Psychology Undergraduate Honors Theses

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The PSYC Honors Program allows advanced students to collaborate directly with a faculty mentor to complete an original research project. Results from honors projects have been reported in scientific journals and presented at professional conferences. PSYC Honors includes two terms of independent study courses with the mentor, culminating in a written thesis report and a poster presentation. Successful program participants are awarded an honors designation at graduation (B.S. degree “with honors”).


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 17
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    Educate and Empower: An Online Intervention to Improve College Women’s Knowledge and Confidence When Communicating in a Romantic Relationship
    (2022-05) Trovato, Karoline J.; O’Brien, Karen M.
    Historically, and during the covid-19 pandemic, the vast majority of unpaid family care was provided by women with devastating outcomes including lost jobs, increased poverty, and mental health concerns (Almeida et al., 2020; Dang et al., 2020; Power, 2020). Unequal family work and unhealthy communication were associated with women’s relationship dissatisfaction and depressive symptoms (Bannon et al., 2020; Carlson et al., 2020; Woods et al., 2019). The PARTNERS video intervention was created to educate college women about family work distribution, communication in a romantic relationship, and the PARTNERS model of communication (a strategy for healthy communication based on existing literature and developed by Trovato and O’Brien for this intervention). An experiment was conducted to assess the effectiveness of the video intervention. Participants exposed to the intervention had the highest relationship communication self-efficacy. Those who participated in the intervention or read a partial script were the most knowledgeable about family work distribution, communication, and the PARTNERS model. The PARTNERS intervention has potential to educate women about family work distribution and couple communication and improve their confidence when communicating with a romantic partner. Ultimately, this intervention may increase relationship satisfaction, reduce depression, and equalize family work distribution for women.
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    Black Grief Matters: Disenfranchisement, Social Support, and Coping Among Black College Students Grieving the Deaths of Black Americans by Police Brutality
    (2022-05) Harris, Madelyn; O'Brien, Karen
    Today, Black Americans are nearly three times more likely than their white American counterparts to be killed by police, accounting for more than 40% of the victims of police killings nationwide (Bor et al., 2018). These murders are receiving considerable media attention as some have been captured on video and shared widely via social media and news platforms. Moreover, the Black Lives Matter movement, which aims to emphasize the precarious state of Black lives, focuses needed attention on these horrific murders by police brutality (Rankine, 2015). The ubiquity of social media and news platforms facilitates widespread viewing and sharing of police brutality against Black Americans, with the viewing of such events potentially more pronounced among college students, as over 84% of 18 to 29 year-olds use at least one social media site (Pew Research Center, 2021). Exposure to this violence is associated with negative mental health outcomes among Black Americans including heightened stress, depression, and grief and loss reactions (Allen & Solomon, 2016; Bor et al., 2018; Tynes et al., 2019). Factors which may contribute to these negative mental health outcomes include disenfranchisement of grief (i.e., the grief not being recognized or acknowledged; Piazza-Bonin et al., 2015), the absence of social support during grieving (Burke et al., 2010; Stroebe et al., 2005), and the ways in which college students cope with these killings and their grief (Andersen et al., 2013; Fox, 2019). The purpose of this study was to examine how grief disenfranchisement, social support and coping style predict stress, depressive symptoms, and prolonged grief among Black college students as they respond to the deaths of Black Americans by police brutality.
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    Exploring neural correlates of depression in childhood: The relation between amygdala:hippocampus ratios and CDI depression scores in 4-8 year olds
    (2021-05-11) Coley, Katherine; Riggins, Tracy
    Nationally representative studies have shown that mood disorders such as depression and anxiety are widely prevalent in children, with depression acting as one of the leading causes of disability in the United States (Ghandour et al., 2018; Schmaal et al., 2016). Research on adults suggests that depression and mood regulation can be linked to brain structure and function, specifically abnormalities with the amygdala and hippocampus (Yavas et al., 2019; Gerritsen et al., 2012). Interestingly, these brain regions have been shown to undergo structural and functional changes in early childhood that correspond with critical developmental changes in behavior (e.g., Riggins et al., 2018; Stern et al., 2019). Despite these changes, there is very little research investigating the relation between the brain and depressive symptoms in children, particularly during early childhood. Furthering the understanding of the relation between structural changes in brain and depressive symptoms is critically important not only for addressing high rates of childhood depression, but also for understanding the etiology and course of depression from early childhood into adulthood. This information could inform future intervention strategies and improve our understanding of normative and non-normative development in early childhood. This study aims to fill this gap by assessing the association between amygdala and hippocampus volumes and depressive symptoms cross sectionally and longitudinally in children ages 4-8 years.
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    Exploring Relations Between Memory and Internalizing and Externalizing Behaviors in Childhood
    (2021) Munshell, Paige; Riggins, Tracy
    There is a growing field of research which suggests internalizing and externalizing disorders cause disruptions in cognitive functioning, including memory. This association has primarily been explored in adults. This honors thesis explores the potential connection between mnemonic discrimination as a measure of episodic memory and internalizing and externalizing behaviors in young children. Researchers collected data on memory using a Mnemonic Similarity Task (MST) in children between 3 and 5 years of age and related their performance to ratings of their internalizing and externalizing behavior from the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) completed by a parent or guardian. Results did not support the hypothesis that internalizing and externalizing behaviors were related to poor episodic memory, as has been shown in adult populations. Future research with older children should be conducted in order to understand when during development that internalizing and externalizing behaviors begin to inhibit episodic memory.
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    Bystander Responses to College Dating Violence: Can We Educate Undergraduate Students Using an Online Intervention?
    (2020) Herman, Micah; O'Brien, Karen M.
    The purposes of this study were to improve an online bystander intervention educational program (STOP Dating Violence; O'Brien et al., 2019) and conduct a randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of this revised intervention. Specifically, the intervention was modified and converted into an engaging animated video and then tested for its effectiveness. College students (N=335) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: (1) the STOP intervention, (2) a website containing information about dating violence, and (3) a control condition. Results indicated that students who viewed the STOP Dating Violence video intervention had the greatest knowledge of bystander interventions when compared to the website and control conditions. Thus, the STOP Dating Violence video has the potential to successfully educate undergraduates about appropriate bystander interventions for dating violence in a cost-effective manner.