Joey’s Master’s Thesis Update

At the beginning of the semester, first year Master’s student Joey presented his Master’s thesis presentation titled Understanding the Cultural Differences in Behavior During a Global Pandemic with updates on his preparations for conducting the study.

Joey’s thesis focuses on how individuals with different social identities engage in prosocial behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic and how pandemic circumstances contribute to depression symptoms. In regards to his thesis, social identity refers to participants’ identification with either an individualist or collectivist cultural background. Individualists are commonly independent and prioritize personal goals while collectivists are most often categorized as interdependent and concerned with in-group goals above personal goals. Joey predicts that collectivists will be more likely to report prosocial behavior in response to the pandemic (e.g. wearing masks) than individualists. He also hypothesizes that collectivists will report higher levels of depression and suicide ideation than participants who identify with individualism due to the protective measures taken during the pandemic that resulted in prolonged socially isolating circumstances.

The hypotheses will be tested using samples from university students in the United States, which has an individualistic culture, and Japan, which has a collectivist culture. The main goal of Joey’s study is to examine a possible relationship between perceived social identity and prosocial responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Joey is also interested in the mental health effects of the pandemic based on social identity and if social identity priming can influence one’s alignment with individualism or collectivism. This work has the potential to give insight into individual priorities and subsequent reactions to a global pandemic and develop a better understanding of how necessary limited social interaction can adversely affect mental health. We are excited to see how things go once data collection begins!

In other exciting news, Joey’s abstract submission titled Impact of Racial Discrimination on Academic Motivation and Academic Achievement was accepted for the Midwestern Psychological Association conference! This project focused on the relationship between racial discrimination, academic motivation, and academic achievement in undergraduate students. Congratulations to Joey, fellow lab member Kayla, and PTG alumni Alvin, who worked on this project together!

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Congratulations to the Provost Research Grant Recipients!

Congratulations to all three members of our lab Kayla, CJ, and Joey for each being awarded a Provost Research Grant for their individual projects! We are so excited to see what’s in store for each of your studies!

PhD student, Kayla Benson, was awarded Provost Research Grant for her Master’s Thesis Project, “Growing Toward the Common Good: Collective Action During COVID-19.”

MS student, Colin O’Brien, was awarded Provost Research Grant for his new project, “Causes and Correlates of Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder.”

MS student, Joseph Rhodes, was awarded Provost Research Grant for his Master’s Thesis Project, “Understanding Cultural Differences in Behavior in the Face of a Global Pandemic.”

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The FF-PTG Lab has Throwback Thursday!

The new year is always a great time to reflect on the past and spend time thinking about the happier memories and simpler times of childhood. Kicking off the new semester in Winter 2021 the FF-PTG lab has decided to mix things up and create a collage of all our current members using cherished baby photos. Can you guess who is who?

We were born to conduct research! Can you tell?

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The FF-PTG Lab Welcomes New Member

Welcome to our newest undergraduate research assistant Isabelle Teasel! Isabelle is currently a sophomore at Oakland University majoring in psychology with a concentration in pre-medicine along with a minor in Middle Eastern studies. She decided to join the lab to gain experience in research, grow her understanding of the aftermath of trauma, and hopes that learning about PTG will improve the future treatment of patients. Isabelle is interested in studying the relationship between PTG and those diagnosed with chronic diseases of any age group. She is also interested in researching topics relating to well-being, healthcare, and the dark side of PTG and resilience. After completing her undergraduate degree, she is planning to attend medical school to become a physician. Isabelle can be reached at iteasel@oakland.edu.

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Taylor’s Senior Thesis Presentation

Recently, graduated lab member, Taylor, presented updates to her senior thesis study titled, Individual Differences in Emotion Recognition. Her study focuses on investigating the relationship between emotion recognition ability (ERA), experiences of traumatic events, and posttraumatic growth (PTG). Past research has linked both PTG and ERA to increased levels of empathy, with PTG also being connected to higher levels of emotional intelligence. Given that there are gaps in the literature regarding direct links between PTG and ERA, and specific types of trauma events, Taylor hypothesized that individuals who experienced higher levels of PTG will be more likely to accurately recognize emotions in others. Additionally, she hypothesized that individuals who have experienced relationship trauma, such as family conflicts or the death of a loved one, will be better at recognizing emotions, specifically, fear in others. In order to test these hypotheses, participants in her study filled out both a trauma checklist and a measure of PTG along with an assessment in emotion recognition ability, which had participants observe images of people and identify what emotion was expressed in the photo.

Overall, the results show that individuals with relationship trauma experience are better at recognizing emotions in others, regardless of growth, indicating that improvements in emotion perception may be dependent on the type of trauma experienced. Those with relationship trauma may also be better at specifically identifying fear in others. The lack of significant results regarding PTG and ERA suggests that the self-report nature of PTG might only reflect surface-level transformation but not indicate deeper cognitive changes in individuals. Taylor aims for her research to help develop a better understanding of the ways that PTG can impact day-to-day communications and individual’s interpretations of them. Amazing work Taylor, we can’t wait to learn more from your study!

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Victoria’s Article Presentation

First semester undergraduate lab member Victoria recently gave a presentation on the article titled Why is nature beneficial?: The role of connectedness to nature. The study wanted to directly investigate the relationship between nature and well-being, with a sense of belonging to the natural world as the primary mechanism. Prior studies focus on the restorative qualities of nature without exploring the other possible mediating factors. The major research questions asked were: (1) does an increase in connectedness to nature mediate nature’s effect on positive mood? and (2) does exposure to nature affect participants’ ability to reflect on their personal problems? The authors proposed the questions to determine the extent to which an individual’s environment can be healing. To answer these questions, the researchers randomly assigned a group of college students into two groups, one of which would spend 10 minutes on a walk in a nature preserve, the other group walking around a downtown urban environment. After the 10 minute walk, each group was given 5 minutes of reflection time and then filled out a survey to measure (1) connectedness to nature, (2) positive and negative affect, and (3) situational self-awareness.

The analysis revealed that the ability to reflect was significantly correlated with connectedness to nature and positive affect while negatively correlating with public self-awareness. This suggests that if individuals are less concerned with appearance to others, they can better pay attention to what they are experiencing internally. Overall, the study shows strong support for connectedness to nature as a mediator of nature’s effects on well-being and increased reflection skills. Victoria has a strong passion for the outdoors and believes that once the mechanisms of nature’s healing effects are identified, nature can be used more effectively in clinical practice. She hopes that this research will help practitioners explore nature’s health benefits outside of the more common uses like attention restoration and stress recovery. Great work, Victoria! We are excited to learn more!

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Joey’s Master’s Thesis Presentation

Recently, first year Master’s student Joey, presented a proposal for his master’s thesis titled Understanding the Cultural Differences in Behavior During a Global Pandemic. Joey is interested in examining how social identity influences one’s experience of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent depression symptoms. Social identity, within the context of his study, refers to the cultural alignment of individuals, typically expressed as either individualistic or collectivistic at the most basic understanding. Individualism is typically reflective of western cultures, and describes individuals who are autonomous and independent, prioritizing their own personal goals above those in-group. Collectivism on the other hand, describes individuals who are interdependent, and prioritize the goals of their in-group over their own personal goals. Therefore, Joey predicts that collectivist individuals will be more likely to engage in prosocial behavior (such as wearing a mask and social distancing) than individualists. He also hypothesizes that collectivistic individuals will be more likely to experience greater depression and suicide ideation, in that individuals who align with the collectivist social identity will suffer more from experiencing social isolation due to procedures put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joey plans to test his hypotheses by studying samples in America as well as Japan. The main goal of his research is to establish and understand the relationships between individuals’ perceived social identities and their prosocial behavior, or lack thereof, in response to COVID-19. Once relationships between culture and behavior are established, Joey would like to investigate what information is most persuasive in promoting prosocial behavior for individuals in different cultures. Awesome work Joey, we can’t wait to receive updates!

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Emily’s Article Presentation

First semester undergraduate lab member Emily gave a presentation on the article Prevalence and predictors of burnout in Swiss farmers. The study examined burnout within farmers, whose work heavily overlaps with family and personal life. Specifically, the authors aimed to analyze the effects of stress, personal, and social factors on burnout, predicting that both situational and personal-specific predictors would relate to individual differences in burnout. The majority of the situation stressor variables correlated with burnout. For both men and women, lack of free-time had the strongest correlation with burnout, in addition to time pressure, which was a strong correlate within men. Additionally, there were strong correlations with burnout for women who reported more frequent work-family conflict, and being responsible for farm administration, while for men, both poor health status and work-family conflict were strong correlates with burnout.

After conducting multivariate analysis, the authors found that work-family conflict, personality, and social support most strongly influence burnout. Additionally, high job and home demands were found to be the main contributors to burnout, as well as social isolation in the farmers. The results indicate that in agricultural professions, in which spillover between professional and personal life occurs, family and social support may be more important factors in preventing the burnout that occurs. Emily believes this research will be a good segue into future research examining burnout in other professions that are understudied. She believes the results of this study may also have applications to people working at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Good work Emily! We can’t wait to see more of your work!

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Kolton’s Master’s Thesis Proposal

First year master’s student, Kolton, recently gave a presentation for his master’s thesis proposal titled Victim-Perpetrator Overlap and PTG. Kolton wants to study Victim Perpetrator Overlap (VPO) in college students, in which a victim of a problematic behavior (abuse, violence, etc.) becomes a perpetrator of the same problematic behavior. Stress and trauma due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may contribute to more frequent instances of being victimized or engage in problematic behaviors, because students may be forced to go home to abusers or poor home environments that could be otherwise escaped by living on-campus. Furthermore, the pandemic has limited social circles and access to mental health resources, which may contribute to increased VPO.

Some literature indicates that perpetrators are capable of experiencing PTG, especially if they were originally a victim of trauma or abuse. Therefore, Kolton wants to investigate whether or not someone who experienced PTG will go on to become a perpetrator. He predicts that people who experience PTG will be less likely become a perpetrator. Additionally, he predicts that compared to participants who start with questions regarding being a perpetrator, those who first answer questions about being a victim will be less likely to report instances of being a perpetrator. Great job Kolton, we look forward to hearing more about your thesis!

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Emilee’s Article Presentation and Hypothesis

Second semester undergraduate member, Emilee, recently gave her presentation on the article titled Crushing Hope: Short Term Responses to Tragedy Vary by Hopefulness published by Jason Fletcher in 2018. The article examines the relationship between optimism or hopefulness and experiences of trauma using a previous study’s sample of students from 1995. The study, ADD health, was administered through surveys in different waves from 1995 up until 2008. Given that the study coincided with the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001, Fletcher determined if participants experienced a traumatic event based on whether or not they took their survey before or after 9/11/2001. Fletcher hypothesized that individuals with high levels of hopefulness will: 1.) be less likely to cope with trauma and 2.) experience higher levels of depressive symptoms after a traumatic event. Results showed a large impact on participants exposed to 9/11 only for those who reported “a lot” and “always” levels of hopefulness, supporting the hypothesis.

In addition to her analysis of the article, Emilee’s presentation covered a set of hypotheses she prepared for her Honors College Thesis regarding a similar idea on the topic of resilience and the possible detrimental effects it may have on individuals. In her future analysis, Emilee predicts that participants who are highly resilient will report a lower probability of negative life events happening to themselves – the reverse being true when evaluating a hypothetical other person experiencing the same event. Great work Emilee, we are looking forward to your future findings!

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