks, common goals, faith, relying on past experiences, and looking toward the future. The researchers were also able to break down how specific populations define resiliency. For example, adults over 65 and their caregivers see resilience as actively coping with induced challenges; while adults experiencing violence defined the term as actively seeking emotional support and safety resources. Results also provided an understanding of what each group already does to cope with adversity and the specific support they need. This information is extremely helpful for developing effective messages on mental health resources for the different people in our population.

Isabelle’s Honor’s College Thesis is also on the topic of COVID-19 called, The Paradoxical Nature of Resilience, Optimism, and Anxiety in Relation to COVID-19. The project focuses on paradoxical relationship between resilience, optimism, health anxiety, and trait anxiety in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and how these anxieties may be influencing an individual’s behavior longitudinally during the pandemic. Isabelle hopes that the study will contribute to psychology and healthcare workers’ understanding of the pandemic’s impact, therefore bettering their ability to treat individuals experiencing decreased mental health at this time. This is a very timely project and we anticipate the results to be helpful for increasing awareness and resources for those who are struggling. Great work, Isabelle!

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Kaylie’s Master’s Thesis Proposal

First semester Master’s student, Kaylie Williams, recently introduced her Master’s thesis titled, Types of Thinking Behind Belief in Conspiracy Theories and Changing Belief in Conspiracies which focuses on what influences people to believe in conspiracies, how to change those beliefs, and the relationship between mental illness, trauma, and conspiracy beliefs. Different types of thinking have been found to influence conspiratorial beliefs, so this project will include analytic thinking and intellectual thinking priming tasks followed by active listening and teaching with evidence therapeutic techniques in an attempt to decrease conspiratorial thinking.

The study will collect data from university students and the broader community virtually through online questionnaires, thinking style priming tasks, and therapeutic interventions. It starts with the survey which measures PTSD symptoms, paranoia, thinking style, self-esteem, antisocial behavior, personality, and general conspiracy beliefs. Participants will then be primed with either a thinking style or engaged in a therapeutic technique. The priming tasks involve reading a passage and completing a series of either “how” tasks or “why” tasks to prompt them to think about how they would go about achieving a goal or why they want to achieve that goal. Participants in the therapeutic technique conditions will engage in either an active listening session where the focus is listening to the participant’s beliefs or teaching with an evidence session focused on explaining why certain conspiracies are not true. There will be a control group and the participants’ levels of general conspiratorial belief will be measured in all before and after the intervention.

Kaylie hopes her research will contribute to our understanding of how thinking styles influence conspiratorial beliefs and motivate the proposal of interventions for those who believe in conspiracies. The results could also lend to an understanding of what types of individuals are most vulnerable to being convinced that conspiracies are true, which benefits the development of specific treatments for maladaptive levels of these beliefs. Belief in conspiracy theories has resulted in individuals and groups of people engaging in violent acts, so strengthening our grasp on the issue could benefit the safety of those affected by these acts and the people whose beliefs cause them. This is a very intriguing project, Kaylie! We look forward to hearing more as it further develops.

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Joey’s Master’s Thesis Update

Second-year Master’s student, Joey Rhodes, recently presented updates on his Master’s thesis titled Understanding cultural differences in behavior during a global pandemic. Based on the current climate of the COVID-19 pandemic and previous research on cultural values, he aims to examine the differences in precautionary behavior between those who identify as either more collectivistic or individualistic. Joey also mentioned using this research to understand the best methods of promoting precautionary behavior among different cultural populations. Findings may also shed light on the possible adverse effects of social distancing on depression and suicidal idealization.

The online survey created for the study, which includes various measures on self-perceived independence, interpersonal values, individualism and collectivism, and dichotomous thinking, has been used to collect data from both American and Japanese samples. Joey is currently working on preliminary data analysis for the American sample and plans on testing his hypotheses soon with both samples. An implication of the current study could be a newfound insight into the individual priorities of those from different cultural backgrounds during a global pandemic and how that influences their actions under the COVID-19. The current study could also inspire research on the role of precautionary and prosocial behaviors beyond the scope of a pandemic to see how our cultural identities influence our interactions with others on a daily basis. Great work, Joey, we are excited to hear more!

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Lazo’s Article Presentation

First-semester undergraduate lab member, Lazo Dordeski, recently gave a thought-provoking presentation on an article titled Perceived Neighborhood Violence and Crime, Emotion Regulation, and PTSD Symptoms Among Justice-Involved, Urban African-American Adolescent Girls.

The purpose of the study was to examine how perceived neighborhood violence and crime (NVC) and emotion regulation (ER) and their effects on one another influence the participants’ PTSD symptoms over time. Researchers also were interested in how these relationships acted following the participants’ release from detention facilities.

NVC has been linked to poor life outcomes, delinquency, and a variety of internalizing and externalizing issues, and more. It also disproportionately affects African American youth in urban areas, with a subpopulation of justice-involved African-American adolescent girls for which the interaction between NVC and PTSD symptoms appears to be particularly strong. Dysfunctional ER strategies are linked to the development of many issues related to justice-involved AA youth and may elevate the adverse impact of an individual’s environment.

The sample was made up of 85 female participants aged 13-17 years old. The researchers surveyed Perceived Neighborhood Violence and Crime, measures of ER, PTSD symptoms, and their history with trauma/adverse experience immediately after their release and again three months later. Results for main and interaction effects indicated that perceived NVC and dysfunctional ER were positively associated with PTSD symptoms post-release. The participants who reported high levels of perceived NVC reported more severe PTSD symptoms when engaging in more internal dysfunctional ER strategies. This result specifically suggests the need for interventions targeted towards female adolescents reporting high levels of NVC and internal dysfunctional ER, because they may be more vulnerable to developing PTSD.

Lazo made some very insightful conclusions from his literature review and understanding of the justice system. He highlighted the need for interventions and research to take a community perspective approach because of the strong influence perceived NVC appears to have on PTSD symptoms post-release. Community interventions could protect vulnerable justice-involved adolescents once they come back to their neighborhoods. Another significant point Lazo made was the push for more intersectionality in research on these topics, to help generalize results and broaden the reach of interventions to vulnerable populations. Great work, Lazo!

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Victoria’s Senior Thesis

Kicking off the Fall 2021 semester, Victoria Kaznowski presented on the initiation of her research project, Mechanisms Driving the Nature and Psychological Well-Being Relationship: Mindfulness and Connection to Nature Intervention. Previous research has discovered a positive significant relation between nature and well-being. It has been proven that 10 to 20 minutes of being outside in a natural area benefits college students’ mental health. Expanding upon the established research, the purpose of the Mindfulness and Connection to Nature Intervention study was to design a nature intervention to investigate the nature well-being relationship (NWBR). The research study will examine changes in psychological well-being and emotional perceptions through nature exposure. Mindfulness and connectedness to nature will be evaluated as mechanisms in the NWBR through manipulation.

Oakland University’s Biological Preserve is being used for the nature intervention. To reduce COVID-19 risk, it is a self-guided intervention. The goal is to recruit a total of 90 students to participate. Participants must be 18 years or older, have access to a mobile device with internet access, and can walk a half-mile with regular nature exposure. They will be completing a pre- and post-test. The intervention is currently taking place with time slots available every day of the week during daylight hours. There is a one-participant limit per time slot. The procedure includes a pre-study screening survey, pre-test, 15-minutes following instructions of the assigned conditions, and a post-test. Surveys will be taken through Qualtrics via mobile device.

Earlier on in the semester, Victoria gave a “Step-Back” presentation to propose her project to fellow lab members and brainstorm tasks to assign for intervention groups and details for the logistics of a self-guided intervention. Many of the ideas worked through by the group contributed to her final study design.

Hypothesis one predicts nature exposure with heightened mindfulness and connection to nature will show increased positive affect and decreased negative affect, the highest mindfulness/connection to nature across all groups, and the lowest stress across all groups. Hypothesis two predicts that nature exposure with decreased mindfulness and connection to nature will show decreased positive affect and increased negative affect, the lowest mindfulness/connections to nature across all groups, and the highest stress across all groups. Lastly, hypothesis three predicts participants will report different perceptions of emotions from the pretest to the posttest.

The Mindfulness and Connection to Nature Intervention project might add support for mindfulness and connectedness to nature as mechanisms in the nature and well-being relationship. Another possible implication is providing evidence to strengthen the clinical utility of nature exposure being used in psychological treatment. Victoria also hopes the study might aid in proposing the Biological Preserves as an on-campus nature mental health resource for students.

In fact, we just heard that Victoria’s project got awarded for the Provost Undergraduate Research Award! It is a huge achievement. Congratulations, Victoria!

We are looking forward to your findings. Keep up the great work!

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The FF-PTG Lab Welcomes New Members

The FF-PTG Lab welcomed two new students this fall!

Kaylie Williams is a first-year master’s student who graduated from Michigan State this past spring with a bachelor’s in psychology. She joined the FF-PTG lab because of its many opportunities for research relevant to her interests, like the effects of childhood trauma on psychopathology and intimate relationships. Kaylie’s interest in the area came from experience working in a juvenile court and inspires her to investigate childhood trauma in the context of the criminal justice system. Eventually, she hopes to obtain a PhD in Forensic Psychology. We are excited to be working with you, Kaylie!

Also joining the lab this fall is Lazo Dordeski, a senior undergraduate with a major in psychology and a minor in political science. He joined the lab in hopes of gaining research experience and knowledge about posttraumatic growth that can be applied to the legal field. Lazo is interested in action-focused and its interrelations with PTG and racial disparities, inequality, and mass protests. After finishing his undergraduate degree, he plans to pursue law school. Welcome to the FF-PTG Lab, Lazo!

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Kana Reflects On Her APA 2021 Main Stage Interview

I just uploaded a new video on Youtube where I talk my experience of being interviewed for the APA 2021 Main Stage keynote panel on the science of resiliency and bouncing back from adversity.

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