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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Kayla’s Master’s Thesis Proposal

Recently, first year PhD student Kayla presented a proposal for her master’s thesis titled Growing Toward the Common Good: Collective Action During COVID-19. Kayla is interested in examining how experiences of COVID-19 may impact action focused growth, in which individuals find meaning in traumatic events by translating growth into action. With her study, Kayla is hoping to gain insight into how action focused growth contributes to collective action and to further understand how the bystander effect relates to people promoting the “common good” during the ongoing pandemic.

Kayla predicts that participants who experience growth in the wake of COVID-19 related stressors will be more likely to intervene during events that prompt action for the “common good” compared to participants who experienced either no growth or no stressors. Additionally, she predicts that individuals who see themselves as heroic will be more likely to take the social risk of intervening when in a group of people. With her study, Kayla hopes to help identify factors that predict who will engage in collective action as a form of action focused growth. Awesome job Kayla, we can’t wait to learn more!

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OU Hosts Founders’ Day Faculty Recognition Event

The annual Founders’ Day Faculty Recognition event commends faculty members whose teaching and research excellence, creative achievements, and community service have contributed to the betterment of society. They honor OU faculty members for their scholarly achievements and dedication regarding research and critical teaching roles in educating the leaders of tomorrow. This year, the FF-PTG lab’s very own director, Dr. Kanako Taku has been awarded as an honoree for her teaching. In regards to her skills in the classroom, Dr. Taku “helps her students find success by using data derived from students, making students more involved and classroom time more engaging.” But her dedication and passion for teaching goes beyond the classroom: “the students that she has supported have found success, earning awards, grants and presenting work at local, national, and international conferences”. Congrats Dr. Taku! The lab is extremely proud of you and all of your accomplishments!

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Kat’s Presentation

Senior undergraduate member, Kat, gave a presentation on The Impact of Multiple Events on Posttraumatic Growth in Adolescence. Based on previously collected data, Kat’s presentation examines the relationship between different measures of trauma severity and PTG within a sample of high school students. In addition, PTG is uniquely measured as a result of multiple events, rather than just one. Her analysis found that the number of events experienced linearly and positively correlated with PTG, as did reports of stressfulness at the time of the event(s). When filling out the PTGI, participants were more likely to experience specific aspects of PTG as a result of one event, rather than multiple events.

Interestingly, experiencing recent enduring symptoms of posttraumatic stress shared a curvilinear relationship with PTG and with specific items on the PTGI, indicating that severe symptoms of PTSS may hinder the ability to recognize or experience PTG.

Kat is currently working on adapting her results into a manuscript. Great work, Kat, we look forward to hearing more about your work!

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Kara’s Master’s Thesis Proposal Updates

Kara, second year Master’s student presented updates to her thesis proposal titled Identifying the tipping point of recognition of alcohol abuse symptoms in undergraduate students. Tipping points are typically defined as specific moments that elicit major change, or even perception of change. For her master’s thesis, Kara intends to identify tipping points for alcohol abuse symptomatology, examining undergraduate’s self-perceptions of alcohol consumption and perceptions of their peers’ consumption. Specifically, she is measuring alcohol use and subsequent symptomatology, parental alcohol use and permissiveness, and tipping points through an assessment in which participants identify how many drinks per day and duration of the behavior required to be considered problematic, as both a self-evaluation and evaluation of their peers. This spring, Kara began collecting data, which is still ongoing, but she has provided us with some preliminary data analysis. Her findings so far indicate that both self tipping points and peer tipping points are impacted by personal drinking habits. Interestingly, the averages of self tipping points were lower than peer tipping points.

Kara hopes her research will contribute to literature regarding tipping points in psychology, and the impact of exposure to alcohol on perceptions of developing a problem. Her work may have potential clinical applications in the discussion of alcohol abuse and creating interventions to reduce alcohol use disorder on college campuses. Great job, Kara! We look forward to hearing about your future findings!

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