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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Announcement: New Research Assistant & Upcoming Lab Manager

Winter 2023 semester is here! We have exciting news to share. We are pleased to welcome Avery Machuk as the newest undergraduate research assistant.

Welcome, Avery! She is currently a Junior at Oakland University majoring in psychology with plans to continue her education and become a therapist. She decided to join the lab to gain a deeper understanding of posttraumatic growth and hopes to learn how to utilize posttraumatic growth to treat her future clients. Avery will begin working on her Honors College Thesis during this upcoming semester and in doing so she hopes to further explore psychological constructs in relation to young adults and adolescents, who she hopes to work with after becoming a licensed therapist. Avery can be reached at averymachuk@oakland.edu.

Additionally, Paxton Hicks (phicks2@oakland.edu) will be the upcoming lab manager! Be sure to follow for more updates within the FF-PTG Lab.

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Isabelle Teasel: Honors College Thesis Presentation

Senior lab member, Isabelle Teasel, gave a presentation on her Honor’s College Thesis titled, “The Paradoxical Nature of Resilience, Optimism, and Anxiety in Relation to COVID-19.” The project focuses on the paradoxical relationships between resilience, optimism, and anxiety in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Resilience is defined as “the process of successfully adapting mentally, emotionally, and behaviorally to difficult traumatic experiences through life,” and optimism is defined as “the positive attitude that good things will occur, and an individual’s aims will be fulfilled.” Isabelle explained the resilience paradox which suggests that high resilience can lead to overconfidence, being too tolerant of adversity, or even unhealthy or “toxic” optimism; however, too low of resilience may lead to adverse mental health conditions and learned helplessness. There is also presence of an optimism paradox in which high optimism leads to impractical expectations and overconfidence while low optimism leads to higher life stress and maladaptation. High resilience will lead to an unhealthy amount of optimism, creating a viscous cycle of disadvantages for the affected individual. State, trait, and health anxiety and their connection to resilience and optimism are where there are gaps in literature that Isabelle would like to fill.

This lead her to the question of “Will the paradoxical nature hold true when interconnected together?” The current study will examine resilience, optimism, and anxiety within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hypotheses are stated as followed: (1) The paradoxical nature of optimism will hold true in relation to the levels of the three types of anxiety, resilience, post-behaviors, and COVID-19 Inventory. (2) The paradoxical nature of the resilience will hold true in relation to the levels of the three types of anxiety, resilience, post-behaviors, and COVID-19 Inventory. (3)The paradoxical nature of the three types of anxiety will hold true in relation to post-behaviors and COVID-19 Inventory.

The current study uses data from a prior study titled, “Reactions to COVID-19,” conducted by Olivia Rithig, Dr. Kanako Taku, and Kara Pado, which was approved on March 31st, 2020. The purpose of the original longitudinal study was to examine public perceptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, including emotions, behavioral, cognitive, and physical reactions as well. Data was collected through an online survey at two time points. Time 1 Data was collected on March 30th, 2020, while the Time 2 Data was collected as a follow-up on April 27th, 2020.

Isabelle is currently cleaning the date from the Reactions to COVID-19 database and will be conducting statistical tests to analyze the paradoxical nature of the given variables. Limitations include the online nature of the study, attrition between T1 and T2, and limited diversity. Future directions may include rerunning the study trio compare to 2 years after the initiation of the pandemic or targeting specific groups (i.e., those who had COVID) in research.

Amazing progress, Isabelle! We can’t wait to see what you do next!

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Congrats to Taylor

Taylor’s research application, “I’ll Believe it When I see it:” Behavior Change and Person Perception, has been awarded for the Provost Graduate Research Award – Fall 2022.

Congratulations, Taylor!

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Lazo Dordeski: Manuscript

Toward the end of November, Lazo Dordeski, a post-undergraduate research assistant, presented his current manuscript, “Non-violent Behaviors and Depression in Victims and Perpetrators” which builds off of his previously conducted research in the FF-PTG Lab.

Prior research has indicated that individuals who identify as either victims or perpetrators were more likely to report experiences in bother, creating the Victim-Perpetrator Overlap [VPO]. VPO conceptualized the increase of offending at the risk of being a victim and victimization may increase the risk of becoming a perpetrator. The overlap can be observed across various violent and non-violent transgressions (i.e., petty theft to sexual violence). A relationship between depression and victims/perpetrators has been discovered in the populations of adolescent victims of bullying, patients with depression, and perpetrators clinically diagnosed with depression. Depressed patients had a higher prevalence of repeat victimization; while perpetrators had more risk factors for intimate partner violence.

The purpose of Dordeski’s study is to examine the differences between non-violent behaviors (i.e., racial slurs, stealing, and exclusion) and depression within both victims and perpetrators. Hypothesis 1 states that individuals who were only victims of having racial slurs used against them would show higher depression than perpetrators who only used racial slurs against others and those who experienced overlap which would show higher depression than those who experienced neither. Hypothesis 2 states that individuals who are only victims of exclusion will have higher levels of depression than individuals who experienced overlap, which would show higher levels of depression than perpetrators who only excluded others and those who experienced neither, which would report even levels of depression.

A total of 397 participants were used from the previously collected Smith (2020) study. Data was collected through the Qualtrics survey tool. Participants were randomly assigned to two conditions of answering questions about 1) perpetrator experiences first or 2) victim experiences first. The survey included responses to PTGI-X, filler scale questions, filled conditions, and repeated PTGI-X. Measures used for analysis were the Victimization and Perpetration Scale and Beck Depression Inventory through the statistical tests of one-way ANOVAs and post-hoc analyses using LSD. No significant differences between the perpetrator-only group and the group that didn’t experience either. Findings suggest that exclusion is impactful on reported feelings of depression among victims, even though some of them excluded others themselves.

Limitations identified by Dordeski included sample size with skewed distribution, college demographic, and measures that focused on more violent behavior. Potential future directions would be to make a greater emphasis on non-violent behaviors, focus on group differences and how this could increase victim/perpetrator susceptibility, and increase diversity/intersectional samples to improve external validity.

Congratulations, Lazo! We are proud to send you off to the next stage of your career. Dordeski will be attending the Master of Arts in Counseling program at Oakland University starting January 2023. Wishing you nothing but the best!

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Amber Efthemiou: Article Presentation

First-semester undergraduate research assistant, Amber Efthemiou, recently presented the article titled, “The Effects of Mindfulness and Self-Compassion on Improving the Capacity to Adapt to Stress Situations in Elderly People Living in the Community” (Perez-Blasco et al., 2016).

The concept of self-compassion embodies kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Mindfulness specifically encourages openness, curiosity, and acceptance through the non-judgemental awareness of the present moment. Interventions based on mindfulness have been found to be effective in clinical and non-clinical contexts in hand with increasing one’s ability to cope (i.e., emotion-focused and problem-focused) and resilience. Elderly adults, especially, can benefit from such mindfulness interventions due to the experience of hardships related to aging. Self-judgement, isolation, and rumination can be prevented with the improvement of emotional regulation and self-perception of aging.

Perez-Blasco et al. (2016) aimed to improve resilience levels, reduce stress, reduce age-related anxiety and depression, and change coping strategies through the evaluation of the effectiveness of mindfulness and self-compassion in older adults. Participant criteria included age of 60 years or older, not under institutional care, and being cognitively healthy. The measurements used were the Brief Resilient Coping Scale, Depression Anxiety Stress Scales, and Coping Strategies Questionaire. The intervention program lasted 10 consecutive weeks with one 2-hour session a week in a group setting. The formal practice held different forms of meditation; while the informal practice consisted of daily mindful activities.

To determine whether groups were homogenous prior to treatment, chi-squared tests, t-tests for independent samples, and Mann-Whitney U-tests were performed. The repeated measures ANOVA was conducted to analyze the intervention’s effects. Results showed a significant increase in resilience, positive reappraisal, and avoidance along with a significant decrease in anxiety and stress. For coping results, there was a significant decrease in problem-solving coping, negative self-focused coping, overt emotional expression, and religion. Conclusions indicated mindfulness leads to resiliency later in life with self-compassion as a useful tool in therapy. Self-compassion led to positive responses to aging and age-related events. Cathartic emotional expression and impulsivity decreased leading to a greater capacity for introspection through emotional awareness. There was a notable change in the meaning of a stressful situation, a decrease in religion, and no significant improvement in social support.

Limitations of the presented study were the small sample size, absence of double-blind assessment with lack of control for potential covariates, and some low ETA squared obtained. Implications would be included set up a mindfulness program adapted to elderly people to obtain greater benefits for this population. Efthemiou believes the demonstrated interventions could be used for those who are 75 and older along with those in a care facility/nursing home.

Wonderful presentation, Amber! We are eager to see how you pursue this line of research.

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Lewis Luttrell: Master Thesis Proposal

Lewis Luttrell, a first-year Master’s student, presented his thesis proposal, “Using Polyculturalism to Reduce Intergroup Threat” on November 8th, 2022, in preparation for the upcoming departmental presentation. Polyculturalism is defined as cultures that are byproducts of historical interaction with different groups without a “pure” culture belonging to any one group along with an emphasis on the interconnectionnedness rather than separation. It is one of the four concepts of interethnic ideologies. Some examples would be the two distinct cultures in Louisiana (i.e., Cajun and Creoloe); music genres (i.e., jazz and country); food (i.e., tacos); and architecture (i.e., Indonesian style).

To understand the concept of polyculturalism, it is important to create a solid foundation interconnecting theories such as Social Dominance Theory and Intergroup Threat Theory with Realistic Threat, Perceptions of Threat, and Artifical Segreation. Within previous research, investigations upon ascertaining how polycultural approach may be received by marginalized racial and ethnic groups has been limited. Experts have hypothesized those of marginalized groups could have negative attitudes towards dominant groups which could lead to a decrease in interactions.

At the initial stages of Luttrell’s study, hypothesis one states that polyculturalism with attenuate intergroup threat for all participants regardless of race, ethnicity, and gender. Hypothesis two will narrow the scope to white participants with the expectation that polyculturalism will attenuate intergroup threat regardless of social domination orientation. Measures that will be utilized include SDO-D and SDO-E of SOD7 (alpha=.93), Polyculturalism (alpha= .88), and Intergroup Threat [ITT] for symbolic and realistic threat. Through a prior analysis, Luttrell discovered he would need to obtain 175 participants per group despite previous studies utilizing about 60 individuals per group with the time one and time two phases. During time 1, partipants will initially complete ITT, SDO7, and demographic information. Participants will complete interethnic ideology shift (experimental group) or read an section from the farmers almanac as a control within time 2. However, Luttrell identifies three potential limitations including: a need for a third factor of race; dependence on least one other of race or ethnicity; and two-part study which would increase likelihood of attrition.

We wish you the best of luck on your Master Thesis Defense at the end of the Fall 2022 semester, Lewis! Keep up the wonderful work.

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Taylor Elam: Master’s Thesis Proposal

Taylor Elam, a first year Ph.D. Student, recently gave a presentation on her research proposal titled, “I’ll Believe it When I See it: Behavior Change and Person Perception”. This project focuses on how and when people change their perceptions of others.

Taylor explains that people can change by changing their habits, behaviors, attitudes, outlook, verbal and/or physical responses, and most recently discovered, personality. Studies so far have focused on how people change through therapy, how impressions are made and how accurate they are, and how to help people change. Elam saw a need for research that studies when we change our perceptions of others whether the perception is accurate or not.

Elam hypothesized that those who watch a video describing a person’s behavior will change their perception of the person sooner than those who read the vignettes. She aimed to explore the influence of participant characteristics, mood, and interpersonal accuracy on person perception change. The study recruited 300 college students 18+, 100 in each group, for an online survey with 4 time points.

The study would include a person named Taylor described in differing settings and behaviors. For example one setting would be:

“Taylor walks into class, smiling. She shakes hands with teachers and greets her classmates. She sits straight up while watching the lecture. She laughs at the jokes during the presentation. “

“Taylor drives to work listening to upbeat music. “

“Taylor cries at home. Her house is messier because she hasn’t cleaned. She slams her backpack down and goes straight to sleep. “

Other settings would switch out the behaviors with sad connotations with happy behaviors. Throughout the 4 time points, participants would experience differing settings of the same story about Taylor through a video, vignette, or a combination of both. Participants would then complete the survey reporting their demographics, psychological status, adversity experience, personality, mood, emotional intelligence, and empathy. They would then complete the task to report their perception of Taylor based off the video or vignettes.

This study called for a repeated measures design with between and within groups. Data will be analyzed using correlation and regression as well as repeated measures ANOVA. Limitations include the potential need for 5 time points to show stability and consistency, the lack of person-memory concept, lack of subject background information, demographics, and previous behaviors.

Taylor did an excellent job designing and presenting her research proposal, and we can’t wait to follow her through this process!

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Paxton Hicks: Article Presentation

Paxton Hicks, a first-semester undergraduate research assistant, recently gave a presentation on the article titled,” Social Interaction in Online Support Groups: Preference for Online Social Interaction Over Offline Social Interaction” from Jae Eun Chung.

Online support groups [OSG] have been a rapid source for individuals seeking support. Sixty percent of users who search for health-related information use social media. The usage of the internet alleviates barriers to communication (i.e., geography), which is beneficial to those with rare conditions in order to easily access resources. However, short-term relationships are more common than not along with the increased chance of the spread of unhealthy advice. Researchers have previously observed the excessive use of the internet and its connection to the preferences of online interaction without the context of OSGs. Therefore, there has been an increase in the current body of research focusing on the positive aspects of OSGs.

The purpose of the presented study was to examine the potential factors that influence the presence of online social interaction as opposed to in-person, how support is integrated from online and offline relationships, and advance the understanding of the role of the internet for patient healthcare. Chung hypothesized that (1) compared to those with weaker relationships in OSGs, individuals with deeper relationships in OSGs will develop a stronger preference for social interaction in OSGs over offline social interaction; (2) compared to those with a higher level of satisfaction with offline social support, individuals with a lower level of satisfaction with offline social support will develop a stronger preference for social interaction in OSGs over offline social interaction; and (3) compared to those with a higher level of satisfaction with medical care, individuals with a lower level of satisfaction with medical care will develop a stronger preference for social interaction in OSGs over offline social interaction.

A sample was recruited through four established OSGs of 158 participants (M= 48.2, SD= 16.4) who completed an approximately 15 minutes in length survey. The demographics were 52.2% male, 47.8% female, the majority of the white race, and residency with a spread of 34.6% urban, 47.2% suburban, and 18.2% rural. Measures included Adapted PIU & GPIUS, Adapted QRI, Standard SSO, and PSQ. The Adapted PIU & GPIUS scales, Problematic Internet Use, were used to gauge the preference of social interaction in OSGs. Adapted QRI, Quality of Relationships Inventory, assessed the depth of relationship within the OSG to other users. The shortened version of the SSQ, Social Support Questionaire, measured satisfaction with offline support. The PSQ, Patient Satisfaction Questionaire, measured patient satisfaction with the medical care received.

A correlation matrix was performed to examine the relationships between the variables. Results indicated the depth of relations in OSGs correlated with a preference for social interaction in OSGs (p < .001). Satisfaction with offline support is related to satisfaction with medical care (p < .001). Satisfaction with offline support negatively correlated with a preference for social interaction in OSGs. Multivariate regression was used to measure the effect of these predictors on preference for social interaction in OSGs.

After the data analysis was performed, the results indicated hypothesis 1 and hypothesis 2 were supported. Individuals with higher relationships in OSGs showed higher preferences for social interaction in OSGs. People with lower levels of satisfaction in offline social support reported a higher preference for interaction in OSGs. Hypothesis 3 was not supported; therefore, no significant changes were found.

Chung listed the cross-sectional design as a limitation since it was unable to see the consequences of the developing preference for OSGs. A longitudinal design could have looked at the development of a preference and its consequences better. Hicks, however, believes the under-coverage of certain demographics (i.e., those of different races and communities) and differences in the types of relationships measured were also limitations. Future directions could include applying OSGs in the relevant wake of the COVID-19 pandemic since the lockdown restrictions limited in-person resources. There are various opportunities in investigating individuals with varying health statuses.

Wonderful presentation! We are looking forward to where your research takes you. Keep up the great work, Paxton Hicks!

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Yates Cider Mill

Fall is here!

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