Psychology, Department of

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Classic Motor Chunking Theory Fails To Account for Behavioural Diversity and Speed in a Complex Naturalistic Task

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-06-13
Abstract: 

In tasks that demand rapid performance, actions must be executed as efficiently as possible. Theories of expert motor performance such as the motor chunking framework suggest that efficiency is supported by automatization, where many serial actions are automatized into smaller chunks, or groups of commonly co-occuring actions. We use the fast-paced, professional eSport StarCraft 2 as a test case of the explanatory power of the motor chunking framework and assess the importance of chunks in explaining expert performance. To do so, we test three predictions motivated by a simple motor chunking framework. (1) StarCraft 2 players should exhibit an increasing number of chunks with expertise. (2) The proportion of actions falling within a chunk should increase with skill. (3) Chunks should be faster than non-chunks containing the same atomic behaviours. Although our findings support the existence of chunks, they also highlight two problems for existing accounts of rapid motor execution and expert performance. First, while better players do use more chunks, the proportion of actions within a chunks is stable across expertise and expert sequences are generally more varied (the diversity problem). Secondly, chunks, which are supposed to enjoy the most extreme automatization, appear to save little or no time overall (the time savings problem). Instead, the most parsimonious description of our latency analysis is that players become faster overall regardless of chunking.

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(Re)Introducing Vygotsky’s Thought: From Historical Overview to Contemporary Psychology

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-08-07
Abstract: 

Theories formulated by Russian psychologist and educator Lev Vygotsky currently range from being applied and celebrated across multiple contexts to be considered outdated. In this paper, we maintain that such inconsistency in application stems from the overreliance on translated or reformulated Vygotskian theories, the attempts to understand these ideas in isolation from the scientific historical context of their development, and the impact of Vygotsky’s personal life circumstances on the development of his scholarship. It is known that Vygotsky’s untimely death prevented him from elaborating on his theoretical views and expanding his early empirical work. We suggest that Vygotsky’s scholarship could be better understood in light of the core principles that transcend all aspects of his work. In this paper, we elaborate on two such core principles: theories of language development and their relation to the integrated systemic approach to psychological development. We argue that although linguistic and historical boundaries have shaped the common perception of Vygotskian theories in anglophone research in a specific way, there is a potential for a renewed application of these theories to modern psychology that might be especially relevant in light of the increasingly interdisciplinary character of the modern science. To support our argument, we provide a brief overview and examples of potential connections between Vygotsky’s scholarship with contemporary landscape in psychological science. The paper presents a brief introduction to the topic of Vygotskian work and its application to modern psychology, rather than an addition to the field of Vygotskian scholarship. It is geared toward non-Vygotskian scholars and invites researchers working in interdisciplinary areas of psychology.

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The Support for Economic Inequality Scale: Development and Adjudication

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-06-21
Abstract: 

Past research has documented myriad pernicious psychological effects of high economic inequality, prompting interest into how people perceive, evaluate, and react to inequality. Here we propose, refine, and validate the Support for Economic Inequality Scale (SEIS)–a novel measure of attitudes towards economic inequality. In Study 1, we distill eighteen items down to five, providing evidence for unidimensionality and reliability. In Study 2, we replicate the scale’s unidimensionality and reliability and demonstrate its validity. In Study 3, we evaluate a United States version of the SEIS. Finally, in Studies 4–5, we demonstrate the SEIS’s convergent and predictive validity, as well as evidence for the SEIS being distinct from other conceptually similar measures. The SEIS is a valid and reliable instrument for assessing perceptions of and reactions to economic inequality and provides a useful tool for researchers investigating the psychological underpinnings of economic inequality.

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Article
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Diffusion Tensor Imaging of Neurocognitive Profiles in a Community Cohort Living in Marginal Housing

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-02-06
Abstract: 

Objective:  We investigated white matter differences associated with distinct neurocognitive profiles derived from a large cohort of marginally housed persons with comorbid physical and mental illnesses. Our prior work identified three profile cluster groups: a high functioning group (Cluster 1), a low functioning group with relative strength in decision‐making (Cluster 3), and an intermediary group with a relative decision‐making weakness (Cluster 2). This study extends previous findings of cortical gray matter differences between these groups with evidence for putative neurodevelopmental abnormalities in the low cognitive functioning group (i.e., Cluster 3). We hypothesized that altered white matter diffusion would be associated with the lowest functioning neurocognitive profile and would be associated with previously observed gray matter differences.

Method:  Participants from a socially impoverished neighborhood in Vancouver, Canada underwent neurocognitive evaluation and neuroimaging. We performed Tract‐Based Spatial Statistics using diffusion tensor imaging data from 184 participants to examine whole‐brain differences in white matter microstructure between cluster analytically derived neurocognitive profiles, as well as unitary neurocognitive measures. Correlations between frontal gray and white matter were also examined.

Results:  Cluster 3 showed increased diffusion in predominately bilateral frontal and interhemisphere tracts (vs. Clusters 1 and 2), with relatively greater diffusion in the left hemisphere (vs. Cluster 1). Differences in radial diffusivity were more prominent compared with axial diffusivity. A weak association between regional frontal fractional anisotropy and previously defined abnormalities in gyrification was observed.

Conclusions:  In a socially marginalized sample, we established several patterns in the covariation of white matter diffusion and neurocognitive functioning. These patterns elucidate the neurobiological substrates and vulnerabilities that are apt to underlie functional impairments inherent to this complex and heterogeneous population.

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A Psychometric Study of the Family Resilience Assessment Scale among Families of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-03-12
Abstract: 

Background: The family system represents a critical context within which children develop. Although raising a child with a disability may represent a challenge to this dynamic system, research demonstrates that families have the capacity to demonstrate both maladaptation and resilience in the face of related stressors. In the current study, we examined the psychometric properties of the Family Resilience Assessment Scale (FRAS) among families of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This tool is the only measure of family resilience that seeks to identify within-family protective factors, including the extent to which they rely on adaptive belief systems, organizational patterns, and communication processes. Identifying protective processes utilized by those who show resilience is critical within both clinical practice and research, as it aligns with a strength-based perspective that builds on what families are doing well.

Methods: Participants included 174 caregivers of individuals with ASD (84% mothers). Caregivers completed the FRAS, as well as the Beach Center Family Quality of Life Scale. The 54-item FRAS was submitted to an exploratory factor analysis, using the iterated principal factor method with a promax rotation.

Results: Fifty-one items across 3 factors (Family Communication and Problem Solving, Utilizing Social and Economic Resources, Family Spirituality) were retained, explaining 52% of the total variance. The final scale demonstrated convergent validity with the Family Quality of Life assessment tool.

Conclusions: It is our hope that identifying the optimal scale structure will encourage other researchers to utilize this measure with families of children with ASD, thus continuing to advance the study of family resilience within this unique context.

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Article
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Research 101: A Process for Developing Local Guidelines for Ethical Research in Heavily Researched Communities

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-07-01
Abstract: 

Background: Marginalized communities often attract more than their share of research. Too often, this research benefits researchers disproportionately and leaves such communities feeling exploited, misrepresented, and exhausted. The Downtown Eastside (DTES) neighborhood of Vancouver, Canada, has been the site of multiple public health epidemics related to injection drug use as well as the site of much community-led resistance and struggle that has led to the development of cutting-edge harm reduction interventions (e.g., North America’s first supervised injection facility, Insite) and a strong sense of community organization. This background has made the DTES one of the most heavily researched communities in the world. Amidst ongoing experiences of unethical or disrespectful research engagement in the neighborhood, a collaboration between local academic researchers and community representatives developed to explore how we could work together to encourage more respectful, community-responsive research and discourage exploitative or disrespectful research.

Methods: We developed a series of six weekly workshops called “Research 101.” These workshops brought together approximately 13 representatives from peer-based organizations in the DTES with a variety of experiences with research. Research 101 created space for community members themselves to discuss the pitfalls and potential of research in their neighborhood and to express community expectations for more ethical and respectful research.

Results: We summarized workshop discussions in a co-authored “Manifesto for Ethical Research in the Downtown Eastside.” This document serves as a resource to empower community organizations to develop more equitable partnerships with researchers and help researchers ground their work in the principles of locally developed “community ethics.” Manifesto guidelines include increased researcher transparency, community-based ethical review of projects, empowering peer researchers in meaningful roles within a research project, and taking seriously the need for reciprocity in the research exchange.

Conclusions: Research 101 was a process for eliciting and presenting a local vision of “community ethics” in a heavily researched neighborhood to guide researchers and empower community organizations. Our ongoing work involves building consensus for these guidelines within the community and communicating these expectations to researchers and ethics offices at local universities. We also describe how our Research 101 process could be replicated in other heavily researched communities.

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Evaluating the Psycholegal Abilities of Young Offenders with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2014-02-01
Abstract: 

Individuals with a diagnosis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) experience a range of physical, cognitive, and behavioral deficits thought to interfere with their ability to competently navigate the arrest, interrogation, and trial process. This study examined the psycholegal abilities of young offenders with FASD, including their understanding and appreciation of Miranda rights, and adjudication capacities (factual knowledge of criminal procedure, appreciation of the nature and object of the proceedings, ability to participate in a defense and communicate with counsel). Two groups of young offenders (50 with FASD and 50 without prenatal alcohol exposure) completed Grisso’s Instruments for Assessing Understanding and Appreciation of Miranda rights and the Fitness Interview Test-Revised in order to assess overall rates of impairment in youth with FASD, as well as differences between the groups. Potentially important predictors of psycholegal abilities were also evaluated. Results indicated the majority of young offenders with FASD (90%) showed impairment in at least one psycholegal ability, and rates of impairment were significantly higher than the comparison group. However, considerable within-group variability was observed. IQ and reading comprehension emerged as robust predictors of participants’ psycholegal abilities; while the FASD diagnosis differentiated participants’ scores on the FIT-R. These findings underscore the importance of individualized and comprehensive forensic assessments of psycholegal abilities in this population when warranted. Additional system level strains for this population are discussed, including problems in approaching competency remediation, and the potentially growing need for accommodation and forensic assessments in the face of limited financial and professional resources in legal settings.

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An Evaluation of the Predictive Validity of the SAVRY and YLS/CMI in Justice-Involved Youth with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2018-12
Abstract: 

Despite the high prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) in youth criminal justice settings, there is currently no research supporting the use of violence risk assessment tools in this population. This study examined the predictive validity of total and domain scores on the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY) and the Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (YLS/CMI) in justice-involved youth with FASD. Participants were 100 justice-involved youth (ages 12 to 23, 81% male), including 50 diagnosed with FASD and 50 without FASD or prenatal alcohol exposure. The SAVRY and YLS/CMI were prospectively coded based on interview and file review, with recidivism (both any and violent specifically) coded one-year post baseline assessment. Results provide preliminary support for the validity of the SAVRY and YLS/CMI in predicting recidivism in justice-involved youth with FASD. Higher ratings across SAVRY and YLS/CMI domains were found in youth with FASD, underscoring a critical need for assessments and interventions to buffer recidivism risk and address clinical needs.

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Electrophysiological Correlates of Visual Singleton Detection

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2019-03-20
Abstract: 

Identifying a fixed-feature singleton that pops out from an otherwise uniform array of distractors elicits an event-related potential (ERP) component called the N2pc over the posterior scalp. The N2pc has been used to track attention with millisecond accuracy, inform theories of visual selection, and test for specific attention deficits in clinical populations, yet it is still unclear what neuro-cognitive process gives rise to the component. One hypothesis is that the N2pc reflects a spatial filtering process that suppresses irrelevant distractors. In support of this hypothesis, Luck and Hillyard (1994) showed that the N2pc is eliminated when the features of the target and distractors switch unpredictably across trials so that participants cannot prepare to filter out irrelevant items. The present study aimed to replicate Luck and Hillyard’s singleton detection experiment, but with modifications to enhance the N2pc signal and to gain statistical power. We show that orientation singletons do, in fact, elicit the N2pc as well as an earlier-onsetting and longer-lasting singleton detection positivity (SDP) over the occipital scalp when the target and distractor orientations swap randomly across trials. We conclude that spatial filtering might not play a major role in the generation of the N2pc and that the selection processes required to search for fixed-feature targets (in feature-search mode) are also engaged in the detection of variable-feature singletons (in singleton-detection mode).

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Article
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Psychopathy and Violent Misconduct in a Sample of Violent Young Offenders

Peer reviewed: 
Yes, item is peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2015-06-24
Abstract: 

Purpose: Most prior research on psychopathy and institutional misconduct/violence occurs with adult samples and comparatively less is known about the nature of this relationship among serious, violent juvenile offenders.

Methods: A subsample of 159 male serious and violent offenders interviewed in custody facilities in British Columbia, Canada as part of the Vancouver Longitudinal Study of Incarcerated Young Offenders were used. Bivariate, AUC-ROC, and Poisson regression models examined the association between psychopathy and violent misconduct and exposure to violence with different specifications and separately for Caucasian and Aboriginal youth.

Results: Overall, psychopathic youth evince more misconduct, are more violent, and break more institutional rules than their less psychopathic peers; however, the effects are relatively small, and ROC-AUC models reveal generally unimpressive classification accuracy.

Conclusions: Although psychopathy is a risk factor for violent misconduct, its effects are measurement-variant (e.g., total scores, factor scores, and item scores) and differ for Caucasian and Aboriginal serious offenders.

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