• Genetic and Electrophysiological Correlates of Self-Regulation in Adolescence

      Lackner, Christine; Department of Psychology
      Self-regulation is considered a powerful predictor of behavioral and mental health outcomes during adolescence and emerging adulthood. In this dissertation I address some electrophysiological and genetic correlates of this important skill set in a series of four studies. Across all studies event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded as participants responded to tones presented in attended and unattended channels in an auditory selective attention task. In Study 1, examining these ERPs in relation to parental reports on the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF) revealed that an early frontal positivity (EFP) elicited by to-be-ignored/unattended tones was larger in those with poorer self-regulation. As is traditionally found, N1 amplitudes were more negative for the to-be-attended rather than unattended tones. Additionally, N1 latencies to unattended tones correlated with parent-ratings on the BRIEF, where shorter latencies predicted better self-regulation. In Study 2 I tested a model of the associations between selfregulation scores and allelic variations in monoamine neurotransmitter genes, and their concurrent links to ERP markers of attentional control. Allelic variations in dopaminerelated genes predicted both my ERP markers and self-regulatory variables, and played a moderating role in the association between the two. In Study 3 I examined whether training in Integra Mindfulness Martial Arts, an intervention program which trains elements of self-regulation, would lead to improvement in ERP markers of attentional control and parent-report BRIEF scores in a group of adolescents with self-regulatory difficulties. I found that those in the treatment group amplified their processing of attended relative to unattended stimuli over time, and reduced their levels of problematic behaviour whereas those in the waitlist control group showed little to no change on both of these metrics. In Study 4 I examined potential associations between self-regulation and attentional control in a group of emerging adults. Both event-related spectral perturbations (ERSPs) and intertrial coherence (ITC) in the alpha and theta range predicted individual differences in self-regulation. Across the four studies I was able to conclude that real-world self-regulation is indeed associated with the neural markers of attentional control. Targeted interventions focusing on attentional control may improve self-regulation in those experiencing difficulties in this regard.
    • An In-depth Examination of Personality and Aggression Across Different Contexts

      MacDonell, Elliott; Department of Psychology
      Acts of aggression are associated with a variety of negative outcomes. Accordingly, research has aimed to identify the personality traits that give rise to different forms of aggressive behaviour. Recent work has indicated that the factor of Honesty-Humility is associated with a variety of deviant behaviours, including aggression towards others; however, the nuances of these relationships require further investigation. This dissertation aimed to address several gaps in this literature through three main studies. In Study 1, we extended previous findings to younger populations, examining the associations between Honesty-Humility and aggression longitudinally in a large sample of children and youth. These findings demonstrated a bidirectional relationship between Honesty-Humility and aggression over time, such that low levels of Honesty-Humility resulted in higher levels of aggression and vice versa. In Study 2, we explored the specific facets of Honesty-Humility to determine if they differentially predict proactive and reactive aggression. Despite the theoretical link between Modesty and reactive aggression, we found limited support for this association, especially when controlling for proactive aggression. Overall, the Sincerity and Fairness facets were found to strongly predict both forms of aggression. Lastly, Study 3 explored the associations between Honesty-Humility and deviance, aggression, exploitation, and victimization in a workplace context. Robust relationships were found between Honesty-Humility and several deviant behaviours, further emphasizing the importance of this trait. In particular, when provided with the opportunity to aggress, individuals low in Honesty-Humility were more likely to do so, regardless of their level of power in the situation. Collectively, these findings indicate that Honesty-Humility is the strongest predictor of aggressive and deviant behaviour among the broad factors of personality. However, this dissertation extends previous findings by demonstrating the applicability of Honesty-Humility across different contexts and by providing a nuanced understanding of the components responsible for this relationship.
    • Indices and Implications of Emotional Underarousal for Persons with a History of Head Trauma

      Baker, Julie; Department of Psychology (Brock University, 2014-12-12)
      We examined the role of altered emotional functioning across the spectrum of injury severity (mild head injury [MHI], moderate/severe traumatic brain injury [TBI]), its implications for social behaviours, and the effect of modifying arousal and its relation to cognitive performance. In the first study (N = 230), students with self-reported MHI endorsed engaging in socially unacceptable and erratic behaviours significantly more often than did those with no MHI. We did not find significant differences between the groups in the measure of emotional intelligence (EI); however, for students who reported a MHI, scores on the EI measure significantly predicted reports of socially unacceptable behaviours such that lower scores predicted poorer social functioning, accounting for approximately 20% of the variance. Also, the experience of postconcussive symptoms was found to be significantly greater for students with MHI relative to their peers. In the second study (N = 85), we further examined emotional underarousal in terms of physiological (i.e., electrodermal activation [EDA]) and self-reported responsivity to emotionally-evocative picture stimuli. Although the valence ratings of the stimuli did not differ between students with and without MHI as we had expected, we found evidence of reduced and/or indiscriminate emotional responding to the stimuli for those with MHI which mimics that observed in other studies for persons with moderate/severe TBI. We also found that emotional underarousal followed a gradient of injury severity despite reporting a pattern of experiencing more life stressors. In the third study (N = 81), we replicated our findings of emotional underarousal for those with head trauma and also uniquely explored neuroendocrine aspects (salivary cortisol; cortisol awakening response [CAR]) and autonomic indices (EDA) of emotional dysregulation in terms of stress responsivity across the spectrum of injury severity (MHI [n = 32], moderate/severe TBI [n = 9], and age and education matched controls [n = 40]). Although the manipulation was effective in modifying arousal state in terms of autonomic and self-reported indices, we did not support our hypothesis that increased arousal would be related to improved performance on cognitive measures for those with prior injury. To our knowledge, this is the only study to examine the CAR with this population. Repeated measure analysis revealed that, upon awakening, students with no reported head trauma illustrated the typical CAR increase 45 minutes after waking, whereas, students who had a history of either mild head trauma or moderate/severe TBI demonstrated a blunted CAR. Thus, across the three studies we have provided evidence of emotional underarousal, its potential implications for social interactions, and also have identified potentially useful indices of dysregulated stress responsivity regardless of injury severity.
    • Individual Differences in Global/Local Processing Bias and the Attentional Blink

      Dale, Gillian; Department of Psychology (Brock University, 2014-01-27)
      When the second of two targets (T2) is presented temporally close to the first target (T1) in rapid serial visual presentation, accuracy to detect/identify T2 is markedly reduced as compared to longer target separations. This is known as the attentional blink (AB), and is thought to reflect a limitation of selective attention. While most individuals show an AB, research has demonstrated that individuals are variously susceptible to this effect. To explain these differences, Dale and Arnell (2010) examined whether dispositional differences in attentional breadth, as measured by the Navon letter task, could predict individual AB magnitude. They found that individuals who showed a natural bias toward the broad, global level of Navon letter stimuli were less susceptible to the AB as compared to individuals who showed a natural bias toward the detailed, local aspects of Navon letter stimuli. This suggests that individuals who naturally broaden their attention can overcome the AB. However, it was unclear how stable these individual differences were over time, and whether a variety of global/local tasks could predict AB performance. As such, the purpose of this dissertation was to investigate, through four empirical studies, the nature of individual differences in both global/local bias and the AB, and how these differences in attentional breadth can modulate AB performance. Study 1 was designed to examine the stability of dispositional global/local biases over time, as well as the relationships among three different global/local processing measures. Study 2 examined the stability of individual differences in the AB, as well as the relationship among two distinct AB tasks. Study 3 examined whether the three distinct global/local tasks used in Study 1 could predict performance on the two AB tasks from Study 2. Finally, Study 4 explored whether individual differences in global/local bias could be manipulated by exposing participants to high/low spatial frequencies and Navon stimuli. In Study 1, I showed that dispositional differences in global/local bias were reliable over a period of at least a week, demonstrating that these individual biases may be trait-like. However, the three tasks that purportedly measure global/local bias were unrelated to each other, suggesting that they measure unique aspects of global/local processing. In Study 2, I found that individual variation in AB performance was also reliable over a period of at least a week, and that the two AB task versions were correlated. Study 3 showed that dispositional global/local biases, as measured by the three tasks from Study 1, predicted AB magnitude, such that individuals who were naturally globally biased had smaller ABs. Finally, in Study 4 I demonstrated that these dispositional global/local biases are resistant to both spatial frequency and Navon letter manipulations, indicating that these differences are robust and intractable. Overall, the results of the four studies in this dissertation help clarify the role of individual differences in attentional breadth in selective attention.
    • 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.
    • The interaction of sleep and hormones on emotion functioning

      Lustig, Kari; Department of Psychology
      Insufficient sleep has been associated with deficits in emotion processing; sleepy individuals show increased emotional reactivity and decreased emotion regulation. Individual differences that predict performance after sleep loss has remained largely elusive. Concentrations of cortisol, progesterone, and testosterone are candidate predictors for variability in performance following sleep loss. These hormones are associated with emotion functioning under well-rested conditions and show interactions with sleep and circadian rhythms. The central aim of this dissertation was to investigate the interaction of natural sleep and hormones on measures of emotion functioning. Study 1 examined the role of cortisol in the relationship between sleep (across the first three years of university), and self reported emotion functioning in undergraduate students. Poor sleep was associated with worse emotion regulation and reactivity, and greater concentrations of cortisol and cortisol/DHEA-S. Consistently poor sleepers over three years, who had high cortisol, experienced the greatest difficulties with emotion regulation. Study 2 investigated the association between sleep satisfaction and objective measures of sleep on self-reported emotional functioning in a group of children and adolescents. Importantly, in girls who were dissatisfied sleepers, being further though puberty was associated with the greatest difficulties with emotion regulation. Study 3 examined natural sleep, hormones, and menstrual phase on processing emotional stimuli. Participants completed sleep diaries and wore actigraphy watches for 3-weeks and completed measures of emotion perception on two occasions in the laboratory, in different menstrual phases for women. The study supported dynamic relationships between hormone concentrations and various measures of sleep duration and quality on the processing of emotion stimuli. Many relationships emerged for threatening emotions, indicating that high concentrations of testosterone, progesterone or cortisol, combined with poor sleep resulted in increased sensitivity towards threat detection. Together these studies provide evidence that hormones are an important factor in understanding the link between poor sleep and emotion functioning. Hormone concentration plays a role in understanding individual differences in response to sleep loss and can compound with sleep loss to result in worse emotional outcomes. Consideration of hormonal factors may help identify certain at-risk populations for sleep related deficits or timing of interventions.
    • Investigating a dynamic modular framework for subjective well-being

      Busseri, Michael A.; Department of Psychology (Brock University, 2009-01-28)
      According to Diener (1984), the three primary components of subjective well-being (SWB) are high life satisfaction (LS), frequent positive affect (P A), and infrequent negative affect (NA). The present dissertation extends previous research and theorizing on SWB by testing an innovative framework developed by Shmotkin (2005) in which SWB is conceptualized as an agentic process that promotes and maintains positive functioning. Two key components ofShmotkin's framework were explored in a longitudinal study of university students. In Part 1, SWB was examined as an integrated system of components organized within individuals. Using cluster analysis, five distinct configurations of LS, P A, and NA were identified at each wave. Individuals' SWB configurations were moderately stable over time, with the highest and lowest stabilities observed among participants characterized by "high SWB" and "low SWB" configurations, respectively. Changes in SWB configurations in the direction of a high SWB pattern, and stability among participants already characterized by high SWB, coincided with better than expected mental, physical, and interpersonal functioning over time. More positive levels of functioning and improvements in functioning over time discriminated among SWB configurations. However, prospective effects of SWB configurations on subsequent functioning were not observed. In Part 2, subjective temporal perspective "trajectories" were examined based on individuals' ratings of their past, present, and anticipated future LS. Upward subjective LS trajectories were normative at each wave. Cross-sectional analyses revealed consistent associations between upward subjective trajectories and lower levels of LS, as well as less positive mental, physical, and interpersonal functioning. Upward subjective LS trajectories were biased both with respect to underestimation of past LS and overestimation of future LS, demonstrating their illusional nature. Further, whereas more negative retrospective bias was associated with greater current distress and dysfunction, more positive prospective bias was associated with less positive functioning in the future. Prospective relations, however, were not consistently observed. Thus, steep upward subjective LS trajectory appeared to be a form of wishful-thinking, rather than an adaptive form of selfenhancement. Major limitations and important directions for future research are considered. Implications for Shmotkin's (2005) framework, and for research on SWB more generally, also are discussed
    • 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.
    • An investigation of the psychopathy construct and its (novel) correlates in non-clinical samples

      Visser, Beth; Department of Psychology (Brock University, 2011-05-17)
      A substantial research literature exists regarding the psychopathy construct in forensic populations, but more recently, the construct has been extended to non-clinical populations. The purpose of the present dissertation was to investigate the content and the correlates of the psychopathy construct, with a particular focus on addressing gaps and controversies in the literature. In Study 1, the role of low anxiety in psychopathy was investigated, as some authors have proposed that low anxiety is integral to the psychopathy construct. Participants (n = 346) responded to two self-report psychopathy scales, the SRP-III and the PPI-R, as well as measures of temperament, personality, and antisociality. Of particular interest was the PPI-R Stress Immunity sub scale, which represents low anxiety content. I t was found that Stress Immunity was not correlated with SRP-III psychopathy, nor did it share common personality or temperament correlates or contribute to the prediction of anti sociality. From Study 1, it was concluded that it was unlikely that low anxiety is a central feature of the psychopathy construct. In Study 2, the relationship between SRP-III psychopathy and Ability Emotional Intelligence (Le., Emotional Intelligence measured as an ability, rather than as a self-report personality trait-like characteristic) was investigated, to determine whether psychopathy is be s t seen as a syndrome characterized by emotional deficits or by the ability to skillfully manipulate and prey upon the others' emotions. A negative correlation between the two constructs was found, suggesting that psychopathy is best characterized by deficits in perceiving, facilitating, managing, and understanding emotions. In Study 3, sex differences in the sexual behavior (i.e., promiscuity, age of first sexual behaviors, extradyadic sexual relations) and appearance-related esteem (i.e., body shame,appearance anxiety, self-esteem) correlates of SRP-III psychopathy were investigated. The sexual behavior correlates of psychopathy were quite similar for men and women, but the esteem correlates were very different, such that high psychopathy in men was related to high esteem, whereas high psychopathy in women was generally related to low esteem. This sex difference was difficult to interpret in that it was not mediated by sexual behavior, suggesting that further exploration of this topic is warranted. Together, these three studies contribute to our understanding of non-clinical psychopathy, indicating that low anxiety is likely not part of the construct, that psychopathy is related to low levels of ability in Emotional Intelligence, and that psychopathy is an important predictor of behavior, ability, and beliefs and feelings about the self
    • Learning and recognizing faces across variability in appearance: An examination of children and older adults

      Matthews, Claire M.; Department of Psychology
      Recognizing facial identity requires two skills: telling a person apart from similar looking people and recognizing them across changes in their appearance. Until recently, the vast majority of studies relied on tightly controlled images to examine face learning and recognition. Research using ambient images (i.e., images that capture within-person variability in appearance) is necessary to assess the true challenge of face learning and recognition in daily life. Only a few studies have examined face learning and recognition using ambient images in children, and, to the best of my knowledge, no studies have examined them in older adults. My dissertation was designed to address these gaps in the literature. In Study 1, children aged 6 to 11 were tested to examine two mechanisms that underlie face learning in young adults: Ensemble coding and the ability to benefit from exposure to variability in appearance in a perceptual matching task. My results revealed that both mechanisms are adultlike by the age of 6. First, children extracted the average of a set of images of an identity, regardless of whether those images were presented simultaneously or sequentially. Second, although their overall accuracy was lower than that of young adults, children showed comparable benefit from viewing multiple images of a to-be-learned identity in a perceptual face learning task. In Study 2, I examined whether younger children (4- and 5-year-olds) benefit from exposure to multiple images when learning a new face in a perceptual task. Although viewing multiple images made young children more sensitive to identity, it also led them to adopt a less conservative response bias, driven both by an increase in hits and an increase in false alarms. This increase in false alarms was not found for older children and adults in Study 1, suggesting that the ability to benefit from exposure to variability in appearance during face learning is not fully refined before the age of 6. In Study 3, I provided the first examination of face learning and recognition in older adults using a battery of tasks. On three of the five tasks, older adults showed comparable learning and recognition to young adults: 1) Older adults recognized a familiar face without error; 2) they showed ensemble coding of facial identity, regardless of whether the images were presented simultaneously or sequentially and 3) despite making more errors than young adults overall, they showed comparable benefit from viewing multiple images of a newly encountered face in the perceptual learning task. In the remaining two tasks, older adults showed a different pattern than young adults: 1) Older adults made fewer hits and more false alarms than young adults when matching images of wholly unfamiliar faces; and 2) after being exposed to low variability in appearance in a face memory task, older adults became more conservative than did younger adults, despite showing comparable benefits in sensitivity. My results reveal that the same abilities that show prolonged development during childhood are those undergo changes in aging. Collectively, my dissertation provides novel insights about learning and recognizing facial identity during childhood and aging and has important implications for understanding models of face processing.
    • The light and dark sides of perfectionism : implications for health and well-being

      Sirianni Molnar, Danielle; Department of Psychology (Brock University, 2011-10-14)
      The present work presents two studies that examined the association of perfectionism, operationally defined by Hewi t t and Fl e t t ' s (1991) multidimensional mode l of perfectionism, with health and subjective well-being (SWB). The underlying question of this research was whether perfectionism could be beneficial as well as detrimental to health and well-being, as this is one of the mos t highly debated questions in the current literature. In samples of relatively healthy university students (n = 538) and community adults suffering from various chronic illnesses (n = 772), results from Study One indicated that socially prescribed perfectionism (SPP) is directly associated wi th poor e r he a l th and well-being. Results further showed f rom a personcentered perspective that there is a l a rge group of individuals wi th high levels of SPP and that i t is indeed these individuals who reported the poorest health and lowe s t levels of well-being. Other-oriented perfectionism was found to be unrelated to health and SWB. Findings revealed that when perfectionism is self-imposed (i.e., self-oriented perfectionism; SOP), i t is neither healthy nor unhealthy in an absolute sense. From the variable-centered perspective, this conclusion was supported by the f a c t tha t SOP was associated wi th both positive (e.g., be t t e r mental health and highe r levels of SWB in the student sample), and nega t ive correlates (e.g., higher levels of negative affect, stress, and neuroticism in both samples). Evidence f rom the chronically-ill sample further substantiated this conclusion by showing that there may be an optimal level of SOP, because mode r a t e levels of SOP we r e found to be associated with be t t e r health and highe r levels of SWB, whereas levels tha t we r e too low or too high we r e found to be associated with poor e r health and lowe r levels of SWB. Findings f rom the person-centered approach we r e particularly informative, in that they not only demonstrated tha t unique profiles of
    • A Longitudinal Examination of Bidirectional Associations between Subjective Sleep Characteristics and Psychosocial Functioning among University Students

      Tavernier, Royette; Department of Psychology (Brock University, 2014-08-27)
      A number of studies have found a significant link between sleep and psychosocial functioning among university students. A critical examination of this literature, however, indicates that one important gap within the literature is the need for longitudinal studies that specifically test for bidirectional associations between these two constructs. The main purpose of my dissertation was to address this gap by conducting three studies that examined bidirectional associations between sleep and psychosocial functioning among a sample of university students. Participants were 942 (71.5% female) undergraduate students enrolled at a Canadian university, who completed survey assessments annually for three consecutive years, beginning in their first year of university. In the first study, I assessed bidirectional associations between two sleep characteristics (sleep quality and sleep duration) and three psychosocial functioning variables (academics, friendship quality, and intrapersonal adjustment). Results based on cross-lagged models indicated a significant bidirectional association between sleep quality and intrapersonal adjustment, such that more sleep problems predicted more negative intrapersonal adjustment over time, and vice versa. Unidirectional associations indicated that both higher academic achievement and more positive friendship quality were significant predictors of less sleep problems over time. In the second study, in which I examined bidirectional associations between sleep and media use, results provided support only for unidirectional associations; such that more sleep problems predicted increases in both time spent watching television and time spent engaged in online social networking. In the third study of my dissertation, in which I examined social ties at university and sleep quality, results indicated a significant bidirectional association, such that more positive social ties predicted less sleep problems over time, and vice versa. Importantly, emotion regulation was a significant mediator of this association. Findings across the three studies, highlight the importance of determining the direction of effects between different sleep characteristics and various aspects of university students’ psychosocial functioning, as such findings have important implications for both methodology and practice. A better understanding of the nature of the associations between sleep and psychosocial functioning will equip students, parents and university administrators with the tools necessary to facilitate successful adjustment across the university years.
    • 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.
    • The Mental Representation of Visual Information

      Robitaille, Joel; Department of Psychology
      Despite working in relative independence, the working memory and imagery literatures investigate the mental representation of visual information. Recent reports investigating the neural structure and their associated functional activity responsible for the creation and maintenance of these cognitive representations suggest a significant overlap between these fields of study. Because each field has adopted methodologies that does not allow for a direct comparison of the mental representation described by their respective literatures, it is difficult to determine whether imagery and working memory representations are related. Hence, the current thesis further investigates the properties of the visual representation of visual information to bridge between the imagery and working memory fields. In a first study, I compare the psychophysical properties of simple stimuli commonly used in working memory reports with more complex objects adopted by the imagery field. In the course of three experiments, I demonstrate that the cost of stimulus complexity predominantly affects the quality of the mental representation while still providing evidence of a shared cognitive mechanism driving the formation and maintenance of these representations. In a second study, I evaluate the impact of mental rotation on these mental representations as well as whether the adoption of different paradigms, along with different performance metrics, assess the same cognitive construct. Here again, I show strong evidence in support of a common cognitive mechanism driving the performance across mental manipulation and through assessment methods. Finally, the last study attempted to track the manipulation of these visual representations by applying an encoding model to raw EEG activity. While I show evidence of the orientation-relevant activity during perception, the encoding model does not detect reliable enough activity to allow for tracking the orientation of the stimulus during retention and mental rotation. Together, this thesis provides evidence of a shared cognitive mechanism that drives visual working memory and imagery representation, but tracking these mental representations using EEG activity during manipulation remains unclear.
    • Nonsuicidal Self-Injury and Suicidal Risk: An Examination among Young Adults

      Chloe, Hamza; Department of Psychology
      Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI), which refers to the direct and deliberate destruction of bodily tissue in the absence of suicidal intent, is a serious and widespread mental health concern. Although NSSI has been differentiated from suicidal behavior on the basis of non-lethal intent, research has shown that these two behaviors commonly co-occur. Despite increased research on the link between NSSI and suicidal behavior, however, little attention has been given as to why these two behaviors are associated. My doctoral dissertation specifically addressed this gap in the literature by examining the link between NSSI and several measures of suicidal risk (e.g., suicidal ideation, suicidal attempts, pain tolerance) among a large sample of young adults. The primary goal of my doctoral research was to identify individuals who engaged in NSSI at risk for suicidal ideation and attempts, in an effort to elucidate the processes through which psychosocial risk, NSSI, and suicidal risk may be associated. Participants were drawn from a larger sample of 1153 undergraduate students (70.3% female) at a mid-sized Canadian University. In study one, I examined whether increases in psychosocial risk and suicidal ideation were associated with changes in NSSI engagement over a one year period. Analyses revealed that beginners, relapsed injurers, and persistent injurers were differentiated from recovered injurers and desisters by increases in psychsocial risk and suicidal ideation over time. In study two, I examined whether several NSSI characteristics (e.g., frequency, number of methods) were associated with suicidal risk using latent class analysis. Three subgroups of individuals were identified: 1) an infrequent NSSI/not high risk for suicidal behavior group, 2) a frequent NSSI/not high risk for suicidal behavior group, and 3) a frequent NSSI/high risk for suicidal behavior group. Follow-up analyses indicated that individuals in the frequent NSSI/high risk for suicidal behavior group met the clinical cutoff score for high suicidal risk and reported significantly greater levels of suicidal ideation, attempts, and risk for future suicidal behavior as compared to the other two classes. Class 3 was also differentiated by higher levels of psychosocial risk (e.g., depressive symptoms, social anxiety) relative to the other two classes, as well as a comparison group of non-injuring young adults. Finally, in study three, I examined whether NSSI was associated with pain tolerance in a lab-based task, as tolerance to pain has been shown to be a strong predictor of suicidal risk. Individuals who engaged in NSSI to regulate the need to self-punish, tolerated pain longer than individuals who engaged in NSSI but not to self-punish and a non-injuring comparison group. My findings offer new insight into the associations among psychosocial risk, NSSI, and suicidal risk, and can serve to inform intervention efforts aimed at individuals at high risk for suicidal behavior. More specifically, my findings provide clinicians with several NSSI-specific risk factors (e.g., frequent self-injury, self-injuring alone, self-injuring to self-punish) that may serve as important markers of suicidal risk among individuals engaging in NSSI.
    • Novices' learning from the Internet : an exploration of navigation behaviours, learner-related factors, and mental effort

      Desjarlais, Malinda; Department of Psychology (Brock University, 2011-03-08)
      The current study was an exploration of why some novices are more successful than their peers when learning from the Internet by examining the relations among time spent with relevant information and changes in invested mental effort during Internet navigations as well as achievement. Navigation behaviours and learner characteristics were investigated as predictors of time spent with relevant information and changes in mental effort. Undergraduates (N = 85, Mage = 20 years, 5 months) searched the Internet for information corresponding to a low knowledge topic for 20 min while their eye gaze and pupil size were recorded. Pupil diameter was used as an objective, continuous measure of mental effort. Participants also completed questionnaires or computer tasks pertaining to s e l f-regulated learning characteristics (general intrinsic goal orientation and effort regulation) and cognitive factors (working memory control, distractibility and cognitive style). All analyses controlled for general mental ability, reading comprehension, topic and Internet knowledge, and overall motivation. A greater proportion of time spent with relevant information predicted higher scores on an achievement test. Interestingly, time spent with relevant information partially mediated the positive relation between the frequency of increases in invested mental effort and achievement. Surprisingly, intrinsic goal orientation was negatively related to time spent with relevant information and effort regulation was negatively related to the frequency of increases in invested mental effort. These findings have implications for supports when novices guide their own learning, especially when using the Internet.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Players and Avatars: The Connections between Player Personality, Avatar Personality, and Behavior in Video Games

      Worth, Narnia; Department of Psychology
      The increasing variety and complexity of video games allows players to choose how to behave and represent themselves within these virtual environments. The focus of this dissertation was to examine the connections between the personality traits (specifically, HEXACO traits and psychopathic traits) of video game players and player-created and controlled game-characters (i.e., avatars), and the link between traits and behavior in video games. In Study 1 (n = 198), the connections between player personality traits and behavior in a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (World of Warcraft) were examined. Six behavior components were found (i.e., Player-versus-Player, Social Player-versus-Environment, Working, Helping, Immersion, and Core Content), and each was related to relevant personality traits. For example, Player-versus-Player behaviors were negatively related to Honesty-Humility and positively related to psychopathic traits, and Immersion behaviors (i.e., exploring, role-playing) were positively related to Openness to Experience. In Study 2 (n = 219), the connections between player personality traits and in-game behavior in video games were examined in university students. Four behavior components were found (i.e., Aggressing, Winning, Creating, and Helping), and each was related to at least one personality trait. For example, Aggressing was negatively related to Honesty-Humility and positively related to psychopathic traits. In Study 3 (n = 90), the connections between player personality traits and avatar personality traits were examined in World of Warcraft. Positive player-avatar correlations were observed for all personality traits except Extraversion. Significant mean differences between players and avatars were observed for all traits except Conscientiousness; avatars had higher mean scores on Extraversion and psychopathic traits, but lower mean scores on the remaining traits. In Study 4, the connections between player personality traits, avatar traits, and observed behaviors in a life-simulation video game (The Sims 3) were examined in university students (n = 93). Participants created two avatars and used these avatars to play The Sims 3. Results showed that the selection of certain avatar traits was related to relevant player personality traits (e.g., participants who chose the Friendly avatar trait were higher in Honesty-Humility, Emotionality, and Agreeableness, and lower in psychopathic traits). Selection of certain character-interaction behaviors was related to relevant player personality traits (e.g., participants with higher levels of psychopathic traits used more Mean and fewer Friendly interactions). Together, the results of the four studies suggest that individuals generally behave and represent themselves in video games in ways that are consistent with their real-world tendencies.
    • Posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms might be destroying your intimacy : a test of mediational models in a community sample of couples

      Perrier, Colin; Department of Psychology (Brock University, 2011-03-08)
      The present research focused on the pathways through which the symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may negatively impact intimacy. Previous research has confirmed a link between self-reported PTSD symptoms and intimacy; however, a thorough examination of mediating paths, partner effects, and secondary traumatization has not yet been realized. With a sample of 297 heterosexual couples, intraindividual and dyadic models were developed to explain the relationships between PTSD symptoms and intimacy in the context of interdependence theory, attachment theory, and models of selfpreservation (e.g., fight-or-flight). The current study replicated the findings of others and has supported a process in which affective (alexithymia, negative affect, positive affect) and communication (demand-withdraw behaviour, self-concealment, and constructive communication) pathways mediate the intraindividual and dyadic relationships between PTSD symptoms and intimacy. Moreover, it also found that the PTSD symptoms of each partner were significantly related; however, this was only the case for those dyads in which the partners had disclosed most everything about their traumatic experiences. As such, secondary traumatization was supported. Finally, although the overall pattern of results suggest a total negative effect of PTSD symptoms on intimacy, a sex difference was evident such that the direct effect of the woman's PTSD symptoms were positively associated with both her and her partner's intimacy. I t is possible that the Tend-andBefriend model of threat response, wherein women are said to foster social bonds in the face of distress, may account for this sex difference. Overall, however, it is clear that PTSD symptoms were negatively associated with relationship quality and attention to this impact in the development of diagnostic criteria and treatment protocols is necessary.