Psychology - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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Parent-child play interaction in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Emotion regulation within the context of a frustrating situation

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-11-25
Abstract: 

Challenges with emotion regulation are associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Previous research suggests a link between emotion regulation and parenting in children with ASD. The current study examined group differences between children with and without ASD in emotion regulation, as well as parent behaviour associated with child emotion regulation and social-emotional functioning. Twenty-one children with ASD and 20 typically developing (TD) children were asked to complete two interactive tasks with a parent: 1) a frustrating building task (Lego) and 2) a discussion task requiring dyads to generate emotion regulation strategies for the characters in two separate vignettes—one about anger and one about anxiety. Parent and child behaviour were both coded during these tasks. Parents completed questionnaires about their child’s social-emotional functioning and children completed a brief cognitive assessment. In the building task, no mean group differences in parent emotion regulation related behaviour were found; however, TD children displayed more positive emotion than children with ASD. Despite no mean group differences, persisting with the problem and cognitive reappraisal of the frustrating building task by parents was helpful in reducing child negative emotion for children with ASD, but not TD children. During the discussion task, specifically during the vignettes about anger, parents of children with ASD were less likely to elaborate about emotions when their child was rated as having more challenges with anger control and social competence, and more likely to elaborate when they rated their child to have fewer challenges with anger control and social competence. During the discussion of the anxiety vignette, more parent scaffolding was associated with better social competence for TD children, but not children with ASD. The results suggest that parents play a role in helping children develop emotion regulation skills; however, the type of parenting behaviour that is helpful differs depending on the emotion and whether the child has ASD.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Grace Iarocci
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Conceptualizing antisocial personality: The validity of the DSM-5 section III psychopathy specifier

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-11-18
Abstract: 

Section III of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) includes an alternative model of personality disorder diagnosis that conceptualizes antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) as an interpersonal, rather than behavioural, construct. However, the diagnostic specifier for psychopathy has been met with controversy due to its conceptual and empirical overlap with Triarchic boldness (Crego & Widiger, 2014; Few et al., 2015; Miller et al., 2018), which has been debated as a necessary and sufficient domain of psychopathy. This thesis examined the concurrent, convergent, discriminant, and predictive validity of the specifier using samples of undergraduate students (n = 224) and criminally involved adults (n = 306) who completed various self-report questionnaires. Multivariate analyses highlight the specifier as a multidimensional construct with divergent associations across facets. Findings generally suggest poor validity for two of the three specifier facets, which raises concerns regarding the clinical utility of the specifier in an ASPD diagnosis.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Kevin Douglas
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Longitudinal associations between maternal warmth, harsh discipline, child emotion regulation, and dimensions of oppositional defiant disorder in the early school years

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-11-12
Abstract: 

Current evidence suggests robust associations between parental warmth and harsh discipline and ODD. However, research has yet to investigate the potential mediating role of emotion regulation in this relationship. Further, few studies have investigated ODD as both a unitary construct and as three distinct dimensions (i.e., angry/irritable mood, defiant/headstrong behaviour, and spitefulness/vindictiveness). This study aimed to investigate child emotion regulation as a mediator between parental warmth and harsh discipline and ODD. Differential outcomes corresponding to individual ODD dimensions were further explored. While results demonstrated an absence of indirect effects, emotion regulation was significantly negatively associated with ODD at all levels of analyses. Significant associations were also found between parental warmth and harsh discipline and anger. These findings suggest unique associations between parental warmth, harsh discipline, emotion regulation, and the anger dimension of ODD.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Robert McMahon
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

How much does that cost? Examining the economic costs of crime in North America attributable to people with psychopathic personality disorder

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-10-18
Abstract: 

Psychopathic personality disorder (PPD) is associated with serious dysfunction (e.g., crime, violence), and as a result, scholars believe it inflicts a massive social burden. Yet, very few works have quantified the severity of this burden. The purpose of this dissertation was to examine the economic cost of crime attributable to PPD. To achieve this goal, a three-pronged approach was implemented. In Study 1, a conceptual analysis of PPD and violence risk case formulation was conducted, which revealed a host of potential causal links to violence. In Study 2, a top-down societal study considered prevalence rates, offending rates, and national costs of crime to produce national estimates of PPD-related crime costs for the US, UK, and Canada. The results suggested that PPD had staggeringly high crime costs in the US (simulated $678 to $1,276 billion) and Canada (simulated $33 to $42 billion), whereas the UK produced relatively modest costs (simulated £4.77 billion). In Study 3, a sample-driven empirical study of Canadian federal offenders was conducted. Using the Psychopathy Checklist—Revised, higher PPD traits were predictive of prospective crime costs. The results of all three studies suggest that people suffering from PPD produce disproportionately high crime costs. The discussion covered topics such as the causal role of PPD on violence, treatment of PPD, and policy implications for funding treatment and research.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Kevin Douglas
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Examining the attentional momentum account as an explanation for inhibition of return

Date created: 
2019-10-11
Abstract: 

The Inhibition of Return (IOR) effect manifests as slowed responses to targets at previously cued compared to uncued locations (Posner & Cohen, 1984; Klein, 2000). Most research indicates the effect to be inhibitory in nature, and research has typically involved identifying the components and the locations involved in generating the IOR effect. The Attentional Momentum (AM) theory of IOR instead implicates a facilitatory component involved in the IOR paradigm, where participants’ expectations about the relationship between a cue and target influence their reaction times (Pratt, Spalek, & Bradshaw, 1999). However, support for the AM theory is limited on the basis of a) inconsistent findings in subsequent follow up research, and b) the suggestion that eye movements were driving findings that support the AM theory. The current set of experiments examines the level of support for the AM theory of IOR after accounting for these issues.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Thomas M. Spalek
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

A psychophysiological study of approach and avoidance

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-06-26
Abstract: 

Despite their importance, processes that govern affect and behavior are sensitive to disruption. This is evident at a clinical level where internalizing and externalizing psychopathologies show dysregulation in inhibition of anxious/depressive symptoms and impulsive-antagonistic behaviors, respectively (Liotti et al,2007; Moadab et al,2010). Healthy participants show similar dysregulation when highly arousing stimulus characteristics detrimentally impact performance in cognitively-demanding tasks (López-Martín, Carretié, 2010). This suggests that cognitive and affective networks draw on similar neural structures wherein more demands on one causes a change in the other (Pessoa, 2008; Vuilleumier, 2005; Ochsner & Gross, 2005). This dissertation framed the intricate and complex pattern of brain activity within the framework of a dual-layer self-regulation mechanism defined by action and affect. This model of self-regulation results in behavioral tendencies that are related either to approaching a desired outcome or avoiding an unpleasant event. An emotionally evocative task manipulation was designed to induce changes in endogenous affect and interfere with cognitive processes. An additional exogenous affect manipulation was embedding within this task through the use of salient facial expressions as stimuli. Due to the implicit aversiveness of this paradigm a separate task was used to create a scenario where participants are driven toward a desired goal. Electrophysiology methods were used to record brain activity which was analyzed using traditional ERP analysis, time-frequency decomposition, beamforming source estimation, power spectrum, and Partial-Least Squares analysis. Results implicate approach and avoidance tendencies to predict brain activity and be differentially related to delta, theta, and alpha oscillations. Theta processes related to the central executive network and map onto action, delta processes related to salience and affective networks and map onto affect, while alpha processes related to both saliency and executive control networks (i.e. the interaction between cognition and emotion) and map onto both action and affect loops. This body of work was able to address three main categories of research questions: 1) the effect of endogenous and exogenous emotion manipulations and their relationship with approach and avoidance; 2) the dynamics and impact of ongoing emotional experience; and 3) the 5-dimensional role of oscillatory changes in response to endogenous affective manipulation.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Mario Liotti
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

The luck of the draw: How attributions for poverty shape support for economic inequality

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-06-24
Abstract: 

Despite growing economic inequality the American population remains relatively un-motivated to tackle this issue--why? In six studies (n = 34,198), I aimed to answer this question by exploring the link between both dispositional and situational attributions for poverty and support for economic inequality. In Study 1 I used cross-national data from 34 countries to examine the relationship between attributions for poverty and support for economic inequality. I found that people demonstrated less support for economic inequality in countries where the majority of respondents provided situational (as opposed to dispositional) attributions for poverty. In Study 2a I had participants complete an immersive online poverty simulation or play Monopoly. I found that relative to Monopoly, the poverty simulation led to an increase in situational attributions for poverty and turn diminished support for economic inequality and increased support for redistribution. In Study 2b I conducted a high-powered pre-registered replication and extension of these results. In Study 3a, I presented participants with evidence counter to the stereotype that the poor are lazy by having them interact with a low-status (versus average-status) status confederate. I found that the cross-status interaction led to a decrease in dispositional attributions for poverty which in turn decreased support for economic inequality. In Study 3b I conducted a high-powered pre-registered replication which strengthened the design of the previous study and largely replicated these results. Lastly, in Study 4, in order to determine the specificity of relationship between causal attributions and support for economic inequality I conducted a field quasi-experiment in undergraduates enrolled in various introductory psychology classes. I compared attributions for poverty and support for economic inequality over the course of a semester in students who were taking a class that explicitly highlights the situational causes of behaviour versus a series of classes without this explicit framing. I found that taking a course centred around demonstrating the impact situational factors have in influencing behaviour did not shift support for economic inequality relative to students in various control classes. Overall, this dissertation presents the first experiments showing how attributions for poverty can shape broader economic attitudes, such as support for economic inequality and how various simple and low-cost interventions can be leveraged to promote greater social equality.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Lara Aknin
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Predicting married couples’ daily relationship satisfaction from difficulties with emotion regulation and daily negative relationship behaviours

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-06-20
Abstract: 

Negative relationship behaviours (e.g., irritating or neglectful behaviours or negative communication) can erode or enhance relationship satisfaction, which suggests that moderators might be operating. I examined how spouses’ difficulties with emotion regulation moderated associations between daily negative behaviours and daily relationship satisfaction over 21 days in 125 mixed-sex married couples. Spouses’ daily negative behaviours negatively predicted their own and partner’s daily relationship satisfaction. Spouses’ difficulties with emotion regulation negatively predicted their daily relationship satisfaction, and husbands’ difficulties with emotion regulation negatively predicted partners’ daily relationship satisfaction. Associations between difficulties with emotion regulation and both spouses’ daily relationship satisfaction was stronger for husbands than for wives. Emotion regulation difficulties did not interact with daily negative behaviours to predict daily relationship satisfaction. Results suggest that managing negative behaviours and difficult emotions may enhance relationship satisfaction from day to day.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Rebecca Cobb
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Explaining individual and cross-cultural differences in mirror self-recognition

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-04-03
Abstract: 

Mirror self-recognition (MSR) is considered the benchmark of the capacity to think about oneself. Around 18 months of age, infants across cultures vary systematically in their MSR abilities. Understanding the developmental processes that underlie these differences is critical to understanding the ontogeny of human self-awareness. The overarching goal of my dissertation was to identify the early experiences that are linked to infants’ ability to self-recognize, with three independent but linked studies. In study 1, I recruited 18- to 22 months-old infants and their mothers from two distinct sociocultural environments: urban Canada and rural Vanuatu, a small-scale island society located in the South Pacific. Consistent with previous cross-cultural research, ni-Vanuatu infants passed the MSR test at significantly lower rates (7%) compared to Canadian infants (68%). Among a suite of social-interactional variables, mothers’ imitation of their infants during a short free play session with toys best predicted infants’ performance on the MSR test. In addition, low passing rates among ni-Vanuatu infants could not be attributed to reasons non-related to self-development (i.e., motivation to show mark-directed behavior, understanding mirror-correspondence, representational thinking). In study 2, I aimed to replicate my previous results on imitation, this time in a culturally diverse urban Canadian sample of 15- to 21-month-old infants and their parents, in order to bypass potential confounding factors related to the cross-cultural validity of the test. In this study, mothers’ imitation of their infants observed during a short free play session predicted infants’ MSR, while controlling for infants’ temperament. In study 3, I examined whether the referential content of mothers’ child-directed speech systematically differed between ni-Vanuatu and Canadian cultures. When interacting with their 18- to 28-month-olds during a dyadic free play session, Canadian mothers referred significantly more to their toddlers’ mind-minded internal states (e.g., desire), linked toddlers’ internal states to their acts and perceptions, and produced more references to past events. These results bring attention to the role that language interactions may be playing in the emergence of a self-concept. Together, these 3 studies provide evidence that will help us better understand the social-interactional processes underlying the development of self-awareness in infancy.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Tanya Broesch
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Evaluating End Gang Life: A provincial anti-gang initiative

Author: 
Date created: 
2019-04-12
Abstract: 

End Gang Life is a provincial anti-gang initiative developed by the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit – British Columbia (CFSEU-BC). Goals of the initiative include promoting gang awareness, education, and prevention, including disseminating information via public service announcements (PSAs) and presentations in the community. This evaluation examined study participants’ reactions to PSAs and seminars presented by the End Gang Life initiative in three studies. In the Undergraduate Study, participants were exposed to one of 15 PSAs (six videos, six posters, three radio ads) and then completed self-report questionnaires. The questionnaires addressed participants’ opinions about the PSA and participants’ level of antisociality as measured by self-reported offending and psychopathic features. This sample consisted of undergraduate students from Simon Fraser University who completed the study online. The Community Study used a similar design, but was conducted with participants that were recruited from the community. In the High School Study, the sample consisted of high school students in British Columbia. Students completed paper self-report measures following a presentation by the CFSEU-BC. Results showed that undergraduate students and community members were more likely to perceive the PSAs as effective when negative emotions (e.g., sadness) were elicited, the content was perceived to be realistic, and greater sensations were perceived. Generally, these results were seen regardless of the degree of participants’ psychopathic traits, suggesting that PSAs may be of comparable effectiveness regardless of the presence of such traits. Of the three groups, the high school students reported the highest perceived sensations in response to the End Gang Life seminars. Further, the high school students were receptive to the seminars. Findings of this evaluation will help improve the existing initiative and will inform future anti-gang initiatives.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Kevin Douglas
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.