Pictured above from left to right: (Front row) Scott Keegan, Whitney Nixon, Kirsten Li, Maxx Somers, Katie Bottom, Brandi Reynolds, Jessica Thornberry, Sarah Blythe, Amy Kerr, Johnny Tock, Adam Bowman, Derek Oswalt.  (Back Row) Sarah Pierce, Kim Ault, Megan Stevens, Kati Knight, Maggie Tate, Bree Kitchens, Briana Underwood.  (Not Pictured) Ashley Boester, Sarah Davis.



2003 Senior Thesis Projects

Each year the Psychology seniors present their senior thesis work at Butler University’s

undergraduate research conference.


Where available, abstracts are printed and/or

links to the PowerPoint Presentations

to each presentation are provided.




Effectiveness of public school integration on cognitively disabled elementary school children in developing critical social skills

In 1975, Public Law (P.L.) 94-142 legally recognized the need for “fair and equal treatment” of cognitively disabled (CD) students in public schools1. Accordingly, it is important to determine the effects “mainstreaming” CD students with non-cognitively disabled (non-CD) students in both educational and individual growth. Past research has attempted to understand the extent of mainstreaming in high school CD students in unstructured social environments, where students have more latitude communicating with peers2. However, there is limited research concerning mainstreaming in elementary schools, particularly in the classroom, where communication with peers is more controlled. This makes it difficult to assess the overall effectiveness of mainstreaming on CD students’ communicative development. Therefore, the present study measured the individual communication patterns of two students (ages 8-9 years), from a rural public elementary school, in both a physical education class and during lunch for an eight-week period, to compare the effects of mainstreaming between these two environments. Expected results are a significant difference in both frequency and duration of communication between CD and non-CD students, with CD students communicating less often and for a shorter duration than their non-CD peers. Discussed are potential implications for mainstreaming with regards to the social and communicative development of CD students.



A Mathematical Model of Retinal Receptive Fields Capable of Form and Color Analysis


In an effort to understand the workings of the retinal receptive fields, Enroth-Cugell and Robson developed a mathematical model that utilized the difference-of-Gaussian (DOG) function, an equation in which the inhibitory portion of a receptive field is subtracted from the excitatory portion. Additions to the original Enroth-Cugell and Robson equation have been successful in modeling a two-dimensional array of different-sized receptive cells. However, this model could be greatly enhanced if it were able to respond to the chromatic characteristics of a stimulus. In this study, the existing model was extended to include chromatic analysis. Using Mathematica, the spectrally opponent nature of the receptive field and the trichromatic features of the cone pigment systems were added to the model via a filter placed before the existing equation. To validate this color sensitive model, color images identical to the stimuli used in DeValois’ physiological studies were presented to the model. The results obtained from the enhanced model were highly similar to the findings of past physiological experiments. To further validate the model, a small number of participants will perform a series of psychophysical tasks. The model will be presented with identical stimuli. The results of the behavioral testing should not be identical to those produced by the model, but it should show similar trends. A mathematical model capable of both form and color analysis will be able to tell us the degree to which phenomena like simultaneous color contrast occur as a result of retinal receptive field organization.




Perceived Social Stigma, Strength of Searching Behaviors and Self-Discrepancy: A Study of Adult Adoptees


Previous research in social psychology has shown that motivations for adopted individuals to search for their biological families have centered largely around two common themes: the adoptee’s sense of being different from non-adoptees, and a “damaged” sense of identity, often the result of social stigma. The present research attempts to explore the possible relationship between these two factors. To unite these two themes, E. Tory Higgins’ self-discrepancy theory has been used to focus on the possibility of discrepancies in the adoptees’ self-concept. If the adoptee perceives that a social stigma is attached to his or her adoptive status, the individual’s ought and ideal selves may be affected. Thus, if an adoptee experiences anxiety as a result of a discrepancy between his or her actual-ought self, or if the adoptee experiences depression as a result of a discrepancy in his or her actual-ideal self, the adoptee may attempt to reduce these negative psychological states by searching for the biological parents. Participants for this study were adult members of online adoptive search and reunion registries and support groups. A self-report survey was administered in an online format, and included in the survey were the researcher’s searching behavior scale, the researcher’s social stigma scale, and Higgins’ Selves Questionnaire. Results indicated a positive correlation between stigma and self-discrepancy, and a positive correlation between self-discrepancy and searching behaviors. Implications and limitations are discussed.



State Mental Hospitals and Community Mental Health Centers: Present and Future


Mental health has been a political and societal matter for as long as the issues of mental health and illness have existed. All of the various treatment plans and treatment sites for mental illness have advantages and disadvantages to the patients, their families, professionals in the field and to society as a whole. The purpose of this study is to discover what the present and future status of state mental hospitals and community mental health centers (CMHC) are, as seen through the eyes of the professionals that work in these settings. Eight professionals were interviewed in a state hospital and a CMHC. The interviews were semi-structured. The data was analyzed by drawing comparisons and contrasts between the various responses. Comparisons were also made between the perspectives of the institutions and what the literature predicts for the future of these two different facilities.



The Influence of Coaching Styles on College Athletes' Intentions to Use Dietary Supplements


This study investigated the relationship between an athlete’s perception of his head coach’s coaching style and the athlete’s intentions to use dietary supplements. The subjects in this study were male, collegiate football and baseball players at several small colleges in the Midwest. Subjects were given two surveys, the Survey to Predict Adolescent Athletes’ Dietary Supplement Use (Perko, 1999) and the Leadership Scale for Sports (Chelladurai & Saleh, 1980). It was hypothesized that a positive correlation would exist between an athlete’s perception of their head coach’s autocratic decision-making and the athlete’s behavioral intent to use dietary supplements. Path analysis and multiple regression analyses were used to analyze the data in order to evaluate the data within the framework of the theory of reasoned action. Initial multiple regression analysis supported the hypothesis; however, the hypothesis was rejected within the path analysis.



The Decisions We Make: A Comparison Study of the Level of Risky Decision-Making Between Incarcerated Offenders and Non-Offender


Research on the relationship between risky decision-making and psychopathy has suggested that offenders who display characteristics of psychopathy tended to make more risky decisions than those offenders who did not display characteristics of psychopathy (Kosson & Harpur, 2002). This study extends the prior research to compare the levels of risky decision-making of incarcerated offenders and non-incarcerated subjects who do not display characteristics of psychopathy. For this study, incarcerated adult and juvenile subjects from institutions in Indiana and non-incarcerated adults and juvenile subjects from public and private schools in Indiana were surveyed. The survey consists of four measures: Keegan Monetary and Scenario Risky Decision-Making Survey, Big Five Personality Inventory (B.F.I), Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (W.I.S.C.) or Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (W.A.I.S.), and the Keegan Psychopathy Checklist. The results of the study supported the hypothesis that incarcerated juveniles will have the highest level of risky decision-making, followed by incarcerated adults, non-incarcerated juveniles and non-incarcerated adults. These results also support the idea that developmental a difference in decision-making ability predicts a pattern of risky behavior. This research may be important in future use in rehabilitating incarcerated offenders or assessing an incarcerated offenders rate of recidivism.




The Influence of Group Values on Attitudes Toward the Mentally Ill


The current study focused on participant’s individual and group values to determine what influences attitudes toward the mentally ill. The participants from a college and community sample rated group and personal values in counterbalanced surveys. The participants were randomly assigned a passage describing a man with or without symptoms of mental illness (adapted from Kirk, 1974). The participants rated the passage and completed Beliefs Towards Mental Illness Scale (Hirai & Clum, 2000). It was predicted that people with high cohesion in a group that hold values related to religiosity and acceptance will have a positive attitude toward mentally ill. Results did not support the hypothesis. Instead, religious and accepting values influence rejecting attitudes toward the mentally ill. It also seems that religious groups are more likely to hold values that influence negative attitudes towards the mentally ill. Thus, it is imperative that groups make an effort to relay positive values.




Implications of Eyewitness Testimony: Influences of Arousal, Race, and Current Events on Accusation


In this follow-up research, the influence of race, arousal, and current events were examined in a study on eyewitness identification. The researchers used a slide show of items such as watches, cars, and people. Participants were randomly assigned to a neutral, arousal, or arousal-weapon condition. Arousal was manipulated by including threat words among the present stimulus. Weapon effect was manipulated by placing images of a weapon in the slide show immediately before the slides of the face images. The influence of current events was measured by including pictures of three races: Caucasian, African American, and Arab males. Previous research would suggest that there should be a familiarity effect for race, with same race being most easily identified. The “weapon effect” is historically expected to reduce accuracy in identification. In the present study the “weapon effect” is expected to only exist for the African Americans and Caucasians. The Arabs are expected to be accused with the same frequency in the weapon condition.



When Threat Really Hurts: Physiological Response Patterns to Threat in a Domain of Worth


Contingencies of worth is a contemporary theory of self-esteem that posits that an individual bases his worth as a person in a particular domain and that levels of self-esteem are a product of outcomes in this domain (Crocker & Wolfe, 2001). Threats to individually important contingencies have been found to produce changes in global self-esteem (Crocker, Luhtanen, & Sommers, 2002). The current study utilizes physiological measures to examine whether threats in individually important domains produce physiological changes that are similar to those in other threat situations. The current research also hopes to replicate self-report findings of previous studies. The research utilized a manipulation designed to threaten the physical appearance contingency. The physical appearance contingency was used because it is believed to be particularly salient to college women. Participants wereexposed to a threat of their physical appearance and measurements were taken to capture any physiological responses tho this threat. Specifically, the blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate of the participant will be monitored. It is hypothesized that individuals who are more contingent in the domain will respond more strongly to the threat than those who are less contingent. The findings may add both to the current contingencies research as well as research in health psychology.



The Influence of Urban Versus Rural Residence on High School Students’ Personal Development


Late adolescence is a critical time in the development of personal maturity, and throughout high school students are taught the skills necessary to lead a successful and fulfilling life. In this study, personal maturity can be described as a combination of self-efficacy, coping skills, and social integration. This study was designed to investigate whether there is a difference in the personal maturity of high school students in an urban versus rural environment. Using the Personal Development Test, 100 students from urban area high schools will be compared to 100 students from rural area high schools. It is expected that those students who live in an urban environment will score significantly higher on the test, indicating a higher level of personal maturity than those students who attend a rural area high school. The usefulness of those findings for guidance counselors will be discussed.



The Effects of Family Conflict and Socio-Economic Status on Perceived Moral Development in Children


Moral development of children is a subject that has been investigated by many researchers throughout the years. This study attempts to explore the effects of family conflict and socio-economic status on a child's moral development. Children who are exposed to low family conflict and high socio-economic status should develop a higher level of morality. The subjects in the study are college students with younger siblings between the ages of six and sixteen. This approach of measuring perceived moral development has had some precedent in parent ratings of children's behavior and moral beliefs in past research. Participants were given a basic demographic survey, Family Environment Scale (Moos, 1986), Hollingshead Two-Factor Index of Social Position Scale (Hollingshead, 1957), EAS Temperament Scale (Buss and Plomin, 1984), and an adapted version of the Social Reflection Questionnaire (Gibbs and Widaman, 1982). Participants answered questions on the surveys as they believed their younger siblings would answer. Results were analyzed using a multiple-regression analysis.



The Effects of Status Group on Derogation


The effects of group processes concerning derogation and status groups was examined in this study. The study, based on effects outlined by Turner’s Social Identity, looked at the derogation distribution of individuals belonging to lower status groups upon a range of other status groups after a group threat or no threat. The results were examined using a one-way ANOVA, and various t-tests.




The Role of Social Interaction in the Development of an Abstract Self-Understanding


The hierarchical theory of self-understanding proposed by Damon and Hart (1988) argues that the development of self-understanding progresses from concrete to more abstract levels.  It has been demonstrated that social interaction plays an important role in the early appearance of self-recognition (Mead, 1934), but few studies have focused on the impact of social interaction on later stages of the development of self-understanding.  The current study proposes that social interaction continues to be important as children’s self-understandings mature.  Children in middle childhood (ages 7-12) participated in this study.  Social abilities were measured using the parent form of the Social Skills Rating System for elementary children (Gresham & Elliott, 1990), and level of self-understanding was measured using the four self-as-object items of Damon and Hart’s self-understanding interview (1988).  Intellectual abilities were measured using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, Third Edition, Form A.  It was predicted that there would be a positive correlation between level of social abilities and maturity of self-understanding.  It was also predicted that there would be a positive correlation between intellectual abilities and self-understanding.  A multiple regression analysis was used in order to determine the unique contributions of social interaction and intellectual abilities on self-understanding.  A significant positive correlation between social abilities and self-understanding was found, such that a child with high social abilities will also have a high level of self-understanding.  Implications for these findings include limited development of self-understanding in special populations of children.   It is speculated that isolating technology may also have implications in the development of higher order self-understanding.