The FF-PTG Lab Welcome New Undergraduate Students

Within the Fall 2022 semester, we will have four new undergraduate students joining the FF-PTG Lab!

Natalie is currently a junior at Oakland University, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Health Communication. She joined the lab to gain experience in research about PTG and further specify her interests. After completing her undergraduate degree, she hopes to obtain a PhD in clinical psychology to work as a therapist and continue research. Natalie can be reached at nataliesafo@oakland.edu.

Amber is currently a junior at Oakland University, majoring in psychology and minoring in holistic health. She joined the lab to gain research experience and learn more about PTG as a whole and in relation to behavioral psychology. Amber is generally interested in studying non-pharmacological interventions for mental disorders related to traumatic life events in adulthood and late life. After completing her undergraduate degree, she hopes to attend graduate school and later practice clinical psychology. Amber can be reached at amberefthemiou@oakland.edu.

Paxton Hicks is a junior at Oakland University. He is majoring in Psychology Major with a minor in biology with aspirations to pursue clinical psychology or other similar pursuits. By a professor’s recommendation and by his own interest in growing his experience, the FF-PTG Lab seemed like the best opportunity for me. He is interested in research related to emotions and their relation to patient outcomes. Paxton can be reached at phicks2@oakland.edu.

Amani is currently a junior at Oakland University, majoring in psychology with a minor in human resources management. She joined the FF-PTG lab to gain hands-on research experience and to understand how post-traumatic growth can affect people in the workplace. In the lab, Amani is interested in exploring work-life balance and burnout in relation to people who have experienced PTG. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree, Amani plans to pursue an industrial-organizational psychology graduate program to become an I/O psychologist. Amani can be contacted at amaniqaqish@oakland.edu 

We are so excited for the new undergraduate students to be joining us! We are looking forward to working with you and seeing what you will accomplish.

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Welcome Incoming Graduate Students

Welcome to the FF-PTG Lab! Let’s introduce the three incoming graduate students.

Taylor is a first-year Ph.D. student with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology with a minor in writing and rhetoric that she obtained from Oakland University. She initially joined the lab as an undergrad due to her interest in emotions and individual differences related to trauma, PTG, and resilience. Her current research interests include understanding emotions, nonverbal communication, and person perception in clinical settings. Taylor can be reached at elam@oakland.edu.

Lewis is a first-year Master’s student with a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a minor in applied statistics from Grand Valley State University. He became interested in PTG due to his own experiences in the Marine Corps and getting to meet other veterans with similar backgrounds and experiences, but drastically different outcomes. His primary interest concerns the changes in cultural and ethnic impact on self and social identities as society continues to promote and encourage diversity. Following his instruction at Oakland University, he intends to continue his education in pursuit of a Ph.D. Lewis can be reached at luttrell@oakland.edu

Dom is a first-year master’s student who earned a bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of Detroit Mercy with honors in 2020. He became intrigued with post-traumatic growth and bridging the gap as it relates to practices of cognitive-behavioral therapy and substance abuse recovery. Working as a substance use and domestic violence therapist, he carries a passion for serving members of the community who are in need. Going further, his research interests include alcohol and drug abuse, religious trauma syndrome, clinic efficacy and efficiency, gun violence, and more. Dom is goal-oriented on completing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology after obtaining his master’s at Oakland in order to one day contribute to greater knowledge through research education while striving to conduct the best therapy he can. He can be contacted at DomTurcott@oakland.edu.

We are so excited for the new undergraduate students to be joining us! We are looking forward to working with you and seeing what you will accomplish.

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Our New Lab Manager, Isabelle Teasel, Featured on Instagram!

We are really excited that our new lab manager, Isabelle Teasel, has been featured on Instagram by Oakland University’s Honors College. Here is the link!

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APA in Minnesota (2022)

Some of the FF-PTG lab members recently attended the 2022 American Psychological Association (APA) Conference that was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota from August 4th-6th. It has been more than 2 years since we attended a conference in person! They were able to present on their recent research projects as well as network and learn from other researchers in the psychology field.

Kaylie and Joey were first to present their poster titled The Role of Dichotomous Thought on Aversive Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic. This research, which originated from Joey’s Master’s Thesis, found that both dichotomous thinking (thinking in polar opposites) and gender were significant predictors of anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic but not depression. They believe these findings may be due to how dichotomous thinking typically involves thoughts of the environment which aligns more with anxiety than depression. Whereas depression may align more with thoughts of oneself.

Joey and Kaylie’s next presentation was titled Isolation, Self-Construal, and Aversive Mental Health During COVID-19. They predicted that self-construal (how an individual constructs their identity in relation to their in-group) and isolation would predict depression and anxiety. Their findings showed that self-construal and isolation were in fact predictors of depression but only isolation predicted anxiety. Their research shows that those who view themselves as overlapping with their group may be more susceptible to depression with the increase in isolation caused by COVID-19. In addition, this highlights that isolation impacts both depression and anxiety which may have been more brought on during the pandemic restrictions and protocols.

Matt, a fellow graduate student in the Psychology Department, presented a data blitz talk, which was also derived from Joey’s Master’s Thesis, titled Religion and Precautionary Behavior During a Global Pandemic. Matt and Joey were able to find that stronger religious beliefs may lead to less belief in (1) the efficacy of masks, (2) scientific evidence and research, (3) government guidelines, along with (4) wearing masks to prevent COVID-19. These research findings help us to better understand how religion has impacted human behaviors during the pandemic.

Taylor gave a data blitz talk as well, titled Examining the Rationale Behind Perceived Severity of Modern and Traditional Types of Depression. She presented on the differences between modern-type (MTD) and traditional-type (TTD) depression by identifying the reasons behind the perceptions made of them when participants were shown vignettes of individual “X.” Findings showed that X with TTD was perceived as more severe than X with MTD, coinciding with previous research. However, people relied on different information to make judgements of X with low severity ratings; having a “heavy workload” for TTD but “complaining about workload” for MTD. Yet, for both MTD and TTD, high severity depression ratings were based on experiencing “negative physical symptoms.” This shows that people place more severity on the physical symptoms someone is experiencing with depression than the other behaviors.

Overall, fantastic work, FF-PTG Lab! We cannot wait to attend next year!

  • Williams, K., Rhodes, J., & Taku, K. The role of dichotomous thoughts on aversive mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic (03 – Society for Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Science Division).
  • Rhodes, J., Williams, K., & Taku, K. Isolation, self-construal, and aversive mental health during COVI-19. (08 – Society for Personality and Social Psychology Division).
  • Lico, M. P., Rhodes, J., Kozak, A. T., & Taku, K. Religion and precautionary behavior during a global pandemic (08 – Society for Personality and Social Psychology Division).
  • Elam, T., O’Brien, C., & Taku, K. Examining the rationale behind perceived severity of modern and traditional type of depression (08 – Society for Personality and Social Psychology Division).
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Lazo Dordeski: Hypotheses Presentation

Ending the Winter 2022 semester, undergraduate research assistant, Lazo Dordeski, presented his hypothesis presentation titled “Victim-Perpetrator Overlap: An Analysis of Chronology and Impact of Events”. The purpose of the study was to examine the chronological timeline of perpetration and victim events to see which precedes the other and the interactions between the chronology of Victim-Perpetrator Overlap [VPO] and the impact of victim and perpetrator experiences. It strived to conduct an exploratory investigation between non-violent actions and VPO.

The first hypothesis states there should be three groups depending on the timing of each event: (1) perpetrator event occurs first, with victimization occurring after; (2) victim event occurs first, with perpetration occurring after; and (3) overlap, which means the events co-occur. Dordeski also proposed the degree of shaken beliefs in victim experiences should be the largest in Group 2 (V to P), whereas the degree of shaken beliefs in perpetrator experiences should be the largest in Group 1 (P to V). The third hypothesis was lying and excluding someone will be suppressed if participants are experiencing overlap.

A total of 84 valid participants from the ages of 18-32 years old (M=20.57, SD=2.69) collected via the Qualtrics survey were used for data analysis. The measures used were “The Victimization and Perpetration Scale” (Smith, 2020) and “Shaken Beliefs” (Taku et al., 2015).

The study concluded that hypothesis one was supported since data analysis demonstrated three different groups depending on the timing of each event. Hypothesis two was not supported, because there were no significant differences between the two groups with P or V experiences. However, hypothesis three was supported after the performance of a One-way ANOVA and post hoc for analysis for confirmation of the differences between the groups. A negative mean difference was present between overlap and P first group in the exclusion event, and negative mean differences between overlap and both P and V first groups regarding the lying event, thus supporting hypothesis three. “Manipulative” behaviors were more likely to be suppressed when participants experience overlap. This overlap allowed for a greater impact of the events on the individuals. Limitations of this study would include the sample size of 84 participants, demographics limiting generalizability, and measures still focusing more on violent behaviors.

Great job, Lazo! We appreciated all of your contributions to the FF-PTG Lab. Wish you the best of luck in your academic endeavors.

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Isabelle Teasel: Honor’s College Thesis Update

Senior lab member, Isabelle Teasel, gave a presentation on the progress she has made with 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.

The study’s major concepts are resilience, optimism, and anxiety. Resilience is the process of successfully adapting mentally, emotionally, and behaviorally to difficult traumatic experiences through life and is also the ability of an individual to return to pre-traumatic functioning after they experience trauma. Optimism is defined as a positive attitude that good things will occur and an individual’s aims will be fulfilled. Both resilience and optimism may be paradoxical in nature. Too much or too little of either may lead to overconfidence or adverse mental health conditions, in the case of resilience, and to impractical expectations or even better health in the absence of optimism. Their connection can be understood as high resilience leading to unhealthy, or high, levels of optimism, creating a vicious cycle of disadvantages for affected individuals.

Anxiety is defined as excessive worrying that is hard to control three or more symptoms present (i.e., restlessness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, etc.) and has different variations: trait anxiety, state anxiety, and health anxiety.

The study will not only examine the paradoxical relationships these three concepts have within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, but due to recent changes in the political and social climate within the United States, it will also examine discrimination and xenophobia within the U.S. as well.

The study’s hypotheses are: (1) the paradoxical nature of optimism will hold true in relation to the levels of the three types of anxiety; (2) the paradoxical nature of the resilience will hold true in relation to when individuals have lower trait anxiety and health anxiety; (3) individuals who rank higher on the discrimination and xenophobia scale have higher levels of trait anxiety and health anxiety.

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.

Time 1 Data will be used for the current study and will include 604 surveys, consisting of participants who are 18 years or older. The study will include measures of resilience, optimism, anxiety (for each of the three types), xenophobia, and discrimination.

Isabelle’s next steps will be to clean the data collected using SPSS to prepare for data analysis beginning in the Fall 2020 semester.

By understanding the paradoxical relationships between resilience, optimism, and anxiety, and the interactions between xenophobia and discrimination and anxiety, Isabelle hopes to establish a foundation of literature that has yet to be seen in current research.

You’re making amazing progress Isabelle! We can’t wait to see where your study heads next! Good luck!

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Another Milestone

The Big 50! Today, I joined the half century club!!

And I got the best present ever from “all these people”!

Thank you for all 68 people who joined, graduated, and are working in the lab!

P.S., Also, happy birthday to our former lab member, Alex! We share the same birthday! So, it’s extra special.

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Kayla Benson: Thesis Defense Preparation

Kayla Benson, second year PhD student, recently gave a presentation in preparation for her thesis defense. The purposes of Benson’s study, “Growing Toward the Common Good: Collective Action Engagement as Evidence for Posttraumatic Growth”, include understanding the collective action behaviors as an indication of action focused growth and constructive posttraumatic growth [PTG] and the relationships between community identity and collective action. The study will also strive to evaluate narcissism and optimism as potential components restricting constructive PTG.

Benson hypothesizes (1) people who are high in PTG will engage in more collective action interventions overall; (2) When individuals believe that their identities are strongly connected to the community, they will engage in more collective action behaviors; and (3) individuals who display patterns of illusory growth (high PTG, low in collective action) will be higher in narcissism and/or optimism.A total of 168 participants ranging from the ages of 18 to 47 years old (M=20.07, SD=3.25) participated in the study. The items that were measured in the online survey were posttraumatic growth, narcissism, optimism, altruism, social identity, and COVID-19 collective action.

Within the preliminary data analysis, hypothesis 1 of people who are high in PTG will engage in more collective action interventions overall was not supported. Participants scored high across the board in collective action behaviors during the pandemic. Hypothesis 2, when individuals believe that their identities are strongly connected to the community, they will engage in more collective action behaviors, was not supported. A slight negative relationship was present. Also, Hypothesis 3, individuals who display patterns of illusory growth (high PTG, low in collective action) will be higher in narcissism and/or optimism, was not supported, since there were no difference between the groups.

Currently, the recognized limitations of the study includes data collection started over 1.5 years after the start of the pandemic; local and state mask mandates changed throughout the course of data collection; measure for pandemic behaviors are limited; only college participants so far, who are more likely to follow guidelines compared to other populations.

What are the next steps? Benson is planning are continuing analysis to understand the relationships with the individual domains of PTG along with explaining the relationships between SEC with narcissism and optimism. She will also find potential controls, since many of the predicted relationships are virtually non-existent or trending in the opposite direction. Finally, Benson will continue data analysis to discovered other potential connections between the data measures and its variables.

Great work so far, Kayla! We are looking forward to your discoveries.

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End-of-the-semester/Welcome party

Lab members got together to celebrate the end of the semester and welcome newly joined members.

Joey, Dom, Kolton (behind); Lewis, Kaylie, Isabelle, Victoria, Danielle, Natalie (middle); Kana, Taylor, Kayla, and Lazo (front)

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Congratulations, Joey!

Joey Rhodes, a second-year Master’s student, presented his study “Understanding Cultural Differences in Behavior During a Global Pandemic”, which examined the differences between those who lived in Japan and the United States. The importance of this research is that gaining an understanding of someone’s behavior is the first step in learning how to motivate them to continue or stop a behavior. The objective was to understand potential factors that may increase or decrease precautionary behavior in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the purpose was to establish and understand the relationships between individuals’ perceived cultural values (e.g., individualism-collectivism) and their prosocial behavior, or lack thereof, in response to COVID-19; and once relationships between culture and behavior are established, to understand what information is most persuasive in promoting prosocial behavior for individuals in different cultures.

Joey hypothesized (1) collectivistic participants will be more likely to report having engaged in precautionary behaviors than individualistic participants, regardless of country of origin. (2) Participants primed for collectivism will be more likely to report willingness to engage in precautionary behavior in the future than individualism-primed participants regardless of country of origin along with (3) those who were primed for collectivism will be more likely to report willingness to engage in precautionary behavior in the future than individualism-primed participants regardless of country of origin. (4) Participants that show a preference for dichotomous thinking will be more likely to report engaging in precautionary behavior than participants lower in dichotomous thinking, regardless of country of origin. (5) Participants currently living in Japan will be more susceptible to depression and suicidal ideation than participants currently living in the United States. Lastly, (6) participants who show a preference for interpersonal adjustment will be more likely to report engaging in precautionary behavior than participants who show a preference for interpersonal influence.

Participants were college students recruited from Japan and the United States with the inclusion criteria of having to be 18 and older with fluency in the native language of their country. American participants received SONA class credit from completing the online survey through Qualtrics, which took on average 28 minutes. The survey collected general demographics, precautionary behavior in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, and other measures.

Results show that hypothesis one was not supported with a small non-significant relationship between individualism and precautionary behaviors. Hypothesis two was also not supported with no significant relationship between primed groups and predicted precautionary behaviors. Hypothesis three concluded a small non-significant correlation between independent self-construal and precautionary behaviors along with a significant negative relationship (p < .001) between mask-wearing and independent self-construal. There was no significant relationship for total precautionary behaviors and a significant negative relationship between DTI and mask-wearing (p = .009) for hypothesis four. For hypothesis five, participants in Japan scored higher on both measures of depression and suicidal ideation (p < .001). Lastly, hypothesis six discovered a significant negative correlation between interpersonal adjustment and precautionary behaviors (p = .018). Additionally, Japanese sample was higher on overall precautionary behaviors (M = 29.00) vs. (M = 26.39); both samples nearly identical on Horizontal and Vertical Individualism and Collectivism scale (M = 53.90) vs (M = 53.58); and, American sample had more of an independent self-construal (M = 183.52) compared to the Japanese sample (M = 166.05).

Future directions include conducting this study again with samples from different countries (potentially India and Germany), especially ones more diametrically opposed in terms of individualism and collectivism, preforming similar studies with populations outside of college students, and expanding upon the questions concerning precautionary behavior, outside of a global pandemic, and the role that culture has in these behaviors.

Recently, Joey successfully defended his Master’s Thesis to the department. He will be graduating in April 2022 with a Master’s of Psychology. Congradulations! We look forward to what you will accomplish in the future.

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