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.

Ostracism: How Witnessing the Perpetrators Influences Subsequent Experiences of the Target
by Robert J. Romay

Victims of rejection suffer a variety of negative consequences (Baumeister, DeWall, Ciarocco, & Twenge, 2005; Twenge, Baumeister, Tice, & Stucke, 2001; Williams & Zadro, 2001). One form of rejection known as ostracism, which refers to being ignored or excluded, is common and widespread (Williams, Forgas, von Hippel, & Zadro, 2005). Little research has examined the effect of observing ostracism on one's thoughts, feelings, and behavior. My current project examined how witnessing ostracism beforehand influences participant's neural and behavioral reactions to being the target of exclusion. An electroencephalographic (EEG) profile was obtained from each participant while engaged in a social interaction. This interaction was simulated via an online ball-tossing game (Cyberball; Williams, Cheung, & Choi, 2000). Participant distress and ER P component amplitudes were dependent variables. Distress was operationalized as scores on self-reported measures of mood and perceived satisfaction of fundamental needs (Williams, 2001). From the EEG data, conflict-driven N2 (Folstein & Van Petten, 2008) and attention-driven P3 b (Donchin, 1981) components were isolated and average amplitudes measured. R esults indicate that witnessing exclusion has no effect on the self reported distress associated with the personal experience or the amplitude of N2 components for exclusionary events. Witnessing exclusion did, however, affect the amplitude of P3b components for exclusionary events. Specifically, those who witnessed exclusion before joining a largely inclusionary interaction with the previous sources demonstrated significantly reduced P3b amplitudes to exclusionary events (i.e., throws away from participant). These results are explained in the context of conflict monitoring theory.

Effect of Three Informational Strategies on Coworker Attitudes towards Hiring People with Autism
by Kathryn Thomas

Misconceptions and stereotypes about disabilities are often the largest obstacle to the hiring of people with disabilities. Vocational rehabilitation professionals have argued that employers should be given information about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities to counteract inaccurate knowledge about disabilities. This experiment was designed to examine the efficacy of informational passages with respect to influencing behavioral intentions toward hiring people with autism spectrum disorder. The proposed study is grounded not only in an understanding of autism and current vocational rehabilitation practice, but also in the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB; Ajzen, 1985, 1991) which has been used to help researchers and applied professionals better understand employers' intentions to hire people with disabilities (Fraser, Johnson, Hebert, Ajzen, Copeland, Brown, & Chan, 2011). We found a significant gender effect such that women tended to be more positive than men towards hiring initiatives for people with ASD. Providing information about business benefits significantly improved men's reactions to hiring initiatives but had mixed effects on female participants' reactions. Overall, results supported the use of the TPB as a method of understanding the behavioral intentions of supporting hiring initiatives for people with ASD.

Frontal Lobe Theta Activity in Socially Ostracized Individuals: Understanding Social Ostracism through EEG
by Victoria Whitaker

The present study used a chat room paradigm to examine the effects of social ostracism on theta EEG activity in the frontal lobe. Participants were placed in an online chat room with two other individuals whose chat room profiles indicated they were both the opposite gender of the participant and attending other universities in central Illinois. Unknown to participants, these individuals were actually confederates in the study, and the pictures used on these profiles had previously been rated as either attractive or unattractive by college students. This experiment consisted of three primary phases. In the first phase, confederates actively included the participant in the chat room conversation. In the second phase, the participant was completely ignored (social ostracism manipulation). Confederates re-included the participant in the last phase of the chat room conversation. The purpose of the present study was to investigate variables that may influence the experience of social ostracism, such as gender and attractiveness of the ostracizing students. Results indicated that the ostracism manipulation was successful, with participants reporting significantly lowered enj oyment, interest, participation, and overall engagement during exclusion, while EEG data showed a non-significant trend for lowered theta power during exclusion that did not reach significance. Attractiveness of ostracizing peers played a role in the chat room experience, with participants reporting greater engagement with unattractive peers and male participants showing a larger difference in engagement between attractiveness conditions. In addition, there was a significant interaction between phase and attractiveness condition in theta EEG activity. No gender main effects were documented in selfreport or EEG data. Future research is needed to continue to examine the roles that gender and attractiveness play in social ostracism.

Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) for Adopted Children Receiving Therapy in an Outpatient Setting
by Lauren E. Nielsen

We explored the relationship between Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) and treatment outcomes for adopted children participating in treatment services through the Adoption Preservation Program at a Midwest child welfare organization. Adopted children who have trauma histories may have their adoptions disrupted if they do not receive the proper therapy to improve their overall functioning (Purvis, Cross, & Pennings, 2009; Davis, 1 999). We investigated a new intervention, TBRI, and its potential impact on children with trauma histories who are receiving outpatient therapy at a local child welfare center. Specifically, we examined whether family functioning and child functioning are improved after receiving the intervention in tandem with regular trauma-focused therapy for six months and whether family and child functioning are related to the level of TBRI each child received while in therapy. After analyzing the results, we found that all measures of child and family functioning, with the exception of discipline practices, increased from pre-treatment to post-treatment. Additionally, we found that the level of attachment was significantly correlated with the level of caregiver TBRI reported such that higher levels of TBRI were positively related to higher self-reported attachment levels between caregivers and their children. The clinical implications of findings are highlighted, and directions for future research are identified.

Neural and Behavioral Effects of Being Excluded by the Targets of a Witnessed Social Exclusion
by Kaitlin R. Dunn

The consequences of social exclusion can be extremely detrimental to physical and emotional well being, ranging from mild distress to extreme violence and aggression. Research findings indicate that witnessing exclusion is just as common as experiencing exclusion and can invoke similar levels of distress. As such, it is also important to examine responses and reactions to the targets after witnessing it. Accordingly, this study examined the association between witnessing and experiencing social exclusion and event-related brain potential (ERP) activity. ERPs were collected while participants played a game of Cyberball with the previous targets of a witnessed inclusion or exclusion and were either included or excluded themselves. Results showed increased N2 and decreased P3b to exclusionary throws regardless of the overall context of the social interaction and regardless of the context of the witnessed interaction. Additionally, participants who were excluded reported lower needs fulfillment and mood than those who were included providing support for the Need Threat model of social exclusion. Further, results showed increased P3b amplitude to inclusionary events after witnessing exclusion. This lends support to the Social Monitoring System suggesting that witnessed exclusion attunes individuals’ attention to social cues in the environment that would increase inclusionary status.

Effects of Disclosing Autism on Coworker Attitudes
by Jordan G. Stewart

Individuals with autism tend to have difficulty with social relationships in the workplace, which makes it hard to obtain and maintain employment. In order to help individuals with autism navigate the workplace, it is important to examine possible stigma management strategies. Using principles from the Stereotype Content Model (SCM) theory, I investigated the effects of disclosing autism on coworker attitudes by having participants view and react to a video of an individual with autism. I also investigated the effects of displayed interpersonal warmth (e.g., greeting others) on potential coworker attitudes. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions formed by the presence or absence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) disclosure and the presence or absence of interpersonal warmth. After viewing the videos, the participants completed several measures designed to assess their interpersonal judgments, emotional reactions, behavioral intentions, and overall workplace attitudes towards the individual with ASD. Results showed that disclosure had a more pervasive positive impact on the participants' reactions than did displayed interpersonal warmth. When ASD was disclosed, participants perceived the individual as more warm and competent, felt more admiration and less irritation toward him, were more likely to help and associate with him, and were more willing to work with him.

Normative Beliefs as a Mediator between Body Dissatisfaction and Disordered Eating
by Antonia Jurkovic

The present study examined the relationship between body dissatisfaction and maladaptive behaviors related to disordered eating. Specifically, normative beliefs for these behaviors were hypothesized to mediate the relationship between body dissatisfaction and maladaptive behaviors. Fifty-one college females were surveyed regarding their body dissatisfaction (using the Photographic Figures Rating Scale), normative beliefs about eating, dieting, and other weight-loss strategies (using a newly created measure, the Disordered Eating Normative beliefs Scale, DENS), as well as disordered eating behaviors (using the EAT-26), BMI, and campus organization affiliations. Comparisons between sorority affiliation and athlete status revealed no significant differences of body dissatisfaction, disordered eating, or BMI values. The mediational model was not supported; however, normative beliefs (via the DENS) were significant independent predictors of maladaptive behaviors. Limitations and future directions are discussed.

The effect of community participation on subjective well-being in community dwelling elders
by Elise English

Relationships between health and life satisfaction, health and community participation, and community participation and life satisfaction are well documented in the literature. The current project investigates the confluence of these three variables, specifically whether community participation arbitrates the relationship between physical health challenges and life satisfaction. Using a sample of community dwelling elders from five counties in central Illinois, a mediation analysis assessed the interrelationships between each of the three variables; of particular interest was whether community participation arbitrated the relationship between physical health challenges and life satisfaction. A mediational model could not be tested because there is no statistical relationship between physical health challenges and community participation in these data. Instead, there were significant direct effects between each variable and life satisfaction. Post-hoc tests investigated whether community participation differentially affects life satisfaction in the participants who reported greater-than-median number of physical health challenges. Results indicated significant differences in means between worse health groups who have not participated in the community and groups that have, which suggests that community participation plays some role in positively affecting life satisfaction levels in people with physical health challenges.

What University Personnel Should Know: Students' Career Confidence, Help-Seeking Stigmas, and Perceptions of College Career Centers
by Anna Woodruff

Career center professionals face many challenges in providing services to undergraduate students. For example, students may be unaware of offered services (Garner, Rintz, & Valle, 2 20 I I) and therefore underutilize available career center resources. This is a problem because today's society places high value on developing the skills necessary to be successful in employment (Garver, Spralls, & Divine, 2009). Perceived stigma related to seeking career help (Ludwikowski, Vogel, & Armstrong, 2009), low career decision self-efficacy (O'Brien, 2003), and other barriers (Shivy & Koehly, 2002) can prevent students from seeking career services. Two studies were conducted which focused on evaluating student perceptions of career center services. The first study was a survey study evaluating students' awareness and use of career center services, stigma related to career counseling, and career decision self-efficacy. The second study involved assessing students' evaluations of individual career center counseling and workshops. The results showed that women and upper division students reported more awareness and use of career center services than did men and first-year students. Gender and year in school, however, were not associated with differences in more general perceptions of career counseling (e.g., stigma, value). Students who attended career center events reported high levels of satisfaction, enhancement of self-efficacy, and intention to use career services in the future.

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.