Author(s): Meg Cooksey Psychology Gary Boehm Psychology Michael Chumley Biology Brenton Cooper Psychology Julia Peterman Psychology James Taylor Psychology Catherine M Urbano Psychology Jordon White Psychology
Advisor(s): Michael Chumley Biology
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease associated with memory loss and cognitive decline (Borlikova et al., 2013). AD is marked by the accumulation of amyloid-beta (A) protein deposits throughout the brain (Miklossy, 2008). The presence of soluble A oligomers alters synaptic formations and implicates cognitive dysfunction (Cleary et al., 2005). Furthermore, established research indicates intracerebroventricular (ICV) injections of human A potentiate cognitive deficits associated with learning and memory retrieval. (Amini et al., 2015; Borlikova et al., 2013; Freir et al., 2011). While the importance of synaptic formations in the learning process has been affirmed in existing literature, the specific phases of learning affected by human and murine A infusions is not fully understood. Here we sought to explore how A oligomer infusions impact associative learning at different points of time. Using a contextual fear-conditioning (CFC) paradigm, two experiments were carried out to disentangle which phase of learning, consolidation and/or retrieval is impacted in the presence of A oligomers. In Experiment 1, animals received an injection of A or sterile saline immediately after training and were tested 48 hours later. Results indicate that A infusions immediately after training resulted in decreased freezing behavior, indicating that A disrupted the consolidation and/or retrieval of the context shock pairing. In Experiment 2, animals were trained in CFC and received injections of A or sterile saline 46 hours later. Two hours following infusions, freezing was assessed. Results from Experiment 2 revealed that A infusions 46 hours post-training had no impact on freezing behavior. Together these results indicate that A is disrupting the consolidation of new memories and is not impacting the recovery of previously consolidated information.
Life history theory predicts that exposure to extrinsic mortality threats early in life leads to a faster life history strategy characterized by preference for present versus future outcomes. The condition of one's body also determines the probability of survival. With this in mind, we predicted that a marker of damage to one's body, levels of the proinflammatory cytokine IL-1β, would also promote preference for present over delayed outcomes.
We found that levels of serum IL-1β predicted more reported impulsivity, less preference for delaying gratification, and a more present temporal orientation. Additonal analyses suggest that environmental stress may partially exert its effect on temporal focus through somatic damage.
From the perspective of Terror Management Theory (TMT), humans hold the potential to experience paralyzing terror due to the understanding of our eventual death. This terror results from the effort to reconcile death awareness and the evolutionary struggle to survive. While TMT research has accumulated many significant findings since its origination, basic assumptions of this theory have recently been challenged. Some critics are pointed out that there is no direct evidence for the experience of “terror” within the TMT literature (Marten & van den Bos ,2014) as mortality salience (MS) effects have been largely observed through the use of self-reported questionnaires and a terror after MS manipulation is mostly inferred. The current study attempts to address these concerns by seeking to obtain the confirmation of unconscious terror to mortality salience measured via salivary cortisol response.
Author(s): Jamie DuBois Psychology Brenton G. Cooper Psychology Courtney Favoloro Psychology Emily A. Spradley Psychology Catherine M. Urbano Psychology
Advisor(s): Brenton G. Cooper Psychology
Songbirds are an appealing animal model for speech acquisition partially due to the fact that they are also vocal learners, meaning they acquire their vocalizations through imitation (Doupe & Kuhl, 1999). Birdsong is defined as a "chain of discrete acoustic elements arranged in a particular temporal order" (Berwick et al. 2011). While Bengalese finches (Lonchura striata domestica) have a repertoire of 8-12 syllables (i.e. acoustic elements), the sequence of these syllables can vary according to set patterns and rules. Song sequence stereotypy, linearity and consistency are measures of syntax. The Bengalese finch song is semi-variable. Some syllable-to-syllable combinations are fixed, whereas some syllables (hereafter, “branching syllables) can be followed by multiple syllables (hereafter, “branching points”). In the avian brain, two different neural pathways are responsible for song acquisition and production, and both pathways are controlled by the avian premotor nucleus, HVC (proper name). Previously, we have found that male Bengalese finches show initial acoustic impairment and gradual recovery over the course of seven days after small, unilateral HVC microlesions (right hemisphere = 4, left hemisphere = 4). Here we explore whether HVC contributes to maintaining and recovering song syntax, as well as potential differential effects of lefts versus right HVC microlesions. To answer these two questions, we analyzed the syntax of previously collected songs at three different time points: baseline (pre-surgery), post-surgery day 4 (PSD4), and post-surgery day 7(PSD7). Each syllable was assigned a unique label, however, due to the extent of song degradation at PSD4, we did could not “match” syllables across days. Using an online java applet, the Songinator (Zevin, Seidenberg & Bottjer, 2004), we computed scores for stereotypy, linearity and consistency. Using a 2 x 3 repeated-measures ANOVA, we did not find any significant differences across time points for stereotypy (F(1.09, 6.53) = 0.18, p = 0.40), linearity (F(2,12) = 0.94, p = 0.42), or consistency (F(2, 12) = 0.63, p = 0.55). We also did not find an interaction effect for stereotypy (F(1.09, 6.53) = 0.84, p = 0.41), linearity (F(2, 12) = 1.25, p = 0.32), or consistency (F(2, 12) = 0.27, p = 0.77). However, we observed that right HVC microlesions exhibited increased linearity over time (Pre: 0.29 ± 0.02, PSD4: 0.31 ± 0.02, PSD7: 0.34 ± 0.01) . We examined this finding in more detail by computing the a change ratio (PSD4/pre-surgery) for the number of syllables and the average number of branching points per syllable. We found that HVC damage increased the number of unique syllables in both groups. Interestingly, there was also an increase in the number of branching points, but only in the left HVC group, compared to the right HVC microlesion (t(6) = 1.853, p = 0.057, one-tailed). These results support previous findings that HVC lesions disrupt vocal production and suggest novel syllables are the result of impaired motor control. These results also suggest that control of song syntax is somewhat lateralized. Left HVC microlesions initially impair the birds’ ability to produce a stereotyped song by making syllable transitions more variable. Therefore, the right HVC controls song variability, and left HVC song stereotypy.
Terror management theory suggests that when mortality concerns are salient, religion can serve as a defense in an attempt to boost self-esteem and shield against the potential for anxiety. Interestingly, however, very little research has been conducted on people who actively question their religious beliefs in order to attain a better understanding (i.e., quest religiosity). Recent research suggests that quest religiosity moderated the effects of mortality salience in that participants who were high in quest religiosity experienced a decrease in self-esteem following reminders of death. Building on these findings, the current studies further examined quest religiosity to extend to underlying death cognitions and fear of death. Study 1 found that individuals who were high in quest religiosity experienced a greater accessibility of death-related thoughts. Additionally, Study 2 demonstrated that quest religiosity fully mediated the relationship between fear of death and well-being among religious individuals. Specifically, high fear of death predicted greater quest religiosity that, in turn, predicted lower well-being. These results suggest an associative link between fear of death and quest. Importantly, religion can serve as a buffer for existential terror but questioning these beliefs lowers their efficacy and impacts well-being.
Author(s): Jill Hoffman Psychology Emily Brown Psychology Cathy Cox Psychology Gabriella D'Ambra Psychology Katherine French Psychology Mike Kersten Psychology Paulina Mozo Psychology
Advisor(s): Cathy Cox Psychology
Previous research suggests that individuals pursue close relationships because they help people cope with mortality awareness (Mikulincer, Florian, & Hirschberger, 2003). Further, there is some evidence to suggest that individuals achieve a sense of death transcendence through the prospect of parenthood. For example, following reminders of death, people have a greater desire for children (e.g., Wisman & Goldenberg, 2005), have more vivid and accessible parenthood-related cognitions (Yaakobi, Mikulincer, & Shaver, 2014), and are more negative toward strict birth-control policies and more positive toward younger family members (Zhou, Liu, Chen, & Yu, 2008). However, no prior work has examined parenting behaviors directly. For this reason, the purpose of the present research was to examine whether people display more behaviors associated with responsive caregiving following reminders of mortality. Participants were exposed to a mortality salience manipulation in which they were randomly assigned to complete items relating to their fear of death or public speaking (the control condition). Following this, everyone took part in a simulated baby paradigm to assess participants’ responses to a simulated infant doll that was programmed (wirelessly) to begin crying inconsolably (Rutherford, Goldberg, Luyten, Bridgett, & Mayes, 2013). The extent to which participants engaged in caregiver-based touching behaviors (i.e., holding the baby in a meaningful way in an attempt to calm or soothe the baby) toward the simulated crying infant served as the dependent variable. The results revealed that, in comparison to the control condition, reminders of death led participants to engage in a greater degree of caregiver-based touching behaviors while interacting with a simulated crying infant. Overall, these initial findings suggest that reminders of death influence actual caregiving behaviors and suggest that people may display more optimal parenting behavior in the real world when thoughts of death are salient.
Background: There is significant variation in toddlers’ abilities to suppress dominant responses and perform subdominant responses, an aspect of temperament known as effortful control. Effortful control emerges relatively late in infancy, beginning around 12 months of age and surging around 24 months of age. This late pattern of development allows for earlier-developing factors to influence the development of effortful control, like the parent-infant attachment relationship and other temperamental constructs. While the importance of the parent-infant attachment relationship is widely supported by research, one noteworthy limitation of this body of work is the underwhelming amount of research on the father-infant attachment relationship (Hoffman, 2000; Lounds, Borkowski, Whitman, Maxwell, & Weed, 2005). Evidence suggests that father-child interactions provide children with unique experiences that may not occur with their mothers (Grossmann, et al., 2002). For this reason, the current study examines both parent-infant attachment relationships. Previous research has also shown that one aspect of temperament can moderate the expression of other aspects of temperament (Gartstein & Rothbart, 2003; Kochanska, 1993; Rothbart, Ahadi, & Evans, 2000). With each dimension of temperament emerging at different times, it is important to understand which temperamental constructs predict a greater capacity for effortful control.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine whether secure mother-infant and father-infant attachment relationships at 12 months predicted high levels of effortful control at 3 years of age. A second line of interest was to examine whether infant levels of negative affectivity and surgency/extraversion at 6 months predicted high levels of effortful control at 3 years of age.
Methods: 33 toddlers (age in years, M = 3.16) and their parents (32 mothers; 32 fathers) participated in the current study. Parents completed the Infant Behavior Questionnaire (IBQ), a parent-report measure of infant temperament, when the infant was 6 months old. Mothers and infants returned to the laboratory when the infant was 12 months old and participated in the strange situation procedure, a measure of parent-infant attachment. Fathers and infants returned to the laboratory when the infant was 13 months old and completed the same strange situation procedure. When the child reached 3 years of age, mother, father, and child returned to the laboratory and completed a battery of tasks measuring effortful control.
Results: The relationship between effortful control and parent-infant attachment was investigated using a Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient. Preliminary analyses were preformed to ensure no violation of the assumptions of normality, linearity, and homoscedascity. Attachment was investigated using infant attachment behaviors measured in the strange situation procedure. There was a moderate, positive correlation between infant resistant behaviors (M = 2.33, SE = .272) with dad and effortful control scores (M = .105, SE = .065), r = .310, n = 30, p = .048, with high resistance behaviors associated with higher levels of effortful control. Additionally, there was a moderate, negative correlation between infant contact maintenance behaviors (M = 1.34, SE = .151) with mom and effortful control scores, r = -.338, n = 30, p = .034, with high contact maintenance associated with lower levels of effortful control. The relationship between effortful control and temperament was investigated using Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient. Preliminary analyses were performed to ensure no violation of the assumptions of normality, linearity, and homoscedasticity. Temperament was investigated using parental reports on the Infant Behavior Questionnaire. There was a moderate, positive correlation between the low pleasure dimension (M =5.50, SE = .152) of temperament and effortful control (M = .105, SE = .065), r = .354, n = 31, p = .025, with high scores in low pleasure associated with higher scores of effortful control.
Conclusion: These results suggest that the father-infant attachment relationship is unique from the mother-infant attachment relationship, as different interaction behaviors with mom and dad are associated with effortful control. Interestingly, infant resistant behaviors with dad at 12 months are associated with higher levels of effortful control. Secondly, infant contact maintenance behaviors with mom are associated with lower levels of effortful control. These results could be explained by the fact that these interaction behaviors displayed by an infant exist on a continuum. It could be argued that children who exhibit high levels of resistant behavior towards mom are also able to resist a dominant response and initiate a subdominant response easily, indicating high level of effortful control. Similarly, while some contact maintenance is a component of secure attachment, too much contact maintenance could indicate an insecure attachment relationship, as the child could be too dependent on their parents and fail to explore the environment.
Context effects within attitude research are well documented; however, recent developments in evolutionary psychology (e.g., fundamental motives framework) offer new possibilities for the study of attitudes. The Fundamental Motives Framework states that we have motives which reflect evolutionary goal relevant to survival and reproduction, and these motives weave their way through human life, guiding behavior to satisfy goals. These motives interact with behavior in several ways, but research remains to be done in certain areas. In two studies, we examined how fundamental motives interact with women’s attitudes of potential (male) partners. In two studies, we examined two separate fundamental motives and a number of attitude items. We predicted in Study 1 that women would have more positive attitude toward a cold, but competent man when primed with resource scarcity (as compared to a control. In Study 2, we predicted that women would have a more positive attitude toward a cold but dominant man when primed with disease threat. In both studies, we found that women’s attitudes toward our two “real” men were affected by fundamental motives. In Study 1, women expressed less of a preference of the warm over the cold (but competent) man when primed with resource scarcity, and in Study 2 women expressed less of a preference of the warm over the cold (but dominant) man when primed with resource scarcity. We discuss potential mediators, though found no evidence to support a mediator at this time.
When do people self-radicalize? When and how, for instance, do so-called “lone wolves” go from mild dislike for a target group to extreme hatred, all without any negative additional information? The evidence gathered about recent lone wolf terror attacks around the world suggests that the attackers all too often sat in a room somewhere and simply “thought” themselves into extremely negative attitudes. Attitude Representation Theory (Lord & Lepper, 1999) suggests that self-radicalization can happen to anyone, and describes how the process of self-radicalization might work. Self-radicalization, defined as adopting a more negative attitude toward a stimulus at time 2 than at time 1 without any additional external information, can occur through self-generated thoughts that, in the interval, increase the probability of more negative associations to the attitude object. What might those intervening self-generated thoughts be? One possibility is that they might consist of generalization. People generalize all the time. Especially when we know little about them, we tend to assume that others who misbehave in one situation will do so in other situations.
To test whether generalization might polarize negative attitudes toward a social group, we gave MTurk workers (of many different ages and backgrounds) information about 14 members of a fictitious group, who called themselves choosy, aggressive, wordy, blunt, tense, dissatisfied, restless, rebellious, demanding, strict, argumentative, cunning, and anxious. Then a randomly selected half of the participants were asked to generalize, by writing in a text box for 5 minutes detailed descriptions of how members of VSG#62 might display the 14 traits in both work and social situations. After that, all participants completed a battery of demographic and individual difference questionnaires, tried to recall the initial 14 traits attributed to members of VSG#62, and reported for the second time how much they liked or disliked the group. As predicted, participants who did math problems continued to dislike the VSG#62 group, but no more than they had previously. Participants who were encouraged to generalize, in contrast, reported disliking the VSG#62 group more intensely than they had before. We discuss the sample, and potential individual differences that might influence these effects.
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia and is currently estimated to affect over 5 million Americans. There is no treatment for AD, and the incidence is expected to increase, as our population grows older. Many risk factors for AD have been identified, several of which involve stress and inflammation. Repeated injections of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a bacterial endotoxin, have previously been shown in our laboratory to exacerbate AD pathology, i.e. increase amyloid-beta (A-beta) levels and cognitive dysfunction. Our study aims to explore the connection between early-life stress and AD pathology in adulthood. Furthermore, we seek to understand how inflammation interacts with previous stress exposure. Using a non-transgenic mouse line, maternal separation (MS) was implemented daily from post-natal day 2 (PND 2) to the time of weaning (PND 21) to model developmental stress. After weaning, all animals were housed under regular conditions until adulthood. At 5 months of age, animals were administered LPS for 3 or 7 days , modeling an acute stress event. Following LPS administration, cognition was assessed using a contextual fear-conditioning (CFC) paradigm. Tissue was then collected and A-beta levels were quantified. Current results demonstrate that cognition was impaired in animals exposed to early-life stress, but this effect was not potentiated by LPS administration. Additionally, MS alone was insufficient to increase A-beta levels, but MS interacted with 3 days of LPS exposure to exacerbate A-beta accumulation in the hippocampus. Overall, results suggest that early-life stress exacerbates inflammation-induced AD pathologies. Further studies are needed to identify the specific mechanisms involved in inducing these changes.
The pace of children’s vocabulary learning reaches a peak between the ages of 8 and 10 years; however, little research has focused children’s acquisition of new vocabulary after toddlerhood. The purpose of this study was to contrast two theories that address how contiguous presentation of words and images produces object naming. The Naming Hypothesis predicts an advantage to hearing the name before seeing the image (Horne & Lowe,1996), whereas accounts based on perceptual conditioning may predict an advantage to observing the image first (Greer & Longano, 2010). Children between the ages of 4 and 7 years participated. Each child received six training sessions, each consisting of 20 presentations of images of four novel birds paired with their spoken names. In the word-first condition (three sessions), the bird name was played before the image appeared on the screen, and in the bird-first condition (three sessions), the bird image was shown ahead of the auditory stimulus. After each session, the participants were tested for recall of bird names. Results are pending completion of data collection.
For years, animal researchers have demonstrated that animals living in crowded environments diversify both body and behavior, opening new resource niches for exploitation. Two studies tested the hypothesis that crowding should also lead to diversity in human psychology, illustrated by increases in creative thinking. Increased creativity would help secure new opportunities for resource acquisition in environments filled with competitors. In both studies, participants viewed a crowding or control prime, then completed measures of creativity. In Study 1, participants completed a measure of openness, a trait positively associated with creativity. Individuals exposed to crowding cues reported more openness than those exposed to the control. In study 2, participants completed self-report and behavioral measures of creativity, followed by measures of resource concern and early environment. Analyses using conditional process revealed that crowding led to increases in creativity, with these effects being mediated by increases in resource concerns and moderated by childhood environment.
Previous work has demonstrated that nostalgia, a sentimental longing for the past, is associated with several psychological, emotional, and social benefits. More recently, research has found that nostalgic reflection can improve individuals’ physical health (Kersten, Cox, & Van Enkevort, 2016). Building on this, the current studies examined the relationship between nostalgic reverie and the experience of physical pain. In Study 1, a community sample of participants (Amazon’s Mechanical Turk; mTurk) reported their level of pain severity and then completed a measure of nostalgia proneness. In Study 2, participants were randomly assigned to a pain induction (versus a balance task; the control condition) and then everyone completed a measure assessing feelings of state-level nostalgia. Finally, participants were randomly assigned to write about either a nostalgic or ordinary event and were then either exposed to a painful procedure (i.e., algometer task; Study 3) or asked to rate their perceived pain severity (Study 4). The findings demonstrate that individuals who experience chronic pain are more prone to nostalgic thought (Study 1), and eliciting pain in participants results in greater feelings of nostalgia (Study 2). Further, in comparison to the control condition, nostalgic reverie led participants to report lower pain sensitivity (Study 3). Lastly, the current research examined whether nostalgic thinking helps to reduce the perceived severity of physical pain among chronic pain sufferers (Study 4). Collectively, these findings demonstrate the interventional potential of nostalgic reverie by being the first to show how nostalgia can be a potential mechanism to offset physical distress.
Introduction: Relational aggression refers to behaviors that are intended to harm others through the manipulation of relationships, social status, and/or feelings of belonging (Crick, 1996; Grotpeter, 1995). It is important to understand the factors that might predict why some individuals engage in relational aggression. Heightened reactivity to witnessing relational aggression may promote feelings of discomfort and deter the individual from engaging in this type of aggression (Wagner & Abaied, 2016). Other characteristics may also influence not only participation in but also reactivity to relational aggression. Studies have found that parenting styles are a predictor of relational aggression during emerging adulthood (Jordan, 2007). A person’s attachment to his or her parent sets a working model for future relationships. Therefore, it is possible that attachment working models may influence engagement in relational aggression. Finally, self-esteem is another factor that influences aggression (e.g., Baumeister et al., 1996; Donnellan et al., 2005; Golmaryami & Barry, 2010). The current study asks if attachment representations, parenting styles, and self-esteem impact female engagement in, and physiological responses to, relational aggression.
Method: For this study, 90 college female students between 17–23 years of age participated. Prior to the visit, participants filled out questionnaires about their demographics, their experiences with their parents (CRPBI; Margolies & Weintraub, 1977), their attachment style (ECR; Brennan et al., 1998), their self-esteem (RSES; Rosenberg, 1995), and their participation in relational aggression (SRASBM; Linder, Crick, & Collins, 2002) Participants’ physiological response was measured with galvanic skin sensors while they watched a video clip from Mean Girls depicting relational aggression and also participated in an interview about social stressors and experiences.
Results: The results revealed a significant influence of attachment anxiety, b = -.666 (SE = .322), p = .041, R2 = .23, on relational aggression. Additionally, greater maternal autonomy had a significant effect on relational aggression, b = .122 (SE = .051), t = 2.39, p = .019, R2 = .23. Maternal firm control, b = -.111 (SE = .058), t = -1.92, p = .058, R2 = .12, had a marginally significant effect on relational aggression as well. Attachment anxiety had a significant influence, b = .180 (SE = .075), t = 2.40, p = .018, R2 = .28, on proactive relational aggression. Attachment anxiety also had a significant effect on reactive relational aggression, b = .223 (SE = .068), t = 3.26, p = .002, R2 = .26. Maternal autonomy had a significant influence on proactive relational aggression, b = -.036 (SE = .011), t = -3.23, p = .002, R2 = .28. Additionally, there was a marginally significant influence of maternal autonomy, b = -.020 (SE = .011), t = -1.80, p = .075, R2 = .26, on reactive relational aggression.
Discussion: It appears that parenting and attachment influence both reactivity to and engagement in relational aggression. Good parenting serves as a protective factor against relational aggression. On the other hand, insecure attachments appear to be a risk factor for engaging in relational aggression. This research helps with understanding the mechanisms behind relational aggression and ways to support and help emerging adults so that they do not engage in relational aggression.
The ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) of rats are produced at frequencies above the level of human hearing. USVs are often used as a tool to assess the emotional state of rats. Previous research has identified two main call types for rats: 22 kHz (related to strongly negative emotion) and 50 kHz. 50 kHz calls can then be further broken down into constant frequency (CF) and frequency modulated (FM) subtypes. FM calls are produced with a bandwidth greater than 15 kHz; these calls are related to positive emotional states. Whereas, CF calls are produced with a constant frequency and a bandwidth less than 10 kHz. Our lab hypothesizes that CF 50 kHz calls are expressions of anxiety in rats. Our lab has previously explored the vocalizations of rats across a continuum of negative affective state (i.e., from anxiety to fear) within a single testing session using a sequence of temporally consistent mild footshocks. The current experiment explores USV production in male and female rats when the temporal predictability was reduced by randomizing the time between footshocks. We utilized an unpredictable footshock paradigm with the goal of increasing or prolonging a state of anxiety as compared to our previous procedure. In this paradigm, shocks were administered across three successive days: on Day 1, mild footshocks were administered in a pseudo-randomized pattern, on Day 2, subjects were returned to the same context but did not receive footshocks, and on Day 3, a single reinstatement shock was administered. In addition to USVs, rearing and freezing behavior were also recorded and used to assess anxiety and fear. To explore sex differences, both male and female rats were tested in this paradigm. Significant differences between sexes were found in both overt behavior (rearing and freezing) as well as USV production. Specifically, the male rats exhibited behavior that suggests a more strongly negative emotional state (i.e., fear). These results could aid in the construction of a more efficient animal model to use in research for the study of anxiety disorders and potential therapeutic interventions.