Summer Research Grant 2004-05 Winners
Psi Chi's fourth year for offering the Summer Research Grant program included ten grant winners. Each grant included a stipend of $2,500 to the winning Psi Chi student plus $1,000 to the sponsoring faculty member at the research institution. The winners were:
The Animate/Inanimate Distinction in Prosimian Primates
Yale University (CT)
There is some evidence to suggest that human infants view animate and inanimate objects in different ways. Specifically, previous experiments suggest that infants do not always apply the tenets of core knowledge equally to human beings and inanimate objects. The current research extends this line of experimentation to prosimian primates, a population largely overlooked in the field of animal cognition. Though the results only reflect strong trends and more subjects are needed to reach significance, they suggest that like human infants, ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta), red-ruffed lemurs (Varecia rubra), and brown lemurs (Eulemur fulvus) may apply the concepts of core knowledge (specifically continuity, solidity, and cohesion) differentially to animate and inanimate objects. Ultimately, this may reflect a capacity in lemurs to distinguish between objects that can and do have minds, and those that cannot, and as such may be a precursor for the development of a functional "theory of mind".
A Native Oklahoman, Jennifer Barnes
is currently a senior cognitive science major at Yale University. Her major research interests include the phylogeny and ontogeny of "theory of mind" and related capacities, metacognition, and the relationship between object and social cognition. In addition to researching primate and child cognition, Ms. Barnes is a young adult novelist whose first book is due out from Random House in July of 2006. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Her research with prosimian primates has appeared in Animal Cognition, Journal of Comparative Psychology,
and has been featured on ABC's World News Tonight.
After her 2006 graduation, Ms. Barnes plans to pursue a graduate degree in psychology while simultaneously continuing her professional writing career with her second and third books scheduled for release in 2007.
Understanding the Role of Stress and Psychophysiology in the Transmission of Depression From Mother to Daughter
Stanford University (CA)
Parental depression has been shown to be a significant risk factor for the development of depression in adolescents. The mechanisms underlying the transmission of psychopathology from parent to child, however, are still unclear. This study investigates irregular hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity as a possible risk factor for depression among daughters of depressed mothers. Participant pairs included 14 mothers who had experienced at least two major depressive episodes in their daughter's lifetime (RSK) and 14 mothers who had no lifetime history of MDD or any other psychiatric diagnosis (CTL). Their daughters were 10-14 years old. We compared the cortisol levels of the two groups before, during, and after two stressful laboratory tasks (the Ewart Social Competence Interview and a stressful mother-daughter interaction) and at four times throughout the day on two consecutive weekdays. The results revealed few significant differences in the hormone levels of CTL and RSK participants, but two observations deserve attention. The mean cortisol levels of RSK daughters remained higher than those of CTL daughters at every point of measurement during the social stress task at session one. Moreover, while CTL and RSK participants showed similar patterns of HPA axis activity throughout the two consecutive weekdays (higher levels of cortisol in the morning and lower levels in the evening), the average levels of the two morning samples on both days were higher among RSK participants. The fact that RSK participants showed increased activity at several points of measurement during the experiment could be linked to their elevated risk for developing depression later in life, but further research is needed to determine a neurobiological explanation for this association.
Christina Branom has attended Stanford University since September 2002 and intends to graduate in June 2006 with a bachelor's degree in psychology, a minor in sociology, and a master's degree in psychology. Ms. Branom is specifically interested in research on depression, eating disorders, and sports psychology. Her master's project combines two of her intellectual interests by examining the relationship between elite-level involvement in athletics and eating attitudes and behaviors. After Ms. Branom graduates, she intends to continue working in a psychology research lab while applying to clinical psychology PhD programs. In her future career, she hopes to help advance research in psychology and apply some of this knowledge to promoting the mental health and well being of individuals. In her free time, she enjoys figure skating recreationally and teaching ice-skating. Ms. Branom is also excited to serve as the president of the Stanford chapter of Psi Chi for the 2005-06 school year and looks forward to continued involvement in the psychology community at Stanford.
Reliability of the Spanish Screening Questionnaire for Eating Behaviors and Concerns
Yu-hsuen (May) Chao
Wesleyan University (CT)
Investigating the reliability of translated assessment instruments is important because some concepts may be difficult to express in another language. This study aims to examine the test- retest reliability of the Spanish version of the Screening Questionnaire for Eating Behaviors and Concerns used in the Binge Eating Self-Help Treatment study. One hundred bilingual Latina females will be randomly assigned to complete the English and/or Spanish versions of the Screening Questionnaire in two separate sessions. In session 2, one week later, all participants will also complete the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) and the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM). Results will indicate the reliability of the Spanish Screening Questionnaire for use in the general population. Results will also verify the prevalence of disordered eating attitudes and behaviors in the Latina population as well as the relationship between disordered eating, depressive symtomatology, and degree of acculturation. Findings will have important implications for the identification of eating disorders in Latina population.
May Chao is a rising senior psychology major at Wesleyan University. Originally from Taipei, Taiwan, Ms. Chao attended National Experimental High School's Bilingual Department in Hsinchu, Taiwan. She is now studying at Wesleyan on the Freeman Asian Scholarship, a four-year full scholarship awarded to two students in Taiwan and other regions in Asia. Ms. Chao has been a part of research teams investigating decision-making, false memory, and mood, but she is particularly interested in eating disorders. After receiving her bachelor's degree, Ms. Chao will study at Wesleyan for an additional year to complete work for her master's degree. In the future, she plans to obtain a doctorate degree in clinical psychology and return to Taiwan to work in the mental health field.
Modeling the Effects of Hearing Aid Use in Aged Mice
Presbycusis is hearing loss due to aging, and is one of the most common problems that the elderly face. The common treatment for presbycusis is a hearing aid. Yet, hearing aids do not help individuals regain normal hearing immediately. Often it can take weeks or months of wearing a hearing aid before the user begins to experience noticeable benefits. This delay may cause the user to reject the hearing aid. One hypothesis for why elderly hearing aid users do not regain normal hearing immediately is that presbycusis in addition to damaging the cochlear receptor organ for hearing, also involves age and deprivation-induced plastic/reorganizational changes to auditory regions of the brain (Chisolm & Lester, 2001; Syka, 2002; Willott, 1996, 1999). The brain changes to reflect normal aging and hearing loss and must then change/reorganize again when sounds are reintroduced via a hearing aid. Little is currently known about this process. The goal of the current research was to gain a better understanding of the plastic, reorganizational changes that occur in the presbycusic brain following the reintroduction of sound.
An enriching sound environment, structured to mimic the effects of a hearing aid, was reintroduced to aged mice. Male and female aged mice with presbycusis (n=30) were either exposed to six weeks of low-level acoustic stimulation (70dB SPL broadband noise), or reared in normal vivarium conditions. The effects of the treatment were then evaluated by measuring changes in auditory behavior, primary auditory cortex single-neuron electrophysiology, GABA neurochemistry in the primary auditory cortex, and health of the receptor organ the cochlea.
Data analysis is ongoing, but initial results demonstrate that aged male and female mice responded differently to the acoustic stimulation. Aged male behavior and cochlear health were improved significantly as a result of the additional sound stimulation, whereas aged female mice exhibited no significant changes in behavior but significantly worse cochlear health as a result of the enriching acoustic stimulation. Further studies will determine what mechanisms explain this difference and whether a similar phenomenon occurs in humans with presbycusis (supported in part by NIH grant AG023910 to JGT).
Stacy Darr is a senior psychology major at Illinois College with a minor in biology. Currently, she is a member of the Student Activities Board, the president of Psychology Club, and the senior class representative of the Biology Club (Parker After Dark). Her honors include the following: member of Psi Chi, member and historian for Beta Beta Beta (Biology National Honor Society), student marshal, receiving the Willis Deryke Prize in Biology, a presidential scholar, and a 2003 Rammelkamp Scholar.
While at Illinois College, Ms. Darr also did research with Dr. Melinda Green on eating disorders, and attended the 2005 National APA Conference in Washington, D.C. At the conference, they presented their poster "Depression as a Function of Eating Disorder Symptomatology: Comorbidity Revisited."
Ms. Darr will graduate from Illinois College in the spring of 2006. She plans to attend graduate school to obtain her PhD in clinical child psychology. With her degree, she plans to pursue a career in the field of academia and research.
Cognitive and Environmental Correlates of Pointing in Young Children
Amy Lee Hart
Yale University (CT)
Although there exists a substantial body of research on the forms and uses of pointing in both adults and children, little has been done to elucidate the ontogeny of pointing. This correlative study was launched as the first in a series of experiments designed to clarify how and why pointing emerges in infants. Specifically, we hoped to determine whether infants exposed to rich environmental stimuli in the form of frequent maternal pointing would begin pointing earlier than their stimulus-poor counterparts; in addition, we tested a battery of developmental milestones to determine whether the onset of pointing is related more strongly to cognitive development or environmental input. Twelve-month-old infants and their primary care givers were first ushered into a room decorated in "zoo" motif and allowed to explore the room together under video surveillance for five minutes ("tour" portion). This session was then coded for number/form of both infant and mother/caregiver points to various objects. The second portion comprised a short experimental session in which the experimenter (myself) conducted eight game-like tasks with the infant testing object permanence, role reversal capabilities, imitation, point following, and point comprehension. Although data coding and analysis has yet to be completed, we hope to find a correlation between the frequency of maternal/caregiver pointing and infant pointing as well as a relationship between point following/point comprehension and onset of pointing.
Amy Lee Hart graduated from Port Huron High School in Michigan in 2002 and will receive a BA in psychology from Yale University in May 2006. She is a member of her chapter's Psi Chi executive board and is currently conducting her senior research project in the Yale Intergroup Relations and Diversity Lab studying public perceptions of family-friendly corporations. She also assists with various lab projects studying women in the corporate world in addition to serving as a Zigler Fellow at the Edward Zigler Center for Child Development and Social Policy. Her studies in psychology focus on child development and education, and she plans to pursue a career in education administration or policy after graduation, eventually obtaining an EdD. She also enjoys all things German, traveling in Europe, reading, running, and spending time with friends and family.
A Multi-Modal Approach to Pediatric PTSD
University of Maryland College Park
The objective was to examine the sensitization of the developing autonomic nervous system, as manifested by abnormal biophysiological readings in children with post-traumatic stress disorder. This sensitization results from overwhelming stress, and an inadequate physical response to that stress due to nascent cognitive and motor abilities. Forty children between the ages of 10 and 15 who have experienced severe environmental trauma were assessed for diagnostic pediatric PTSD using the CAPS-CA: 20 met sub threshold criteria, and 20 met supra threshold criteria. Baseline physiology readings of cardiac interbeat interval, pulse transmission time, and startle response were collected from the 40 experimental subjects as well as 20 age-matched controls. Readings were obtained through the use of a bioamplifier during two stressful tasks: a math task and anxiety-inducing video. The subjects were debriefed between and after stressful tasks with a neutral stimulus video. Preliminary univariate analysis demonstrated a significant correlation between high scores in the avoidance/numbing cluster of the CAPS-CA with low mean heart rate during the stressful math task. Data analysis identified elevated baseline HR for both experimental subgroups vs. controls. The statistically significant negative correlation between pediatric PTSD symptom severity and heart rate during a stressful task suggests a suppression of the autonomic nervous system. This finding appears stimulus specific, as it is elevated only with exposure to stressful stimuli. Higher baseline heart rate may suggest increased physiological arousal of the sympathetic nervous system when not exposed to a stressor, a contradiction of the system's normal functioning.
Brie-Anne Kohrt is a senior psychology and Spanish language major at the University of Maryland College Park. She teaches Honors 100, a liberal education class for incoming freshmen. Ms. Kohrt is also a tutor for America Reads, an organization devoted to the promotion of literacy in grades K-3. She is a member of the Golden Key Honor Society and Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. Ms. Kohrt works in the Addictive Behaviors research lab under the mentoring of Dr. Carl Lejuez. She feels this experience has been the most beneficial in her college career, as it has provided the opportunity to work with highly motivated graduate students in both a lab and drug rehabilitation setting. Upon returning this school year, she hopes to integrate what she has learned at Stanford during the summer with the research she is involved in at the University of Maryland.
Ms. Kohrt's primary interests outside of psychology are traveling and Spanish culture. She spent last semester studying Spanish art, literature, and language in Madrid. Following graduation, she hopes to spend a year in South America interning with a relief organization, synthesizing her two career interests. The following year, Ms. Kohrt plans to pursue her PhD in clinical psychology, with the hope of working with those who have experienced extreme trauma both nationally and internationally.
Are Faith and Spirituality the Building Blocks of Morality in Adolescence?
Creighton University (NE)
Stereotypically adolescence has been portrayed as a time of stress and chaos for an individual. Instead, though, research reveals that the major milestones of adolescence involve cognitive and social transitions as one becomes more independent in his or her thinking/actions (Steinberg, 2005). This project investigated the transition period during adolescence when one begins to internalize and put into practice spiritual and moral reasoning. Specifically, is it the case that adolescents expressing greater faith and higher spirituality levels will also be more involved in service projects consistent with higher moral reasoning and actions?
Allison Osborn is currently a senior double majoring in psychology and Spanish in the College of Arts and Sciences at Creighton University (NE). Her research interests include the recently completed faith and moral development project funded by a Psi Chi Summer Research grant as well as research on academic learning styles and strategies in college students in conjunction with her position as a supplemental instruction leader. Ms. Osborn's interests include developmental psychology and specifically adolescent development, as well as school psychology. Along with her position as a supplemental instruction leader in psychology, Ms. Osborn has also served as a teaching assistant to Dr. Ramie Cooney in the department of psychology at Creighton. She is a member of the Creighton Dance Company and is an active member of Delta Zeta sorority. She plans to graduate in May of 2006 and hopes to attend a graduate program in school psychology to become a practicing school psychologist.
Trait Visibility Moderates the Relationship Between Personality Judgments and Visible Behaviors
Monmouth College (IL)
Funder and Dobroth (1987) suggested that some personality traits are more visible than others, because some are more evident in observable behavior. They gathered ratings of trait visibility and, separately, self-ratings and acquaintance ratings of personality. More visible traits manifested better consensus and self-other agreement. The present study builds upon these findings by examining correlations between trait ratings and observable behavior. One hundred forty-four targets in 48 three-person groups were rated for various behaviors by trained coders using the Riverside Behavioral Q-Sort (Funder, Furr, & Colvin, 2000). Each target's two interaction partners and three independent judges, who viewed videotapes of the interaction, rated each of the targets on 100 personality characteristics from the California Adult Q-Set (Bern & Funder, 1968; Block, 1961). Coded behaviors were then used to predict composite scores from the observer judgments and interaction partner judgments. Results indicated that observable behaviors were more highly correlated with personality ratings to the degree that the personality trait in question is observable, as previously identified by Funder and Dobroth. These findings confirmed that judgments of personality traits seen as highly visible are manifested in observable behaviors, whereas those that are not as visible are not well predicted by such behaviors. Further analyses indicated that judgments made by observer judges were better explained by target behaviors than judgments made by the interaction partners.
Ryne Sherman graduated from Olympia High School in Stanford, Illinois where he was valedictorian. Mr. Sherman plans on graduating for Monmouth College in the spring of 2006. He received an Academic Honor Scholarship from 2002-06 and most recently was awarded the Monmouth College Glen Rankin Memorial Scholarship in the spring of 2005. He is a member of Blue Key, Mortar Board, Psi Chi, Phi Alpha Theta, and Alpha Lambda Delta. Mr. Sherman's future plans include applying to the University of California Riverside doctoral program in Social and Personality Psychology. He hopes to continue research in interpersonal perception and judgment accuracy with Dr. David Funder in the Riverside Accuracy Lab. Upon graduation, he hopes to pursue a career at a PhD granting institution as a professor.
Risky Business: An Analysis of Reasoning Differences in Risky Decision Making Between Adolescents and Young Adults
Creighton University (NE)
The present study examines reasoning differences in risky decision making between adolescents and young adults. Research suggests that adolescents may not have the abstract thinking abilities to weigh the long-term consequences of their actions. Knowing whether an adolescent's actions necessarily coincide with an understanding of his or her behavior will have substantial relevance to the field of developmental psychology and also the legal arena. The primary goal of this research was to develop an instrument, consisting of moral dilemmas pertinent to juvenile risky decision making, that accurately assesses an adolescent's ability to reason about his or her own actions.
High school and college students from several Midwest states completed the decision-making questionnaire. Participants were between the ages of 15 and 24. Their responses were analyzed in terms of number and types of potential consequences listed for each dilemma, the age at which they would feel competent to make such a decision for themselves. The answers were coded for their reactions to consequences given to an ambiguous, anonymous adolescent performing a similar deviant act. We hypothesized that the degree of self-fulfilling prophecy exhibited would decrease with age, whereas the understanding of the potential consequences of the risky dilemma would increase. The results will be combined with both adolescents' and adults perceptions of these perceived reasonings, as reported by Cherney and Perry (1996) and Cherney, Greteman, and Travers (2004). Due to the nature of the project and the necessity of accessing high school students during the academic year, data are still being collected and analyzed.
After graduating from Stevens High School in Rapid City, South Dakota in May of 2002, Leah Skovran enrolled at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. She is a senior psychology major with an emphasis in law and psychology. Ms. Skovran has maintained a general GPA of 3.93 and a psychology GPA of 4.0, and has been on the Dean's List each semester at Creighton. She is Vice-President of her Psi Chi chapter. Ms. Skovran was recently inducted into Alpha Sigma Nu, the highest honor given to students at Jesuit Universities, representing the top two percent of college students who exhibit the values and morals expressed in the Jesuit mission. She serves as president of her sorority and was honored to serve as the concertmistress of the Creighton University Symphony.
Ms. Skovran has been involved in a variety of different research endeavors in Creighton's psychology department. The major focus of her research involves the rights of children. Most recently, together with a junior psychology major, she investigated how parents and their children perceive their children's rights. This research was sponsored by a grant from the American Psychological Foundation and the Council of Undergraduate Research. This research will be presented at the Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) in San Francisco in the spring of 2006. In additional research endeavors, Ms. Skovran has investigated the relationship between fantasy and compulsive behaviors in psychopathic sexual offenders. After graduating in May 2006, she intends to attend a graduate program in psychology and law and pursue a career as a trial consultant.