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

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To talk or not to talk? Communication during sexual activity as a mediator of the association between relationship and sexual satisfaction

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-07-30
Abstract: 

I examined whether verbal and non-verbal communication of enjoyment during sexual activity mediated the association between relationship satisfaction and sexual satisfaction in mixed-sex cohabiting couples contemporaneously (N = 126) and over four months (N = 98) using Actor-Partner Interdependence Models (APIM; Kashy & Kenny, 2000) and bootstrapping analyses. Individuals’ relationship satisfaction positively predicted their perceptions of partner’s verbal and nonverbal sexual communication, but generally did not predict across partner. Individuals’ perceptions of partner’s non-verbal communication positively predicted their own and partner’s sexual satisfaction contemporaneously, but not longitudinally. Perceptions of partner’s verbal communication did not generally predict sexual satisfaction within- or across-partner contemporaneously or longitudinally. Indirect effects suggest that relationship satisfaction may provide a context conducive to effective nonverbal communication during sexual activity, which in turn predicts sexual satisfaction contemporaneously, but not longitudinally.

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

Self-compassion and eating disorder symptoms in adolescent aesthetic athletes: A mixed methods exploratory study

Date created: 
2018-06-06
Abstract: 

Aesthetic athletes are at increased risk for developing eating disorder (ED) symptoms, but few studies have examined protective factors. Self-compassion has been shown to protect against ED symptoms in the general population of adults, but few studies have examined SC and ED symptoms in athletes or adolescents. Furthermore, little is known about self-compassion as it relates specifically to one’s body appearance (i.e., body-related self-compassion; BRSC). Using a sample of 49 aesthetic athletes (24 dancers and 25 figure skaters), this study examined (a) attitudes toward SC and BRSC, (b) cross-sectional correlations between SC, BRSC, and ED symptoms, and (c) the effectiveness of a SC intervention aimed at reducing ED symptoms. Results showed that SC was negatively correlated with ED symptoms, especially perfectionism. In particular, participants who reported higher levels of self-judgment were more likely to report ED symptoms. As expected, BRSC accounted for many of the correlations between the SC subscales and ED subscales. Participants reported positive attitudes toward SC, believing that it may have many benefits to athletes’ emotional well-being, athletic success, and social connections. However, they also expressed concern that SC may undermine work ethic and may be difficult to achieve given a variety of barriers (e.g., having a harsh or critical training environment). Finally, the SC intervention led to significant improvements in overall SC, as well as self-kindness. The intervention did not produce measurable changes in ED symptoms; however, it was positively received by participants. In summary, this study provides preliminary evidence that SC may protect against ED symptoms in young aesthetic athletes.

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

The effect of collaboration on children’s sharing

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-06-18
Abstract: 

Three-year-olds divide collaboratively earned resources equally, suggesting that fairness concerns emerge much earlier in ontogeny than previously believed (Hamann al., 2011; Warneken et al., 2011). The aim of this dissertation was to understand the psychological mechanisms underlying children’s precocious egalitarian sharing of collaboratively earned resources. Study 1 provided evidence that collaboration results in a strong sense of fairness, not observed under individual work conditions. Furthermore, the findings support the view that this sense of fairness is driven by equity over generous or prosocial motives. Study 2 showed that collaboration produced an overall increase in sharing, but that increased equitable sharing was only found when children shared the resources they had earned through collaboration. Study 3 found that children considered equity to be fair from a third party evaluation regardless of how others earned resources (i.e., collaboratively, individually). However, they showed a greater motivation to intervene against normative violations when resources were earned collaboratively. This convergent evidence suggests that collaboration is indeed a special context for the development of fairness.

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

Neural correlates of threat and emotion processing in panic disorder

Author: 
Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2018-06-14
Abstract: 

Early and rapid attention to threat is an adaptive response in healthy individuals; however, in persons with clinical or sub-clinical levels of anxiety, this mechanism appears to be exaggerated and maladaptive. Specifically, anxious individuals seem to be distinctively sensitive to threatening information in the environment, which is called an attentional bias. To better understand the neural mechanisms underlying hypervigilance to threat in clinical and subclinical anxiety, scalp-recorded brain electrical activity (EEG) was recorded while participants performed supraliminal and subliminal versions of an emotional Stroop task where threat and neutral, or positive and neutral words were presented in blocks. Participants responded either to the color of the presented word (supraliminal task), or to the colour of a mask (subliminal task). Study 1 found enhanced early frontal responses (200-320 ms, the EAP) to task-irrelevant threat words relative to neutral words in healthy individuals with high Anxiety Sensitivity (AS) in the supraliminal task, confirming early stage, likely pre-attentive processing of consciously perceived threat information. More interestingly, the high AS group additionally exhibited an enhanced, even earlier frontal effect (starting at 130 ms) in the subliminal Stroop task, indexing pre-conscious processing of threat stimuli below perception threshold. Study 2 extended the analysis of hypervigilance to threat signals to a group of Panic Disorder patients. There was no evidence of early differential frontal ERP modulation to threat words (EAP and P150) in either the supraliminal or subliminal eStroop task. We concluded that in high trait anxiety, early frontal effects may index a hyperactive early threat detection system located in medial PFC or insular cortex. In Panic Disorder patients, on the other hand, threat information triggering a hyperresponsive amygdala would fail to cause sufficient top-down emotion regulating activity from vmPFC, resulting in the absence of a sizeable early EAP. The inverse correlation between symptom severity and prefrontal activation supports the hypothesis that PFC hypoactivation could be a component of the transition of dispositionally high anxiety to disordered anxiety. We propose that presence or absence of the EAP could provide a marker able to quantify such transition.

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

Promoting understanding and acceptance in parents of trans and gender nonconforming youth: An adaptation of an attachment-based parent program

Date created: 
2019-01-16
Abstract: 

Gender nonconforming and trans youth experience high rates of bullying and victimization, placing them at risk for serious mental health challenges. Caregiver support is one of the most significant protective factors in this population, and parenting interventions that promote understanding and acceptance are needed to support the well-being of teens and their families. Connect (Moretti & Braber, 2013), a group attachment-based intervention for caregivers, has been shown to promote attachment security within the parent-teen relationship, increase caregiver sense of efficacy, and reduce teen emotional problems for up to two years post-treatment. During this strength-focused program, caregivers learn to “step back” in their interactions, to “step into” their teen’s shoes, and to better understand and respond to their teen’s attachment needs. This study examines the acceptance, uptake, and caregiver satisfaction of an adapted version of Connect which addresses the unique attachment related challenges and concerns of caregivers of trans and gender nonconforming youth. Adaptations were completed in consultation with a panel of mental health professionals to address relevant themes expressed by these families and to modify experiential learning content. Participants in the first three groups were 20 caregivers of 16 gender nonconforming youth (ages 12 - 18). On average, caregivers attended 9.2 sessions of the ten-week program and on questionnaires completed post intervention, reported feeling respected, safe, and welcomed in the group. They indicated that learning about attachment was helpful in enhancing their understanding of their teen and their understanding of themselves as parents. Caregivers also rated the group as helpful in increasing their understanding of their teen’s gender journey. During clinical interviews, caregivers reported feeling more confident in parenting and being able to empathize with their teen more easily. Common themes in group discussions related to gender included: coming out, finding support, affirming pronouns/names, medical transition, parental reactions (e.g. confusion, isolation, acceptance, grief), and concerns about safety and mental health. Qualitative analyses of group skills revealed that across sessions, caregivers demonstrated an increased capacity to “step back” and reflect on their teen’s experience and their own. Findings support the usefulness of this intervention, and feedback has informed further revisions of the program with the goal of co-creating a safe, helpful, gender-affirming intervention. Clinical implications and next steps are discussed.

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

Examining the experience of trans identity and gender transition through the lens of cisgender siblings: A phenomenological investigation

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-11-05
Abstract: 

Previous research on the transitioning process has focused on the experiences of transgender/gender nonbinary individuals and their parents, paying limited attention to the trans persons’ siblings. The purpose of this study was to examine how youth and young adults experience a trans sibling's gender identity and transition. Using qualitative methodology, eleven cisgender participants (M = 17.9; SD = 4.9; range = 14 to 34 years old) were individually interviewed in medium- and large-sized Canadian cities. Interview topics included: the participant’s role in their sibling’s transition; the impact of the transition on the participant and their family and peer relationships; and the participant’s attitudes toward services aimed at supporting themselves through their sibling’s transition. Interview transcripts were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Ten participants completed member checking procedures to verify the accuracy of the data. Participants described wide-ranging emotional responses and overall positive attitudes toward their sibling’s trans identity and transition. Participants highlighted the importance of demonstrating to their trans sibling respect, compassion, and support. The adjustment process by the immediate family unit was regarded as manageable overall. Challenging interpersonal dynamics involving participants’ parents, extended family members, peers, and other extra familial individuals were discussed. Perspectives on the value and preferred type of structured support for siblings of trans individuals varied across participants. These findings provide novel insight into the lived experiences of siblings of trans people, thereby enriching our understanding of the transition process as experienced by the collective family unit. Study findings offer practical guidance for trans individuals, their parents, siblings, and clinicians. Strategies to improve support programs for trans individuals and their family members are addressed.

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

Circadian food anticipatory activity across the seasons: The relationship between feeding schedules and photoperiod in mice

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-12-14
Abstract: 

Daily feeding schedules induce circadian rhythms of food anticipatory activity (FAA) by entrainment of circadian oscillators outside of the master light-entrainable pacemaker in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Efforts to localize these food-entrainable oscillators (FEOs) and specify molecular mechanisms have been complicated by the wide range of non-circadian factors that can modulate expression of food-motivated behaviours. Here, we examine the effect of photoperiod (duration of the daily light period) on FAA induced in mice by restricting food to a 4h daily meal in the light period, the usual rest phase in nocturnal rodents.To express FAA in the light period, FEOs must compete with SCN clock outputs, which normally suppress activity and promote sleep at this time of day. Photoperiod modifies both the period () and amplitude of the SCN pacemaker, as indicated by aftereffects of long and short days on  and on the phase shift response to light pulses in constant dark (DD). Exposure to long days is thought to reduce SCN amplitude, and would be expected to permit greater FAA to a daytime meal. To test this prediction, mice were entrained to a 16h light:8h dark (L16) or L8 cycle, with or without running discs, and then maintained in DD for 2 weeks. Mice previously entrained to L16 exhibited a shorter  and smaller phase shift to light in DD, confirming an effect of photoperiod on the SCN pacemaker. After re-entrainment to L16 or L8, food was restricted to the last 4h of the light period. FAA was enhanced in L16 in mice with running discs, but the difference was reversed in mice without running discs. Additional groups of mice were entrained to L18, L16, L12 or L8, and the 4h daily meal was centered in the light period. Prior to restricted feeding, photoperiod modified parameters of the light-entrained rhythms as expected. During restricted feeding, there was no systematic effect of photoperiod on FAA. After restricted feeding, an aftereffect of photoperiod on  in DD was absent. Centering of daily mealtime in the light period may block the effect of photoperiod on the SCN pacemaker, and thereby eliminate the potential impact of day length on the expression of FAA to daytime meals.

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

The influence of risk assessment evidence on judicial sentencing decisions

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-12-11
Abstract: 

Despite the increased presence of risk assessment evidence in sentencing proceedings, its role has been contentious, and judges’ use of this evidence is unclear. This study examines judges’ opinions about risk assessment tools and assesses the influence of tools on judicial sentencing decisions. Specifically, it uses an experimental vignette design to evaluate whether judges’ impressions of a hypothetical offender or their sentencing recommendations are affected by the presence of an empirically-supported tool and accompanying risk rating. Participants were 170 judges from 34 American states and two Canadian provinces. The most common advantage of tools highlighted by judges was that they provide information that is helpful for making decisions, while the most common concern was their potential to obscure bias. Judges’ impressions and placement recommendations were not significantly influenced by tool presence. Judges’ program recommendations, however, were more intensive and consistent for the high-risk offender when a tool was present.

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

Change detection and Chinese characters: The reader advantage

Author: 
Date created: 
2018-10-22
Abstract: 

The change-detection task can be used to assess how efficiently individuals perceive visual information. While reading ability allows us to efficiently recognize written characters, little is known about whether it also facilitates detection of changes to these characters. Three experiments were conducted to investigate this question. Participants saw many Chinese characters or Chinese-like artificial characters in flickering images and were required to find the one that was changing. Chinese readers were faster than non-readers when detecting changes to Chinese characters, but there was no difference between the performance of readers and non-readers when detecting changes to meaningless artificial characters. Also, readers detected changes faster when all of the unchanging characters were Chinese, and slower when they were artificial. These findings demonstrate a reader advantage when detecting changes to Chinese characters. That is, readers' ability to differentiate meaningful and meaningless written characters allowed them to detect character changes more efficiently.

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

The "error" in psychology: An analysis of quantitative and qualitative approaches in the pursuit of accuracy

Date created: 
2018-10-12
Abstract: 

The concept of “error” is central to the development and use of statistical tools in psychology. Yet, little work has focused on elucidating its conceptual meanings and the potential implications for research practice. I explore the emergence of uses of the “error” concept within the field of psychology through a historical mapping of its uses from early observational astronomy, to the study of social statistics, and subsequently to its adoption under 20th century psychometrics. In so doing, I consider the philosophical foundations on which the concepts “error” and “true score” are built and the relevance of these foundations for its usages in psychology. Given the recent surge in interest in qualitative research methods in psychology, I also investigate whether a notion of “error” is relevant to qualitative research practice. In particular, I conduct a content analysis of usages of the term “reliability” within the qualitative methodological literature as a proxy for the concept of “error” within the qualitative research domain. Finally, I compare my explorations of discourse around quantitative and qualitative methods. I conclude that although researchers using methodological tools from these two traditions may hold opposing views on knowledge and truth, they also share a common aim of accuracy. Implications for research practice and education in psychology are discussed.

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