Maternal Relationship Representations and Preschoolers’ Physiological Responding to Relational Disruption

Julia Bender Stern

 Previous research has established the importance of physiological regulation in response to stress as a predictor of child outcomes, but no prior study has examined the effect of maternal relationship representations on child physiological regulation. Thirty-seven preschool-aged children (M = 42.47 months) and their mothers attended a laboratory visit and completed the Play/No-Play Paradigm (PNPP), a novel loss of contingency paradigm based on the traditional Still-Face Paradigm, and heart rate and vagal tone were collected from the children at baseline and throughout the paradigm. Each mother also completed a questionnaire measure of dyadic adjustment and gave a Five-Minute Speech Sample about her child from which Maternal Expressed Emotion was coded. Maternal Expressed Negativity was significantly associated with suppressed vagal tone in children in the first no-play episode and the final free play episode of the PNPP. The number of positive comments a mother expressed about her child was positively associated with self-reported dyadic satisfaction. Maternal Positive Relationship Representations, as a composite of Maternal Expressed Positivity and dyadic satisfaction, predicted augmented vagal tone in children in the second no-play episode and the final free play episode of the PNPP. The results illuminate the importance of early interventions to foster positive maternal relationship representations, thereby improving the child’s ability to physiologically regulate their response to relationship stress, which may reduce health and behavioral risks associated with dysregulated stress responding


“Looking” for Intention and Harm in Judgments of Discrimination

Esther Cho

 Two studies examined the effects of stereotype threat and individual differences in concerns with being prejudiced on visual attention to, and assessments of, a potentially racist behavior. In Study 1 (N= 70), participants looked at a minority individual for a shorter duration during an interracial interaction when the manipulation brought attention to prejudice compared to when it did not. In both Study 1 and Study 2 (N = 167), participants who were high in internal motivation to avoid prejudice (IMS: Plant & Devine, 1998) were more interested in information about harm to targets of discrimination, while individuals who were low in IMS were more interested in the intent of the perpetrator. These studies suggest that individual prejudice concerns and situational influences may affect both visual attention and valuation of intent and harm information in judgments of discrimination.

Taxonomies and Expectancies about Mental Disorders and Treatment in Burundi: A Bottom-up Approach to Global Mental Health

Pacifique Irankunda

 This research is part of an effort to develop culturally sensitive, effective mental health services in a developing central African country, Burundi, with little existing infrastructure for mental health research or service delivery. Best practices in global mental health stress the importance of understanding local beliefs and values and using existing community resources in developing mental health services, a “bottom-up” approach. As a first step, this research seeks to validate the names, idioms, and symptoms that Burundians use to describe mental illnesses, as identified in an earlier pilot study (n=761), as well as their beliefs about causes and treatments. Individual interviews were conducted (for people who couldn’t read or write) and questionnaires were handed out (for people who could read and write) in a rural village with people awaiting appointments at the Village Health Work Clinic ( We presented one group of participants (n= 542) with the names of the primary mental illnesses identified by the pilot interviews, and asked about what they consider to be the symptoms and causes of each. We presented a second group of participants (n=150) with the symptom descriptions (also from pilot interviews) of each, and asked about the names and causes associated with each. A separate study (n=198) examined people’s expectancies about four types of treatments: medication, spiritual healing (priests), traditional healing, and a standard Western empirically supported treatment (CBT for depression, exposure therapy for PTSD, family psychoeducation for psychosis). As in study I, these expectancies were assessed in the context of the three disorders: akabonge, guhahamuka, and ibisigo. Individual interviews were conducted (for people who couldn’t read or write) and questionnaires handed out (for people who could read and write) in the same rural village with people awaiting appointments at the same clinic. We described the disorder, followed by descriptions of the treatments, and standard efficacy expectations questions after each treatment description. In study I, findings generally confirmed the stability of the three types of problems identified by the pilot study: akabonge, guhahamuka, and ibisigo, with symptoms corresponding roughly to depression, PTSD, and psychosis. Diverse beliefs about causes and treatments were identified, some concordant with western approaches and some less so. In study II, findings indicated higher expectancies for good outcomes with empirically supported treatment (and spiritual healing for psychosis), and suggested interactions between the types of treatments and the type of distress. Implications for the development of educational and therapeutic interventions, and plans for future research that can inform mental health treatment development are discussed.


Sequential Effects on Attention Allocation during Categorization

Alexander Rich

 During categorization, humans exhibit a variety of sequential effects – that is, differences in performance based on the order in which they observed category exemplars. In the current study, we propose that some sequential effects may be caused by comparisons between temporally juxtaposed exemplars which influence attention allocation. In Experiment 1, we tested this theory with a categorization task in which we manipulated presentation order during learning such that exemplar comparisons were predicted to draw attention to a target dimension. Our results supported our theory that exemplar comparisons affect attention allocation. In Experiment 2, we investigated whether the comparisons we hypothesized could account for the interleaving effect observed in several recent studies (e.g., Kornell & Bjork, 2008), by drawing attention to dimensions of difference between interleaved exemplars. We did not observe a significant interleaving effect in Experiment 2, and thus were unable to determine the role of attention in the effect. However, we found a negative correlation between subjects’ level of learning and the strength of their exhibited interleaving effect, suggesting that future studies with varying levels of learning may produce stronger findings.


Is Curiosity Contagious? Effects of Peer Interaction on Children’s Curiosity

Daniel Silver

 The curiosity levels of 83 fourth graders were assessed using a new behavioral measure, the fish task. Next, students were paired according to curiosity level (low-curiosity with either high- or low-curiosity, middle-curiosity with middle-curiosity), asked to engage in a battery of tasks designed to elicit exploratory tendencies, and then reassessed. Curiosity levels remained constant for those initially high and moderate in curiosity, but students low in baseline curiosity experienced a significant increase following completion of the exploratory tasks. A moderate-curiosity group that completed the exploratory tasks without a partner experienced no increase in curiosity, suggesting that interaction between the low-curiosity students and their peers was crucial to the increase in curiosity experienced by the low-curiosity students. While further research is needed to confirm this finding, it fits into a growing body of literature suggesting that school-aged children tend to express curiosity more readily with the help of their peers than they would otherwise (e.g., Hackmann & Engel, 2002).


Predictors of Stress Generation Among Adolescent Girls: Coping, Rumination, and Personality

Effua E. Sosoo

 Research has evidenced support for the stress generation phenomenon, which asserts that individuals contribute to the occurrence of stress in their lives, resulting in depressive symptoms. However, few studies have examined characteristics of individuals that render them more likely to generate interpersonal stress. To fill this gap, the present study examined normal and abnormal personality traits and coping strategies as predictors of episodic and chronic stress generation among a sample of early adolescent girls. Participants were 99 maternal caregivers and their daughters aged 133-180 months. Findings indicated that several normal and abnormal personality traits and coping strategies were associated with chronic interpersonal stress generation, which in turn, were associated with depressive symptoms. Little evidence found that normal and abnormal personality traits and coping strategies led to episodic interpersonal stress generation. Clinical implications and future directions of research were discussed.


Family Stress and Adolescent Academic Functioning: The Role of Coping Strategies

Charlotte Vinson

 Abundant evidence supports the spillover model, which asserts that the emotions and behavioral patterns that typify one part of the family system will bleed into other family subsystems. In spite of this, there are significant gaps in the spillover literature. This study aimed to address those gaps by (a) examining whether family-related stress spills over into adolescent academic functioning; and (b) exploring adolescents’ coping strategies as mediators and moderators of family-academic spillover. Participants were 99 female caregivers (M = 44.36 years old) and 99 adolescent girls (M = 149.20 months old). Through the use of objective stress interviews assessing mothers’ and adolescents’ reports of family and academic functioning, results indicated greater family-related stress was associated with poorer academic functioning, supporting the spillover model. In addition, four coping strategies emerged as moderators of family-academic spillover, such that spillover only occurred for adolescents who less frequently used effective (primary engagement) coping strategies and more frequently used ineffective coping strategies (disengagement, involuntary engagement, and rumination). Moreover, family-related stress was associated with more use of involuntary engagement, which in turn, was associated with poorer academic functioning. Finally, greater use of secondary engagement, disengagement, and involuntary engagement coping strategies were also associated with more adaptive academic functioning. Suggestions for clinical implications were discussed and future directions for further research were explored


You Can’t Handle the (Inconvenient) Truth: Environmental Information Avoidance

Elizabeth Visconti

 Four studies investigate the role of information avoidance in the environmental domain, particularly in relation to global warming. Information avoidance is a tendency for individuals to distance themselves from information that may have negative consequences. These studies seek to find evidence of environmental information avoidance. Study one predicts that people do engage in environmental information avoidance for both emotional and non-emotional reasons. Study two predicts that individuals will seek information more often when the self-prediction method is used, and less often when information is presented as uncontrollable. Study three and four predict that greater behavioral obligations that are attached to information will cause participants to avoid information more often than when behavioral obligations are less severe, or when the obligations are not mandatory. Additionally, the concept of self-prediction is used in attempt to encourage individuals to seek information. Evidence was found supporting the hypothesis that if learning information leads to, or could possibly lead to, a significant behavioral obligation, more people will avoid learning the information than if there are no behavioral obligations attached to learning the information. No evidence was found supporting the hypothesis that the more controllable the consequences of learning information are, the more people will not avoid the information. No evidence was also found supporting the idea that asking a person to predict whether or not they would learn their carbon footprint if given the choice would cause them to make that choice later on.

Peer Attachment Styles & Adjustment: Negotiating Relationships Online and Offline

Emmanuel Whyte

 Although transitioning from high school to college could be considered a positive step in a young person’s life, this period is often marked by considerable stress. Considering the importance of interpersonal stressors (Hammen, 2005), and that adjusting to college requires that first year students establish new social support networks, we are interested in how these students create and negotiate new peer relationships. Our study examines attachment theory as one factor in how students navigate their new social landscapes. Further, we wanted to explore how peer relationships were negotiated in the online and offline realms and whether social capital and social capital behaviors are related in systematic ways to attachment styles and social, personal/emotional, and institutional adjustment to college. First-year students completed online questionnaires at the beginning, middle, and end of their first semesters in college (ns ranged from 77-134 over the waves). Attachment style, indexes of adjustment, social capital, and behaviors that seek to build social were measured in a survey taken online at each wave. The results revealed securely attached individuals had better overall adjustment, and that offline social capital behaviors were better than online social capital behaviors as predictors of social and institutional, but not personal/emotional, adjustment, Additional hypotheses were addressed and the findings discussed as well as the limitations of the study and implications for future research.