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

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Electrophysiology of dampening of emotional reactivity in psychopathic personality

Date created: 
2011-07-27
Abstract: 

Diminished emotional and empathic capacity is a core characteristic of psychopathic personality. The current study examines the effect of the condition on neural reactivity to emotional content with the use of high-density electroencephalography (EEG). Seventeen high-trait and 15 low-trait healthy individuals identified with a self-report measure of psychopathy participated in an emotional Stroop task in which they responded to negative and positive valence blocks of emotionally charged and emotionally neutral images. The high-trait group showed less reactivity to emotional stimuli than neutral stimuli with faster Stroop reaction times, reduced amplitude of two emotional processing event-related potentials (ERPs), the Early Anterior Positivity, and the Late Positive Potential, and less affective amplification of the P1 attentional ERP. Diminished processing of emotional content may reflect a top-down, learned inhibition of emotional processing, whereas reduced early emotional reorienting of attention also suggests an additional bottom-up, biologically based deficit in affective reactivity.

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

The neural correlates of marijuana addiction: differences in the processing of drug-related and emotional pictures between addicted versus healthy controls

Date created: 
2011-07-25
Abstract: 

This project aims to understand the electrophysiology of emotion and drug stimulus processing in marijuana addicts relative to healthy participants. A literature review of emotion processing is provided, and roles for modifications of the Stroop task in exploring this phenomenon are discussed. Current findings related to understanding the neural correlates of addiction behaviour are also reviewed and the structure and function of the OFC and ACC are summarized. This review provides a basis for the current study, where EEG is used in conjunction with a modified Stroop paradigm to understand the timing of neural events associated with cue reactivity to salient visual stimuli. The method of the current study is presented, and the results of the current project are described. Behavioural data regarding Stroop interference produced by the various categories of stimuli and the degree of self-reported craving experienced by participants during the paradigm are examined, as well as the electrophysiological data obtained from both groups. Lastly, the implications of these findings and future directions that will help to better understand the electrophysiology of addiction are outlined.

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

The effects of intervening events between the two targets on the attentional blink

Date created: 
2011-07-22
Abstract: 

Identification accuracy of the second of two targets (T2) is impaired when it is presented shortly after the first (T1). T1-based theories ascribe this attentional blink (AB) to a T1-initiated period of inattention. Distractor-based theories ascribe the AB to a disruption of input control caused by distractors trailing T1. The recent finding that an AB occurs in the absence of inter-target distractors seemingly disconfirms distractor-based theories. The principal goal of the present work was to explore the possibility that the blank inter-target interval itself may have disrupted attention, much like a distractor, thereby causing an AB. The intervening events between T1 and T2 were varied in four experiments (i.e., distractors, repeated T1, unexpected blanks, expected blanks). All produced an AB, disconfirming predictions from distractor-based theories, but lending strong support to the claim of T1-based theories that T1 processing alone is sufficient for the occurrence of the AB.

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

Long-term episodic memory, executive functioning and the age-hindsight bias relationship

Date created: 
2011-08-02
Abstract: 

Previous predictions about an event are often influenced by outcome knowledge of that event. Older adults tend to show more of this hindsight bias effect than younger adults. The present study investigated whether long-term episodic memory and aspects of executive functioning mediated or moderated the relationship between age and hindsight bias. Sixty-four younger adults and 60 healthy, community-living older adults completed a cognitive battery and a memory design hindsight bias task. Older adults showed hindsight bias more often than younger adults. Moreover, poorer long-term episodic memory and inhibition were associated with an increased probability of showing hindsight bias, after controlling for age. Both inhibition and long-term episodic memory independently mediated the age-hindsight bias relationship. Inhibition also moderated this relationship. By identifying the basic mental abilities contributing to age differences in hindsight bias, the present study’s findings extend prior work in the hindsight bias and cognitive aging literatures.

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

But I’m not like the rest of them: do majority group members’ emotional expressions affect collective action orientation in minority group members?

Date created: 
2011-07-15
Abstract: 

Although creating positive cross-group contact can improve attitudes, it may also reduce collective action orientation (CAO). Minority group members who have positive interpersonal interactions with majority group members may be less likely to perceive their group’s low status as unjust or to experience strong collective control; both essential to a strong CAO (see Wright & Lubensky, 2009). Two studies tested whether majority group members’ expressions of unrepresentative emotions (guilt, shame, and ingroup-directed anger) regarding intergroup inequality would allow for positive cross-group interactions between majority and minority group members, without undermining minority group members’ CAO. Findings confirmed that expressions of anger, guilt, and shame by a majority group member were seen as unrepresentative, and interactions including these expressions can be experienced as positive by minority group members. In addition, minority group members exposed to expressions of anger reported higher CAO, while those exposed to expressions of guilt reported lower CAO.

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

Emotion regulation in borderline personality disorder: an experimental investigation of the effects of acceptance and suppression

Date created: 
2011-05-25
Abstract: 

The primary aim of this research was to examine the effects of different emotion regulation strategies on emotions, psychophysiology, and behavioural urges among persons with BPD. Findings from several studies suggest that persons with borderline personality disorder (BPD) demonstrate heightened emotional vulnerability and a tendency to regulate emotions with potentially maladaptive avoidance strategies. Despite accumulating research on emotional responding in BPD, there is a dearth of research on the direct effects of different emotion regulation strategies in this population. For this research, participants with BPD, major depressive disorder, or non-psychiatric controls (N = 100) were randomly assigned to listen to a rationale for either emotional acceptance or emotional suppression. Subsequently, participants listened to an audio-recording of a social rejection scenario. Subjective distress, heart rate, skin conductance, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, and facial electromyography were assessed before, during, and after the emotion induction. Afterwards, participants completed a behavioural measure of distress tolerance. Participants in the acceptance condition reported more negative emotions than those in the suppression condition, particularly among BPD participants. The BPD group also reported higher urges to engage in maladaptive behaviours in the acceptance condition. The BPD participants exhibited a distinctive pattern of physiological responses, with more positively valenced facial expressions and lower skin conductance compared with the control group, despite their reported distress. These results suggest that individuals with BPD may struggle in the short-term with the use of acceptance-based regulation strategies in response to acute stressors, compared with non-psychiatric controls and other clinical groups.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Alexander Chapman
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

The victim’s voice: a victim focused safety planning intervention for intimate partner violence

Date created: 
2011-06-16
Abstract: 

Risk assessment and safety planning are vital in preventing the damaging physical and psychological effects of intimate partner violence (IPV) on women. A potentially useful addition to these preventative tools is the victim’s voice - a woman’s self-appraisal of her abusive relationship. For this study, this voice was deconstructed into two components, risk as analysis and risk as feelings. This conceptualization was used as a basis for two interventions administered to a community-based sample of 60 IPV victims. Each woman participated in an in-depth interview that included formal risk assessment, random assignment to an intervention, generation of a safety plan, and feedback regarding the intervention. A follow-up interview was also completed to collect re-victimization data. The purpose of this study was to compare the two interventions of interest, exploring their impact on IPV victims’: (a) risk and fear appraisals, (b) safety plan quality, (c) satisfaction with the intervention, and (d) re-victimization status. Traditionally, the risk as analysis approach has prevailed. However, the results of this study are suggestive of the risk as feelings approach being at least equivalent to, if not more, beneficial to victims. Additionally, this study examined the correspondence between formal assessment of risk (i.e., conducted by a trained professional) and victim-appraised assessment of risk; moderate correspondence was demonstrated. Implications regarding the dual-mode processing conceptualization of risk, the potential mechanism underlying the risk as feelings approach, and applications to risk assessment and safety planning are discussed. The results of this study are intended to stimulate research in the area of victim-focused contextualized risk assessment and safety planning for women who have been victimized by an intimate partner.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Stephen Hart
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

Exploring the foundations of attachment: relations between mother-infant interaction at 4-5 months and attachment security at 12 months

Date created: 
2011-05-27
Abstract: 

Similarities between the Still Face procedure in early infancy and the Strange Situation at one year have been noted by a number of researchers. To date, however, few studies have investigated whether mother and infant behaviour in the Still Face procedure is predictive of later attachment security. The present study tested three hypotheses with respect to relations between mother and infant behaviour in a Still Face procedure at 4-5 months and attachment security at 12 months. In an initial lab visit at 4-5 months mothers were asked to interact with their infants for 2 minutes (Interactive phase), remain still-faced for 1 minute (Still Face phase), and resume interaction for 2 minutes (Reengagement phase). Mother and infant behaviour was assessed for the frequency and contingency of mother and infant smiles during the Interactive and Reengagement phases and infant social bids to the mother during the Still Face phase. In a follow-up lab visit at 12 months, infants’ security of attachment to their mothers was assessed in the Strange Situation. Contrary to expectations, maternal contingent responsiveness to infant behaviour in either the initial Interactive phase or the Reengagement phase of the Still Face procedure was not correlated with attachment security at 12 months. Similarly, and in contrast to previously published findings, no correlation was found between infant social bids to their mothers during the Still Face phase and later attachment security. In an exploratory analysis of the Still Face procedure data, a number of correlations were found among mother and infant behaviour across phases of the Still Face procedure with respect to the timing and frequency of infant social behaviour in the Reengagement phase. These findings are discussed in relation to theory and previously published research. Suggestions for future research are also discussed.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Jeremy Carpendale
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.

Environmental activist identity mediates the relationship between perceived threats to the environment and more sustainable consumer behaviors

Author: 
Date created: 
2011-05-17
Abstract: 

Our society’s trend of excessive consumption results in negative health effects both for us and the environment. To combat these negative trends, people must actively reduce their consumption to promote a more sustainable lifestyle and thereby a healthier Earth. In this paper I consider what factors encourage people to engage in behaviors that mitigate threats to the environment. In particular, I consider the consequences of two ways of defining the self—identification with the environment, and identification with environmental activists. In both Study 1 and Study 2, identification with environmental activists mediated the relationship between perceived threats to the environment and consumer behaviors and mediated the relationship between environmental identification and consumer behaviors. These results suggest that promoting a collective identification with a group whose goal is to protect the environment is an important way to motivate people to partake in environmentally-friendly consumption behaviors.

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

Suicidal behaviour among lesbian, gay and bisexual youth in British Columbia: risk and protective factors

Author: 
Date created: 
2011-04-18
Abstract: 

Recent research has found elevated rates of victimization experiences which have been linked to suicide attempts both in the general population and among lesbian, gay and bisexual youth. The current study evaluated reports of suicidal behaviour, risk factors (e.g., physical victimization, harassment, and discrimination) and protective factors (e.g., school connectedness and safety, family connectedness and self-esteem) and compared the rates by gender and sexual orientation. Logistic regressions compared whether higher risk factors and lower protective factors predicted suicide attempts across sexual orientation categories. The results demonstrated that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth reported higher levels of suicidal behaviour and risk factors, and lower rates of protective factors. Victimization predicted suicide attempts and higher rates of protective factors were associated with lowered odds of a suicide attempt. The importance of interventions related to protective factors among lesbian, gay and bisexual youth and clinical and systemic implications are discussed.

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