Recent Submissions

  • Testing a Hypothesis of Non-REM Sleep Reinforcement and REM Sleep Refinement for the Benefits of Post-Learning Sleep on Memory Retrieval

    MacDonald, Kevin John; Department of Psychology
    It is well established that post-learning sleep benefits later memory retrieval, but there is still much to learn about the processes involved and the nature of these benefits. Sleep is composed of stages of non-REM (NREM) and REM sleep: NREM sleep, especially slow wave activity of NREM sleep, and REM sleep have been implicated in memory performance benefits, but the specific contributions of each state remain unclear. This thesis presents a hypothesis proposing that post-learning NREM sleep supports memory accessibility, benefitting the likelihood of successful memory retrieval, and that post-learning REM sleep supports memory fidelity, allowing for more accurate retrieval when retrieval is successful. This hypothesis was tested over studies examining the effects of an afternoon nap (Chapter 2), targeted memory reactivation during NREM slow wave sleep (Chapter 3), and both targeted memory reactivation during NREM slow wave sleep and selective deprivation of REM sleep (Chapter 4) on measures of memory accessibility and memory fidelity in visuospatial memory tasks. In each study, measures of sleep architecture and electroencephalographic power in sleep were examined as predictors of memory performance. Several identified associations and interactions further inform an understanding of how NREM sleep and REM sleep may benefit memory performance. Most notably, these studies consistently found greater slow wave activity of NREM sleep to be specifically associated with better maintenance of memory accessibility. These studies did not identify a clear effect of REM sleep. It is hoped that the hypothesis and findings presented stimulate additional inquires that will further our understanding of the individual and combined contributions of NREM and REM sleep.
  • INHUMAN TARGETS: Psychopathy, Dehumanization, and Sexist and Violent Attitudes Towards Women

    Methot-Jones, Tabitha; Department of Psychology
    The current work presents three studies that examined the role of dehumanization in the association between psychopathy and sexist and violent attitudes towards women. This program had two overarching goals in examining psychopathy, dehumanization, and sexist and violent attitudes towards women. The first goal was to examine whether an indirect association between psychopathy and negative attitudes towards women existed through dehumanization. The second goal was to explore if, by introducing information that humanizes women, levels of dehumanization could be mitigated for individuals high on psychopathic traits. Employing mixed samples for both studies (student and community), Study 1 (n = 514) and Study 2 (n = 202) provided evidence that psychopathy demonstrated an indirect relationship with sexist and violent attitudes towards women via dehumanization. Study 2 also expanded on Study 1 by including a behavioural measure of violent attitudes towards women. Finally, Study 3 (n = 206), again using a mixed sample, attempted to manipulate dehumanization to see if it, and the sexist and violent attitudes associated with it, would be mitigated. Unfortunately, the manipulation failed, but we were able to use the data from Study 3 to provide a replication of the results of Study 2. Across three studies results suggested that the path from psychopathy to negative attitudes towards women was at least partially (if not fully) indirect through dehumanization. This suggests that dehumanization may be an important mechanism to consider when examining the tendency of individuals high in psychopathic traits to engage in violence towards women. Furthermore, because psychopathic traits are associated with violence perpetrated against women, dehumanization could be an important construct to consider when examining potential avenues for clinical interventions. Even more broadly, dehumanization could be an important construct for mitigating the association between psychopathy and violence generally.
  • Behavioural, Pharmacological, and Immunohistochemical Investigation of 50 kHz USVs as an Expression of Positive Emotional Arousal in the Long Evans Rat

    Mulvihill, Kevin; Department of Psychology
    The emission of ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) in Rattus norvegicus is thought to effectively represent an underlying emotional state within the organism manifested at the behavioural level. The main goal of my thesis was to characterize, at multiple levels of analysis, the 50 kHz USVs of the adult rat as an overtly expressed form of positive emotional arousal. In chapter 2, I found evidence of individual differences in 50 kHz emission possibly reflective of a trait that does not merely overlap with approach motivation. The predisposition to emit 50 kHz USVs was found to provide additional information about the USV response to psychostimulant administration beyond approach motivation alone. In chapter 3, I found evidence that various social and non-social behavioural contexts appeared to exert influence on the frequency-modulation characteristics of 50 kHz USVs. My findings suggest that the highest rates of calling and frequency modulation inducible by non-pharmacological stimuli may be observed following exposure of a male rat to a naturally cycling female. Moreover, my research in chapter 3 established that despite context-specific modulation of 50 kHz USVs all such calling could be blocked by antagonism of dopamine receptors. In chapter 4, I utilized microinjections of dopamine into the shell of the nucleus accumbens to establish that dopamine is sufficient to induce 50 kHz USVs. Additionally, my findings from chapter 4 supported the observed association between frequency-modulated 50 kHz USVs and call rate typically induced by psychostimulants. In chapter 5, I used a minimal sensitization protocol with amphetamine to establish that 50 kHz USVs and measures of general ergometric activity could be dissociated. Additionally, in chapter 5 I attempted to find brain region activation patterns associated with calling. My chapter 5 findings failed to find any direct relations between immunostained brain regions and behavioural expression. However, exploratory analyses suggest possible associations between prefrontal and striatal regions may be involved in the USV behavioural response to amphetamine. In aggregate, my empirical findings are consistent with the existence of a putative subcomponent of the ascending mesolimbic dopamine system responsible for positive emotional arousal reflected by emission of 50 kHz USVs in the rat.
  • Dreams of the Deceased: Who Has Them and Why?

    Black, Joshua; Department of Psychology
    The limited research on dreams of the deceased is a cause for concern for those working with bereaved persons. This research addressed four questions: 1. Why do some bereaved individuals dream of the deceased while others do not? 2. Why are some dreams of the deceased a positive experience, while others are negative? 3. Are dreams of the deceased a form of continuing bond? 4. Are continuing bonds helpful for grief recovery? Four studies were conducted. In one, participants were 268 U.S. residents who had a romantic partner or spouse die in the prior 12 to 24 months. The second study had 199 U.S. residents whose dog or cat had died in the prior six months. The third study had 226 U.S. residents who experienced a stillbirth or miscarriage in the prior year. The fourth study had 218 participants, mostly U.S. residents, who had a romantic partner or spouse die in the prior 6 to 24 months. Participants completed all questionnaires online. Study 1 and 2 focused primarily on the issue of predicting the frequency of dreams of the deceased and found that frequency of general dream recall (all dreams, not just dreams of the deceased) was the primary predictor. In addition, grief intensity, openness to experience, and attachment security all showed indirect effects. All four studies, but especially studies 2 through 4, addressed the questions about the quality of dream experience, the relation of dreams of the deceased to continuing bonds, and the adaptiveness of continuing bonds. In general the findings from all four studies, but especially study 4, support the idea that there are multiple types of continuing bonds with differing impacts on grief recovery, and there are differing forms of dreams of the deceased, not all of which represent continuing bonds.
  • Patterns of Endocrine, Behavioural, and Neural Function Underlying Social Deficits after Social Instability Stress in Adolescent Rats

    Hodges, Travis; Department of Psychology
    Adolescence is a time of social learning as well as a period of heightened vulnerability to stressors and enhanced plasticity, compared with adulthood. Previous research found that repeated social instability stress (SS; daily isolation and return to an unfamiliar peer from postnatal day (PND) 30 - 45) administered in adolescent rats alters social function when tested in adulthood. The main goal of my thesis research was to characterize how SS in adolescent rats affects the development of social brain regions and social behaviour when tested soon after the procedure. In chapter 2, I found that SS potentiated corticosterone release in rats repeatedly paired with an unfamiliar cage-mate after isolation compared with rats that were paired with an unfamiliar cage-mate for the first time after isolation on PND 45. In chapter 3, I found that in social interaction tests (i.e., not in home cage), SS rats had lower social interactions despite having higher social approach with unfamiliar peers relative to control (CTL) rats. Social stimuli carried the same reward value for SS and CTL rats based on tests of conditioned place preference, and SS in adolescence impaired social recognition. Further, SS increased oxytocin receptor density in the nucleus accumbens and dorsal lateral septum in rats compared with CTL rats. In chapter 4, I found that the correlations between time spent in social interaction with an unfamiliar peer and Fos immunoreactivity (a marker of neural activity) in the arcuate nucleus, dorsal lateral septum, and posterior medial amygdala were in the opposite direction in SS rats to those in CTL rats. In chapter 5, I found differences in the expression of proteins relevant for synaptic plasticity and in dendritic arborisation in the lateral septum and medial amygdala. My findings of behavioural and neural differences between SS and CTL rats highlight the heightened vulnerability of the brain to the quality of social experiences during the adolescent period that may lead to long-lasting deficits in social function in adulthood.
  • Cognitive Dissonance, Hypocrisy, and Reducing Toleration of Human Rights Violations

    Drolet, Caroline; Department of Psychology
    Despite documents such as the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, people still tolerate human rights violations. My dissertation examined possible methods for reducing this toleration. Specifically, I used “hypocrisy induction” to try and reduce toleration of rights violations and encourage pro-human rights responses. Hypocrisy induction—a procedure based on cognitive dissonance—involves having people recognize that their responses in a given situation are at odds with a strongly held attitude. In Study 1, I examined whether people who support human rights would reduce their toleration of a rights violation when confronted with their previous hypocritical toleration. Although participants who were confronted with their hypocrisy were more willing to act to promote human rights, they did not reduce their toleration of a violation, contrary to expectations. One reason for the lack of change in toleration could be that personal toleration of a human rights violation is not directly related to the occurrence of violations. Thus, for Studies 2 and 3, I extended the hypocrisy induction procedure to a case where an ingroup member’s hypocrisy directly resulted in a human rights violation. Specifically, I examined whether Canadians would alter their own toleration of a violation in response to a Canadian official who permitted a human rights violation. Results from both studies indicated that the group-level procedure was effective at encouraging pro-human rights responses, but not at reducing toleration of a violation. Moreover, results from Study 3 indicated that the effect of the group-level procedure was the result of directly-experienced, not vicarious, discomfort. I refer to the dissonance associated with the former type of discomfort as “group-level” dissonance. Although hypocrisy induction was not useful for reducing the toleration of human rights violations, my results suggest that both the group- and individual-level procedures can be used to encourage other pro-human rights responses.
  • The Associations Among Sleep Problems, Emotion Dysregulation and Adjustment Over Time Among University Students

    Semplonius, Thalia; Department of Psychology
    Young adults experience a variety of changes when entering university (e.g., leaving home for the first time). Although some students adjust well to university, others may experience difficulties. Two problems that may be experienced are sleep problems and difficulties regulating emotion; importantly, both of these factors are associated with a variety of adjustment indicators. Throughout this dissertation, the three adjustment indicators that were of interest were physical activity, depressive symptoms and alcohol use as all three are common throughout university. As little work has examined the direction of effects between all of these factors, a longitudinal dataset was used to examine the relationships among these factors in two ways. Participants included 1132 first year undergraduate students (Time 1 Mage = 19.06 years, SD = 11.17 months). The first method was the use of a variable-centered analysis which was used in Studies 1 and 2. Study 1 focused on the relationships among sleep problems, emotion dysregulation, and physical activity and Study 2 focused on the relationships among sleep problems, emotion dysregulation, depressive symptoms, and alcohol use. Study 3 used a person-centered analysis which allowed for the examination of heterogeneity in the patterns of association between variables. Specifically, this study involved examining heterogeneity in the associations between sleep problems and emotion dysregulation, and how these patterns were related to depressive symptoms and alcohol use in both the short- and longterm. Overall, these studies indicate that sleep and emotion dysregulation are both bidirectionally related over time and also co-occur for a subgroup of individuals. The results also indicate that difficulties in adjustment experienced early on in university may have lasting effects.
  • Who Bullies and When? Concurrent, Longitudinal, and Experimental Associations between Personality and Social Environments for Adolescent Bullying Perpetration

    Farrell, Ann; Department of Psychology
    Increasing evidence suggests that bullying may be used by adolescents as a strategic, adaptive tool against weaker peers to obtain valued resources like social status and romantic partners. However, bullying perpetration may only be adaptive within particular environmental contexts that provide opportunities to obtain these resources at minimal costs. These environmental opportunities may be relevant for adolescents who possess particular personality traits and are motivated to exploit these contexts and power imbalances. Using an adaptive social ecological framework, the primary goal of my dissertation was to examine concurrent, longitudinal, and experimental associations between exploitative personality traits and broader social ecologies to facilitate adolescent bullying perpetration. In Study 1, I examined whether risky social environments filtered through antisocial personality traits to facilitate direct and indirect forms of bullying perpetration in a cross-sectional sample of 396 adolescents. In Study 2, I extended Study 1 by investigating the longitudinal associations among bullying, empathic and exploitative personality traits, and social environmental variables, in a sample of 560 adolescents across the first three years of high school. Given that Studies 1 and 2 were correlational, in Study 3, I explored whether bullying perpetration could be experimentally simulated in a laboratory setting through point allocations in the Dictator and Ultimatum economic games by manipulating power imbalances in a sample of 167 first-year undergraduate students. Results from all three studies largely supported the prediction that broader social ecologies filter through exploitative personality styles to associate with bullying perpetration. Exploitative adolescents are primarily likely to take advantage of particular contexts including power advantages, higher social status, and poorer school and neighborhood climates. The results of my dissertation demonstrate the complex reality of the social ecology of bullying, and the need for anti-bullying initiatives to target multiple contexts including individual differences.
  • Psychopathic Traits and Impulsivity Subtypes: An Examination of Two Complex, Multifaceted Constructs

    Hosker-Field, Ashley; Department of Psychology
    Research has demonstrated inconsistent results regarding the relationship between impulsivity and the interpersonal and affective facets of psychopathy. Therefore, the purpose of this work was to clarify and reconcile the variable empirical findings. Generally speaking, the relationship between psychopathic traits and impulsivity was expected to differ based on the psychopathy factor and type of impulsivity under investigation. Studies 1 and 2 examined psychopathy and impulsivity in on-line and student samples, utilizing the Self-Report Psychopathy Scale and several self-report measures of impulsivity. Study 2 included laboratory-assessed behavioural impulsivity measures. Results indicated that across studies erratic lifestyle was uniquely, positively associated with all self-reported impulsivity measures, but surprisingly unrelated to laboratory-assessed behavioural impulsivity. Interpersonal manipulation was uniquely, negatively associated with lack of premeditation and non-planning, and callous affect was uniquely, negatively associated with urgency across studies. Studies 3 and 4 examined the psychopathy-impulsivity relationship in youth and on-line samples. Psychopathy was examined using the Antisocial Process Screening Device (youth) and the Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (adults). Impulsivity was approximated via preselected facets of the HEXACO-PI-R and the UPPS Impulsive behavior scale (Study 4 only). Results indicated that the impulsivity (youth) and erratic lifestyle (adults) subscales were uniquely associated with heightened impulsivity. Callous-unemotional traits in youth were also associated with higher levels of impulsivity. In adults, interpersonal manipulation and callous affect were largely unrelated to impulsivity at the multivariate level (with few exceptions). Findings demonstrated that the behavioural characteristics of psychopathy contributed to a pervasive tendency towards a variety of impulsive behaviours. This relationship was consistent across the youth, adult, on-line, and student samples. Among adults, the emotional and interpersonal psychopathy traits may be unrelated to impulsivity. Interpersonal manipulation traits may result in a slightly greater tendency to demonstrate premeditated, planned behaviour, whereas callous affect may reflect slightly lower urgency. However, callous-unemotional traits in youth do appear to be related to heightened impulsivity. Findings provide a better understanding of the psychopathy-impulsivity relationship. This is the first set of studies to utilize the HEXACO model to approximate pre-established impulsivity domains. Findings also address the issue of suppression when examining multifaceted constructs, particularly psychopathic traits.
  • Developmental and gonadal regulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function in adolescent and adult rats

    Green, Matthew; Department of Psychology
    The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis regulates the release of stress hormones and its function is dependent on various factors including prior exposure to stressors, circulating gonadal hormones, and developmental status. The overarching goal of this thesis was to uncover the potential mechanisms mediating developmental changes in HPA function and its regulation by gonadal hormones during adolescence and early adulthood. In Chapter 2, I found that pre-pubertal (postnatal day [P]35) and post-pubertal (P45) adolescents responded to an acute stressor with greater release of corticosterone (the main stress hormone in rodents) compared with adults (P75). To determine whether differences in corticosterone release were related to ongoing maturation of HPA feedback, I investigated glucocorticoid receptor (GR) activity and mRNA expression of receptors (Nr3c1, Nr3c2) and their co-chaperones (Fkbp5, Fkbp4, Bag1) in the hippocampus. I provide novel evidence that P35 males have more, not less, GR translocation from the cytosol to the nucleus in response to stress compared with P75 males. Gene expression remained relatively stable across development, except for Fkbp4, which codes for a pro-translocation protein and was up-regulated in P35 males relative to expression in P75 males. Thus, there are developmental shifts in the hormonal response to stress that are likely unrelated to GR activity in the hippocampus. In Chapter 3, I investigated whether differences in HPA function are explained by gonadal status; in adult males, testosterone reduces HPA function. Age-related differences in corticosterone release persisted when orchiectomized (OCX) males at each age were administered testosterone. Moreover, the effect of testosterone changed across the adolescent period; relative to those that got blank implants, testosterone had no effect on post-stress concentrations of corticosterone at P35, increased concentrations at P45, and tended to reduce concentrations at P75. Testosterone reduced expression of AVP in the PVN at all ages, but did not affect Fos (a marker of neuronal activation) expression. I hypothesized that the age-specific effects of testosterone on corticosterone were related to differential conversion to metabolites (e.g., estradiol), which I tested using androgen receptor (AR) and estrogen receptor (ER) antagonists (flutamide and tamoxifen, respectively) in the presence of testosterone or dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Testosterone produced a similar, albeit non-significant, age-specific pattern of effects on corticosterone as described above, and I found little evidence for effects of receptor antagonists. Androgens reduced post-stress concentrations of progesterone in all age groups, and flutamide prevented the effect. Together, this study provides evidence for developmental shifts in stress responses and their regulation by gonadal hormones. In Chapter 4, I examined the influence of estradiol on HPA function in adult female rats as a first step toward understanding developmental shifts. Ovariectomy (OVX) reduced post-stress concentrations of corticosterone compared with sham OVX and OVX females given estradiol alone or in combination with progesterone. I also found that OVX females had greater cytosolic expression of GR, possibly increasing sensitivity to corticosterone. In a second experiment, I found that progesterone partially mitigated the effect of estradiol on corticosterone release and that gene expression of stress hormone receptors (Nr3c1, Nr3c2), their co-chaperones (Fkbp5, Fkbp4, Bag1), and a co-activator (Src-1) did not change as a function of ovarian hormones. Together, these studies build on previous research investigating developmental and gonadal regulation of HPA activity and provide novel findings regarding potential mechanisms underlying their actions.
  • A Longitudinal Examination of Indirect Effects involving Parenting, Temperament, and Antisocial Behavior in Adolescence

    Stoner, Amanda Jane; Department of Psychology
    The current dissertation examined whether authoritative parenting was indirectly related to adolescent antisocial behavior over time through adolescent temperament, and whether adolescent temperament was indirectly related to authoritative parenting over time through antisocial behavior. My original contribution to knowledge through this dissertation was to demonstrate the longitudinal, direct and indirect relations between a broad view of parenting, several aspects of temperament, and antisocial behavior during early adolescence. A community sample of 10- to 15-year-old male and female adolescents and their mothers responded to questionnaires at two times spanning 18 months. The dissertation is comprised of three studies, each focusing on a different aspect of temperament: effortful control in Study 1, affiliation in Study 2, and frustration in Study 3. In each study, two different models were tested. In the first model, path analyses were used to simultaneously estimate the direct and indirect effects between each of the Time 1 parenting dimensions (psychological autonomy granting, acceptance-involvement, knowledge, tracking, and limit setting) and Time 2 antisocial behavior through Time 2 adolescent temperament. In the second model, path analyses were used to simultaneously estimate the direct and indirect effects of Time 1 temperament on Time 2 parenting through Time 2 antisocial behavior. The analyses in the current studies used a statistically conservative approach in that the initial levels of both the mediators and outcome variables were controlled for in the path models. Results showed that even with high stability of temperament and antisocial behavior, parenting still related to changes over time in antisocial behavior directly and indirectly through adolescent temperament. Also, even with high stability of antisocial behavior and parenting, temperament still related to changes over time in parenting directly and indirectly through antisocial behavior. Overall, the current dissertation builds on the case for a temperament-based foundation of antisocial behavior, and shows that the link between parenting and antisocial behavior is sometimes indirect through adolescent temperament which itself uniquely accounts for changes in parenting, directly and indirectly through antisocial behavior. Applied implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.
  • Affinity for Aloneness and Shyness in Childhood and Adolescence: Differential Longitudinal Associations with Socio-emotional Adjustment

    Shapira, Marina; Department of Psychology
    Affinity for aloneness (AFA), a tendency to prefer to spend more time alone rather than with others, is assumed to be driven by low social interest rather than by social fears. This is unlike shyness, which is underpinned by a conflict between high social interest and pervasive social apprehension and weariness. Despite the marked motivational differences between these two subtypes of social withdrawal and their potential differential impact on socio-emotional adjustment in childhood and adolescence, AFA is empirically neglected compared to shyness. Shyness was extensively studied and repeatedly linked to a host of negative socio-emotional correlates such as depression, lower social skills, lower self-esteem and peer maltreatment. However, little is known about the socio-emotional impact of AFA on children and adolescents, particularly longitudinally. Despite clear evidence, AFA was suspected as maladaptive due to its affiliation with social withdrawal, a wide umbrella term that has been tied to internalizing problem and peer difficulties. The generalization of findings regarding social withdrawal as a whole to AFA may lead to a pathologization of a normative behavior, increase instances of unnecessary intervention, and inadvertently negatively impact otherwise intact socio-emotional development of children and adolescents. The scarce available knowledge about AFA stems from several persisting gaps in the literature. First, there is insufficient systematic differentiation among subtypes of social withdrawal, and a lack of deliberate simultaneous measurement of specific constructs such as shyness and AFA. Second, there are very few longitudinal studies of both shyness and AFA across childhood and adolescence. Third, there is a lack of contextual investigation of AFA compared to shyness in common life setting in which children tend to spend much of their time, such as organized sports activities. My doctoral dissertation specifically addressed all of the aforementioned gaps in the literature. Results of Study 1, a longitudinal study spanning from Grade 3 to Grade 5, indicated that only shyness, but not AFA, was significantly related to lower social skills and greater peer victimization across time. Study 2 utilized Latent Class Analysis and results indicated that adolescents in Grades 11 and 12 who were high on AFA and low on shyness did not differ from adolescents low on both AFA and shyness (a non-withdrawn group) on measures of socio-emotional adjustment. In Study 3, results of Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) indicated that only shyness, but not AFA, was related to lower positive activity outcomes through lower psychological engagement in the activity. In aggregate, the findings of the present doctoral studies advance the literature on AFA in meaningful ways. Most notably, AFA emerged as a largely benign form of social withdrawal across middle childhood and adolescence. Moreover, Study 2, which appears to be the first person-centered investigation of AFA in adolescence using Latent Class Analysis, provided novel evidence that AFA and shyness are distinct constructs with unique implication for socio-emotional adjustment. These findings carry applied implication for educators and parents seeking to facilitate optimal developmental contexts for children with an AFA.
  • Effective Police Interviewing

    Logue, Michael; Department of Psychology
    Suspect interviewing is a vital tool for law enforcement agencies. However, a large body of empirical literature has demonstrated that many interviewing techniques limit the amount of information gleaned and demonstrate chance levels of deception detection accuracy. The series of studies presented provide evidence that the application of Reality Monitoring (RM) to statements elicited by a modified version of the Cognitive Interview for Suspects (CIS) improves deception detection accuracy in comparison to levels previously reported in the literature. Study 1 considers deception detection accuracy in statements provided in a mock theft scenario. Participants were interviewed using a modified version of the CIS. Six RM criteria were applied to all statements as a measure of deception detection. This study found an overall accuracy rating of 86.6%, supporting the use of this protocol. Study 2 directly compares deception detection accuracy of RM to the subjective judgements of observers. Three hundred and ninety observers judged deceptiveness of 100 CIS interviews previously recorded in Study 1. Collectively the average level of accuracy for observer ratings of the first question of the CIS interviews was 52.73% and only 47.82% at the conclusion of the interview. Observer ratings of deception became significantly less accurate at the conclusion of the interview (t(389) = 4.75, p <.01). In contrast, the RM scale was highly accurate (92.5 %) in a direct comparison of the same interviews. Study 3 considers whether certain personality traits, namely psychopathy and social dominance, increase successful deception both in terms of observer ratings and Reality Monitoring. Findings indicate that social dominance was related to increased observer ratings of honesty over time, however socially dominant people were not particularly successful deceivers. Similarly, psychopathic traits were not significantly related to deceptive ability overall. However, Factor 2 psychopathy was linked to being less believable by observers, even when telling the truth. These personality traits were not linked to an increased ability to beat Reality Monitoring, providing further evidence for the use of this scale. Collectively, the studies presented provide evidence of the effectiveness of the use of Reality Monitoring on statements derived from the Cognitive Interview for Suspects.
  • Investigating a Potential Function of Belief in a Just World: Providing Purpose in Life as a Pathway to Subjective Well-Being

    Rubel, Alicia N.; Department of Psychology
    According to justice motive theory, individuals have a fundamental need to believe that the world is a just place where people get what they deserve, or to have belief in a just world (BJW; Lerner, 1977, 1980). There are several reasons why individuals need BJW that have been proposed in the extant literature (Dalbert, 1999, 2001; Hafer, 2000; Lerner, 1980; Lerner & Miller, 1978; Lipkus, Dalbert, & Siegler, 1996). In the current research, I examine two of these functions: to encourage investment in long-term goals (Callan, Shead, & Olson, 2009; Hafer, 2000; Hafer, Bègue, Choma, & Dempsey, 2005) and to reduce fear of death (Hirschberger, 2006; Pyszczynski, Greenberg, & Solomon, 1997). Moreover, I propose a new function of BJW—to provide individuals with a sense of purpose in life. Specifically, I argue that BJW provides a sense of purpose because, if individuals have BJW, then they can see the world as a place where their lives are both desirable and important. Further, having a sense of purpose in life should in turn improve subjective well-being (Ryff, 1989; Ryff & Keyes, 1995; Ryff, Lee, Essex, & Schmutte, 1994; Zika & Chamberlain, 1992). Therefore, purpose in life, or purpose anxiety, should mediate the association between BJW and well-being. I examined this proposal in four studies. For each study, I predicted that BJW would have an indirect association with positive affect, negative affect, and satisfaction with life, through purpose in life, or purpose anxiety, and that this association would be unique from those through other potential mediators in each model. My hypotheses were supported in each of the four studies. I discuss limitations, topics for future research, and implications for theory as well as reducing victim blame and supporting victims of trauma.
  • Social Anxiety and Psychosocial Functioning: Investigating Relations Across Emerging Adulthood

    Brook, Christina; Department of Psychology
    The social, emotional and academic tasks associated with emerging adulthood are particularly challenging for those with social anxiety, a behavior defined as fear of negative evaluation, distress with social interactions, and/or avoidance of new or all social situations. The goal of this dissertation was to research the longitudinal effects of social anxiety on psychosocial functioning in university students, looking at various behaviors key to this developmental stage of life. In my first study, I examined the relation between social anxiety, social ties, and academic achievement in an autoregressive cross-lagged analysis across three years of university. There were two major findings: the symptoms of social anxiety directly linked to academic achievement, and social ties appeared to play a pivot role through their reciprocal negative and positive relation with social anxiety and academic achievement, respectively. Study two examined social anxiety with respect to alcohol use over three years of university through latent class growth analysis. Five classes were identified, two with social anxiety that differed in levels of alcohol use, and three with low social anxiety and varying levels of alcohol use. The heterogeneity in social anxiety was related to psychosocial functioning. While both social anxiety groups reported similar social anxiety symptomology, only the group linked to higher alcohol use exhibited a greater vulnerability to other at-risk behaviors in year one (e.g., self injury). The third study followed the previously identified five groups through latent growth analysis for a total of seven years, to determine whether there was stability or change in psychosocial functioning over the long term. The results indicated that there was stability within and among groups across time in psychosocial functioning. Notably, the differences detected between the two social anxiety groups in year one continued over the long term, indicating that the at-risk behaviors associated with the social anxiety group reporting higher alcohol use persisted. Overall, this program of research revealed that those with social anxiety in university struggled more than their peers in a variety of domains. From a developmental perspective, the findings of stability in behavior suggested it might be important for intervention and prevention programs to target younger populations with strategies that are continued in a cohesive manner across university, a time when students are exposed to the pressures of achieving in competing developmental tasks.
  • Recognizing Own- and Other-race Faces: Cognitive Mechanisms Underlying the Other-Race Effect

    Zhou, Xiaomei; Department of Psychology
    Other-race faces are discriminated and recognized less accurately than own-race faces. The other-race effect (ORE) emerges during infancy and is robust across different participant populations and a variety of methodologies (Meissner & Brigham, 2001). Decades of research has been successful in characterizing the roots of the ORE, however certain aspects regarding the nature of own- and other-race face representations remain unspecified. The present dissertation attempts to find the commonalities and differences in the processing of own- vs. other-race faces so as to develop an integrative understanding of the ORE in face recognition. In Study 1, I demonstrated that the ORE is attributable to an impaired ability to recognize other-race faces despite variability in appearance. In Study 2, I further examined whether this ability is influenced by familiarity. The ORE disappears for familiar faces, suggesting a fundamental difference in the familiar and unfamiliar other-race face recognition. Study 3 was designed to directly test whether the ORE is attributable to a less refined representation of other-race faces in face space. Adults are more sensitive to deviations from normality in own- than other-race faces, and between-rater variability in attractiveness rating of individual faces is higher for other- than own-race faces. In Study 4, I investigated whether the ORE is driven by the different use of shape and texture cues. Despite an overall ORE, the transition from idiosyncratic shape to texture cues was comparable for own- and other-race faces, suggesting that the different utilization of shape and texture cues does not contribute to the ORE. In Study 5, applying a novel continuous-response paradigm, I investigated how the representations of own- and other-race face are stored in visual working memory (VWM). Following ample encoding time, the ORE is attributable to differences in the probability of a face being maintained in VWM. Reducing encoding time caused a loss of precision of VWM for other- but not own-race faces. Collectively, the results of this dissertation help elucidate the nature of representations of own- and other-race faces and clarify the role of perceptual experience in shaping our ability to recognize own- and other-race faces.
  • When and why is religious attendance associated with anti-gay bias? A justification-suppression model approach

    Hoffarth, Mark; Department of Psychology
    Even in relatively tolerant countries, anti-gay bias remains socially divisive, despite being widely viewed as violating social norms of tolerance. From a Justification-Suppression Model (JSM) framework, social norms may generally suppress anti-gay bias in tolerant countries, yet bias may be “released” by religious justifications among those who resist gay rights progress. I hypothesized that more frequent religious attendance would be associated with greater anti-gay bias, that this relation would be stronger in countries where anti-gay bias more strongly violates social norms of tolerance, and that the relation between religious attendance and anti-gay bias would be partially accounted for by religious justifications. In Part 1, I examined the relation between religious attendance and anti-gay bias in the US. In Part 2, I examined the relation between religious attendance and anti-gay bias across different countries. Finally, in Part 3, I examined religious justifications for anti-gay bias. Across large, nationally representative US samples and international samples (representing a total of 97 different countries), over 215,000 participants, and various indicators of anti-gay bias (e.g., dislike, moral condemnation, opposing gay rights), more frequent religious attendance was uniquely associated with greater anti-gay bias, over and above religious fundamentalism, political ideology, religious denomination, and other theoretically relevant covariates. Moreover, in 4 of 6 multilevel models, religious attendance was associated with anti-gay bias in countries with greater gay rights recognition, but was unrelated to anti-gay bias in countries with lower gay rights recognition. Google searches for a religious justification (“love the sinner hate the sin”) coincided temporally with gay-rights relevant searches. In U.S. and Canadian samples, much of the association between religious attendance and anti-gay bias was explained by “sinner-sin” religious justification, with religious attendance not associated with anti-gay bias when respondents reported relatively low familiarity with this justification. These findings suggest that social divisions on homosexuality in relatively tolerant social contexts may be in large part due to religious justifications for anti-gay bias (consistent with the JSM). Potential interventions building on these findings may include encouraging religious leaders to promote norms of tolerance and acceptance, increasing intergroup contact between frequent religious attenders and gays, and perspective-taking exercises.
  • Affective Traits of Psychopathy and the Role of Early Visual Attention: An Electrophysiological Study

    Weissflog, Meghan; Department of Psychology
    Models of affective processing abnormalities in psychopathy have involved both amygdala abnormalities and attentional deficits to peripheral affective information. Neurophysiological bases for the latter are not currently well understood. Often presented as competing explanations for affective traits of psychopathy, these models may instead be compatible, describing different levels of analysis, with the amygdala playing a role in early attention allocation. To explore this possibility, this dissertation was designed to integrate these two areas of the literature by proposing a neurophysiologically-based model of biases in attention to peripheral affective information in psychopathy. This model is centred on the idea that attentional biases seen in psychopathy may result from reduced responsivity of a subcortical thalamus-amygdala circuit that influences the allocation of attention to salient stimuli in the environment during initial stages of processing. Event-related potential (ERP) components that reflect attention allocation during early stages of visual information processing were used to test the hypothesis that individuals high in psychopathic traits would show reduced attention allocation to peripheral information in the form of reduced and/or delayed ERP responses. Explored were the relations between psychopathic personality traits and early ERP responses to simple stimulation of the visual system (Study 1) and to spatially-filtered emotional faces involving implicit versus explicit processing of the stimuli (Study 2). ERP effects related to overall psychopathic trait severity, but also yielded factor-specific ERP response patterns. Study 1 results were consistent with the present hypotheses. Specifically, higher Factor 1 scores (primary, affect-based traits) were associated with reduced attention-related ERP amplitudes in response to a flash stimulus presented peripheral to task performance. Factor 2 severity (secondary antisocial and behavioural traits) was associated with ERP latencies in primary visual cortex. Study 2 also showed somewhat more complex but Factor-specific patterns of early visual processing. Overall, the results were consistent with a reduced responsivity of the thalamo-amygdalar pathway in psychopathy-related individual differences in attention at early stages of visual information processing, both for affective information and simple sensory stimulation. This raises the question of whether such processing differences are a predisposing factor for the development of psychopathic traits.
  • Physical Correlates of Sexual Orientation: The Association of Height, Birth Weight, and Facial Structure with Sexual Orientation.

    Skorska, Malvina N.; Department of Psychology
    Researchers have examined whether certain physical characteristics are associated with sexual orientation to gain insight into the mechanisms that may be implicated in its development. Three relatively new and/or understudied physical correlates (height, birth weight, facial structure) were investigated to determine whether they are reliably associated with sexual orientation and to gain insight into the specific mechanism(s) that may be driving the association between these physical correlates and sexual orientation. In Study 1, gay men were found to be shorter, on average, than heterosexual men in a nationally representative US sample. There was no significant height difference between lesbian and heterosexual women. No evidence was found that stress and nutrition at puberty mediated the association between sexual orientation and height in men. Thus, other mechanisms (e.g., prenatal hormones, genetics) likely explain the sexual orientation-height link. In Study 2, firstborn gay male only-children had, on average, a significantly lower mean birth weight than firstborn children in four other sibship groups. There was also evidence of increased fetal loss among mothers of gay male only-children. Birth weight and fetal loss have been shown to be indicators of a mother’s immune system responding to a pregnancy. Thus, Study 2 provides support for the idea that a maternal immune response (and one that appears to be distinct from the maternal immune response hypothesized to explain the traditional fraternal birth order effect) is implicated in sexual orientation development. In Study 3, lesbian and heterosexual women differed in 17 facial features (out of 63) at the univariate level, and four were unique multivariate predictors. Gay and heterosexual men differed in 11 facial features at the univariate level, and three were unique multivariate predictors. Some of the facial features related to sexual orientation implicated a sexual differentiation related mechanism (e.g., prenatal hormones), whereas others implicated a non-sexual differentiation mechanism (e.g., developmental instability) to explain the sexual orientation-facial structure association. In addition to extending the empirical literature on the physical correlates associated with sexual orientation, the studies included in this dissertation extend our understanding of the various mechanisms likely implicated in the development of sexual orientation.
  • THE FACIAL WIDTH-TO-HEIGHT RATIO AND ITS ROLE IN ADVERTISEMENTS AND ASSESSMENTS OF THREAT POTENTIAL

    Geniole, Shawn; Department of Psychology
    As do many species, humans visually assess the ability and propensity of others to cause trouble or harm (threat potential), although the mechanisms that guide this ability are unknown. One potential mechanism that may underlie advertisements and assessments of threat is the facial width-to-height ratio (face ratio). The overarching goal of this thesis was to test both the ecological validity of the face ratio (i.e., the extent to which it maps onto an individual’s actual threat potential), and its utility in influencing observers’ first impressions of traits related to threat potential. In Chapter 2, I found that men (n = 146) but not women (n = 76) with larger face ratios were more likely to cheat in a lottery for a cash prize than were men with smaller face ratios. In Chapter 3, to better identify the precise social function of the metric, I examined its differential association with two types of threat-related judgements, untrustworthiness and aggressiveness. The face ratio (n of faces = 141) was more strongly linked to observers’ (n = 129) judgements of aggression than to their judgements of trust, although it is possible that this metric advertises threat potential more generally, of which aggression is a best indicator. In Chapter 4 (which extended some preliminary, additional findings from Chapter 3), I found that observers’ (n = 56) judgements of aggression were strongly correlated with the face ratio (n of faces = 25) even when men were bearded, suggesting that this metric could have been operational in our ancestral past when interactions likely involved bearded men. In Chapter 5, I combined effect sizes from experiments conducted from several independent labs and identified significant (albeit weak) associations between the face ratio and actual threat behaviour, and significant (and stronger) associations between the face ratio and judgements of threat potential. Together, this body of work provides initial evidence that the face ratio, and sensitivity to it, may be part of an evolved system designed for advertising and assessing threat in humans, akin to threat assessment systems identified in other species.

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