Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference

purc 2010

The 2010 Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference was held Monday, May 10 in the McGuinn Fifth Floor Lounge. As part of the event, Professor Michael Moore presented John McLaren with the 2010 Peter Gray Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Psychology.

 PURC 2010

Book of Abstracts for PURC 2010

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Are Men the More Aggressive Sex? Behavioral Implications of World-Focused Anger
Nila Aburto
Explicitly and Implicitly Primed Emotion Words Affect Perceptual Emotion Judgments
Katie L. Bessette
Temporary inactivation of the basolateral amygdala, but not the medial amygdala, reversibly disrupts maternal behavior in postpartum rats
Jaclyn Bettis and Jennifer Bress
Hemispheric Contributions to the Perception of Emotion and Affect
Ankur Bhargava
Memory and attention allocation: Do duration and fraction of time encoding negative stimuli matter?
Jillian Burdziak
The Effects of Sleep on an Emotional Memory Trade-off
Jennifer Chen
Pluralistic Ignorance and the Hook Up Culture: Understanding College Students’ Motives for Engaging in or Refusing Undesired Sexual Acts
Brianna Cheney
When the Face and Context Elicit Different Emotions: A Cross-Cultural Study
Jeehye Choi
The Effects of Temporary Inactivation of the Medial Prefrontal Cortex on the Maternal Behavior of Postpartum Rats
Adele DeNicola and Lynsie Ranker
The Effects of Internal Context on Perceiving Affect
Christopher Dewey
Social Anxiety and Executive Functioning in Children with Asperger’s Syndrome: Self Perceptions and Physiological Reactions
Gregory F. Elia
The Effects of Affect on the Perception of Threatening Stimuli: A Signal Detection Approach
Kara Galer
Intimacy Begins at Home: How Family Relates to Hooking Up in College Students
Margaret Galiani
The Effects of Temporary Inactivation of the Basolateral Amygdala on the Maternal Behavior of Post-Partum Rats
Anna Gary and Sarah Knapp
Embarrassed or Angry? Emotion Construction and its Physiological Correlates
Ariana Ghom
Utility: A Motivation to be Angry
Margaret Gilliam
The “Shame on you Face” More Closely Represents Moral Disgust than the “Disgust Face”
Amanda Greenwood
Gender Differences in the Emotion Experience
Gabrielle Groth
Adding it Up: The Reversal of Stereotype Threat for Women in Mathematics
Jessica Hartman
Should You Multitask? The Emotional Trade-Off of Divided Attention
Carolyn Humber
Attentional modulation underlies priming related increases in visual activity
Chelsea Jacobs
How does pre-exposure to an evil character’s actions affect one’s empathy towards that character?
Grace Jacobson
Psychological Essentialism of Emotion: A Cross-Cultural Study
Grace Jhe
The Effects of Bilingualism on Verbal and Visual Working Memory
Andrew La Venia
Top down or bottom up? Activating emotion concepts in an aftereffects paradigm
Kelly Lemieux
Attachment and Hooking Up among College Students
René Lento
Sex Differences in Short-term Fear-Induced Anorexia
Mariel Lougee
Verbal Labeling Supports Categorical Perception of Emotion Faces
Colleen E. Madden
Working Memory for Rhythmic Sequences
John McLaren
Parental Attachment, Facebook, and Adaptation to College among First Year College Students
Amelia Micheli
Navigating the Extraordinary: Belief in Claims That Reside Outside the Realm of Empirical Proof
Erin O’Connor
Directed Forgetting of Emotional Material: The Influence of Anxiety and Depression
Amy Peters
Don’t Stress About It: How Valence and Arousal Modulate the Effect of Acute Stress on Memory Performance
Jaclyn Portelli
Emotion Regulation and Automatic Goal Pursuit
Erin Ryan
Beliefs about the Usefulness of Emotions and Emotional Preferences
James Salerno
The Influence of Emotion Words on Perception of Emotional Facial Expressions
Elisabeth Secor
To Grow or to Glow: The Role of Mood and Narcissism on Self-Expansion
Claire Specht
The Effect of Emotion Regulation on Affective Memory Enhancement: The costs and benefits of controlling one’s emotional reactions
Allie Steinberger
Invisible Affective Content Influences Judgment of Faces
Dominique White
Suppressing Target Memories with Multiple Episodic Cues
Jenny Wong


Acknowledgments

Psychology graduate students Maria Gendron and Jill Waring of the PURC Committee brought to conference planning and preparation the highest standards of professionalism. Mike Ring of the Psychology Department contributed significantly to all aspects of the conference. Professor Joseph Tecce served as the primary architect of the conference over the past many years and is responsible for much of its current success.

On behalf of the Department I congratulate and thank the student presenters and their advisors for their dedication and high level of scholarship, which characterize these research projects.

Michael Moore
Conference Coordinator

Are Men the More Aggressive Sex? Behavioral Implications of World-Focused Anger

Nila Aburto
Advisors: Lisa Feldman Barrett, Kristen Lindquist

Stereotypes about sex differences in the expression of emotion are common in Western cultures, and the source of these gender differences have been the topic of much investigation in the psychological literature. One possibility for these gender differences is that men and women experience the same physiological state differently, which leads to the appearance of differences in self reported experience. The present study examines this possibility by manipulating the experience of anger. This paper explores the hypothesis that men experience their physiological state as evidence that the world is a certain way, while women experience their physiological state as evidence that they are emotional. Specifically men might experience world-focused emotion (e.g., a person is a jerk) whereas women experience self-focused emotion (e.g., I am angry). Men and women underwent an emotion induction (anger, shame, or neutral) followed by a focus manipulation designed to focus attention on either the self or the world (i.e., situation/others). As predicted, those participants who experienced world-focused anger were more likely to aggress against the person who angered them than those in the other conditions, regardless of the participant’s gender.

Explicitly and Implicitly Primed Emotion Words Affect Perceptual Emotion Judgments

Katie L. Bessette
Advisors: Jennifer Fugate, Lisa Feldman Barrett

A growing body of research suggests that emotion words provide a context that supports emotion perception. In the current experiments, I helped to directly test the language-as-context hypothesis by presenting perceivers with semantic primes, following which they were asked to view an ambiguous emotion target face. Participants were then asked to select the target face from two related distracter faces. Across two studies, perceivers primed with an emotion word (compared to a neutral word) demonstrated a greater perceptual bias to choose a distracter face rather than the target face. When perceivers were aware of the emotion primes (Experiment 1), they showed word-consistent perceptual biases. When participants were unaware of the emotion primes (Experiment 2), they showed both word-consistent and word-inconsistent (i.e., contrast) perceptual biases. In all cases, emotion words served as an internal context for emotion perception, even though the words themselves were not necessary for the actual perceptual judgments themselves. The results build on other work showing that emotion perception judgments about faces are affected by the internal context of the perceiver, even when the perceiver is unaware. Words provide a powerful context and can act in stealth to affect emotion perception.

Temporary inactivation of the basolateral amygdala, but not the medial amygdala, reversibly disrupts maternal behavior in postpartum rats

Jaclyn Bettis and Jennifer Bress
Advisor: Michael Numan

The mesolimbic dopamine (DA) system has been shown to be part of a general motivational system and to serve as a circuit involved in proactive, voluntary maternal behavior in the female rat. The basolateral amygdala (BLA) has been shown to have involvement in this mechanism. In contrast, the medial amygdala (MeA) has been proposed to be part of an avoidance circuit activated by novel sensory input, such as pup stimuli. Previous work on the BLA and maternal behavior has produced a range of results, and most studies destroyed both cell bodies and fibers of passage when lesioning the BLA. Given the potential of the BLA’s role in relaying pup stimuli to the nucleus accumbens (NA) and the ventral pallidum (VP), this study is part of the beginning of a series of studies that examines the integration and connectivity of these brain areas for maternal motivation and behavior. Results of this study revealed that muscimol, a GABAA receptor agonist, can disrupt retrieval behaviors of postpartum females when injected into the BLA but has no effect when injected into the MeA. Further research includes examining lesions of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) which has also been demonstrated to have connections with the BLA and the mesolimbic DA system.

Hemispheric Contributions to the Perception of Emotion and Affect

Ankur Bhargava
Advisor: Maria Gendron

Recent research demonstrates that emotion perception is shaped by language. What is not known is if the available language and conceptual categories change how faces depicting emotion are processed. I hypothesized that presenting faces depicting emotion to the right visual field (the left hemisphere of the brain) would facilitate the emotional categorization of faces, as language is lateralized to the left hemisphere. I found, contrary to this assumption, that participants exhibited a larger right hemisphere advantage, in both speed and accuracy, in the perception of faces depicting emotion. While this finding was inconsistent with my initial hypothesis it does not rule out a role of language in emotion perception. Specifically, the present findings are discussed in light of recent evidence demonstrating that the bilateral anterior temporal lobe is involved in the representation of semantic knowledge.

Memory and attention allocation: Do duration and fraction of time encoding negative stimuli matter?

Jillian Burdziak
Advisor: Elizabeth Kensinger

Factors of time in attention allocation were examined in affective processing through a recognition computer task conducted on a computer. In the recognition task, participants marked previously viewed and new scene components (item or background) as either “remembered,” “known,” or “new.” A trade-off effect between scene component and emotion type (neutral or negative) was found for “remember” and “new” responses where emotion benefited memory for items at the cost of memory for backgrounds in “remember” responses, but hindered memory in “new” responses. Additionally, the trade-off interacted with both fraction of exposure time and duration of exposure time, enhancing memory for negative objects shown for either a longer duration or larger fraction of time. Therefore, though emotion was a powerful factor in encoding negative stimuli, attention allocation and time were major factors as well, especially for recollection. However, the same enhancing effects found for both recognition and familiarity proved to hinder memory for new scene components in the recognition computer task.

The Effects of Sleep on an Emotional Memory Trade-off

Jennifer Chen
Advisor: Elizabeth Kensinger

Current research suggests that viewing complex scenes composed of a background and a negative, central image results in an emotion-induced memory trade-off. This trade-off is often characterized by high rates of memory accuracy for negative central images at the expense of a neutral background. In the present study, I explored whether the same trade-off effect is present for positive central stimuli. Therefore, when viewing complex scenes composed of a background and a positive central image, do people tend to remember the positive image more than they do the background? I examined two related research questions: 1) will positive scene components elicit an emotional memory trade-off effect? and 2) how does the passage of time, with and without sleep, influence positive scene components in comparison to negative scene components? Participants were separated into a sleep group and a wake group. The experiment consisted of two parts: the first was a viewing of 90 compound scenes and the second included a memory recognition test. Although the trade-off effect was present for negative valence items as well as positive items, no main group effect was found. In other words, the emotional memory trade-off effect was not enhanced with sleep. The present study suggests that the trade-off effect is quite robust with emotional items, whether they are negative or positive, and may not incur a sleep benefit like many other forms of memory do.

Jennifer Chen

Pluralistic Ignorance and the Hook Up Culture: Understanding College Students’ Motives for Engaging in or Refusing Undesired Sexual Acts

Brianna Cheney
Advisors: Karen Rosen, Shannon Snapp

Hooking up has become not only a common activity of US college students, but also something in which the majority of college students are involved. Previous studies have found that students have pluralistically ignorant beliefs regarding campus norms of comfort with hooking up. Both sexes overestimate their peers’ comfort levels with hooking up and inaccurately believe their peers to be more comfortable with hooking up than they are themselves. This trend creates a false norm of universality to which college students may feel pressured to conform, perhaps at the cost of engaging in sexual acts with which they are uncomfortable. The current study explored whether pluralistic ignorance would affect students’ comfort with saying “no” to such undesired sexual acts due to pressure to conform to the norm. Students from all four classes at Boston College (n=266) completed questionnaires regarding their own and their peers’ sexual behaviors. Pluralistic ignorance regarding peers’ hooking up behaviors was assessed by asking participants to rate their own comfort with particular hooking up behaviors and to estimate their average same-sex peers’ and average opposite sex peers’ comfort with each behavior. Participants then completed the same self-report and peer-estimate questions regarding comfort with refusing an undesired sexual act. Both sexes overestimated same-sex peers’ comfort levels with hooking up as compared to self comfort levels. Small standard deviations were found in peer-estimated comfort levels, which supported the existence of pluralistic ignorance regarding hook up norms. Despite this evidence of pluralistic ignorance, both males and females reported above-neutral comfort levels with refusing uncomfortable acts. These results suggest that individuals feel comfortable saying “no” to undesired sexual acts. However, significant gender differences were observed, with females reporting being more comfortable than males with saying “no”. Potential explanations of this gender difference are explored and future research directions are suggested.

When the Face and Context Elicit Different Emotions: A Cross-Cultural Study

Jeehye Choi
Advisors: James Russell, Sherri Widen

When people are presented with a context and facial expression that are different in valence, how do they interpret the emotion? Research with Western samples has shown that people base their attributions on the face. Perhaps people from more collectivistic cultures will be more likely to base their attributions on the situation than on the face. In this cross-cultural study, Americans and South Koreans (N=80; 40 Americans, 40 Koreans) were presented with seven differing-valence story-face pairs. People from both cultures were more likely to identify the emotion based on the face rather than the story, although Americans did this significantly more than Koreans. Koreans were not more likely than Americans to identify the emotion based on the story rather than the face.

The Effects of Temporary Inactivation of the Medial Prefrontal Cortex on the Maternal Behavior of Postpartum Rats

Adele DeNicola and Lynsie Ranker
Advisor: Michael Numan

Maternal behavior in rats is an ideal model of social motivation. The primiparous rat participates in a series of maternal behaviors that include retrieval, nest building, pup grooming, and nursing. The behavior is considered to be a goal-directed response with the pups as her reward. A model of the neural mechanism of maternal behavior is presented below. We begin with a hormone-priming event followed by maternal maintenance through neurotransmission and activation of the mesolimbic DA system. The PFC has been previously implicated in assigning value to sensory stimuli during cue-evoked goal-directed responses. For this reason, the PFC is extensively examined in order to determine a possible role in maternal behavior. The role is proposed to be a structure that presents sensory stimuli to the neural circuitry of maternal behavior in order for the mother to respond accordingly. Inhibition of the PFC was performed using various doses of muscimol, a GABA-A agonist. The results indicate an involvement of the PFC, particularly the Ventral Orbital Cortex, in the appetitive aspects of maternal behavior: retrieval and nest building. However, much research is still needed to fully understand how the PFC exerts its influence and fits into the presented model of maternal behavior.

The Effects of Internal Context on Perceiving Affect

Christopher Dewey
Advisors: Lisa Feldman Barrett, Spencer Lynn

Contextual information guides how we perceive the world. Internal and external cues help us make sense of our surroundings and serve as an aid in deciding whether or not we engage or avoid an object, person, or situation. This current study presented participants with three tasks in which they were required to classify quickly presented images of faces (67ms) as either relatively “more threatening” or “less threatening” after being exposed to mood inductions that were either positive, negative, or neutral in valence. Participants earned points for correct responses and lost points for incorrect responses. This analysis focuses on the results of the second task participants completed. Two hundred fifteen subjects provided self-reports of their affective valence and arousal on a nine-point Likert scale following the mood induction before the second task. Regression analyses examined the influence of valence and arousal on points earned during the task, response bias, perceptual sensitivity, and a construct of optimality of detection referred to as “distance.” The interaction of valence and arousal showed a significant relationship with points earned, perceptual sensitivity, and distance. Those high in valence and high in arousal earned the most points, closely followed by those low in valence and low in arousal. Those who were in a negative mood and were low in energy had the highest perceptual sensitivity, as were subjects who were in a positive mood and high in energy. Subjects with high valence scores had the smallest distance scores, while those with low valence scores had larger distance scores. Valence and arousal did not have a significant interaction on bias, though valence was significant on its own, and arousal showed a strong trend. Low arousal levels made participants more prone to setting conservative threshold locations, while subjects with higher reports of energy set more liberal threshold locations. Furthermore, those with lower valence levels typically set liberal threshold locations, unlike participants in with high valence scores who had more conservative threshold locations.

Social Anxiety and Executive Functioning in Children with Asperger’s Syndrome: Self Perceptions and Physiological Reactions

Gregory F. Elia
Advisor: Karen Rosen

The present study investigated anxiety associated with social situations and executive functioning in children with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), an Autism Spectrum Disorder marked by qualitative impairments in social interactions. In social situations, children with AS tend to have high rates of anxiety and a decreased ability to understand their own or others’ emotions. Therefore, it is unclear whether children with AS process, express, and perceive anxiety in the same way as children without AS. Children with AS may experience particular anxiety on social-cognitive tasks that involve executive functioning. To better understand how children with AS experience and respond to anxiety, 19 children (mean age= 9.56, range= 8 to 12) with AS were exposed to the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) which induces psychosocial anxiety through academic tasks performed in the presence of a social stressor. The children with AS were compared to a group of nine age matched, normally developing children and three children diagnosed with social anxiety (SA) on multiple measures of physiological arousal (cortisol levels, galvanic skin response, vagal tone) as well as on self-ratings of perceived anxiety throughout the experimental procedure. The external expression of anxiety in children with AS, as represented by the self-ratings of anxiety, was found to be incongruous with internal states of anxiety, as represented by physiological measurements. Physiological arousal was particularly high on cognitive tasks involving executive functioning for children with AS, but these tasks did not cause significantly more expressed anxiety in children with AS compared to normally developing controls. These findings are integral to the study of Autism Spectrum Disorders because they suggest a qualitative impairment in the perception and physiological response to social anxiety in children with AS.

Gregory Elia

The Effects of Affect on the Perception of Threatening Stimuli: A Signal Detection Approach

Kara Galer
Advisors: Lisa Feldman Barrett, Spencer Lynn

Signal Detection Theory (SDT) is based on the principle that performance in distinguishing a signal from background noise is dependant not only on sensory information, but also on factors such as decision making where the perceiver plays an active role in the perception of a stimulus. The present study aimed to use SDT to explore the effects of affect disorders, particularly anxiety, on the successful detection of threat. Methods: Undergraduate students were allocated into neutral (n=27) or anxious (n=27; induced using the Trier Social Stress Test) groups. They then gained or lost points as they categorized stimuli as more or less threatening, with the correct answer determined by a SDT utility model and varying between four randomly assigned scenarios. Results: High anxiety and high depression scores were associated with significantly better sensitivity. A negative correlation between sensitivity and bias (r2= 0.664, n=7, P<0.026) was found in the neutral group but not in the anxious group. Conclusion: In conditions of high uncertainty, adopting an extreme bias will enhance threat detection. Though anxiety was associated with improved ability to distinguish threat from non-threat, anxiety also impaired participants' ability to adapt their bias to optimally adjust for their sensitivity, leading to ineffective decisions regarding the presence of a threat.

Intimacy Begins at Home: How Family Relates to Hooking Up in College Students

Margaret Galiani
Advisor: Karen Rosen

The “hook up culture” has come to define the romantic and sexual experiences of college students. A hookup is a brief sexual encounter between two people who are strangers or casual acquaintances. This encounter may include any sexual behavior such as kissing, touching, oral sex, or intercourse; however, intercourse need not occur in order for the term “hook up” to be used (Paul, McManus, & Hayes, 2000). In this study, the sexual experiences of Boston College students were investigated. Intimacy levels that the students experienced with family members were assessed and examined in relation to the motive to achieve intimacy by hooking up, as well as to the students’ typical hook up behavior and the emotional aftermath of a hook up experience. Gender differences in intimacy were also examined.

The potential effects of intimacy with at least one family member on a Boston College students’ hook up experiences were assessed via a detailed survey. Familial intimacy levels were significantly associated with students’ hooking up with the specific motive to achieve intimacy across all four years; however, the majority of students did not actually feel intimate after hooking up. However, there were neither significant differences between females and males, nor between students with high vs. low/medium familial intimacy levels, in hook up behavior, motive, or emotion post-hook up. Together, these findings suggest a potential connection between Boston College students’ desire to achieve, yet failure to obtain, high levels of intimacy experienced with family by engaging in the hook up culture.

Margaret Galiani

The Effects of Temporary Inactivation of the Basolateral Amygdala on the Maternal Behavior of Post-Partum Rats

Anna Gary and Sarah Knapp
Advisor: Michael Numan

Maternal behavior is a primary social characteristic of mammals. By studying maternal behavior in rats, broader inferences can be made about the neural circuits that influence maternal behavior in other mammals, including humans. Maternal behavior of rats includes nest building, pup grooming, nursing, and pup retrieval. The projections from the medial preoptic area of the hypothalamus (MPOA) to the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the mesolimbic dopamine system are known to regulate maternal behavior in post-partum rats. The aim of the present study was to examine how injections of muscimol (a GABA-A agonist) in the basolateral amygdala (BLA)/basomedial amygdala (BMA), a region that projects to the nucleus accumbens-ventral palldium (NA-VP) circuit of the mesolimbic dopamine system, might interrupt the retrieval of pups by post-partum rats. Females injected with muscimol, but not those injected with saline, displayed significant deficits in retrieval behavior, suggesting that the BLA is a region important for the regulation of maternal behavior. The effects were also reversible, as all females displayed normal maternal behavior 24-hours post-injection. This study was part of a series of investigations examining the roles of three key regions—the BLA/BMA, PFC (pre-frontal cortex), and MeA (medial amygdala)—in the neural circuitry involved in appetitive maternal behavior.

Anna Gary

Embarrassed or Angry? Emotion Construction and its Physiological Correlates

Ariana Ghom
Advisors: Lisa Feldman Barrett, Kristen Lindquist

This study assesses the idea that emotions are comprised of the more basic psychological ingredients of core affect and conceptual knowledge (i.e., the Conceptual-Act Model of emotion; Barrett, 2006). It builds upon prior findings that emotions can be constructed (Lindquist & Barrett, 2008) by employing a more ecologically valid method and assessing the physiological correlates of the constructed state. To construct the emotion, participants were first primed with emotion knowledge (delivered via a confederate). Next, unpleasant, high arousal affect was induced. Physiological responding, behavior, and self-reports of emotion were assessed. As predicted, participants primed with knowledge of anger and made to feel negative valence, high arousal affect experienced more world-focused anger and subjectively rated themselves as angrier than participants in the other conditions. Implications for the study of emotion are discussed.

Utility: A Motivation to be Angry

Margaret Gilliam
Advisor: Maya Tamir

People desire to feel unpleasant emotions if they expect them to be useful in the pursuit of future goals (Tamir, 2009). This study proposes that people will be motivated to feel unpleasant emotions when pursuing relevant goals but only to the extent that they expect the emotions to lead to higher utility. This investigation defined utility according to Bentham (1789), as the usefulness of something for the production or the pursuit of pleasure (Mongin & d’Aspremont, 1998). In support of this hypothesis, the current results demonstrate that people prefer to feel angry (an unpleasant emotion) when pursuing a confrontational goal (in which they expect anger to be useful; Tamir, Mitchell, & Gross, 2008), when they expected it to lead to greater utility. These findings suggest that instrumental emotion regulation plays an important role in intertemporal choices as well as utility maximization.

Margaret Gilliam

The “Shame on you Face” More Closely Represents Moral Disgust than the “Disgust Face”

Amanda Greenwood
Advisors: James Russell, Sherri Widen

Psychologists have claimed that the disgust facial expression is innately produced and universally recognized (Darwin, 1872; Ekman, 1993; Izard, 1994), yet most children and many adults do not recognize the facial expression (Widen & Russell, 2008; Widen, Russell & Brooks, 2004). The current study examines whether this poor performance stems from disgust’s broad spectrum of meaning that can include physical and moral components. An alternative emotion, shame on you, is presented as a more accurate depiction of sociomoral and interpersonal disgust. Undergraduate participants (N=54) matched videos portraying facial expressions to emotion-eliciting stories and, separately, freely labeled the stories. As expected, participants distinguished disgust from shame on you, matching disgust expressions with core disgust situations and shame on you with personal offenses and moral violations. This result suggests that people associate shame on you with what is typically considered to be sociomoral and interpersonal disgust.

Gender Differences in the Emotion Experience

Gabrielle Groth
Advisors: Lisa Feldman Barrett, Kristen Lindquist

Despite the overwhelming popular belief that men and women differ in emotion experience, Psychology literature has failed to establish clear differences between men’s and women’s emotional lives. Whereas sex differences emerge in some types of measurements (e.g., self-reports), they fail to in others (e.g., measurements of peripheral physiology). One possibility is that studies using self-reports tend to find differences in experience, but more objective measures like physiology do not, because men and women describe the same experience differently. I performed a textual analysis of daily diary entries from 146 participants to determine whether gender differences in emotion experience are linked to difference in the focus of experience during emotion. Specifically, I hypothesized that women would experience more self-focused emotion (e.g., report feeling sad, fearful, and angry), whereas men would experience more world-focused emotion (e.g., report that the other people or things are depressing, threatening or offensive). Although I did not find that men and women differ in emotional focus overall, I found gender differences in one subset of the sample. Men who scored highly on the Beck Depression Inventory were more world-focused and women who scored highly on the Beck Depression Inventory were more self-focused. These findings are preliminary evidence that men and women differ in focus during emotion.

Gabrielle Groth

Adding it Up: The Reversal of Stereotype Threat for Women in Mathematics

Jessica Hartman
Advisors: Kevin McIntyre, Karen Rosen

Can stereotype threat be reduced in women so that they can perform equally to or even outperform men? Nineteen male and sixty female Boston College undergraduates were asked to take a math test composed of GRE and GMAT questions after indicating their gender as a salience prime. All male and 20 female participants (in the control condition) were given no further instruction before taking the test. For the remaining participants, 19 females were given a test that they believed was “gender neutral” (i.e., no score differences between males and females), whereas another 20 females were given a test that they believed to be “gender biased” (i.e., females on this test outperform males). The results showed that females in the stereotype threat reversal condition scored on average the same as males, but not higher, whereas females in both the control and stereotype threat reduction condition scored lower than these other groups. Additionally, results indicate that, contrary to expectations, males experienced more evaluation apprehension and anxiety than females, regardless of condition.

Jessica Hartman

 

Should You Multitask? The Emotional Trade-Off of Divided Attention

Carolyn Humber
Advisors: Elizabeth Kensinger, Katherine Mickley Steinmetz

Our surroundings are full of more information than what we are able and need to process. Therefore, when processing environmental stimuli, we often pay more attention to emotionally salient items, as emotional information catches our attention faster than neutral information. People have shown enhanced memory when recalling an item key to an emotional scene, but this memory enhancement is often accompanied by decreased memory for background information; this is known as the memory trade-off. This study focused on how the valence (positive or negative degree) of emotional stimuli impacts attention and its role in the memory trade-off. Participants viewed scenes modified from the International Affective Picture Series that included an emotional item on a neutral background and rated them on a scale of how negative or positive each image was during two study phases. In the full attention phase, participants rated the scenes with no other tasks. In the divided attention phase, participants rated the scenes while simultaneously engaging in an auditory discrimination task present during about half of the images. After a 30-minute delay, participants were tested on their memory for items and backgrounds (presented separately) from the study phases. A memory trade-off, characterized by increased memory for the emotional stimulus paired with decreased memory for its associated background, was exhibited for both positive and negative stimuli, though more strongly for emotional stimuli with a negative valence. The splitting of attention during the divided attention phase affected the memory trade-off greatly for negative stimuli, but did not elicit a trade-off for positive stimuli. These results suggest that the greater trade-off for negative stimuli may be due to an increased attention narrowing than that which occurs for positive stimuli.

Attentional modulation underlies priming related increases in visual activity

Chelsea Jacobs
Advisors: Scott Slotnick, Preston Thakral

Neural priming is classically manifested by a decrease in the magnitude of visual activity with familiar item repetition (which is widely believed to reflect increasingly fluent object processing). However, repetition priming of unfamiliar items has been associated with an increase in visual activity. We hypothesized that such increases in activity may reflect the automatic allocation of attention to repeated unfamiliar items (as visual spatial attention can increase activity in visual processing regions). This hypothesis was tested using a priming-attentional capture paradigm. Participants were instructed to always maintain central fixation. During phase I, familiar objects or unfamiliar abstract shapes were presented in the right or left visual field for 100 ms and participants made a pleasant-unpleasant judgment. During phase II, participants identified target letters (S or H) presented for 200 ms in the left or right visual field. Each target letter was preceded by a non-informative object or shape cue that was repeated (from phase I) or novel in the same (valid) or opposite (invalid) hemifield. Analysis of phase I responses confirmed behavioral priming effects for both familiar and unfamiliar items, with significantly faster response times for repeated objects and shapes versus novel objects and shapes (with no significant item type x repetition interaction). Phase II response times for accurate target letter identification did not differ for repeated versus novel object cues but were significantly faster for repeated versus novel shape cues (with a significant item type x repetition interaction), suggesting only repeated unfamiliar items capture attention. These results support our hypothesis that repetition priming related increases in visual activity reflect attentional modulation.

How does pre-exposure to an evil character’s actions affect one’s empathy towards that character?

Grace Jacobson
Advisors: Ellen Winner, Thalia Goldstein

This study examined the phenomenon of empathizing with a fictional character by 1) adding the component of acting, and 2) investigating how participants’ level of knowledge about the character affected their empathy for and ability to get into the mind of the character. To examine this question, we presented Shakespeare’s Richard III to subjects as “evil” or “neutral,” and had them read one of his monologues silently to themselves or act it out aloud. We then measured subsequent levels of empathy and perspective taking. We found significant differences in both empathy and perspective taking as a function of whether participants read the monologue or acted it out. Participants who acted aloud had similar levels of empathy for Richard III regardless of his depiction as evil or neutral and took Richard III’s perspective more when he was depicted as evil than when he was portrayed as neutral. In contrast, participants who read the monologue silently had lower levels of empathy when Richard III was depicted as evil and also took his perspective less when he was depicted as evil.

Psychological Essentialism of Emotion: A Cross-Cultural Study

Grace Jhe
Advisors: Lisa Feldman Barrett, Kristen Lindquist

People generally assume that emotions are natural kind categories that “cut nature at its joints.” Yet, recent reviews of the literature do not find evidence for such biologically grounded categories (see Barrett, 2006; Barrett, Lindquist et al. 2007; Lindquist et al. under review). This inconsistency is what has been termed the emotion paradox (Barrett, 2006a). One solution to the emotion paradox is that people are biased to think emotions are natural kinds because they essentialize emotion categories, or believe that emotion categories each have a biological essence that make them what they are. A recent study confirmed this hypothesis in an American sample (Lindquist & Barrett, in prep). Building upon prior research, the present study used an online survey to assess whether Koreans also essentialize emotions (i.e., sadness and anger), cognitions (i.e., decision and judgment), and body states (i.e., hunger and thirst). My findings suggest that Koreans essentialize emotion categories to a lesser degree than do Americans. The implications of this finding for the study of emotion are discussed.

Grace Jhe

The Effects of Bilingualism on Verbal and Visual Working Memory

Andrew La Venia
Advisor: Elizabeth Kensinger

The following study examines the effects bilingualism has on short-term visual and verbal working memory. This study had two hypotheses: 1) As with previous research, bilingual participants would outperform monolingual participants in a verbal working memory task, and 2) that bilinguals would also outperform monolinguals on a visual working memory task. The study expands upon previous research to indicate benefits for bilinguals on verbal working memory paradigms. Forty-seven participants, bilinguals (n = 26) and monolinguals (n = 21) were given a modified version of the reading span (Daneman & Carpenter 1980) and the picture span task (Osaka & Tanabe 2008) to complete. The reading span task consisted (Daneman & Carpenter 1980) of five levels of English sentences with varying levels of syntactic complexity. Students were then presented with a series of recognition questions immediately following the task and scored based on number of correct answer. The picture span task (Osaka & Tanabe 2008) consisted of five levels of picture presentations. Each round, participants were first given an attention task in which they were asked if there was an incongruent object within the picture. All participants were then asked to remember an object which appeared in a red box within the image. After the presentation of a round of pictures, participants were then asked to select which of the images had appeared in the picture. A two-way, mixed ANOVA was run to examine the results between and within language groups. No statistically significant results were found to indicate that language status had an effect on either verbal or visual working memory. Further research must be done with more sensitive measures to examine differences between monolingual and bilingual participants more closely.

Top down or bottom up? Activating emotion concepts in an aftereffects paradigm

Kelly Lemieux
Advisor: Maria Gendron

Emotion perception is a vital tool for social interaction. Recent research suggests language shapes emotion perception. The present studies examine one possible mechanism that may explain the influence of language on emotion perception: the embodiment of emotion concepts. Embodied accounts of emotion concepts suggest that representing emotion concepts (e.g., “anger”) relies on the activation of the same brain systems that are involved in experiencing and perceiving emotion firsthand. I hypothesized that activating emotion concepts via priming or imagination of a hypothetical scenario would shape how weak facial depictions of emotion are perceived. This hypothesis was tested using an aftereffects paradigm, a method in which participants fixate on emotional faces such that perception of a subsequent ambiguous emotional face is biased away from the original emotion. Specifically, I predicted that activation of emotion concepts would enhance perceptual aftereffects for emotional faces. Across three studies, I did not find evidence in support of this hypothesis. I discuss the limitations of testing an embodiment hypothesis with behavioral method as well as recent evidence that suggests neuroimaging may be more sensitive to this type of effect.

Attachment and Hooking Up among College Students

René Lento
Advisor: Karen Rosen

By now, many researchers are aware that “hook-ups” are a common occurrence on college campuses, and that individuals with insecure infantile attachments are not the only people hooking up. Nevertheless, many previous studies have linked attachment style to various aspects of adolescent and adult sexual behavior. Hence this study aimed to better understand the role of attachment orientation in college hook-ups. College undergraduates (N = 266) completed questionnaires about their typical hook-up experience, attachment orientation, hook-up motives, and emotions following hook-ups. Individuals with high insecure attachment (i.e., avoidant or anxious attachment), as compared to their less insecurely attached peers, were more likely to endorse self-affirmation and coping hook-up motives, and more anxious-insecure students, in particular, reported feeling negative emotions following hook-ups. Hook-up motives might partly mediate the relation between anxious attachment and negative emotions, but were not found to be statistically significant mediators in this study. Year in college and amount of hook-up experience were not associated with hook-up motives or with negative feeling following hook-ups. Also, gender was not found to predict negative emotions in a linear regression; however, when males and females were looked at separately, anxious attachment was a more significant predictor of negative emotions for females than for males. These findings suggest that anxious attachment is a trait-like characteristic (i.e., stable across time and situations) that may have important implications for anxious individuals’ relational development. The links between avoidant/anxious attachment and their associated motives are also discussed.

Sex Differences in Short-term Fear-Induced Anorexia

Mariel Lougee
Advisor: Gorica Petrovich

Anorexia nervosa is a disease characterized by prolonged inhibition of eating that is highly associated with other mood and anxiety disorders. It has been found that anorexia has a much higher prevalence in women. The goal of this research was to compare male and female rats in fear cue-induced short-term anorexia. We used a preparation in which food-deprived rats inhibit food consumption when presented with a “fear cue”—a tone (conditioned stimulus, CS) previously paired with footshocks (unconditioned stimulus, US). We found that female rats showed prolonged inhibition of feeding compared to male rats. In addition to feeding, we analyzed CS-induced freezing behavior, which is a species-typical defense response characterized by the absence of all movement except that required for breathing. Interestingly, results showed that male and female rats showed similar freezing behavior that extinguished at a similar rate through testing. These findings and the model provide a background for investigation of the underlying brain mechanisms involved in anorexic inhibition of eating and the possible differences between males and females.

Verbal Labeling Supports Categorical Perception of Emotion Faces

Colleen E. Madden
Advisors: Jennifer Fugate, Lisa Feldman Barrett

Categorical perception (CP) is a phenomenon that occurs when various continuous stimuli are perceived as belonging to discrete categories. As a result, perceivers are better able to discriminate between stimuli from two different categories than from stimuli from the same category. One way that CP might occur is through the addition of conceptual knowledge that the perceiver adds to help make the categories psychologically meaningful. This knowledge can be induced by category labels. In Experiment 1, human perceivers learned categories of chimpanzee expressions with labeled pictures or with unlabeled pictures prior to completing a CP experiment. Only participants who learned the categories with labels showed CP for similar faces. In Experiment 2, I investigated whether this effect could be enhanced by providing the learned category labels in the CP task. In this experiment, all participants first learned chimpanzee expression categories with labeled pictures. Participants were then assigned to one of three CP test conditions that varied whether or not the labels appeared in the task. The presence of labels in the task did not lead to enhanced CP. Together, the results of both experiments suggest that learning labels for different emotion categories induces CP; learning categories perceptually does not. Once the labels are learned they need not be present in the task to induce the effect.

Working Memory for Rhythmic Sequences

John McLaren
Advisor: Elizabeth Kensinger

This study addressed a previously neglected issue in the existing framework of Working Memory, namely whether or not pure rhythmical information can be categorized as independent from verbal and spatial information in the accepted Baddeley and Hitch multi‐component model. Thirty‐three participants performed a computerized Corsi‐Block, Digit‐Span, and novel rhythmic Working Memory task designed to assess Working Memory capacity for spatial, verbal, and rhythmical stimuli, respectively. For the novel rhythmic span task, stimuli were presented as combinations of short, one‐measure simple rhythmic fragments at the same frequency as the verbal and spatial conditions. The results indicate that Working Memory span was significantly shorter (around 4 “units” or rhythmic fragments) for rhythmical stimuli than it was for verbal (7 units) or spatial stimuli (8 units) across all participants, suggesting that isolated rhythmical information may not use the same chunking systems of the phonological loop or visuo‐spatial sketchpad. In an assessment of each participant’s history of musical training, results suggest that individuals with training scored significantly higher on the rhythmic Working Memory task than participants without training, whereas the existence of training did not have a significant effect on Working Memory span in the spatial or verbal conditions. Additionally, three different timbres (e.g. sine wave, square wave, saw wave) were randomly assigned to trials within the novel rhythmic span test to address whether or not the shape of the incoming sound wave affects the way in which the participant remembered the stimuli. Consequently, the timbre of the rhythmic fragment did not have a significant effect on the overall rhythmic Working Memory span of the group, suggesting timbre is not a defining factor in the memory maintenance processes.

John McLaren 

Parental Attachment, Facebook, and Adaptation to College among First Year College Students

Amelia Micheli
Advisor: Karen Rosen

Facebook, a social networking site, is becoming increasingly popular and has been the subject of several recent psychological studies. While there has been research conducted on the way college students use Facebook, the current study focused on the way a unique population—first-year college students—use the site. It is important to look at the way this group is using Facebook as they make the transition into college. There is some concern that social networking sites may be used, especially among college freshmen, to compensate for a lack of “offline” social interactions. To address this concern, the current study explored the way Facebook use is related to parental attachment styles and adjustment to college. A sample of 80 college freshmen completed three surveys regarding parental attachment, adaptation to college, and Facebook use during their first semester in college. There were some differences in the way those with insecure attachment styles used Facebook as compared to those with more secure attachments to their parents. For example, freshmen with more insecure parental attachment styles viewed Facebook as a “community” they needed to be “in touch with” more often. There were, however, no significant findings for students’ adaptation to college and Facebook use. It therefore appears that Facebook use has become the “norm” for freshmen, regardless of their level of adjustment to college. The results of this study suggest that Facebook use among college freshmen does not need to be a cause for concern. Rather, Facebook may be a way to reach out to incoming college freshmen and has the potential to be a powerful communication tool between university administrators, parents, and students.

Navigating the Extraordinary: Belief in Claims That Reside Outside the Realm of Empirical Proof

Erin O’Connor
Advisors: Ellen Winner, Caren Walker

This study examined how we think about claims about which we can have no empirical evidence. I investigated four claims in each of four domains for which there is no possibility of empirical evidence: 1) the Christian religion (e.g., immaculate conception); 2) non-Christian religions (e.g. reincarnation); 3) the paranormal (e.g., ghosts); 4) theoretical physics (e.g. string theory). I also included eight claims in one control domain—the domain of accepted science, for which empirical evidence is available (e.g., gravity). Twenty-two Boston College students, all self-identified as Christian, were asked to respond to the following questions about each claim on a 5-point scale: How strongly do you believe this? Why? How strongly do you think this is true? Why? The control domain of accepted physics received the highest ratings for both belief and truth, as expected. Christian domain claims were rated almost as high, but still significantly lower, than accepted physics claims. However, belief ratings for Christian domain claims were significantly higher than truth ratings. Ratings (both belief and truth) were significantly lower in the other three domains. These findings show that people are willing to believe in things even when they admit they may not be true; and while people believe strongly in their own religion, they have as little belief in the tenets of other religions as they do for paranormal, mystical beliefs. In addition, people do not recognize claims of theoretical physics as scientific and rate these almost as low in belief and truth value as they rate paranormal claims.

Erin O'Connor

Directed Forgetting of Emotional Material: The Influence of Anxiety and Depression

Amy Peters
Advisors: Elizabeth Kensinger, Katherine Mickley Steinmetz

Certain psychological disorders can influence attention and memory processes for emotional information (Matthews and MacLeod 2005). Anxiety and depression, for example, are disorders typically characterized by increased attention to and better memory for negative stimuli (e.g. Goeleven 2006, Papageorigou 2006). These populations tend to exhibit difficulties inhibiting emotionally negative information (Joorman 2004). Thus, in a study where participants were instructed not to think about negative and neutral words, it was expected that participants who report high levels of anxiety and depression would demonstrate impaired inhibition of negative words. This study consisted of three phases: learning, experimental, and test, in which participants studied 80 semantically unrelated word pairs. The pairs were composed of a neutral cue with either a negative or neutral target. Results suggest that anxiety and depressive symptoms are not related to an inability to suppress negative words. Rather, participants with high levels of anxiety (but not depression) tend to recall fewer no-think words overall. Particularly participants with high anxiety better suppress negative no-think words. Anxiety, therefore, may be related to a predisposition to forget information when instructed to, especially when information is negative.

Don’t Stress About It: How Valence and Arousal Modulate the Effect of Acute Stress on Memory Performance

Jaclyn Portelli
Advisor: Elizabeth Kensinger

Some memories are more easily remembered than others. It is particularly the highly emotional events that seem to stay in our minds forever. Research demonstrates that emotionally arousing information provides an enhancement in long-term memory relative to neutral information (Cahill & McGaugh, 1995 and Bradley et al., 1992). The effect of stress on memory performance is still controversial, however, such that both memory enhancement and memory impairment have been reported. A body of literature suggests that acute exposure to stress during the encoding-consolidation phase of memory processing tends to enhance memory for emotional information (Rooszendaal, Barsegyan, & Lee, 2008 and Buchanan & Lovallo, 2001). Lupien and McEwen (1997), however, suggest that stress has detrimental effects on encoding and consolidation, and Rimmele et al. (2003) report memory impairment for emotional relative to neutral information. Additionally, it is not clear whether the effect of stress on memory performance differs for information that is positive rather than negative in valence or for information that is high rather than low in arousal. As a result, the current study investigates how the experience of acute stress, manipulated by the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) affects memory encoding for positively verses negatively charged emotional stimuli (e.g., sunflower verses fear), and for high verses low arousal emotional stimuli (e.g., rape verses depression). Participants were either exposed to the TSST or the control equivalent before being presented with a wordlist, which consisted of negative-high arousal, negative-low arousal, neutral, positive-high arousal, and positive-low arousal words. A recognition task was given to assess memory performance after a delay. Results suggest that stress impairs memory performance, but this trend did not reach significance. Overall, memory for negative and high arousal words were impaired relative to positive, low arousal, and neutral words.

Emotion Regulation and Automatic Goal Pursuit

Erin Ryan
Advisor: Maya Tamir

Previous research has shown that people can be motivated to experience emotions that are useful for the goal they are pursuing. Such studies manipulated goals explicitly and examined subsequent emotional preferences. Recent research, however, has shown that goals can be primed implicitly and that these goals operate similarly to consciously activated goals. The current research seeks to synthesize these findings by examining the role of emotion regulation in the pursuit of implicitly primed goals. Findings revealed that after being implicitly primed with a collaborative goal, people preferred to listen to more happy music and recall more happy memories than did people in the control condition. Participants in the collaborative condition also explicitly indicated higher preferences for happiness than did participants in the control condition.

Erin Ryan

Beliefs about the Usefulness of Emotions and Emotional Preferences

James Salerno
Advisor: Maya Tamir

According to the instrumental approach to emotion regulation, people prefer to experience emotions that they think are useful for goal attainment, even when they are unpleasant. Consistent with this approach, the current research demonstrates that beliefs about the usefulness of emotions can influence what people want to feel. In two studies, participants’ beliefs about the usefulness of anger were manipulated. In Study 1, participants were told they would complete a computer task that predicts professional success. They then read testimonials from previous participants that led them to believe that feeling angry may contribute to higher or lower scores. In Study 2, participants’ beliefs about the usefulness of anger were manipulated by having them read a bogus scientific article in the guise of a reading comprehension test. In both studies, participants who were led to believe that anger is useful for performance in a relevant upcoming task showed stronger preferences for anger than those who were led to believe that anger was harmful or irrelevant. Taken together these findings demonstrate the causal link between people’s beliefs about the usefulness of emotions and how they want to feel and provide direct support for the predictions of the instrumental approach to emotion regulation.

James Salerno

The Influence of Emotion Words on Perception of Emotional Facial Expressions

Elisabeth Secor
Advisors: Jennifer Fugate, Lisa Feldman Barrett

Language is one of several psychological factors that influence the perception of emotion, but questions remain about the extent of that influence. Is it possible to affect the emotional information that a person sees by priming them with one word over another? Do words have an effect even when they are outside of a person’s awareness? Across two studies, I examined these questions using a phenomenon called binocular rivalry in which different stimuli are presented to each eye. In a given trial, participants first saw a visually presented emotion word or neutral word followed by two emotion faces presented in rivalry. In Study 1, I presented the words explicitly, and in Study 2, I presented the words implicitly, or outside of awareness. I calculated the proportion of time that one of the two faces was seen when primed with a consistent emotion word, inconsistent emotion word, and a neutral word. In Study 1 there was a consistent priming effect. Participants saw the chosen face for more time when primed with a consistent emotion word compared with a neutral word. In addition, participants saw the chosen face for less time when primed with an inconsistent word compared with a neutral word. In Study 2 there was a reverse priming effect. Participants saw the chosen face for more time when primed with an inconsistent word compared with a neutral word. Although the results from Study 2 were unexpected, both studies showed that language affects emotion perception even at very early stages of processing.

Elizabeth Secor

To Grow or to Glow: The Role of Mood and Narcissism on Self-Expansion

Claire Specht
Advisors: Kevin McIntyre, Lisa Feldman Barrett

Do narcissists want to grow or do they want to glow, and does their mood influence their preference for either of these motives? In a study of 96 male and female Boston College undergraduate students, the role of mood and narcissism in a person’s desire to engage in self-expansion vs. self-enhancement was examined. Participants were assessed for narcissism, completed a mood induction in the form of a scrambled sentence task, were presented with a self-expansion or self-enhancement prompt and indicated their desire to become friends with that person, and then completed a mood evaluation. The data showed that overall people are more desirous to self-expand than to self-enhance. In addition, people were more likely to desire self-expansion when in a negative mood, whereas people were more likely to desire self-enhancement while in a positive mood. Narcissists who were exposed to a self-expansion partner indicated a preference for more self-other overlap versus people low in narcissism, whereas narcissists who were exposed to a self-enhancement prompt indicated a desire for a lower amount of self-other overlap than non-narcissists. Finally, narcissists induced into positive mood reported a lower overall mood after both prompts than non-narcissists, whereas when narcissists were induced into a negative mood they reported a higher overall mood after both prompts than people low on narcissism. The research indicates that mood and narcissism have implications on self-expansion and self-enhancement theories as well as clinical psychology.

Claire Specht

 

The Effect of Emotion Regulation on Affective Memory Enhancement: The costs and benefits of controlling one’s emotional reactions

Allie Steinberger
Advisor: Elizabeth Kensinger

Emotion regulation is the process of actively altering one’s affective reaction to valenced stimuli through distraction, reappraisal, or suppression. The significance of this process is evidenced by its pervasive use in our daily lives as a means of maintaining composure in salient social situations. While it is known that emotional saliency provides robust memory enhancements, it is unclear whether these same benefits apply when the spontaneous reaction is modulated by affect regulation. To examine this question, undergraduate participants (N=30) were asked to use reappraisal to regulate their subjective emotional reactions (i.e. to increase, decrease, or maintain their affect) to negative or neutral scenes. After, participants were given an unannounced recognition task during which studied and novel objects and backgrounds were presented. According to the emotional memory enhancement theory, it was hypothesized that in the view condition there would be a greater memory for negative objects then for all other non-emotional scene types. It was also hypothesized that in the regulation (increase and decrease) conditions, because of the cognitive toll engendered by these processes, previously demonstrated memory enhancements would be diminished in comparison to the view condition for negative scenes. Ultimately, participants did show a significant trade-off where enhanced memory for negative objects came at the cost of decreased memory of their neutral backgrounds. Further analyses confirmed that in both regulation conditions (i.e., increase and decrease) there was a significant attenuation of the previously mentioned affective memory trade-off when compared to the view condition. Lastly, it was found that negative objects had the highest false alarm rate of all the novel scene types. Overall, this research suggests emotion regulation is a process that requires the use of cognitive resources, and as such does not display the same emotional memory enhancement trade-offs that are found with spontaneous, unregulated emotional reactions.

Invisible Affective Content Influences Judgment of Faces

Dominique White
Advisor: Lisa Feldman Barrett

In this study we explored whether invisible affective images can influence related judgments. To render stimuli invisible, we employed a new suppression technique, continuous flash suppression (CFS; Tsuchiya & Koch, 2005). In a CFS procedure, the participant’s dominant eye is presented with a full contrast flashing stimulus and a low contrast image to the participant’s non-dominant eye. Participants experience seeing only the flashing image presented to the dominant eye, while the static image is rendered invisible.

Our study investigated whether the affective content of the suppressed stimuli is processed and whether it can influence participants’ evaluations of subsequently presented stimuli. In a trial, participants were presented with a full contrast neutral face for 200 ms to both eyes using a mirrored stereoscope. Following the neutral face, a series of ‘Mondrian’ images were presented to the dominant eye. Each ‘Mondrian’ image was displayed for 100 ms, and then replaced with a new ‘Mondrian’ image to create a flashing animation. The non-dominant eye was simultaneously presented with a low contrast affective face (smiling, scowling or neutral). The participants were then asked to rate how pleasant or unpleasant they found the neutral face on a 1-5 rating scale. Participants were also asked to report if they saw an additional image during the ‘Mondrian’ flashing image.

As predicted, the invisible affective content of the suppressed faces influenced how participants evaluated the neutral faces. A repeated measures ANOVA was statistically significant F(1, 66) = 5.904, p< .018, and follow up contrasts revealed that neutral faces paired with suppressed scowling faces were rated more unpleasant than neutral faces paired with smiling or neutral faces. Neutral faces paired with suppressed smiling faces were rated more pleasantly than neutral faces paired with suppressed scowling or neutral faces. These results indicate that suppressed affective content influences subsequent judgment.

Suppressing Target Memories with Multiple Episodic Cues

Jenny Wong
Advisors: Elizabeth Kensinger, Brendan Murray

Many empirical studies have found that people can intentionally forget memories of learned word pairs, but it is unclear whether these “forgotten memories” are the result of the unlearning of associations linking the trained cues to their target words, or the actual impairment of the target words themselves. The current study used a modified think/no-think paradigm (Anderson and Green, 2001) to address the question of whether suppression of a target word is independent of the specific episodic cue used to suppress or recall it. Participants first learned 96 target words, each which were paired with two cue words. In the think/no-think phase, they saw some cue words, to which they either repeatedly recalled or suppressed the associated target words. In a subsequent memory test, participants were asked to recall all previously recalled, suppressed, or control words. The results replicate prior findings of a think/no-think effect with increasing repetition, with suppressed words being remembered significantly less than recalled words. The study produced novel findings as well: target words that were suppressed with just one cue were later remembered significantly less than words suppressed with two cues for the same total number of repetitions, t(31) = 5.89, p < .001, while target words that were repeatedly recalled with one cue or two cues showed equal remembering later on, t(31) = -.901, p = .375. This suggests that memory suppression is cue-dependent, while memory recall is cue-independent. Such a dissociation between memory recall and suppression findings has implications for further research on the resilience of episodic memory representations in the brain.

Jenny Wong