We believe that firsthand experience in planning, performing and interpreting research is key to studying the field of psychology. Below are recent projects conducted by psychology students in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program.


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 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 prehealth 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)