Pictured above from left to right: (Front Row) Jeremy Owens, Sara Shake, Lindsey Hummel, Taryn Bellgard, Sarah Scott, Jacquelyn Wesseler, Ashley Ubelhor, Sarah Maurer, Alexis Palfreyman, Rachel Weisenbach, Sarah Vogt (Second Row) Beth Tuck, Michela Jones, Sarah Jane Hickman, Elizabeth Broady, Russalyn Spicer, Amy Bender, Karla Roberts.  (Not Pictured) Ashley Recker, Stephanie Turner

2007 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.


Taryn Bellgard
Examining “Self” in Five-Year-Olds' Personal Stories: A Narrative Analysis of Coherence

Stories are essential throughout our lives as tools for understanding ourselves. The current study qualitatively addressed children’s emerging ability to construct stories expressing understanding of “self.” Five-year-old participants (N = 7) made autobiographies consisting of five brief stories. The discussions between child and researcher while creating the stories were transcribed for analysis of narrative coherence. Narrative analysis identified basic story components (i.e. agent, action, setting, purpose, and description) within each discussion. This analysis led to categorization of each stretch of talk as a non-story, incoherent, basically coherent, or fully coherent story. The majority of stories were coherent, demonstrating that children as young as age 5 can construct personal stories. Further analysis revealed that fully coherent stories express the child’s awareness of “self.”
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Amy Bender
Predictors and Consequences of Involvement in Age-Discrepant Romantic Relationships

This study was designed to explore age-discrepant relationships. One goal was to examine characteristics that predict involvement in age-discrepant relationships. A second goal was to examine the success of these relationships compared to age-similar relationships. Prior research has identified some demographic characteristics that seem to be linked to involvement in these relationships, such as ethnicity, level of education, and marital status. This study examined these characteristics as well as age differences in the relationships of participants’ parents, siblings, and friends. It was postulated that if individuals know people in age-discrepant relationships, they may be more open to experiencing these relationships themselves. Along with demographic predictors, this study also looked at the success rate of these relationships, hypothesizing that age-discrepant relationships would be associated with lower levels of satisfaction because of a high exchange orientation between partners, which was predicted to be detrimental to the relationship. To examine the hypotheses, participants (N=46) were asked to fill out a questionnaire online. Preliminary analyses indicate that parents’ age is a significant predictor of involvement in age-discrepant relationships (r=.34, p<.05) and that participation in age-discrepant relationships predicts lower relationship satisfaction (r=-.34, p<.05). This research is important because it can help bring depth to a little-studied area by examining previously understudied variables and examining one process (i.e., modeling) by which individuals become involved in age-discrepant relationships and one mechanism (i.e., the development of an exchange orientation) that may predict low satisfaction in these relationships.
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Elizabeth Broady & Sarah Hickman
Sex Differences in Relationships: Comparing Stereotypes to Self-reports

This study was designed to examine the accuracy of people’s stereotypes about gender differences in relationship attitudes and behaviors. Men and women (N = 133) who were in dating relationships self-reported on their levels of commitment, infidelity, and attitudes toward marriage. To examine stereotypes about gender differences, participants completed the questionnaires a second time, responding as they believed a typical member of the opposite sex would. Discrepancies between actual sex differences (as garnered from self-reports) and stereotyped sex differences were examined. It is our expectation that participants will perceive larger differences between the sexes (e.g., with males having much more negative attitudes toward commitment than women) than is warranted (e.g., with men and women self-reporting similarly positive attitudes toward commitment). Results will be discussed in light of evolutionary and social role theories of gender differences.
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Lindsey Hummel & Sara Shake
Exploring gender differences in deprecatory humor use: Discriminatory utterances aimed at women

Deprecatory language use is disadvantageous to society. A major influence on society is television, which demonstrates this type of language. Exposure to and use of deprecating humor increases the tolerance for discrimination of disenfranchised individuals. The present study developed a coding scheme that captures which gender uses more deprecating language. The coding scheme was applied to two sitcoms, Roseanne and Everybody Loves Raymond. It is hypothesized that there may be gender differences in speakersí use of deprecating humor, and that more deprecating humor will target women rather than men. Data collected included coded material from Everybody Loves Raymond (n = 22) and Roseanne (n = 22). Results indicate that women are using significantly more deprecating utterances than men (Χ≤ = 4.355, p < 0.05).
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Michela Jones & Karla Roberts
Interracial Dating: An Investigation of the Inconsistencies in Personal and General Attitudes

This study was designed to examine the relationship between attitudes towards interracial dating and racism. Participants completed a forty item questionnaire on the Internet. The questionnaire consisted of four measures, which were developed to measure an individual’s attitudes toward personally interracially dating, their attitudes toward interracial dating in general, and their racism level according to the Modern Racism Scale and the Social Distance Scale. An open-ended question was also included which asked the participants if they would ever date a person of another race and why or why not. This study focused on the discrepancy between the general and personal attitudes toward interracial dating. It is expected that some participants will be accepting of other people interracially dating, but would not interracially date themselves. This inconsistency would be explained by a level of racism intermediate between those who are personally accepting of interracial dating and those who are not accepting of interracial dating for anybody. The results may show that there is still racism in the United States, despite the societal changes towards becoming more accepting of other races.
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Sarah Mauer
The Relationship Between College Student Involvement, Investment, and Satisfaction

It has been assumed that college student involvement in extracurricular activities benefits the student by making him or her a more well-rounded individual. Recent studies have also shown that student involvement can benefit an institution by improving retention. Research has not been conducted on the specific aspects of involvement that lead to these positive effects. “Rusbult’s Investment Model” argues that satisfaction with an organization is dependent on the extent to which a person is invested in the organization—i.e., the organization offers high rewards and low costs. The present study elaborates on this model by hypothesizing that greater investment in the college will be positively correlated with a student’s satisfaction in their undergraduate experience. An e-mail with a link to an online questionnaire was sent to all students at a small liberal arts undergraduate college. This questionnaire asked about student involvement in co-curricular activities, their investment in the college, and their overall satisfaction with their undergraduate experience. Correlational and regression analyses are used to examine the relationships between student involvement, investment in the school, and satisfaction with the college experience. The implications of these findings for Student Life professionals will be discussed.
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Jeremy Owens
Personality and Performance in Stressful Situations

This study examines the relationship between the Five Factor Model of personality traits and performance in stressful situations. A working memory task was then administered to record the participantsí performance in two conditions, one with and one without time pressure. The level of state anxiety was then assessed after both conditions. Participantsí (N=31) results on the working memory tasks were compared with their answers to a Five Factor Model inventory and only neuroticism was found to be significantly correlated with a the difference in scores for the math problems across each task, r(31) = -.384, p = .033. This negative correlation supports Hypothesis 2, in that the more neurotic a person was the less accurate their performance was during the math problems. A three-way interaction between speed, neuroticism group, and state anxiety scores on the fast condition was also found to be significant, F(1,27) = 11.71, p = .002. The Yerkes-Dodson law provides one simple explanation for the range of results of this study and further insinuates a more complex relationship between personality and performance in stressful situations than previously considered.
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Alexis Palfreyman & Rachel Weisenbach
Experiential Accounts of the Challenges of Parents with Mental Retardation

Historically, there have been significant social concerns about the parenting abilities of individuals with mental retardation (MR) and for the well-being of their children. Past research has identified specific observable behaviors with which parents with MR struggle, and these findings have subsequently influenced the development of parent training programs for this population. The current study aims to expand on previous research by exploring the subjective experiences of parents with MR. Open-ended interviews were conducted which focused on the personal experiences of parents with MR in regard to the challenges and needs they faced as parents. Nine participants were recruited through Noble of Indiana, the Indianapolis branch of the Arc, which provides service and support for persons with MR and their families. These interviews were recorded, transcribed and analyzed. Using the Interpretative Phenomenological Approach, six clusters and 20 themes were identified. We focused on the clusters of Difficulties, Sources of Help, and Social Judgment as well as themes of Parent-Child Interaction, Parenting Programs, and Influence. Through comparing the subjective data obtained in this study with previous research, we are able to contribute to a more holistic understanding of the experiences of parents with MR. We are also able to make suggestions which may aid in the development of parent training programs, encourage the integration of support services, and help to decrease stigmatization and social judgment.
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Ashley Recker
Examining the Father-Child Relationship: Intact vs. Not Intact Families and Child Outcomes of Academic Performance, Conduct, and Self-Esteem

This study will be examining the different levels of father involvement with their children in intact as well as not intact families. Intact families are defined as those in which the biological father and biological mother are either married or living together. Not intact families are those in which the biological father and biological mother are either divorced, separated, or the biological father/other male influence is nonexistent. The study will survey individuals, eighteen years of age and older, by way of a self-report online questionnaire. The questionnaire will be given online to Hanover College students, as well as be made available nationally to the general public. The questionnaire includes basic demographic information, and measures of the father-child relationship. It also includes measures of child outcomes in the areas of academic performance, conduct, and self-esteem. It is hypothesized that individuals of intact families will have more positive outcomes than those of not intact families in regards to academic performance, conduct, and self-esteem. Secondly, it is also hypothesized that individuals, whose levels of the father-child relationship are lower, regardless of whether they come from intact or not intact families, will report more negative outcomes in academic performance, conduct, and self-esteem. The findings of this study will not only help further enhance the knowledge of the father-child relationship, but will also shed some light on what type of influence fathers have on child outcomes in the areas of academic performance, conduct and self-esteem.
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Sarah Scott
Influence of Cosmetics on the Confidence of College Women: An Exploratory Study

Women often use makeup as an easy way of changing something about themselves in an attempt to feel better about their appearance. It has been noted that many women tend to suffer from poor body image and self-esteem. Many factors, such as the media, societal standards of beauty, and socialization in general have been found to contribute to these findings. The current study looks at how college women in American choose to use cosmetics and how these choices affect their self-esteem in varying situations. Participants were asked to alter their makeup in three different ways: as if they were going to class, going off-campus with girlfriends, and to a party. They did so in two actual situations: going to class and going off-campus with girlfriends. After each situation, the participants filled out a short survey in which they recorded their feelings about their makeup use and the corresponding situation they participated in. Based on previous research, it was hypothesized that the presence of makeup would increase a womanís self-esteem. Furthermore, it was thought that the greater number of products a woman used (i.e. the more makeup worn) the higher her self-esteem would be in each situation. Implications for the findings will be discussed.
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Elizabeth Tuck
Rules by which the brain segments an object from the background: Evaluation of the Gabor model of simple cell receptive fields

The brain receives and interprets an enormous amount of information from the visual world. The world is rich with objects, colors, shapes, motion, and depth. The brain must somehow find a way to organize and process all of this information to form a coherent picture of the world around us. One of the first steps in the processing of visual information is to organization the massive visual input into meaningful units separated as objects and backgrounds, a process called segmentation (Marr, 1980). Hubel and Weisel (1962) discovered cells in the visual cortex that were sensitive to the orientation or the tilt of the visual stimulus. They called these cells simple cells. Thus, these cells which respond to specific orientation might create these outlines separating object from background. This is an exploratory study which will utilize a mathematical model of simple cell receptive fields to examine whether these cells are involved in segmentation. In essence, the goal is to attempt to uncover rules by which simple cells can do segmentation.
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Stephanie Turner
Reducing Stigma toward the Mentally Ill: An Intervention to Increase Empathy

The stigma surrounding mental illness remains a serious problem for individuals diagnosed with severe disorders such as Schizophrenia. Recent research focused on testing interventions to reduce stigma suggests that certain types of positive exposure to the mentally ill may reduce peopleís tendency to stigmatize those who suffer from mental illness. This study explored the effects of exposing participants to real people with mental illness, in order to reduce participantsí stigmatizing attitudes toward those with mental illness while increasing their levels of empathy. Participants (n≠= 20 females, n= 20 males) were undergraduate students at a small Midwestern college. Participants were assigned to one of two conditions: (1) Positive Exposure; (2) Information Only. In the Positive Exposure condition subjects were exposed to a one-hour video about a middle-aged man who has suffered from severe mental illness since age 19. The Information Only condition exposed subjects to a forty-minute, video-taped lecture about several forms of mental illness, given by a licensed psychologist. All subjects completed the Community Attitudes Toward the Mentally Ill Scale (CAMI) and a revised version of the Emotional Empathetic Tendency Scale (EET), revised to included questions specific to mental illness, before and after receiving their respective intervention treatments. Results are expected to confirm the hypothesis that the Positive Exposure condition will increase empathy and decrease stigmatizing attitudes toward the mentally ill, while the Information Only condition does not significantly change empathy or attitudes. Implications for the effect of positive exposure on increasing empathy and reducing stigmatizing attitudes are discussed.
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Ashley Ubelhor & Jacquelyn Wesseler
The Identification of Dangerous Sexual Beliefs

Previous research suggests themes of Victim Blame, Machismo, and Equation of Rape with Sex are positively correlated with malesí sexual assault intentions. The current study utilizes an online survey to determine if any of these themes are more likely to be related to malesí intentions to commit sexual assault. 230 participants (79 males, 151 females) completed an online survey regarding rape myths, intent to commit sexual assault, and previous sexual assault experiences. Men who reported some intent were significantly more likely to hold beliefs of Victim Blame, Machismo, and Equation of Rape with Sex than men who report no intention (p<.05). These results suggest that all of the examined themes are essential to address in male-directed sexual assault prevention programs.
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Sarah Vogt
Symptoms of Psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and the Ability to Deceive

This study measures the relationship between symptoms of psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and oneís ability to deceive. The first part of the study measured each participantís level of psychopathy based on his or her responses to a psychopathy scale developed by the researcher and also measured how Machiavellian the participant was using Christieís (1970) Mach IV Scale. The second part presented participants with video clips of both stressful and pleasant stimuli each consisting of five short segments displaying subject matter that was expected to result in either feelings of fear and disgust or pleasant feelings, respectively. Participants were asked to try to conceal their emotions when viewing the stressful stimuli. Their facial expressions were videotaped to capture this form of deception. Responses from college students in both introductory and upper-level psychology classes (N = 20) gathered from the 68-item questionnaire were used to assess each participantís level of psychopathy and Machiavellianism. Facial expressions collected from the videotapes were coded for fear and disgust and were correlated with both scores from the Machiavellianism and psychopathy scales. Since previous research has shown that the ability to conceal fear and disgust is negatively correlated with the ability to deceive (Frank & Ekman, 1997), it is hypothesized that those participants who score higher on either one or both of the Machiavellianism Scale IV and the psychopathy scale will be better able to deceive the researcher by concealing their facial expressions during the stressful stimuli than those who score lower on these scales.
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