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. There is also a compilation of all of the abstracts from 1998-99 to 2021-22 available.
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 – 2021-2022
What is Risky Sexual Behavior? It Depends on Who You Ask…
Advisors: Dr. Sanjay Srivastava & Bradley T. Hughes
Many college students engage in sexual behavior with consequences, known as risky sexual behavior. The goals of this study are to identify themes in self-described risky sexual behavior in college students and to compare these themes to previous measures. To do this, a sample of 151 student participants wrote descriptive narratives of stories regarding risky sexual behavior. An inductive thematic analysis was then conducted and seven themes were identified: Unprotected Sex, Sex in Public, Technology, Emotionally Risky Behavior, Stranger Danger, Under the Influence, and Non-Consensual Behaviors. These themes varied somewhat from previous measures of risky sexual behavior. The results could assist in creating an accurate new measure of risky sexual behavior in college students and to inform risk education and reduction strategies.
Who are These Virtue Signalers Anyway?: Answers from a Sustainable Transportation Survey
Advisors: Sara Hodges
Virtue signaling – advertising one’s morally respectable actions – is a popular cultural concept, but there has been little research exploring who in the general population participates in virtue signaling. The present study aims to describe virtue signaling as observed in a naturalistic setting. Data were obtained from the open-ended responses of a larger survey about Eugene/Springfield Oregon residents’ transportation habits before and during the COVID-19 lockdown of spring 2020 (n = 673). In coding survey responses, we found unprompted comments highlighting their sustainable transportation habits and attitudes – i.e., virtue signaling. We expected younger participants and participants with higher incomes to be the more likely virtue signalers but did not find support for this hypothesis. We expected those who scored higher on a measure of beliefs and attitudes regarding environmental policy to be more likely to virtue signal, and this hypothesis was supported. Labelling something as “virtue signaling” is often uncomplimentary, but we explore whether virtue signalers may have other qualities that make them effective targets for future environmental protection interventions.
Like Mother, Like Child: Intergenerational Transmission Of Maternal Emotion Regulation To Six-Month Infants
Advisors: Jennifer Ablow
Previous research demonstrates how maternal psychopathology is associated with negative infant outcomes, however there is minimal research on intergenerational transmission. Specifically, there is a lack of literature on intergenerational transmission of emotion dysregulation. Emotion dysregulation has been demonstrated as a precursor to future psychopathology in childhood and adulthood, therefore infancy is a crucial time period to develop self-regulatory skills. This study aims to build upon previous research to further understand how maternal emotion dysregulation predicts poor infant regulation. This study examines the predictive association among maternal emotional dysregulation reported prenatally during the third trimester and postnatally at six months, with the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS), and observations of infant self-regulation postnatally (N = 221). Temperament, measured with the Infant Behavioral Questionnaire (IBQ-R), was controlled to capture the independent contributions of maternal dysregulation to infant’s early indices of emotion regulatory capacities. Infants’ self-regulation and negative affect was measured at 6 months postpartum with micro-analytic behavioral coding during the Still Face Paradigm (SFP), a widely used paradigm to examine early relationship patterns between caregivers and their infants. Although association between prenatal reports of maternal emotion regulation was not significantly related to infants’ emerging regulatory capacities, maternal reports of concurrent dysregulation at 6-months postpartum was associated with poorer self-regulation in their infants. This finding suggests that emotion dysregulation can be transmitted across generations by postpartum mother-child interaction influences.
Does Low-Dose Thiamine Supplementation Affect Mothers’ Support For Infant Secondary Engagement?
Advisors: Dare Baldwin
Thiamine, or Vitamin B1, is a crucial nutrient for the human health and neurocognitive development, yet millions are affected by thiamine deficiency in regions such as Southeast Asia, due to cultural reliance on thiamine-poor polished white rice as a dietary staple. This thesis investigated the possibility that thiamine status may affect a key aspect of mother-infant interaction that is known to support infants’ neurocognitive development, called secondary engagement. Secondary engagement is a process of shared attention to an external referent, and it serves as an important context for infants’ learning across domains. I hypothesized that supplemental thiamine might benefit mothers’ mothers’ propensity and ability to engage with infants in shared attention regarding a novel object. The research took place as part of a larger, randomized, controlled trial investigating possible benefits of low-dose maternal thiamine supplementation for breastfed babies' neurocognitive development. To examine possible effects of thiamine on maternal joint engagement efforts, we developed a a novel task in which mothers were asked to engage infants in joint attention on a novel object through five epochs involving gradual addition, and then removal, of social cues such as gaze/facial expression/voice and gestures. We coded maternal secondary engagement efforts in this task using a five-point Likert scale indexing four dimensions: presentation of object, joint engagement efforts, contingent responding, and affective tone. As predicted, ratings on each of these dimensions displayed a quadratic trend across the five epochs of the task, indicating mothers implemented the task as instructed. However, maternal thiamine supplementation group did not significantly influence maternal secondary engagement efforts in the task, suggesting that mothers’ ability to support infant secondary engagement is robust in the face of risk for thiamine deficiency.
How To Quantify “Good Sleep”: A Spectral Analysis Of Sleep Spindle Morphology In Healthy Adult Eeg And The Role Of Sleep Spindles In Aging And Neurodegeneration
Advisors: David Condon
The importance of good sleep cannot be overstated. What makes sleep “good”, productive, and beneficial are of interest to any sleep researcher. Studying morphology of sleep features can provide insight about what differentiates healthy and unhealthy sleep and create benchmarks for recognizing instances when characteristics such as aging and disease may be impacting sleep quality. The purpose of this study was to examine an N2 sleep feature termed a sleep spindle and conduct an analysis of morphology on a sample of healthy adult EEG using recently validated and created sleep spindle detection algorithm to create a baseline measurement for spindle presence. The effect of age on spindles was of particular interest and was found to be related to a decrease in spindle length. The possible reason for this effect is discussed, as well as future applications for use of this algorithm and spindle analysis.
Cultural Considerations in The Filming Interactions to Nurture Development Intervention
Advisors: Andrea Imhof and Phil Fisher
The Filming Interactions to Nurture Development (FIND) intervention is a strengths-based video coaching program designed to disrupt the consequences of early exposure to toxic stress and promote naturally occurring, developmentally supportive interactions between infants and their caregivers. While the FIND intervention has been shown to be effective in improving certain child and parent outcomes, no prior study has explored the importance of cultural factors when implementing the FIND intervention. The focus of this paper is to better understand the cultural differences between English-speaking and Spanish-speaking families, and to identify if these differences influence the intervention’s effects on parent outcomes (i.e., parent sense of competence, parental stress, and parental self-efficacy). Data was derived from a randomized controlled trial using a pretest-posttest design. Families were randomly assigned to an active control or the FIND intervention group. Results indicated no significant interactions between preferred administration language and condition. Caregivers in the FIND condition were found to improve significantly more in their parent-reported sense of competence from pre- to post-intervention compared to those in the active control condition. Additionally, Spanish-speaking caregivers saw a significantly greater decrease in parent-reported stress from pre- to post-intervention than English-speaking families. Implications and limitations of the FIND intervention’s cultural considerations will be discussed.
Social Connection And Fiction: The Possible Benefit Of “Interacting” With Fictional Characters
Advisors: Sara Hodges and Eliott Doyle
This study addresses one role that fiction may play in people’s lives – specifically, providing social “interaction.” Participants (265 University of Oregon students) completed a writing task that involved writing about fictional characters and completed measures of social fulfillment to see if that interaction may fulfill social needs and alleviate loneliness. We hypothesized that higher transportation scores – the immersion produced by the story as judged by an outside reader’s perspective – would predict lower participant loneliness scores for participants who are writing from the perspective of a fictional character, to a fictional character, or their own journal entry. Furthermore, we hypothesized that the media source of the fictional character chosen by the writer will moderate this relationship, with written source media producing higher transportation scores and lower loneliness scores than visual source media. Finally, we hypothesized that participants who wrote more fiction or journaled outside of the context of the study would write passages that earned higher transportation scores and also report lower loneliness scores. Results indicated that coder-rated transportation does not significantly predict a larger reduction in loneliness scores. Neither media type nor participants’ own writing outside of the study moderated the relationship between transportation and change in loneliness. Results may have implications for developing a writing intervention to alleviate loneliness.
Understanding How Mental Health Care Delivery Affects Client Outcomes and Satisfaction
Advisors: Ruth Ellingsen
The COVID-19 pandemic forced society to make many abrupt shifts in order to ensure the safety of the general public. In the mental health care industry, this required the field to take an unforeseen leap into remote delivery of clinical services. This study looks at the effects of the shift to telehealth through the lens of the University of Oregon Psychology Clinic. Clients receiving treatment at the clinic completed pre- and posttreatment outcome measures and had the opportunity to complete a clinic evaluation survey. Based on these measures, we found that telehealth services were able to produce clinically and statistically significant reductions in symptoms. Participants also indicated a strong satisfaction for treatment that they received, suggesting that, with proper framework and training opportunities, telehealth may be a viable resource in the mental health care industry.
Following the Child’s Lead: Evaluating Responsive Caregiving Behaviors in a Strength-Based Video Coaching Intervention
Advisors: Andrea Imhof and Phil Fisher
Interventions that emphasize responsive caregiving can reverse the negative effects of early life stress exposure on development in early childhood. Despite this knowledge, there is a lack of consensus in the field about which behaviors define “responsive caregiving”. The Filming Interactions to Nurture Development (FIND) Intervention is a responsive caregiving intervention that guides caregivers towards serve and return interactions that follow the child’s lead. Preliminary evidence from pilot trials suggests that the FIND intervention may significantly impact both caregiver and child outcomes, but it is not yet known how FIND changes the way caregivers and children interact. This pilot trial evaluated whether FIND increases the frequency of caregiver “following” behaviors during dyadic freeplay tasks. Results from a pilot trial using 18 mother-infant dyads (11 FIND families and 7 control families) showed an increase in following behaviors in FIND families and no change in control families, although this difference was nonsignificant. ANCOVA analyses showed that the level of following behaviors before the intervention significantly predicts the level of following behaviors after the intervention. These results suggest that the FIND intervention may increase following behaviors in caregivers, but a larger sample size is needed to determine whether these effects are the result of regression to the mean or intervention findings.
Oxytocin: A Potential Pathway For The Intergenerational Impacts Of Early Trauma
Advisors: Jennifer Ablow
This study examined the correlations between early childhood adversity, baseline salivary oxytocin, and self-reported maternal-child bonding and attachment in a population of mothers of infants. The aim of this study was to use a new combination of measures and a novel salivary oxytocin immunoassay to provide support for previous findings on (1) the association between experiences of early childhood adversity and salivary oxytocin in mothers of infants, (2) the association between maternal salivary oxytocin and mothers’ perceived bonding and attachment with their child, (3) examine oxytocin as a mediator between the effects of early childhood trauma on maternal-child bonding and attachment, and to (4) propose a conceptual model where oxytocin acts as a pathway for the intergenerational transmission of trauma, particularly through its role in promoting healthy maternal-child bonding and attachment. Results of a multiple regression analysis demonstrated mothers’ experiences of early childhood adversity were not correlated with baseline salivary oxytocin, mothers’ adverse childhood experiences did not significantly predict their self-reported bonding and attachment with their infants, and maternal baseline salivary oxytocin levels did not significantly predict their self-reported bonding and attachment with their infants. This calls into question the strength of the associations suggested in prior research regarding early adversity, oxytocin, and maternal-child bonding and attachment. Future research examining oxytocin as a pathway for the intergenerational impacts of early trauma through the mother-child relationship would benefit from examining the role of factors such as the level of severity of early adversity, the type of adversity experienced, and the effects of such variables on specific components of bonding and attachment behavior rather than bonding and attachment as a whole.
The Relationship Between Students’ Future Goals and Motivation to Learn in a Post-Secondary Science Course
Advisors: Jenefer Husman and Sara Hodges
Supporting student motivation in post-secondary introductory science courses is an important step to increasing student retention in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Prior research has focused on a variable-centered approach to students’ motivation to learn, but a person-centered approach to looking at the relationship between self-regulated learning and motivation variables is necessary. Additionally, research suggests that students’ future goals and their perception of the future influences their performance in school. This study aimed to identify the relationship between future thinking and motivational and self-regulated learning profiles. 384 participants were recruited from an introductory science course at a large U.S. Northwest university and completed an online self-report survey on their motivation, goal orientation, self-regulation, knowledge building strategies, and future goals. K-means cluster analysis indicated that there are three motivational and self-regulated learning profiles: 1) Mastery-oriented, 2) Apathetic, and 3) Performance-oriented. A multinomial logistic regression was conducted and showed that students’ actions towards their future goals are a stronger predictor of a mastery-oriented profile adoption than the clarity of their future goals. Understanding the relationship between students’ future thinking and their adoption of learning profiles can help STEM instructors support student motivation and grade performance through focusing on mastery-oriented classroom practice.
Undergraduate Honors Projects – 2020-2021
Disentangling Neural Activation to Self and Other Using Structural Connectivity
Advisors: Taylor Guthie, M.S., and Rob Chavez, Ph.D.
The medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) is prevalent in self-referential and social cognition tasks, often found to be split between the ventral MPFC and dorsal MPFC, with the former engaging in self-reference and the latter engaging in responses when thinking of others. Yet, the split has limited neuroanatomical definition as there is frequent and significant overlap of activation between the two regions. In this study, we investigated the role that structural connectivity, measured by probabilistic tractography, played to differentiate the overlap in the MPFC to distinguish self-other related activity. In a sample of 114 subjects, brain activation to self and others was measured using a trait-judgement fMRI task paradigm. Using diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI), a regularized regression model was used to predict activation values within the MPFC for both self and other based on the underlying structural connectivity patterns. By comparing the structural connectivity pattern weights, the model aimed to differentiate activity for self vs. other within overlapping areas within the MPFC. Results tested the utility of using predictive models based on structural connectivity for differentiating these processes, which aided in understanding how different mental processes share overlapping cortical real estate.
Leveraging Evidence-Based Messaging to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19
Advisors: Elliot Berkman, Ph.D.
With cases of COVID-19 still spreading in America, and vaccines still inaccessible or undesired by many, one of our primary defenses against this deadly virus remains to mitigate its spread on a behavioral level. Official messaging targeting behavioral mitigation procedures is therefore critical for reducing virus transmission. This study assessed whether approach-versus-avoidance message framing and goal-orientation affect people's intentions to follow COVID-19 preventative procedures. To test this, 832 subjects were randomly assigned to view mitigation messaging with either approach or avoidance framing, and either self-protective or altruistic goal-orientation. Kruskal-Wallis tests revealed a significant effect of goal-orientation, suggesting that altruistic (over self-protective) goal-orientations in COVID-19 health messaging lead to stronger intentions to follow mitigation procedures. No significant effect of approach or avoidance framing was found on individual intentions to follow mitigation procedures. These results suggest an immediate need to address the wording of our public health messages. By adjusting the framing within our COVID- 19 preventative procedures to reflect more altruistic goals, we can leverage our official communications as a prevention tool to protect at-risk populations from further contracting COVID-19.
Measuring the Usefulness of Virtual Reality for Evoking Directed Balance Responses
Advisors: Dr. Jeffrey Peterson and Paul Dassonville, Ph.D.
For most of us, simply standing in place without falling over is no great feat. It requires no appreciable effort or attention, even for young children. While it seems obvious that our ability to balance is a fairly simple mechanism in the brain, this assumption is false. Human balance is a complicated process which requires the integration of information from the visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive sensory systems (Lee & Aronson, 1974; Peterka, 2002). For example, since the vestibular organs are located in the ears, the orientation of the head must modify how vestibular information is interpreted. If the head is turned to one side, the sensations received from the vestibular organs will be processed differently than if it is facing forward (Lund & Broberg, 1983). In order to study how this sensory integration occurs, it is useful to examine illusions which affect these senses. Illusions are often used in sensory research because they cause disruptions to normal processing. These disruptions can be used in a similar manner to how programmers use edge cases to discover the limitations of their programs: by observing how a particular input (or stimulus) creates an atypical result, you can infer something about how the underlying mechanism works. The head return illusion is the result of one such atypical stimulus, and has proven useful for understanding how head orientation impacts balance.
Measuring Intellectual Humility through Cognitive Task Responses
Advisors: Sara Weston, Ph.D.
Intellectual humility is the degree to which someone understands the strengths and limitations of their ideas. Research into intellectual humility is still new and uses self-report measures for all results. This study attempts to add a behavioral component to the analysis of intellectual humility. 173 participants answered intellectual humility related items, as well as cognitive ability tasks within the SAPA Project, a free online personality test. The number of times participants answered “I don’t know” to cognitive tasks, as well as their results on humility items were collected. The study found that between two existing measures for intellectual humility – the Comprehensive Intellectual Humility Scale and the General Intellectual Humility Scale – the General Intellectual Humility Scale significantly predicted participant’s likelihood of responding with what is believed to be an intellectually humble behavior. Analysis supports the notion that intellectual humility and general humility are two distinct constructs. Further research can improve on this study by requiring participants to answer all questions.
Interpersonal Perceptions of Political Ideology
Advisors: Sanjay Srivastava, Ph.D., and Bradley Hughes, M.S.
Conservative and liberal identities are becoming increasingly polarized in daily interactions within the United States. This partisanship is important in making judgments of the political ideology of others. The present work seeks to understand interpersonal perceptions of political ideology, concerning consensus, accuracy, and stereotypes formed between persons at zero-acquaintance. The hypotheses tested if perceptions of political ideology reach consensus, the accuracy of perceptions of political ideology, and the stereotype content of political ideology in the two dimensions of the Stereotype Content Model (SCM) and in the Big Five. Undergraduate participants (N= 225) completed a self-report survey, participated in a round-robin design of an adapted Leaderless Group Decision task, and subsequently provided ratings of their group members. The results found perceivers reach some consensus about who is liberal and who is conservative. Perceivers are moderately and significantly accurate in perceptions of political ideology. Perceptions of political ideology are associated with stereotypes of warmth to inform interpersonal perceptions of political ideology, however there was no significant stereotype effect for competence. The results also showed perceptions of political ideology were significantly associated with stereotype content. People who tended to be perceived as conservative were seen as lower in warmth, and all five factors of the Big Five.
Referential Communication Task in a Naturalistic Setting
Advisors: Dare Baldwin, Ph.D.
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. We wanted to know how different participants use these different modalities of perspective taking to reach a shared understanding. 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 facilitating naturalistic communication and let discussions of ambiguity arise naturally. 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 participant’s use of various disambiguation strategies which included gaze checking, making a clarification request, perspective taking, and spontaneous perspective sharing. This research helped shed light on the nature of real-life social interaction when challenged with ambiguity and the effort to achieve shared understanding therein.
“I’m Sorry!”: The Relationship of the proclivity to Apologize and Parenting Quality
Advisors: Alexis Adams-Clark, M.S., and Maureen Zalewski, Ph.D.
The basis of long-lasting relationships is the ability to resolve conflicts. Apology is one way to establish trust and connection after a conflict occurs. It is used in relationships where conflict occurs naturally and often. However, little is known about what constitutes an effective parental apology, or when and how often parental apologies occur. Inadequate apologies after conflict may lead to unresolved negative feelings by either parent or child. Too much apology could diminish the significance of the act of apology and be perceived as less effective. Despite these possibilities, apology still plays an important role in the maintenance of the parent-child relationship. We are interested in the effect specifically of a parent’s apology to their child. We will examine how parental apology behavior and parenting constructs are correlated, focusing on parent proclivity to apologize and parenting quality.
Does Affect make Meaning or Does Meaning Make Affect? A Multisession Multilevel Analysis in Older Adults
Advisors: Melissa Moss, M.S., and Ulrich Mayr, Ph.D.
An individual’s perceived purpose, or meaning in life, has been identified as an important component of their mental health and general well-being. There is also substantial evidence that positive affect and meaning in life are related. Here we test the hypothesis of positive feedback dynamics between affect and meaning in life. Positive affect (PA) and the presence of meaning in life (MIL) were assessed across 12 weeks on a weekly basis in a group of 50 to 90-year-olds (N=259) within the context of a larger study examining psychological responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Multi-level cross-lagged panel analyses revealed that experiencing greater positive affect resulted in greater meaning in life in the following week. In addition, we found an interaction between meaning and age in which previous meaning did predict positive affect, but only for the older adults in our sample. This result suggests the possibility of positive feedback dynamics where meaning and positive affect build on each other over time in older adults. Ongoing analyses are examining the effects of PA and MIL on mental health indicators such as stress. We discuss the implications of our results for potential interventions targeting positive feedback cycles between mental-health-related variables and the need for replicating our results in a more diverse sample.
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.
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.
Sleep, Depression, and Motivation 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 the motivation to pursue reward may be a promising factor in the established relationship between sleep and depression. This study aims to explore ‘rewarding wanting’ or motivation as a possible mechanism in this relationship. 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. The results show that higher levels of sleep duration predicted decreases in depressive symptoms after controlling for depressive symptoms at baseline, motivation for reward did not predict depressive symptoms after controlling for depressive symptoms at baseline, and there was no effect of sleep duration on motivation for reward. Findings from the exploratory analysis indicate that higher reward magnitudes and lower reward probabilities may be detrimental for depressive symptoms, while low reward magnitudes may be helpful. These findings provide support on targeting sleep extension and motivation for reward 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) and 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 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 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. Thus, 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, whereby 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 relative status compared to others. A person’s status is determined by the judgments of others and has two components: respect/admiration and social influence. The focus of this work was to understand the relationship and effects of these components in interpersonal perceptions. We tested three hypotheses: 1) The components of status, respect/admiration and social influence, will be associated such that individuals who are perceived as having greater respect/admiration will also have higher levels of social influence; 2) Others will agree about who has status in a group (consensus), and will also agree about their own relative status in the group (self-other agreement); 3) Personality traits will predict who attains status. To test these hypotheses, we had groups of n = 4 – 6 (N = 218) 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 and make decisions about who they would prefer to work with on future tasks. The preregistered analysis will use a Social Relations Model approach to account for dependencies in the data and linear regression models to test the hypotheses. We will present the results from this analysis and discuss implications of a two-component approach to status for future work.
Effects of Sound on Heart Rate Variability: A Meta-Analysis
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, but the neurophysiological mechanisms involved in this process have not been heavily researched. An overarching aim of this analysis is to understand the promise and potential limitations of simultaneous neural and cardiovascular physiological recordings to elucidate the mechanisms of environmental influences of stress and emotions. Specifically, it aims to determine the extent to which sounds modulate the autonomic stress response and ongoing neural oscillations.
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.