Pictured above from left to right: (Front Row) Steven Minett, Brianna Raatz, Sarah Blanton, (Second Row) Jenny Braun, Sarah LeStourgeon, Heather Osterman, Michelle Coffman, Jennifer Cotton, Amanda Ernstberger, (Back Row) Lauren Drew and Pragati Shah.  (Not Pictured) Christina Banks, Charla Chailland, Michael Draper, Annamarie Elmer, James Gentry, Michaelia Gilbert, Stephanie Gunderson, Holly Heindselman, Robyn Hooker, Ashlee Kirk, Lindsay Lugwig, Amanda Nocton, Benjamine Paciorkowski, David Phelps, Rachel Pittard, Rachel Robertson, April Schweinhart, Jared Smith, Amanda Smitley, and Rachel Yates.

2008 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.


Christina Banks
Creating Positive Attitudes toward People with Disabilities through Inclusion

This study investigates how policies of inclusion at the collegiate level influence attitudes toward persons with disabilities. According to Allport’s (1954) contact hypothesis, intergroup contact can reduce prejudice toward out-group members. With this in mind, inclusion may be a tool to reduce inequalities, stemming from prejudice which persons with disabilities face. Students from two undergraduate colleges completed the same explicit attitudes survey. St. Andrews Presbyterian College has a commitment to inclusion while Hanover College does not have a strong policy of inclusion; for this reason it was hypothesized that St. Andrews students would report more positive attitudes toward persons with disabilities than Hanover students. Overall, St. Andrews and Hanover students’ attitudes did not differ as measure by the Multidimensional Attitudes Scale and the Disability Social Relations Generalized Disability scale. However, St. Andrews upper-classmen did report more positive affects than St. Andrews first-year students and all Hanover students. These results indicate that exposure to an inclusive program over an extended period of time does predict more positive feelings toward persons with disabilities.

Sarah Blanton & April Schweinhart
Examining the Interaction of Weight and Ethnicity on Perceived Compatibility of Couples

The current study examines the effect of the race and weight of individuals within a couple on the perceived compatibility of that couple. Participants (N = 442) viewed 16 couples consisting of overweight or average-weight and Black or White individuals. Participants then rated the compatibility of the couples based on three questions about the likelihood of attraction between the individuals. Same race couples were found to be more compatible than interracial couples which was expected. Similarly, couples which consisted of same weight individuals were more compatible than those consisting of opposing weight individuals. In interracial couples, the Black male was found to be more compatible with an overweight female than was the White male. These findings indicate a prejudice against dissimilar individuals in relationships as well as a possible double standard for the weight of White vs. Black women.

Jenny Braun & Lauren Drew
The Effects of Perceived Team Cohesion on Alcohol Consumption, Aggression and Cheating

This study was designed to examine the effects of perceived team cohesion on alcohol consumption, aggression and cheating in athletes. Previous research suggests that alcohol consumption, aggression and cheating can be found in athletics, but the intention of this study is to examine whether or not perceived team cohesion has an impact on these variables. It was hypothesized that teams perceived to be highly cohesive would have similar views and attitudes towards aggression and cheating. It was also expected that athletes who perceived their teams to be highly cohesive would have higher rates of drinking. Participants in this study completed an online questionnaire regarding cohesion, cheating, aggression and alcohol consumption. Results show that there were no significant relationships between cohesion and all other variables, except with whom athletes reported choosing to drink with. This finding suggests that the more highly cohesive the athlete perceives his/her team to be, the more likely they are to drink with teammates. This study supports previous research with a significantly strong positive correlation between aggression and cheating. This suggests that the team influences an individual’s moral reasoning and thus may lead to an individual having similar rates of aggression and cheating during a game. Findings indicate that there are relationships between many of the variables, including aggression and cheating, along with cohesion and alcohol consumption.
PowerPoint     PDF

Charla Chailland & Brianna Raatz
Examining the Roles of Fear and Prior Knowledge in Attitude Change Towards Soft Drink Consumption: An Experimental Study

Although soft drinks are readily available to children and adolescents at most schools and social functions, studies have found that children whose parents restrict what they drink impact the child’s outside-of-the-home choices. Therefore, if we can change the parents’ attitudes toward soft drink consumption, perhaps, in turn, we can influence children to make healthier beverage choices. The purpose of the present study is to examine the efficacy of high-fear versus low-fear persuasive messages in changing participants’ attitudes towards their children’s soft drink consumption. Participants were parents (N = 55, 90% female) who were actively parenting at least one child below the age of 18. Participants completed an online survey assessing their knowledge and attitudes toward soft drink consumption, read one of two randomly assigned informative articles (high or low fear), and completed the survey a second time. Changes in attitudes were assessed via a 2 (time: pretest, posttest) x 2 (fear: high, low) x 2 (prior-knowledge: high vs. low) mixed model analysis of variance (ANOVA). A three-way interaction among the three predictor variables emerged. The pattern of results was consistent with our predictions. The high-fear article was more effective in changing attitudes among low-knowledge than among high-knowledge participants and the low-fear article was more effective in changing attitudes among high-knowledge than among low-knowledge participants. These findings suggest that, in changing attitudes, both the nature of the message and the characteristics of the recipients of that message must be taken into account.

Michelle Coffman & Heather Osterman
First Versus Non-First Generation Students: Determining Variables of Academic Success

This study examines factors that may be related to college success, and the degree to which these factors differentiate first generation college students (i.e., neither parent completed college) from non-first generation students. Factors that have been shown to be related to college success include support factors: parental emotional support, sibling emotional support, friend emotional support, and parental financial assistance. It is likely that these support factors are less available to first generation students than nonfirst generation students. Participants were college students at a small liberal arts college who completed an online questionnaire asking questions about parental education and the support the students receive from parents, siblings and friends. College success was measured by GPA, and social and emotional adjustment (based on subscales from the Student Adaptation to College scale). Researchers predicted that first generation students will receive less support from their support factors than their counterpart. Researchers also predict that first generation students will score lower on the different measures of college success. Results indicated that first generation students did score lower on financial support than their counterpart; results, however, were not significant for emotional support from parents, siblings, or friends. First generation students also scored lower in terms of GPA than their counterpart. There were no significant differences in terms of social adjustment or emotional adjustment. The results of this study may contribute to the creation of intervention programs for first generation students, thereby decreasing the drop out rate of first generation college students.
PowerPoint     PDF

Jennifer L. Cotton & Amanda J. Ernstberger
The Effects of Children’s Books on First Graders’ Perceptions of Availability of Careers to Each Gender

Children’s views of the world are shaped by what they see in movies, television, and books. This study examined the effects of hearing a story featuring protagonists who had either gender-typical careers or gender-atypical careers on children’s perceptions of career options. First grade participants (N = 84) listened to either gender-typical or gender atypical versions of the story and completed questionnaires assessing whether they believed certain careers were appropriate for each gender, as well as their own career goals. We anticipate that children who listened to the gender-typical version of the story will be more likely to agree with current gender stereotypes than those who listened to the gender-atypical version.
PowerPoint     PDF

Michael Draper & Annamarie Elmer
Preference for Personal, Non-Erotic Touch and its Relationship to Personality Characteristics

The researchers were interested in the preference for touch and how it relates to other personality characteristics because of the previous research about how touch can convey emotions and feelings. Researchers conducted a pilot study to obtain scenarios that might be beneficial to use in creating a preference for touch scale. They developed the scale and posted the scale online as well as a link to a personality test as well as a test to score the level of empathy a person had. Then the researchers ran a correlation analysis and a regression analysis to test for significance. The results showed that there is a correlation between preference for touch and empathy as well as agreeableness, as well as others.
PowerPoint     PDF

James Gentry & Jared Smith
Confessions and Convictions: How Different Types of Confessional Evidence Affect Conviction Rates

In our court system, confession evidence is known to be especially persuasive. This study attempts to distinguish between the levels of persuasiveness of four different types of confession evidence. Four different types of sample confessions of a battery crime were randomly presented to participants. Conviction rates were assessed for each of the four types of confessions (voluntary, retracted, coerced-compliant, and coerced-internalized) and the severity of the sentence delivered by those who found the defendant guilty. Participants’ results on the four confession types were compared against one another in the determination of which type of confession seemed to be the most influential in convicting the accused. Results show that the conviction rates differ significantly across the four conditions. It was found that the non-coerced conditions yielded the highest conviction rates while the coerced conditions yielded the lowest rate of conviction. These results indicate that although all conditions yielded a high rate of conviction, the coercive conditions had more effective in influencing the juror.
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Michaelia Gilbert & Benjamin Paciorkowski
Using Regional Accents to Form First Impressions of a Speaker

Previous research indicates that accents can have a powerful influence on first impression formation. The current study builds on previous work by examining how general stereotypes interact with geographic proximity to influence attitudes toward a speaker with a marked regional U.S. accent. Participants in this study listened to one of five randomly assigned accents (Midwestern, Boston, Southern, Minnesotan and Californian) and completed a survey in which they evaluated the degree to which the speaker is likely to display various demographic and personal characteristics (e.g., intelligence). Participants were also asked to list their hometown and current zip codes. The researchers hypothesize that some accents will receive more positive ratings than others (reflecting overall stereotypes). In addition, the researchers hypothesize that accent will interact with distance such that participants will evaluate speakers living in closest to their hometown more favorably (reflecting in-group preferences).
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Stephanie Gunderson & Robyn Hooker
The Effects of Positive and Negative Self-Presentation on Female Self-Esteem and Relationship Choices

This study examines the relationship between female self-presentation, self-esteem and perception by peers. Past research has found that women are more likely to present themselves negatively in public situations than men. The present study examines whether these negative self-presentations are related to favorable responses in others. College-age female participants listen to an audio recording of four female confederates having a conversation; after one confederate makes a negative self comment, each of the remaining confederates responds in one of three different ways: 1) self-degrading, 2) self-accepting, and 3) neutrally. The participants then rate the likeability of each of the three reacting confederates. All participants also fill out the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. We expect that participants will more likely be friends with those individuals who display more negative self-presentations rather than those who display positive self-presentations and find them as being more likeable. We also predict that those with a higher self-esteem prefer a person who has a positive self-presentation and those with a lower selfesteem prefer a person who has a negative self-presentation. The results show that there was a significant difference between the three respondents. Although there was no significant difference between Hannah (neutral) and Ashley (self-degrading) both were liked significantly more than Emily (self-accepting). There were no significant results found comparing the selfesteem of participants with the likeability and friendship ratings of the three respondents. The results of this study contribute to our understanding of the way women present themselves in public and what factors are related to their self-presentation.
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Holly Heindselman & Rachel Yates
The Effects of Body Esteem and Sexual Self-Consciousness on Sexual Behavior

Previous research has found that body esteem is related to depression, social isolation, and low self-esteem. This study was designed to measure the relation between body esteem and sexual behavior. Participants completed questionnaires measuring body esteem, sexual self-consciousness, frequency of sexual activity, and sociosexual orientation. Sexual activity was broken into four sub-categories (light petting, heavy petting, intercourse, and oral stimulation). Results show a significant negative relationship between sexual self-consciousness and heavy petting, p< .05, and intercourse p < .01. These findings would suggest that the way one feels about his or her body may impact the frequency with which they engage in sexual behaviors. For this reason, future research may focus on the effects of body esteem on relationship satisfaction.
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Ashlee Kirk
The Contact Hypothesis Applied: Examining the Efficacy of a Peace Camp

This study examined the validity of the contact hypothesis by evaluating the efficacy of the Creativity for Peace summer camp. Creativity for Peace applies the principles of the contact hypothesis in order to reduce the prejudicial attitudes between Israeli, Palestinian, and Israeli Arab young women. To determine the camp’s ability to reduce explicit prejudice, a mixed design was utilized, in which the between-subjects variable was camper nationality and the within-subjects variable was camp experience. Surveys were given to each camper (N=15) at the beginning and end of camp. Likert scale statements assessed campers’ general prejudiced attitudes and prejudiced attitudes toward Israelis and Palestinians in particular. Two-by-two mixed ANOVAs revealed that camp experience significantly reduced general prejudiced attitudes and attitudes toward Palestinians, at p<.05, while prejudice reduction in attitudes toward Jews only reached marginal significance, at p<0.10. These results indicate that the application of the contact hypothesis can lead to meaningful reductions in prejudice levels, even between deeply conflicted groups. However, throughout the results, attitude change was most apparent in Jews and Palestinians, supporting existing evidence that contact is more effective for individuals from the majority rather than the minority.

Sarah LeStourgeon & David Phelps
Does Stereotype Threat Require Stereotypes?

When males take a test assessing verbal skills, unlike females, they are at risk of confirming the widely-shared negative stereotype targeted at their group namely, that females outperform males in verbal ability. Consistent with previous research, this risk is termed stereotype threat and has been shown to negatively impact performance. Would performance be as negatively impacted, however, if males were still told that their gender performed worse on the same academic task, but the task was framed as a test of ‘analogical-reasoning,’ which does not evoke any widely-shared stereotypes? Furthermore, would males do better if they faced a negative expectation that was not tied to their social group (gender) nor fit to a widely-held belief (females outperform males on verbal tasks)? To explore this question, participants were randomly assigned to receive either negative or positive expectations that (a) targeted gender, a meaningful social group, or (b) targeted a meaningful social group fit to a widely-shared stereotype or (c) targeted neither of these two elements. Results were accounted for by comparing the mean scores (the average number of correct answers) on a test of verbal ability. Using a between subjects, one-way ANOVA, a trend emerged revealing that when male and female participants experienced a threat towards their meaningful social group (gender), they tended to perform worse than participants presented with simply a negative expectation not tied to a meaningful social group. Although their scores were not significantly different, it is evident that stereotype threat may have a greater negative impact when threat is tied to one’s social identity.

Lindsay Ludwig & Amanda Nocton
Effects of Gender on Parental Attitudes toward Punishment of Children

This study was designed to examine the effect of gender on parental attitudes toward child punishment. Participants (N = 224) were recruited via a popular website of online psychological studies and from online parental discussion groups. Each participant read one of two scenarios about his or her hypothetical child engaging in nine misbehaviors, each classified into one of the following categories: general disrespect, harm to self, and harm to others. Participants then indicated their likelihood of using three punishments – verbal reprimand, removal of privileges, and spanking. The two scenarios differed only by gender of the child (male or female). Female participants used verbal reprimand significantly more than males (p = .044), but males used spanking significantly more than females (p < .001). Gender of child had an effect on only two infractions: boys were punished significantly more than girls for bullying a classmate (p = .018) and not wearing a seatbelt (p = .018). These findings reflect the idea that there is some gender distinction across child punishment, an issue important to recognize as it may facilitate reflections of differential treatment of children.
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Steven Minett
Comparing Information versus Empathy in Decreasing Homophobic Attitudes: An Intervention Study

This study explored the effects of information-only versus information with empathy exposure through video components on reducing homophobic attitudes and increasing understanding towards the GLBT community. Participants (n = 34) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: (1) Information-only exposure (“The Gay Gene”); (2) Information and empathy exposure (“Ugly Ducklings: A Documentary”): and (3) Neutral exposure, or control (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”). In the Information-only group participants were exposed to a video on the genetic basis of sexual orientation. In the information and empathy exposure participants were exposed to a video interviewing actresses involved with the play addressing the damaging effects of homophobia in an all girls’ summer camp. The neutral exposure, or control group watched a video on a topic unrelated to GLBT issues. All participants completed the Scale Items for Attitudes Towards Lesbian and Gay Men (ATLG) and the Empathy Towards Homosexuals Scale, both before and after receiving their group’s exposure. It was expected that the Information-only and the Information and Empathy groups would show significant increases in empathy when compared to the control groups. By utilizing a 2 by 3 Mixed ANOVA design with the first factor being time (pre- or post-test) and the second factor being the condition (Information-only, Information and empathy, or Control video intervention) it was found that there were no significant main effects or interactions for either survey regarding participants’ levels of empathy. Possible factors involved with not finding significance as well encouraging non-statistically significant trends are discussed later in this paper.
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Rachel Pittard & Rachel Robertson
Identifying Women’s “Sexual Agency” in their Reports of First Sexual Encounters: A Qualitative Study

"Sexual agency" is the ability to make sexual choices according to one's will, free from coercion. Experiencing oneself as a sexual agent means feeling in control of one's sexual decisions and experiences. However, little psychological research has focused on this new construct. Further description of sexual agency will help researchers to recommend improvements to sex education programs and therapeutic interventions. Feminist perspectives advocate equality in gender relations and sexual relationships. Positive Psychology encourages an examination of normative subjective experience. Drawing upon these perspectives, it is assumed that American women struggle to represent themselves as sexual agents due to cultural scripts emphasizing passivity. To explore women's variations in agency, a qualitative method was used to examine how women portray their internal experience of agency in their first sexual encounter. Participants (N = 21) were asked four open-ended questions to elicit reflections on their first sexual encounter (e.g., "Following your first sexual encounter, what were your initial thoughts and feelings about the experience?"). Participants’ narrative responses were coded as to the level of sexual agency depicted (e.g., fully agentic, partially agentic, fully nonagentic) based on three dimensions: connection/disconnection, activity/passivity, and interaction/isolation. Responses were also coded for the specific feelings described. An interpretive analysis yielded the finding that fully agentic women display connection with their experience, interaction with their partner, and activity in the encounter; these women also describe their encounters as positive. The elaborated concept of sexual agency can be used to improve intervention programs by empowering women to be sexual agents.
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Pragati Shah
Influence of Soap Operas on Nepalese Women’s Identity Formation: A Qualitative Study

The purpose of this research project is to report on a qualitative research about the role of television soap operas as a resource employed by Nepalese women in identity work. Currently, Nepalese women live in a cultural context where traditional values often conflict with Western values regarding gender-appropriate behavior. The women identify themselves as traditional even while they attempt to integrate non-traditional beliefs. This research project examines stayat- home mothers' representations of themselves, as they discuss female television characters. Self-narratives of women from Kathmandu (N = 20) were obtained through open-ended, in-depth interviews about their favorite Bollywood soap operas. It was expected that as they discussed this widely-viewed cultural tool, they would incorporate characteristics of both heroines and villains to constitute their own selves, drawing upon values from both traditional and Western cultures. Analyses reveal that participants do, indeed, use soap opera characters as a resource for constituting a meaningful self in the face of shifting social identities. The participants were seen to draw texts from both traditional and Western values and seek to maintain a balance. It was observed that women turn towards the Soap Operas for guidance in formulating their own gender-appropriate perspective. This analysis demonstrates how some women are adapting gender roles in today’s confusing, post-modern world.

Amanda Smitley
College Students’ Expectations for Hook-Ups

This study was designed to examine college students’ expectations for engaging in sexual “hook-ups” (i.e., brief sexual encounters between two people who have not had a previous sexual relationship). In particular, expectations before and after a hook-up were considered, and a comparison was made between the expectations of college males versus college females. Sixty-six college students (66.7% female) completed a questionnaire (including both open-ended and closed-ended questions) on their own hook-up history (e.g., “Approximately, how many hook-ups have you been involved in since beginning college?”); their hook-up expectations (e.g., “What do you expect to get from an ideal hook-up?”); and their expectations after the hook-up (e.g., “In what ways have your expectations ever changed after a hook-up?”). Through this study, stereotypes and generalizations about hook-ups were disconfirmed. It was found that males did not report having significantly more hook-ups than females. Also, men did not expect a pleasurable experience from a hook-up significantly more often than females. Lastly, females did not engage in a hook-up expecting a romantic relationship significantly more than males. This study may provide some insights that will be helpful in facilitating college students’ reflections on their sexual behavior.
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