Back in Action: Psychology SURF Presentations

On Friday, September 24, nine students from the psychology department presented their summer research in the Powerhouse to a crowd of students and professors. Topics ranged from prejudice to mental health to child development, and everyone was excited to share their findings.

The first poster in the lineup was presented by Nyla Guadalupe ‘23, who worked in Professor Rebecca Totton’s lab this summer. “Stereotypes of Intersectional Transgender Identities” explored the perceptions of trans, nonwhite individuals. The eight conditions were divided by race (Black, Latino, Asian, White) and gender (man, woman). Participants were rated on several different scales: how accurate negative stereotypes about these groups are, how these groups compared to the “average American” on specific traits, a dehumanization scale, a legislation support scale, and a sexualization scale. Guadalupe found that in the Asian condition, sexualization affected participant support for pro-trans legislation. This means that participants who rated Asian trans men and women as more sexualized also were less supportive of pro-trans legislation. She indicated that future research should explore support for trans-inclusive policies that support racial minorities.

Working in the same lab, but with a different poster, was Ximena Salas Torres ‘23. “Perpetual Foreigner Stereotype: The Impact of Perceived Documented Status on Support for Transgender Legislation” was based on the same study design and conditions as Guadalupe’s, but her focus was on the comparison to the “average American” scale. Salas Torres found that for the Latino trans condition, perception of undocumented status mediated support for pro-trans legislation. This means that participants who were more likely to believe Latino trans men and women were undocumented were less supportive of pro-trans legislation. In addition, Latinos were significantly more likely to be seen as undocumented than the other groups. Despite the harsh realities her research uncovered, Salas Torres keeps her focus on the fact that it “serves a purpose for educating the community.”

The third poster of the day was presented by Jasmine Shehni ‘23 and Megan Taketa ‘23, who worked in Professor Carrie Palmquist’s lab over the summer. “The role of source and conflicting knowledge in 3-year-olds’ understanding of deception” took an interesting look into why this age group has trouble interpreting deceptive information. Their study design asked children where a ball had landed within a model, and their conditions were a deceptive human, a broken machine, a broken (i.e. mistaken) human, and a baseline. They found that 3-year-olds could distinguish between the broken human and the deceptive human, showing that intentionality was very important to perceiving deception.

Next up was Emily Castellanos ‘23, who worked in Professor Julia McQuade’s lab. She conducted thought-provoking research into borderline personality disorder (BPD) in her “Adolescent BPD Features and Social Impairments: aggression and victimization as predictors of BPD.” The aim was to find whether physical and/or relational aggression predicts BPD, and to examine the effects of social impairments as predictors of BPD. She found that attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a predictor for BPD, and that relational victimization may increase risk for BPD. In addition, she found that girls who display relational aggression may be at a higher risk for developing BPD. In the future, Castellanos is looking to develop and implement intervention programs based on this research.

Also in McQuade’s lab, but with a different angle, was Reina Corcoran ‘23, who presented on “Predicting adolescent BPD from childhood ADHD and other comorbid disorders.” She was looking at whether childhood ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), conduct disorder (CD), and depression symptoms predict adolescent BPD features. In addition, she looked at whether sex differences existed in these features. She found that greater BPD significantly correlated with all four symptom types, and that participant sex did not have a significant effect with ADHD, CD, or depression in predicting BPD. However, children with ADHD did have a higher risk of BPD.

The final student working in McQuade’s lab was Daylin Delgado ‘22. Her work diverged from the previous two, with her poster “Does My Parenting Matter During the Pandemic? Better to be safe than Sorry: effects of COVID-19 Stress and Parent emotion socialization on adolescents.” In her study, Delgado had parents and children participate via Zoom, where they were asked to act out a real conflict. The goal was to assess whether parent emotion socialization and COVID-19 related stress predicted adolescents internalizing symptoms. They found that while parental self-reports of emotion socialization did not predict internalizing symptoms, adolescent reports of parent emotion socialization did significantly predict internalizing symptoms. In addition, adolescent reports of non-supportive parental reactions during conflict significantly predicted greater internalizing. Another major conclusion was that COVID-19 stress significantly predicted adolescent internalizing symptoms. Delgado’s conclusion was that parents should strive to be more reflective about their parenting style and more open to communication.

The next student was Ashley Loh ‘23, from the lab of Professor Elizabeth Kneeland ‘10. She studied “Cognitive Reappraisal and its relationship to emotion malleability beliefs and emotional clarity in depressed individuals.” The purpose was to see whether emotion malleability beliefs (EMB) and emotional clarity are related to the use of cognitive reappraisal in depressed individuals. She found that higher emotional clarity was associated with decreased trait and state reappraisal, while EMB was associated with increased trait reappraisal. Both emotional clarity and beliefs about emotion malleability were significantly related to depressed individuals’ use of cognitive reappraisal.

The final student at the psychology poster presentation was Jose Aguilera ‘23, also from Kneeland’s lab. He studied “Emotion regulation and coping with college: how emotion regulation strategies influence seeking mental health treatment.” He examined the influence of rumination, cognitive suppression, and reappraisal on the desire to seek treatment and on actual treatment seeking behavior in college students. This study relied on self-report measures on psychological distress and engagement in emotion regulation strategies. Interestingly, Aguilera found that engagement with reappraisal was significantly associated with an increase in treatment-seeking behaviors, while cognitive suppression and rumination were negatively associated with treatment-seeking behaviors. Cognitive suppression and rumination were significantly associated with increased desire to seek treatment, while reappraisal was negatively associated with a desire to seek treatment.