Author(s): Karen Ji Psychology Robert Arrowood Psychology Lexie Bryant Psychology Christina Ostovich Psychology
Advisor(s): Cathy Cox Psychology
Location: Session: 1; Basement; Table Number: 7
In an effort to improve academic achievement, we examined the effects of meaning in life (MIL) on grade performance. Prior research has found that MIL is associated with better adjustment to stressful life events. Fall semester freshmen in general psychology courses were asked to complete measures of MIL and academic adjustment. At the end of the semester, their final grades from general psychology courses were collected from the Registrars’ office. The results revealed that higher meaning presence persons reported experiencing better academic adjustment to college. Higher adjustment was associated with increased end of the semester final grades in general psychology . No effects emerged in response to meaning search. These findings suggest that the presence of MIL in early college life could have important implications for academic well-being and achievement.
Author(s): Madison Johnson Biology Kelly Brice Psychology Christopher Hagan Biology Taylor Jamali Biology Julia Peterman Psychology Jordan White Psychology
Advisor(s): Gary Boehm Psychology Michael Chumley Biology
Location: Session: 1; 2nd Floor; Table Number: 8
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive form of dementia marked by decline in cognitive functioning and memory loss due to protein abnormalities in the brain. One early cognitive deficit seen in AD is a contextual acquisition deficit. However, evidence suggests that deficits in contextual extinction learning may present earlier than acquisition deficits. Extinction is a type of learning process by which the brain acquires information inconsistent with information it had previously learned, and gradually begins to accept this new information instead of the old. As psychological stress has been linked with increased Alzheimer’s markers, it is important to explore the interaction between stress and contextual learning.
In our first experiment, male C57BL/6J mice were divided into three groups – unpredictable stress (US), isolation, and group housed (controls). All three groups were trained in a contextual fear conditioning. After training, the animals in the isolation and US groups were isolated in individual cages for seven days. In addition to living in isolation, the US group underwent seven days of variable, unpredictable stressors which include 2 hours of wet bedding, cage tilted at 45 degrees for 30 minutes, 30 minutes of restraint stress, 5 minutes of forced swimming in warm water, placement in an empty cage for one hour, and nesting material removal overnight. These stressors were applied in a random order every day for 7 days. On the eighth day, acquisition learning was assessed. Animals in the US group showed significant deficits in acquisition of contextual fear conditioning compared to isolated animals and group housed controls. Extinction learning was assessed on days nine through twelve. There was no effect of US on extinction learning, as there was likely a floor effect due to impaired acquisition. In the second experiment, animals were divided into US and a group housed control group. The US animals underwent the same series of stressors listed previously for six days. On the seventh day, all animals received one 250mg/kg injection of LPS, a bacterial mimetic, to determine how stress impacted the immune challenge. Four hours later, the hippocampus was collected for cytokine and HMGB1 mRNA analysis. As the elderly face surmounting odds of AD, along with significant stress, research on how these interact and early diagnostic signs is especially relevant.
Author(s): Mackenzie Jordan Psychology Karen Borowski Psychology Cheyenne Elliot Psychology Kenneth Leising Psychology
Advisor(s): Kenneth Leising Psychology
Location: Session: 2; 3rd Floor; Table Number: 2
Reinforcer devaluation involves pairing an appetitive stimulus (e.g., food) with an aversive event (e.g., illness), which disrupts the ability of the stimulus to elicit behavior (Adamson & Dickinson, 1981). The effect of reinforcer devaluation could be the result of the stimulus signaling the aversive event. Alternatively, exposure to the stimulus and aversive event together may result in a hedonic shift, or change in the affective unconditional properties of the stimulus. The two accounts make different predictions regarding the effect of reexposure to the devalued stimulus. The hedonic shift account describes reexposure to the stimulus as necessary to experience the changed value of the stimulus, but a signaling account can explain devaluation after one pairing. Balleiene & Dickinson (1991) found that reexposure to food paired with illness was necessary to observe a devaluation effect. The current experiment investigated the devaluation of a conditioned reinforcer. Rats were initially trained with pairings of an audiovisual (light and tone) stimulus with sugar water (sucrose). In the next phase, acquisition of a new behavior, lever pressing, was supported by presenting the stimulus (conditioned reinforcer) following a lever press. During devaluation, the experimental group received one trial of the stimulus paired with a shock, whereas the control group received the stimulus and shock, but separated in time (i.e., unpaired). In Test 1, all rats were given the opportunity to press the lever with no nominal consequences (e.g., no stimulus or shock). Then, all rats were re-exposed to the audiovisual stimulus without the lever or shock. In Test 2, lever pressing was measured as in Test 1. The data will be discussed in terms of the role of reexposure in devaluation.
Adams and Dickinson (1981). Instrumental responding following reinforce devaluation. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section B: Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 33 (2), 109-121.
Balleine, B., & Dickinson, A. (1991). Instrumental performance following reinforcer devaluation depends upon incentive learning. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 43(3), 279-296.
There is empirical evidence that there is an association between nostalgia, or a sentimental longing for the past, and one’s psychological and social well-being. Additional research has shown that nostalgic reverie leads not only to increased optimism and positive attitudes towards preventative health behaviors, but also actual increased health behaviors. This study extends the research on nostalgia and health into the realm of college athletics and explores how collegiate athletes’ performance is correlated with nostalgic tendencies, in addition to various measures of well-being, optimism, meaning in life, vitality, and life satisfaction. A positive correlation is expected, such that higher performing athletes are also more nostalgia prone. This study will serve as a foundation to explore the direct benefits for athletes of nostalgic thought, the advantages of which are firmly supported in other contexts.
Author(s): Alexandra Miller Psychology Reagan Cox Psychology Anna Petursdottir Psychology Remington Swensson Psychology Alexandra Wilkins Psychology
Advisor(s): Anna Petursdottir Psychology
Location: Session: 2; Basement; Table Number: 5
Covert echoing has been hypothesized to play a role in the emergence of stimulus control over vocal naming after a person is exposed to contiguous presentation of a novel object and its name. However, experimental evidence is weak. This study examined the effects of blocking echoic responses during exposure to name-object presentations on later vocal naming. Preschool-age children were exposed to pictures of national flags and heard the associated country names. In the echoic condition, participants were instructed to echo the country name presented in each trial. In the interference condition, they were instructed to name the background color on which the flag was presented in each trial, which was presumed to interfere with echoic responding. In the no-response-requirement (NRR) condition, participants were not instructed to make any responses. Flag naming was probed after each session. Only 3 of the 5 participants showed a tendency to name the flags vocally even after repeated exposure. Of these three, only one demonstrated poorer performance in the interference condition relative to the echoic and NRR conditions. These results fail to provide support for the echoic hypothesis and are consistent with other data from our lab.
Student evaluations of teaching (SETs) are a tool commonly employed at universities for assessing faculty members’ teaching performance and even eligibility for promotions. Survey items often ask students to make judgments about the professor’s knowledgeability, teaching style, and class difficulty. Fair and consistent review of SETs is critical for faculty members as they seek to improve their teaching skills and gain professional recognition. The present study investigates the novel question of how judgments of completed SETs are made. Undergraduate students (n = 160) and faculty participants were shown and asked to make judgments about a fictional SET. The four conditions varied in whether the fictional professor being evaluated was rated lower or higher than average, and whether or not the professor gave in-class quizzes. Follow-up questions had participants evaluate why they made certain judgments about the professor. This research helps explicate the factors that contribute to faculty members’ interpretations of and students’ responses on SETs.
Author(s): Cokie Nerz Psychology Callie Benavides Psychology Cheyenne Elliott Psychology Kenneth Leising Psychology
Advisor(s): Kenneth Leising Psychology
Location: Session: 1; Basement; Table Number: 12
In nature, it is adaptive for an animal to learn to make different responses to different stimuli (e.g., climb some trees to obtain ripe fruit but forage near the base of others). In the laboratory, learning to make different responses (e.g., lever pressing vs. chain pulling) is facilitated by different outcomes (e.g., food vs. water) for each response. The current research aimed to extend this differential outcomes effect in rats with a visual discrimination procedure. Rats were reinforced for pressing a lever on the left side (left lever) of operant box in the presence of one visual stimulus (e.g., a flashing light) and for pressing the right lever in the presence of another visual stimulus (e.g., a solid light). In the experimental group, the rats received a different outcome for each correct response (flashing light -> left lever -> sugar water; solid light -> right lever -> chocolate pellets). In the control group, the rats received only one of the outcomes (e.g., sugar water) for both responses. The data will be discussed in terms of support for the differential outcomes effect. Examining the effects of a differential outcomes procedure in a variety of tasks will help to better understand the conditions under which this effect can facilitate learning.
Few studies have directly evaluated the assumption that equivalence-based instruction establishes stimulus classes with greater efficiency than direct instruction of all possible stimulus relations within each class. Therefore, this study evaluated the efficiency of EBI protocol compared to direct instruction (DI), using fifteen visual abstract stimuli (A1 through E3). Forty-eight undergraduate students were assigned to one of four groups: The EBI-DI group received EBI in Phase 1 and DI in Phase 2, and vice versa for DI-EBI group. EBI-EBI and DI-DI group received EBI and DI in both phases, respectively. In Phase 1,EBI-first groups received training on AB and BC relations and DI-first groups received training with all possible relations. After achieving mastery criterion, the ABC test included all possible trial types. In Phase 2, all groups received training to (a) add a fourth stimulus (D), and (b) add a fifth stimulus (E) to the class. No statistically significant difference was found between EBI and DI-first groups in the number of trials, reaction time during test and overall trials to achieve criteria and the performance in ABC test. There was an interaction between the first training condition (EBI vs. DI) and the second training condition (EBI vs. DI) on percentage accuracy in the first ABCD test, but not in ABCDE test.
Author(s): Anita Pai Psychology Cathy Cox Psychology Julie Swets Psychology Malia Yraguen Psychology
Advisor(s): Cathy Cox Psychology
Location: Session: 1; Basement; Table Number: 6
This study explored the extent to which nostalgia proneness (a sentimental longing for the past) is associated with attitudes towards intimate partner violence (IPV). Research has found that individuals who report more conflict in their romantic relationships also report being more nostalgic for their own and for their relationships’ past. If nostalgia is related to more conflict in relationships, then it may also be related to greater acceptance of IPV. In this study, a sample of 142 participants completed measures of self-relevant nostalgia, relationship-relevant nostalgia, and attitudes toward IPV (using it and enduring it), and relationship outcomes (e.g., optimism, satisfaction, commitment). Results showed positive correlations between nostalgia (self-oriented and relationship-centered) and self-use of IPV (both using it and enduring it). These preliminary results suggest that a sentimental longing for the past is associated with endorsement of IPV use, however, other unexplored personality variables such as attachment style may moderate these associations. Future work should explore these findings in experimental and longitudinal designs.
Investigating how people regulate their learning is important because study decisions can impact actual learning. Compared to younger adults, older adults often show age-related deficits in memory. This deficit may be because older adults are less effective at regulating their learning. One factor that can influence memory is the valence of information. Prior research has established that older and younger adults are more likely to recall emotional information compared to neutral information and also predict that emotional information will be better remembered relative to neutral information (e.g., Tauber & Dunlosky, 2012). It is unclear how both age groups regulate their learning of emotional and neutral information. Investigating this issue, older and younger adults studied words that were positive (e.g., circus), negative (e.g., snake), or neutral (e.g., fork). Participants regulated their learning by self-pacing their study (Experiment 1) or by selecting half of the words to restudy (Experiment 2). After studying each word, participants predicted the likelihood of remembering it on a scale of 0% (will not remember) to 100% (will remember). Finally, participants took a free-recall test. Consistent with prior research, both age groups demonstrated higher predicted and actual memory for emotional information relative to neutral. Importantly, both age groups’ self-paced study times did not differ for emotional and neutral information. In contrast, both age groups restudied neutral words more frequently than emotional words. Thus, when participants were forced to strategize their learning, both age groups made good study decisions, prioritizing neutral information at the expense of emotional information.
Author(s): Madeline Pitcock Psychology Abby Engelhart Psychology Grace Pecoraro Psychology Zoe Richardson Psychology Vishal Thakkar Psychology
Advisor(s): Tracy Centanni Psychology
Location: Session: 1; 2nd Floor; Table Number: 8
For my SERC grant proposal, I studied the effect of auricular vagus nerve stimulation (aVNS) on learning in adults with dyslexia. The vagus nerve is a cranial nerve that, when stimulated, initiates the release of two neurotransmitters (NT’s) that are important in learning and memory (norepinephrine and acetylcholine). When a stimulus is presented at the same time as vagus nerve stimulation, this increases neural plasticity for the paired item. We have already tested this approach on typically-developing adults using the auricular branch of the vagus nerve, which runs through the ear and can be stimulated non-invasively. During this intervention, timed bursts of electrical stimulation were delivered while the participant learned novel letter-to-sound correspondences for Hebrew letters with the goal of increasing recall and automaticity. We have already found significant improvements in letter recognition, reading speed, and nonword decoding in typically-reading participants receiving stimulation compared to those in control groups. Our ultimate goal is to help children with dyslexia read more fluently. In the first step towards this goal, we enrolled a group of adult participants with dyslexia who received 10 days of Hebrew orthography training paired with aVNS. Participants were evaluated at four timepoints to monitor learning and compare progress with other groups: at day 1, halfway through training, at the end of training, and 3 weeks after training ended. We measured letter recognition, letter-to-sound fluency, and decoding at each time point. We will present our preliminary findings at SRS and discuss future directions.
Author(s): Tori Short Psychology Jeffrey Gassen Psychology Sarah Hill Psychology Summer Mengelkoch Psychology
Advisor(s): Sarah Hill Psychology
Location: Session: 1; Basement; Table Number: 11
Early life stress has shown to be related to an increased preference for smaller, more quickly acquired rewards over larger, delayed rewards—or an inability to delay gratification—a fundamental component of impulsivity. Beyond this, impulsivity is also characterized by difficulty concentrating and exercising self-control and has been found to significantly impact learning and memory. Specifically, in children, higher impulsivity is associated with greater learning difficulties, such as with reading. Previous research has also shown that adults with higher levels of inflammation portray higher impulsivity. The current study aims to investigate the relationship between impulsivity, inflammation, and childhood environmental conditions within children between the ages of 3-17. Saliva samples were collected from 248 children visiting the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History in order to measure current levels of proinflammatory cytokines, which indicate immune activation. Children then participated in a series of tasks that measured their ability to concentrate, learn to inhibit their responses, and delay gratification, while background and demographic information was collected from their parents. Results will reveal whether children growing up in stressful environments also have higher levels of inflammation and impulsivity.
Author(s): Sarah Sullivan Psychology Timothy Barth Psychology Kaleigh Decker Psychology KatieScarlett Ennis Psychology Charles Lord Psychology Vishal Thakkar Psychology
Advisor(s): Timothy Barth Psychology
Location: Session: 2; 3rd Floor; Table Number: 3
Attitude Representation Theory (Lord & Lepper, 1999) asserts that individuals evaluate attitudes based on a subset of associations. As this subset of associations varies, attitudes can vary as well. Previous research demonstrated that people can mistake self-generated information for provided information, through source monitoring errors (Johnson, Hashtroudi, & Lindsay, 1993), after extrapolating beyond the information given (Lu, 2015). We sought to apply ART and cognitive tasks (e.g., extrapolation, embellishment, and validity) by having participants judge the actions of fictitious groups. Although these groups are fictitious, they allude to current political viewpoints. We tested the effects of extrapolation (thinking about additional attributes of a target group; Experiment 1), embellishment (convincing a friend not to join the target group; Experiment 2), and biased assimilation (testing truth and validity of sources; Experiment 3) on polarization of moral judgments. Compared to a control group, embellishment polarized negative attitudes toward the group. The current set of studies could shed some insight about how people view issues, self-radicalize judgments, and understand thoughts of lone-wolf terrorists.
Author(s): Remington Swensson Psychology Reagan Cox Psychology Camille Roberts Psychology Juliana Sequeira Cesar de Oliveira Psychology
Advisor(s): Anna Petursdottir Psychology
Location: Session: 1; 1st Floor; Table Number: 6
There are many benefits for children to receive music education. Research shows that note reading and music playing skills are positively correlated with cognitive development, motor proficiency, and self-esteem (Bilhartz, Bruhn, & Olson, 1999; Costa-Giomi, 2004; Schellenberg, 2004). The purpose of this study was to evaluate the use of equivalence-based instruction (EBI) to teach elements of music to children who have no music background in the age range of 4-7 years. The children first learned to relate the name of a note (e.g. “quarter”, “half”) to the length of the note as well as a picture of the note. They were also taught to name the lengths and names of sequences of notes (e.g. “quarter, quarter, half”). In the second part of this study, the children learned letter names of notes (e.g., “A”), keyboard placement, and what finger (e.g. thumb) goes with each letter name and piano key. Finally, we tested for emergent relations from part one and part two. Date collection in progress, but we predict to see emergence of relations between what was taught in part one and what was taught in part two. For example, when told “play this sequence on A,” participants will be able to use the correct finger on the correct piano key to play the notes in the sequence at the correct lengths.
Will work for alcohol! Reward value of alcohol in rats.
Joanna B. Thompson and Mauricio R. Papini
The misuse of alcohol is a prevalent problem in the United States, contributing to an array of public health, social, and economic issues. It is estimated that over 16 million Americans each year receive a diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder (AUD) which contributes to an economic burden upwards of $249 billion (NIAAA, 2017). Previous research has shown that alcohol has rewarding properties which motivate organisms to engage in voluntary, oral consumption (Jupp et al., 2011). Although studies have provided evidence for decreased alcohol consumption in rodents, no studies to date have examined high concentration alcohol (upwards of 60%). We used a mixed Pavlovian-instrumental paradigm to train rats to self-administer solutions of 0, 2, 10, and 66% alcohol. Once oral self-administration was established, rats were switched to a progressive-ratio schedule of reinforcement where a greater response effort was required to gain access to each of the alcohol solutions. Solution presentation was switched between rats each day. Higher levels of behavioral responding to an empty sipper to gain access to the alcohol solution was indicative of the reward value of that particular solution. Rats exhibited similar breakpoints for each alcohol solution, though expended less effort for 0% (water). Future directions will involve antagonizing the orexin-1 receptor, which has demonstrated to decrease alcohol consumption (Anderson et al., 2014). A non-peptide selective orexin-1 receptor antagonist, SB-334867, will be administered prior to sessions of progressive-ratio alcohol self-administration to determine the effective dose (0, 1, 5, or 10 mg/kg) at decreasing self-administration of alcohol. These findings are relevant for developing an animal model of alcohol intoxication aimed at a potential clinical drug therapy for alcohol abuse.
Anderson, R., Becker, H., Adams, B., Jesudason, C., & Rrick-Kehn, L. (2014). Orexin-1 and orexin-2 receptor antagonists reduce alcohol self-administration in high-drinking rodent models. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 8, 33.
Jupp, B., Krivdic, B., Krstew, E., & Lawrence, A.J. (2011). The orexin-1 receptor antagonist SB-334867 dissociates the motivational properties of alcohol and sucrose in rats. Brain Research, 1291(1), 54-59.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2017). Alcohol use disorder. Retrieved February 2019 from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders
Author(s): Zach Wade Psychology Shannon Conrad Psychology Sara Guarino Psychology Quynh Nguyen Psychology Mauricio Papini Psychology
Advisor(s): Mauricio Papini Psychology
Location: Session: 1; 2nd Floor; Table Number: 5
Since the 1920s, it has been recognized that nonhuman animals are capable of forming expectations about rewards and exhibit emotional responses when those expectations are violated—when obtained rewards have lower value than expected rewards. Our lab utilizes a rodent model for coping with unexpected reward loss with a specific interest in furthering our understanding of the underlying neural correlates. Frustration effects in rats are commonly and reliably produced using the consummatory successive negative contrast (cSNC) procedure, where rats are given access to a highly preferred 32% sucrose solution followed by an unexpected downshifted to 4% sucrose. Such surprising nonreward leads to a suppression of behavior compared to a control group that always received the less-preferred, 4% sucrose solution. Studies involving neurological manipulation indicate that permanent lesion or reversible deactivation of the central amygdala (CeA) and the basolateral amygdala (BLA) eliminate the cSNC effect. While these studies are important for identifying key structures, they provide little information about the underlying circuitry. The present research examined the role of the neural pathway between the BLA and CeA in the cSNC task using a chemogenetic approach known as Designer Receptor Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADDs). Inhibitory DREADDs are intracranially infused into the key structures and later activated by intraperitoneal injections of clozapine N-oxide (CNO). Both groups of rats received unilateral inactivation of the BLA and CeA. The experimental (contralateral) group has one functioning area in each hemisphere, a procedure that disrupts communication between the two areas. The control (ipsilateral) group has one hemisphere disrupted while the other is left intact. Preliminary results indicate a disconnecting the BLA-CeA pathway reduces the cSNC effect in contralateral rats compared to ipsilateral rats. The BLA-CeA pathway is necessary to respond to surprising nonreward. These results add to the hypothesized model of circuity underlying unexpected reward loss in mammals. Because the amygdala circuitry is highly conserved across species, these results inform us about the neural circuitry engaged by similar instances of frustrative nonreward in the human brain.
According to Terror Management Theory, religious people are motivated to cling to their religious beliefs when reminded of their death. Quest motivated religious people, however, value doubt in their beliefs and are uncertain about the validity of their religion. The purpose of the present work was to examine medical decision making among individuals who actively question their religious beliefs when death concerns are salient. Specifically, we found that individuals who are quest motivated reject traditional faith healing in favor of more scientific medical practices. These effects were exacerbated by death awareness. These findings support previous research suggesting that quest individuals are motivated to embrace their religious doubts in when faced with existential concerns.
Terror Management Theory suggests that individuals rely on worldview defenses to contend with mortality concerns. Similarly, religious individuals bolster their specific beliefs in order to defend against the awareness of death. Five studies examined the intersection between quest religiosity (e.g., individuals whose religious worldviews are to doubt and question), worldview defense, and existential anxieties. We hypothesized that quest individuals have weakened religious beliefs causing greater death thought accessibility. Additionally, quest individuals should display heightened secular worldview striving following mortality salience and less certainty in their own religiosity.
The current research examined childhood environmental factors driving the development of an unpredictability schema (a mindset about the world and people in it as unpredictable) and how maintaining such a cognitive schema impacts body awareness and eating in the absence of hunger. In Study 1, low childhood SES, parenting inconsistency, and poor childhood neighborhood quality predicted development of an unpredictability schema, which predicted lower body awareness. In Study 2, participants with an unpredictability schema had lower body awareness, less mindful eating, and more self-reported eating in the absence of hunger. In Study 3, this pattern was conceptually replicated in a laboratory eating task demonstrating that participants with an unpredictability schema had lower body awareness, which predicted more eating in the absence of hunger. Together, these results suggest that development of an unpredictability schema may be an important predictor of low body awareness and eating in the absence of hunger. Although these outcomes may have historically promoted survival in unpredictable environments, they may contribute to obesity in contemporary food-rich environments.
(Presentation is private)
Alternative seating is being used in classrooms around the nation, but its efficacy, especially for children that are not typically developing, has not been well-studied. This study looks at the effects of four different types of alternative seating on focus, problem solving, and feelings of calm and attentiveness as compared to a control condition. A chair was designed specifically for this study, in an attempt to better serve the needs of children with postural disorders and learning disabilities, as past research has shown that these children do not perform as well on therapy balls (Bagatell, Mirigliani, Patterson, Reyes, and Test, 2010). Two versions of this new chair were included in the study, as well as a normal chair with a weighted blanket, and a therapy ball. The participants were between five and nine years old and were asked to complete some executive functioning (EF) tasks and answer some questions about how they felt, while being videotaped so that observational data on their on-task behavior could be coded later. Meanwhile, their parents completed a questionnaire about their child, including some questions about any diagnoses the child might have. The data has not been fully analyzed yet, but I hypothesize that children with learning disabilities and postural issues will do much better on the EF tasks in the new chairs or with the weighted blanket than in the therapy ball or control condition. I anticipate that typically developing children will do better in all of the alternative seating options than in the control. Furthermore, I do not anticipate that one alternative seating option will be significantly better for every child. Rather, I hypothesize that results will vary from child to child, suggesting that each classroom should have a variety of alternative seating options, so that children can find the one that works best for them.
Author(s): Alexa Calcagno Psychology Christopher Hagen Biology Julia Peterman Psychology Mark Quiring Biology Jordon White Psychology
Advisor(s): Gary Boehm Psychology Michael Chumley Biology Meredith Curtis Biology
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disease currently affecting 5.5 million Americans. Moreover, the disease prevalence is expected to rise to 16 million by 2050. Characteristic AD pathology includes neurofibrillary tangles of tau protein and amyloid-beta (Aβ) plaques, which correspond with a deterioration of memory and cognition in patients afflicted with AD. Aβ is a peptide resulting from cleavage of amyloid precursor protein (APP) primarily present within neuronal cell membranes. The Aβ peptide aggregates into Aβ plaques throughout the AD brain, but a brain structure impacted heavily and early on in the disease progression is the hippocampus. As mice do not naturally form plaques, our lab utilizes the 5xFAD transgenic mouse, a model of familial AD, wherein genetic mutations result in plaques and allow us to study this human AD pathology in mice. Previous research from our lab has shown that 5xFAD mice that are chronically stressed through social isolation, as opposed to typical group housing, have an increased number of hippocampal Aβ plaques. The goal of the current project was to determine whether the stress-induced increase in Aβ plaques could be prevented through exposure to physical exercise alone, or to exercise and an enriched environment throughout the period of isolation. Two-month-old mice were housed in isolation, housed in isolation with an exercise wheel, or housed in isolation with an exercise wheel and an enriched environment. After 3 months, cognition was assessed through contextual fear conditioning, and brains were collected for hippocampal Aβ plaque counts.
Terror management research has shown that, following mortality salience (MS), death-thought accessibility (DTA) and distal worldview defenses appear after a delay. However, to date, delay times for DTA and worldview defense activation have differed, with longer periods being better. While the time course is theoretically understood (Arndt, Greenberg, & Cook, 2002), the optimal time to assess DTA and worldview defense seem to differ between studies. Two experiments varied the time following MS to see when DTA (Study 1) and worldview defense (Study 2) should ideally be assessed. Participants, in both studies, were assigned to either an MS or control prime and then to one of four delay conditions (0 min, 5 min, 10 min, & 15 min). In Study 1, DTA was assessed with a lexical decision task and demonstrated strongest DTA effects at 10 min. In Study 2, worldview defense was assessed using the Moral Transgression Scale, which demonstrated that worldview defense was strongest after at 15 min. The current research is important for better understanding how to appropriately conduct TMT research, as well as clarifying potential errors with other studies.
How do people judge the morality of groups who do negative behaviors for an admirable cause? For example, some participants responded to groups of people who disrupt abortion clinics, in order to save unborn children. In the current study, we tried to answer this question through the lens of Attitude Representation Theory (Lord & Lepper, 1999) and audience tuning (Higgins & Rholes, 1978). Previous research (Lu, 2015) has also shown that using an ART approach, self-radicalization can occur, such that participants can persuade themselves to adopt more extreme moral judgments than before. In this study, participants were presented with a fictitious scenario and then told to either write a letter to their best friend about why their friend should not join that group (embellishment) or about campus architecture (control group). Based on previous research, we hypothesized that those who write to their best friend will later rate the actions of a group as more immoral and want to see the group be punished more. The results provided support for both of our hypotheses since participants writing to their best friend demonstrated self-radicalization. The results suggest that moral judgments can be malleable based on context and circumstance. Broader implications will also be discussed.
Author(s): Paulina Mozo Interdisciplinary Elidia Avelar Psychology Arielle Cenin Psychology Nathania Davis Psychology Kathryn England Interdisciplinary Caroline Pope Psychology
Advisor(s): Cathy Cox Psychology
The moderation of terror management effects in Broad Autism Phenotype (BAP) individuals
Paulina Mozo, Kathryn England, Elidia Avelar, Caroline Pope, Nathania Davis, Arielle Cenin, & Cathy R. Cox
The Broad Autism Phenotype (BAP; Hurley, Losh, Parlier, Reznick, & Piven, 2007) describes individuals who show characteristics similar to those with autism spectrum disorder. For example, BAP individuals show aloof personality (e.g., a lack of interest in social interaction), rigid personality (e.g., little interest in change or difficulty with change) and pragmatic language problems (e.g., inability to engage in fluid, reciprocal conversation). According to terror management theory (TMT; Greenberg, Pyszczynski, & Solomon, 1986) people are motivated to mitigate the potential for anxiety inherent in the awareness of death so that these concerns do not bloom into debilitating terror. Individuals may do so through the use of three psychological defense mechanisms that together create an anxiety-buffering system: (a) cultural worldviews, (b) self-esteem, and (c) close relationships. Additionally, individuals show a greater accessibility of death-related thoughts following disruptions to their anxiety-buffering defense system (i.e., the DTA hypothesis; Hayes, Schimel, Arndt, & Faucher, 2010). Prior research has shown that individuals high in BAP rigidity demonstrate heightened death concerns and greater defensiveness following a mortality salience (MS) manipulation (Arrowood, Cox, & Ekas, 2016). Following this line of work, the current research aimed to examine the moderating effects of a sense of control on death-thought accessibility (DTA) in BAP individuals. To test this, participants were first asked to complete the BAPQ (Hurley et al., 2007) to assess the traits of aloofness, rigidity, and pragmatic language problems. Following previous research (e.g., Landau et al., 2011; Maxfield et al., 2007; Schimel, Greenberg, & Martens, 2003), participants completed a word search puzzle as the mortality salience (MS) manipulation. Specifically, in the death condition, seven death-related words (i.e., death, dead, decay, die, funeral, burial, & corpse) were embedded as they searched for neutral target words. Then, participants were randomly assigned to a control-prime writing task (i.e., full control, no control, vs. neutral). Finally, all participants completed the word-fragment completion task to measure DTA (Greenberg et al., 1986). The task presented 25 word fragments, 6 of which could be completed with a neutral or death-related word (e.g., COFF_ _ could be completed as either COFFIN or COFFEE), and DTA score was calculated as the total number of death-related word completions. A hierarchical multiple regression was performed to examine the effects of mortality salience, control, and BAP on death-thought accessibility. The results showed a significant three-way interaction between MS, control, and BAP rigidity on DTA scores. Specifically, this study provided evidence that priming individuals high in BAP rigidity with a sense of control buffered the effects of mortality salience. Given that parents of children with ASD experience greater accessibility of death-related thoughts, as compared to parents of typically developing children (Cox, Eaton, Ekas, & Van Enkevort, 2015), the current work provides a potential solution to buffer the effects of mortality salience in this population.
Human speech production and grammatical organization of language is controlled primarily by the left hemisphere of the brain. Broca’s area is a specialized area in the left frontal cortex that is responsible for our ability to construct grammatically correct sentences. Songbirds are studied as an animal model for understanding human language production. Our research sought to explore whether the neural control of birdsong syntax of the Bengalese finch is also lateralized; if so, the Bengalese finch would provide a good animal model to further study syntax generation in humans. To investigate this question, we recorded the birdsongs of 10 different Bengalese finches; then, the HVC (letters used as proper name) brain region, an area thought to control birdsong syntax, was lesioned in either the right hemisphere or the left hemisphere for each bird. Birdsong was then recorded for five months following the surgery. Song syllables were coded and analyzed to measure the syntactic structure of the song. The birdsongs were grouped into a right lesion group and a left lesion group, and they were compared based on three measures of song syntax; sequence stereotypy, sequence consistency, and sequence linearity were measured at each time point. HVC lesion initially disrupted song syntax, but song syntax recovered. There was no significant difference between the left and right lesion groups. When looking at individual time points, the right lesion group seemed to initially lose more syntactic control four days after surgery, but the group differences were non-significant. Overall, the two groups follow a similar trend of recovery. Our results suggest that the HVC control of Bengalese finch song syntax is not lateralized as it is in human speech. The recovery of song syntax following brain injury suggests that other areas of the brain contribute to the generation of syntactic structure of the Bengalese finch song.