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.

Neural Effects of Varying Levels of Social Re-Inclusion After Varying Periods of Social Exclusion
by Jessica M. White

This thesis studied the effects of social ostracism on individuals. Specifically, how conditions of exclusion and various levels of re-inclusion affect participant's responses in terms of social pain and neural activation due to exclusion. Participants played a Cyberball paradigm (Williams et aI., 2000), developed to include and exclude the participant. Participants were assigned a varying condition of exclusion and then re-inclusion during the computerized social interaction. Event-related brain potentials in response to the game were measured via electroencephalography. It was hypothesized that the degree of exclusion would influence P3b and N2 neural activation elicited in response to the exclusion, and that complete exclusion would cause different patterns of neural activation and greater exclusion-related social distress compared to partial exclusion. Additionally, it was thought that partially excluded and then completely re-included participants would record lower P3 and N2 neural activation than those partially re-included, and in complete exclusion, level of re-inclusion would not alter recorded level of reported social distress. Dependent measures were neural activation and survey responses. Our results showed that neural activity is affected by the degree and condition of exclusion occurring during ongoing social interactions, with partial re-inclusion resulting in greater neural conflict and attentional allocation. Results will contribute to understanding the effects of ostracism, as well as provide information as to whether specific levels of social reinclusion alleviate social pain caused by exclusion.

Examining Whether Body Image Dissatisfaction is a Predictor of Risky Sexual Behavior
by Nikki M. Greenhill

The present study sought to determine if body image dissatisfaction is a predictor of risky sexual behavior. Participants (n = 146, 54.8% women, 45.2% men, Mage= 19.08 years) included college students from a small Midwestern university. Participants completed self-report measures of the known correlates of risky sexual behavior (i.e., well-being, depressive symptoms, self-esteem, alcohol and drug use, psychological distress), body image, and risky sexual behavior. Contrary to our predictions, the results indicated that body image satisfaction, as opposed to dissatisfaction, is a significant predictor of risky sexual behavior (β = -.25, p =.031 ). Specifically, for those who report engaging in risky sex acts, being satisfied with one's body is a predictor of engaging in these behaviors at a greater frequency. Alcohol use (β = .43,p < .00 1 ) and relationship status (β = .32, p = .002) were also found to be significant predictors of risky sexual behavior.

Domestic Dogs ' (Canis lupus familiaris) Evaluation of Moral and Immoral Actors
by Katherine E. Ford

A sense of morality, or values predisposing what is right (fair, just, kind) and what is wrong (unfair, cruel, dishonest), appears universally across all humankind. All major cultures share support for some values, such as self-respect, respect for others, and 'the golden rule'treat others how you wish to be treated-and disdain for some sins, such as murder, theft and dishonesty (Kinnier, Kernes & Dautheribes, 2000). Some moral behaviors, such as inequity aversion, the tendency to do no hann and cooperation are found to exist in virtually all human adults. But where does morality come from? Is it uniquely human or do we share some moral values with nonhuman animals? To explore these questions domestic dogs-nonhumans with exceptional social cognitive skills-were tested for moral values through a replication of a study on moral reasoning in human infants (Hamlin & Wynn, 2011). Dogs watched a puppet show with a moral and immoral actor-the moral actor helped a neutral character achieve a goal and the immoral actor prevented the actor from achieving the goal. Dogs generally looked longer when the neutral puppet chose to associate with the moral helper than the immoral hinderer, demonstrating that dogs, like human infants, may prefer when agents associate with moral helpers. Though this is a preliminary study it suggests that a sense of morality may not be uniquely human and may be an evolved trait shared by humans and nonhumans alike.

Do Dogs Experience Cognitive Dissonance?
by Ethan Fischer

The effort justification paradigm - wherein people prefer rewards requiring more effort - is often explained by cognitive dissonance (discomfort experienced when by holding contradictory beliefs and/ or behaviors). Contrast theory provides an alternative by explaining that this preference is due to a greater difference between participant's starting and ending hedonic states. To differentiate these theories, dogs participated in an effort justification paradigm, hearing a severely or mildly annoying noise before receiving one of two differently colored treats. Afterwards, they were given a preference test. Cognitive dissonance and effort justification theories both expect dogs to prefer the treat associated with the severe noise. However, when the treat is not contingent on the noise, contrast theory predicts dogs to prefer the treat associated with the severely annoying noise and cognitive dissonance theory predicts no preference. The results were inconclusive - the effort justification effect was not found in the contingent or non-contingent treatment. Thus, it is still too soon to tell whether dogs or other animals experience cognitive dissonance.

Anxiety Sensitivity, Stress, and Problematic Drinking Behaviors Among College Students
by Kathryn V. Bulandr

The current study examined whether the combination of anxiety sensitivity (AS) and stress affected college students’ urge and motive to drink alcohol. Participants (n= 95, 44.2% male, 55.8% female, Mage= 18.82 years) included undergraduate students from Illinois Wesleyan University. Participants were asked to fill out a series of questionnaires, in addition to a short anagram task, which was used to induce stress in half of the sample. A multivariate factorial analysis was used to examine two main effects (AS and stress levels) and one interaction effect. Our hypothesis was partially supported, in that there was only one significant main effect found and no significant interaction effect. More specifically, individuals with high levels of AS were more likely to report greater urges and higher coping motives to drink than individuals with low levels of AS. Levels of stress did not affect one’s urge or motive to drink, nor was there an effect of AS on urge and motive to drink between differing stress conditions.

Effects of Good Limb Training on Motor Recovery Following Stroke in C57BL/6 Mice
by Kimberly A. Cheffer

No copy of this thesis is available.

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.