Now showing items 21-40 of 56

    • Attention capture: Stimulus, group, individual, and moment-to-moment factors contributing to distraction

      Stokes, Kirk; Department of Psychology
      Over four studies, some containing multiple experiments, attention capture is explored in a variety of experimental contexts. The over-arching goals were to better understand attention capture at the stimulus level (Chapter 2), the group and the individual-differences level (Chapters 3 and 4), and in terms of moment-to-moment fluctuations in susceptibility to distraction by task-irrelevant stimuli (Chapter 5). Rare or unexpected stimulus changes are known to capture attention and disrupt behavioural performance. Detection is typically thought to depend on changes to the physical properties (e.g., tone pitch) of a stimulus. Chapter 2 explores whether physical change is a necessary antecedent for attention capture. Here, evidence suggests that unexpected semantic change is sufficient to produce a distraction effect and that an accompanying physical/acoustic change is not required to induce semantic processing of task-irrelevant stimuli even when the semantic deviants are unrelated to the primary task. Attention capture is typically robust at the group level and has been observed in a variety of popular paradigms. Chapter 3 explores whether attention capture can be viewed as a stable and generalizable individual trait. The study examined involuntary attention capture across a set of prototypical stimulus-driven capture tasks and contingent-capture tasks in both spatial and/or temporal paradigms. Results showed the expected pattern of capture in each of the tasks as well as modest to good test-retest reliability over the span of one week for each of the capture measures. However, no evidence is found for a common attention capture factor providing evidence that attention capture within an individual is reliable but not generalizable. Chapter 4 extends the results of Chapter 3 and shows that attention capture in these tasks is not related to off-line self-report measures of attentional ability and day-to-day functioning. The lack of evidence for a common factor that can predict attention capture in one or more paradigms suggests that attention capture is not characterized by trait individual differences in executive function or predicted by individuals’ meta-awareness of their own attentional ability. Chapter 5, however, shows that attention capture can be characterized by moment-to-moment lapses of attention as it varies trial-to-trial as a function of internally generated task-irrelevant thought (i.e., mind-wandering). Mind-wandering slowed RTs overall and increased non-contingent, but not contingent, forms of capture providing evidence that some forms of attention capture are exacerbated by moment-to-moment lapses of attention. Self-reports on a dispositional mind-wandering scale did not predict capture when mind-wandering was used as an individual differences variable. Results suggest that attention capture may be better explained by cognitive processes engaged moment-to-moment rather than individual dispositions.
    • A domain-general perspective on medial frontal brain activity during performance monitoring

      van Noordt, Stefon; Department of Psychology
      Activity of the medial frontal cortex (MFC) has been implicated in attention regulation and performance monitoring. The MFC is thought to generate several event-related potential (ERPs) components, known as medial frontal negativities (MFNs), that are elicited when a behavioural response becomes difficult to control (e.g., following an error or shifting from a frequently executed response). The functional significance of MFNs has traditionally been interpreted in the context of the paradigm used to elicit a specific response, such as errors. In a series of studies, we consider the functional similarity of multiple MFC brain responses by designing novel performance monitoring tasks and exploiting advanced methods for electroencephalography (EEG) signal processing and robust estimation statistics for hypothesis testing. In study 1, we designed a response cueing task and used Independent Component Analysis (ICA) to show that the latent factors describing a MFN to stimuli that cued the potential need to inhibit a response on upcoming trials also accounted for medial frontal brain responses that occurred when individuals made a mistake or inhibited an incorrect response. It was also found that increases in theta occurred to each of these task events, and that the effects were evident at the group level and in single cases. In study 2, we replicated our method of classifying MFC activity to cues in our response task and showed again, using additional tasks, that error commission, response inhibition, and, to a lesser extent, the processing of performance feedback all elicited similar changes across MFNs and theta power. In the final study, we converted our response cueing paradigm into a saccade cueing task in order to examine the oscillatory dynamics of response preparation. We found that, compared to easy pro-saccades, successfully preparing a difficult anti-saccadic response was characterized by an increase in MFC theta and the suppression of posterior alpha power prior to executing the eye movement. These findings align with a large body of literature on performance monitoring and ERPs, and indicate that MFNs, along with their signature in theta power, reflects the general process of controlling attention and adapting behaviour without the need to induce error commission, the inhibition of responses, or the presentation of negative feedback.
    • 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.
    • Demolishing the Competition: The Association between Competitive Video Game Play and Aggression among Adolescents and Young Adults

      Adachi, Paul; Department of Psychology
      The link between video game play and aggression is an important issue as video games The link between video game play and aggression is an important issue as video games are the fastest growing form of entertainment in the world. Past research on this association has been focused primarily on the link between video game violence and aggression; however, this research has confounded the effect of video game violence versus competition on aggression. The main goal of the current dissertation, therefore, was to examine the short- and long-term associations between competitive video game play and aggression. In addition, the longitudinal work on this association to date has been limited to adolescent samples, but not young adults. Thus, the second goal of the dissertation research was to investigate whether video game play predicts aggression in the long-term among young adults in addition to adolescents. To address these goals, three studies were conducted. Study 1 consisted of a series of experiments examining the short-term effect of video game violence versus competition on aggression. Study 2 examined the long-term association between competitive video game play and aggression among adolescents, and Study 3 examined this long-term link among young adults, in addition to adolescents. Taken together, the results of the three dissertation studies converged to suggest that video game competition, rather than violence, may be a stronger predictor of aggression in both the short- and long-term. Overall, the current research represents an important advance in our understanding of the association between video game play and aggression, and leads to a new direction in the video game and aggression literature. are the fastest growing form of entertainment in the world. Past research on this association has been focused primarily on the link between video game violence and aggression; however, this research has confounded the effect of video game violence versus competition on aggression. The main goal of the current dissertation, therefore, was to examine the short- and long-term associations between competitive video game play and aggression. In addition, the longitudinal work on this association to date has been limited to adolescent samples, but not young adults. Thus, the second goal of the dissertation research was to investigate whether video game play predicts aggression in the long-term among young adults in addition to adolescents. To address these goals, three studies were conducted. Study 1 consisted of a series of experiments examining the short-term effect of video game violence versus competition on aggression. Study 2 examined the long-term association between competitive video game play and aggression among adolescents, and Study 3 examined this long-term link among young adults, in addition to adolescents. Taken together, the results of the three dissertation studies converged to suggest that video game competition, rather than violence, may be a stronger predictor of aggression in both the short- and long-term. Overall, the current research represents an important advance in our understanding of the association between video game play and aggression, and leads to a new direction in the video game and aggression literature.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • The Role of Experience in the Organization and Refinement of Face Space

      Short, Lindsey; Department of Psychology (Brock University, 2014-09-12)
      Adults code faces in reference to category-specific norms that represent the different face categories encountered in the environment (e.g., race, age). Reliance on such norm-based coding appears to aid recognition, but few studies have examined the development of separable prototypes and the way in which experience influences the refinement of the coding dimensions associated with different face categories. The present dissertation was thus designed to investigate the organization and refinement of face space and the role of experience in shaping sensitivity to its underlying dimensions. In Study 1, I demonstrated that face space is organized with regard to norms that reflect face categories that are both visually and socially distinct. These results provide an indication of the types of category-specific prototypes that can conceivably exist in face space. Study 2 was designed to investigate whether children rely on category-specific prototypes and the extent to which experience facilitates the development of separable norms. I demonstrated that unlike adults and older children, 5-year-olds rely on a relatively undifferentiated face space, even for categories with which they receive ample experience. These results suggest that the dimensions of face space undergo significant refinement throughout childhood; 5 years of experience with a face category is not sufficient to facilitate the development of separable norms. In Studies 3 through 5, I examined how early and continuous exposure to young adult faces may optimize the face processing system for the dimensions of young relative to older adult faces. In Study 3, I found evidence for a young adult bias in attentional allocation among young and older adults. However, whereas young adults showed an own-age recognition advantage, older adults exhibited comparable recognition for young and older faces. These results suggest that despite the significant experience that older adults have with older faces, the early and continuous exposure they received with young faces continues to influence their recognition, perhaps because face space is optimized for young faces. In Studies 4 and 5, I examined whether sensitivity to deviations from the norm is superior for young relative to older adult faces. I used normality/attractiveness judgments as a measure of this sensitivity; to examine whether biases were specific to norm-based coding, I asked participants to discriminate between the same faces. Both young and older adults were more accurate when tested with young relative to older faces—but only when judging normality. Like adults, 3- and 7-year-olds were more accurate in judging the attractiveness of young faces; however, unlike adults, this bias extended to the discrimination task. Thus by 3 years of age children are more sensitive to differences among young relative to older faces, suggesting that young children's perceptual system is more finely tuned for young than older adult faces. Collectively, the results of this dissertation help elucidate the development of category-specific norms and clarify the role of experience in shaping sensitivity to the dimensions of face space.
    • 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.
    • Autonomic and Electrophysiological Correlates of Cognitive Control in Aging

      Capuana, Lesley; Department of Psychology (Brock University, 2014-08-21)
      This thesis tested a model of neurovisceral integration (Thayer & Lane, 2001) wherein parasympathetic autonomic regulation is considered to play a central role in cognitive control. We asked whether respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), a parasympathetic index, and cardiac workload (rate pressure product, RPP) would influence cognition and whether this would change with age. Cognitive control was measured behaviourally and electrophysiologically through the error-related negativity (ERN) and error positivity (Pe). The ERN and Pe are thought to be generated by the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a region involved in regulating cognitive and autonomic control and susceptible to age-related change. In Study 1, older and younger adults completed a working memory Go/NoGo task. Although RSA did not relate to performance, higher pre-task RPP was associated with poorer NoGo performance among older adults. Relations between ERN/Pe and accuracy were indirect and more evident in younger adults. Thus, Study 1 supported the link between cognition and autonomic activity, specifically, cardiac workload in older adults. In Study 2, we included younger adults and manipulated a Stroop task to clarify conditions under which associations between RSA and performance will likely emerge. We varied task parameters to allow for proactive versus reactive strategies, and motivation was increased via financial incentive. Pre-task RSA predicted accuracy when response contingencies required maintenance of a specific item in memory. Thus, RSA was most relevant when performance required proactive control, a metabolically costly strategy that would presumably be more reliant on autonomic flexibility. In Study 3, we included older adults and examined RSA and proactive control in an additive factors framework. We maintained the incentive and measured fitness. Higher pre-task RSA among older adults was associated with greater accuracy when proactive control was needed most. Conversely, performance of young women was consistently associated with fitness. Relations between ERN/Pe and accuracy were modest; however, isolating ACC activity via independent component analysis allowed for more associations with accuracy to emerge in younger adults. Thus, performance in both groups appeared to be differentially dependent on RSA and ACC activation. Altogether, these data are consistent with a neurovisceral integration model in the context of cognitive control.
    • Autonomy and Relatedness in Mainland Chinese Adolescents: Social or Personal? Accommodation or Distinctiveness?

      Zhao, Junru; Department of Psychology (Brock University, 2014-08-01)
      Three studies comprised the current research program, in which the major goals were to propose and validate empirically the proposed two-level (universal and culture-specific) model of both autonomy and relatedness, as well as to develop reliable and valid measures for these two constructs. In Study 1, 143 mainland Chinese adolescents were asked open-ended questions about their understanding of autonomy and relatedness in three social contexts (peer, family, school). Chinese youth’s responses captured universal and culturally distinctive forms of autonomy (personal vs. social) and relatedness (accommodation vs. distinctiveness), according to a priori criteria based on the theoretical frameworks. Also, scenarios designed to reflect culture-specific forms of autonomy and relatedness suggested their relevance to Chinese adolescents. With a second sample of 201 mainland Chinese youth, in Study 2, the obtained autonomy and relatedness descriptors were formulated into scale items. Those items were subject to refinement analyses to examine their psychometric properties and centrality to Chinese youth. The findings of Study 1 scenarios were replicated in Study 2. The primary goal of Study 3 was to test empirically the proposed two-level (universal and culture-specific) models of both autonomy and relatedness, using the measures derived from Studies 1 and 2. A third sample of 465 mainland Chinese youth completed a questionnaire booklet consisting of autonomy and relatedness scales and scenarios and achievement motivation orientations measures. A series of confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) autonomy and relatedness measurement models (first-order and second-order), as well as structural models linking culture-specific forms of autonomy and relatedness and achievement motivation orientations, were conducted. The first-order measurement models based on scale and scenario scores consistently confirmed the distinction between personal autonomy and social autonomy, and that of accommodation and distinctiveness. Although the construct validity of the two culture-specific forms of autonomy gained additional support from the structural models, the associations between the two culture-specific forms of relatedness and achievement motivation orientations were relatively weak. In general, the two-level models of autonomy and relatedness were supported in two ways: conceptual analysis of scale items and second-order measurement models. In addition, across the three studies, I explored potential contextual and sex differences in Chinese youth’s endorsement of the diverse forms of autonomy and relatedness. Overall, no substantial contextual variability or sex differences were found. The current research makes an important theoretical contribution to the field of developmental psychology in general, and autonomy and relatedness in particular, by proposing and testing empirically both universal and culture-specific parts of autonomy and relatedness. The current findings have implications for the measurement of autonomy and relatedness across social contexts, as well as for socialization and education practice.
    • Top-down and Bottom-up influences on ACC activation: Evaluation of a proposed model of the feedback-related negativity

      Dzyundzyak, Angela; Department of Psychology (Brock University, 2014-07-18)
      The Feedback-Related Negativity (FRN) is thought to reflect the dopaminergic prediction error signal from the subcortical areas to the ACC (i.e., a bottom-up signal). Two studies were conducted in order to test a new model of FRN generation, which includes direct modulating influences of medial PFC (i.e., top-down signals) on the ACC at the time of the FRN. Study 1 examined the effects of one’s sense of control (top-down) and of informative cues (bottom-up) on the FRN measures. In Study 2, sense of control and instruction-based (top-down) and probability-based expectations (bottom-up) were manipulated to test the proposed model. The results suggest that any influences of medial PFC on the activity of the ACC that occur in the context of incentive tasks are not direct. The FRN was shown to be sensitive to salient stimulus characteristics. The results of this dissertation partially support the reinforcement learning theory, in that the FRN is a marker for prediction error signal from subcortical areas. However, the pattern of results outlined here suggests that prediction errors are based on salient stimulus characteristics and are not reward specific. A second goal of this dissertation was to examine whether ACC activity, measured through the FRN, is altered in individuals at-risk for problem-gambling behaviour (PG). Individuals in this group were more sensitive to the valence of the outcome in a gambling task compared to not at-risk individuals, suggesting that gambling contexts increase the sensitivity of the reward system to valence of the outcome in individuals at risk for PG. Furthermore, at-risk participants showed an increased sensitivity to reward characteristics and a decreased response to loss outcomes. This contrasts with those not at risk whose FRNs were sensitive to losses. As the results did not replicate previous research showing attenuated FRNs in pathological gamblers, it is likely that the size and time of the FRN does not change gradually with increasing risk of maladaptive behaviour. Instead, changes in ACC activity reflected by the FRN in general can be observed only after behaviour becomes clinically maladaptive or through comparison between different types of gain/loss outcomes.
    • 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.
    • An Electrophysiological Investigation into the Role of Cognitive Control in the Attentional Blink

      MacLean, Mary H.; Department of Psychology (Brock University, 2013-08-22)
      Accuracy at reporting a second-target (T2) is reduced if it is presented within approximately 500 ms of the first target (T1) – an attentional blink (AB). Early models explained the AB in terms of attentional limitations creating a processing bottleneck such that T2 processing would be impaired while T1 processing was ongoing. Theoretical models of the AB have more recently been expanded to include the role of cognitive control. In this dissertation I propose that cognitive control, defined as the optimization of information processing in order to achieve goals, is maladapted to the dual-task conditions of the AB task in that cognitive control optimizes the T1 goal, due to its temporal proximity, at the cost of T2. I start with the concept that the role of cognitive control is to serve goals, and that how goals are conceived of and the degree of motivation associated with those goals will determine whether cognitive control will create the condition that cause the AB. This leads to the hypothesis that electrophysiological measures of cognitive control and the degree of attentional investment resulting from cognitive control modulate the AB and explain individual differences in the AB. In a series of four studies feedback-related N2 amplitude, (reflecting individual differences in the strength of cognitive control), and event-related and resting alpha frequency oscillatory activity (reflecting degree of attentional investment), are used to explain both intra- and inter-individual variability in performance on the AB task. Results supported the hypothesis that stronger cognitive control and greater attentional investment are associated with larger AB magnitudes. Attentional investment, as measured by alpha frequency oscillations, and cognitive control, as measured by the feedback-related N2, did not relate to each other as hypothesized. It is proposed that instead of a measure of attentional investment alone, alpha frequency oscillatory activity actually reflects control over information processing over time, in other words the timing of attention. With this conceptualization, various aspects of cognitive control, either related to the management of goals (feedback-related N2) or the management of attention over time to meet goals, explain variability in the AB.
    • Exploring the impact of outgroup membership discoveries on individual outcomes and intergroup relations

      MacInnis, Cara; Department of Psychology (Brock University, 2013-07-19)
      Group memberships represent important components of identity, with people holding membership in various groups and categories. The groups that one belongs to are known as ingroups, and the groups that one does not belong to are known as outgroups. Movement between groups can occur, such that an individual becomes a member of a former outgroup. In some cases, this movement between groups can represent a sudden discovery for the self and/or others, especially when one becomes a member of an ambiguous, concealable, or otherwise not readily visible group. The effects of this type of movement, however, are poorly documented. The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate these outgroup membership discoveries, examining the individual intrapsychic, interpersonal, and potential intergroup effects of both self- and other-outgroup membership discoveries. Specifically, discoveries of homosexuality were examined in three studies. In Study 1, hypothetical reactions to self- and other-homosexuality discovery were assessed; in Study 2, the effects of discovering self-homosexuality (vs. self-heterosexuality) were experimentally examined; and in Study 3, the effects of discovering another’s homosexuality earlier relative to later in a developing friendship were experimentally examined. Study 1 revealed that, upon a discovery of self-homosexuality, participants expected negative emotions and a more negative change in feelings toward the self. Upon a discovery of a friend’s homosexuality, participants expected a more negative change in feelings toward the friend, but more a positive change in feelings toward homosexuals. For both hypothetical self- and friend- homosexuality discoveries, more negative expected emotions predicted more negative expected change in feelings toward the target individual (the self or friend), which in turn predicted more negative expected change in feelings toward homosexuals as a group. Further, for self-homosexuality discovery, the association between negative expected emotions and negative expected change in feelings toward the self was stronger among those higher in authoritarianism. Study 2 revealed that, upon discovering one’s own homosexuality (vs. heterosexuality), heterosexual participants experienced more negative emotions, more fear of discrimination, and more negative self-evaluations. The effect of the homosexuality discovery manipulation on negative self-evaluations was mediated by fear of discrimination. Further, those higher in authoritarianism or pre-test prejudice toward homosexuals demonstrated more negative emotions following the manipulation. Study 3 revealed that upon discovering an interaction partner’s homosexuality earlier (vs. later) participants reported a more positive contact experience, a closer bond with the partner, and more positive attitudes toward the partner. Earlier (vs. later) discovery predicted more positive contact experience, which in turn predicted a closer bond with the partner. Closer bond with the partner subsequently predicted more positive evaluations of the partner. Interestingly, the association between bond with partner and more positive attitudes toward the partner was stronger among those higher in authoritarianism or pre-test prejudice toward homosexuals. Overall, results suggest that self-homosexuality discovery results in negative outcomes, whereas discovering another’s homosexuality can result in positive outcomes, especially when homosexuality is discovered earlier (vs. later). Implications of these findings for both actual outgroup membership discoveries and social psychological research are discussed.
    • Electrophysiological investigations of the timing of face processing

      Zheng, Xin; Department of Psychology (2013-05-07)
      As important social stimuli, faces playa critical role in our lives. Much of our interaction with other people depends on our ability to recognize faces accurately. It has been proposed that face processing consists of different stages and interacts with other systems (Bruce & Young, 1986). At a perceptual level, the initial two stages, namely structural encoding and face recognition, are particularly relevant and are the focus of this dissertation. Event-related potentials (ERPs) are averaged EEG signals time-locked to a particular event (such as the presentation of a face). With their excellent temporal resolution, ERPs can provide important timing information about neural processes. Previous research has identified several ERP components that are especially related to face processing, including the N 170, the P2 and the N250. Their nature with respect to the stages of face processing is still unclear, and is examined in Studies 1 and 2. In Study 1, participants made gender decisions on a large set of female faces interspersed with a few male faces. The ERP responses to facial characteristics of the female faces indicated that the N 170 amplitude from each side of the head was affected by information from eye region and by facial layout: the right N 170 was affected by eye color and by face width, while the left N 170 was affected by eye size and by the relation between the sizes of the top and bottom parts of a face. In contrast, the P100 and the N250 components were largely unaffected by facial characteristics. These results thus provided direct evidence for the link between the N 170 and structural encoding of faces. In Study 2, focusing on the face recognition stage, we manipulated face identity strength by morphing individual faces to an "average" face. Participants performed a face identification task. The effect of face identity strength was found on the late P2 and the N250 components: as identity strength decreased from an individual face to the "average" face, the late P2 increased and the N250 decreased. In contrast, the P100, the N170 and the early P2 components were not affected by face identity strength. These results suggest that face recognition occurs after 200 ms, but not earlier. Finally, because faces are often associated with social information, we investigated in Study 3 how group membership might affect ERP responses to faces. After participants learned in- and out-group memberships of the face stimuli based on arbitrarily assigned nationality and university affiliation, we found that the N170 latency differentiated in-group and out-group faces, taking longer to process the latter. In comparison, without group memberships, there was no difference in N170 latency among the faces. This dissertation provides evidence that at a neural level, structural encoding of faces, indexed by the N170, occurs within 200 ms. Face recognition, indexed by the late P2 and the N250, occurs shortly afterwards between 200 and 300 ms. Social cognitive factors can also influence face processing. The effect is already evident as early as 130-200 ms at the structural encoding stage.

      Pozzebon, Julie A.; Department of Psychology (2013-05-07)
      This dissertation addressed several questions relevant to vocational interests and personality characteristics, examining (a) the roles of personality, vocational interests, and sexual fantasies in defining a general factor of Masculinity/Femininity (M/F) (Study 1), (b) the validity of a new measure of vocational interests (Study 2), and (c) the individual difference characteristics that discriminate between students in various academic majors, and that predict academic outcomes (Study 3). In Study 1, vocational interests, personality, and sexual fantasies were examined to find whether these variables would yield a general Masculinity/Femininity (M/F) factor, and whether that factor would still emerge when controlling for participant sex. The results of Study 1 revealed that a general factor of M/F did emerge. When sex was removed, the loadings of vocational interests decreased from high to very low, suggesting that the link of vocational interests with other indicators of M/F is mainly due to sex differences in these variables. The purpose of Study 2 was to validate the Oregon Vocational Interest Scales (ORVIS), a new public domain vocational interests questionnaire designed to measure eight vocational interest scales. ORVIS scores obtained in a college and community sample were compared with those of two personality measures and two cognitive ability tests. Results from this study showed that the ORVIS scales were reliable and showed good construct validity. The purpose of Study 3, using the ORVIS along with the HEXACO-PI and tests of cognitive ability, was to examine the individual difference characteristics of students in different academic majors, and to use the congruence between a student's academic major and vocational interests as a predictor of academic outcomes, such as GPA, academic major change, and satisfaction with major. The results of Study 3 revealed that students in different academic majors show theoretically meaningful differences in personality, abilities, and interests. Conscientiousness and math ability were found to be the best predictors of academic outcomes. However, congruence between major and interests did not add significant predictive validity to any of these outcomes beyond personality and ability. Together, these three studies show the role of vocational interests in defming MlF and in predicting various academic outcomes.
    • Determinants and Consequences of Dehumanization: An Interspecies Model of Prejudice

      Costello, Kimberly; Department of Psychology (Brock University, 2013-01-14)
      Dehumanizing ideologies that explicitly liken other humans to “inferior” animals can have negative consequences for intergroup attitudes and relations. Surprisingly, very little is known about the causes of dehumanization, and essentially no research has examined strategies for reducing dehumanizing tendencies. The Interspecies Model of Prejudice specifies that animalistic dehumanization may be rooted in basic hierarchical beliefs regarding human superiority over animals. This theoretical reasoning suggests that narrowing the human-animal divide should also reduce dehumanization. The purpose of the present dissertation, therefore, was to gain a more complete understanding of the predictors of and solutions to dehumanization by examining the Interspecies Model of Prejudice, first from a layperson’s perspective and then among young children. In Study 1, laypeople strongly rejected the human-animal divide as a probable cause of, or solution to, dehumanization, despite evidence that their own personal beliefs in the human-animal divide positively predicted their dehumanization (and prejudice) scores. From Study 1, it was concluded that the human-animal divide, despite being a robust empirical predictor of dehumanization, is largely unrecognized as a probable cause of, or solution to, dehumanization by non-experts in the psychology of prejudice. Studies 2 and 3 explored the expression of dehumanization, as well as the Interspecies Model of Prejudice, among children ages six to ten years (Studies 2 and 3) and parents (Study 3). Across both studies, White children showed evidence of racial dehumanization by attributing a Black child target fewer “uniquely human” characteristics than the White child target, representing the first systematic evidence of racial dehumanization among children. In Study 3, path analyses supported the Interspecies Model of Prejudice among children. Specifically, children’s beliefs in the human-animal divide predicted greater racial prejudice, an effect explained by heightened racial dehumanization. Moreover, parents’ Social Dominance Orientation (preference for social hierarchy and inequality) positively predicted children’s human-animal divide beliefs. Critically, these effects remained significant even after controlling for established predictors of child-prejudice (i.e., parent prejudice, authoritarian parenting, and social-cognitive skills) and relevant child demographics (i.e., age and sex). Similar patterns emerged among parent participants, further supporting the Interspecies Model of Prejudice. Encouragingly, children reported narrower human-animal divide perceptions after being exposed to an experimental prime (versus control) that highlighted the similarities among humans and animals. Together the three studies reported in this dissertation offer important and novel contributions to the dehumanization and prejudice literature. Not only did we find the first systematic evidence of racial dehumanization among children, we established the human-animal divide as a meaningful dehumanization precursor. Moreover, empirical support was obtained for the Interspecies Model of Prejudice among diverse samples including university students (Study 1), children (Studies 2 and 3), and adult-aged samples (Study 3). Importantly, each study also highlights the promising social implication of targeting the human-animal divide in interventions to reduce dehumanization and other prejudicial processes.
    • Youth Involvement in Organizational Decision Making: The Connection to Youth Initiative and Organizational Functioning

      Ramey, Heather; Department of Psychology (2012-07-31)
      Studying positive adolescent development requires an examination of the mutually beneficial associations between youth and their environment. These youthcontext relations include both the contributions that youth make to others and society and the youth-context interactions that might predict positive youth outcomes. Community and youth-serving organizations, where youth may be involved in decision-making roles such as service delivery, advocacy, or on boards of directors, can provide one important context for youth contributions and for positive adolescent development. Research on the outcomes of youth involvement in organizational decision-making, however, is limited, and largely consists of exploratory qualitative studies. This dissertation is formatted as an integrated article dissertation. It begins with a review of the literature on contexts of structured youth activities and positive youth development. This review is intended to describe theory on development-context relations, in which development is considered an interactive process that occurs between individuals and their contexts, as it pertains the positive development of youth who are involved in various structured activities (e.g., volunteering). This description follows with a review of current research, and conclusions and rationale for the current studies. Following this theoretical and research background, the dissertation includes reports of two studies that were designed to address gaps in the research on youth involvement in organizational decision-making. The first was a qualitative research synthesis to elucidate and summarize the extant qualitative research on the outcomes of youth involvement in organizational decision making on adults and organizations. Results of this study suggested a number of outcomes for service provision, staff, and broader organizational functioning, including both benefits to organizations as well as some costs. The second study was a quantitative analysis of the associations among youth involvement, organizations' learning culture, and youth initiative, and relied on survey data gathered from adults and youth in community-based organizations with youth involvement. As expected, greater youth involvement in organizational decision making was associated with higher learning culture within the organization. Two dimensions of youth involvement, greater program engagement and relationships with adults, were related to greater youth initiative. A third dimension, sense of ownership, was not- .-.- associated with youth's level of initiative. Moreover, the association between relationships with adults and youth initiative was only significant in organizations with relatively low learning culture. Despite some limitations, these studies contribute to the research literature by providing some indication of the potential benefits and costs of youth involvement and by making an important contribution toward the early stages of context-level analyses of youth development. Findings have important implications for practitioners, funders, future research, and lifespan development theory.
    • Dispositional Forgiveness and Health in Romantic Relationships: An Exploration of Sex Differences, Actor Effects, and Partner Effects

      Green, Michelle; Department of Psychology (2012-07-30)
      The individual and dyadic associations between dispositional forgiveness of self, others, and situations and mental and physical health in individuals involved in romantic relationships were examined. Sex differences in the relationship between dispositional forgiveness and health were examined. Sex differences in the dyadic relationship between forgiveness and health were also examined. The dispositional forgiveness scores of 297 partners involved in a romantic relationship were used to predict their own as well as their partners' physical and mental health. Both members of the relationship separately completed an Internet-based questionnaire assessing personality traits, relationship variables, and physical and mental health. The couple was provided with monetary compensation. Analyses revealed that women's dispositional forgiveness of self, others, and situations were positively associated with their own physical and mental health. Similarly, men's dispositional forgiveness of self, others, and situations were positively associated with their own mental and physical health. At the individual level, there were no sex differences in the relationship between dispositional forgiveness and health, nor were there sex differences in men and women's reports of dispositional forgiveness. Analyses revealed that men's forgiveness of others and situations were positively associated with their female partners' mental health. There were no partner effects for women or for physical health. The implications of these results for research in the forgiveness-health literature and research on forgiveness in romantic relationships were discussed as were directions for future research.