Psychology at Scholarship Sewanee

For the second year, a psychology poster received the Speaker’s Choice Award.  Professor Paul Bartrop, Florida Gulf Coast University, selected Obianuju Okonkwo’s poster from among the 87 spread across the two floors of Harris Commons [details below].  In 2013, Dr. Rebecca Burwell, Brown University, selected from the 82 posters Lauren Joca’s The effects of adolescent methamphetamine exposure on behavior and cognition in late adolescent and adult mice [Jessica Siegel, mentor].

Walter E. Nance ’54 and Nayna Avent Nance created an endowment that provides the McCrady Prizes at Scholarship Sewanee.  First given in 2013, the prizes honor the memory of Edward McCrady . . . 11th Vice-Chancellor (1951-1971) and Professor of Biology . . . a scientist of national reputation, a musician, a caver.  The Speaker’s Choice is a poster selected by The McCrady Lecturer without regard to field;  McCrady Prizes for Best Poster Presentation are awarded in Behavioral & Social Sciences, Biological Sciences, Earth & Environmental Sciences, and in Physical Sciences;  McCrady Prizes for Best Oral Presentation are awarded in Economics & Policy, History, International & Global Studies, and in Politics.

Scholarship Sewanee is a celebration of student research at the University . . . class projects, community-based projects, or independent student research.  They include data collection and analysis during the previous summer as well as the academic year, both on- and off-campus.  It is an expansion of Scientific Sewanee, first held in April 1994 . . . with an Invited Lecture and 20 student poster presentations.

Scholarship Sewanee 2014 began on Thursday evening with a play at the Tennessee Williams Center (student production staff);  included oral presentations Friday morning and later afternoon;  the McCrady Invited Lecture at 1 p.m.;  poster presentations between 3 and 5 p.m. (with researchers remaining close to their posters to discuss their project with those attending);  and a Sewanee Symphony and Chorale concert Friday evening involving many student musicians.

The students were mentored by 46 Sewanee and two Vanderbilt faculty.  The record 87 poster presentations were in Biology, Biology–Ecology & Biodiversity, Chemistry, Classics, Environmental Policy, Environmental Studies, Forestry & Geology, History, Physics, Politics, Psychology, and Religion.  The 30 oral presentations were in Biology, Biology–Ecology & Biodiversity, Chemistry, Economics, Environmental Policy, History, International & Global Studies, and Politics.

Campbell Frank ’14   Gender in Casual Social Interactions:  Upholding Traditional Gender Roles or Sexually Charged Interactions?  Mentor, Research Professor Sherry Hamby.

This study was conducted to determine the extent to which gender manifests itself in casual social interactions;  substantiated in previous gender interaction findings, we hypothesized that male and female texting, touching and smiling patterns would differ.  To test such hypothesizes, naturalistic observation was used:  Touching, texting and smiling patterns were observed in 308 all-female, all-male, and mixed gender interactions.  Touching oneself, touching others, and smiling were most prevalent in mixed gender groups, all-female groups, and subsequently all-male groups, respectively.  Additionally, texting was more common in all-female and all-male groups opposed to mixed gender interactions.  The implications of these findings for future research are discussed.

Kaylka Pelfrey ’14  Effects of Early Adolescent and Adult Methamphetamine Exposure on Behavior and Corticosterone Levels in Mice.  Mentor, Assistant Professor Jessica SiegelFirst Place, McCrady Prizes for Posters in Behavioral and Social Sciences.

Methamphetamine is an addictive psychomotor stimulant.  Little research has examined the effects of adolescent methamphetamine use.  As the brain is developing during adolescence, it is imperative that we understand the effects of methamphetamine exposure during adolescence.  This research examined the effects of adolescent methamphetamine exposure on behavior and serum corticosterone levels in adolescent C57BL/6J mice.  Additionally, the effects of methamphetamine on depression-like behavior in adult mice, and the ability of the anti-depressant Selegiline to reverse these effects, were examined.  There was a trend for adolescent methamphetamine exposure to increase anxiety-like behavior in adolescence, but no effects on serum corticosterone levels were found.  These data suggest that adolescents may be relatively protected from the effects of methamphetamine.  In adult mice, methamphetamine increased depression-like behavior, but Selegiline did not reverse this increase.  Thus Selegiline is likely not a good candidate treatment to reverse the increase in depression levels following adult methamphetamine exposure.

Caroline Burkholder ’14 [Psychology minor]. Slipping Through The Cracks:  Examining the Relationship Between Bureaucratic Decision Making and Terrorist Attacks.  Department of Politics.  Mentors, Assistant Professor Rodelio Manacsa and Professor Amy Patterson.

Since the September 11th terrorist attacks, the American intelligence community has been scrutinized for its inefficiencies and missteps.  Congress allocates $117 million towards counterterrorism efforts yearly, but successful terrorist attacks in the past decade have proved that the intelligence community has improvements that it has yet to make.  The functional tendencies of the bureaucratic structure of the intelligence network has been blamed for many counter terrorism deficiencies—the interplay between jurisdictional “turfing,” principal-agent hazard, information density, and organizational “inbreeding” have proved to be a lethal combination that have hindered the intelligence network from effectively collaborating and taking action against threats to national security.  This study, submitted as part of the honors program requirement in the Politics department, examines the relationship between Bureaucratic decision making and Terrorist Attacks.

Jessica Deimler ’14.  Measuring Anger Management:  Complexities Revealed From Second Informant Reports.  Mentor, Research Professor Sherry Hamby.

Objective: Analyze correlations between anger management and perpetration with emotional regulation, incorporating both self-report data and partner reported data, and assessing gender differences in levels of anger management.  Method:  84 adults from rural Tennessee were surveyed using an adaptation of the Anger Management Scale (AMS) (Stith & Hamby, 2002).  From the original AMS scale five items were selected to assess anger management in all relationships rather than only intimate partner relationships alone.  The self and partner ratings of anger management were compared with other measures of relationship quality and emotional regulation.  Results:  Within the rural, low-income sample of participants internal consistency (coefficient alpha) was good at .71.  However, the correlation with the second informant’s rating of anger management was only .15.  We have observed that second informant ratings of internal emotional states are not as good as informant ratings for more behavioral items.  The patterns of construct validity for the two scores revealed some complex patterns.  Participants’ own anger management reports were correlated with forgiveness (r=.27) and emotional regulation (r=.31).  Their own report of anger management was also correlated with their partners’ description of their emotional regulation (r=.20).  Participants’ self-report of anger management was not, however, correlated with relationship quality (self or partner rating) or 2nd informants’ rating of their forgiveness.  In contrast, the second informants’ report of the main participants’ anger management was correlated with their perception of relationship quality (r=.36), their perception of the main participants’ forgiveness (r=.39), and their perception of the main participants’ emotional regulation (r=.40).  Discussion:  Future research should explore whether

Jessica Deimler ’14.  “Don’t Meth With Us”:  An Initial Impact Assessment.  Mentors, Professor Karen Yu and Assistant Professor Jessica Siegel.

The Sewanee-Monteagle Rotary Club’s “Don’t Meth With Us” (DMWU) program aims to inform youth about dangers of methamphetamine.  Rotary Club members, drug coalition and task force representatives, and police spoke with fifth graders at three local schools.  Students were introduced to dangers of methamphetamine use and manufacturing, and to useful community resources.  During the week prior to (pre-program) and following (post-program) the presentation, students completed questionnaires assessing their knowledge about meth.  The pre- and post-program questionnaires were identical except for some post-program questions referring to the presentation itself.  Pre-program responses indicate that many students came to the DMWU presentation with some knowledge about meth.  Statistically significant differences between pre- and post-program responses suggest a potential impact of the DMWU program itself.  Responses also indicate that many students shared the knowledge they gained from the presentation with others.  The present results will inform future versions of the program and its assessment.

Allison Michalek ’15, Thaddeus Barney ’16, and Garrett Heatherly ’16.  Effect of caffeine on anxiety in college students.  Mentor, Visiting Assistant Professor Nicole Noffsinger-Frazier.

Previous research demonstrated that caffeine decreases anxiety in rats when exposed to caffeine (Pechlivanova et al., 2012), while additional research has found that caffeine increases anxiety in humans (Velber & Templer, 1984).  Given the divergent findings, the current study sought to determine whether caffeine has anxiety-producing effects in stressful situations for college students.  53 college students from a small, private liberal arts university in the southeastern USA participated in the study.  Researchers induced a stress response in participants by using a speech performance test and assessed the change in anxiety levels from pretest to posttest in relationship with caffeine usage.  There was a significant change in pre to post test anxiety levels indicating that the speech performance task was effective in inducing anxiety.  Researchers found that caffeine use was not significantly correlated with anxiety levels as measured by the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A; Hamilton, 1959).  This suggests that caffeine usage, for college students, does not affect anxiety levels when experiencing stressful situations.

Obianuju Okonkwo’15.  Generous Behavior Index:  Do Males and Females Display Generosity in Different Ways?  Mentor, Research Professor Sherry Hamby.  Speaker’s Choice Award, McCrady Prizes for Best Poster (all fields).

Generous behaviors are an important form of healthy social engagement.  This study examines gender differences in generous behavior in a rural southern population.  109 pairs of participants from rural Tennessee communities were recruited through word of mouth and advertising on local email lists.  They answered questions on 29 different generous behaviors.  Responses between main participant and partner were moderately correlated (r = .38, p <.001).  Within the Generous Behavior Index, gender disparity was evident on questions that alluded to stereotypical gender roles such as helping to baby sit (p = .051) with females more likely to baby sit.  Conversely, males were more likely to help someone work on their house (p < .05).  This type of gender disparity should be noted when studying generous behaviors so as to not purposefully exclude genders based on the wording of the question.  Overall, there were more similarities than differences in generous behaviors for males and females.

Joshua Treadwell ’16, Matthew Purvis ’16, and Yubisan Ventura ’16.  The effects of priming mood on performance in spatial mental imagery abilities.  Mentor, Visiting Assistant Professor Nicole Noffsinger-Frazier.

The current study examines the ability of college students to form spatial mental imagery, and how this ability might be affected by their mood.  The study investigated the effects of priming mood on a participant’s performance on a spatial mental imagery test.  Three groups (N = 81) were tested, priming the mood of two groups with a video stimuli.  The mood of each group was measured, prior to any video stimuli.  Of the two primed groups one group was shown a comical video, the other group was shown a depressing news clip.  After the exposure to the stimuli the groups mood scores were significantly different (F(2,77) = 28.41, p < .001).  The group that was shown a comical video showed a significant increase in their mood rating.  The group shown the negative news clip showed a significant drop in reported mood.  Researchers found that despite an altered mood state, participants’ scores on the imagery test did not differ significantly from the scores of the control, indicating that mood may not be a significant factor in their ability to form spatial mental imagery.

Sarah Atwood ’15, Antionette Barbour ’14, Zakeria Clark ’15, Aimee Johnson ’14, Jessica Keefe ’14, Obianuju Okonkwo ’15, Joana Rebollo ’14, and E. Albert Bardi.  Women’s Gendered Perceptions Of Assertiveness And Related Constructs.  Mentor, Associate Professor Al Bardi.

Assertiveness has been defined as the verbal and nonverbal, direct expression of feelings (Gay, Hollandsworth & Galassi, 1975) and the positive, productive expression of one‘s needs, feelings, preferences or opinions (Rathus,1973).  Extant conceptions and measures of assertiveness have been largely developed with predominantly male samples.  Focus groups were conducted with community members who self-identify as being female.  38 women in total participated.  Groups were given a simple model of the continuum of assertiveness with passivity and aggression at either end.  Transcriptions of the focus groups were created and themes were identified through a grounded theory process.  Dominant themes will be presented and implications for measurement of assertiveness will be discussed.

Meg Armistead ’14, David Spears ’15, Hali Steinmann ’15, and Thomas Walters ’15.  Armfield Bluff Cave Biological Survey.  Department of Biology.  Mentor, Associate Professor Kirk Zigler.  [Meg Armistead is a Psychology minor.]

We conducted biological surveys in the recently discovered “Armfield Bluff Cave” to compare community biodiversity in late winter and early spring.  We surveyed four ten meter transects with four people simultaneously searching a 2.5 meter section of the transect for a full ten minutes.  We surveyed two terrestrial passages and two stream passages, with one of each habitat type located close to the cave entrance and one located deeper into the cave.  We hypothesize the abundance and species composition of cave organisms will differ seasonally, a phenomenon which has been observed in other cave systems.  We expect to find differences in both abundance and community composition, with greater abundance and diversity present in the cave during late winter, when more organisms potentially migrate into caves to escape temperature extremes.

Abigail Cole ’16, Desiree Kamerman ’16, Emily Christner ’16, and Shelby Monahan ’15.  Thin Ideal in Advertising Effects on Women’s Self-Esteem and Body Image.  Mentor, Visiting Assistant Professor Nicole Noffsinger-Frazier.

The current study examined the effect of media on self-esteem and body dissatisfaction.  Previous research has indicated that advertising depicting women in ways that promote the ideal of thinness have negative effects on viewers’ self-esteem and body satisfaction.  All participants were shown everyday advertisements including neutral imagery, after which self-esteem and body dissatisfaction were assessed. The control group viewed another set of neutral images, while the experimental group viewed thin ideal images and neutral images.  Participants’ self-esteem and body dissatisfaction were again tested.  No relationship was found between total self-esteem or body dissatisfaction and viewing thin ideal imagery.  However, a test examining scores for individual questions indicated several significant differences between pre- and posttest scores following the viewing of thin ideal imagery, indicating a decrease in self-esteem and body satisfaction.  Limitations of this study include small sample size, limited time of exposure, and ratio of images included.

Andy Steuer ’15, Nate Warren ’15, and Jackson Cromer ’15.  Exercise enhances short term memory.  Mentor, Visiting Assistant Professor Nicole Noffsinger-Frazier.

The current study sought to discover how exercise affects short-term memory.  Previous research suggests exercise facilitates short-term memory.  In a study in the United Kingdom researchers found that “working memory is improved by dynamic exercise at moderate intensities and short duration” (Martins et al. 2013).  We recruited volunteers from our university and separated them into a control or experimental condition.  Our control condition was then separated into one male group, one female group, and one mixed gender group.  Our experimental group was divided the same way.  In both groups we asked for each volunteer to fill out a demographic questionnaire.  Once they were finished we took them one at a time, and administered a pre-test to assess their short-term memory.  Our control group then sat at rest for ten minutes and our experimental group jogged for ten minutes.  Our results was insignificant and our hypothesis was not supported.

Meg Armistead ’14  [Psychology minor].  Locations of Caves in and around Sewanee.  EnSt 217, Fundamentals of GIS;  instructor, Christopher Van de Ven.

This project provides a resource documenting critical information in and around Sewanee, TN.  The approximate location of eleven caves is included.  When available, photo of each cave’s entrance, a map of its interior, white nose syndrome status and biological survey information is supplied for the appropriate cave.  This information can be used for further cave research, biological inventories, educational trips and recreation.

Meg Armistead ’14 [Psychology minor].  Spatial assessment of the effects of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) browse on a forest.  Department of Ecology and Biodiversity oral presentation.  Mentor, Professor Jonathan Evans.

The impact of white-tailed deer browse on forest structure and composition has become a major concern of managers throughout the eastern United States.  Browse impacts are hypothesized to be distributed in a heterogeneous pattern due to such factors as deer movement, landscape, and habitat fragmentation.  Our study assessed the effectiveness of metrics to quantify browse.  We used 46 transects randomly distributed across the study area.  The transects were compared to four fenced exclosures.  Average sapling density in the exclosures was significantly higher than average sapling density in transects.  Based on this sensitivity, along with ease of sampling, we recommend the use of sapling density for browse assessments.  Linear models indicated landscape vectors such as latitude and distance to edge habitat highly influenced sapling density.  To maintain the biological balance of forest regeneration and whitetail deer interactions it is important to use a large spatial assessment with a suitable metric to derive successful management plan.

Ashley Windrow ’14.  A Night to Remember:  Cultural Representations of Titanic in the 1950s.  Department of History.  Mentor, Professor Julie BerebitskyThird Place, McCrady Prizes for Oral Presentations in History.

Titanic’s journey as an ocean liner tragically ended in 1912, its journey as a cultural medium through which different generations have reflected, reconstructed, and interpreted its narrative and its meanings through their own cultural lens.  Thus, cultural representations of the Titanic prove to be valuable sources of cultural history.  This study centers on cultural representations of the Titanic in the 1950s, specifically focusing on the 1953 Oscar winning film, Titanic, Walter Lord’s 1955 best-selling account of the wreck, A Night to Remember, and its subsequent film and television adaptions.  In a post-war world, the age of anxiety, Titanic became a vessel through which issues of gender, family, and nation were discussed and certain views were propagated.  These representations of the thought-to-be “unsinkable” passenger liner were bound by the contexts they were created in and provide a useful and valuable insight into the issues facing society and the psyche of the nation in the 1950s.

Scholarship Sewanee, a campus-wide celebration of student scholarship and creative activity, is made possible by numerous generous benefactors including Walter and Mayna NanceThe Andrew W. Mellon Foundation;  The Undergraduate Research Advisory Committee;  The Office of the Dean of the College;  Denise Davis;  Physical Plant Services;  and Print Services.