Completed Honors Projects
To view a PDF document version of the abstracts for completed Undergraduate Honors projects, click on the links below that correspond to a particular school year. To view a compilation of all of the abstracts from 1998-99 to 2018-19, click here.
The text of the current school year’s abstracts (and one prior year) can also be found on this page by scrolling down past the school year links.
Undergraduate Honors Projects – 2019-2020
The Effect of Maternal Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms on Child Externalizing Problems, as Mediated by Parenting Stress and Maternal Warmth
Advisors: Jacqueline R. O’Brien, MS and Maureen Zalewski, PhD
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a psychological disorder characterized by impulsivity, negative affect, and emotional and interpersonal dysregulation, both of which can directly impact the experience of being a parent. The purpose of this study was to further understand the pathway through which elevated symptoms of maternal BPD are associated with higher levels of externalizing problems in their children. Specifically, we investigated whether maternal warmth and parenting stress mediated this relationship to transfer risk of mental health difficulties. The participants in this study included 68 mothers and their 3-4 year old children (M= 48, SD= 7.6 months). Maternal BPD symptoms, parenting stress, and child externalizing problems were assessed through maternal report, while maternal warmth was assessed using observational measures during a dyadic stressor task. Results support that elevated maternal BPD symptoms are associated with higher levels of child externalizing problems, as well as with higher levels of parenting stress. However, elevated maternal BPD symptoms were not associated with lower levels of maternal warmth. Additionally, higher levels of parenting stress did not explain the association between maternal BPD symptoms and child externalizing problems. These findings suggest that maternal BPD symptoms confer risk of mental health difficulties in children, and that interventions targeting maternal BPD symptoms may be more effective in mitigating this risk than parenting interventions designed to improve warmth.
Perspective Taking Taken to the Streets: Themes Found in Naturalistic Accounts
Advisor: Sara Hodges, PhD
The current body of psychology literature on perspective taking is largely made up of studies which instruct participants to take the perspective of another person. In order to better understand the circumstances under which unprompted perspective taking occurs, an online study (n = 238) was conducted to explore naturalistic accounts of everyday perspective taking. In this study, university student research participants were asked to write about a time, preferably in recent days, when they took the perspective of another person. Narratives were coded using a reliable coding scheme developed to capture the prevalence of and variation in the following elements: whose perspective was taken; what triggered the perspective taking; strategies mentioned (if any) for perspective taking; interpersonal or other outcomes of perspective taking; and use of perspective-taking metaphors (e.g., use of visual or place metaphors). Results will help shed light on when people think they engage in perspective taking, and may address whether these contexts are related to prosocial and interpersonal understanding outcomes associated with perspective taking.
Identifying Neurons Necessary for Social Behavior
Advisor: Philip Washbourne, PhD
Humans have a long history of working in social groups with a plethora of research supporting the benefits of positive human interaction. While these behaviors may seem intuitive, they can be argued as the most intricate behaviors displayed by animals. To generate a situationally relevant response to social others, an animal must be able to track dynamic systems. Given the inherent complexity of social behaviors, it is expected that this system can be perturbed by a multitude of neurological disorders. Using animal models, we can begin to construct the neuronal circuitry necessary for social behaviors. This circuitry can be used to understand social behavior deficits and may reveal possible interventions for disorders. Zebrafish, Danio rerio, perform stereotyped social behaviors, such as shoaling, which can be used to explore neuronal changes associated with deficits in performing the behavior. Through chemo-genetic ablations, we were able to cause cell death to select neurons due to variations in gene expression. Chemically treated fish were put into a virtual social assay that untreated zebrafish respond to. Zebrafish exhibiting decreased social response would indicate that the ablated neurons are necessary for social behavior. Our results indicate a population of neurons in the forebrain that are necessary for correct social behavior. This insight will help us construct the circuitry underlying social interactions.
Child Gender as a Moderator Between Maternal Difficulties with Impulse Control and Preschoolers’ Externalizing Behavior Problems in a High-Risk Population
Advisors: Ana C. Hernandez, MS and Maureen Zalewski, PhD
Children of mothers who have difficulties with emotion regulation have been shown to exhibit higher levels of behavior problems, which is a risk factor for future psychopathology. This study examined whether child gender moderated the association between maternal difficulties with impulse control and preschooler externalizing behavior problems using a sample of 68 dyads that oversampled mothers with elevated levels of emotion dysregulation and their 3- to 4-year-old children (46% girls). We hypothesized that higher levels of maternal difficulties with impulse control would be associated with higher levels of child externalizing behaviors. Further, we hypothesized that the association between maternal impulse control and child externalizing problems would be significantly stronger for boys compared to girls. Maternal impulse control difficulties were assessed via self-report on the Impulse subscale of the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS) and child externalizing behaviors were assessed via maternal report on the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). The results show that as maternal difficulties with impulse control increased, child behavior problems also increased. As expected, we found that the association between maternal impulse control problems and children’s externalizing problems was pronounced for boys. Early recognition of externalizing behavior problems of children of mothers with elevated difficulties with impulse control may have clinical implications for prevention and intervention for child psychopathology.
Interactive Effects of Social Support and Self-Complexity on Depressive Symptoms in Adolescent Girls
Advisors: Marjolein Barendse, PhD and Jennifer Pfeifer, PhD
Development of the self-concept is a fundamental aspect of adolescence. However, it is unknown how variation in self-concept development interacts with other risk factors, such as lack of social support to predict depressive symptoms during adolescence. To address this, we used data from an ongoing longitudinal project, TAG (Transitions in Adolescent Girls) to examine the effects of perceived support from friends and family and self-complexity on depressive symptoms in a sample of adolescent girls (N = 174) aged 10 to 13. Exploratory analyses were used to examine whether positive and negative self-complexity have differential effects on depressive symptoms and the effect ethnicity/race as well as socioeconomic status may have on these interactions. We expected a larger decrease in family support (and to a lesser extent friend support) and a large change in self-complexity between waves 1 and 2 to predict a greater increase in depressive symptoms. We additionally predicted significant interactions would be observed, such that decreasing social support (especially from family but also from friends) would predict increased risk for depressive symptoms, most strongly when combined with a large change in self-complexity. Results suggest that only change in perceived family support predicts depressive symptoms. Changes in perceived friend support and self-complexity, as well as the resulting interactions did not significantly predict depressive symptoms. Lastly, race/ethnicity and SES did not impact any of the relationships examined. Exploring these frameworks can provide a better understanding of risk and protective factors for specifically adolescent girls and contribute to better serving them.
Color Memory Differentiation as an Adaptive Remedy for Highly Similar Object Memories
Advisors: Yufei Zhao, MS and Brice Kuhl, PhD
Potential for memory confusion occurs when memory relates to highly similar objects encountered within the same context. Memory differentiation, an adaptive mechanism by which the brain distinguishes memories that share a high degree of representational overlap, emerges as a potential brain remedy. Differentiation can be understood as the ability to manipulate highly similar memories by exaggerating the differences between them in order to keep them distinct in mind. In this experiment, we examined differentiation of color memory in a visual spatial context. We employed a behavioral memory experiment, with computer generated colored object stimuli, operationalized as a color and location memory task. 40 students from the University of Oregon Human Subjects Pool were asked to memorize the spatial locations of colored object pairs. The colored objects were partitioned into two groups, a paired group (identical objects, highly similar in color), analogous to memories with a high degree of representational overlap, and a control group (different objects, highly similar in color), analogous to unique memories. A two-way ANOVA comparing color differentiation for object group and object location yielded a marginally significant effect of object group, such that subjects exhibited a greater degree of differentiation for highly similar paired objects. In addition, we found a significant, negative linear relationship between errors in location memory and degree of color differentiation. The results lend support to previous research suggesting a high degree of representational overlap leads to memory differentiation in order to prevent errors and confusion in human memory.
Associations Among Trait Anxiety, Behavioral Inhibition and Total Energy Intake in Preadolescent Children
Advisors: Claire Guidinger, MS and Nichole Kelly, PhD
Overeating, or eating in excess of the body’s caloric need, is associated with long-term weight gain and the onset of obesity. Extant research links negative affect, and specifically anxiety, to increases in overeating and disordered eating more generally. Difficulties with behavioral inhibition, a facet of executive functioning, are also associated with poorer eating habits in children. Whether these variables interact with one another to influence energy intake is unknown. In a sample of 76 children (8-10 years old) living in rural Oregon, this study will examine whether trait anxiety is associated with children’s total energy intake and whether this association is moderated by child behavioral inhibition. Energy intake (total kcal) will be calculated from nutritional information following a standardized, buffet-style lunch. Behavioral inhibition and trait anxiety will be assessed using the Stop Signal Task paradigm and self-reported questionnaire (STAIC), respectively. Based on current theories of emotional eating, we hypothesize that higher levels of anxiety will be associated with increased caloric intake. Based on extant findings that link decreased behavioral inhibition to overeating, we hypothesize that decreases in behavioral inhibition will strengthen this relationship.
Interpersonal Perceptions of Political Ideology
Advisors: Bradley Hughes, MS and Sanjay Srivastava, PhD
Conservative versus liberal opinion is becoming increasingly inserted in our daily interactions. The partisanship in political ideology is dividing the United Sates, based on what we assume other people think, which then informs who we choose to surround ourselves with. With the relevance this holds as political knowledge is becoming more accessible, it is important to be aware of our impressions in judging other people’s political identities. This work seeks to understand how perceptions of political ideology are formed between strangers. The relationships investigated are: the extent perceivers agree about who is conservative or liberal, how accurate perceptions are of who is conservative or liberal, and how stereotypes are used to make these perceptions. These hypotheses were tested with groups of 4 to 6 students (N=216) participating in a self-report survey, a Leaderless Group Discussion task, and a survey rating the personalities of the other members in the group. Preregistered analyses will look at questions regarding varying degrees of affiliation between group members, in future work.
Augmented Reality Feedback and Effects on Measures of Stress, Mood, and Memory Encoding
Advisors: Lea Frank, MS and Dasa Zeithamova-Demircan, PhD
Research with Virtual Reality has shown that a brief meditation experience is effective in reducing feelings of stress and anxiety (Keller, Bunnell, Kim & Rothbaum 2017). When combined with interactive biometric feedback (for example: one’s heart rate) these same interventions have a stronger effect on both subjective feeling states as well as physiological changes associated with a relaxation response (Jester, Rozek, & McKelley 2019). While it has been previously shown that reductions in stress can facilitate improved performance on cognitive tasks (Wu & Yan 2019), no research to date has specifically examined the ability of a brief Augmented Reality based meditation experience to boost cognitive performance. Our aim was to investigate if an AR-based meditation experience can stimulate a temporary boost in cognition by way of lowering stress, and to examine any additional effects of an addition of biometric feedback.
The Effect of Sleep Duration on Reward Motivation and Depressive Symptoms in Young Women
Advisor: Melynda Casement, PhD
Insufficient sleep is prevalent amongst young adults and has a range of consequences for health and wellbeing, including depression. There is some evidence to suggest that sleep may contribute to depressive symptoms by affecting motivation to pursue rewards. This study evaluated rewarding motivation linking sleep duration to depressive symptoms. Twenty-two women (M=20.16, SD=1.27) who regularly had less than 8 hours of sleep per night, higher than average daytime sleepiness, and moderate to high depressive symptoms participated in the study. For one week, participants kept a consistent sleep schedule of their typical sleep duration. For the second week, participants were randomly assigned to maintain their typical sleep opportunity (TSO) or extend their sleep opportunity (ESO) by 90 minutes. Reward motivation was measured through the Effort Expenditure for Reward Tasks after the second week of sleep intervention. The results show that higher levels of sleep duration predicted decreases in depressive symptoms after controlling for depressive symptoms at baseline, sleep duration did not predict reward motivation, and motivation for reward did not predict depressive symptoms after controlling for depressive symptoms at baseline. Findings from the exploratory analysis indicate that higher reward magnitudes and lower reward probabilities were associated with depressive symptoms, while low reward magnitudes were associated with lower depressive symptoms. Taking these findings together, there is support on targeting sleep extension and particular reward magnitudes and reward probabilities for reward processing in interventions and treatments in depression for young adult women.
Examining Self-Perceived Scholastic Competence, Mindfulness and School Transitions in Adolescent Girls
Advisors: Theresa Cheng, MS; Samantha Chavez, MS; Jennifer Pfeifer, PhD; and Kate Mills, PhD
The dropout rate after the first year of high school is 25% in the United States, meaning 1.2 million freshmen do not make it to graduation every year (U.S. Department of Education’s National Center, 2019). Understanding factors that impact scholastic motivation is essential to combat this attrition in educational attendance. Self-perception of scholastic competence is one likely factor, as previous studies have found that negative self-perception is related to less academic achievement and increased emotional problems. Further, experiences such as the transition into middle school and high school have been proposed as points of change in self-perceived scholastic competence, and mindfulness has been proposed as a potential protective factor. This pre-registered analysis used existing data to examine three hypotheses: 1. Self perceived scholastic competence will increase with age across early adolescence 2. Higher prior levels of mindfulness will relate to higher levels of self-perceived scholastic competence 3. Transitioning into middle school or high school will relate to self-perceived scholastic competence. A sample of 174 adolescent girls spanning the ages of 10 to 16 years contributed up to three time points of data. We used a multilevel modeling approach, with time points nested within individuals. Our results found no relationship between age and change in self-perceived scholastic competence across early adolescence, and transitions into middle school and high school did not relate to increased or decreased self-perceived scholastic competence. However, prior levels of self-reported mindfulness was positively related to self-perceived scholastic competence. From these findings, we suggest that mindfulness could be used as an intervention to increase self-perceived scholastic competence in girls in early adolescence.
Representational Models of Personality in Social Brain Networks
Advisor: Robert Chavez, PhD
There is broad consensus that regions of the default mode network, including the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), temporal parietal junction (TPJ), and the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) are implicated in social cognition. Previous research has also investigated how factors such as similarity and trait-knowledge influence the representation of self and others within these regions. However, few studies to date have directly compared models between self and other representations to test which Big-Five personality similarity model best explains the social cognitive processes within tight-knit groups. In this current study, we investigated three models of Big-Five personality similarity in four regions of the brain. We tested whether subject’s ratings of others’ personality (intrapersonal), the similarity between a subject’s self and others’ personality (self-anchor), or similarity between others’ self-reported personality (interpersonal) predicted neural similarity patterns of others in the default network regions during a round-robin fMRI trait judgement task. Using a multilevel modeling representational similarity analysis approach, we found that the intrapersonal model significantly predicted neural representations of others in the rTPJ (p = 0.027), such that greater similarity in the rTPJ reflected greater similarity in trait judgments. However, the self-anchor, interpersonal, or intrapersonal models were not significant predictors of others’ representations in the dMPFC, vMPFC, or PCC (p > 0.05) in this sample. Although one significant finding was shown, these results suggest that Big-Five personality may not drive neural similarity patterns of others during a trait judgement task and other metrics may be more effective than Big-Five personality to capture individual differences when thinking of people in our social network.
What Types of Status Matter? Consensus, Accuracy, and Personality Antecedents of a Two-Component Model of Status
Advisors: Bradley T. Hughes, MS and Sanjay Srivastava, PhD
In social hierarchies, people are organized based on their status, which is determined by the judgments of others and has two components: respect and influence. The focus of this work was to understand the relationship and effects of these components in interpersonal perceptions. We tested three hypotheses: 1) Self-reports, perceptions, and target effects of respect and influence will be associated such that individuals who are perceived as having greater respect will also be perceived as having higher levels of influence; 2) Others will agree about who has respect and influence in a group (consensus), and will also agree about their own relative respect and influence in the group (accuracy); 3) Personality traits will predict who attains status. To test these hypotheses, we had groups of n = 4 – 6 (N = 225) complete a leaderless group decision making task and then provide ratings about the status and personality of each of the other members of the group. We find support for the relationship between respect and influence and that people achieve consensus and accuracy in their perceptions of these components of status. We also find that Extraversion and the facet of sociability are associated with respect and influence, and that these components have distinct relationships with other individual differences.
Does the Heart Care? A Meta Analysis on Arousing and Relaxing Sounds with Heart-Rate Variability Measures
Advisor: Christina Karns, PhD
Exposure to sounds such as rain or wind through trees is known to evoke feelings of relaxation while sounds such as alarms or screams may cause heightened arousal. The neurophysiological mechanisms involved in these processes have not been heavily researched. An overarching aim of this analysis is to understand the promise and potential limitations of cardiovascular physiological recordings to elucidate the mechanisms of environmental influences of stress. Specifically, the aim is to determine the extent to which sounds, identified as arousing (heavy metal music and traffic noise) or relaxing (classical baroque and nature sounds), modulate heart rate variability. Broadly, we expect that exposure to relaxing sounds will reduce stress response while arousing sounds will increase stress response.
The Intergenerational Transmission of Oxidative Stress
Advisors: Sarah Horn, MS and Phillip Fisher, PhD
Oxidative stress acts as a recently uncovered physiological force that contributes towards negative physical and mental health outcomes varying from increased susceptibility of contracting diseases to a variety of psychological disorders. While oxidative stress has been discovered to occur in relation to lifestyle determinants such as low socioeconomic status, increased body mass index (BMI), and exposure to tobacco smoke, there is little knowledge towards the influence that oxidative stress plays towards a child’s health. In order to address this gap in knowledge, urinary isoprostane (IsoP) samples were assessed from 48 of 105 mother-child dyads and compared to lifestyle determinants including annual income, maternal smoking status, and BMI of each dyad. A paired samples t-test, as well as a univariate general linear model was conducted co-varying for age, BMI, maternal smoking behavior, and annual income. Results indicate that while there were no significant predictors for maternal nor child IsoP levels, potential associations were discovered between maternal smoking status and increased IsoP levels for both mother and child. Additionally, mean child IsoP values were found to be significantly higher than their mother counterparts, offering insight towards the age of onset for oxidative stress. Further studies are needed to clarify the potential associations reflected in this study by selectively sampling mothers who actively use tobacco products, as well as gathering larger and more diverse sample populations.
Investigating Age and Expertise in Children’s Processing and Execution of Complex Activity Sequences, A Proposal
Advisor: Dare Baldwin, PhD
This paper proposes a study to examine the role of children’s age and expertise in their ability to efficiently process, and competently execute, complex new activities. We will harness the dwell-time paradigm, a method introduced by Hard, Recchia, and Tversky (2011) to track participants’ attention during the unfolding of dynamically streaming events. In particular, children between 5 and 8 years of age will advance at their own pace through two activity sequences: one depicting a familiar method of shoe-lace tying they are learning to execute, and the other depicting a novel method of shoe-lace tying. As well, children will attempt to tie shoe laces via both the familiar and the novel method. Lastly, children will participate in a range of tasks assessing their general motor and executive function skills, and their caregiver will also provide survey responses regarding those same skills. Of interest is the extent to which relationships emerge across these tasks and skills, and the extent to which children’s age, versus their expertise at shoe-lace tying, predict these relationships. Findings from this research will help to validate the dwell-time method as a measure of event processing in children. Moreover, our findings will provide altogether new information about developments in event processing and motor skill, as well as informing theoretical accounts of mechanisms that underlie event processing and learning more generally.
How Does Sleep Develop?
Advisor: Don Tucker, PhD
Electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings of infant sleep reveal a unique pattern called Trace Alternant (TA) which consists of large bursts of electrical activity across channels followed by relative silent periods. We predicted that this activity would appear on the scalp as a negative discharge in the frontal electrodes because adult deep sleep features slow oscillations which appear on the scalp as negative frontal discharges. We used EEG recordings from five infants with gestational ages ranging from 33 weeks to 36 weeks to locate segments of TA activity and mark the bursts of activity within them. We found that these bursts actually followed the opposite pattern on the scalp as the adult slow oscillations, with the frontal channels showing a positive discharge with corresponding negativity in the posterior channels. This may imply that TA activity in infants serves a different function than slow wave sleep in adults and that the transition from TA activity to slow wave sleep is an important feature of brain development early in life.
Undergraduate Honors Projects – 2018-2019
Neural and Behavioral Assays for Studying Predictive Coding in the Mouse Brain
Advisors: Santiago Jaramillo, PhD and Nicole Dudukovic, PhD
‘Controlled hallucination’ is a term that has been used to describe the process of interpreting sensory information according to the theory of predictive coding. This theory posits that the brain’s mechanisms for interpreting sensory information function by generating predictions about the external world and comparing these predictions to sensory signals. To assist in identifying neuronal mechanisms for how the brain generates predictions about patterns of sounds we trained mice in a head-fixed, reward-driven, behavioral task that required the animals to make predictions about incoming sounds. We then recorded sound responses and assessed frequency tuning in auditory cortical neurons in awake, head-fixed, non-behaving mice in preparation for upcoming electrophysiological experiments that will be used to evaluate the neural basis for generating predictions about sounds. In these experiments, using the classical oddball sequence and the many-standards control sequence, we plan to isolate measures of deviance detection into repetition suppression and prediction error. After investigating neuronal mechanisms for generating predictions about sounds in non-behaving mice we plan to refine our experimental paradigm and conduct recordings in behaving mice.
How the Use of Simulations Effects the Understandability and Memory for Expert Testimony
Advisor: Robert Mauro, PhD
Experts are relying increasingly on the use of computer-generated simulations, or recreations of an incident that are constructed by entering data into a computer program, to effectively communicate complex information. However, the validity of a simulation is often based on key assumptions that are obscure and hidden while the imagery is vivid and compelling. This raises the question of whether simulations can be effective ways to enhance the ability of the courts to deal with arcane information, explain complex issues in ways that judges and jurors can understand, or allow judges and jurors to be swayed by presentations that are only loosely grounded in the facts and science. In the effort to enhance the clarity and persuasiveness of expert testimony, we seek to investigate the effect of simulations on individuals’ perceptions of the validity of expert testimony. The questions guiding our inquiry are as follows: How effective are simulations relative to traditional visualizations in persuading individuals? How can simulations be effectively cross-examined? In what ways are simulations persuasive and/or being potentially mistaken for fact? To answer these questions, participants will be recruited through the University of Oregon Psychology Department human subjects pool and randomly assigned to one of three conditions based on the use of a simulation and the use of cross-examination (1. No simulation, no cross, 2. With simulation, with cross, 3. With simulation, no cross), used to measure the extent of the simulation’s persuasiveness and its effect on juror decision making.
Examining Parental Reflective Functioning and Breastfeeding Patterns
Advisor: Dare Baldwin, PhD
Motherhood is an inimitable experience in one’s life. It is viewed as a significant moment and is often considered to be the entry into adulthood. But, many women across the globe don’t feel prepared. They often experience fatigue, tiredness, depression, loneliness, powerlessness, anger and a sense of uncertainty. For many, incorporating breastfeeding as well as a myriad of other life changes (e.g., sleep patterns, work schedule, relationship changes, etc.) present serious challenges to coping and adjustment. Parental reflective functioning denotes one’s ability to perceive self and child in terms of mental states, such as feelings, desires and goals. It helps with the successful navigation of parent-child interaction. In this research, we investigate the extent to which parental reflective functioning is related to mothers’ adjustment to their breastfeeding experiences and success, in conjunction with other factors, such as depression/stress/anxiety and level of social support. Our findings will offer altogether new insight into the struggles and achievements of motherhood.
Juror Perceptions of Asian American Attorneys
Advisor: Robert Mauro, PhD
In the American judicial system, jurors are tasked with determining outcome of trials based on information presented as admissible evidence. One way in which attorneys sway jurors to decide in favor of their clients is through the telling stories that explain the facts in evidence (Findley & Sales, 2012). However, jurors may interpret these stories differently depending on the preexisting biases that they hold. The present study investigates the way in which jurors’ biases about gender and race interact with attorneys’ speech style to affect trial outcomes. We asked 119 participants (to act as mock jurors while reading a report of a hypothetical criminal trial. The participants were randomly assigned to one of eight conditions created by varying the race (Caucasian/Asian) and gender (Male/Female) of the defense attorney and the way that the defense attorneys presented their closing argument (story/legal issues). Dependent measures include verdict, culpability ratings, and attorney trait assessment. Data analyses will test for the main effects and interactions between the independent variables on the dependent measures. Implications, limitations, and future directions will be discussed.
Story Model of Juror Decision Making
Advisor: Robert Mauro, PhD
In the United States criminal justice system, juries are tasked with the most important, complex job in a criminal trial – determining the guilt or innocence of the accused. Previous research has indicated jurors’ decisions are greatly influenced by composition of attorneys’ closing statements, with preferences toward clear, understandable stories. Pennington and Hastie’s (1981) Story Model of Juror Decision Making argues that jurors reorganize trial evidence into a narrative-based sequence of events, with verdicts favoring the most easily-organized evidence. The present study seeks to expand on Pennington and Hastie’s Story Model (1981) by comparing the effectiveness of narrative-style defense closing statements and traditional, legal fact-based closing statements. In line with Pennington and Hastie’s (1981) Story Model, we hypothesized that narrative-based defense closing statements would be more likely to produce a verdict of “not-guilty” than fact-based closing statements. Additionally, we hypothesized that attorneys, regardless of race and gender, who utilized a narrative-based closing statement would receive higher ratings on measures of personal traits such as likeability, intelligence, and aggression.
Adverse Childhood Experiences and Self-Regulation in At-Risk Children: An Intergenerational Perspective
Advisors: Elizabeth Skowron, PhD; Nicole Dudukovic, PhD; and Emma Lyons, MA
Exposure to early adversity creates lasting negative effects in biological and behavioral functioning across the lifespan (Anda et al., 2006; Shonkoff & Garner, 2012; Felitti et al., 1998; Gunnar & Quevedo, 2007; Obradovic et al., 2010), such as deficits in self-regulatory abilities (Skowron, Cipriano-Essel, Gatzke-Kopp, Teti, & Ammerman, 2014). The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), a branch of the autonomic nervous system, is key in physiological regulation and is often used to measure self-regulatory capacity. The current study examined the intergenerational impact of early adversity on self-regulatory functioning by clarifying the relationship between parents’ early adversity (ACES) and their child’s self-regulation, as measured by respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA). Participants (N=203) were parent-child dyads in which children were 3 to 7-years-old; families were recruited from the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Eugene, Oregon community. RSA was measured while children were at rest and the Adverse Childhood Experience Scale (ACES) scores were used to assess the extent of adversity that children and their parents had experienced. A simple correlation analysis was run to test the relationship between parent ACES and child ACES, finding a significant positive relationship, indicating that parents who experienced childhood adversity were more likely to have children who experienced childhood adversity. A regression analysis was run to compare child ACES with child RSA, controlling for child age and gender, and no significant relationship was found. A second regression analysis was conducted to compare parent ACES with child RSA, controlling for child age, child gender, and child ACES, and no significant relationship was found. Future research should recruit a sample with a more representative distribution of ACES and should control for other potentially important variables, such as race and socioeconomic status.
Caregiver Singing and Infant Vocalizations in Everyday Life
Advisor: Caitlin Fausey, PhD
The auditory environments infants encounter impact their vocal development, especially during interactions between a caregiver and their infant (e.g., Franklin et al., 2014; Cartmill et al., 2013). We know that caregivers not only talk but also sing to their infants; however, we don’t yet know how singing might matter for many infant behaviors in everyday life (Custodero, Britto, & Brooks-Gunn, 2003). In this study, I ask: Does singing impact infant vocalizations in everyday life? We audio recorded one full day at home from 35 infants (ages 6-12 months old). Trained coders identified moments of live vocal music by listening to these recordings. Speech modeling software automatically identified infant vocalizations (Ford et al., 2008). Overall, infants encountered 6.5 minutes of live vocal music each day and vocalized 1165 times over the course of each day. Interestingly, infants who encountered more live vocal music also vocalized more. These results raise the possibility that caregiver singing promotes vocalization practice for infants.
Parsing Out Perspective Taking: Patterns in Narrative Strategies and their Impact on Social Relations
Advisor: Sara Hodges, PhD
Perspective taking is often regarded as a tool to improve social relations, but it can sometimes “backfire,” leading to negative outcomes (e.g., increased stereotyping). Past research has examined the effect of instructing people to perspective take (or not) on various outcomes but has focused less on the strategies people employ when taking another person’s perspective. To better understand what causes this “backfiring,” we asked participants to write about the typical day of an out-group target (i.e., someone who supported the opposing candidate in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election) and then answer questions about social outcomes in relation to the target (e.g., how much they liked the target, willingness to engage in conversation with the target, and validity of the target’s position). Participants’ narratives were coded for the point of view they were written in (i.e., first-person, embedded/marked, third-person, and no point of view), the concentration of stereotypes for each political group (i.e., liberal and conservative), and average valence (i.e., negative to positive) of content. Third-person point of view was hypothesized to be the most commonly chosen point of view, but first-person was hypothesized to have the most positivity and the least stereotyping. Separate multiple regressions conducted found that smaller concentrations of stereotypes and more positive valence generally predicted better social outcomes. Liberal participants generally exhibiting greater negative perceptions of out-group relations, which could be potentially explained by bitterness over their loss in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Altogether, the findings show the need for deeper understanding of the natural strategies people employ when perspective taking before perspective taking can be used to foster a more consistently effective intergroup intervention.
Olfaction and Oxytocin: Understanding Attraction/Aversion Behaviors in Mice
Advisors: Matt Smear, PhD and Marike Reimer, MS
In humans as well as mice, oxytocin is a neurotransmitter that creates social connections and bonds between members. In mice, it is involved in enhancing social recognition by modulating olfactory neural functions, while in people it is theorized that dysfunction in the oxytocin system early on in development could lead to the development of autism. Because of its link to the social and emotional brain, oxytocin is a likely candidate to moderate social behaviors. In this study, we hypothesized that oxytocin is vital for social memory and connections in mice. Using machine vision techniques, we will determine memory preferences in female mice. We will then inject a dose of oxytocin receptor antagonist, allowing us to knock out the oxytocin receptors in the granule cells of adult female mice, revealing the role of attraction and social recognition. The potential findings between oxytocin signaling and social disorders in mice explain how studying these specific underlying behavioral mechanisms may lead to new information about the nature and biological basis of certain social disorders.
Effects of Acculturation on Normative Dissociative Experiences in an East Asian Sample
Advisors: Gordon Nagayama Hall, PhD and Jennifer Lewis, MS
It has been suggested that culture influences individual differences in dissociative experiences. Previous work has indicated that people with East Asian backgrounds tend to report higher tendencies of trait dissociation than their Caucasian peers. The present study investigated normative dissociative experiences in Asian cultures and explored the roles that language and acculturation might have on these experiences. Thirty-seven international and American students with Chinese or Japanese background were recruited to complete the Dissociation Experiences Scale, as well as two measure of acculturation. Mean dissociation values of our sample were tested against a sample of Caucasian students collected from a previous study. Results did not find a significant difference in mean dissociation scores between the Caucasian sample and our Asian sample. Furthermore, behavioral acculturation and English proficiency significantly predicted dissociative levels of our sample while value acculturation did not. The present study shed light on the possible relationship between inherent behaviors in a given culture and dissociative tendencies.
Negative Valence and Associative Memory
Advisor: Dasa Zeithamova-Demircan, PhD
Our ability to create and remember associations is an essential aspect to our day-to-day lives. Previous research suggests that the ability to remember associations is impaired by negative emotions, though these findings remain inconclusive. In this study, we examined whether this impairment from exposure to a negative stimulus could be transferred to subsequent associations. Sixty-five students were recruited from the University of Oregon Psychology Department through the Human Subjects Pool. Subjects completed a paired-associates paradigm, in which they learned to link neutral object pairs (AB & BC) that shared a common associate (B). Subjects were randomly assigned to a condition in which they were exposed to either negative or neutral distractor images prior to learning each AB pair association. After being tested on AB learning, subjects then learned BC pairs, as well as unrelated pairs (XY) that did not share any AB associations. Results showed that subjects had worse memory performance for BC compared to both AB and XY pairs. However, there were no differences in learning for any of the pairs as a function of emotional distractor condition. Overall, our results suggest that irrespective of distracting emotional experiences, learning of overlapping associations is more difficult than learning of non-overlapping associations.
The Relationship between Child Baseline RSA and Critical Parenting Practices
Advisors: Elizabeth Skowron, PhD; Dare Baldwin, PhD; and Carrie Scholtes, MS
Parenting behavior has been shown to be a predictor of child self-regulation. Previous studies have demonstrated an association between supportive parenting behavior and positive child outcomes as well as an association between harsh parenting behavior and difficulties with child emotion regulation (Binion & Zalewski, 2017). Despite extensive research on emotional and behavioral self-regulation, less is known about physiological processes of self-regulation. It is important to examine self-regulation at a biological level because this measure is uninfluenced by the thoughts and emotions of the individual. The current study sought to examine pathways through which harsh and controlling parenting practices, assessed via the Conflict Tactic Scale-Parent Child (CTSPC) and three five-minute parent-child interaction tasks, impact children’s ability to physiologically self-regulate. Child physiological self-regulation was assessed using baseline resting respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA). An analysis of the relevant literature revealed that children whose mothers utilized more negative control during dyadic interactions exhibited deficits in their ability to self-regulate physiologically (Calkins, Smith, Gill, & Johnson, 1998; Hastings et al., 2008). Thus, we hypothesized that parents who use critical parenting practices will have children who exhibit deficits in physiological self-regulation. Contrary to our predictions, a hierarchal linear regression revealed no significant relationship between either harsh or controlling parenting and child physiological self-regulation.
The Role of Infant Attachment and Self-Efficacy in Predicting Later Academic and Social Competence
Advisors: Jennifer Ablow, PhD and Jeff Measelle, PhD
Child self-efficacy has been shown to predict better social and academic problem solving skills, both of which are foundational to school success. Additionally, attachment security has been linked to school achievement via its effect on socioemotional adjustment. Presently, few studies have addressed the interaction of self-efficacy and attachment early in life to determine whether they have a joint role in shaping readiness for school. We hypothesize that self-efficacy during infancy will predict school readiness outcomes at age 5. However, we also anticipate that this association will be moderated by infant attachment security. In particular, we expect that infants with disorganized attachment histories will fail to develop the self-efficacy capacities needed to begin school on an adaptive trajectory. Our high-risk sample comprises 72 low SES mother-infant dyads who were followed longitudinally from pregnancy through 60 months postnatally. When infants were 17-months-old they completed the Strange Situation Procedure as well as a task designed to probe early self-efficacy, which together we used to predict mother’s reports of their child’s social and academic competence at age 5, before entry to kindergarten. Contrary to our predictions attachment style and self-efficacy did not predict later academic and social competence, and there was no interaction between self-efficacy and attachment style. These findings suggest that self-efficacy is still changing and has yet to consolidate at 17 months of age. Other factors of our high risk sample, such as poverty, could have made a larger impact than attachment style on academic and social competence at 5 years, thus overshadowing the affects attachment style may have had.
Is Inhibition Dependent on Working Memory Capacity?
Advisors: Ulrich Mayr, PhD and Melissa Moss, MS
The ability to stop initiated actions is a critical component of effective self-regulation, such as resisting the urge for ‘sex, drugs, and rock and roll.’ The current dominant theory in cognitive control assumes that maintaining task-relevant information in working memory is necessary for the effective implementation of inhibitory control. In this study, we addressed the interplay of inhibitory control and working memory maintenance processes using a dual-task paradigm in which both inhibitory control demands and working memory load were manipulated. Because the standard theory predicts mutual interference between the two processes, we hypothesized that if inhibition interferes with working memory maintenance, working memory performance will be lower when participants successfully employ inhibitory control in response to a stop signal, versus when they fail to inhibit their action. Further, this interference in performance should be greatest when working memory load is high. Participants completed a combined working memory and stopping task in which stopping behavior occurred during the working memory maintenance interval. Our results showed no evidence of mutual interference between working memory load and stopping behavior on working memory performance. This result is inconsistent with the dominant view of working memory capacity as the primary constraining factor in inhibitory control. Rather, distinct processing resources may underlie these two different aspects of self-regulation.
Referential Communication Task in a Naturalistic Setting
Advisors: Dare Baldwin, PhD and Netanel Weinstein, MS
Reaching shared understanding in conversation is an important part of daily life. Various mechanisms facilitate this achievement including: the ability to engage in perspective taking, sensitivity to gaze, sharing attention, and making pragmatic inferences about an interlocutor’s intent. Prior research on this topic has prioritized experimental control over ecological validity by placing participants in highly constrained situations. We addressed these limitations in the present study by correlating performance in a modified referential communication task with participants’ performance on several standard personality and socio-cognitive measures. Specifically, pairs of participants were placed on either side of a shelf with a series of cells and prepared a cake from a given recipe card. Some of the cells on the shelf were visible to only one participant or the other, while some cells were visible to both. We measured participants use of various disambiguation strategies (e.g. gaze checking or making a clarification request) and examine whether performance on standard socio-cognitive measures predict these behaviors. This research helped shed light on the relationship between standard decontextualized socio-cognitive measures and real-life social interaction as well as the extent to which these measures predict individual differences in the way people achieve shared understanding in conversation.
The Effect of Memory Self-Efficacy on the Dynamics of Delayed Free Recall, Encoding Strategies, and Performance
Advisors: Nash Unsworth, PhD and Ashley L. Miller, MS
Memory self-efficacy (MSE), a self-assessment of one’s memory abilities, has been found to positively relate to memory performance, however, the reasons for this relationship remain unclear, particularly in the context of free recall. The current study (n = 169) examined the relationship between individual differences in MSE, the use of effective encoding strategies, and the dynamics of free recall (e.g., serial position curves, probability of first recall, conditional response probabilities, recall latencies, and inter-response times). While we found that MSE was related to encoding strategy use and overall recall performance, converging evidence from the dynamics of delayed free recall did not reveal any MSE-related differences in how individuals retrieve items from long-term memory. The results suggest that variation in performance is partially due to differences in encoding strategies but differences in MSE are also important in that they uniquely predicted recall even when taking effective encoding strategies into account.
Repetitive Negative Thinking Changes the Effect of Sleep Extension on Stress Response
Advisors: Melynda Casement, PhD and Xi Yang, MS
Insufficient sleep duration can disrupt physiological stress response systems, but the relationship between sleep and stress may depend, in part, on how stressors are perceived or interpreted. The present study investigated whether repetitive negative thinking (RNT) affects the strength of the relationship between sleep duration and parasympathetic nervous system response during rest and stress. Young adult women with symptoms of depression and insufficient sleep (n=18) were assigned to a week of extended sleep opportunity or typical sleep opportunity. Following sleep manipulation, parasympathetic activity was evaluated using high-frequently heart rate variability (HRV) during rest and exposure to a social stressor. Extended sleep opportunity increased resting HRV, but only in participants with low RNT. However, neither sleep extension nor its interaction with RNT affected reactivity to the social stressor. Future research should examine this sleep by RNT interaction with larger sample size and more statistical power.
How Does Harsh Parenting Relate to Children’s Inhibitory Control when Familial Economic Status & Subjective Social Standing are Controlled for?
Advisors: Elizabeth Skowron, PhD; Phil Fisher, PhD; and Akhila Nekkanti, MS
Inhibitory control is a rapidly developing skill during early childhood which predicts school readiness and social competence (Ponitz et al. 2009). Familial socioeconomic status, social standing, and parenting behaviors have all been shown to influence children’s’ development of this skill (Dilworth-Bart 2012; Ursache, Noble, & Blair 2015; Blair & Raver 2012). The current study examined whether harsh parenting was still a significant predictor of inhibitory control when socioeconomic status and social standing were controlled for, in 134 welfare involved children (Mage = 5.12 years, SD =1.45 years). Interestingly, within our high-risk sample, none of these were significant predictors of child inhibitory control performance on a child version of a Go-No Go task.
The Relationship between Self-Reported Mindfulness and the P300
Advisors: Don Tucker, PhD and Jennifer Lewis, MS
Mindfulness is a state of awareness that allows an individual to more effectively monitor their cognition and emotions. The ways in which mindfulness impacts aspects of cognition, including attention and attentional control, are still being researched. The current study examines how dispositional mindfulness is related to individuals’ attention and attentional control as measured through dense-array EEG (dEEG). We examined participant’s (n=72) scores on the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ; Baer, Smith, Hopkins, Krietemeyer, & Toney, 2006) and their event-related potentials (ERPs) generated from completing the color-word Stroop task modified for dEEG recording. Response times were also recorded. ERP waveform amplitude differences for the P300, an ERP associated with attentional processes, did not significantly differ by category (i.e., Incongruent, Congruent). However, preliminary analyses showed a relationship between self-reported mindfulness and the amplitude of the P300 (across both categories), whereas higher scores on the FFMQ were associated with attenuated P300 amplitudes. Decreased P300 amplitudes may indicate the deployment of less attentional resources. It’s possible that individuals who are more mindful, have naturally increased attention and therefore require less attentional resources in a cognitively demanding task. Mindfulness has been found to be an effective intervention for mood disorders, particularly anxiety disorders (Blanck et al. 2018). Understanding the particular ways that mindfulness impacts cognition may lead to a further understanding of the mechanisms by which mindfulness improves anxiety symptoms and thus improve treatment.
Is Forgetting Good for Learning? Examining the Emergence of Abstract Rule Representations
Advisors: Ulrich Mayr, PhD and Atsushi Kikumoto, MS
Most actions are driven by abstract action rules that need to be applied to specific environmental conditions. The abstract goal to make coffee is implemented differently in your own than in your office kitchen. We examine here the degree to which improvements through practice result from (1) strengthened representations of abstract rules, from (2) better adaptation to specific environmental conditions, or from (3) representations that integrate abstract rules and specific conditions into conjunctive representations. We used a task that required the application of up to four different abstract spatial translation rules in order to respond to a given spatial stimulus. Subjects (N=46) performed an initial, 45-minute session applying two of the four rules to one of two possible stimulus configurations. During the second, 45-minute session, the two withheld abstract rules and the second stimulus configuration were introduced. To test the possibility that abstract, generalizable knowledge is fostered through consolidation or forgetting of specific conjunctive representations the second session occurred either right after the first session, or one week apart.
Results showed that it was harder to apply new rules to practice than to new stimulus configurations — a clear indication conjunctive representations between abstract rules and stimulus settings.
Importantly, this effect was substantially weakened when the new rules/stimulus settings were tested after one week. This suggests that during the 1-week delay, specific conjunctive representations were weakened (i.e., forgetting), thereby increasing the contributions of abstract rule representations. In other words, forgetting can benefit the emergence of generalizable skills.
Time Frequency Dynamics of Theta Rhythm During Self-Evaluation
Advisor: Don Tucker, PhD
In this study, we discussed some commonly used EEG preprocessing method with their pros and cons, and we used a fairly new method—joint time frequency analysis—to study the clinical significance of depression, particularly, self-evaluation. We created a subset from a larger EEG dataset including mildly depressed males and females, and more severely depressed males and females. All participants participated in a self-evaluation task where personality trait words were presented, and then behavioral responses were required based off whether the trait word is self-descriptive. Theta power was extracted for statistical analysis. From the statistical result, we found interesting electrode by task condition by sex by depression interactions from stimulus onset to 300 ms post-stimulus, and all main effects and interaction effects after 300 ms failed to exceed significance threshold.
The Effect of Absolute Value vs. Relative Value of Reward on Associative Memory
Advisors: Dasa Zeithamova-Demircan, PhD and Lea Frank, MS
People tend to remember information associated with high reward values better than low reward values. However, what is perceived as “high” reward may be relative to other potential rewards. Here, we hypothesized that the memory advantage for a given reward value (e.g., penny over no reward) diminishes as higher possible rewards are offered. In the task, participants studied pairs of common objects, preceded by a cue indicating how much money they could earn (no reward, penny, dime, or dollar) for remembering the pair at a later test. Study block 1 included only no reward and penny cues, dime cues were added in block 2, and dollar cues were added in block 3. At test, participants saw one object from each pair and named the object that was paired with it at study. Contrary to our hypothesis, reward effects on memory were independent of other offered rewards. Together, these findings indicate that the absolute values of reward, rather than the relative values, dictate the effect of reward on memory performance.