Theses by Psychology Students

The Student Honors Papers collection represents exemplary work in psychology at Illinois Wesleyan University. The Ames Library is proud to archive these and other honors projects in Digital Commons @ IWU, the University's online archive of student, faculty, and staff scholarship and creative activity.

Come On Down: Investigating an Informational Strategy to Debias the Anchoring Heuristic
by Melissa A. Fuesting et al.

When individuals estimate the price of goods or services, irrelevant factors may affect the estimates. For example, irrelevant numbers in individuals’ environments can cause participants to “anchor” to them as starting point price estimates, such that estimates tend toward the anchor (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974; Chapman & Johnson, 1994). In fact, anchored individuals may pay up to three times as much for a product and buy 32% more products (Ariely, Loewenstein, & Prelec, 2003; Wansink, Kent, & Hoch, 1998). Because anchoring affects purchases large and small, this study investigates how to debias, or reduce the negative effects of, the anchoring heuristic. Debiasing strategies are not easily implemented outside the lab where anchoring has the largest real world effects (Strack & Mussweiler, 1997; Chapman & Johnson, 1994; George, Duffy, & Ahuja, 2000). We therefore investigated an easily implemented informational debiasing strategy offering little disruption to an individual’s daily routine. The debiasing had no effect on anchoring, but further investigation with a larger sample size and higher external validity is necessary before discounting the strategy completely.

Effects of Disclosure and Interpersonal Warmth on Attitudes toward Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Workplace
by Chelsea C. Werries

Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have been known to struggle with attaining and maintaining employment. The stigma of ASDs plays a large role in this struggle, and research on stigma management strategies in the workplace is needed. I investigated the effects of two specific stigma management strategies for adults with ASD in the workplace, self-disclosure and interpersonal warmth behaviors (e.g., asking others questions about their interests), on coworker attitudes. In this experiment, I showed participants a video of an individual with ASD interacting with coworkers. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions, featuring 1) the presence or absence of self-disclosure and 2) the presence or absence of interpersonal warmth from an individual with ASD. Participants then completed questionnaires to capture several dimensions of their attitudes. Results showed that participants in the disclosure condition perceived more warmth and competence, felt more admiration and less irritation, and had greater intentions to help and associate than participants in the no disclosure condition. Participants in the disclosure condition also reported more willingness to work with an individual with ASD than participants in the no disclosure condition. Participants in the warmth present condition reported seeing the individual as significantly warmer than participants in the warmth behaviors absent condition. Participants in the warmth behaviors present condition also reported feeling significantly less envy towards the individual in the warmth behaviors present condition than participants in the warmth behaviors absent condition.

Potential Factors Influencing Leniency toward Veterans who Commit Crimes
by Amanda Larsen

This author of this paper elected to restrict access to the full paper. Please contact Stephanie Davis-Kahl, Scholarly Communications Librarian (sdaviska [at] iwu [dot] edu), with any questions you may have about this paper.

Attachment Theory and the Sexual Double Standard
by Erin A. Vogel

The purpose of the present study was to investigate the relationship between adults’ attachment orientation and their exhibition of the sexual double standard. According to attachment theory, adults who score higher on measures of anxious attachment are more clingy, jealous, and fearful of abandonment. Those who are more avoidant are distrustful and uncomfortable with intimacy. The sexual double standard is the belief that men are rewarded for sexual activity while women are derogated for the same activity. Participants read about a male or female who has had either 12 sexual partners or 1 sexual partner. They then evaluated the person’s popularity, success, intelligence, and values. Although this study did not find evidence of the double standard, results indicated that women who are insecurely attached to their mothers judge men with more partners more harshly than men with fewer partners, and men who are anxiously attached to their romantic partners judge men with more sexual partners more harshly than men with fewer sexual partners.

Dissociating Allopregnanolone Mnemonic Effects from Sedation
by Sarah B. Hartman

Allopregnanolone (Allop) is a neurosteroid metabolite of progesterone. Allop modulates cognition, specifically learning and memory, but these effects are frequently confounded by its anxiolytic and sedative properties. We attempted to dissociate the anxiolytic effects of Allop from its mnemonic effects by employing a pharmacological challenge with d- amphetamine. Because previous research suggests that the effects of Allop may vary with the cognitive domain being tested, we assessed both spatial and non-spatial memory. Spatial memory was tested in a Morris Water Maze, and non-spatial object memory was tested on a novel discrimination task. Allop, alone or in combination with d-amphetamine did not have any significant effects on spatial memory. Neither Allop nor amphetamine alone affected memory of a novel object relative to controls, but the combination of the two produced a dissociation and enhanced performance. The results suggest that, depending on the type of memory being tested, the sedative effects of Allop can be dissociated from mnemonic effects by co-administering a sub-threshold dose of d-amphetamine.

Conditions of Cooperation between Rats in the Prisoner's Dilemma Model
by Malory B. Wodka

Reciprocal cooperation is the act of working together with another individual to increase the likelihood that the other individual will continue to work together during future encounters. Reciprocal cooperation can be explained evolutionarily because it promotes the fitness of individuals in certain conditions. Cooperation is most commonly studied in humans. However less complex mammals such as rats display cooperative behaviors in certain conditions. This study examines the necessary conditions for cooperation in rats by testing the significance of housing conditions and prior interactions between cooperating rats. We found that rats did not cooperate at levels greater than chance.

Life History Theory and the Sexual Double Standard
by Yuliana Zaikman

The purpose of the present study was to investigate the potential relationship between life history theory and the sexual double standard. Life history theory posits that one’s upbringing (e.g., whether one’s parents are divorced or not; quality of relationship with one’s father) may have physiological and psychological implications on one’s future mating strategies, especially for women. The sexual double standard is the notion that men and women are judged differently depending on their sexual activities. For the present study, we hypothesized that participants who came from single parent households or who have had worse relationship with their parents would differentially exhibit the sexual double standard compared to participants from two parent households or who have had better relationship with their parents. Participants completed questionnaires regarding their relationships with their parents and then evaluated a target individual who reported having either 1 or 12 sexual partners. Results showed that female participants who come from divorced households evaluated highly sexually active men as less successful than less sexually active men. Additionally, female participants who reported worse relationships with their mothers evaluated highly sexually active men as less virtuous than less sexually active men. There was no relationship between a female’s quality of relationship with her father and the exhibition of the double standard.

Implicit Encoding Explored Through the Flankers Task
by Jaclynn V. Sullivan

The problem we examined involves the process of selective attention and its relationship with implicit and explicit memory encoding. One task that has been used previously to examine selective attention is the flankers task, which consists of three items with the center item being the item that requires a response - the target. The two items on either side of the target are the “irrelevant” flankers. The correlated flanker effect is the difference in reaction time between the trials in which the flankers that are correlated with the correct response are present (congruent) and trials in which the flankers correlated with the opposite response are present (incongruent). Participants are about 30ms faster to respond on congruent trials than incongruent trials (Miller, 1987). The current study sought to further understand the mechanisms behind this selective attention task by asking, is incidental (implicit) learning of irrelevant information encoded in memory differently than intentional (explicit) learning? Participants completed a correlated flankers task. Half the participants were told to expect a memory task for the flankers and half were not given warning. Participants also completed an implicit memory task and an explicit memory questionnaire. Response times (RT) on congruent correlation trials and on incongruent correlation trials were measured. In the implicit memory task, participants’ responding to neutral targets surrounded by previously shown flankers was measured. We hypothesized that the greater recall of the irrelevant information in the implicit task over the explicit task. Results demonstrated no presence of the flanker effect yet participants were significantly more accurate than chance on the implicit task but not the explicit task.

Evaluating a Sensorimotor Intervention in Children who have Experienced Complex Trauma: A Pilot Study
by Lauren Hansen

The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a sensorimotor intervention with children who have experienced complex trauma. In the United States, millions of children are exposed to traumatic events each year, and thousands develop subsequent psychological disorders (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008). Researchers and clinicians are now categorizing these disorders as traumatic stress-related disorders or Developmental Trauma Disorder (Courtois & Ford, 2009), particularly when there is an interpersonal component (e.g. abuse or neglect by caregivers). Unfortunately, there is a dearth of evidence-based information available on effective treatment for complex trauma in children (Malchiodi, 2008). This study focused on incorporating principles from the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (Perry, 2009, 2006) as well as a sensory integration intervention into an effective treatment for children. Both interventions focused on increasing attunement to the self and to others while providing the brain with the stimulation that it needs to develop. The intervention took place at the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) at The Baby Fold in Normal, Illinois. The RTC is an inpatient treatment center for children with severe emotional and behavioral problems, which are typically related to early, chronic traumatic experiences. The intervention took place in the form of specialized activity groups. We hypothesized a decrease in the frequency of problematic behaviors and an increase in positive, pro-social behaviors for children receiving the treatment compared to a control group that did not receive the specialized activity groups. As predicted, our results indicated a significant decrease in some problematic behaviors in the treatment group, but there was no change in positive behaviors.

The Evolution of Social Pain: Understanding the Neural Network of Social Ostracism through Electroencephalography
by Daniel M. Kern

The lack of belonging or frequent exposure to social ostracism has maladaptive psychological and physical consequences. However, little is known about the mechanisms underlying the neural processes of social ostracism. Previously, Williams (2009) showed a decrease in theta power in the frontal lobe when female participants were ostracized in a virtual chat-room. Using male and female Illinois Wesleyan college students, this study manipulated two powerful social cues (biological sex and attractiveness level) to determine their effect on prefrontal brain activity in response to social ostracism in a virtual chat-room environment. Using EEG technology, frontal theta power (4-8Hz) was measured using three cortical electrodes (the F3, F4, and Fz sites). Using a similar procedure to Williams (2009), social ostracism was elicited using a well-established chat-room paradigm that involved 4 phases. In the introduction, inclusion, and re-inclusion phases, participants were actively involved in the conversation, in contrast to being actively ignored during the exclusionary phase. During the exclusionary phase of the experiment, we hypothesize a significant decrease in theta power across gender and attractiveness levels in the frontal lobe. Results revealed the virtual chat-room paradigm was successful in eliciting feelings of social ostracism. Participants reported lower levels of enjoyment, F(2, 35) = 103.413, p = .000, interest, F(2, 35) = 89.89, p = .000, and participation F(2, 35) = 197.76, p = .000, as well as lines typed, F(1.564, 35) = 104.98, p = .000, during the exclusionary phase in comparison to the inclusionary phases. In addition, males reported experiencing a significantly higher degree of ostracism than females, F(1, 34) = 5.527, p = .025. Theta power showed a non-significant, F(2, 30) = 1.203, p = .180, decrease in between phases, with inclusion showing the highest overall theta power and exclusion and re-inclusion showing lower degrees of theta power.