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NSF REU Site: Advancing Psychological Research with Technology

The WKU National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program took place from 2015-2017. The program has now ended. Applications are no longer being accepted.

Summer 2017 Research Projects

Impacts of Personally Selected Music on Functional Outcomes of Stroke Patients (Faculty mentor: Dr. Krisstal Clayton)

Stroke is a primary cause of severe disability and the fourth leading cause of death (American Heart Association, 2015). After a stroke, it is imperative to stimulate brain activity. The purpose of the proposed study is to conduct a novel intervention that aims to enhance the physical and psychological states in a cost-effective and personalized manner for stroke patients—pre and post-discharge—by implementing personally selected music. This intervention amalgamates for the first time four distinct entities: music, low-impact exercises, memory for prescribed exercises, and functional outcome measures of balance. Two REU students will learn about stroke, clinical interventions for stroke, Berg Balance Scale scoring, patient-interaction, participant recruitment, longitudinal data collection, and data entry. Students will work in a hospital setting, at Southern Kentucky Rehabilitation Hospital (http://www.skyrehab.com/).

How Childhood Abuse Affects Symptoms of Muscle Dysmorphia (Faculty mentor: Dr. Rick Grieve)

Muscle dysmorphia is a form of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) where people who suffer from the disorder (mostly men) believe that their bodies have insufficient muscularity even though many are extremely muscular, even hyper-muscular. Thus, their attitudes and behaviors focus on increasing muscularity. There are arguments that early abuse can lead to the development of psychopathology (see O’Hare, Shen, & Sherrer, 2015); however, this has not been examined with muscle dysmorphia. The goal of this study is to gain a better understanding of the relationship between experiences of abuse and symptoms of muscle dysmorphia. Further, the study takes place both in a laboratory context at WKU and uses a web-based experiment through Amazon's Mechanical Turk.

Examining the Development of Emotion Regulation Using a Multi-Method Approach (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Diane Lickenbrock)

The ability to regulate emotions is a critical skill that is essential to promoting positive developmental outcomes (Stifter et al., 2010). Cardiac physiology can be used to index reactive and regulatory capacity (Beuchaine etal., 2008). However, research examining how cardiac physiology (e.g., respiratory sinus arrhythmia, a measure of parasympathetic function) in parents could affect their child’s development of emotion regulation has only been studied at one time-point and only in mother-child interactions (Moore et al., 2009).  Father-child interactions are less studied in the literature. The current, longitudinal study involves examining social and emotional development across early infancy (4-, 6-, and 8-months of age). The REU student will become familiar with research methodology used in developmental psychology research, which includes longitudinal research designs as well as a variety of laboratory methods (i.e., questionnaires, observational coding of behaviors, cardiac physiology).

Individual Differences in Factors Impacting Cognitive Strategy Selection (Faculty mentor: Dr. Jenni Redifer)

Why are some people are better than others at learning to solve problems they have never seen before? This study will examine relationships between factors that influence success during novel problem-solving. Working memory capacity, the attentional resources we have available to devote to effortful tasks, influences many types of problem-solving, including creative problem-solving and mathematical reasoning (Lee & Therriault, 2013: Lin & Lien, 2013). The strategies individuals choose during these tasks are also influenced by working memory, and some strategies are more useful than others for particular tasks (Schelble, Therriault, & Miller, 2012). Even when students are provided with a strategy that is useful for a particular task, some students choose not to use the helpful strategy. In this study, we will examine individual differences (in addition to working memory capacity) that impact the strategies people choose to use during novel tasks. The REU student will select and develop measures for the study, administer the study to participants, code data, analyze results, and work with the faculty mentor to draw conclusions about the results. The REU student will also have the opportunity to select additional relevant variables of interest to investigate during this study.

Learned Predictiveness and Rapid Attentional Capture in Young and Older Adults. (Faculty mentor: Dr. Sharon Mutter)

What factors determine which stimuli in our environment capture our attention?  In addition to the intrinsic perceptual and emotional properties of stimuli, extrinsic factors such as learned reward and learned predictiveness may also modulate attention. For example, stimuli that are followed by higher rewards when selected receive more sustained attention than those followed by low rewards (Della Libera & Chelazzi, 2009).  Likewise, stimuli that consistently predict the same outcome capture attention to a greater degree than stimuli that are not predictive (Le Pelley, Vadillo, & Luque, 2013). The purpose of this project is to determine whether there are age differences in the modulation of attention through learned predictiveness. REU students will assist in all phases of the project, including using software to build a program for real-time stimulus presentation and response measurement, data collection with both young and older adult participants, coding and analysis of reaction time and accuracy data, and conducting relevant descriptive and inferential statistical analyses of the data.

Perceptions of Acceptability of Negative Behavior Directed Towards Outgroup Members (Faculty Mentor: Dr. Aaron Wichman)

High levels of anti-Muslim and anti-Immigrant sentiment currently mark public discourse in the U.S. A great deal is known about general causes of prejudice toward these and other groups. However, less is known about how actions directed toward members from these groups are evaluated. Evaluations of behavior (such as torture or terrorism) as more or less acceptable are theoretically linked to both perpetrator and victim group membership.  This project investigates how people’s opinions about behaviors differ, depending on who executes the behavior, and who the target of the behavior is. As part of this multi-pronged investigation, a number of specific investigations will be conducted. Two students are invited to help with 1) perceptions of behavior acceptability, and 2) assessing infra- and dehumanization as a consequence of disliked outgroup members’ involvement with negative behaviors. Changes in the moral values of those evaluating these negative behaviors may also be used to investigate further reaching implications of exposure to descriptions of these negative behaviors. Data will be collected online, and REU students will be involved with the execution and evaluation of the research.

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 Last Modified 11/10/17