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Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference

purc 2014

The 2014 Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference was held Monday, May 5 in McGuinn.

Dan Scannell is the 2014 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 2014

Table of Contents

Priming the Detection of Negative Emotions in Facial Expressions: Examining the Association between Disgust and Fear Sensitivity and Political Ideology
Alexandra Agostini

Development of sex differences in the brain oxytocin system and the implications for pro-social behaviors
Andrea Alonso

Enhanced Memory for Intentional Moral Actions
Lauren Anderson

How Intentions and Omissions Impact Moral Judgments
Natalie Blahunka

Individual Differences in Perfectionism as They Relate to Emotion Regulation
Michelle Blair

Perception of Closure in Tonal vs. Atonal Music
David Bonaiuto

The development of the mental representation of pitch in space: The SPARC effect in children
Nicole Borglum

The Effects of Age and Emotional Arousal on Memories for the 2013 Boston Marathon
Maria Box

Touchscreen Study on Infants' Understanding of Number
Haley Boyce

From incompatible numerical representations: When and how infants compare small and large sets
Danielle Brazel

Social Energy, Women, Small Groups, and Performance
Stacy Caprio

Gender and Empathy in the Physician-Patient Relationship: An Exploration of Two Empathic Approaches
Jacqueline Davis

Remembering the Boston Marathon: Age Differences in Emotional Memory Content
Haley DiBiase

Making vs. Viewing Art: Effects on Affect
Mariana Eizayaga

The Influence of Emotion on Time and Number Estimation
Siobhan Gavagan

Do we allocate attention optimally? A quantitative account of attention allocation
Katherine Grisanzio

More than Just Gaze Avoidance: A Signal of Low Self-Worth in People with Depression
Kelly M. Hoffman

Adult Attachment and Shared Enthusiasm: The Mediating Effect of Adult Attachment on the Experience of “Social Energy”
Austin Hughes

Evaluating the Development and Influence of Math-Gender Stereotypes across the Lifespan
Laura Hymes

Sex differences in vasopressin receptor binding and its role in social memory in rats
Marisa Immormino

Does presence of high social energy change the way we perceive ourselves and the others? What do we say when we are not evaluating?
Yi Jung Kim

Context Affects Judgments of Facial Expressions
Victoria Kuk

What do you think? Can communal Asians experience social energy? Can individualistic Americans experience social harmony?
Sandy Lee

Perceptions of Physician Empathy: Effects of Demographic Features
Jessica Letizia

The Effects of Emotion on Numerical Estimation: A Developmental Perspective
Emily Lewis

Exploring the Utility of Robots in Social Interaction for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Corinne Makar

Effective counterconditioning of aversive learning in the picture-picture evaluative conditioning paradigm
Breana Marchwinski

Mental Representations of Rational Numbers and How External Visual References Impact Them
Marisa Massaro

Understanding the effects of an induced bias in number perception
Solange Moran

Sex differences in oxytocin receptor binding in the rat brain may not arise from sex differences in oxytocin receptor mRNA expression
Laura E. Newman

Maladaptive and Protective Parenting Behaviors in the Context of Exposure for Youth with Social Anxiety Disorder
Lesley Norris

Context and Extinction in Human Predictive Learning
Dani Park

Medical Thinking and Goals: Effects of Time-Variant Goal Focus on Memory for Patient Details
Emma Pearson

Sound Judgment: Auditory—but not Visual—Information Reveals Musical Competition Winners
Dan Scannell

Sex-specific regulation of social play
Jennifer Schiavo

Family Relationships, Adoption, and the College Transition
Anna Minhua Scully-Nisa

“Who got more?” The Effects of Ownership and Perceived Deservingness on Children’s Number Estimates
Alexandra Szczerepa

Roles of isolation, oxytocin, and opioids in the mediation of social novelty-seeking behavior
Kevin Wilkins

Social Play Behavior in Rats: The Role of Oxytocin in the Nucleus Accumbens
Christine Wu

Abstracts

Priming the Detection of Negative Emotions in Facial Expressions: Examining the Association between Disgust and Fear Sensitivity and Political Ideology

Alexandra Agostini
Advisors: James Russell and Joseph Pochedly

Previous research has invoked morality as the link between our experience of emotion and the political ideologies with which people identify. Haidt and Joseph (2004) identified five moral foundations (harm/care, fairness/equality, ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity) that were found to influence political ideology. Previous research has also shown that emotions, particularly disgust, underlie our moral judgments (Schnall et al., 2008). This study investigated the potential influence of political ideology on the attribution of negative emotion to facial expressions. Participants indicated their political ideology and then viewed either pro-conservative (Condition 1) or pro-liberal (Condition 2) statements. They then performed an emotion attribution task by rating the intensity of emotion in 16 facial expressions (open and closed mouth versions of two variants of prototypical anger, disgust, fear, and sadness faces). In Conditions 3 and 4, the task order was reversed such that participants performed the emotion attribution task without first being primed. Within condition and between condition t-tests revealed marginally significant differences in disgust sensitivity with conservatives rating the emotion as being more intense than liberals, and conservatives in Condition 3 rating the emotion as being more intense than conservatives in Condition 1. Disgust sensitivity was consistently higher for conservatives and was not influenced by pro-liberal priming. However, this study found that the effects for fear sensitivity were more prominent than the effects for disgust sensitivity. Within condition and between condition t-tests showed significant differences in fear sensitivity with conservatives rating the emotion as being more intense than liberals, and conservatives in Condition 3 rating the emotion as being more intense than conservatives in Condition 1. Fear sensitivity, even more so than disgust sensitivity, was elevated in conservatives.

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Development of sex differences in the brain oxytocin system and the implications for pro-social behaviors

Andrea Alonso
Advisors: Kelly M. Dumais and Alexa H. Veenema

The oxytocin (OT) system, a sexually dimorphic and evolutionarily conserved neuropeptide system, has been implicated in the regulation of social behavior, including social interest and social recognition. These two behaviors, which are important for effective social interaction, are impaired in several neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Recent studies in our lab showed that a significantly higher OT receptor (OTR) binding density was found in the posterior part of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (pBNST) of adult male rats compared to adult female rats. Because the pBNST has been implicated in the regulation of social behavior the aim of this study was two-fold: 1) to investigate the extent to which sex differences in OTR binding density in the pBNST modulate social interest and social recognition in the adult rat, and 2) to determine the emergence of OTR sexual dimorphism in the pBNST during postnatal development. We hypothesized that OT in the pBNST would increase social interest and enhance social recognition while OTR antagonist would decrease social interest and impair social recognition in males more than in females. We also hypothesized that the sexual dimorphism in OTR binding density emerges concurrently with the sexual differentiation of the pBNST under the regulation of postnatal estrogen. We therefore predicted that the density of OTR binding would show a significant sex difference on postnatal day 12, but not prior. Our results show that OTR antagonist injections blocked social recognition (but did not affect social interest) in both sexes, while the OT selectively improved social recognition in males only. We also found significant sex differences in OTR binding density on postnatal days 5, 12 and 35 with a sex-specific OTR binding pattern between P12 and P35.These results suggest that 1) sex differences in OTR binding in the pBNST mediate sex-specific regulation of social recognition, and 2) the sexual dimorphism in OTR binding density in the pBNST emerge prior to P5 and show sex-specific developmental patterns. These findings provide further insight into the development and regulation of neural circuits regulating social behaviors that are significantly impaired in many sex-biased neurodevelopmental disorders.

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Enhanced Memory for Intentional Moral Actions

Lauren Anderson
Advisors: James Dungan and Liane Young

Memory is dependent on a variety of factors from individual differences in storage capacity to cultural differences in attentional biases. While previous research has studied the effect of the intentionality of actions on memory, few have looked into how the intersection of intentionality and morality might affect memory. This study sought to examine how morality and intentionality affect participants' ability to remember specific information about an event. Participants read six stories from a single condition in a 2 (moral/neutral) x 2 (intentional/accidental) between-subjects design. After half an hour of nonverbal distractor tasks, participants were then asked to freely recall as much information as they could from the previous stories. Although we found few significant results, we did find consistent trends indicating that moral intentional scenarios improve participants' recall of overall memory about the event. Specifically, morality and intentionality show trends toward improving participants' memory for information about the story's agent, their action, and whether or not their action was done intentionally or accidentally. The lack of significance could stem from a small sample size for each condition (N=20), which did not give enough power for statistical analyses. We discuss this and other limitations, as well as future directions on how these preliminary results apply to cultural and linguistic differences in memory and how this could have important implications for eyewitness testimony.

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How Intentions and Omissions Impact Moral Judgments

Natalie Blahunka
Advisors: James Dungan and Liane Young

Moral psychologists disagree over whether descriptively different moral violations represent distinct cognitive domains or are in fact unified by common cognitive mechanisms. The Moral Foundations Theory (MFT; Haidt, 2007) offers five different domains of moral transgressions: Harm/Care, Fairness/Reciprocity, Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity. Both intentionality and omission bias (e.g., omissions such as letting someone die being judged less harshly than commissions such as killing someone), are conceptualized as accepted rules for judging moral transgressions; however, it remains unclear how these rules modulate judgments across moral transgressions of various types. Here we investigate the role of intentionality and omission bias across different moral violations to determine where there truly are cognitive differences between domains. We utilized a 2 x 2 x 5 design to create stories across the five domains posited by MFT that were intentional/accidental cases of omissions/commissions. Importantly, this study also looks at four distinct moral judgments of wrongness, responsibility, blameworthiness, and punishment to assess the additional role of these rules across judgments. We found that intent and action play different roles across moral domains, both being most important for harm. Further, these rules also differ across judgments. Intent seems to matter more for wrongness, whereas action matters more for punishment. Lastly, we found that intent matters more for the individualizing foundations of harm and fairness (versus the binding foundations of ingroup, authority, and purity) in judgments of wrongness and punishment. The difference between action and omission is also more important for the individualizing foundations for punishment. These data suggest intentionality and omission bias manifest themselves uniquely across moral judgments and domains and provide evidence that there are meaningful differences between domains.

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Individual Differences in Perfectionism as they Relate to Emotion Regulation

Michelle Blair
Advisor: Eric Allard

Research suggests links between personality traits and emotion regulation abilities. Several personality traits (e.g., neuroticism, extraversion) have been associated with varying success in emotion regulation. However, others, such as perfectionism, have gotten less attention. The present study examined how individual differences in perfectionism related to emotion regulation abilities. Sixty undergraduates viewed a series of negative and neutral images using an eye tracker with instructions to maintain, increase, or decrease their initial emotional reactions. Fixation preferences to negative AOIs were assessed within each viewing condition. Participants also provided affect ratings for each image. We observed that, regardless of perfectionism, participations showed less engagement with negative images (and rated images as less negative) when asked to down-regulate their emotions. The effect of perfectionism was only seen in self-report assessments of personality and affect style. While the influence of perfectionism on emotion regulation ability was not reflected in the specific experimental tasks employed, we did replicate and extend findings suggesting non-perfectionists' report more positive affective tendencies. The present findings further highlight the importance of addressing individual difference variables when examining emotion regulation ability and general well-being.

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Perception of Closure in Tonal vs. Atonal Music

David Bonaiuto
Advisor: Ellen Winner

What creates a sense of closure in music? In Western tonal music people perceive an ending when the final note is at the tonal center of that melody. The present study examined how people perceive an ending in atonal music (when there is no tonal center) and compared this to the sense of an ending in tonal music. We hypothesized that a descending contour would provide a greater sense of ending in atonal than tonal music, since the cue of a tonal center would not be available. Sixty-seven participants with and without musical experience rated 28 brief tonal melodies (from Bach) or atonal melodies (transformed from the tonal melodies) for closure. Directionality was varied: melodies ended with either an ascending or descending note. Contrary to hypothesis, directionality did not affect the sense of ending in atonal melodies. Not surprisingly, atonal melodies were rated as less closed than tonal melodies. Musically experienced participants perceived greater closure in both kinds of melodies than did those with no musical experience.

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The development of the mental representation of pitch in space: The SPARC effect in children

Nicole Borglum
Advisor: Sara Cordes

This study aimed to explore the development of a spatial representation of musical pitch height, evidenced by the presence of a spatial-pitch association of response codes (SPARC effect), and the possible role of musical training on its development. Musically trained and musically naïve children, ages 6-7 years and 8-10 years, participated in four tasks over two sessions. In the explicit tasks, participants judged if a pitch was lower or higher than a reference tone by pressing one of two computer keys. In the implicit tasks, participants completed a target detection task, and were told to disregard any sounds they heard. Tasks tested both a vertical and horizontal spatial lay-out because it is hypothesized that pitch is represented helically with components in both. Data from children of all ages revealed a significant SPARC effect in both vertical tasks, as demonstrated by faster responses to low pitches with a bottom key, or faster detection of a target in the bottom location following a low tone, and, conversely, faster top responses following a high tone, revealing pitch is vertically mapped early in developed. Similarly, older children showed a trend towards a left-to-right horizontal SPARC in the explicit task; however, younger children produced data consistent with a reverse (right-to-left) mapping. Moreover, implicit data from children in both age groups showed a trend towards a reverse horizontal SPARC effect. Findings indicate that children begin to develop a horizontal representation of pitch after the vertical representation, providing evidence for the claim that the vertical representation is more intuitive. Additionally, the data indicate that the explicit and implicit horizontal representations develop discontinuously with the explicit emerging first.

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The Effects of Age and Emotional Arousal on Memories for the 2013 Boston Marathon

Maria Box
Advisors: Jaclyn Ford and Elizabeth Kensinger

Healthy aging is associated with declines in both autobiographical memory retrieval (Cavanaugh et al., 1983) and source memory performance (Schacter et al., 1991). Other factors have also been implicated in enhancing memory recollection and detail retrieval, namely, emotional intensity at encoding (Petrician et al., 2008) and personal significance felt toward the event (Curci et al., 2001). In this study, the flashbulb memory-inducing event of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing was used to investigate the roles these factors have in enhancing the detail and emotional content of recalled memories. Two weeks after the events, a 20-page survey was mailed to participants between the ages of 19 and 35 ("Young Adults") and between 70 and 85 ("Older Adults") living in and around the Boston area. Subjects were asked to recall the context in which they learned of the events, their three most vivid mental images, and their emotions from the day of the event. The free recall images and source memories were scored on a scale of 0 to 3 for detail and emotionality. Increased age was found to be associated with a decrease in the amount of detail reported in the source memories and with an increase in reports of emotional focus—both positive and negative. These effects held when controlling for age-related increases in personal significance and emotional intensity. Finally, increased emotional intensity affected the extent to which younger subjects reported focusing on negative aspects only, while it affected the extent to which older subjects reported focusing on both positive and negative aspects. This study confirms the decline in source memory associated with healthy aging and is consistent with the positivity effect in that it finds a reduction of the negativity bias associated with age.

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Touchscreen Study on Infants' Understanding of Number

Haley Boyce
Advisors: Sara Cordes and Tasha Posid

How do infants distinguish between varying sets of numbers? Evidence suggests that infants have access to two distinct systems for representing number, an exact object file system used to precisely track a small number of items and an approximate analog magnitude system used to represent large sets. Although infants robustly discriminate between small sets (e.g., 1 vs. 2) or between large sets (e.g., 5 vs. 10), ample evidence suggests that infants fail to discriminate small vs. large sets (e.g., 2 vs. 4). In the current line of research, we investigate those circumstances under which infants overcome this failure to represent small and large sets through the use of a touchscreen computer paradigm. 18- to 36-month-olds received motivating feedback over repeated trials when presented with a choice between two sets. Results suggest that infants successfully discriminate between large sets (4 vs. 8, control: presented here) across development, as indicated by learning over time, and do so more robustly compared to infants previously run in a 2 vs. 4 condition (2 vs. 4, test: data previously collected). Data from both of these studies suggests that repeated feedback and motivation aids infants' developing representation of number.

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From incompatible numerical representations: When and how infants compare small and large sets

Danielle Brazel
Advisors: Sara Cordes and Tasha Posid

Evidence suggests that humans and non-human animals share two distinct systems for representing number, an exact "object-file" system used to precisely track small quantities and the "analog magnitude" system used to approximately represent large arrays. Evidence suggests that infants can compare small sets (e.g., 1 vs. 2) or large sets (e.g., 5 vs. 10), but fail to discriminate across this small-large divide (e.g., 2 vs. 4) on account of an inability to compare representations formed by these two systems. While this discrimination difficulty is well-documented in infancy, it is not until as late as late as 3 years of age that evidence reveals successful reliable discrimination of small and large sets (Cantlon, Safford, & Brannon, 2010). The present study investigates when in development infants overcome the discrimination difficulty posed by the incompatibility between two number representation systems, as well as what factors may promote this early ability. Results indicate that infants generally successfully compared 2 vs. 3 items and 2 vs. 4 items across ages and additional conditions in which arrays of items were heterogeneous in appearance or items were counted and labeled beforehand.

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Social Energy, Women, Small Groups, and Performance

Stacy Caprio
Advisor: Donnah Canavan

In a recent study on groups in social energy, it was surprisingly found that women indicated more enthusiasm and motivation to perform than did men. Noting that medium sized groups of five or six are seldom observed in terms of gender and social energy, we decided to compare the enthusiasm and performance of women in all women's group with coed groups.

We employ a questionnaire scenario where a group volunteers to fix up an old building. We manipulate the variables of how many men versus women in a group, and high and low social energy, in order to determine one facet of the best working conditions for women in groups.

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Gender and Empathy in the Physician-Patient Relationship: An Exploration of Two Empathic Approaches

Jacqueline Davis
Advisor: Andrea Heberlein

The purpose of this study was to evaluate two approaches to empathy that physicians can use when interacting with patients. In the first approach, called Experience empathy, the doctor focuses on the patient's feelings and emotions. In the second approach, called Agency empathy, the doctor focuses on the patient's plans and goals. This study also examined how the genders of the physician and patient influence their relationship and patients' assessments of the physician. 214 adult (18+) participants were recruited through an online survey-taking system to act as analog patients. Participants listened to an audio clip of a male or female physician expressing either Experience or Agency empathy techniques in his/her communication (experimental conditions) or simply asking about the patient's medical history (control conditions). Participants then completed the Consultation and Relational Empathy (CARE) Measure and a few additional questions, which were used to judge how much participants liked the physician and how empathic they perceived the physician to be.

Results indicated significantly higher liking and empathy ratings in experimental conditions than in control conditions. However, ratings of the two empathic approaches tested were not significantly different, indicating that both approaches are valid ways for doctors to empathize with their patients. A significant main effect of physician gender was found in favor of male physicians. Further research is needed to determine whether this effect was due to the specific male and female voices used in the audio clips, or whether participants truly prefer a male physician when acting as patients.

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Remembering the Boston Marathon: Age Differences in Emotional Memory Content

Haley DiBiase
Advisors: Jaclyn Ford and Elizabeth Kensinger

Previous studies that have examined memory for highly emotional public events have demonstrated that young and older adults may remember these events differently, particularly when considering older adults' capacity of forming and retaining these memories. This study extends this research by investigating how the actual content of these memories may differ as a function of age.

This study used an autobiographical memory survey about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, in which participants were asked to describe three images that initially came to mind when thinking about the marathon bombings. Free-response answers from 92 young adults (ages 18-35) and 121 older adults (ages 70-85) were analyzed for their content by coding each one as having information about either the bombing or the lockdown, the victims or the bombers, and whether it referenced immediate effects of the bombing or lockdown or the resulting commemorative acts (memorials in Copley Square, Boston Strong, etc.).

The results showed that young adults were more than twice as likely to reference images of commemorative acts than were older adults. Older adults were more likely to report images directly referencing the bombing and to include information about the victims in their responses than were young adults. In addition, when discussing the victims, the young adults were more likely to give emotionally complex responses, referencing both positive and negative information.

The results of this study show that the content of emotional memories differ by age group. They also suggest that young adults have more ability to form emotionally complex memories, which is consistent with results described in Labouvie-Vief and Medler's paper on affect complexity (2002). Future analysis will examine whether these differences in memory content and complexity are still present after a six-month delay.

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Making vs. Viewing Art: Effects on Affect

Mariana Eizayaga
Advisor: Ellen Winner

We investigated the effects on positive and negative affect, flow, and enjoyment of making vs. viewing visual art. Drawing increased positive affect more than did viewing art. There was no difference in negative affect between the two conditions. There was no difference in flow or enjoyment between the two conditions.

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The Influence of Emotion on Time and Number Estimation

Siobhan Gavagan
Advisors: Laura Niemi and Sara Cordes

Previous research has found that emotion influences time and number perception in opposing ways, resulting in an overestimation of time after angry faces and an underestimation of number after angry and happy faces. This suggests that different mechanisms underlie time and number processing. An arousal-based mechanism may explain emotion's influence on duration perception; however, the mechanism underlying emotion's impact on number perception is unknown. This study examined the possibility of an attention-related mechanism underlying numeric estimation after emotional faces. Using a portable eye-tracker, participants completed both temporal and numeric bisection tasks. Each participant estimated duration and numerosity following emotional faces (angry, happy, neutral control). A baseline measure, without a face preceding estimation, was completed as well. Behavioral data and eye-tracking data (fixations and saccades) were recorded. Behavioral data showed that emotion influenced time but not number estimation. Time was overestimated after angry faces were shown compared to neutral and happy faces. Eye tracking data suggests that during and after angry faces were presented in the time task, participants had shorter and slower saccades, shorter fixation durations, and more fixations than during and after neutral faces.

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Do we allocate attention optimally? A quantitative account of attention allocation

Katherine Grisanzio
Advisor: Gene Heyman

Attention is the cognitive process that involves the allocation of processing resources. Importantly, attention is a limited resource. Consequently, we attend to some stimuli in our environment and ignore others. Attentional control, also known as executive attention, describes a person's ability to actively guide their attention toward an intended target. The aim of the current study was to examine the cognitive process of covert attention allocation using a mathematical model. The method included a novel computer-based experiment requiring participants to attend to one of two stimuli in order to correctly answer a simple three-digit addition problem. The stimuli were flashed briefly (e.g., 80 to 200 msec) so that participants only had time to attend to one, but not both, of the stimuli. Each participant was randomly given one of five versions of the experiment, where the ratio of stimulus A to stimulus B was either 9:1, 3:1, 1:1, 1:3, or 1:9. Based on the number of addition questions participants answered correctly, the probability that they attended to each stimulus was calculated. The hypothesis was that subjects would either 1) maximize correct responses by attending to exclusively to one stimulus, 2) match how often they attended to stimulus A to how often it was actually correct, or 3) attend to the stimuli randomly. Results showed that the probability subjects attended to stimulus A was positively correlated with how often stimulus A led to the correct answer. Additionally, individual differences were observed in regards to the strategy used. Attentional control is predictive of problem solving capability and psychological health, and future studies should examine these correlates.

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More than Just Gaze Avoidance: A Signal of Low Self-Worth in People with Depression

Kelly M. Hoffman
Advisors: Daniel C. Richardson and Jessica Karanian

Individuals with clinical depression typically display abnormally low levels of eye contact during social interactions. This often evokes a greater amount of negative reinforcement during social situations, which can exacerbate depressive symptoms (Segrin, 2000). The social competition hypothesis of depression suggests that people with depression deliberately signal submission to the people with whom they interact. An alternate hypothesis suggests that this lack of eye contact results from an overall tendency to disengage from external stimuli. To distinguish between these two hypotheses, the present eye-tracking study was conducted. Forty non-clinically depressed undergraduate and graduate students voluntarily participated in this study. Using an imagination task, we successfully induced a depressive mood in participants. All participants were presented video clips of strangers to simulate a Skype interaction. Throughout the experiment, participants completed 3 different conditions. In the control condition, participants passively watched the videos. In the observation condition, participants made judgments about the people in the videos. In the interaction condition, participants believed they were simultaneously observed by the people in the video clips. Using a remote eye tracker, we measured the eye-to-mouth ratio of eye gaze. An ANOVA revealed that there was a significant effect of viewing condition on the level of eye contact. Post-hoc analysis revealed that there was an increase in eye-gaze during the observation condition but not during the interaction condition, as compared to the baseline control condition. This suggests depressed mood specifically affects eye-gaze in situations of social interaction, but does not affect situations in which an individual is simply observing. These data offer strong support for the social competition hypothesis, which can contribute to the ongoing research that aims to improve the effectiveness of clinical depression treatment.

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Adult Attachment and Shared Enthusiasm: The Mediating Effect of Adult Attachment on the Experience of "Social Energy"

Austin Hughes
Advisor: Donnah Canavan

The current study seeks to investigate whether Adult Attachment orientation affects the experience of "social energy." Social Energy Theory suggests that two or more people sharing enthusiasm regarding a specific "X" factor produces a state of energy with significant transformative effects; however, results from a previous study examining Adult Attachment and Social Energy Theory indicated that insecure attachment orientations may be unable to experience this phenomenon. We therefore conducted a comprehensive literature review to explicate whether the previous ambiguity was simply a result of a weak manipulation or if perhaps the nature of social energy itself activates maladaptive attachment systems in a way that interferes with experiencing the uplifting benefits of social energy at all. To reveal these possible obstacles, we explored 1) their dependence on external validation and a hypervigilance to rejection as the specific inhibitory processes for anxious attachment, and, conversely, 2) the tendency to hold negative mental representations of others and a "compulsive self-reliance" as the relevant processes specific to avoidance. Importantly, we emphasize that an exploration into these specific attachment-related difficulties is more important to the current paper than finding evidence to support specific predictions and suggest that even if the results demonstrate no significant effect of social energy on attachment insecurity, they may reveal more about aspects of both social energy and insecure attachment than if results support our hypothesis. We tentatively predict that social energy will compensate for the specific defense mechanisms of insecure orientation and allow all three categories to experience the benefits of social energy equally. Furthermore, we predict high social energy will be associated with a reduction in the maladaptive patterns of insecure attachment on both an inter- and intra-personal level.

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Evaluating the Development and Influence of Math-Gender Stereotypes across the Lifespan

Laura Hymes
Advisors: Tasha Posid and Sara Cordes

Much research indicates that women are underrepresented in the male-dominated fields of mathematics and science, with this gender gap emerging in elementary and middle school and widening across the lifespan. Although data indicates that gender stereotypes about mathematics as a male domain may be a significant contributor to this discrepancy, the majority of research to date has focused on adults' gender stereotypes, with only a few recent studies examining the development of this in childhood. The study investigated the development of math-gender stereotypes across the lifespan, examining both children (ages 6-12) and their parents for potential concordance. Furthermore, the study evaluated the effect of math-gender stereotypes on children's and parents' actual math acuity and the existence of related math anxiety. It was found that, as in previous research, adults show an implicit Math-Male stereotype, but also demonstrated a novel, implicit Math-Hard stereotype. Unlike adults, children in the current sample do not show implicit associations between Math-Male or Math-Hard. Importantly, it was discovered that parents who hold stronger implicit associations like "math is for boys" or "math is hard" have children who are more likely to think this as well.

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Sex differences in vasopressin receptor binding and its role in social memory in rats

Marisa Immormino
Advisors: Kelly Dumais and Alexa Veenema

Sex differences in the regulation of social behavior as well as sex biases in prevalence of social disorders such as autism are likely due to sex differences in brain function. An important candidate for investigating sex-specific regulation of social behavior is the neuropeptide arginine vasopressin (AVP). AVP shows sex differences in synthesis and fiber innervation in the brain, regulates a wide variety of social behaviors, and has been implicated in the etiology of autism. However, a systematic analysis of potential sex differences in AVP receptors in the brain and linking such parameters to sex differences in social behavior is lacking thus far. Therefore, we determined whether there are sex differences in AVP V1a receptor (V1aR) in the rat brain. We then targeted specific brain regions to determine the functional significance of such sex differences. We found that males showed higher V1aR binding densities compared to females in 6 out of 15 forebrain regions analyzed, including the anteroventral thalamic nucleus, hippocampal dentate gyrus, lateral hypothalamus, tuberal lateral hypothalamus, anterior piriform cortex, and stigmoid hypothalamic nucleus. Because the most robust sex difference in V1aR binding was found in the hippocampal dentate gyrus, we targeted this region to study its functional significance. Surprisingly, not only rats given an injection with a V1aR antagonist, but also vehicle-treated rats failed to show social and object recognition memory. However, social and object investigation times were normal. We therefore hypothesize that the specific impairments in memory function are likely the result of damage to other hippocampal regions due to the cannula placement. Overall, these findings demonstrate that there are significant sex differences in the V1aR in brain regions implicated in social behavior. The functional significance of these sex differences remains to be determined.

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Does presence of high social energy change the way we perceive ourselves and the others? What do we say when we are not evaluating?

Yi Jung Kim
Advisor: Donnah Canavan

Canavan's Social Energy Theory (SET) has suggested that social energy makes both the relationship and the task more enjoyable. Past researches in SET have indicated that people in the social energy state do not evaluate one another or impose self-evaluation. The theoretical work suggests that since one invests time and energy when evaluating, being immersed in an intrinsically interesting group task would eliminate evaluation. In this thesis study, we have asked a group of undergraduate BC female students to engage in an imaginary group task in both high and low social energy conditions. A confederate was used in the experiment to play the role of uncompromising member. We predicted that the self in high social energy will 1) refrain from evaluating themselves, 2) the other group members, and 3) have less apprehension about being evaluated. Furthermore, we investigated the qualitative difference between evaluative language and descriptive language. While evaluative language is often meaningless and hierarchical (e.g., "You did an excellent job."), descriptive language is informative and egalitarian (e.g., "The example you just gave me helped me understand the concept better."). This theoretical work was confirmed by assessing free responses that the participants gave in the experiment. Other dependent variables explored include Dweck's fixed vs. incremental mindset and Canavan's psychological separateness.

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Context Affects Judgments of Facial Expressions

Victoria Kuk
Advisors: James Russell and Mary Kayyal

Our interpretation of a facial expression is influenced by the background—in this case, the facial expressions surrounding it—and the person's gender. In this study, adults (N=120) judged the degree to which a target person (male or female) felt a target emotion (happiness, anger, sadness, or neutral) and, separately, the target's intention (e.g., how approachable, threatening, and friendly). The target person was either presented alone or was surrounded by others displaying a different emotion. Background strongly influenced participants' emotion judgment of target's facial expression of anger only (but not for sadness, happiness, or neutral). "Angry" targets were judged as angrier when presented against a happy or sad background than when presented alone, regardless of the target's gender. Gender intensified this effect: males were judged as significantly angrier than females. Background had a weaker effect on intention judgments. Overall, male targets were also judged as significantly more threatening, less approachable, and less friendly than female targets.

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What do you think? Can communal Asians experience social energy? Can individualistic Americans experience social harmony?

Jung-Hyun Lee
Advisor: Donnah Canavan

This study developed a broad theoretical perspective starting with Canavan's Social Energy Theory (SET). SET is shared enthusiasm for an intrinsic interest (X); it requires a separate self. We asked if Asians, with interdependent (collectivism) self could experience social energy. We defined a new concept "Social Harmony" (SH) centered on shared reverence, which represents collectivist culture. In a 2x2x2 ANOVA design we manipulated both social energy and social harmony and asked Asian and non-Asian American women to respond to a series of questions designed to measure the characteristics and consequences of both social energy and social harmony. We are including Triandis' measures on collectivism and individualism. The questionnaire that all participants responded to includes the following thirteen variables: psychological separateness, competition, cooperation, intimacy, cohesiveness, intrinsic motivation, energy, evaluation, social roles, group's well-being, group norms, the irrelevance of separate self, and the emphasis on tradition/rituals. We predicted that both groups would experience social harmony and social energy as indicated in their differential responses to high and low experimental condition.

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Perceptions of Physician Empathy: Effects of Demographic Features

Jessica Letizia
Advisor: Andrea Heberlein

Expressions of empathy are considered a core component of a physician's treatment of their patients. It is imperative to the establishment of open communication, which aids in facilitating a good interpersonal relationship, exchanging information and making treatment-related decisions. Although empathy is widely viewed as essential, it is also commonly viewed as burdensome. We propose that empathy can be divided based on the characteristics in which we evaluate another's mind. Previous research indicates that we attribute mental capacities based on two distinct dimensions: experience and agency, described as the capacity to feel and the capacity to act, respectively. By dividing physician empathy into an understanding of a patient's feelings and an understanding of a patient's goals, it may be possible to extract what we are assuming to be the emotionally taxing component by focusing just on the patient's agency. 270 participants were surveyed regarding their opinions of their physician's communication in an attempt to identify trends within demographic populations for preferences for goal-directed or emotional empathy. Results indicate significant effects of age, gender and combined income. As age and combined income increase, appreciation for agency-related communication decreases. Females also expressed significantly higher appreciation for an experience-related style of communication.

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The Effects of Emotion on Numerical Estimation: A Developmental Perspective

Emily Lewis
Advisors: Sara Cordes and Laura Niemi

Emotion is a salient variable in our environment that can heighten arousal and increase attention to external stimuli. However, the presentation of emotional stimuli often results in inaccurate representations of variables such as time and number, presumably due to how attention and arousal (Zakay & Block, 1994; Tipples, 2008). While the effects of emotion are well understood in the temporal domain, the impact of emotion on subjective experiences is less clear in the numerical domain. Recent literature in numerical processing has shown underestimation effects when participants are presented with high arousing stimuli of positive valence (as opposed to neutral; Young & Cordes, 2013) contrasting with the literature on temporal processing where negative stimuli show significant overestimation effects (Droit-Volet, Brunot, and Neidenthal, 2004). Additionally, underestimation of number may be facilitative for numerical processing (Niemi, Goldstein, and Cordes, under review). The present study is the first of our knowledge to demonstrate the effects of emotional stimuli on numerical processing in children. Results suggest that children, like adults, underestimate number following emotional stimuli; however, unlike adults, children also demonstrate an increase in estimation precision.

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Exploring the Utility of Robots in Social Interaction for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Corinne Makar
Advisor: Hiram Brownell

This pilot study compared social behaviors and communication in children with Autism placed in two interaction conditions: play with a robot interaction partner with a confederate, and play with adult human interaction partner and confederate. Twenty-six children between the ages of 4 and 12 years participated in both interaction conditions in a clinic-based study at the Yale Child Study Center. Results suggest that the children demonstrate significantly greater social behaviors and engage in more meaningful verbal communication in play sessions with a robot interaction partner compared to sessions with a human interaction partner. The findings are discussed in the context of recent research that has highlighted the use of robots as having the potential to improve human-human social interaction for children with ASD.

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Effective counterconditioning of aversive learning in the picture-picture evaluative conditioning paradigm

Breana Marchwinski
Advisor: Jef Lamoureux

Research has shown that evaluative conditioning can be used to change people's emotional response to pictures of food (the conditioned stimulus, or CS) by pairing them with pictures of disliked body types (unconditioned stimuli, UCSs; Lascelles et al., 2003). In addition, it has been found that extinction of this conditioning is not effective (Dwyer et al., 2007). It has not been investigated, however, whether counterconditioning, which research suggests is generally effective in evaluative conditioning tasks (Parker and Rugel, 1973), would be effective in countering this particular association between foods and body types. College students rated pictures of foods before and after they were paired with liked or disliked body types, and then again after counterconditioning using a liked body type. In other words, participants first experienced evaluative conditioning, defined as a change in liking which occurs due to an association with a positively or negatively valenced stimulus. They subsequently experienced counterconditioning, in which foods previously paired with disliked body types were then paired with liked body types. Ratings of food pictures were assessed before any conditioning took place, after initial conditioning, and then a final time after the counter-conditioning phase. Ratings of food pictures decreased after pairing with disliked body images. However, subsequent pairings with liked body types (i.e., counterconditioning) resulted in food image ratings recovering to near pretraining levels. As noted above, successful counterconditioning in the paradigm is noteworthy as extinction training has previously been reported to be ineffective.

An unexpected finding was that CSs that had undergone aversive conditioning, but were not explicitly used in counterconditioning, also experienced an increase in the final ratings. A possible explanation for this result could be a "stimulus equivalence" effect.

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Mental Representations of Rational Numbers and How External Visual References Impact Them

Marisa Massaro
Advisors: Michelle Hurst and Sara Cordes

Previous research has shown that fractions are difficult to comprehend for both adults and children (National Mathematics Advisory Panel, 2008; Ni & Zhou 2005), but that an understanding of fractions is crucial for later mathematical abilities (Bailey, Hoard, Nugent & Geary, 2012; Siegler, Thompson & Schnieder, 2011; Siegler et al., 2012). Despite the established importance of an understanding of fractional notation, little research has investigated how fractions are internally represented. Furthermore, researchers have not systematically studied what external model (linear or non-linear) is best to use when working with fractions. In the present study adult subjects were placed in one of two conditions. In the linear condition participants were primed with fractions on a number line and in the non-linear condition they were primed with fractions on a pie graph. After being primed, these participants were given a magnitude comparison task involving fractions, decimals, and whole numbers. The participants also completed a speeded arithmetic task with fractions. Results suggest that adults represent fractions on a mental number line, along with decimals. In addition, it was found that adults utilize a mental number line when completing arithmetic problems involving fractions. Furthermore, adults who were primed with a linear model showed more evidence for the use of a mental number line, relative to those primed with a non-linear model. However, the different external references did not impact the difficulty of the task (i.e., speed and accuracy), likely because adults have flexible representation use. Future research, specifically with children, is needed to investigate these findings further.

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Understanding the effects of an induced bias in number perception

Solange Moran
Advisor: Sara Cordes

It has been proposed that the approximate number system (ANS) provides an underlying foundation for human cognitive development of arithmetic ability. The ANS is what provides discrimination abilities of non-symbolic quantities in both humans and animals. It has already been shown that the acuity of the ANS can be improved and that this improvement can transfer over to symbolic math ability throughout development (DeWind & Brannon, 2012). The idea that the ANS can be influenced is not new, but the far-reaching effects of these influences on the ANS have not been heavily researched. In this study, we induce a bias in the way subjects perceive the mapping between objective and subjective number (i.e., between actual number and how it is perceived), by explicitly telling adults that their estimates are too high or too low. We then explore whether this induced bias has subsequent effects on ANS acuity and/or mathematical performance. Overall, results suggested that induced bias, regardless of the direction, lead to a related decrease in ANS acuity (but not in math ability), suggesting that our induced bias may have contributed to a general lowering of confidence in computerized numerical tasks.

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Sex differences in oxytocin receptor binding in the rat brain may not arise from sex differences in oxytocin receptor mRNA expression

Laura E. Newman
Advisors: Nicholas Worley and Alexa H. Veenema

The neuropeptide oxytocin (OXT) is synthesized in and released by the hypothalamus and acts on OXT receptors present in distinct areas of the brain. This OXT system plays an important role in stress regulation and in the regulation of diverse social behaviors such as maternal behavior, social bonding, and social cognition. Human and animal studies have shown that OXT often mediates sex-specific effects on behavioral and brain responses. This could be mediated by sex differences in the brain OXT system. Indeed, our lab recently demonstrated that there are robust sex differences in OXT receptor binding in many forebrain regions of rats with males showing higher OXT receptor binding density than females. The strongest sex difference in OXT receptor binding was found in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST). We hypothesized that the sex differences in receptor binding could be due to sex differences in receptor mRNA expression, perhaps mediated through epigenetic mechanisms. Therefore, the current study sets out to determine whether there are sex differences in OXT receptor mRNA expression in the BNST. We collected the BNST by dissecting it from coronal brain sections of male and female rats and extracted mRNA from these samples. Using Real-Time PCR, we quantified the amount of OXT receptor mRNA in the BNST. Our pilot data indicate that there is no sex difference in OXT receptor mRNA expression in the BNST. These results will need to be confirmed, but may suggest that the sex difference in OXT receptor binding in the BNST is due to sex differences in posttranslational processes.

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Maladaptive and Protective Parenting Behaviors in the Context of Exposure for Youth with Social Anxiety Disorder

Lesley Norris
Advisor: Karen Rosen

Prior research has demonstrated that parental control, parental criticism, and parental acceptance are associated with social anxiety in youth (Wood, McLeod, Sigman, Hwang, & Chu 2003). However, researchers have not examined how these parenting behaviors might impact youth treatment responses to cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) interventions. Importantly, no research has been conducted to date on parenting behaviors in the context of a critical component of CBT—an exposure to the anxiety-provoking situation. Research in this area has also relied almost exclusively on self- and child-report measures of parenting behaviors. The current study used a newly developed behavioral observation coding system to observe: (1) parental control; (2) parental criticism; (3) quality of parent-child interaction (parental acceptance); (4) parental monitoring of youth anxiety; and (5) discussion of emotion in the context of a public speaking exposure therapy for socially anxious (n=20) and a control group (n=19) of youth, ages 8-16 years (M = 10.82, SD = 1.94). It was hypothesized that: (1) parents of socially anxious youth would exhibit higher levels of parental control, parental negativity, and parental monitoring of youth anxiety; (2) the quality of interaction would be lower in socially anxious parent-child dyads; and (3) parents of socially anxious youth would be less likely to discuss emotions with their children. Results demonstrated that parents of socially anxious youth offered significantly more praise than parents of non-socially anxious youth, (F(1, 33) = 5.662, p = 0.023). Parents of socially anxious youth also offered higher levels of directive help (F(1, 33) = 3.713, p = 0.063), although this finding was only trending towards significance. Correlational analyses were also run and it was found that correlations between various subscales of parenting behaviors were highly significant. Potential explanations for these findings are discussed and directions for future research are offered.

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Context and Extinction in Human Predictive Learning

Dani Park
Advisor: Jef Lamoureux

The reappearance of a conditioned behavior after extinction is often found to be context-dependent. Specifically, an extinguished behavior will often renew when the predictive stimulus is presented in a context other than that used during extinction. However, the mechanism behind how contexts generate renewal has never been fully explained. This study was conducted to replicate the findings of Rosas and Callejas-Aguilera (2006), who found that other excitatory cues trained during a phase of extinction were also context-dependent: predictive ratings for these cues decreased significantly when they were presented in a different context. Because of this, Rosas and Callejas-Aguilera hypothesized that extinction training may cause "predictive ambiguity," which then would increase attention to contextual cues. Over the course of two phases of training with 48 trials in each phase, human participants were conditioned with several cues that predicted the occurrence or non-occurrence of an outcome. Both phases consisted of equal numbers of predictive and non-predictive trials in each context, followed by ten test trials with no feedback related to outcome. Importantly, one cue (E) was conditioned in both groups in Phase 1, but only the Extinction group received extinction in Phase 2 while the Control group did not. Another predictive cue (P1) was conditioned in both groups only in the second phase, when E was undergoing extinction only in the Extinction group. After training, both E and P1 were tested in both the original training context and the transfer context. The critical data exhibited context dependence for both E and P1 for the Extinction group: participants gave lower ratings for P1 and higher ratings for E when they were presented in the transfer context. In contrast, Control group participants rated both cues similarly in the two contexts.

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Medical Thinking and Goals: Effects of Time-Variant Goal Focus on Memory for Patient Details

Emma Pearson
Advisor: Andrea Heberlein

The purpose of this study was to investigate a potential strategy for doctors to empathize with patients in a less cognitively taxing manner, as measured by later memory for patient details. The act of empathizing can be cognitively costly for doctors, since it requires devoting some of their limited mental resources towards imagining how the patient must be thinking and feeling. Empathizing can also be emotionally taxing, leading to personal distress for busy doctors. In this study, participants were asked to focus specifically on one aspect of patient agency: goals. We speculated that focusing on goals could be a less taxing way for participants (and in the real world, doctors) to remember more information about patients without going through the taxing process of actually empathizing with them. In this study, participants were asked to attend to either short-term or long-term goals. We initially hypothesized that participants focused on long-term goals would remember more total information about medical patients.

The study was conducted using participants from the online marketplace Amazon Mechanical Turk (mTurk). Participants read one of two passages describing the beneficial effects of focusing on either short-term or long-term goals in the doctor-patient interaction. They then clicked through a series of six hypothetical patient testimonials, which were embedded with a fixed number of personal and medical details. Free recall and cued recall tasks were used to test their memory for these patients.

Two one-way ANOVAs were conducted in order to determine if there were relationships between the number of medical and personal details, respectively, that participants recalled and the condition that they were assigned to. There was a pattern that participants in the long-term condition recalled on average more personal and medical details about patients in both free and cued recall tests. However, only one mean reached significance; participants in the long-term condition recalled significantly more personal details in the free recall task (p<0.05). These results positively support our initial hypotheses that participants in the long-term condition would remember more total information from the patient testimonials. There was also a trend that in general, participants remembered more medical information than personal information about patients.

We observed only partial support for our hypotheses in this study. Thus, we still do not know if focusing on goals is a more effective, less taxing way for doctors to empathize with patients. Future research should be devoted to investigating this topic further. Follow-up studies could improve upon ours by using stronger manipulation materials, using more consistent testimonials, or conducting the study in person.

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Sound Judgment: Auditory—but not Visual—Information Reveals Musical Competition Winners

Dan Scannell
Advisor: Ellen Winner

Previous research reported that people can successfully determine the winner of a musical competition when viewing a six second film clip of the performer without sound (Tsay, 2013, 2014); in contrast, when given an audio-only film clip or a clip that combined auditory and visual information, people perform at chance. Given the well-known publication bias in psychology (Ioannidis, 2005), this surprising and counterintuitive finding begs replication. In Study 1, 112 participants were randomly assigned to a sound, video, or video-plus-sound condition and were asked to select the winning musician after viewing five pairs of clips, one showing the winner and the other showing a non-winning musician. Clips were presented for 60 instead of six seconds, with the goal of giving participants more information about the performance, a modification we predicted would enhance performance in the audio and audio-visual conditions. Contrary to Tsay (2013), participants performed at chance in all three conditions. To more directly replicate Tsay (2013), in Study 2, 69 additional participants were randomly assigned to either a sound, video, or sound plus video condition and were asked to select the winning musician after viewing five pairs of 6-second clips showing the winner and another, non-winning musician. Here again the results did not replicate Tsay (2013): Participants performed significantly above chance in only one condition—when only hearing the performance and not seeing it. These results suggest that previous findings showing increased performance in rating musical performances without sound may be spurious and due to sampling error, issues in experimental design, low power, publication bias, or some combination of these. This also shows the strong importance of replication studies.

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Sex-specific regulation of social play

Jennifer Schiavo
Advisors: Remco Bredewold and Alexa Veenema

The neuropeptide arginine vasopressin (AVP) has been extensively studied for its role in social behavior, but few studies have focused on how AVP may regulate social play. Social play is a highly rewarding behavior important for the development of social competencies, and deficits in this behavior are often present in patients afflicted with psychopathologies such as autism. Understanding the neural mechanisms by which AVP regulates play may shed light on the neurobiological basis of social motivation and ultimately social deficits. In a recent study by Veenema et al. (2013), injection of an AVP receptor (V1aR) antagonist into the lateral septum (LS) created a sex-difference in social play behaviors in juvenile rats. The aim of this thesis is to understand the sexually-dimorphic neural mechanisms by which the LS-AVP system regulates social play, and to understand how V1aR blockade generated this sex-difference. We showed that social play was associated with increases in GABA and glutamate release in the LS of both sexes. Infusion of AVP into the LS induced sex-specific patterns of GABA and glutamate release in the LS. In detail, AVP increased GABA release in males only. Moreover, AVP increased glutamate release in females while decreasing it in males. Inhibition of glutamate receptors in the LS, however, had no effect on play behaviors in male or female juveniles. In addition, a pilot study revealed that the VTA is activated during social play in male juveniles. Furthermore, neurons activated in the LS during social play in males also project to the VTA. These findings will serve to increase our understanding of the neurobiological basis of social behavior.

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Family Relationships, Adoption, and the College Transition

Anna Minhua Scully-Nisa
Advisor: Karen Rosen

The college transition is a time when adolescents live in an unfamiliar environment, develop new relationships, and adjust to being away from their families. Do relationships with parents and siblings impact one's adjustment? Does the experience of early adoption have any effect on how well adolescents manage this transition? Do attachment relationships play a mediating role in the college transition? In this study, associations among family relationship variables and measures of adjustment were examined in adopted and non-adopted college freshmen who have siblings. Eleven Boston-area freshman females adopted before the age of 18 months, and a control group of thirty non-adopted Boston College freshman psychology students (15 female and 15 male) completed a series of questionnaires. These included the: (1) Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment; (2) Family Expressiveness Questionnaire; (3) Adult Sibling Relationship Questionnaire; (4) revised Experiences in Close Relationship Questionnaire; (5) revised UCLA Loneliness Scale; (6) Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale; (7) revised Beck Depression Inventory; and (8) the Beck Anxiety Inventory.

Compared to females, males were less securely attached to their mothers, showed less positive expressiveness, negative-submissive expressiveness, sibling warmth, and anxiety, and more sibling rivalry and avoidance in close relationships. Compared to non-adopted females, adopted females showed less sibling warmth and more avoidance in close relationships. Marginally significant was the finding that adopted females showed more sibling rivalry than non-adopted females. There were no significant differences in adjustment measures between adopted and non-adopted students. Thus, the early experience of adoption does not appear to influence adjustment to college. These results contribute to a growing body of literature on the influence of family relationships and attachment security on the college transition. Additionally, these findings provide insight into the differences between adopted and non-adopted students in avoidance in close relationships and sibling rivalry.

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"Who got more?" The Effects of Ownership and Perceived Deservingness on Children's Number Estimates

Alexandra Szczerepa
Advisors: Michelle Hurst and Sara Cordes

Much evidence has shown that the social and contextual factors can bias the numerical estimates produced by adults (e.g., Koudenburg, Postmes, & Gordijn, 2011; Niemi, Woodring, Young, & Cordes, in prep.). In this study, we investigated whether the same is true for children, specifically whether five- to nine-year-old children's estimates of the number of objects they see are biased by an awareness of who owns the objects and by the perceived "deservingess" of the other owner (whether the other child seems to deserve the objects or not). Eighty-two children estimated the number of stars they received, some of which belonged to them and some of which belonged to another child. Then, children responded to questions about who received more stars, whether that outcome was fair, and why or why not. Although we did not find that children's estimates differed based on the perceived deservingness of the other child, we did find that children's general claim that "I had more" was not consistent with their actual estimates. This suggests that perceived deservingness did not bias children's implicit estimates, but may have biased their explicit statements about the outcome of the estimation task.

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Roles of isolation, oxytocin, and opioids in the mediation of social novelty-seeking behavior

Kevin Wilkins
Advisors: Caroline Smith and Alexa Veenema

The motivation to explore novel conspecifics is essential for appropriate social functioning across species. This social novelty-seeking behavior is impaired in autism spectrum disorders that have an early age of onset. We developed an animal model to study social novelty-seeking behavior in juvenile rats in which both males and females display a robust preference to investigate a novel conspecific over a familiar cage mate. We used this social novelty preference test to study the role of social isolation, oxytocin, and opioids in the modulation of social novelty-seeking behavior. Long term social isolation, especially early in life, has been shown to significantly impair normal social behaviors later in life. We found that acute social isolation immediately prior to the social novelty preference test robustly decreases social novelty preference in both males and females. This decrease in social novelty preference was accompanied by an increase in plasma corticosterone (CORT) in males, but not in females. We hypothesized that centrally administering oxytocin (OXT), a highly conserved neuropeptide well known for its mediation of a variety of social behaviors, might recover normal social novelty preference levels in rats exposed to acute social isolation. However, administration of OXT did not improve social novelty preference after acute social isolation. We next looked at the brain region-specific role of OXT to promote social novelty-seeking behavior having previously found that the injection of an OXT receptor antagonist (OTR-A) in the nucleus accumbens, a region associated with motivation and reward, decreased social novelty preference in male juvenile rats. However, administration of OXT directly into the nucleus accumbens did not affect social novelty preference in male juvenile rats. The high motivation of juveniles to explore novel conspecifics and the seemingly rewarding nature of this behavior drove us to explore the effects of opioid manipulations on novelty-seeking behavior. We found that central administration of a μ-opioid receptor antagonist dose-dependently decreased novel investigation. Overall, these findings help elucidate the roles of environmental and neurobiological factors in the mediation of social novelty-seeking behavior, which may hold translational value for disorders characterized by impaired social behavior.

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Social Play Behavior in Rats: The Role of Oxytocin in the Nucleus Accumbens

Christine Wu
Advisors: Remco Bredewold and Alexa Veenema

Social play is a complex, rewarding activity in juveniles that is thought to contribute to the development of normal social behavior. Deficits in social play are found in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and schizophrenia, neuropsychiatric disorders that also show a robust sex difference in prevalence. A better understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms regulating social play in both sexes may help to understand the mechanisms involved in social play deficits. We hypothesized that the neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) may modulate social play because of its involvement in various pro-social and affiliative behaviors. Pharmacological manipulations of the OT system were targeted at the nucleus accumbens (NAcc), because this brain region is involved in reward and shows a high density of OT receptors (OTR). Social play was measured by exposing single-housed juvenile male and female rats in their home cage to an unfamiliar age- and sex-matched rat for 10 min. We found that NAcc injection of the specific OTR antagonist des-Gly-NH2,d(CH2)5[Tyr(Me)2,Thr4]OVT significantly increased the duration of social play in females while decreasing it in males. NAcc injection of OT did not alter social play in either sex. In addition, we determined whether the NAcc is activated in response to social play in male rats using Fos immunohistochemistry. Our results show that males exposed to social play show more Fos-positive cells in the NAcc than control males. Together, these findings demonstrate the involvement of the NAcc in the regulation of social play, and suggest sex-specific roles for the OXT system in the regulation of this behavior in juvenile rats.

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