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Psychology

Does Francis Bacon prime Kevin Bacon better than bacon?: Using Homophones to Resolve TOTs

Brett Erspamer ('12); Mentor: Deborah Burke

Abstract: Older adults report tip-of-the-tongue experiences (TOTs), failures to recall well-known words, as their most troubling memory problem. We test whether prior production of common word homophones (CWHs) or proper name homophones (PNHs) differ in their ability to reduce TOTs for proper name targets. For example, is Kevin Bacon easier to recall after producing food bacon or Sir Francis Bacon? We hypothesized that prior production of PNHs would be more effective at reducing TOTs because their representations overlap the target more than CWHs do. We selected 45 target famous people and three types of primes for each: CWHs, PNHs, and unrelated words. Preliminary results from 21 older adult participants support our hypothesis: Fewer TOTs occurred for targets when preceded by PNHs than by CWHs and both yielded fewer TOTs than the unrelated words. These findings suggest that priming with PNHs could be an effective way of reducing TOTs in older adults.
Funding provided by The Aubrey H. and Eileen J. Seed Award, NIH Grant AG08835 (DB)

Psychological/Behavioral Verve and Latino Cultural Values

Alan Lopez ('11); Mentors: Eric A. Hurley, Nicole Weekes

Abstract: Latinos in the U.S. underperform and drop out of school in greater numbers than other ethnic/racial groups. Researchers theorize that a possible factor for the underperformance of minority children is that their learning style—a result of their cultural background—is inconsistent with traditional teaching methods. Prior to beginning their academic studies, children are exposed to learning experiences by their primary caregivers. The home environment, in which these experiences are obtained differs between cultures and predisposes children to prefer certain modes of learning. These cultural backgrounds are often not considered by academic institutions, thus certain racial groups are placed educationally at a disadvantage. The present study sought to examine the performance of 44 Latino participants on a series of cognitive tasks across varied and less varied presentation formats to determine if they possess a heightened responsiveness to stimulus change that is mediated by their cultural values. Results will be discussed.
Funding provided by The Paul K. Richter and Evalyn E. Cook Richter Award

Attachment and Approach and Avoidance Motivation in School-Aged Children

Kelly Miller ('12); Claire Laubacher ('13); Brian Clark ('12); Peggy Lin (CGU); Mentor: Jessica Borelli

Abstract: This study investigates the association between attachment classification and personality in school-aged children. Gray’s (1973) personality theory separates motivation into the behavioral activation system (BAS), which is sensitive to reward-related cues, and the behavioral inhibition system (BIS), which prompts individuals to avoid punishment. We hypothesize that BIS/BAS will vary by child attachment classification such that secure children will have greater BAS and lower BIS than insecure children. 97 children completed the Child Attachment Interview (CAI; Target et al, 2000) and their primary caregivers completed the BIS/BAS parent-report (Carver and White, 1994). ANCOVA models revealed that attachment was not a significant predictor of BIS or three subscales in BAS (p-values ranged from .25 to .70). These results do not support the hypothesis that BIS/BAS is related to attachment representations in school-aged children. Attachment may affect approach/avoidance behaviors only in relational contexts, whereas BIS/BAS indexes a generalized approach/avoidance motivational system.
Funding provided by The Fletcher Jones Foundation (KM, CL), The Paul K. Richter and Evalyn E. Cook Richter Award (BC), National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (Borelli)

Group Work, Memory Games and Ghanaian Pupils

Manayo Oddoye ('11); Mentor: Eric Hurley

Abstract: Does group work make a positive difference in the academic lives of Ghanaian pupils? I set out to find out what role group work played in classrooms in Ghana and whether students' performance and engagement could be affected by group placement. Using a Human Photocopier activity, I gathered results from 170 students in 4 schools. I have observed and recorded a marked increase in both student performance and student engagement when placed in groups as opposed to solo work. I believe that students that rely on and cultivate group work skills will be more engaged and more sociable in classroom settings and look forward to continuing this line of research.
Funding provided by The Fletcher Jones Foundation

The Mothers and Toddlers Program: An Attachment-Based Intervention for Mothers in Substance Abuse Treatment

Hannah Rasmussen ('11); Nancy Suchman*†; Cindy DeCoste*; Nicole Castiglioni*; Thomas McMahon*†; Bruce Rounsaville*; Linda Mayes*†; Mentor: Suzanne Thompson
*Psychiatry Dept (YU); †Yale Child Study Center (YU), Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT

Abstract: Suchman et al. are conducting a formal randomized clinical trial at Yale University investigating the efficacy of The Mothers and Toddlers Program, an attachment-based intervention for mothers in substance abuse treatment. Participants are mothers who are enrolled in treatment for their substance abuse and have a child between 12 and 36 months of age. The intervention focuses on bettering the emotional connection and communication between the dyad. Throughout the intervention the experimental group will meet with an individual therapist and discuss parenting experiences. The control group will receive case management and parenting guidance. It is expected that mothers in the experimental group will shift towards more balanced representations of their children (WMCI) and will develop a higher capacity for reflective functioning (PDI), which will increase sensitivity to children’s cues (NCAST). The implication being attachment-based parenting interventions are more effective at improving parent-child relationships in this population than traditional interventions.

Assessing Parental Empathic Functioning: The Development of a New Measure

Jessie Stern ('12); Jessica Borelli; Mentor: Patricia Smiley

Abstract: Empathy has long been regarded as an important concept in reducing aggression, motivating altruistic behavior, and promoting moral development in children. However, little research has investigated the role of parental empathy in child development, partly because adult empathy has proven difficult to assess. To address this issue, the Parental Affective and Cognitive Empathy Scale (PACES) was developed to evaluate parental empathy on the Parent Development Interview. A sample of ten interviews from the Mothers and Toddlers Program at Yale University and ten interviews from the Child Attachment Study at Pomona College was used to define the scale. Parents are evaluated on the degree to which they identify emotionally with the child’s internal states (affective empathy), understand the child’s internal states intellectually (cognitive empathy), and use this understanding to respond to the child’s needs (sensitive responding). Tests of interrater reliability and validity will be carried out during the 2010-2011 academic year.
Funding provided by The Fletcher Jones Foundation

"If at first you don't succeed...I love you less: Parent conditional regard and Children's Self- Worth"

Jennifer Sweda ('11); Mentor: Patricia Smiley

Abstract: Conditional regard (CR) refers to the parenting practice of bestowing or withdrawing attention and affection when children meet or fail to meet standards of behavior. Parent use of CR is associated with adolescents’ sense of self-worth that is contingent upon how well they perform, as well as their ability to regulate emotions including worry, fear and anger. We designed a study in which children 10-12 learn strategies and work on a puzzle task, then work on an easy perceptual matching task. They will report their emotions and thoughts throughout the challenging task. Compared to children whose parents do not use CR, we expect children whose parents use CR to utilize fewer strategies in solving puzzles and report negative emotions more often during challenge, as well as overperform on a postchallenge task.
Funding provided by The Fletcher Jones Foundation

Volition and Inference Under the Libet Model

Jonny Wang ('12); Daeho Kim ('12); Joel Fishbein ('12); Mentor: William P. Banks

Abstract: When we perform a simple action, such as pressing a button, is there really a time at which we decide to act? Banks and Isham (2009) found that when participants press a button and hear a beep delayed 20 – 60 ms after the button press, they alter their reports of the time at which they pressed the button to match the length of the delay of the beep. This result suggests that the participant inferred the time of action after acting, instead of being aware of exactly when they initiated the action. Our research replicates the Banks and Isham model, but instead of asking participants when they pushed the button, we asked when they decided to push the button. We observed individuals differences in reports of time of action, as well as general trends.
Funding provided by Sontag Grant (WB), The Fletcher Jones Foundation (DK), The Paul K. Richter and Evalyn E. Cook Richter Award (JF), Pomona College Psychology Dept.

Research at Pomona