Pictured above from left to right: (Front Row) Jennifer Risch, Ashley Papoy, Abby Ramser, Stephanie Hinojosa, Ashley Bridges, Vivienne Alonso, Shannon Hooven, Kayla Meagher, Michelle Neal, Jennifer Elpers, (Back Row) Brandon Knights, Chris Dawson, Joshua Boyer, Derik Orschell, Alphonos Ribero, Zachary Walker, Sarah Ernst, Sirrena Piercy.  Not Pictured: Justin Adams, Tricia Callahan, Tasia Cowan, Shannon Updike



2005 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 links to the
PowerPoint Presentations and the
Full paper in PDF form are provided.


More pictures from the day can be found here.


Vivienne Alonso & Stephanie Hinojosa
The Health Benefits that Growing Up with Pets Can Provide to College Students

Attachment to a pet has been shown to have a variety of benefits for various special needs population. Previous studies suggested that socializing with pets encourages the mental and physical health of the elderly in many of the same ways that human interactions does (e.g., providing a sense of love, feeling of security, and a sense of purpose and responsibility). In addition, other research has demonstrated that the presence of pets during a divorce can assist the difficult transition for children. Another important transition for many individuals is college. This study examined whether college students would have better physical and psychological well being due to growing up with the companionship of a pet. The expected results are that college students that were raised with pets will adjust better than those raised without pets. Participants will be undergraduate students at a small liberal arts college. Four questionnaires will be distributed to college students: a demographic questionnaire about participant’s pet history; The Pet Attachment Scale (e.g., how affectionate people are with their pets); The Pet Commitment Scale (e.g., a person’s resolve to keep a pet despite monetary expense); The Student Adjustment to College Questionnaire, which measures psychological and physical well being. The relationship between college students’ past pet history, the strength of their relationship with their pet, and their psychological well being will be determined. This study may help to demonstrate the benefits of pets to groups besides special needs groups, especially college students dealing with the stress of college adjustment.
PowerPoint    PDF

Ashley Bridges & Brandon Knight
The Role of Cognitive and Somatic Anxiety in Athletic Performance

Anxiety is made up of a mental (cognitive) component and a physiological (somatic) component. Prior research has indicated that the relationship between somatic anxiety and performance is curvilinear (i.e., as anxiety increases, performance increases to a point then begins to decrease as anxiety continues to increase). However, prior research has also indicated that the relationship between cognitive anxiety and performance is negatively linear (i.e., as anxiety increases, performance decreases). This study investigates whether these findings are able to predict athletic performance. Twenty-three starting collegiate athletes from Division III football, women’s basketball and men’s basketball teams were tested for somatic anxiety (measured blood pressure and heart rates) and cognitive anxiety (self-report questionnaire) during leisure time and 10 to 45 minutes prior to a collegiate competition. Athletic performance was assessed by the appropriate coaching staff. Linear regression analysis was used to determine that there is actually a significant positive linear relationship between cognitive anxiety and performance for basketball players, while no other significant findings were determined across sport or type of anxiety. This research may benefit the field of sport psychology, contributing both to players and coaches, by suggesting effective stress management strategies.
PowerPoint    PDF

Tricia Callahan & T. Cowan
Qualities Associated with Female Adolescent Leadership in a Camp Setting

There is considerable research on the topic of leadership in the psychological literature; however, research on the leadership qualities of adolescents in an informal setting is not as extensive. The central aim of the present study was to identify the qualities possessed by adolescent leaders in an informal setting (i.e., summer camp). We chose to focus on leadership among girls given evidence that girls are more likely than boys to demonstrate a range of psychological characteristics (e.g., low self-esteem) that are likely to interfere with the development of leadership. The participants were 126 teenage girls between the ages of 13 and 14 who were attending a one week, overnight YMCA Christian Camp in the Midwest. The participants completed a questionnaire assessing gender-based characteristics, general self-esteem, physical self-esteem, and social self-esteem. In addition, camp counselors rated the leadership skills of each of the participants they directly supervised. Consistent with the adult literature, girls who received high leadership ratings from their camp counselors had significantly higher general self-esteem (r = .21, p < .05), viewed themselves as significantly more physically attractive (r = .36, p < .001), and reported marginally more masculine gender roles (r = .16, p < .10) than girls who received low leadership ratings. Importantly, however, leaders did not view themselves as more socially competent than non-leaders (r = .12, p > .10), perhaps reflecting the possibility that the majority of them may have an insecurity related to how they will be accepted by their peers, in that a positive social acceptance is valued.
PowerPoint    PDF

Chris Dawson & Alphonso Ribero
Expectancy Effects of Performance Enhancing Supplements on Motivation to Exercise

This study will be conducted with 23 male participants to look for expectancy effects of performance enhancing supplements (particularly Creatine) on motivation to exercise.  The participants will be randomly assigned to a control or placebo group.  The placebo group will be told they are receiving Creatine but will consume a Kool Aid mixture that looks and tastes like Creatine.  The control group will not receive any additional substances.  All of the participants will follow the same workout schedules for four weeks and were given questionnaires at the beginning, middle and end of the experiment.  We expect that the placebo group will have more motivation than the control group throughout the study.  This research could be beneficial to anyone interested in using or selling supplements.  If the same motivational boost can be obtained from a placebo than from the supplement, placebo treatments could eliminate the dangerous effects of using supplements.
PowerPoint    PDF

Jennifer Elpers
The Effects of Music on the Emotions and Motor Skills of People with Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a well-known type of dementia that affects millions of elderly people every year. It is a debilitating disease, and there are very few solutions for helping the victims. This study investigates the effects of music on the agitation, emotions, and motor abilities of ten nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s disease. It seeks to find whether certain types of music are better than other types of music or the absence of music in reducing levels of agitation, increasing levels of positive affect, and improving patients’ ability to complete a motor skills task. Patients were video-recorded while they attempted to roll a ball to the experimenter. During this task, four music conditions (i.e., no music, classical, preferred, and unfamiliar) were played. The conditions were randomized within subjects. The experimenter rated the patients on levels of agitation, positive affect, and task performance. It is expected that the patients will show less agitation, more positive affect, and enhanced performance when the classical music and preferred music are playing than when no music or the unfamiliar music is playing.
PowerPoint    PDF

Sarah Ernst
Color and Temperature Effects on the Reaction Time of Mental Rotation

No biological reason has been found to explain the effects color has on people. However, there are psychological theories as to why color affects people’s cognitive functions. One theory is that colors affect people by creating a perceived temperature increase or decrease. In order to investigate the idea that the color effects on performance are really temperature effects, a study of the color and temperature effects on the same task was performed. A preliminary study was run in order to determine the perceived temperature of different colors. Colors evaluated at the high, middle, and low ratings were chosen, and corresponding temperatures were used as comparison conditions. Participants were seated in cubicles covered in the designated color at the neutral temperature or the room was in a neutral color at one of the experimental temperatures. The reaction time for participants on a 2-D mental rotation task was reported. Neither the color nor the temperature conditions resulted in a statistically significant difference in reaction time, and neither was there an interaction between the two.
PowerPoint    PDF

Shannon Hooven
The Effect of Challenging Male’s Beliefs on the Acceptance of Rape Myths

Rape is a serious crime occurring on college campuses across the nation. Men’s belief in rape myths may be one of the causes of this under-reported crime. Rape myths are unsubstantiated cultural beliefs which may allow the believer to justify rape, particularly acquaintance rape. Martha Burt’s (1980) Rape Myth Acceptance Scale measures participants’ endorsement of rape myths. The present study examined how exposing rape myths to scrutiny may challenge participants’ beliefs in them. The hypothesis was that participants who see an educational video and are involved in a frank discussion about that video with their peers will be less likely to endorse rape myths than those who only see the video without such a discussion. Participants were males at a private Midwestern liberal arts college. Participants were randomly assigned to either the control group or the intervention group. Both groups were shown an educational video discussing interpersonal risk factors contributing to date rape and given a survey. In addition, the intervention group engaged in a thirty minute peer-led discussion which incorporated three of Burt’s rape myths. Results were expected to show that participants who discussed several myths would endorse fewer rape myths overall than those who did not discuss. Participants who are exposed to beliefs about rape which differ from those they previously held did not appear better able to incorporate information challenging those beliefs. One implication of this study is that peer-led discussions hoping to challenge men’s beliefs in rape myths need to be longer and incorporate a video directly addressing rape myths.
PowerPoint    PDF

Kayla Meagher & Michelle Neal
The Influence of Disney: The Effects of Animated Facial Features on Children’s Perceptions

This study examined facial feature characteristics of heroes and villains in Disney animated films, and the effects these features have on children’s perceptions of people. In study 1, we found significant differences between heroic and villainous characters in 14 fulllength Disney animated feature films for eight facial features. Compared to heroic characters, villainous characters were significantly (p < .05) more likely to have darker eyes, arched (v. rounded or straight) eyebrows, thin and pointed noses, a widow’s peak, straight (vs. wavy) hair, wrinkles, and appear to be over 30 years old. In study 2, 56 fourthandfifthgrade children were presented with schematic faces that varied along the first seven features listed above and asked, for each face, how honest, helpful, likeable, and nice the person depicted in the drawing was. Children rated faces with “heroic” features as more honest, helpful, likeable, and nicer than faces with “villainous” features for the following features: eye color, eyebrow shape, widow’s peak, wrinkles, and faces containing all the features. Children’s association of particular facial features with particular personality characteristics could have negative consequences in prejudicing children against groups (such as the elderly) who possess these characteristics.
PowerPoint    PDF

Derik Orschell
Effects of Divorce on Theories of Relationships

Research shows that people can have different ideas about the development of relationships. “Soulmate theorists” believe that there is only one person in the world that they can live a happy life with, whereas “work-it-out theorists” believes that a relationship can be successful through communication and problem solving. This study investigates if there is a difference in the way people approach intimate relationships depending whether their parents were divorced or married while they were growing up. Because research in this area is new, the hypothesis for this study is bi-directional. Parental divorce may be explained by children due to the fact that their parents weren’t “soulmates.” On the other hand, children may believe that the failure of their parents’ marriage was because they did not work hard enough at making the relationship work. Participants in the present study were male (32) and female (21) undergraduate students. They were asked to complete a demographics questionnaire concerning their parents’ marital status while they were growing up and the Relationship Theories Questionnaire developed by Franiuk et al. Children of intact marriages (N = 42) will be compared to children of divorce (N = 11) in regard to their relationship theories. Results indicate no relationship between parental divorce and their theories on relationships.
PowerPoint    PDF

Ashely Papoy & Jennifer Risch
The relationship between socioeconomic status and healthy behaviors: A mediational analysis

Prior research has demonstrated that socioeconomic status (SES) and health are related such that positive health attitudes and behaviors are more prevalent among higher-SES than among lower-SES individuals.  The present study was designed to examine the reasons for this relationship.  Participants completed a questionnaire that assessed socioeconomic status, several health behaviors (e.g., smoking), and several variables proposed to mediate the association between socioeconomic status and health (e.g., education).  Findings indicate that SES predicted the number of vegetables eaten each day and how frequently each participant exercised.  Findings also indicated that the relationship between SES and exercise was mediated by a participant’s health consciousness.  None of the mediators were found to explain the relationship between SES and the number of vegetables eaten each day.  This research is important in encouraging positive health behaviors and attitudes across all levels of socioeconomic status.Prior research has demonstrated that socioeconomic status (SES) and health are related such that positive health attitudes and behaviors are more prevalent among higher-SES than among lower-SES individuals. The present study was designed to examine the reasons for this relationship. Participants completed a questionnaire that assessed socioeconomic status, several health behaviors (e.g., smoking), and several variables proposed to mediate the association between socioeconomic status and health (e.g., education). Findings indicate that SES predicted the number of vegetables eaten each day and how frequently each participant exercised. Findings also indicated that the relationship between SES and exercise was mediated by a participant’s health consciousness. None of the mediators were found to explain the relationship between SES and the number of vegetables eaten each day. This research is important in encouraging positive health behaviors and attitudes across all levels of socioeconomic status.
PowerPoint    PDF

Sirrena Piercy
Person Perception: Attributions of Blame Toward Homosexual Males

Discrimination against certain groups of people prevents their acceptance by society. Homosexual males, in particular, experience discrimination that often goes unnoticed. Specifically, blaming homosexuals undeservedly for problems perpetuates negative stereotypes about them. The goal of this research is to heighten awareness of attributions, which may be the basis for some discrimination. Attribution theorists explore situational (environmental) and dispositional (internal) attributions of blame. Previous attribution studies have found homosexuals are blamed more for negative outcomes than heterosexuals. This study examines differences in the degree of blame attributed when participants judge outcomes for hypothetical vignettes. A survey was devised using thirty-five Likert-type questions in which participants assessed level of agreement with environmental effects on development, self-evaluation, racial discrimination, and homosexuality. A primarily positive description of a man named Bob was created with his sexual preference implied. College student participants were given either a “heterosexual” or “homosexual” version of the vignette. Fourteen ‘future scenarios’ were created; all participants were asked to rate Bob’s control for each. It is expected that participants will make more dispositional attributions in regard to negative scenarios when judging a homosexual than a heterosexual. Females are predicted to make fewer dispositional attributions for the homosexual character than males. No gender difference in attributions of credit for positive scenarios is predicted.
PowerPoint    PDF

Abby Ramser
Does Learning a Second Language Give College Students a Cognitive Advantage?

A correlation between the proficiency in a second language and performance on a divided attention task were investigated. College students were given a Spanish language test that measured language proficiency. The difference in scores between a primary task condition and the condition when the two tasks were completed together, paper and pencil mazes and digit monitoring, were hierarchally regressed against other variables such as Spanish ability and cognitive scores. A trend towards significance was found between the participant’s Spanish proficiency and their performance on the divided attention task (R² = .10, p = .08). Implications from the study include support against the critical period hypothesis and for school second language requirements.
PowerPoint    PDF

Shannon Updike & Zachary Walker
Comparing Components of Enriched Environments Including Objects, Handling, and Social Experiences to Standard Housed Rats

A number of studies have found that enriched environments facilitate learning. However, there is confusion in the way different researchers have defined enriched environments. Research on enriched environments has included the addition of objects, tunnels, running wheels, as well as other animals or human interaction. The present study sought to clarify the role of different types of enrichment by having rats exposed to one of the common types used in other studies. The types of enrichment studied included giving objects for the rats to interact with, handling the rats, and allowing the rats time in a social environment. These enriched conditions were compared to a control condition in which the rats lived in isolated standard housing. These rats were then placed in an operant conditioning chamber without shaping to determine the speed of acquisition of the bar press response. The dependent measures were time to the first bar press, time from the first to the 20th bar press, and total bar presses over a twelve hour period. It was expected that the animals in the object, handling, and social conditions would acquire the bar pressing response faster than the standard housed animals, although the results did not show any difference. There was some weak evidence from a post hoc analysis that indicated that the standard housed rats may have acquired the bar press response faster than the social condition rats and pressed the bar more total times than the handling condition.