Thesis Students

2014-15: Catherine Lowenthal – “Evaluations of interracial couple compatibility and partner competence”

Research on attitudes towards interracial romantic relationships has focused on participants’ hypothetical willingness to engage in such relationships and participants’ general self-reported attitudes towards interracial dating and marrying.  In an effort to elicit a truer attitude towards interracial relationships, it is necessary to understand how individuals perceive actual interracial couples.  The present research expands upon previous literature by not only analyzing perceptions of couples in a way that few other studies have, but by also including African American and Asian American participants in addition to White participants.  In the present study, participants (N = 129) evaluated intraracial and interracial couples and the individuals in these relationships.  Contrary to my prediction, perceived compatibility of interracial couples on average did not differ based on participant race.  However, there were differences in ratings of couple compatibility and of competence of individual partners for specific couple comparisons (e.g., African American/Asian American couples were rated as more compatible than African American/White couples) that are important to explore in order to better understand perceptions of interracial couples, as these couples represent an increasing percentage of romantic couples in the United States.

2014-15: Linnea C. Ng – “The effects of diversity ideology on perceptions of group permeability and evaluations of ethnic deviants”

Previous research has shown that ethnic boundary transgressors are punished for their deviance from group norms both by ingroup and outgroup members (Phelan & Rudman, 2010); however, in certain contexts ethnic deviance is favored and understood as a tool for social mobility when there is high perceived group permeability (Thai, Barlow, & Hornsey, 2014). This study examined the effects of diversity ideology on perceptions of group permeability and evaluations of ethnic minority targets depending on the target’s ethnic deviance. Forty two ethnic minority (Asian American) ingroup members of the target and 106 ethnic majority (White) outgroup members were surveyed (Mage= 30.13). Participants viewed promotional materials for a large public university that included either a colorblind (CB) or multicultural (MC) diversity statement. Participants completed measures of group permeability and individual mobility. They then viewed four Facebook profiles including two target profiles of Asian American men. They rated profiles on likeability and befriending. I predicted that Asian American participants in the CB condition would befriend, but not like, the deviant target more than the conformist target. I predicted group permeability and individual mobility would mediate this relationship, and that permeability and mobility would differ in the CB and MC conditions. I predicted that neither Whites nor Asian Americans would befriend the deviant more than the conformist in the MC condition. The results did not support this model of liking or befriending. None of the model pathways were significant.

2013-14: Blair K. Ford – “Evaluating theft defendants: Gender salience, defendant gender, and benevolent sexism”

Abstract: Sommers and Ellsworth (2001) suggest that racial salience (the heightening of racial issues) reduces white juror bias against black defendants. Additionally, Cohn and colleagues (2009) demonstrate that racist beliefs moderate these demonstrated effects of racial salience. The present study expands this research to evaluate whether gender salience (the amplifying of gender issues) has a similar effect, whether this effect is the same for male and female defendants, and whether participants’ sexist attitudes play a moderating role like racist beliefs. In a 2 (defendant gender) x 2 (salience) x 2 (participant gender) between-subjects design, participants completed the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory (ASI; Glick & Fiske, 1996) and assumed the role of a juror to read a fictional transcript. The defendant’s gender (male or female) and the gender salience of the trial (gender salient or gender nonsalient) were experimentally manipulated. Subsequently, participants assessed the defendant’s guilt and perceptions surrounding the trial. Results suggest that gender salience is an important factor only for female jurors evaluating female defendants. Additionally, only hostile sexism (not benevolent sexism) was discovered to influence guilt assessments for male defendants in the gender salient condition. Implications of the current research are discussed.

2013-14: Lexi R. Gross – “An investigation of gender differences in the effect of anger on the physical performance of athletes”

Abstract: The current study examines the effects that anger and a neutral emotion have on collegiate varsity, club, and intramural athletes’ performance on three physical tasks. Anger can facilitate and debilitate physical performance in the context of sports (Lazarus, 2000), and this study attempts to further our understanding of the potential positive effects of anger in sports. Previous research on emotional expression suggests that men and women express anger differently (Timmers, Fischer, & Manstead, 1998), and this study examines if this difference in anger expression will carry over into a sports context. Fifty-three college athletes (31 women, 22 men) were randomly assigned to go through an emotional induction process of either anger or a neutral emotion. All participants then completed the same three physical tasks that target different large muscle groups. Results showed athletes in the anger condition performed better on the tasks than those in the neutral condition. There was not a difference in the relative performance of men and women in response to the emotion induction. Athletes’ level of competitiveness moderated the effect anger had on physical performance, but only for women. These findings have the potential to help athletes take advantage of anger experienced during competitions as well as help coaches understand the potential effects strong emotions can have on their athletes.

2013-14: Elizabeth Shin – “Cross-cultural perspectives of beauty ad cosmetic surgery among Korean, Korean-American, and Korean-Argentine women”

Abstract: South Korea has the highest rate of cosmetic surgery procedures in the world. They types of surgeries that Korean women seek are very specific: big eyes, tall and narrow noses, and V-shaped chins. While many types of surgeries in Korea seem to reflect Western White features, there are other explanations for these types of patterns which are often overlooked. After conducting in-depth interviews with Korean college students, primary consumers of cosmetic surgery, I found their opinions reflected Korea’s Confucian culture which promotes the subordinate position of women, hard work and conformity. These values reinforce the extreme measures of cosmetic surgery for women. For Korean immigrants in America and Argentina, who are removed from these influences, Korean pop culture (Kpop) serves as a cultural link to Korea while acting as a mechanism for transmitting standards of beauty.

2012-13: Grant Thomas – “For the program: The role of experts, supplementary information, and shifting standards in college football recruiting”

Abstract: The shifting standards model proposes that evaluators adjust their criteria for targets according to the stereotypes associated with the targets’ group (Biernat, 2009). In other words, all judgments of people are relative to judgments about other members of their social group. Study 1 investigated the use of shifting standards in a naturalistic situation using domain experts. More specifically, Study 1 examined whether shifting standards were used by actual college football coaches during recruiting. College football coaches evaluated a Black or White player on a number of physically relevant attributes and made both zero- and non-zero-sum allocation decisions. Results suggested that coaches, while not using shifting standards exactly, still allocated more zero-sum resources to the Black player; these zero-sum allocations were predicted by their subjective evaluations of the player. Using a sample of college-aged participants, Study 2 investigated a possible explanation for the results of Study 1: the presence or absence of supplementary information about the target. In Study 2, undergraduate participants evaluated a hypothetical, predominantly Black or predominantly White football team and allocated both zero- and non-zero-sum resources to that team. Results revealed that in the no information condition, participants rated the Black team significantly higher both objectively and subjectively while in the supplementary information condition the two teams were rated the same. In agreement with the hypothesis, regardless of information condition the Black team still received more resources. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Other Psychology Thesis Committees:

  • Maryanne Smith (2016): “Perceived stress of college students and the influence of faculty expectations”
  • Julia Lindsey (2015): “Executive function, parental scaffolding and autonomy support in low-income Latino and African American children”
  • Grace Lee Simmons (2015): “Let it be: An investigation of the styles, prevalence, and efficacy of college students’ use of music as a coping mechanism”
  • Kendra Smith (2014): “Misinformation, executive control, and the revised hierarchical model of bilingual memory”
  • Tathiana Marcelin (2013): “The portrayal of older adults in North Carolina Children’s Book Award picture books”
  • Natalie Minois (2013): “Pretrial adjudicative competence: The roles of crime severity, legal knowledge, and psychosis on capacity restoration
  • Lea Williams (2013): “Size matters: Myths surrounding sample size requirements for statistical analyses”
  • Jennifer Green (2012): “Research methods in reviews: What do reviewers and editors really care about?”
  • Dan Keller (Honors, 2012): “Attention restoration and representational momentum: Take the scenic route”
  • Austin Kieffer (2012): “Understanding the complete athlete: An assessment of personality in sport type and sport activity”
  • Katherine Ness (Honors, 2012): “Using color to test boundary extensions as a source of memory error”
  • Eduardo Vaca (2012): “Involuntary memories cued by pictures and words”
  • Gia DeMichele (2011): “Forbidden fruit: Dieting and psychophysiological arousal to food cues”

Gender and Sexuality Studies Capstone Students:

2015: Jourdan Porter – “The influence of sexual arousal on cognitive functioning”

Abstract: This paper explores the effect of erotic and pornographic stimuli on working memory in men and women, as there is minimal research on the subject. For this study, erotic images are pictures of a sexual nature that do not depict genitalia or female breasts and/or nipples; pornographic images are pictures of a sexual nature that do depict genitalia and female breasts and/or nipples. One hundred participants complete an online 3-back working memory after viewing a set of 10 neutral, erotic, or pornographic images. This experiment uses a within-subjects design; so all participants complete all three conditions. Hypothesis I states that both erotic and sexually explicit stimuli will decrease working memory performance in comparison to neutral and hypothesis I(a) states that pornographic stimuli will have a greater negative effect than erotic stimuli. Hypothesis II states that this study is an exploratory look in women’s cognitive functioning in response to sexual stimuli. Hypothesis II(a) states that participants’ sexual excitation and inhibition (SES and SIS) scores will influence on the effects of sexual stimuli on working memory. Results did not support these hypotheses.