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Psychological Science Thesis Abstracts

ERIN CLEARY (Jannette McMenamy), 2006


The purpose of this paper is to address the problem of sleep disorders in college students. Due to rigorous schedules, college students tend to have disrupted sleep patterns and to view them as normal. This paper draws from a collection of studies and articles on the topics of the possible relationship between sleep and GPA’s, sleep disorders in college students, why sleep is necessary, and how much of it is appropriate, the overall effects of sleep on an individual’s daily life, typical college sleep patterns, and sleep in relation to academic performance. Much of the data reviewed comes from correlation studies that demonstrate relationships between sleep and important factors such as academic performance. The theory that it supports is college students are lacking knowledge about both the benefits of sleep as well as the ways to improve their quality of sleep. The paper describes a helpful and informative pamphlet and presentation developed to assist college students in learning more about the benefits of sleep. The pamphlet will outline bad sleep habits and how to change or prevent them from developing. It will also show them how to maintain a regulated sleep pattern of high quality sleep, and thus increase rest and promote a higher level of functioning in academic arenas.

STACY JELENIEWSKI (Thomas Schilling), 2005


The nativist-empiricist controversy is one that has a long tradition in western thought and continues to be a strongly debated topic today. The purpose of this literature review is to provide insight into the nature vs. nurture debate by providing the most compelling evidence for both sides and to show in what direction the most current research is leading us. On one side of the argument, it is believed that infants are born with certain concepts about the world, or that infants are born with intrinsic growth processes that act as guidelines for the infants’ acquisition of knowledge. This core knowledge is defined by some to include concepts of solidity, object permanence, and small number sense. Although these arguments may appear compelling, contradictory evidence has supported an empiricist view, that infants develop knowledge by building upon basic perceptual processes. This literature review was conducted using research studies, commentaries, and challenges to leading theories. Although an answer to this debate is far from occurring, I attempt to highlight the strong evidence for an empiricist explanation of how infants acquire knowledge.

WILLIAM LARY IV (Daneen Deptula), 2013


Victimization is the result of “physical, verbal, or psychological attacks or intimidation that is intended to cause fear, distress, or harm to the victim; an imbalance of power (psychological or physical); the absence of provocation by the victim; and repeated incidents between the same students over a prolonged period” (Farrington & Ttofi, 2009 as adapted from Owleus, 1991). Those who are victimized can be targeted for a number of reasons and experience a range of negative effects. Victimized youth are more likely to experience stress (Zhang & Lu, 2009), anxiety and depression (Holt & Espelage, 2007). Victimization is associated with the use of aggression (Terranova et al., 2011) as well as changes in brain development (Coates, 2010). The current paper will examine victimization with respect to the range of biological, psychological, and social aspects that contribute to dimensions of the victim and their environment. The aim of this review is to bridge the gap between these very different dimensions of victimization (biological factors: involving neurotransmitters, and brain structure; psychological factors: involving cognition, emotion, and symptoms; and lastly social factors: family, and peer influences), and indicate how these factors can influence the victim as a whole. Comments will be made on factors that predispose victims to being attacked or targeted. In addition, a number of outcomes which have been associated with victimization will be included within the review to address the question of, what makes a victim a victim. With a better understanding of the findings in the fields of victimization, more comprehensive and effective intervention/prevention programs may be formed. Those who are victimized could benefit from a multidimensional program centered at combating and preventing victimization (Coates, 2010).



This research investigated whether specific personality traits and qualities in a romantic relationship predicted infidelity in college students at Fitchburg State University. Students completed an online survey in which they were asked questions regarding their beliefs on infidelity, and were assessed using the Big Five Inventory, the Investment Model, and the Infidelity Scale. The Big Five personality traits consist of Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (John, Donahue, & Kentle, 1991). It was hypothesized that students with higher scores in neuroticism would be more likely to commit infidelity. The Investment Model assesses the commitment levels in a romantic relationship based on four factors: satisfaction within the relationship, the alternative qualities that one could have had outside of the relationship, the investments that one has put into the relationship, and commitment within the relationship (Rusbult, Martz, & Agnew, 1998). It was hypothesized that students who are committed to their partners would be less likely to commit infidelity. In addition, gender and age were analyzed in relation to infidelity as well as attitudes towards infidelity. It was hypothesized that college men would be more likely to commit physical infidelity than women, college women would be more likely to commit emotional infidelity than men, and older college students would be more likely to commit infidelity than younger college students. Similar research has been conducted in Texas; the main purpose of the current study is to explore whether those results can be replicated in a northern university.

KATELYN MCLAUGHLIN (Sara Levine), 2013


The purpose of this thesis was to conduct a literature review examining the way gender is portrayed in the mass media and how the media affects individuals’ perceptions of the way men and women should appear and behave. In Western society, individuals are exposed to numerous forms of mass media, ranging from advertisements to radio to television shows, every single day. Exposure to the media often begins at a young age, when children are still developing their ideas and concepts about the world (Hofferth, 2010). Studies suggest that the media can influence the viewer’s perceptions and behaviors without them even consciously realizing it. Exposure to characters as innocent as television heroes and Disney princesses could potentially shape the way someone grows up to view men and women, for better or for worse. Oftentimes, men are portrayed as dominant, influential, and aggressive (Aubrey & Harrison, 2004; Gow, 1996). Women, on the other hand, are typically portrayed as submissive and are objectified, with an underrepresentation of different body types (Ivory, 2006; King, Lugo-Lugo, & Bloodsworth-Lugo, 2010). While media exposure can result in many behavioral outcomes, this thesis project focuses on eating disorders. It is important to be aware of stereotypes created by mass media so that we understand from where many of our ideas about masculinity and femininity come and to examine ways to avoid or mitigate the negative effects of exposure to these stereotypes.

KATTRINA MORALES (Cheryl Armstrong), 2006


The proposed research will examine the effects of misleading information, gender, and gender-congruent items on memory. Research suggests that presenting participants with misleading information after viewing an event can impair memory for the actual event. Research also suggests that males and females exhibit better memory for gender-congruent items. It might then be expected that, when misleading post event information is presented to males and females, memory impairment will be less for gender congruent information than for gender incongruent or neutral information. The independent variables in this study will be the presence of misinformation, the gender of the participant, and the type of information (congruent or incongruent). Misinformation will be manipulated in the form of biased questions asked to the participants by the researcher. The stimulus information will be shown in the form of pictures containing female-typical, male-typical, or gender-neutral objects. Questionnaires assessing memory for objects in the slides will serve as the dependent variable. It is predicted that misinformation will impair the subject’s memory for the original object when the objects are gender incongruent or neutral. Misleading information is not expected to impair memory for gender congruent information. The conclusions drawn from this future study could have further implications for eyewitness testimony and susceptibility. Results could suggest that the gender of the subject may have an effect on how well the actual event is remembered.

NICHOLE NOVIA (Michael Bloomfield), 2004


Bipolar Disorder is a chemical imbalance in the brain that can cause both depressed and manic states of emotion. For thousands of years physicians and psychiatrists were unable to classify and solve the puzzle regarding the causes and treatments of the illness. Bipolar Disorder may appear very different in each of the people that it affects. One state can look as though one is gloomy, down, lethargic, or agitated, whereas another state may be one in which the client is overjoyed, glowing, frenzied, or even delirious. The German psychiatrist Emil Kreapelin was the first to convincingly present the conditions as the same disease, which he called manic-depressive insanity (Mondimore, 1999). There have been great strides in the study and understanding of the illness including the development of many medications to aid in the everyday living for someone with the illness. For this reason, many doctors, psychiatrists, and patients are now treating the illness as purely chemical, turning to the medications to aid in the treatment and turning away from therapy. However, Mondimore (1999) suggests for several reasons this may not be a very good idea. He states that regular therapy will provide the patient with information, encouragement, and help to get over setbacks, as well as a confidential setting. Further research into the literature on the efficacy of therapy sessions in reducing the occurrences of the depressed and manic states in patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder demonstrates that, for several reasons, therapy will aid in the treatment of Bipolar Disorder. This study is intended to discuss the types of therapy sessions beneficial to the treatment of Bipolar disorder and how they aid in reducing the manic and depressed states of the illness.

MELANIE PFAFFINGER (Robert Wellman), 2004


The purpose of this presentation is to define resiliency, explain what factors can lead a child to be “at-risk” or “resilient,” and offer ways professionals can help to foster resiliency in children. My reason for choosing this topic is that today so many children are labeled as at-risk. This research aims at finding how children can use adversity to help them grow into successful and healthy adults. The method of research will be a literature review, using journal articles and books. The research will compare and contrast differing theories on risk and resiliency and discuss practical applications of these theories. The presentation will begin by defining resiliency. Also, I will define risk factors. Next, the paper will discuss traits researchers find to be common in resilient children. Then the research will explore external factors that contribute to resiliency. Finally, I will discuss ways teachers, parents, and others in the community help at-risk children become resilient. In conclusion, the research has found that many children are born with a natural disposition to overcome obstacles. However, outside factors, such as families, schools, social workers, and mentors, can have a strong influence on how children cope with adversity. Emphasizing each child’s positive characteristics and teaching effective coping skills can help enable a child to develop resiliency.

ALISHA VARGO (Sara Pollak Levine), 2005


A person's physical appearance can be the underlying basis of important decisions such as with whom close relationships are formed. Previous research has found that others can influence what a person finds attractive. Specifically, studies indicate that women tend to influenced by peers' ratings, especially when the ratings are negative. However there is no research that looks at the effects of influence depending on the sex of the peer rater. The purpose of this research was to examine the effects of peer social influence on female college students' perceptions of attractiveness in terms of whether the peer is same-sex or opposite-sex. Headshot yearbook photographs were used in a pilot study to determine nine female and nine male photographs that were consistently rated as being neutral on an attractiveness scale. These photographs, along with supposed peer rating scores made by either a male or female student, were given to participants. Participants were then asked to rate the person in the photograph on an attractiveness scale. It is predicted that participants will be influenced by the supposed peers' ratings. Furthermore, it is expected that based on previous research, which shows that women believe that they are more expert than men in judging the attractiveness of men and equal in judging the attractiveness of women, that women will be more influenced in their ratings when they believe that the peer rater is another female. By looking at these issues, this research will enhance our knowledge and understanding of social influence among female college students.