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A U.S Immigrant’s Personal Account of Analyzing Privilege

Posted By Dajana Rogulja, Monday, September 18, 2017
Updated: Friday, August 11, 2017


A U.S. Immigrant's Personal Account of Analyzing Privilege

Dajana Rogulja, University of Colorado Denver

My family first immigrated to the United States from Yugoslavia in the year 2001 as a family of four, which includes my mother, father, grandmother, and myself. We were fortunate or privileged enough to be able to obtain this opportunity. During the 15 years that my family has lived here, I have observed some instances in which I lack the privileges that a natural-born White American individual has and other instances in which I was more privileged than others such as one of my friends, an immigrant from Ethiopia.

I was seven years old when I first set foot into this country. I had just started first grade in elementary school in the United States. The school I attended was Holly-Hills elementary school, which at the time was slightly diverse but still a predominantly White middle class American community. My peers had already established little cliques and had been grouped. I came into the school as an outsider, who dressed and behaved differently. I wore my older cousin’s hand-me-downs, I looked like a little boy, and I spoke differently. I remember feeling as if there was a barrier between me and the other kids on the playground during recess. I used to hear the other children snicker and give me strange stares during recess because I would usually play by myself. I felt as if I was unwanted within their social circles, therefore I did not even try to establish friendships or attempt to integrate myself among one of the cliques.

I was a very quiet child, mostly due to the fact that I could not speak English or communicate with anyone. But, I was able to grasp the English language rather quickly. Thankfully, I was privileged enough to have the opportunity to be accepted within my ESL classroom. I am identifiably White, and truthfully, I do not believe that my hardships come because of my race. My friend on the other hand, a Black immigrant from Ethiopia, attended the same ESL class with me. To this day, we discuss our ESL classroom and some of the interesting distinctions between how our teacher interacted with us. The teacher treated my friend differently than everyone else. For example, I remember the teacher spending drastically more time explaining certain concepts to her than she did others. This was not because my friend was not understanding the concepts. She was probably more advanced and a faster learner than I was. Nonetheless, the teacher singled her out, making her feel less alike than everyone else. Instances like this help me to truly understand how privileged I am in the United States. If I had felt as if I was an outsider in a predominantly White middle class elementary school, and if I felt as if I was unwanted, then I can only imagine what my dear friend experienced.

As I went through my education, I found it easier to fit in and establish bonds and friendships, even join certain cliques. My Whiteness helped me to do such things and made my hardships less than those of African American individuals. I was also fortunate to have come to the United States at an early age, which allowed me to grasp the language without having an initial accent. Once I had perfected the English language, my peers became more accepting toward me. Most of the time, they had no clue that I came from a different cultural background unless I chose to disclose.

My parents, however, experienced completely different obstacles than I did. They came from a different cultural background and had not initially learned English prior to immigrating here. They have learned to speak English now, but they carry the burden of very thick accents.

Once I reached the age of 15, my parents started to heavily rely on me for translating and culture brokering for them in various situations. There are instances in which I have experienced tremendous tensions between individuals and my parents because of the simple fact that they spoke English in a very broken up way and with thick accents.

I remember being in a bank when my father was attempting to finance a loan to buy a car. After hearing my father explain his financial situations for about 15 minutes, the banker turned to my dad, stared at him blatantly, and said, “Sir, I have no idea what you just said to me. Does your wife or daughter speak better English?” Personally, I do not think the gentleman had any negative intentions in mind. I do not think that he was trying to deliberately demean my father, but one could understand the humility one would feel when put in a situation as such.  From then on, my parents never truly felt comfortable speaking publically in formal situations, and I still do most of the communicating for them.

My family and my close friend have been the building blocks to my enlightenment. Through their experiences, I have learned to identify my privileges. I do not take my privilege for granted, and I am cautious of my own stereotypical thoughts when it comes to other individuals and their cultural ethnicities. As an immigrant child, I was privileged enough to be raised with two sets of norms and values. My family has embedded the Yugoslavian norms within me but I have adapted toward the American norms at an early age as well. I thank my parents for raising me within traditional values and allowing me to assimilate to American values at my own pace. My Yugoslavian values that my parents emphasized during my childhood kept me grounded and within a realistic outlook on life. I hold very close to my family and am able to confide in them for help as well as they rely on me to be a tool and mentor for certain things.

My family has grown to be the reason to which I pursue higher education. I desire to be able to fully take care of my parents, whatever the circumstance. They are the reason why I am so privileged, why I have grown to prosper in the United States, why I am here to begin with. Although my Yugoslavian roots keep me centralized, my American cultural values keep me well-adjusted and assimilated so that I do not experience much prejudice and discrimination. I am considered, and I consider myself, a fairly privileged individual within American Society.

Tags:  A Better You  All Things Psych 

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Praise or Criticism: Which Is Better?

Posted By Psi Chi Central Office, Monday, July 10, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Praise or Criticism: Which Is Better?

Have you ever been shouted at or talked down to by a coach? Don’t feel bad—many athletes, both amateur and expert, have experienced the same thing. But why? What effect does criticizing, insulting, and even belittling people have on their performance?

Psi Chi member Thomas Gambino (Rutgers University, NJ) recently conducted a study about this controversial topic called “The Effect of Verbal Praise on Maze Completion.” In the study, some of his participants were praised while trying to complete a simple maze task. For example, at the one minute mark, these participants were told, “You are doing great. There are still four minutes left. Remember to erase your lines if you come to a dead end.”

Here’s where it gets interesting. Other participants were not treated so kindly. For example, at the one minute mark, Thomas told them all this: “You are not even close. This maze is hard, but not that hard. Are you taking this experiment seriously?”

In today’s behind-the-scenes interview, Thomas tells us a little about the inspiration and results of this fascinating project.

How did you become interested in this topic?

I became interested through my experiences playing sports. I was fortunate enough to be able to play basketball throughout high school and two years in college. I played on many school teams and travel teams. I always thought the team and I played better with a more encouraging coach. I wanted to put my theory to the test.

What were the general findings of your article?

The general findings were that the encouraging group completed their maze faster than the less encouraging group. The encouraging group was also more likely to persist in completing the task. You can read the complete study, including the encouraging and less encouraging scripts HERE.

What was it like working with participants?

It was very interesting discouraging the participants in the less encouraging group. Many of them either began talking back to me or even insulted me. This caused them to waste time in completing the maze. Many participants gave up after one discouraging statement. At times, it was difficult for me to keep a straight face while saying the discouraging statements. I am not someone that enjoys making people feel uncomfortable.

After the study was over, the participants in the less encouraging group were all relieved to know I was reading off of a script. Some were still confused about why I was “mean” to them. I definitely enjoyed praising the participants in the praise group. It was almost like I was instilling hope in them to keep going, and many thanked me for praising them while they were completing the maze.

Did any challenges arise while you were conducting the study, and if so, how did you handle them?

I had a difficult time finding participants. The study required that participants feel comfortable sitting in a quiet room with me to complete the study. I do not consider myself a creepy person but sitting alone with a stranger can be uncomfortable. What drove me to finish this study was the hope that coaches and teachers would be able to use these results in working with their students and players. Hopefully, I will be able to change a team or classroom in promoting a positive and happy environment.

What advice do you have for individuals wanting to learn more about conducting research?

I would recommend that interested individuals recruit diverse participants. Almost all of my participants were White college students. It would be interesting to see how others would react. In conducting any research/experiment, it is important that the individual loves the topic. It is not enough to be “interested” alone.

Another helpful tip is to find a research advisor who you love working with. My advisor, Dr. Verneda Hamm Baugh was instrumental to my study. I remember spending countless hours in her office working on my paper. It is definitely a long road but something I would highly recommend for every undergraduate student!

Conduct an Experiment

Psi Chi members, can you think of a time when you received praise or less than encouraging feedback from a coach or mentor? Tell us how this made you feel and how you reacted in the comments below (member login required).

Also, don't forget, submissions to Psi Chi Journal are open year round!

Tags:  All Things Psych  Conducting Research 

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Dissociative Identity Disorder in M. Night Shyamalan’s Split: Fact vs Fiction (Contains Spoilers)

Posted By Kevin Malley (Robert Morris University), Monday, June 12, 2017
Updated: Monday, June 12, 2017

Dissociative Identity Disorder
in M. Night Shyamalan’s Split:
Fact vs Fiction (Contains Spoilers)

On January 20, 2017, the new psychological thriller Split hit theaters. The movie centers on Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), a man with 23 different personalities. His psychiatrist, Dr. Karen Fletcher, states that he was diagnosed with what is called dissociative identity disorder (DID). In the movie, Kevin switches through these personalities by bringing them to what he refers to as “the light.” When a certain personality is “brought to the light,” that personality dominates Kevin’s actions. The plot of the movie is simple: Kevin’s personalities work together to keep hold of three girls so that Kevin’s 24th personality, The Beast, can consume them.

Where Split Got It Right

So how much of Kevin’s DID comes straight out of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)? And how much is just movie magic? To begin, the DSM-5 states that “the defining feature of DID is the presence of two or more distinct personality states or an experience of possession” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Kevin Crumb easily fits this description with his 23 defined personalities. The audience is introduced to at least three of these within the first 30 minutes of the film.

The second DSM criteria involves recurrent gaps in the recall of everyday events, important personal information, and/or traumatic events that are inconsistent with ordinary forgetting. When Kevin switches from The Beast back to himself, he immediately says “What did I do?” Kevin did not recall any of the events that conspired while he was dominated by The Beast.

Third, DID is typically caused by childhood trauma. Individuals are subjected to a sort of physical or emotional torture that they cannot cope with at their current developmental period. Their minds are just not strong enough to work through the pain. The individuals become psychologically weak and start looking for ways to protect themselves. One way they find is to create these splits in personalities. Instead of a weak host dealing with the trauma, a new identity is created to protect the original. This new identity is typically very different from the host identity, therefore being stronger and better apt to protect itself. As more trauma ensues, more identities are created to protect the host. The movie gives the audience a glimpse of this during a flashback of Kevin’s mother screaming and threatening Kevin. This is followed by several identities stating that those who are “impure” deserve to be consumed by The Beast. “Impure” is used to describe those who have not suffered in their lives. This is more proof that Kevin underwent extreme suffering as a child.

Where Myth Started to Take Over

Discussing The Beast is where the fiction begins to arise in Split. It is true that some physical characteristics can change as a result of identities switching, but The Beast takes it to a new level. It is possible that an individual’s eye color, handedness, or voice can change with each personality, but The Beast literally increases the size of Kevin’s muscles, becomes impenetrable to bullets and other weapons, and gains the ability to scale walls.

The Beast is also portrayed as an angry and violent creature who seeks out “impure” humans and consumes them. On the contrary, DID develops in individuals in real life as a coping mechanism, not a weapon. It is possible for individuals with DID to be violent, but in most cases these individuals use their personalities to better cope with the traumas they experienced in early life. They are actually more likely to hurt themselves than others. The one personality that does seem to help Kevin cope with his trauma is the nine-year-old boy, Hedwig. This personality is the comic relief of the movie and appears to be the personality that shows up when Kevin needs to relieve stress and act like a kid again.

Another one of Kevin’s personalities, Jade, claims to have diabetes and takes insulin shots. This aspect is highly controversial in the field. Is it really possible for the body’s chemistry to shift with the personalities so much that it develops a biological medical condition? Or does the brain just believe the individual has diabetes and needs the insulin shot? These are the types of questions that make DID so debated in the psychiatric field. It comes down to how much impact the brain actually has on biology, which is beyond the scope of this movie.

Generally speaking, Split got a lot of Dissociative Identity Disorder correct: the distinct personality states, the recurrent gaps in recall, and the childhood trauma. Unfortunately, the movie stretched itself a little too far when it changed the entire biological makeup of Kevin to turn him into The Beast. This being said, The Beast is an integral part of the movie and adds a necessary horror component to it. It may not be clinically correct, but it was a fantastic aspect of the movie and made the ending more exhilarating. Dissociative Identity Disorder is a fascinating yet controversial mental health condition that can be displayed in a many ways in pop culture, but it is always interesting to see just how far movies like Split will stretch the truth.

Conduct a Lab Experiment

The portrayal of DID in the film is controversial indeed! Psi Chi members, let us know what you thought about the film in the comments section below (member login required).

Tags:  All Things Psych 

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Psi Chi Story: Julia Daugherty

Posted By Psi Chi Central Office, Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Psi Chi Story: Julia Daugherty

Meet Julia Daugherty, who joined Psi Chi at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Julia recently received a Division 52/Psi Chi International Travel Grant for $1,500 and is now assisting with the process to start a new international chapter at The University of Granada in Spain. Today, she answers a few questions about her Psi Chi Story.

For what purpose did you use your travel award?

The travel award covered expenses from Spain to the APA Convention in Denver this past summer. Fortunately, I was able to extend my stay for a two-month research practicum at the University of North Carolina Wilmington while back in the United States. Reinforcing the research connection between these two universities has been vital to my thesis and continued education. Without Psi Chi’s travel award, this wouldn’t have been possible.

Would you have been able to attend the convention without the award from Psi Chi?

No, I wouldn’t have had sufficient funding to attend.

How did it feel to win an award from Psi Chi?

It was a great honor. There are many deserving researchers around the globe who would have also benefited greatly by attending the convention. That is why I tried to make the most of my visit, connecting with others who are likewise dedicated to the same line of research in intimate partner violence. I am deeply grateful for this award!

Would you recommend Psi Chi awards and grants to fellow students?

Absolutely! Psi Chi awards and grants give endless possibilities for learning and networking. Every psychology student and member of Psi Chi should give it a shot.

What has your overall experience with Psi Chi been like?

Very positive. I’ve found staff and other Psi Chi members to be supportive in advancing not only individual professional trajectories, but also psychology as a whole. I look forward to starting a new chapter in Granada so that more students can benefit from all it has to offer.

Describe your experience with starting a new chapter in Granada.

I first learned about the possibility of starting a new chapter at my university in Granada (Spain) when I met Dr. Zlokovich at the APA convention in 2016. I was immediately interested because Psi Chi has provided me with so many great opportunities, and I wanted to extend that to other students in Granada. There is a strong international focus at the Universidad de Granada, because all doctoral students are expected to complete an international research stay at another academic institution. Psi Chi is a great way for students to make these connections and to network with other researchers for potential collaborations.

Conduct a Lab Experiment

Psi Chi members, have you received Psi Chi funding or other experiences and opportunities due to your involvement with our Professional Organization? Take a few minutes to tell us about your Psi Chi Story in the comments below (member login required).

Also, don’t forget: this year’s Division 52/Psi Chi International Travel Grant is due June 30, 2017.

Tags:  A Better You  All Things Psych  Chapter Life 

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