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Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference

purc 2011

The 2011 Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference was held Monday, May 9 in the McGuinn Fifth Floor Lounge.

Matthew Panichello is the 2011 recipient of the Peter Gray Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Psychology. Professor Michael Moore presented the award.

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Book of Abstracts for PURC 2011

Table of Contents

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Emotion Words Affect Perceptual Judgment of Emotion
Evangelina Barnard

Examining Looking Patterns of Affective Faces without Context
Katie L. Bessette

A violation of predictive knowledge does not increase attention to contextual cues
Dominick Boccio

Developmental Changes in Children’s Beliefs about What Makes a Robot Human
Brett Bromann

Does Positive Arousal Through Drawing Improve Cognitive Performance?
Bailey Budd

The Effects of Emotion Regulation on Free Recall for Emotional Images
Sarah E. Collier

Can Vocal Bursts Reliably Convey Discrete Emotions? A Comparison Between Open Response and Forced-Choice Labeling Format
John Connolly

Psychological Adjustment, Family Relationships, and Searching Behavior of Adopted College Students
Darcy Corcoran

Weak Central Coherence vs. Enhanced Perceptual Functioning: Predictors of Local and Global
Kristin L. DiMiceli

Effects of divided attention on attitudes toward out-group members
James Gregoire

The Role of Unconscious Affect on Visual Consciousness and Heart Rate Variability
Ashley Griswold

Control and Mood Repair Through Writing and Drawing
Adeline Hodge

Collaborative recognition of emotional material
Meghan Horn

Effect of Particularized Jury Instructions on Juror Verdicts and Perceptions of Eyewitnesses
Michael O’Hara

Sibling Relationships, Empathy, Social Support, and Self-Esteem in College Students
Claire Opila

Context Memory
Laura Paige

Mood effects on top-down and bottom-up perception during object recognition
Matthew Panichello

Do Deaf Adolescents Excel in Visual Observation and Visual Memory?
Kerrie A. Pieloch

The Log to Linear Shift: A Function of Mastery
Marisa Putnam

The Effect of Beliefs Regarding Emotional Utility on Preferences for Emotions
Jenna Schreier

Crucifixes in the classroom? The impact of crucifixes on learning and performance
Tim Shea

Distractibility, Impulsivity, and Activation of Top-down Control Resources
Lauren B. Skogsholm

Contrasting Effects of Red and Green on Configural Visual Perception
Nicolas Sperry

Pornography Use and the Sexualization of Everyday Encounters
Nicole Sullivan

Mental Representation of Pitch in Non-Musicians and Musicians with and without Piano Training?
Deanna Swain

The Contempt Face
Matthew Williams

Abstracts

Emotion Words Affect Perceptual Judgment of Emotion

Evangelina Barnard
Advisors: Jennifer Fugate and Lisa Feldman Barrett

Language plays an important role in the perception of emotion. Recently, our laboratory demonstrated that when participants were primed with an emotion word (compared to a control word) and shown an ambiguous facial representation, they were less likely to select the correct target face from among two other distractor faces, which shows a perceptual bias (Fugate and Barrett, in revision). The current experiment expanded on these results by altering the delivery of the distractor faces. Instead of presenting the distractor faces along with the target face, we presented each in separate trials. Emotion words (compared to control words) still resulted in the perceptual biases, replicating the effects from the previous study. Using signal detection analyses, we were able to specifically show that participants primed with an emotion word (compared to a control word) were more likely to false alarm to a distractor face in which the emotional content was consistent with the emotion word. Thus, having all three faces available simultaneously (as in the previous study) did not appear to create a context which affected participants’ selection of information at the judgment phase; rather, our results are more consistent with the idea that emotion words affect how a face is encoded.

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Examining Looking Patterns of Affective Faces without Context

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

When we look at faces expressing emotion, do we look differently depending on the emotion expressed? I examined whether people under constant eye-tracking exhibited different looking patterns when viewing angry, calm, disgust, fear, happy, sad and neutral facial depictions of emotions in the absence of emotion words and other task-activated conceptual information. Participants “sampled” faces without being asked to categorize or label them in any way. I examined participants’ visual fixations and more general looking patterns in light of four distinct hypotheses that dominate in the emotion perception literature for what would drive visual sampling of faces portraying emotions: discrete categories (i.e., looking differences consistent and specific among faces within an emotion category), physical features (i.e., looking differences among faces with similar physical features by emotion or gender), affect-driven (i.e., looking differences only between faces which differ in arousal and/or valence), and psychological constructionism (i.e., no distinct looking differences among faces in the absence of contextual cues). Analyses included standard eye-tracking measures (first fixation, latency of first fixation, percent of fixation counts, and percent of fixation durations) to each of the three defined areas of interest (AOIs) mouth, eyes, and nose, as well as to areas outside those of interest. Analyses also included a more sophisticated measure than typically done in the literature, conditional probabilities of sequential fixations to and from given AOIs. Findings from conditional probabilities of sequential fixations tend to distinguish between faces based on their valence and arousal, whereas the other measures show some evidence for the discrete categories hypothesis. Based on the present findings, future work will examine how context, specifically emotion language, may exaggerate and change these patterns, although results can be used in comparisons for any studies that examine looking patterns for affective faces.

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A violation of predictive knowledge does not increase attention to contextual cues

Dominick Boccio
Advisor: Jeffrey Lamoureux

Recent research suggests that extinction of a learned behavior may increase attention to the contextual cues associated with the learning experience (Rosas et al., 2006). The present study investigated this hypothesis using a science-fiction-based video game task in which human participants learned to predict when they would be attacked by a fictitious enemy combatant. All participants were trained on a complex discrimination task following either training of another predictive relationship alone, or both training and extinction of that prediction. For one group of participants, the second, more complex task was made easier by making the game’s contextual cues relevant to the solution of the task. The results showed that the relevant contextual cues did indeed allow subjects to solve the complex discrimination more quickly; however, prior extinction training did not enhance this effect. In fact, those participants who did not receive extinction when the context was relevant solved the task more quickly than those who did receive extinction. These findings are in direct opposition to those of Rosas et al. (2006). Possible future directions are discussed to discover why a violation of prior knowledge does not increase one’s attention to the context when many aspects of extinction (such as the renewal effect) are context-dependent.

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Developmental Changes in Children’s Beliefs about What Makes a Robot Human

Brett Bromann
Advisor: Ellen Winner

Two tasks were conducted to examine potential developmental changes in children and adults’ understanding of the relationship between human beings and humanoid robots. Participants were 9- to 11-year-olds, 12- to 14-year-olds, and college undergraduates. In Task 1 participants were shown pairs of images of “robots” that looked exactly like humans. In each of the pairs, both robots were described as lacking a different fundamental human characteristic: cognitive abilities (e.g. learning), emotions, communicative abilities, or moral understanding. For each pair, participants were asked to choose which of the two was most human. In Task 2, participants were shown each robot individually, and were asked to use a Likert scale to determine the proximity of each robot to a human being. The results of Task 1 demonstrated that 9- to 11-year-olds considered cognitive ability to be the essential characteristic of personhood, while both 12- to 14-year-olds and adults considered emotions to be most essential. Results of Task 2 showed that both groups of children were more willing to grant personhood to robots than adults, and that males at all ages were more likely than females to grant personhood to robots.

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Does Positive Arousal Through Drawing Improve Cognitive Performance?

Bailey Budd
Advisor: Jennifer Drake and Ellen Winner

Research has demonstrated that positive mood and arousal improves cognitive performance. This research examined whether cognitive performance can be improved through a drawing task. Eighty participants were randomly assigned to one of the two conditions: 1) Group 1 drew first, and then completed the cognitive task; or 2) Group 2 completed the cognitive task, and then drew. There was no difference in gender distribution between conditions, (X2 = .013, p = .908). For the cognitive task, all participants completed a paper folding task where they were asked to imagine the folding and unfolding of pieces of paper. For the drawing task, they were asked to draw whatever they liked for six minutes using colored pencils and a piece of white paper (8 ½" by 11"). Valence and arousal was assessed using the Affect Grid with a score ranging from 1 to 9 at baseline, after the cognitive task, and after the drawing. Participants, who were above or below 2 standard deviations from the mean, were removed from all subsequent analysis, and two subjects in the drawing task met these criteria. In Group 1 (Drawing Task) there were 38 participants and in Group 2 (Paper Folding Task) there were 40 participants. Participants who completed the drawing task first (Group 1) performed better on the cognitive task than participants who completed the drawing task second (Group 2). To investigate the source of the interaction between time and condition, a univariate ANOVA by condition (2) on Time 2 and Time 3 valence and arousal was performed and showed that Group 1 also had a higher arousal and valence than Group 2. These findings demonstrate that drawing before performing the cognitive task increases the participants’ arousal and valence, which therefore leads to better performance on the cognitive task.

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The Effects of Emotion Regulation on Free Recall for Emotional Images

Sarah E. Collier
Advisor: Elizabeth Kensinger

Regulating emotions is a common practice for situations in which one wants express an affective state that differs from his or her internal experience. This practical utility makes it important to consider whether the process of emotion regulation has consequences for cognitive performance. Previous research suggests that the effects of emotion regulation on memory vary according to the type of regulation. Some studies have supported the notion that stimulus elaboration and increased arousal enhance memory, whereas others have found efforts to decrease emotional reaction detrimental to memory regardless of whether stimuli are low or high in arousal. The present study seeks to investigate the effects of emotion regulation on memory for emotional images. Participants viewed positive, negative, and neutral images and rated their arousal on an 8-point scale (1=highly calming; 8=highly exciting). After providing their initial arousal rating, they were asked either to continue viewing the image normally or to follow one of two regulation instructions: decrease their emotional reaction or increase their emotional reaction. Immediately after the task, participants provided written descriptions of the images they remembered seeing. Results found that participants remembered more negative than positive images, regardless of the direction in which they were asked to regulate their emotional reactions to the images.

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Can Vocal Bursts Reliably Convey Discrete Emotions? A Comparison Between Open Response and Forced-Choice Labeling Format

John Connolly
Advisor: Lisa Feldman Barrett

Studies of discrete emotion perception in general have tended to use a “forced choice” response format where participants choose from a list of emotion words the label they feel was best fits the emotion conveyed by the stimulus. This method has a history as the preferred paradigm for testing emotion perception in facial expressions as well as the voice. The goal of this experiment was to examine how perceivers understand vocal burst stimuli in both a forced choice as well as free labeling response method, in which participants generate their own response and do not choose from a set of options. Vocal bursts are short, non-word utterances such as a laugh or a sigh. The goal of the study was to determine efficacy of vocal bursts as discrete emotion indicators, particularly when participants were not provided with a list of emotions to choose from. Two coding schemes were used for the free response data, a subjective and stringent. Results showed that for eight of the 22 emotions examined there is a significant effect of response method on recognition accuracy in the subjective scheme. For five emotions, the forced choice response format led to significantly higher accuracy compared to the free response format, and for the other three emotions displayed significantly decreased accuracy rates. In the stringent scheme, six emotions showed a forced choice advantage and only two showed significantly decreased accuracy in the forced choice condition. Further analyses also revealed certain error types were made more frequently than others depending on task version. This study suggests that the task serves as a form of context in emotion perception studies from the voice. The present findings also point to a number of opportunities for further research on emotion perception through the voice.

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Psychological Adjustment, Family Relationships, and Searching Behavior of Adopted College Students

Darcy Corcoran
Advisor: Karen Rosen

Why do many adoptees feel a pressing need to search for their biological parents while others never consider it? In this study, associations among psychological adjustment, family attachment relationships, and adoption dynamics were examined in searching and non-searching adoptees. Twenty-eight Boston-area college students adopted before the age of 18 months, and a control group of forty non-adopted Boston College students, filled out a series of questionnaires (7 for adopted, 6 for non-adopted): (a) Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, (b) Self-Perception Profile for College Students, (c) Adult Self Report for Ages 18-59 (measuring problem behavior), (d) Adult Sibling Relationship Questionnaire, (e) Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment, modified to assess siblings instead of peers, (f) Adoption Dynamics Questionnaire, modified, and (g) a supplemental questionnaire examining demographics and other adoption factors. All participants were between 18 and 23 years old.Adoptees differed from non-adoptees in regard to perceived social acceptance, close friendships, and warmth in sibling relationships, with adoptees reporting lower scores on all three factors. There was a marginally significant difference between adoptees and non-adoptees regarding sibling attachment as well, with adoptees reporting less secure attachments. A unique association between parent attachment (particularly mother attachment) and problem behavior was found only among adoptees and not among non-adoptees: Adoptees with more secure mother attachments were less likely to engage in problem behaviors. No differences were found among searching behavior and self-worth, problem behavior, or parent attachment relationships, but adoptees with secure sibling attachments were more likely than those with insecure sibling attachments to start thinking about searching later and to talk about searching less. Adoptees with a stronger preoccupation with their adoption were more likely to have a strong interest in searching, to have talked about searching with others, and to have tried to search before. These results raise interesting possibilities about the unique influence of sibling attachment relationships on searching behavior among college adoptees and suggest that mother attachment may have a significant effect on adoptees’ problem behavior that is not present in non-adopted parent-child attachment relationships.

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Weak Central Coherence vs. Enhanced Perceptual Functioning: Predictors of Local and Global

Kristin L. DiMiceli
Advisor: Jennifer Drake and Ellen Winner

Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and non-ASD individuals with drawing talent excel in visuo-spatial tasks, in which they are asked to find parts within a whole. This is known as a local processing bias. This study investigated two theories that have been proposed to explain the local processing bias. These two theories are Weak Central Coherence, where an individual has weak global abilities (an inability to focus on the gestalt) and superior local abilities, and Enhanced Perceptual Functioning, where an individual has intact global and strong local abilities. In this study I administered three local tasks (Block Design Task, Group Embedded Figures Test, and Incidental Visual Memory Task) and two global tasks (Impossible versus Possible Figures Task and Fragmented Picture-Completion Task) in order to assess local and global abilities in 40 non-ASD adults. I also assessed whether ASD-like traits, level of drawing realism, Verbal IQ, and Nonverbal IQ were possible predictors of local and global processing. It was hypothesized that the level of drawing realism and Nonverbal IQ score would be positively related to local and global performance, Verbal IQ score would be negatively related to local performance and positively related to global performance, and ASD-like traits would be positively related to local performance and negatively related to global performance. Results revealed that participants with higher drawing realism scores performed better on the Block Design Task and Group Embedded Figures Test. Also, the more ASD-like traits participants had the better they were at identifying impossible figures. Lastly, this study found that high Verbal IQ and Nonverbal IQ were associated with better performance on the Group Embedded Figures Test. Overall, the results did not show any strong evidence for either Weak Central Coherence or Enhanced Perceptual Functioning.

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Effects of divided attention on attitudes toward out-group members

James Gregoire
Advisor: Elizabeth Kensinger and Anne Krendl

Executive function is believed to play a central role in cognitive regulation. Emerging research, however, suggests that it may also control our ability to regulate social judgments. Specifically, making more “socially acceptable” judgments of others (expressing less negative bias) likely requires regulation. The current study looked to impair executive function capacity in young adults to determine if depleted executive function resources would inhibit their ability to fully regulate their expression of negative bias. Young adults were shown five single consonants, one at a time each for 500 ms and then asked to rate a picture of an out-group member (homeless people, amputees, etc.) based on how much the participant liked the person in the picture. They had 2.5 seconds to form an impression of the stigmatized individual and make a rating. Immediately after making the ratings, the participants were then asked to recall the five letters in reverse order. Preliminary data show that the divided attention task may interfere with young adults’ regulation of their opinions about members of stigmatized groups.

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The Role of Unconscious Affect on Visual Consciousness and Heart Rate Variability

Ashley Griswold
Advisor: Lisa Feldman Barrett

We all know that what we see influences how we feel, but what if the reverse is true? Across two experiments, we tested whether affective information, presented outside of awareness, could influence participants’ ratings of neutral objects as well as variability in their heart rate. Previous research from our laboratory has demonstrated that showing participants affective faces that are then suppressed from visual consciousness can influence judgments of the likeability, trustworthiness, warmth, and competence of neutral faces that they consciously perceive (Anderson, Siegel, White, & Barrett, 2011). The research presented herein extended these findings and examined whether other types of evocative stimuli (in this case evocative images from the International Affective Picture System, IAPS Lang, Bradley, & Cuthbert, 2008) could influence participants’ ratings of neutral images of art. Across two experiments we employed a paradigm from vision science called Continuous Flash Suppression (CFS; Tsuchiya & Koch, 2005) and presented dynamic flashing Mondrian modern art images to one eye (which were consciously perceived) while at the same time presenting a non-flashing affectively loaded image to the other eye (which were suppressed from consciousness). Participants experience seeing only the dynamic, flashing image while the evocative image remains unseen or suppressed from consciousness. Participants rated the likeability of the “seen” neutral image. We extended the paradigm further in Study 2 by recording participants’ physiological responses to the unseen affective stimuli. In particular, we were interested in whether the unseen affective images would influence Heart Rate Variability, despite being suppressed from consciousness. We found no differences in participants’ ratings of the likeability in Study 1. In Study 2, we found a relationship between the arousal level of the stimuli and the length between participants’ heart beat.

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Control and Mood Repair Through Writing and Drawing

Adeline Hodge
Advisor: Jennifer Drake and Ellen Winner

This study investigated the effect of control on mood repair for writing and drawing activities. Participants were asked to indicate how frequently they write or draw, their perceived competence in these activities, and whether they would prefer to write or draw if they were feeling upset. They were then shown a film clip that induced a negative mood. Half of the participants were asked to engage in the activity they had indicated as preferable (choice condition), while the other half were told to engage in the activity they had indicated as less preferable (forced condition). Participants were allowed to draw/write about whatever they liked for 10 minutes. Positive and negative affect were measured before and after the film clip as well as after the drawing/writing activity. Affect improved (positive affect increased and negative affect decreased) the most in the drawing activity and when participants were able to choose the activity. Participants’ self-reported ability level for each activity did not have any effect on the degree of mood repair, nor did the frequency with which they normally engaged in each of the activities. Participants were much more likely to use the drawing activity to distract themselves from negative feelings and the writing condition to vent their negative feelings. These findings support previous research showing that drawing is a more effective short-term mood repair tool than writing. They also indicate that the positive outcomes of drawing do not depend on how much experience one has with drawing or how confident one is in his or her abilities to draw. This study suggests that the ability to control what activity one does plays a role in how effective that activity is for improving mood.

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Collaborative recognition of emotional material

Meghan Horn
Advisors: Elizabeth Kensinger and Brendan Murray

Memory recognition pervades our everyday lives. It allows us to reminisce with others in a group setting and individually. When asked to recognize previously encountered information, people typically do better as a group. Previous studies have shown that collaboration improves individual recognition memory but have only demonstrated this effect for neutral information. We know that emotional material is handled differently, showing a benefit in memory compared to neutral information. Therefore, the emotionality of information may interact with the previously described collaborative memory. The purpose of this study was to explore the effects of collaboration on recognition memory for emotional material. We hypothesized that recognition of emotional material will be better with collaboration.One possibility is that because emotional material is typically more salient in memory, it may be less likely that people will have false alarms to emotional items when given the chance to discuss them as a group. Participants came into the lab and studied word lists of positive, neutral, and negative valence. Subjects were tested again 48 hours later in a group of three or individually. Data here are from 12 participants tested in groups and 11 tested as individuals. Our results replicate the typical collaborative recognition effects: those tested in groups had fewer false alarms and more hits than those tested individually. Emotion interacted with this effect: participants in groups had more hits and fewer false alarms for emotional items than for neutral items, but there was no difference between emotional and neutral items for those tested individually. Our results may signify that people have specific episodic memory for emotional items, but the specificity is not significant enough to affect recognition memory when making decisions on their own. However, when given the opportunity to reflect and discuss their intuition with others, it may be enough to produce a memory benefit.

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Effect of Particularized Jury Instructions on Juror Verdicts and Perceptions of Eyewitnesses

Michael O’Hara
Advisors: Elizabeth Kensinger and Katherine Mickley Steinmetz

This study investigated the effect of modified jury instructions on juror verdicts and perceptions of eyewitnesses. Participants evaluated a fabricated criminal case in which they viewed the testimony of one eyewitness who was either confident or non-confident, and received one of four jury instructions containing varied amounts of information regarding the evaluation of eyewitnesses in general, and about the weak relationship between confidence and accuracy in particular. This study is the first to measure the impact of such modified instructions. Analyses of participant responses found no significant effects of condition on verdict, but found that providing jury instructions containing information about the confidence-accuracy relationship reduced participants’ perceptions of a confident eyewitness’s confidence level and increased their reliance on low eyewitness confidence levels in evaluating the validity of the witness’s testimony. Thus, although the modified jury instructions used in this study—and specifically the added information about the confidence-accuracy relationship—do not appear to influence jurors’ verdicts, they may have an effect on jurors’ perceptions of eyewitnesses. Furthermore, the design and results of this study represent a starting point from which future studies can be improved to address limitations and expand and potentially clarify findings related to the impact of modified jury instructions on juror decision making.

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Sibling Relationships, Empathy, Social Support, and Self-Esteem in College Students

Claire Opila
Advisor: Karen Rosen

The links among the quality of sibling relationships, empathic abilities, perceptions of social support, and self-esteem were examined in 143 Boston College undergraduates (112 had siblings and 31 were only children). The quality of sibling relationships was related to students’ corresponding empathic abilities, perceptions of social support, and self-esteem. Those individuals who had higher quality sibling relationships characterized by higher levels of warmth and lower levels of conflict had higher empathic abilities, greater perceptions of social support, and higher self-esteem. Conversely, those individuals who had poorer sibling relationships characterized by lower levels of warmth and higher levels of conflict had lower empathic abilities, less social support, and lower self-esteem. Females had warmer sibling relationships, greater empathic abilities and perceptions of social support than males overall, so the relative influence the sibling relationship had on empathy and social support differed for males and females. The quality of sibling relationships was related to empathy and social support for males, but not for females. These associations only held true for same-gendered sibling relationships (male-male and female-female sibling relationships) showing that college students have an easier time understanding, relating to, and developing a strong relationship with siblings of the same gender.

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Context Memory

Laura Paige
Advisor: Elizabeth Kensinger

This study explores the relationship between our ability to remember information and how well that information is organized. Research has show that we are capable of a process called “chunking” by which information is “chunked” into specific meaningful units as opposed to unrelated pieces. Through this study the degree to which information can feasibly be “chunked” was manipulated by presenting some words as sentences (easy) and others as jumbled word lists (hard). The first hypothesis is that people will remember more words from the sentence condition than the jumbled-word list. The second hypothesis is that the degree to which one can “chunk” depends on the emotional content of the words. It is believed that emotional information is actually prioritized in memory.The study lasted about a half hour and participants began by completing five of the individual differences tasks. There were four different versions to the study in which the sentences/jumbled words lists differed in structure and order as well as which set contained emotional words. Each version contained four different word sets—two sentences and two jumbled word lists. The researcher read each set one at a time and participants were asked to remember and write down as much as possible after hearing each set. Recall was scored for each participant and word set according to whether it was a sentence or jumbled word list as well as whether the words were neutral/emotional or considered content/context.

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Mood effects on top-down and bottom-up perception during object recognition

Matthew Panichello
Advisor: Ellen Winner

It is has been well documented that mood can influence how humans process visual information. Negative mood is associated with stimulus driven, “bottom-up” processing while positive mood is linked with associative, “top-down” processing. This study used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to localize the brain regions underlying these processes. Participants were induced into a negative or positive mood, and then engaged in a visual recognition task while their brain activity was recorded using MEG. Consistent with the hypothesis, negative mood was associated with increased activity in inferior temporal lobe areas while positive mood was associated with increased activity in lateral orbitofrontal cortex during recognition. However, corresponding behavioral evidence of top-down and bottom-up processing differences were not observed. Implications related to the distinction between emotion and cognition are discussed.

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Do Deaf Adolescents Excel in Visual Observation and Visual Memory?

Kerrie A. Pieloch
Advisor: Ellen Winner

Research with the deaf has shown that visual perception improves with the loss of the auditory perception, and this has been explained in terms of a compensatory benefit (e.g., Neville, Schmidt, & Kutas, 1983). Here I investigated the possibility that deaf individuals excel, compared to hearing individuals, in visual observational skills (as assessed by an observational drawing task) and in visual memory (as assessed by an implicit visual memory test created for the purposes of this study). Twenty deaf adolescents, 20 hearing adolescents, and 20 hearing young adults completed an observational drawing task and a visual memory task. In addition, a non-verbal IQ test was administered so that any IQ differences across groups could be controlled. I found that the deaf adolescents performed significantly better than the hearing adolescents on the observational drawing task. After controlling for non-verbal IQ, there were no significant differences between groups in the visual memory task. The finding that deaf adolescents are superior to hearing adolescents in observational drawing is consistent with previous findings showing that visual perception improves with the loss of hearing.

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The Log to Linear Shift: A Function of Mastery

Marisa Putnam
Advisor: Sara Cordes

Previous research reveals that when asked to place numbers along a line, younger children space the numbers logarithmically, whereas older children space numbers linearly, as adults do (Siegler & Opfer, 2003). Some authors suggest that a developmental shift in the underlying representation of number occurs; however, this shift in responding may instead be a function of mastering an ordered sequence in general. In the present study, we compared six- to nine-year-olds’ performance on Opfer’s number line task with that of an alphabet line task where they placed the letters on a line from A to Z. Children were also presented with a numerical Stroop task in which they were asked to pick the taller, rather than numerically larger, of two numbers. Data from the number task and the alphabet task showed a similar trajectory of developmental change from logarithmic to linear. Performance on the Stroop task did not correlate with performance on the number task. Results suggest that the logarithmic to linear shift in responding on the number line task may be a function of mastering any ordered sequence.

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The Effect of Beliefs Regarding Emotional Utility on Preferences for Emotions

Jenna Schreier
Advisor: Maya Tamir

According to the instrumental approach to emotion regulation (e.g., Tamir, 2009), people may wish to feel an unpleasant emotion if this emotion will allow them to perform better in an upcoming situation. If a negative emotion may be helpful in achieving a positive outcome, people are more likely to have increased preference for this emotion despite the hedonic costs. Beliefs regarding the usefulness of emotions may, therefore, play a part in determining emotional preferences. The current research tested whether beliefs regarding the usefulness of an emotion can influence preferences for that emotion. To test this hypothesis, I manipulated beliefs regarding the usefulness of anger in a negotiation. Participants were led to believe that anger would be useful (vs. irrelevant) in an upcoming negotiation task. I then assessed emotional preferences as well as emotional experience before and after a self-selected emotion induction. As I predicted, participants who were led to believe that anger could be useful subsequently demonstrated stronger preferences for anger-inducing activities compared to participants in a control condition who were led to believe that anger would be irrelevant. Participants who were led to believe that anger would be useful also showed an increase in anger experience following a self-selected emotion induction and believed that they were better prepared for the task at hand the more angry they felt. These findings show that emotional utility plays an active part in determining emotional preferences.

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Crucifixes in the classroom? The impact of crucifixes on learning and performance

Tim Shea
Advisor: Lisa Feldman Barrett

A couple of years ago, Boston College administrators decided to place crucifixes in every university classroom. A controversy ensued when some professors took issue with the crucifixes, claiming that they impinge upon academic freedom. The administration responded by calling these allegations ridiculous, while many students were apathetic, feeling that they would be unaffected by the religious symbols. However, psychological literature suggests that cultural and religious symbols can widely impact thinking, feeling, and behavior. Nevertheless, to our knowledge there have been no studies which have examined whether or not cultural or religious symbols might prevent or limit learning or academic performance. If crucifixes do limit academic freedom, they would probably only do so in instances where the academic topic in some way violates Christian values. In this study, participants completed a face categorization task grounded in evolutionary theory, which runs contrary to Christian beliefs, and a control task. They were placed into one of two groups, a crucifix prime group, where they performed the task while a crucifix hung on the wall, and a control prime group. It was hypothesized that participants in the crucifix prime group would learn slower and perform worse during the evolutionary categorization task than participants in the control prime group. Analyses revealed no main effects for prime group on learning rate or performance. However, there was some evidence that affective state and religious background might interact with the crucifix prime to mediate evolutionary task performance. These results were inconclusive, but suggest directions for future studies. Likewise, the novel categorization tasks employed might be of use in further studies, but should be modified to maximize their usefulness.

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Distractibility, Impulsivity, and Activation of Top-down Control Resources

Lauren B. Skogsholm
Advisors: Elizabeth Kensinger and Katherine Mickley Steinmetz

Distractibility and impulsivity have long been thought of as two separate psychological processes; however, there is currently evidence that suggests otherwise. The aim of this study was to gain a better understanding on the behavioral level of the interaction between these two traits, and gain insight into the mechanisms that may cause them to be expressed behaviorally. I proposed a model for understanding this mechanism, in which some individuals have a higher than average threshold for activation of the top-down cognitive control resources that are important for directing and maintaining attention as well as for regulating impulsive behaviors. To test the strength of this model I used an experimental paradigm that combined two different types of tasks—a spatial working memory task and a delay discounting of a primary reward (juice) task. Participants were administered the Conners’ Adult ADHD Rating Scale in order to be classified in terms of their trait distractibility and trait impulsivity subscale scores. Analyses revealed that individuals with high trait distractibility were more impulsive in the delay discounting task than the low distractibility group, especially when they were less engaged by the concurrent working memory task. Individuals with high trait impulsivity performed better on the working memory tasks in general, and the difference was larger during the easier versions of the tasks; these same individuals also made more impulsive choices than the low trait impulsivity individuals in general, particularly when they were less challenged by the concurrent working memory tasks. These results suggest that there is indeed an association between the traits of distractibility and impulsivity, and that they may be linked by a common mechanism involving a variable threshold of activation of top-down control resources to regulate these behaviors.

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Contrasting Effects of Red and Green on Configural Visual Perception

Nicolas Sperry
Advisor: Hiram Brownell

Visual information is sent via the optic nerves into the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) of the thalamus. Visual information taken from the fovea is then received by cells within the LGN known as parvocellular (P-cells), while information from the periphery is processed by cells in the LGN known as magnocellular (M-cells). These two cell types serve as relay points for two visual pathways known as the ventral (“what”) and dorsal (“where”) visual streams, respectively. The dorsal “where” system pathway tends to be more involved with the perception of configural information, such as size and shape of an object. The P-cell, ventral visual stream tends to focus on more detailed characteristics of an perceived object such its identify, color, texture, etc.Previous research has suggested an attenuating effect of red light on processing associated with the M-cell dorsal visual stream. We demonstrate that a red background can affect subjects’ performance in two different types of visual tasks involving heavy dependence on the dorsal visual stream. Experiment 1 (n = 20) examined subjects’ rating of 10 images showing the eye portion of a face conveying various emotions or personality traits. A subject saw stimuli printed in either red or green and rated each face on 8 different scales (Introverted/Extroverted, Happy/Sad, etc.). Results show that subjects rated faces presented in red as being less distinct in emotion than faces presented in green. Our second study (n = 20) examined the effect of red backgrounds on reaction times in a hierarchical letter sorting task. Data indicated an effect of practice over the trials; however, this effect was eliminated when subjects were sorting for a large letter in the red condition. Anecdotal reports suggested that subjects were quicker developing a detail-based strategy when viewing red stimuli.

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Pornography Use and the Sexualization of Everyday Encounters

Nicole Sullivan
Advisors: Amy Tishelman and Ellen Winner

This study sought to establish a relationship between pornography use and (a) the sexualization of common encounters with the opposite sex, (b) engagement in porn-like sex acts, and (c) body image dissatisfaction. We tested whether men and women’s pornography use for and not for sexual stimulation were related to sexualization, porn-like sex, or body image dissatisfaction by administering an anonymous, online survey through Survey Monkey. Among the women, pornography use not for sexual stimulation was positively correlated with sexualization scores. Women who viewed greater amounts of pornography without the intention of sexual stimulation were more likely to objectify men in everyday encounters. Among men, the individual porn-like sex acts of (a) being filmed while having sex and (b) having group sex were negatively correlated with pornography use for sexual stimulation. No other effects of pornography use were found. We also analyzed whether present pornography use was related to certain demographic variables, such as relationship status, religiosity, age of first sexual intercourse, age of first exposure to pornography, condom use, and satisfaction with sex life. Among the female participants, those who were exposed to pornography at a younger age tended to report more frequent pornography use not for sexual stimulation in the present. There was no significant correlation between present pornography use and any of the demographic variables among male respondents. However, age of first exposure to pornography was positively correlated with age of first sexual intercourse among males. In addition, female participants recorded more frequent and stronger negative reactions to the survey and pornography in general than did the male participants. Women were also more likely to report feelings of embarrassment or guilt due to their sexual practices or pornography use. These results suggest that pornography use affects men and women in different ways, and that it is perhaps how pornography is used and conceptualized by its user that contributes to sexualization in everyday life, rather than something inherent in the pornography itself that increases the objectification of others.

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Mental Representation of Pitch in Non-Musicians and Musicians with and without Piano Training?

Deanna Swain
Advisor: Ellen Winner

When given an implicit rather than explicit task, musicians (but not non-musicians) were reported to mentally represent pitch along a horizontal axis, with ascending notes arrayed from left to right (Lidji et al. 2007; Rusconi et al. 2006). The goal of the study reported here was to investigate whether this kind of pitch representation is specific to musicians who have had piano training (and thus familiarity with the spatial layout of a keyboard). Three groups were tested on an implicit task: fifteen keyboard musicians, nine non-keyboard musicians, and thirteen non-musicians. Participants listened to two tones (either piano or violin timbre) and were asked to press one key when they heard the piano tone, and another when they heard the violin.  Pitches in each timbre varied in frequency (high and low), and key presses were made either to the left or the right.  Right-left key presses were counterbalanced across timbre and high/low notes. Faster reaction times to higher pitches with a right key press and to lower pitches with a left response are interpreted as showing an implicit horizontal representation of pitch, with low notes to the left, high notes to the right. This is referred to as the Spatial Pitch Association of Response Codes (SPARC) effect. Contrary to previous results, all three groups produced a horizontal SPARC effect. This finding suggests that a left-right representation of pitch is universal, or at least universal in a western society in which most people have knowledge of the layout of a piano keyboard.

purc11_25

The Contempt Face

Matthew Williams
Advisor: James Russell and Sherri Widen

People do not label the “contempt face” with the unilateral lip pull as contemptuous unless given a favorable list of emotion labels to select from. The current study investigated how the contempt face is interpreted with free labeling versus forced choice form a list. Participants (N=60) first free labeled the contempt face and six other faces and then labeled the same faces by selecting a label from one of three lists: Basic List, Cognition List, Social Emotions List. Participants performed the best with the Basic List and the Social Emotions List. Participants were most likely to label the contempt face with a cognition term in free labeling, and cognition terms were the modal responses with the Cognition List. The historical association of contempt with this particular face may be an effect of the forced choice list used to identify it.

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