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

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Re-conceptualizing joint attention as social skills: a microgenetic analysis of the development of early infant communication

Date created: 
2011-04-07
Abstract: 

The present longitudinal study examined how 28 infants’ joint attention behaviours undergo developmental change across the 9 to 12 month age range. Two competing theoretical views of the development of infants’ joint attention are the cognitivist and skill-based conceptualizations of social cognition. The present study reviews and discusses the conceptual differences between these two approaches in detail. Starting from the operational definition of joint attention the differences between these two conceptualizations of infants’ social cognition are explicated. It will be shown that each framework operates from a different set of assumptions regarding the development of joint attention behaviours. In turn, it will be argued that these assumptions naturally lend themselves to different metrics of behavioural measurement and programmes of research. The central tenets of the skill-based conceptualization of social cognition are presented and contrasted with those of the cognitivist framework. Empirical research situated within the cognitivist framework is examined and discussed in light of the differences between these two conceptualizations of joint attention. Following from this review, the rationale and purpose for the present study is described, and the study presented. Prior research has established that beginning around 9 months of age infants’ joint attentional behaviours increase in frequency. Less research, however, has been conducted to investigate how the temporal characteristics of infants’ joint attention behaviours change with development. Infants’ joint attentional abilities were assessed using the Early Social Communication Scale (ESCS). Contingency scores produced by T-pattern analysis, wherein infants’ joint attention behaviours contingently followed object specific events (e.g., an active toy object), were found to undergo changes in frequency, timing, and probability of occurrence across the months of assessment. Implications of these results for a skill-based conceptualization of joint attention are discussed.

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

Evaluation of the performance of the HCR-20 across genders

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 
2010-12-10
Abstract: 

Over the past three decades, much has been learned about risk factors associated with violence. Subsequently, significant advances have occurred in terms of the conceptualization as well as communication of violence risk and numerous risk assessment measures have been developed in order to inform violence prevention efforts. However, most such instruments have been validated in male populations and research examining their application across genders is scarce. The proposed study investigated the performance of one of the most established violence risk assessment schemes - the Historical/Clinical/Risk Management-20 (HCR-20) – in a sample of 49 male and 46 female psychiatric patients. The HCR-20 as well as its components predicted violent outcomes and gender did not moderate that relationship. Exploratory analyses revealed gender differences in baseline item and scale ratings, nature and severity of predicted violence, and nature of perpetrated aggression. The HCR-20 also demonstrated an association with other negative outcomes, particularly violent victimization.

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

Neuropsychological and health predictors of theory of mind in older adults

Date created: 
2010-12-16
Abstract: 

The ability to reason about mental states, or theory of mind (ToM), is a defining human capacity with implications for late-life social understanding. Current aging research suggests that ToM draws heavily from traditional neurocognitive resources; however, to our knowledge, no published studies have explored potential modifiers of these links. We examined associations between ToM, neurocognitive ability and blood pressure in N = 66 cognitively intact community-dwelling older adults (65–92 years). While increased age, high blood pressure, and neuropsychological ability emerged as important independent predictors of older adults’ ToM, relationships are not straightforward. Important interactions observed between blood pressure and cognition demonstrate that associations between poor neurocognitive scores and reduced ToM may be more salient in certain groups of older adults with elevated blood pressure. Findings suggest that previous models of cognitive involvement in ToM may be necessary, but not sufficient to explain age-related changes in mental state reasoning.

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

Circadian clocks for all mealtimes: anticipation of multiple daily meals in rats

Date created: 
2010-12-10
Abstract: 

Behavioral studies show that rodents can anticipate a daily mealtime by entrainment of a circadian oscillator separate from the circadian clock responsible for light-dark entrained rhythms. Less is known about how rats anticipate more than one daily meal. The objective of the experiments reported here is to gain insight into the formal mechanisms by which multiple meal anticipation is achieved. Rats were maintained on two daily meals, 7 h or 10 h apart in the light period, and anticipation of each meal was measured during meal omission, meal shift and constant dark tests. The results rule out interval timing as a means for predicting mealtimes, and provide some support for the proposal that separate food-entrainable oscillators may control each bout of anticipatory activity. Characterizing the strategies employed by rats under scheduled access to multiple daily meals may yield important insights into the mechanisms underlying anticipatory behaviour.

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

Progression towards sexual re-offence: detailing the offence cycle and contributing factors in high-risk sexual offenders

Date created: 
2010-08-24
Abstract: 

Although not the majority, there are sexual offenders who recidivate at high rates and who continue to re-offend despite periods of incarceration and the system’s best treatment efforts, who together comprise a group of particular empirical interest and public concern. The area of sexual violence risk prediction is recognizing the contributions of dynamic risk factors proximal to the re-offence process in identifying increases in risk state. These factors, however, are rarely examined in concert, and their differential presentation across offenders varying in their victim preference and motivational orientation towards offending is not often specified. Certain risk factors may also be associated with a pattern of escalating violence severity across offences. This dissertation project investigated the relevance of a range of dynamic offence process factors to frequency and severity of offending across various types of sexual offenders. Offence-related information was extracted through an extensive review of 191 files (rapists, child molesters, and mixed offenders) drawn from an innovative law enforcement database containing the highest-risk sexual offenders in British Columbia, Canada. Results demonstrated that a number of risk factors were differentially present between different types of offenders. Further analyses revealed that certain risk factors stood out as statistical predictors of frequent offending across offender type. The presence of cognitive-related factors, as well as certain sexualized behaviours, demonstrated significance in this respect. Conversely, particular non-sexual behaviours were found to indicate a lower level of frequency in sexual offending. Although child molesters had the most prolific offence histories, rapists displayed the greatest severity escalation across their offences. Further, offenders who demonstrated more distorted cognitions and experienced interpersonal conflicts prior to offending were more likely to display escalating severity across their sexual offence histories. Overall, a number of dynamic factors indicated post-dictive utility for identifying frequent and increasingly severe sexual offending. The present line of research delineated specific dynamic factors precipitating re-offence that may assist in refining formulations of risk. The findings may inform criminal justice professionals charged with implementing community-management strategies to monitor risk level, as well as those charged with altering offence-supportive cognitive and behavioural patterns to reduce recidivism.

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

Meta-analysis of the antidepressant response to sleep deprivation and its correlates: towards a better antidepressant therapy

Author: 
Date created: 
2010-07-02
Abstract: 

Unlike antidepressant drugs, which typically require several weeks to produce an antidepressant response, sleep deprivation produces a response literally overnight. Quantification (meta-analysis) of 166 articles, including data from a total of 3951 depressed patients, reveals that consistently half of all depressed patients are responders to a night of sleep deprivation, with the degree of response shown by these responders being on average a 55% decrease in depression levels. While the level of this response depends upon both when the sleep deprivation occurs in the night and when response measurements are taken, no experimental treatment has yet been found to further enhance its response. The practicality of sleep deprivation as an antidepressant treatment has so far been limited by the fact that the majority of responders to sleep deprivation normally relapse by the day following a night of recovery sleep. However, there is some evidence that this relapse can be prevented or delayed, especially by depletion of the serotonergic system. The strength of reported correlates of response to sleep deprivation and of its relapse were examined and the nature of the most powerful correlates of response was found to depend upon their timing: correlates measured before sleep deprivation (thus related to the susceptibility to response) show between-subjects differences while correlates dependent upon measurements taken after a night of sleep deprivation (thus related to the response itself) show only within-subject changes from before to after sleep deprivation. Since whether a patient is a responder to one night of sleep deprivation is unrelated to whether the same patient will be a responder to any other night of sleep deprivation, it is hypothesized that the activity levels of some of these predictor variables may also change across time in relation to the susceptibility to response. The discovery of such susceptibility-state markers and their temporal order could help shed light on the mechanism of susceptibility to response and thus offer new ways of improving current antidepressant treatments.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Ralph E. Mistlberger
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: Department of Psychology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

The influence of event frequency and age on children's retraction rates of false beliefs

Date created: 
2010-08-18
Abstract: 

Children often have difficulty accurately recalling specific instances from within a series of similar events. These reports may be compromised if suggestive interviewing techniques are used. However, less information exists regarding whether children will maintain false reports if challenged. The current study examined children’s retraction rates of false statements. Kindergarten and Grade 3 children participated in one or four craft session(s). Four days later, children participated in a biasing interview, which included minor suggestions about the target session. The following day, children participated in two memory interviews about this session. A source-monitoring training session was implemented to help children distinguish between suggested and experienced information. Results demonstrated that children in the repeat-event condition were not more suggestible than children in the single-event condition and that children in the single-event condition answered more questions correctly after the training session; this session had no effect on retraction rates of false statements.

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

The pathway to revictimization: an attachment perspective

Date created: 
2010-07-30
Abstract: 

It is well established that childhood sexual abuse (CSA) increases the risk for subsequent sexual victimization. However, it is unclear why women with a CSA history may engage in risky behaviours and vulnerability-increasing cognitions that put them at risk for revictimization to a greater degree than women without a CSA history. I proposed and tested a model that uses attachment theory to interpret the increased involvement in risk factors for unwanted sex among women with a CSA history. The proposed model suggests that the extent to which women with a CSA history rely on insecure attachment strategies predicts their involvement in risk factors (sexual activity, substance use, and risk perception deficits) that, in turn, increase the likelihood of unwanted sexual experiences in adolescence and adulthood. Three hundred and eight university women completed measures of childhood and adolescent/adult sexual victimization, attachment strategies, sexual activity, substance use, and risk recognition in a date rape scenario. Among the risk factors assessed, only sexual activity mediated between CSA and unwanted sex. Substance use was not associated with CSA; but it was associated with sexual activity and was a risk factor for unwanted sex. Attachment insecurity was not associated with increased involvement in risk factors, and thus did not mediate the revictimization process as proposed. However, avoidant attachment strategies, especially in the context of low attachment anxiety, were associated with an increased risk for unwanted sexual experiences independent of the other risk factors. Discussion focuses on the potential value of attachment theory as an organizational framework for understanding sexual revictimization.

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

Much ado about nothing: gradient discontinuities and attention

Date created: 
2010-07-19
Abstract: 

The research described in this thesis was conducted to determine whether a gradient discontinuity (a gap) in an array of stimuli would also capture attention. A novel task was created to study this; an array of stimuli was presented for a brief period and then removed, a tilted-line target appeared at the gap location or elsewhere. Participants then made a speeded response about the target’s orientation which was found to be faster at gap locations than non-gap locations. The results of this research suggest that a gap discontinuity in a regular array of stimuli can capture attention, and can also serve as a location cue. Moreover, its capacity to do so may differ from that of other types of discontinuitie. These findings indicate that studying the operations involved in the visual analysis of gaps may help us to understand, more generally, how stimuli capture our attention.

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

The impact of health status on the everyday problem solving of older adults

Date created: 
2010-07-08
Abstract: 

There has been increasing interest in measures of everyday problem solving (EPS), which require traditional cognitive abilities as well as the appropriate application of these abilities to solving problems relevant to everyday situations. We examined the contribution of general illness burden and two subsets (non-vascular, and vascular illness burden) as well as two aspects of self-rated health (SRH; mental and physical) to individual differences in EPS performance in a sample of 102 community-dwelling older adults. Illness burden was conceptualized as the total number of each type of illness, and SRH was assessed using the Short Form 36 (SF-36). The vascular subset of general illness burden was associated with poorer EPS performance; however, this relationship was largely accounted for by demographic variables. Lower self-rated physical functioning (SRPF) predicted poorer EPS performance and may be an important predictor of EPS performance in the expanding older adult population in North America.

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