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The Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) enables students to conduct extended, focused research in close cooperation with a Pomona faculty member. Research projects, which receive funding from Pomona and from public and private foundations, take place both on campus and in the field across the U.S. and the globe.
Students work on rigorous and fascinating research projects in the sciences, humanities and arts. They may join a faculty research project or pursue their own line of inquiry while being actively mentored by Pomona College faculty.
The summer is an excellent time for students to focus on experiential learning in libraries, laboratories and in the field for a sustained period of time. The lack of interruption from our usual college activities gives students and faculty the luxury of time and the opportunity to ponder great thoughts, plan intricate studies and disentangle the many variables that affect our scholarship/research.
SURP engages more than 200 students each summer. As a culmination of their efforts, students make a presentation of their work to the College community at the Pomona Summer Poster Conference each September and may apply for College support to present their project at a national conference.
While projects are rarely completed in the summer, they have laid the critical groundwork for continuing study. For many of our seniors, these projects often "morph" into senior theses. Research work may also result in co-authored articles in peer-reviewed journals.
Here is the link to the registration portal to fill out an application for SURP.
Developed in 1976, Pomona College Internship Program: Semester provides students with a generous stipend to pursue part-time, unpaid experiential learning opportunities with employers in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire.
There is no cost to employers. If you are interested in hiring Pomona students, simply make an account on Handshake and begin posting your internship opportunities. All employers manage their own hiring process, including the apply start & close dates for internship postings and any communication to students to schedule interviews and/or make offers.
Important: In order to apply for funding, students must have already secured an internship opportunity. The PCIP: Semester application is due two weeks after the start of classes in the fall/spring semester. Employers should plan to make offers to students in advance, as students must be able to provide proof they have secured an internship for the semester.
Check out these amazing student research projects from previous years, funded by a variety of sources, including SURP and PCIP!
Maternal Predictors of Poorer Self-Regulation in Toddlers
Francesca Querdasi ’18, Hannah Hecht ’18 and Kelly Scharlach ’18; Advisor: Patricia Smiley
In an ethnically and economically diverse sample, we studied associations between maternal socialization and toddler self-regulation capacity by measuring mothers’ attachment style and reflective functioning (ability to think about mental states), and their children’s emotional and behavioral responses to challenge. In theory, mothers with more attachment anxiety model dysregulated emotion and mothers who assume they fully understand their children’s mental states respond less sensitively to their children. We hypothesized that these two maternal tendencies would predict children’s emotional and behavioral dysregulation. Preliminary analyses indicate that in response to a toy breaking, toddlers showing more tension/worry compared to those showing a healthy level of concern and those who sought more help from adults to fix the toy tended to have moms who reported higher attachment anxiety. In response to a more challenging situation, the removal of a desirable toy, toddlers who showed more distress had mothers who expressed more certainty about their understanding of their children’s internal states; further, toddlers’ levels of distress mediated an indirect positive association between maternal certainty and toddlers’ turning to adults for help. We conclude that toddlers who express more distress when challenged by unexpected or frustrating events have mothers who report more anxiety in their relationships or are less flexible when intuiting their children’s mental states.
Funding Provided By: Aubrey H. & Eileen J. Seed Student Research Fund, Edwards/Hanley Endowed Fund
Biculturalism and Mental Health: The Mediating Role of Bicultural Efficacy for Acculturative Family Distancing on Psychological Well-Being
Julie (Hyeji) Cho ’19 and Helen Jun ’17; Advisor: Sharon Goto
Bicultural research has shown that ethnic minorities experience acculturative stress and heightened psychological distress. In his acculturative family distancing (AFD) theory, Hwang (2006) posited that acculturation gaps among parents and youth may lead to psychological and emotional distancing. This study examined whether self-efficacy, locus of control, and bicultural efficacy served as a mediator for the relationship between AFD and life satisfaction and self-esteem. A group of 102 Asian American and 74 European American college students from a predominantly white institution in the United States completed an online survey. Results indicated that both bicultural competence and bicultural efficacy served as mediators for the relationship between AFD and life satisfaction and self-esteem for Asian Americans, while general self-efficacy mediated the relationship between AFD and life satisfaction and self-esteem for European Americans. Implications for theorizing cross-cultural differences in constructs are discussed.
Funding Provided By: Faucett Catalyst Fund SURP Grant
Acculturation and Gender Predict Relation between Parenting and Adolescent’s Personality on Alcohol-Use Outcomes in Latinx Youth
Jennifer Aminta Acevedo ’19; Advisor: Guadalupe Bacio
Few studies explore the effects of parenting styles and adolescents’ personalities on alcohol use over time among Latinx youth. Using Waves 1(n=427), 2(n=280), and 3(n=373) of the national longitudinal Add-Health dataset, the present study aims to understand how specific parenting and personality domains during adolescence predict drinking behaviors through the transition to young adulthood. Preliminary analysis, using frequency statistics, indicated that Latinx adolescents from primarily English-speaking households had higher levels of motherly warmth, mother's encouragement to be independent, and problematic drinking frequency at Wave 1 and Wave 2, while adolescents from primarily Spanish-speaking households had higher levels of neuroticism at Wave 1 and problematic drinking at Wave 3. Bivariate correlations indicated that at Wave 1, parental control had a negative effect on alcohol initiation for women, but not men. Motherly warmth and mother's encouragement to be independent at Wave 1 was negatively correlated to drinking frequency up to Wave 3 for both men and women. Wave 1 neuroticism was positively correlated to Wave 3 drinking frequency for men but not women. These findings suggest that the interplay between parenting and the adolescent's personality on alcohol use outcomes during the transition to adulthood differ by primary language spoken at home and gender. Therefore, specific parenting and personality domains should be targeted for effective alcohol-use interventions.
Funding Provided By: General SURP Fund
Relationships Among Gender, Impulsivity, Parental Monitoring, and Alcohol-Related Problems Among Latinx Adolescents: A Moderated Moderation Model
Jovani Azpeitia ’19; Advisor: Guadalupe Bacio
Latinx adolescents have among the highest levels of lifetime alcohol (65.9%) and marijuana (45.6%) use, according to the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey report. Reported rates for lifetime alcohol use differed by gender, but lifetime marijuana use rates did not. Previous studies show higher levels of impulsivity are related to alcohol use, binge drinking, alcohol-related problems, alcohol use disorders, and marijuana use. Higher levels of parental monitoring have been found to reduce the likelihood of alcohol and marijuana use in Latinx youth, but less is known about the role of intrapersonal risk factors. The current study aims to bridge a gap in the literature between the effects and interactions of intrapersonal (i.e. impulsivity) and interpersonal (i.e. parental monitoring) variables on substance use outcomes (i.e. alcohol use, alcohol-related problems and marijuana use), while testing for the moderating role of gender. This is a secondary analysis of a health study of 129 Latinx high school adolescents in Southern California. As expected, PROCESS macro regression analyses showed that parental monitoring moderated the relationship between impulsivity and alcohol-related problems, and in turn, these associations differed by gender. No other significant results were found. Implications of these findings suggest for parental units to maintain high levels of parental monitoring on their Latinx high school adolescents, particularly females, as to reduce the likelihood of alcohol-related problems.
Funding Provided By: Aubrey H & Eileen J Seed Student Research Fund
Parental Norms Play Significant Role in the Sexual Behaviors and Birth Control Use of Young Adult Women
Cierra Howard ’18; Advisor: Guadalupe Bacio
Women in their late teens and early 20s report the highest rates of unintended pregnancies, affecting approximately 71-106 per 1000 women aged 19-29 (e.g., Finer & Zolna, 2006). Previous literature has found that perceived norms of peers, in regards to unprotected sex, pregnancy and contraceptive use, influence these behaviors in adolescent girls. While some research has shown that parental approval of birth control and disapproval of sexual behaviors also influence these behaviors among younger ages, there is a gap in knowledge regarding how parental norms impact women aged 19-22. The current study hypothesizes that perceived norms of parents will be associated with sex behaviors and birth control use, or lack thereof, in addition to the effects of perceived norms of peers. Data was obtained from the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life Study conducted at University of Michigan. Linear regression models supported the hypothesis, showing that the norms of both parents and peers significantly affected the likelihood of pregnancy (Î² = -.178 parents, Î² = -.131 peers), unprotected sex (Î² = -.171, Î² = -.177), and birth control use (Î² = -.381, Î² = -.072) in young women. Interestingly, results suggest that perceived parent norms accounted for slighter greater variance on risk behaviors than perceived peer norms. Findings indicate that, when addressing sex behaviors for young adult women, integrating parental factors can be useful when creating relevant educational programs.
Funding Provided By: Fletcher Jones Foundation
Enclothed Cognition and the Effect of Police Uniforms on Implicit Associations of Race/SES
Anita Mathias ’19, Sarah Grayzel-Ward ’19, Nathalie Guevara ’19, Julie Cho ’19 and Gustavo Galo ’20; Advisor: Richard Lewis
This study sought to explore the effect of enclothed cognition on implicit racial/socioeconomic bias. Studies have shown that uniforms increase the wearer’s confidence and performance. Recent research has also revealed implicit associations specific to African American faces or hoodies. In this experiment, participants completed two cognitive tasks measuring their reaction times (RT) in the presence of distractor photos of race (black/white faces) or socioeconomic status (hoodie/suit). Participants either wore a police uniform or were in the presence of the uniform (control) while performing the task. The first task was a Dot Probe; participants rapidly indicated whether a circle appeared on the left/right side while image pairs (black/white face or hoodie/suit) were displayed above. For the second task, Drawn Attention, participants identified shapes as squares or circles while a male black or white face or a suit/hoodie picture was shown. Subjects then took a survey with various measures of demographics and police perception. Our results neither showed main effects based on race/SES nor a main effect for wearing the uniform. However, a two-way interaction for low SES and uniform was somewhat supported. A significant interaction between skin color (1-light; 9-dark) and RT for the low SES stimulus under the uniform condition was also observed. White participants were more distracted when wearing the uniform, while POC participants had slower RTs when not wearing the uniform.
Funding Provided By: Aubrey H. & Eileen J. Seed Student Research Fund, Faucett Catalyst Fund SURP Grant and Dean’s Diversity Fund
Impact of Family and Neighborhood Factors on Lifetime Substance Use Among Latinx Youth
Sergio Ruvalcaba ’19; Advisor: Guadalupe Bacio
Latinx adolescents have among the highest lifetime alcohol (65.9%) and marijuana (45.6%) use, with males having the highest tobacco use (37.8%), according to the 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey report. Rates of lifetime use differed by gender with alcohol and tobacco, but not for marijuana. Previous studies link higher levels of familial closeness as protective factor against substance use for adolescents, but there is a lack of literature regarding its relationship to extended social spheres such as their neighborhoods. The current study aims to provide more information on how neighborhood ties, along with familial closeness, act as moderators for substance use outcomes. This is a secondary analysis of a statewide survey consisting of 357 Latinx adolescents from San Diego, California. Statistical analysis showed that familial closeness acted as a protective factor against tobacco use for females, but not for males, and neighborhood ties acted as a protective factor against tobacco use for males, but not for females. No other significant results were found. Implications for these findings propose that future interventions consider specific criteria targeting different contexts.
Funding Provided By: Department Funding
Language Matching in School-aged Children and their Mothers: Associations with Emotional Reactivity
Schuyler Fox '17, Chloe Cohen PZ '17, Matthew Marvin '17, Alex Palmer '17; Mentors: Jessica Borelli and Patricia Smiley
Language style matching (LSM) assesses dyadic similarity in the frequency of function word use; mother-child LSM may be an index of greater empathy within dyads. In the context of failure, we predicted that higher mother-child LSM would be associated with reduced child, but heightened maternal, reactivity to a stressor. Children (N = 106, 49% girls, Mage = 10.27 years, SDage = 1.09 years) and their mothers (Mage = 39.43 years, SDage = 7.00 years) participated in the study. Children completed a failure task involving impossible puzzles (Performance Challenge Task [PCT]) while their mothers watched. They each separately completed interviews regarding their own and the others' experiences during the PCT. Before and after the PCT, children provided saliva samples, and children and mothers reported on their emotional experience; mothers' cardiovascular reactivity was assessed at baseline and while observing the PCT. After controlling for covariates, regressions revealed that higher LSM was associated with lower cortisol in children, as well as children's subjective emotion regulation. Further, higher mother-child LSM predicted greater maternal cardiovascular reactivity during the PCT. This suggests that higher LSM is associated with reduced reactivity for children but heightened cardiovascular reactivity for mothers. In the context of children's stress, parental empathy may help child regulation, but may come at a physiological cost for parents.
Low Resting RSA Mediates Associations between Conditional Regard for Anger Expression and Children's Trait and State Emotion Regulation
Sue Hyun Kwon '18, Sameen Bopari '17, Kajung Hong '16, Elayne Zhou, Ella Jarvik '17; Mentor: Patricia Smiley and Jessica Borelli
Conditional regard is a form of parental overcontrol used to socialize emotion regulation (ER). Adolescents who report that their parents use positive conditional regard (PCR), i.e., provide extra affection when they suppress anger, report higher anxiety and dysregulated ER. Respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia (RSA; variability of heart rate in synchrony with respiration) is an index of parasympathetic ER response. Low basal RSA is associated with signs of poor ER, including anxiety and distress, and poor parent-child interaction. To date, studies using PCR-anger have not examined its associations with RSA, nor with ER in the context of a real-life stressor. A diverse sample of children (N = 96, Mage = 10.27 years) participated. After reporting anxiety and perceived parent use of PCR for anger, children's basal RSA was measured. Children then completed a stressor task (unsolvable puzzles) with mothers present. Before and after the task, children reported their emotional state. Regression analyses showed that PCR-anger marginally predicted child anxiety, but not emotion valence. Child basal RSA fully mediated the association between PCR-anger and children's trait anxiety, and the association between PCR-anger and increased negative emotion. Our results suggest that PCR-anger is linked to higher anxiety and negativity, due to maladaptive physiological stress responses that may be socialized through overcontrolling parenting.
Electrophysiological Processing of Angry Faces and its Relation to Social Anxiety
Goeun Park '17; Mentor: Richard Lewis
Being able to read faces is critical for deriving important information about identity, thoughts and feelings. Therefore, understanding the neural mechanisms associated with reading faces provides insight into an important human social function. The N170 event-related potential (ERP) is the most heavily studied electrophysiological index of facial processing, and is usually the first ERP measure distinguishing the processing of faces and non-face objects. Less well understood is the electrophysiology of facial expression. We investigated the temporal and spatial dimensions of the processing of angry faces, and sought to examine if the neural activity to angry faces correlated with self-report measures of social anxiety. Twenty-five participants were presented with randomized pictures of cars and faces and instructed to count the number of cars. Preliminary results show there was a larger negativity at the N170 in response to faces than to cars at the lateral posterior electrodes, which was larger on the right than the left.
The Roles of Emotion Reactivity and Regulation in Adolescent Sensitivity to Peer Rejection
Fran Querdasi '18; Mentor: Jessica Borelli
Adolescence is a critical time when the risk for psychopathology is very high. During this period, reward-related brain circuitry matures substantially, making peer interactions rewarding and salient; negative peer interactions, in contrast, represent potent stressors. Past research has linked peer victimization broadly to the development of internalizing symptoms in adolescents, with emotion dysregulation posited as one potential mechanism underlying this association. The present study sought to expand on these findings by examining the relative roles of emotional reactivity and habitual emotion regulation strategies in predicting adolescent sensitivity to peer rejection during an ecologically valid chatroom task. Teen participants (n = 273) participated in a rejection manipulation that involved varying the frequency with which they were chosen by another adolescent for an online conversation. Degree and persistence of rejection sensitivity were measured by increases in self-reported negative affect across the task and decreased distress-tolerance (assessed as persistence in a difficult arithmetic game) following the task, respectively. Higher levels of self-reported trait emotional reactivity, but not habitual regulation strategy, predicted greater sensitivity to rejection. These findings suggest that for emotionally reactive adolescents, reliance on the same strategies across situations may not be protective against the negative effects of peer rejection.
School-aged Children's We-Talk Mediates the Association Between Depressive Symptoms and Stress Reactivity
Callison Kernick '18, Andrea Green '17, Aurora Brachman '17, Courtney Chan CMC '17; Mentors: Patricia Smiley and Jessica Borelli
Depressed adults use more first-person singular pronouns (I-talk) and fewer first-person plural pronouns (we-talk) than non-depressed adults because depression involves isolative self-focus rather than communal, shared focus. Communal coping predicts positive physiological outcomes, whereas independent coping can heighten stress reactivity. In this study, we explored links between children's depressive symptoms, we-talk, and neuroendocrine reactivity to a challenging task, hypothesizing that: 1) children with higher depressive symptoms will use less we-talk, 2) lower we-talk will predict children's heightened stress reactivity, and 3) we-talk will mediate the longitudinal relation between depressive symptoms and stress reactivity. Participants were 53 children (8-12 yrs) and their primary caregivers. At Time 1, caregivers reported children's depressive symptoms and children completed a semi-structured interview about school experiences. At Time 2 (1.5 years later), children completed a challenging task (CT) involving unsolvable geometric puzzles and provided saliva samples for cortisol. Children's depressive symptoms were associated with lower we-talk, and children's we-talk was associated with lower cortisol reactivity to the CT. Children's we-talk mediated the association between Time 1 depression and Time 2 reactivity. Depressive symptoms may be linked to a lower sense of belonging, reflected in lower use of we-talk, which may contribute to a heightened stress response.
Constructing Our Feelings: Memory-Driven Emotional Experience
Susannah Lee '17; Mentor: Ajay Satpute
Emotional experiences are an important element of life, but how the brain generates these experiences is not well understood. One model of brain function that may apply to emotional experiences is the predictive coding model. This model suggests that "higher" processing regions in the brain actively predict (perhaps even supplant) information arriving from "lower" levels. In this model, the emotional effects of a stimulus, upon repetition, could be drawn from a previous exposure with that stimulus rather than the present interaction. The overarching goal of our project is to understand how top-down and bottom-up pathways interact to generate emotional experiences. In this study, we focus on the lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) because of its role in memory retrieval, and hypothesize that it may be involved in the top-down construction of emotional experience. Prior research with fMRI suggests that activity in the LPFC increases for a previously-viewed emotional stimulus relative to a novel stimulus. This may reflect the use of top-down, memory-driven predictions to generate emotional experience. First, we plan to use functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to measure the BOLD response in the LPFC during repeated presentation of emotionally charged images and ratings of emotional state after each image. Once a relationship between the LPFC and emotional experience has been established, we will move forward with computational modeling of this phenomenon.
Emotion Valuation on Hedonic and Evaluative Dimensions and its Impact on Affective Experience
Alex Lee '17; Mentor: Ajay Satpute
Evaluating emotion categories in terms of their "goodness" or "badness" can guide which emotions are cultivated in society (e.g. from parents to children, by a religious community, or across cultures). Prior work examining emotion knowledge focused on the hedonic value of emotions (pleasant or unpleasant) without consideration of how people might value these emotions on evaluative dimensions (goodness, badness, importance). Such conflation of evaluative and hedonic value dimensions into a single dimension, often referred as valence, fails to address whether people value emotions in multiple dimensions. Hence, here we tested whether emotions differed in terms of how much their evaluation could be accounted for by hedonics alone. In Study 1 (n = 168), participants completed an online survey in which they judged several emotion words for hedonic value ("pleasantness"/"unpleasantness") and evaluative value ("good"/"bad"), and "importance". We observed a significant interaction between emotion and value dimension across ratings, alluding that the for certain emotions hedonic values are significantly different from the evaluative values people place. Extending from the idea that these value dimensions might guide the emotions encouraged to be felt in society, in Study 2 (n = 21), we examined whether people's hedonic and evaluative emotion judgments predict their emotional states (e.g. "fear", "disgust", "anger", and "sadness"); preliminary findings of which will be discussed.
Biculturalism and Global Processing: The Effect of Culture and Scope on Effortful Visual Processing
Hyobin You '18, Kevin Kerr '18, Goeun Park '17, Jovani Azpeitia '19, Sarah Grayzel-Ward '19; Mentors: Sharon Goto and Richard Lewis
Culture is a significant construct that shapes not only people's values and norms but also cognition, including visual processing styles. Past studies suggest that individuals from East Asian cultures are traditionally more collectivistic and more likely to attend to global perception while those from Western cultures are traditionally more individualistic and more likely to attend to local perception. Meanwhile, Asian American biculturals can be primed to frameshift between the two cultures (Mok & Morris, 2012). The Navon letter task reflects this phenomenon by asking participants to identify the local or global element of a stimulus. This study aimed to explore potential interactions between our subject groups, cognitive load conditions, local/global processing, collectivism/individualism, and bicultural identity conflict. Seventy-seven Asian American (AA) and European American (EA) participants were recruited from Claremont, CA. Subjects were culturally primed before completing a computerized Navon letter task under varying cognitive loads. Results show there was a main effect of cognitive load on reaction time as well as an interaction between cognitive load, scope of processing (global/local), and culture (EA or AA). There was a positive correlation between BII Cultural Conflict and reaction time for global processing in AA. These results support the effortful nature of frameswitching and have implications on the consequences of internal cultural conflict for biculturals.
Self-Construal and Life Satisfaction: Crossing Cultures to Finding the Key to Happiness
Helen Jun '17, Mae Coyiuto '17, Jovani Azpeitia '19, Anita Mathias '19, Capricorn Choi
Asian cultures are typically described to be relationally interdependent, while European Americans are considered individualistic. Studies have shown that interdependents' life satisfaction is influenced by close others' perception of their life success, while independents' is not (Suh, Diener, & Updegraff, 2008). Four culturally distinct populations, Asian American, European American, Chinese, and Filipino, were sampled and given a self-report survey on various measures. There were significant group differences in interdependent self-construal, social avoidance, life satisfaction, and fear of negative evaluation. Both fear of negative evaluation and social avoidance/distress mediated the relationship between independent self construal and life satisfaction, while the association between independent self-construal and social avoidance/distress was moderated by groups when separated into subjects based in Asia versus the United States. Specifically, the relationship between independent self-construal and social avoidance/distress only held true for the groups based in the US. Our moderation finding suggests that American collectivists may also navigate between independent and interdependent self-construal. Furthermore, because independent self-construal indirectly correlates with life satisfaction and interdependent self-construal does not, there seems to shortcomings in perceiving independence and interdependence as a single, binary scale.
A Tragedy in the Commons: How Moral Framing of Climate Change Could Backfire
Joshua Hirschfeld-Kroen '17; Mentor: Adam Pearson
Addressing climate change is increasingly seen as a moral imperative by politicians and religious leaders, as shown by the recent initiatives of Pope Francis. While there may be benefits to framing climate change in moral terms, it is possible that these messages could also backfire. Drawing on recent theory in moral psychology, we designed a study to test whether exposing individuals to information about Americans as either major contributors to climate change or victims of its effects would subsequently lead to divergent and biased perceptions about American vulnerability and responsibility, respectively. We hypothesize that framing Americans as major contributors (moral agents) will diminish perceptions that they are vulnerable to climate change (moral patients). Conversely, we hypothesize that framing Americans as vulnerable to climate change will diminish perceptions that they are responsible for contributing to its effects.
Cultural Differences in K-Pop Fan Practices and Behavior
Lucia Ruan ’16; Mentor: Sharon Goto
Cultural differences between the United States and Asia in individualism, collectivism, and power distance (I.E. the perception of difference in vertical relations) are well documented (Markus & Kitayama 1991; Eylon & Au 1999). However, these distinctions have rarely been considered in the context of fan culture, much less that of K-pop. Given the technological age, studying fan consumption of media by impressionable youth is vital. This study explores K-pop fan practices in the US and South Korea using established differences in collectivism, power distance—and extends the research to cultural colonialism, or “the asymmetrical influence of one culture over another” (Blackwell Reference 2008). Although the US has never formally colonized Korea, the influence it has on the nation is so great that cultural colonialism is possible, leading to the hypothesis that Korean fans would exhibit more colonial mentality than US fans. 23 participants from Korea and the US were surveyed to determine the relationship individualism/collectivism, power distance, and colonial mentality (David & Okazaki 2006 scale adapted for Korean context) have with K–pop fan practices. Results suggest that Korean fans are more likely to believe that some fans are better than others, and both Americans and Koreans think it is a good idea for White people to enter the K-pop industry, though US fans expressed more ambivalence. Implications for the cultural colonialism construct and fan practices are discussed.
Funding Provided By: Cion Estate
Divergent Goals in Impression Management during Imagined Cross-Class Interactions
Jun Park ’16; Mentors: Sharon Goto and Adam Pearson
Social class shapes important life outcomes such as well-being and academic achievement (Stephens, Markus, & Fryberg, 2012). However, significantly less is known about the socio-cognitive and interpersonal tendencies that may be characteristic of people from different social class backgrounds. In the current study, it was hypothesized that social class differences would emerge in one key aspect of interpersonal social cognition: self-presentation goals. One hundred forty-nine participants (65 men and 84 women) imagined interacting with someone from either a different or similar social class background before self-reporting their preferred impression management strategies that related to dimensions of warmth and competence (Bergsieker, Shelton, & Richeson, 2010; Fiske, Cuddy, & Glick, 2007). As hypothesized, cross-class interactions revealed a goal divergence such that participants who were made to feel lower subjective SES preferred to be seen as more competent (than warm) and participants who were made to feel elevated subjective SES preferred to be seen as more warm (than competent). Participants in the same-class interaction condition showed no preference for the same goals.
Funding Provided By: Richter
Does Language Cause Thought? Beyond Correlation with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
David Cremins ’18; Mentors: Deborah Burke and Martin Monti (UCLA); Collaborator: Michah Johnson ’10 (UCLA)
Philosophers and neuroscientists have long explored the link between natural language and other cognitive processes. Monti et al. (2011, 2012) have shown, via fMRI, that in solving hierarchical problems (ie. those dependent on embedded structures) in the domains of logic and math, the brain uses neural resources independent of major language areas. The present study seeks to bolster these correlational imaging findings with a causal paradigm that applies transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to Broca’s area in order to temporarily inhibit processing. This region of interest (ROI) in the left inferior frontal gyrus is key to syntax processing and has also been thought to act as a supra-modal hierarchical parser (SMHP) for all structure-dependent thought. Subjects’ accuracy and response times will be measured during sessions with and without TMS focused on the ROI, while completing behavioral tasks in five domains: 1) language syntax processing, 2) algebraic reasoning, 3) theory of mind comprehension, 4) harmonic violation judgment, and 5) action sequence planning. The TMS is expected to significantly impair performance in 1, to a lesser extent in 4 and 5 (both theorized to involve syntax processing), and not in 2 or 3. This pattern would show that the ROI does not support all hierarchical tasks and disprove the SMHP hypothesis. Overall, this experiment will shed more light on the relationships, or lack thereof, between language processing and other domains of cognition.
Funding Provided By: Craddock
Effect of Relational Savoring on Parental Sensitivity and Child Self-Regulation
Kajung Hong ’16; Mentors: Patricia Smiley and Jessica Borelli; Collaborators: Alix Girard '16, Maritza Padilla '16, Lucas Sohn '16, Helen Jun '17, Alexandra Palmer '17, Sabrina Cash '16, Sameen Boparai '17, Crystal Chen '18
This study will examine whether an attachment-based savoring intervention has significant effects on parental reflective functioning, parental sensitivity and, consequently, child self-regulation. Participants will include 150 toddlers (ages 18-24 months at the start of the study) and their parents. We expect that those in the relational savoring condition, in which mothers recollect and relive a connected memory with their child, will experience greater increases in reflective functioning and in the quality of the mother-child relationship than those in the personal savoring condition, in which mothers recollect a positive memory of a time they had to themselves. We hypothesize that increased reflective functioning will mediate the association between savoring condition and parental sensitivity. Furthermore, we expect that mother attachment style will moderate the association between savoring condition and reflective functioning, such that mothers with high attachment avoidance will experience greater improvements in reflective functioning and parental sensitivity than secure mothers. Thus, children of mothers with an avoidant attachment style will show greater self-regulation compared to children of secure mothers.
Funding Provided By: Pomona Unrestricted (Hong, Padilla, Palmer, Jun), Pro 1970 (Sohn), Richter (Girard), Pomona College Psychology Department (Cash)
Questioning the Automaticity of Mentalization: Developing a Procedure to Knock Out Mind Perception
Susie Lee ’17; Mentor: Ajay Satpute
As human beings, we go through the world perceiving others as having beliefs, emotions, and goals. This ability is referred to as making mental state attributions. Past behavioral work has assumed that this ability is unconditionally automatic, like seeing color. However, recent work in neuroscience calls its automaticity into question. The purpose of this study was to develop a paradigm to “knock out” subjects’ ability to maintain a representation of another’s mental state, which would suggest that this ability is not automatic. METHOD: Participants (n = 58) were shown a classic video in which moving targets are normally perceived as having mental states. Some participants watched the video while listening to unrelated social words. Afterwards, all participants described what happened in the video. RESULTS: We reasoned that if mental state attributions occur automatically, then hearing these words would not disrupt the use of mental state words in descriptions of the video afterwards; and if they do, that this would support the view that these attributions are not automatic. Subjects hearing social words made fewer mental state attributions in their description than subjects who heard no words, but this difference was not statistically significant. DISCUSSION: These findings suggest that a stronger manipulation may be useful to test whether knock out of mental state attributions may occur. Alternative designs will be discussed as future directions.
Funding Provided By: Pomona Unrestricted
The Role of Verb Tenses in Reconsolidation of Autobiographical Memories
Melis Cakar ’17; Mentor: Ajay Satpute
Studies have shown that every time you retrieve a memory, the memory becomes labile: it can be changed to be more or less emotional. This phenomenon, known as ‘reconsolidation’, has implications for understanding how emotional memories operate. Most work on reconsolidation has been on non-human animals in which memory is observed through behavior. But in humans, memories are retrieved very differently, often using language. Whether language can be used in various ways to influence the susceptibility of reconsolidation is unclear. In this study, we tested whether language, in terms of verb tenses, influences how malleable an emotional memory is. Subjects retrieved an aversive autobiographical memory using either the simple (e.g. I watched) or continuous (e.g. I was watching) past tenses. Subjects then viewed a series of negative or neutral images that may incidentally increase or decrease the emotional content of the memory during reconsolidation. One week later, subjects again retrieved their memory. We found that the influence of incidental emotional materials on reconsolidation depended on the language used to retrieve the memory. Specifically, incidental negative images increased the emotional content of the autobiographical memory, but only for those who used a past continuous tense for retrieval. Our findings suggest that the language used to retrieve an autobiographical memory can render it more susceptible to change during reconsolidation.
Funding Provided By: Pomona Unrestricted
A closer look at group orientation in Latin America: Familism, Communalism and Interdependent Self construal among Ecuadorians
Cristina Salvador (2015); Mentor(s): Eric Hurley
Abstract: The current literature describes latinos as possessing a form of group orientation known as familism. The present study examined how different measures emic to African Americans and Asian Americans performed in an Ecuadorian sample. In the study 153 students from two different high schools in Ecuador completed measures of communalism, familism, self-construal, and the learning context scenarios. All measures except for the familism scale performed well in this population. Preliminary results show that as predicted, Ecuadorians scored high on interdependent self-construal, independent self- construal and similar to African Americans on the communalism scale. The students also preferred the high achievers with afro-cultural values to those with euro-cultural qualities. Our preliminary results suggest that familism may not be a broad enough construct to describe Latin American populations. This has implications calls for the development of a more emic measure of group orientation that catches more of the important manifestations of the form of group orientation found in Latin populations.
Funding Provided by: Pomona Alumni SURP Fund
Maternal Emotional Distance is Linked to Children’s Introjected Academic Motivation
Anthony Gómez (2015); Student Collaborator(s): Alix Girard (2016), Laura (2015), Stassja Sichko (2015); Mentor(s): Jessica Borelli, Patricia Smiley
Abstract: Attachment avoidance is associated with denying the importance of emotion in the self and others (e.g., Cassidy, 1994), and attachment theory suggests that children raised by avoidant caregivers supplant their needs for closeness with a focus on achievement (Powell et al., 2014), developing a sense of self-worth that is contingent on getting approval for achievement. Self-determination theory (SDT) posits that parents who make their affection contingent on their children’s performance compromise satisfying their children’s need for relatedness. In turn, their children develop contingent self-worth that is characteristic of “introjected motivation,” in which children adopt parents’ standards without fully integrating them as their own (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Although research shows that parent behavior low in relatedness is associated with less positive academic outcomes (Ryan & Grolnick, 1986), there is as yet no evidence that low relatedness is linked to introjected motivation. In our study, we measured maternal attachment avoidance and child introjected motivation with questionnaires and assessed maternal relatedness in a hypothetical scenario of poor academic performance. We predicted that mothers high in attachment avoidance would express less relatedness in response to children’s failure and would be more likely to have children who self-reported introjected motivation. Analyses supported our hypothesis. Our findings elucidate connections between attachment theory and SDT.
Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP (AG); Paul K. Richter and Evalyn E. Cook Richter Memorial Fund (AG, LR)
Force: It's How We Learn
Andrew Saul (2014); Additional Collaborator(s): Celia Dufournet (Corporeal Mime, Hippocampe); Mentor(s): Patricia Smiley, Thomas Leabhart
Abstract: Researchers spent time in a community with performers exploring effects of giving heightened attention to movement. To understand the manner by which adults gain heightened capacities to think and act presents an endeavor into relatively uncharted territory. This project attempts, through the systematic exploration of the experience of force, to discover the results of enacting an active process that may catalyze development. Participants created movement sequences using objects including shirts, scarves, and even axes, or the mass of the body. The study required participants to change both their spatial planar orientation and level of their body in relation to the ground during each movement of the sequence. After rehearsal, actors performed these unabridged sequences playfully. In observing the participants over time, their progress arose noticeably in three distinct kinds of movement: the pre-movement which gives the participant heightened tone, inter-corporeal movement, i.e. the juxtaposition between head facing left and torso facing right, and interspatial movement, involving all the actions taken either to manipulate the object, for example, to lift a shirt, or to change position on the stage, i.e. to take a step. Key conclusions are that playing with objects that have mass enhances the difficulty level of movement attempted, heightens the precision of execution and most importantly expands the dynamic range in which the participant plays, giving the performer’s actions more deeply musical or poetic qualities.
Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP
Verbal Fluency and Reading Ability in Deaf Adults
James Waller (2016); Mentor(s): Patricia Smiley
Abstract: For my SURP I worked with Daniel Koo and a team of researchers at Gallaudet University on a large on-going project on Deaf literacy. Deaf Americans have consistently lower reading levels than the general population, though there are also many highly skilled Deaf readers. The study compared 48 Deaf college students of varying reading levels on a variety of cognitive and linguistics tasks, to try to identify factors that influenced reading ability. I focused on a smaller subproject focused the two phonological verbal fluency tests used, FAS and 51U. Verbal fluency refers to how quickly one can sort through their mental lexicon of a language for words that match arbitrary criteria, and researchers believe it is correlated with executive functioning. For the FAS, participants are given a letter and must produce as many English words as possible that start with that letter. The 51U is a version of the test developed for American Sign Language; participants must produce signs that match a given handshape. I scored all 48 participants on the 51U, and developed a coding system to accurately record the signs produced. Analysis so far indicates scores on the 51U are correlated with scores on the FAS. However, while the FAS is correlated with reading comprehension, the 51U is not. Thus reading comprehension seems to be correlated with the FAS because both require sufficient grasp of English, not because reading depends on executive control or functioning required for verbal fluency.
Funding Provided by: Fletcher Jones Foundation
The effects of priming and cognitive load on local and global processing in bi-cultural individuals
Yichen Lu (2017); Student Collaborator(s): Megan Holman (2015), Samantha MaeTanyu Coyiuto (2017); Mentor(s): Sharon Goto; Richard Lewis
Abstract: Priming independent and interdependent self-construal has been shown to affect attention in social contexts for Asian Americans. According to Fong et al. (2014), when Asian Americans were primed with interdependent values, they displayed greater sensitivity to background objects and social context than when primed with independent values. We sought to examine whether this priming could have the same effect on other bi-cultural individuals of other cultures (Chinese-Filipinos in the Philippines and Chinese in Beijing and Shanghai). Our study was a 2 (high versus low cognitive load) x 2 (interdependent versus independent prime) design. We examined whether cognitive load would affect accuracy and reaction time by having participants keep in mind either a two-digit or six-digit number. We primed participants with scrambled sentences containing words related to either a home (interdependent) or work (independent) environment. Using the Navon letter task (Lin, Lin & Han, 2008), stimuli of many smaller letters forming the shape of a larger letter, we compared the participants’ performance in local versus global processing. The dependent variables were accuracy and reaction time in perceiving the target letter. We hypothesized that interdependent primes would lead to greater processing of global letters, but that this effect would be moderated by cognitive load.
Funding Provided by: Paul K. Richter and Evalyn E. Cook Richter Memorial Fund (YL); Pomona College SURP (MH); Davis Project for Peace (MC)
The Medical Confidence Gap: Differences in Decision Making Between Male and Female Physicians
Bryn Launer (2015); Additional Collaborator(s): Suzanne Thompson; Mentor(s): Shlomo Sher
Abstract: Physicians often make collaborative medical decisions, which can be extremely important and time-sensitive. This study investigates how physician gender and status affect aspects of their decision-making styles with physicians and patients. The decision making styles used are “Confidence,” a person’s confidence in themselves as a decision maker, and “Respect,” a person’s perception of their position as a respected decision maker. This study hypothesized that 1) female physicians will feel more confident and respected than male physicians when interacting with patients, 2) female physicians will feel less confident and respected when interacting with female doctors than when interacting with male doctors, and 3) specialists of both genders will feel more confident and respected than primary care physicians. Physicians from both specialty and primary care practices completed a survey evaluating each decision making style when interacting with three different groups: female physicians, male physicians, and patients. This study found that female physicians feel significantly less confident and respected as decision makers when collaborating with male physicians as opposed to other female physicians, whereas male physicians report no difference between genders. Additionally, male specialists feel significantly more confident than other groups. These results highlight the effects of gender on physician collaboration, and may suggest deeper gender issues present in the medical field.
Funding Provided by: Aubrey H. and Eileen J. Seed Student Research Fund
The Influence of Parent Language Use on Children's Thinking
Laura River (2015); Additional Collaborator(s): Cassie Freeman (University of Chicago); Rebecca Frausel (University of Chicago); Susan Goldin-Meadow (University of Chicago); Mentor(s): Jessica Borelli
Abstract: Before children in the U.S. enter school, they already show differences in higher-order thinking (HOT) skills, which influences their later academic performance (Duncan et al., 2007). Parent language use affects children’s school readiness, even mediating effects of demographics like socio-economic status (Cartmill et al., 2011): children use more complex language after receiving more complex input from caregivers earlier in development (Huttenlocher et al., 2010). Early language use by parents may also have implications for children’s use of HOT. Decontextualized speech (DCXT) may be one mechanism by which children develop the HOT skill of abstraction in dialogue with their parents. DCXT refers to events and ideas beyond the immediate environment (Curenton et al., 2008). Abstraction is generalization from specific instances (see Holyoak, 2012). No studies so far have examined the relationship between DCXT and HOT in children’s and caregivers’ spontaneous speech before age 5. The present research explores the relationship between DCXT and abstraction in speech in a sample of 20 parent-child dyads. I will assess transcripts of each dyad’s spontaneous speech when the child is 38 and 58 months old, for frequency and type of DCXT and abstraction. I hypothesize that frequency of DCXT will predict frequency of abstraction in all speech, and that frequency of DCXT by parents will predict frequency of abstraction by children, mediated by the children’s use of DCXT. The role of parent and child gesture during language will also be examined.
Funding Provided by: Pomona Alumni SURP Fund
Parent-Child Co-Regulation of Emotion, Physiological Arousal, and Implications in the Etiology of Anxiety Disorders
Nicole Welindt (2014); Student Collaborator(s): Lauren Vazquez (2014); Laura Perrone (2014); Kristin Brikmanis (2014); Mentor(s): Jessica Borelli; Patricia Smiley
Abstract: Anxiety disorders are the most common psychological disorders among school-aged children. While myriad factors likely contribute to the etiology of anxiety disorders in children, one well-documented risk factor is parental anxiety. Studies have yet to examine the role of co-regulation of emotion between parent and child: from this perspective, parents who are unable to control their own anxiety when their child is feeling negative emotions may inadvertently teach their child that their negative emotions are unmanageable. Over time, the child may learn to avoid his/her negative emotions. In this study, we plan on examining the relationship between maternal and child anxiety during a difficult puzzle task. Physiological measures of arousal, including cortisol levels, respiratory sinus arrhythmia, and galvanic skin response will be used to examine the regulation and dysregulation of emotion. In addition, surveys and interviews will provide insight into mother’s and children’s subjective experiences. We hypothesize that greater maternal anxiety will be related with greater increases from baseline in subjective and physiological measurements of negative emotion. Additionally, we hypothesize that we will find evidence of coregulation of negative emotion between mother and child. Such findings would have important implications for understanding the etiology of anxiety disorders in children.
Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP (NW, LV); Evelyn B. Craddock-McVicar Memorial Fund (LP); Paul K. Richter and Evelyn E. Cook Richter Memorial Fund (KB)
Substance-Abusing Women on the Struggles of Motherhood: A Thematic Analysis
Sonya Zhu (2014); Student Collaborator(s): Lourdes De Las Heras (Yale University School of Medicine); Additional Collaborator(s): Cindy DeCoste (Yale University School of Medicine); Nancy Suchman (Yale University School of Medicine, Yale Child Study Center); Mentor(s): Jessica Borelli
Abstract: The present study is an exploratory thematic analysis of narratives provided by substance-abusing mothers. Mothers of infants and toddlers enrolled in the Moms ‘n’ Kids Program, a clinical research study evaluating two parenting interventions, completed the Parent Development Interview (PDI; Slade et al., 2005) during baseline and post-treatment. The PDI assesses reflective functioning (RF), the mother’s ability to understand her child’s mental states and her own and how they affect their behavior and relationships (Fonagy et al., 1991). As part of the PDI, mothers were asked what aspects of parenting gave them significant pain or difficulty, and how their feelings affected their child. Ten mothers were randomly selected and their pre-and post-treatment responses to the questions were reviewed using thematic analysis. While in past research numeric RF scores from the PDI have typically been considered, the themes found in this study present a deeper picture of the struggles that substance-abusing women face as mothers. Implications for mentalization-based treatments are discussed.
Funding Provided by: Paul K. Richter and Evelyn E. Cook Richter Memorial Fund
Gender Development in Gender Nonconforming Youth
Zachary Ernst (2014); Additional Collaborator(s): Kristina Olson (University of Washington); Mentor(s): Sharon Goto
Abstract: Gender nonconforming children have largely been ignored by the gender development literature. With the removal of gender identity disorder from the DSM-V, it is more critical than ever to include gender nonconforming populations. This study investigates how gender nonconforming children understand and develop gender in comparison to gender conforming controls and siblings. Participants completed a series of measures pertaining to gender identity, gender preferences, and gender stability. Implicit associations for gender identity and gender preference were also measured using the IAT. Parents completed a separate questionnaire and completed an IAT for their child’s gender identity. This study is ongoing so no conclusions can be made yet; however, preliminary analysis reveals some interesting trends. Gender nonconforming children score equally with controls on the gender preference IAT, but showed no preference for gender on the gender identity IAT. Parents also associate their gender nonconforming children with their current gender just as much as they associate controls with their gender. Additionally, gender nonconforming children scored lower on measures of gender stability, with 38% saying that their gender when they grow up will be different than their current gender. Implications of these findings are discussed.
Funding Provided by: Paul K. Richter and Evelyn E. Cook Richter Memorial Fund
Why So Awkward?
Charmaine Garzon (2016); Student Collaborator(s): Jun Park (2016); Kajung Hong (2016); Jessica Liu (2015); Additional Collaborator(s): Michael Diercks; Mentor(s): Adam Pearson
Abstract: From “Arrested Development’s” character, George Michael Bluth, to “The Office’s” protagonist, Michael Scott, the entertainment industry has capitalized on the human experience of awkwardness to both startle and amuse audiences. But what does it mean to label a situation as awkward? The present research explored several hypothesized antecedents of awkwardness judgments, including perceived threats to a protagonist and “victim’s” social status, judged uncertainty about the situation, perceived violation of social norms, violations of expectations, and the perceived intent of individuals. Participants (n=115) were shown one of three different videotaped scenarios that were rated as relatively high on social awkwardness (>5 on a 7-point scale) in a pilot study. Scenarios included “intrusion of personal space”, “greeting the wrong person”, and “unknowingly insulting someone”. Participants completed a survey that included items assessing each of the above dimensions, which revealed a correlation between all five dimensions and participants’ judgments of how awkward the scenario was. Moreover, when compared in regression analyses, the perceived threat to the protagonist’s status/reputation remained as the lone predictor of judgments of situational awkwardness. Implications of our findings for developing a status-based theory of awkwardness and the potential utility of psychological research on awkwardness for understanding and diagnosing social dysfunction are considered.
Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP
Is Green Too White?
Kajung Hong (2016); Student Collaborator(s): Jun Park (2016); Charmaine Garzon (2016); Mentor(s): Adam Pearson
Abstract: Sustainability is increasingly understood as a fundamentally social challenge. Yet, despite growing awareness of the need for a broader, more inclusive, environmental movement, racial and ethnic minorities remain substantially underrepresented in environmental professions and organizations. We hypothesized that racial and ethnic associations with environmentalism might contribute to these disparities. In a study using a web-based community sample, we found no differences in White and racial and ethnic minority respondents’ expressed concerns about environmental issues. However, both Whites and minorities more strongly associated Whites with pro-environmental behaviors (e.g., recycling) than Blacks or Latinos. Moreover, when first primed with their race/ethnicity in a demographic survey, Black and Latino (but not White) respondents reported a lower likelihood of engaging in pro-environmental actions in the future, compared to a control group. These findings suggest that stereotypic associations with environmentalism may signal inclusion or exclusion in the environmental movement.
Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP
Writing Like a Scientist: Linguistic Differences Across Disciplines
Jun Park (2016); Student Collaborator(s): Charmaine Garzon (2016); Kajung Hong (2016); Madeleine DeMeules (2014); Danielle Holstein (2014); Mentor(s): Adam Pearson
Abstract: The present research examined linguistic differences among various disciplines in the two high-impact journals Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and Psychological Science. Abstracts from a total of 452 articles (PNAS, n=364; Psychological Science, n=88) from Cell Biology, Chemistry, Human Neuroscience, Physics, and Psychology were coded and processed using Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC). The results revealed clear disparities between the “hard” sciences and the “soft” sciences. Psychology used significantly more tentative language (“maybe,” “should”) as well as more explanatory language such as quantifiers, adverbs, conjunctions, and exclusions. Additionally, Psychology used less punctuation and numerals when compared to the other disciplines. However no significant differences were found for word count or words per sentence (WPS).
Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP; Oldenborg International Research and Travel Grant (DM)
When Do Past Choices Influence Future Decisions?
Angela Han (2016); Additional Collaborator(s): Craig R. M. McKenzie (UCSD -Rady School of Management and Psychology Department); Johannes Müller-Trede (UCSD -Rady School of Management); Mentor(s): Shlomi Sher
Abstract: Choice-induced preference occurs when past choice affects preferences. Cognitive dissonance theory claims people reduce psychological tension by devaluing rejected items and elevating selected ones. Self-perception theory asserts that people learn their preferences from observing their choices. Important methodological flaws have been identified in the traditional paradigm for studying choice-induced preference. In this study, we developed a new approach to overcome these flaws by influencing, instead of measuring, initial choices. In this study, we asked whether selecting/rejecting an item when part of an appealing/unappealing initial package would cause participants to select/reject that item in the future when seen alone. Participants were induced to initially choose/reject an item. In the first experiment, we used both risk aversion and expected value to guide choice, and we used risk alone in the second experiment. Later, participants chose directly between an item they had been guided to reject and one they had been guided to choose. When expected value was manipulated, subjects appeared to draw strong inferences from choice sets. However, in both experiments, guiding people to choose an item did not make them more likely to select it again in a later choice. Thus, although influencing initial choices circumvented previous methodological flaws, these influenced initial choices did not, ultimately, seem to affect final preferences.
Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP
Task Engagement and Emotion During and After Achievement Failure: Possible Correlations with Negative Conditional Regard
Graham Bishop (2015); Student Collaborator(s): Christopher Reeves (2014); Mentor(s): Patricia Smiley
Abstract: Negative conditional regard (NCR) involves withdrawing affection or attention when children behave contrary to parental expectations. In our study, we measured perceptions of mother use of NCR for anger expression in a group of pre-adolescents; research shows that adolescents’ perceptions of parent use of NCR in the emotion domain has negative consequences for academic engagement (grades) and self-reported emotion regulation. Instead of gathering self-reports of emotion regulation, however, we observed children at work on four impossible puzzles and used a scale of 1 to 6 to code their expressions of six emotions after they received a signal that they had failed to solve each puzzle. We also used a scale of 1 to 6 to rate participants’ level of engagement with the task, which we evaluated according to a list of observable cues adapted from the NCAST Coding Scales. Intraclass correlations suggest acceptable interrater reliability on both intensity of expressed emotion (anger = .72, sadness/shame = .61, surprise = .90) and engagement (.70). Our early results suggest that engagement among all children, regardless of perceived NCR-anger, remains fairly high, even on puzzle 4. However, children differ in the types of emotions expressed after the final failure signal; high NCR children show more shame or sadness, and low NCR children show more frustration or amusement. At this stage, we very tentatively conclude that the degree to which children perceive their mothers’ use of NCR in response to expressions of anger may be related to their emotional responses to repeated failure.
Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP
Coder Rated Attachment Predicts Anxious Rejection Sensitivity
Lauren Vazquez (2014); Student Collaborator(s): Laura Perrone (2014); Michelle Reade (2014); Nicole Welindt (2014); Additional Collaborator(s): David Kyle Bond* Mentor(s): Jessica Borelli
*Claremont Graduate University
Abstract: Rejection sensitivity (RS) is the tendency to angrily or anxiously expect social rejection. Sensitive children perceive ambiguous signs of rejection as intentional (Downey & Feldman, 1996). Attachment theory postulates that when caregivers reject needs, children mask their distress in order to preserve the caregiver’s availability. Indeed, dismissing children underreport distress in response to threat paradigms (Borelli et al., 2012) and simulated peer rejection (White et al., 2012). Here we assess dismissing children’s self-reported RS, hypothesizing that dismissing children will report lower levels of RS compared to secure children. A diverse sample of 8-12 year-old children completed the Children’s Rejection Sensitivity Questionnaire (CRSQ) and the Child Attachment Interview. As predicted, after controlling for trait anxiety, the dismissing children reported significantly lower anxious RS. Results will be discussed in terms of their contribution to attachment theory.
Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP (LV, NW); Pomona Alumni SURP Fund (LP, MR)
The Contributions of Latino Culture in Health-Related Educational Tracks
Alejandra Vega (2013); Mentor(s): Raymond Buriel
Abstract: The present research is in progress and it explores the unique characteristics of a Latino’s pre-health career experience. The project was conducted in Houston, TX and 12 Latinos were interviewed, mostly through Skype. The participants consisted of Latinos of varying generations and backgrounds in a health-related educational track. The questions asked during the interviews gauged motivations and hardships encountered in their respective tracks, as they pertain to Latino culture. It was generally found that traditional Latino values, such as identification with family and community, motivated most Latinos. Latinos with highly educated parents, regardless of generation, experienced less obstacles pertaining to their Latino culture, and highly acculturated Latinos also described motivations associated with Euro-American culture. It can be concluded that Latinos with highly educated parents don’t require specialized Latino support groups, while Latinos with less educated parents require a support group that can provide the information highly educated parents provide.
Funding Provided by: Faucett Catalyst Fund
Perceived Parent-Child Differences in Korean Immigrants
Sammie Cho (2013); Mentor(s): Sharon Goto
Abstract: Individuals who immigrate to a new country face unique challenges of adapting to a new culture. Past studies have shown that these acculturation stressors can adversely impact individuals, families, and relationships. In particular, this study looks at the impact of the acculturation process for Korean young adult children of immigrant parents. Korean language retention and religious similarities (between parents & children) are studied as potential predictors of family closeness and mental well-being. It is hypothesized that greater Korean language retention (by children of immigrant parents) and more similar family religious views will predict a more positive family and mental health outcome. This study hopes to examine one of the most crucial issues of communication and conflict within families, especially given the increased reports of mental distress in Asian American communities. This project is still in progress.
Funding Provided by: Faucett Catalyst Fund
Neural and Social Bases for Individual Differences in Affective Interpersonal Scene Perception
Zach Schudson (2013); Student Collaborator(s): Tracy Zhao (2013); Zach Ernst (2014); Mentor(s): Sharon Goto; Richard Lewis
Abstract: Mirror neurons are characterized by their responsivity to when a person performs an action and when a person observing someone else perform the same action. Recent studies have investigated the human mirror neuron system as a potential neural basis for empathy, the ability to experience the affective states of others. Because individual differences in life experience mediate both the experience and the expression of affect, we sought to determine its role in the response of mirror neurons to video stimuli depicting affective interpersonal scenes. Participants viewed 15 second video clips depicting either positive, negative, or neutral interactions between point light figure dyads and were asked to determine the emotional valence of the interaction while their brainwaves were monitored using electroencephalography (EEG). Point light stimuli capture human biological motion with thirteen points of light and obscure other factors such as race and gender, and EEG has been used effectively to monitor activation of the mirror neuron system in humans. We hypothesize that individuals who are more empathic will show greater EEG evidence of mirror neuron activation. By examining individual differences and controlling for visual confounds using point light stimuli, we expect to better characterize the connection between mirror neurons and empathy.
Funding Provided by: Pomona Alumni SURP Fund (ZS); Pomona College SURP (TZ); Pomona College Psychology Department (ZE); Pomona College Neuroscience Department
Do I belong here? Impact of racial microaggressions within the classroom
Seanna Cade (2013); Mentor(s): Eric Hurley
Abstract: Student experience within the same learning environments can differ dramatically, influencing both school perception and academic achievement. Recent literature indicates that African American students may perceive environmental racial microaggressions — situations in which they feel less valued and unwelcome within a space — more frequently than their European American peers. The present study examined how students’ GPA and academic self-concept varied in relation to their perceived experience of ERM within school settings. A sample of African American (N = 75) and European American (N = 72) Arkansas high-schoolers participated within the study; quantitative surveys explored students’ perception of their learning environment. Despite reporting lower GPAs, African Americans indicated similar levels of academic confidence and effort as that of European Americans. African American students also reported experiencing significantly more environmental racial microaggressions, suggesting that their learning environment may be less supportive, consequently interfering with student performance.
Funding Provided by: Faucett Catalyst Fund
A Novel Measure for Assessing Theory of Mind
Sonya Zhu (2014); Mentor(s): Grazyna Kochanska*; Jeung Eun Yoon*; Jessica Borelli
*University of Iowa
Abstract: Theory of Mind (ToM) is the ability to attribute mental states to one’s self and others, and in turn to understand and predict others’ behaviors. A False-Belief Task (FBT), dichotomous and explicit in nature, has been commonly used to assess ToM in young children. However, ToM could be better reflected in a continuous and dynamic manner. To address this issue, the ToM-Guide Microscopic coding system was developed using a sample of 91 mother-child and father-child dyads from the Family Study at the University of Iowa. In the study, children were instructed to guide their blindfolded parents to complete a puzzle using only verbal instructions; roles were then reversed. The guide’s perspective-taking skills were evaluated across three dimensions: i) physical re-orientation, ii) cognitive, and iii) emotional. Reliability was established (Kappa > .6; ICC > .9). We hope that this microscopic system will generate more descriptive data in measuring ToM than FBTs.
Funding Provided by: National Institute of Health via University of Iowa
Does Green = White? Race and the face of environmentalism
Kristin Brikmanis (2014); Student Collaborator(s): Maddy DeMeules (2014); Mentor(s): Adam Pearson; Jessica West
Abstract: Psychological research on environmentalism has traditionally focused on factors that motivate pro-environmental behavior, however, surprisingly little experimental work has explored what social categories are associated with the term “environmentalist”. The present research, using implicit (nonconscious) priming methods, explored whether environmentalism is more readily associated with the racial category White compared to the category Black. Participants were subliminally (xx ms) primed with either a White or Black face, or a neutral stimulus (a simple line drawing) and were then asked to identify whether letter strings represented words or nonwords in a decision task. Participants who were primed with a White face (vs Black face or neutral stimuli) were quicker to identify words related to the environment (e.g., conserve) compared to a neutral category (e.g., food). Current research exploring moderating factors and broader implications for understanding the potential exclusivity of popular discourse about environmental issues are discussed.
Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP
Testing a New Model of Achievement Motivation for Asian-American Students
Anna Blanken (2013); Student Collaborator(s): Chris Reeves (2014); Megan M. Holman (2014); Mina Han (2014); Additional Collaborator(s): Lillian Chang*; Mentor(s): Patricia Smiley
*Claremont Graduate University
Abstract: We assessed cultural self-conceptions and achievement goals of Asian-American students in order to predict their behavioral, cognitive, and emotional responses to a hypothetical failure scenario. Traditional achievement goal theory does not fully account for documented failure response patterns in Asian-Americans. Based on studies of East Asian culture, we hypothesized that a “family goal” (doing schoolwork in order to fulfill one’s duty and bring honor to the family) arises from an interdependent self-construal and that holding a family goal explains the relation between self-construal and responses to failure. We collected questionnaire data from 82 active students aged 18 to 24 using Amazon Mechanical Turk. As predicted, an interdependent self-construal predicts loss of self-worth and feelings of guilt after a hypothetical failure, and the family-linked academic goal accounts fully for these associations. This is the first research to utilize the constructs of self-construal and family goal to predict Asian-Americans’ responses to failure.
Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP (AB, CR, MMH); Koe Family (MH)