NYU PSI CHI
JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGY RESEARCH SPRING 2019, VOLUME IV
NYU PSI CHI
JOURNAL OF PSYCHOLOGY RESEARCH VOLUME IV
EDITORS IN CHIEF Julia Moses
Ellie Harrison CONTRIBUTING AUTHORS Mikell Bursky
Ellie Harrison Michelle Hansen Dani Miano Julia Moses FACULTY MEMBER Andrew Hilford SPECIAL THANKS Phil Leith-Tetrault
Letter From the Editor
CONTRIBUTER ARTICLES 6
Hippocampus Involvement in Spatial Mapping, Memory and Learning Mikell Bursky
The Language of Mental Illness: A Review of Freudâ€™s Studies on Hysteria and Contemporary Perspectives Involvement in Spatial Mapping, Memory and Learning Ellie Harrison
Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy as a Potential Form of Treatment for Children with Selective Mutism Michelle Hansen
Fetal Functional Neuroimaging Dani Miano
Influence of Dating Applications Prianka Koya
Effect of Hours Spent on Social Media on Anxiety Levels in Middle School-Aged Children Julia Moses
Letter From The Editor To the reader of this journal: Since its inception in the Fall of 2014, the NYU Psi Chi Journal of Psychology Research has pledged to provide a platform for the wealth of creativity, passion, and tenacity to advancing the field of psychology that radiates from our Psi Chi members. This volume, the fourth issue of its kind, reflects the myriad curiosities of undergraduate scholars who are uniquely diverse in their knowledge and experiences. In this issue, you will encounter topics that seek to bridge the divisions between empiricism, clinical practice, and advocacy. From virtual reality as a potential treatment for selective mutism to the influence of dating applications, the covered range is an especially multi-disciplinary collection of enterprising visions for progress in psychological research and application. This publication represents the scholarly contributions of our immensely talented writers, editors, and graphic designer whom have helped to put together this journal. Thus, we take this opportunity to congratulate these student contributors, whose collaborative efforts made this journey possible, on their exceptional work for this edition. Additionally, we would like to extend our gratitude to our faculty advisor Dr. Andy Hilford and to the current Psi Chi executive board for their enduring support and guidance. Thank you for reading, and we hope you enjoy this edition. Sincerely, Julia Moses, Vice President & Ellie Harrsion, President
Hippocampus Involvement in Spatial Mapping, Memory and Learning Mikell Bursky Everyday of our lives is infused with a sense of one’s self in space navigating through a dynamic relationship with other spatial locations (Jeffery, 2008). This navigational process is a vital component to our day to day functioning -- without which we would be constantly lost with no idea where we are or where to go (Possin, 2010). What neural mechanisms are involved with the successful accomplishment of this task? In 1971, a pioneering study by O’Keefe and Dostrovsky uncovered the involvement of the hippocampus as being of paramount importance in the facilitation of mental spatial mapping and learning within the brains of rats via single-cell electrode recordings. Their study appears to be the progenitor and foundation of this area of inquiry (Burgess, 2014). This literature review will investigate the essential role played by the hippocampus in the formation of cognitive spatial mapping, learning and memory as demonstrated through the following studies. After observing that rats with lesions to their hippocampus were found to have impairment in tasks requiring spatial memory such as navigation through mazes and novel environments, O’Keefe and Dostrovsky (1971) hypothesized that the hippocampus must be implicated as being a neural mechanism for cognitive spatial mapping. To test their hypothesis, the team implanted 36 micro electrodes used to record the activity of single neurons within the dorsal hippocampus and dentate gyrus of 23 rats. Eight of the neurons’ firing rate were found to be sensitive to the rats position within the test area along with the direction their heads were facing. These neurons fired strongly only when the rats were in specific areas and went silent when in others -- resuming firing
7 upon returning to those areas recognized by these particular neurons. Cells in different areas of the brain did not respond this way to spatial location with selective sensitivity. This was seen as evidence by the researchers that one use of the hippocampus by the brain is as a generator of a spatial map that requires the learning and memorization of specific features in the environment. The loss of the hippocampus through lesion studies corresponds with this loss of spatial orientation which these cells are sensitive to (O’Keefe & Dostrovsky, 1971). In 1998, a study was carried out by Russell Epstein and Nancy Kanwisher in which nine students were shown video images of different faces, objects, houses and scenes while they were scanned using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). A specific area of the parahippocampal cortex was found to be strongly activated only when the students viewed scenes, weak activation when viewing objects, and no activation at all during the viewing of faces. This area was found to be responsive to three dimensional layouts of space irrespective of whether they were filled with objects or empty. When the scenes were bereft of a dimensionality the activation was diminished in the parahippocampus. Due to the specificity and orientation for activation of this area of the hippocampus to the viewing of places with dimensionality, the researchers named this area “the parahippocampal place area (PPA)” (Epstein & Kanwisher, 1998). This study provides further evidence of parahippocampal involvement with spatial mapping. Lesion studies, both intentional and naturally occuring have often been used since the early days of neuropsychological inquiry into brain functioning. One of the earliest and most famous is that of Phineas Gage (Ratiu et al., 2004). More recently a group of researchers from the Department of Neurology in the University of Iowa, scanned the brains of 127 subjects who had stable and focal brain lesions that had been caused by multiple pathologies. The researchers focused their recruitment on subjects who had more damage to the posterior regions of their hemispheres, as they were interested in observing whether correlations would be found between lesions to areas of the brain such as the parahippocampus with route learning impairment. The researchers
8 obtained their imaging of the subjects brains via magnetic resonance (MR) or computerized axial tomography (CT). The subjects were then given the task of learning a of a mile route through the medical center they were stationed in by first being shown the way. Next the subjects were asked to show the route they had just learned, themselves leading the way for three consecutive trials with a researcher ponting out the right way if they got lost (in in order to complete the circuit). Researchers recorded the number of errors the subjects made and than calculated the number as a z-score with a score of -1.5 and below being considered impaired. The results of the study found that the 82% of the subjects (when differences were controlled for) were impaired on the task. This impairment was more severe than in the samples of brain damaged controls who were found to be 33% impaired. The four subjects in the study with right parahippocampal gyrus (pPHG) lesions were found to be severely impaired. The study found that damage to the “inferior medial occipital lobe (lingual and fusiform gyri, occipitotemporal junction) to pPHG and hippocampus were associated with deficits in route learning” (Barrish et al., 2000). This study is another support, via lesion studies of the parahippocampus involvement in spatial mapping, learning and memory. Woollett and Maguire (2011) took a different approach to understand the role of the hippocampus via a longitudinal study. London, England is by far one of the most complicated cities in the world in terms of it’s street layout and thousands of famous sites. London taxi drivers must go through a learning process called “the works” (which takes anywhere from three to four years) in which the trainees must memorize the nearly 25,000 streets and thousands of landmarks (Rosen 2014). Researchers hypothesized that the hippocampus is of primary importance in the successful learning, memorization and cognitive spatial mapping of London and that a physiological change would be observed after the process was completed. To test this, the team took three groups of comparable characteristics: the first was a control group who would not be training as taxi drivers. The second were the trainees who successfully passed and qualified as London Taxi drivers. The third were the trainees who did not successfully pass or complete the training. An initial battery of neuropsychological examinations were
9 given to test working memory, long term memory and related domains -- no statistically significant differences were found. A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan was done on the 79 male trainees and 31 male controls -- again no significantly significant differences were found in the brain structures gray matter between the groups. The hippocampus of all the participants were originally found to be nearly the same. After taking all of this into account, the trainees were beginning on equal footing, and any post-testing observed changes would be seen as being caused by their training in “the knowledge.” After 3-4 years (depending on the time of qualification) the participants were again given an follow up MRI scan. The MRI showed that for the 39 trainees who qualified (when compared to the control group of 31 participants and the 20 trainees who failed to qualify but came back for retesting) there was an observable increase in gray matter volume bilaterally within the hippocampus. There were no observable increases in gray matter volume anywhere else in the brain amongst any of the groups. The increase was specific to the posterior region of the hippocampus of both hemispheres only for the qualified taxi drivers. The researchers concluded that this is a clear demonstration of the hippocampus functioning as a mechanism for spatial navigation, learning and memory (Woollett & Maguire, 2011). Integrated together, these studies provide clear evidence to support the hypothesis that the hippocampus is essential for spatial mapping, memory and learning. This has been demonstrated through the observation of correlated activity in single unit cell recordings in the hippocampus of rats during navigation of specific locations in test environments, the activation of the “parahippocampal place area” to images of places versus non-places, impairment to navigation abilities in humans via lesion studies and an increase in gray matter volume in the hippocampus of human subjects as observed via MRI after successful learning and memorization of the layout of London.
References Barrash, J., Damasio, H., Adolphs, R., Tranel, D. (2000). The neuroanatomical correlates of route learning impairment, Neuropsychologia, Volume 38, Issue 6, 820-836 Burgess, Neil. (2014). The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: a spatial model for cognitive neuroscience. Neuron, 84(6), 1120-5. Epstein, R., & Kanwisher, N. (1998). A cortical representation of the local visual environment. Nature, 392(6676), 598-601. Jeffery, Kathryn. (2008). Self-localization and the entorhinal–hippocampal system. Current opinion in neurobiology. 17. 684-91. 10.1016/j.conb.2007.11.008. O’Keefe, J., & Dostrovsky, J. (1971). The hippocampus as a spatial map. Preliminary evidence from unit activity in the freely-moving rat. Brain Research. 34(1), 171-175. Possin, Katherine L. (2010). Visual spatial cognition in neurodegenerative disease. Neurocase, 16(6), 466-87. Rosen, Jody. (2014). The Knowledge, London’s Legendary Taxi-Driver Test, Puts Up a Fight in the Age of GPS. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/10/t-magazine/london-taxi-testknowledge.html Woollett, K., & Maguire, E. A. (2011). Acquiring “the Knowledge” of London’s Layout Drives Structural Brain Changes. Current Biology, 21(24-2), 2109–2114. Ratiu, P., Talos, I., Haker, S., Lieberman, D., Everett, P. (2004).The Tale of Phineas Gage, Digitally Remastered. Journal of Neurotrauma, 21:5, 637-643
The Language of Mental Illness: A Review of Freud’s Studies on Hysteria and Contemporary Perspectives Ellie Harrison In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when Sigmund Freud was developing and practicing psychoanalysis, very little was known about afflictions of the mind. Most people who were mentally ill and unable to function in society were locked up in mental institutions and, more or less, left there to rot. Freud, however, attempted to actually treat some of the people that would otherwise be institutionalized, and his piece Studies on Hysteria, which he co-wrote with Josef Breuer, is one of his first works including case studies of those who he treated (future case studies include “The Wolfman” and “Dora”). How does the language Freud – and Breuer – use to conceptualize their cases correlate with the contemporary language of mental illness? Contemporary categorization of mental illness began with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness (DSM), which was originally published in 1952, thirteen years after Freud’s death in 1939. In the first and second editions of the DSM, hysteria, which was one of Freud’s biggest interests, was a diagnosable disorder. In the DSM-II, particularly, it was described as an “involuntary psychogenic loss or disorder of function” (APA, 1952, p. 39). Conversion and dissociative subtypes and their descriptions were also included. The DSM-III, however, marked a shift away from the use of psychoanalytic language in an attempt to make the field of psychology a more scientific science, and thus, the word “hysteria” was no longer used.
12 Despite this shift, there continues to be a “conversion disorder” that is included even in the most recent edition of the DSM – the DSM-5, published in 2013. Conversion disorder, which is now subtitled “functional neurological symptom disorder” and is included under the somatic symptom disorder subheading, requires “altered voluntary motor or sensory function,” “incompatibility between the symptom and recognized neurological or medical conditions,” and a specifier, such as “with swallowing symptoms” or “with anesthesia or sensory loss” (APA, 2013, p. 318). The overall prevalence for this disorder is estimated to be around 5% of individuals referred to neurology clinics. A critique of Freud’s work is that the symptoms appearing in his patients do not seem to be realistic, yet it is important to remember that Freud was a medical specialist, doing specific work with specific populations, who are unlikely to be seen in dayto-day life, such as people who are being referred to neurology clinics in the present, who also have these uncommon symptoms that Freud was treating. This is why Freud relies mainly on case studies, as opposed to conducting clinical trials of psychoanalysis with large sample sizes – he simply does not have enough patients with the same diagnosis to do so. Freud also uses terms to describe his patients that are still consistently used in the present, especially when it comes to anxiety. Many of Breuer and Freud’s descriptions of mental illness, whether it’s hysteria, anxiety, or anything else, focus on somatic symptoms, simply because the unconscious develops these physical symptoms to disguise the mental illness and subvert it in some way. Breuer, for example, claims that Anna O.’s “persistent anxiety interfered with her eating and gradually led to intense feelings of nausea” (Breuer & Freud, 2000, p. 39). The current definition of anxiety from the American Psychiatric Association (APA), who created the DSM, is “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure” (APA, 2013). Both the APA, in the present, and Freud, in the nineteenth century, saw somatic symptoms as a major part of anxiety. The DSM-5 criteria for generalized anxiety disorder requires that three of six symptoms be met for diagnosis; three of these six symptoms (fatigue, muscle tension, and difficulty sleeping)
13 are somatic symptoms. All three of the women in Studies of Hysteria – Anna O., Katharina, and Fraulein Elisabeth – would meet criteria for a generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis based on these symptoms, and all three of them are described as having anxiety in Freud’s analysis of their case, especially Anna O. Freud describes Anna’s primary symptom as “an anxiety attack: she was choosing shortness of breath out of the complex of sensations arising from anxiety and laying undue stress on that single factor” (Freud & Breuer, 2000, p. 126). Anna describes her symptoms during these attacks primarily as pressure and heaviness in her head, a feeling of her chest being crushed, feeling as though she will die, and an inability to leave her house due to a feeling of dread, all of which are, pretty much word for word, criteria in the DSM-5 for panic attacks. Although Freud calls it an anxiety attack rather than a panic attack, it seems remarkable that something that was conceptualized over one hundred years ago by a man who is constantly critiqued and criticized and invalidated is still in use today. Where the present perspectives and Freud’s views differ, however, is the connection Freud draws between sexuality and anxiety: in Katharina’s case in particular he claims that “in girls, anxiety was a consequence of the horror by which a virginal mind is overcome when it is faced for the first time with the world of sexuality” (Freud & Breuer, 2000, p. 127) and that hysterical anxiety specifically is “a reproduction of the anxiety which had appeared in connection with each of the sexual traumas” (Freud & Breuer, 2000, p. 134). While it is widely accepted today that anxiety is a potential result of trauma, there is no underlying sexual tone to the common reasons one might develop anxiety, except occasions such as sexual assault or performance anxiety. Freud, especially in his later works, focused primarily on this relationship between sexuality and the development of neuroses, including anxiety – there seems to be a slight difference in the definition of anxiety, where Freudian anxiety is a product of sexual trauma or contact and present anxiety is more an overwhelming and constant feeling of worry. A noteworthy difference between Freudian and present case summaries, too, is the humanizing perspective Freud allows his patients – before he delves into the
14 description of the woman’s hysteria, he always spends at least a paragraph discussing the positive qualities of his patient. Anna O. was described by Breuer as being “markedly intelligent, with an astonishingly quick grasp of things and penetrating intuition” (Freud & Breuer, 2000, p. 21), and Fraulein Elisabeth von R. “seemed intelligent and mentally normal and bore her troubles… with a cheerful air” (Freud & Breuer, 2000, p. 135). This is strikingly different from the introduction to case summaries today, in which the patient’s demographic information – age, race, employment/student status, relationship status, gender, etc. – is noted to provide potentially needed context or explanation for the diagnosis being given. This context, while important, does nothing to make the patient seem more human in our eyes, as opposed to the Freudian method, which, as Freud himself admits, “read like short stories” (Freud & Breuer, 2000, p. 160). And why shouldn’t they? When we read a story, we get to know our character, empathize with them, feel for them. This is exactly what Freud does – he creates a portrait of his patient in which we truly get to know them and thus, to a certain extent, are able to experience their troubles as our own. Overall, Freud’s use of language is before its time in that it provides the basis for the current language used to describe mental illness and it is more humanistic than the case summary format used in today’s psychotherapeutic settings. Across multiple categories of diagnoses, including anxiety, hysteria/conversion disorder, and trauma, Freud’s descriptions neatly parallel the contemporary portrayals. At the same time, however, Freud seems to truly see his patient as another human being, not as a diagnosis, and he treats them as such, rather than a problem to be fixed. Perhaps we should ask ourselves why we have not returned to this more individualized viewpoint, why turning back to the medical as a solution means that we also turn back to the impersonal. .
References American Psychiatric Association. (1952). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 1st ed.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th ed. Freud, S. & Breuer, J. (2000). Studies on Hysteria. Translated by James Strachey and Anna Freud, Basic Books, Inc.
Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy as a Potential Form of Treatment for Children with Selective Mutism Michelle Hansen Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET), is a computer-based alternative to standard in-person treatment of anxiety disorders (Krijn, Emmelkamp, Olafsson, & Biemond, 2004). Virtual reality involves wearing a headset that causes shifts in a computer-based environment with a userâ€™s head movement, making users feel as if they are fully immersed in a natural environment, with the ability to look and move around at will (Parsons & Rizzo, 2007). When used in a therapeutic setting, VRET specifically involves interacting with simulated people and scenarios to practice exposure to anxiety-provoking situations without the possibility of negative consequences (Kampmann et al., 2016). VRET is unique because it can be administered at home without the need to go to a physical mental health clinic or center, which makes it more universally accessible (Kim et al., 2017). VRET can help combat three common structural barriers to mental health help-seeking behaviors: logistical problems (i.e., issues involving transportation, childcare and scheduling), inconvenient or distant treatment locations, and concerns about the cost of treatment (Andrade et al., 2014; Kim et al., 2017). Having the ability to access psychological therapy at home will make treatment more readily available to people who might not otherwise have access to the help they require due to logistic inaccessibility or financial restrain (Mojtabai et al., 2011). As of yet, there are no studies looking at the efficacy of VRET in treating Selective Mutism (SM), a psychiatric disorder marked by the consistent failure to speak in
16 specific social situations in which there is an expectation for speaking, despite speaking in other settings (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013). Therefore, this review will examine the evidence pointing to VRET as an effective form of treatment for children with a primary diagnosis of SM through comparing their symptoms with another disorder for which VRET has been shown to be effective. Symptoms of Selective Mutism The diagnostic criteria for Selective Mutism are: A) a consistent failure to speak in specific social situation in which there is an expectation for speaking despite speaking in other situations, B) the disturbance interferes with educational or occupational achievement or with social communication, C) the duration of the disturbance is at least one month, D) the failure to speak is not attributable to a lack of knowledge of, or comfort with, the spoken language required in the social situation, and E) the disturbance is not better explained by a communication disorder and does not occur exclusively during the course of autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, or another psychotic disorder (APA, 2013). The age of onset for SM is typically before age five, making it most prevalent in childhood (APA, 2013). These children often have trouble speaking with peers, teachers or strangers, but are fully able to speak at home with immediate family members. If left untreated, SM can continue to manifest into adulthood, causing difficulty with relationships and careers (Walker & Tobbell, 2015). Selective Mutism is considered an anxiety disorder by the American Psychiatric Association, meaning it is one of several disorders that share features of excessive fear (emotional response to real or perceived imminent threat) and anxiety (anticipation of future threat) and related behavioral disturbances (APA, 2013). Another anxiety disorder that is commonly comorbid with SM and also has overlaps in symptomology is, social anxiety disorder, classified by a fear of being negatively judged by others (APA, 2013). VRET and Social Anxiety Disorder High proportions of children diagnosed with selective mutism also meet criteria
17 for social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia (Dummit et al., 1997). Social anxiety disorder is classified by a persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others (APA, 2013). However, the age of onset for SM is lower than the typical age of onset for social anxiety disorder of between 8 to 15 years of age (APA, 2013). A key difference between SM and social anxiety disorder is that a child with SM may not be behaviorally inhibited though they are verbally inhibited (e.g., a girl with SM may not talk to peers, but may be willing to perform a ballet in front of her school), while a child with social anxiety may be both verbally and behaviorally inhibited in group settings but not one-on-one. However, studies examining the efficacy of VRET on treating social anxiety disorder have found that it successfully decreases behavioral avoidance and anxiety levels in adults, as measured in self-report scores on measures like the Dysfunctional Attitude Scale, the Fear of Negative Evaluation, and the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (Anderson, Rothbaum, & Hodges, 2003; Bouchard et al., 2011; Gebara, Barros-Neto, Gertsenchtein, & Lotufo-Neto, 2016). Avoidance behaviors are motivated by the concept of consciously or unconsciously avoiding a perceived threat, and by completing a behavioral avoidance test, participants show the ability to complete a once fear-inducing task (Urdan, Ryan, Anderman, & Gheen, 2002). Further, it has been found that VRET based in cognitive-behavioral therapy, a type of talk therapy that is premised on positively altering thought and behavior patterns, has the potential to match the efficacy of in-person therapy in reducing social anxiety levels (Bouchard et al., 2011; Klinger et al., 2005; What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?: PTSD Clinical Practice Guideline). The effects of VRET has been so notable in participants with social anxiety disorder, that it was found that a majority of participants no longer met diagnostic criteria for the disorder after only eight sessions (Anderson, Edwards, & Goodnight, 2016). Not only has VRET been shown to decrease symptomology of people with social anxiety disorder; research has also shown it helps in professional, social, and familial relationships (Gebara, Barros-Neto, Gertsenchtein, & Lotufo-Neto, 2016).
18 A subset of social anxiety disorder is solely performanced based, meaning an individual does not have anxiety regarding non-performance social situations, nor do they eschew them. The most common symptom of this subset of social phobia is glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking (APA, 2013). In studies looking at the fear of public speaking, it was found that at-home VRET significantly decreased public speaking anxiety levels, and that participants maintained this low level of nervousness for weeks after the initial study concluded (Kim et al., 2017; Miloff et al., 2018; Stupar-Rutenfrans, Ketelaars, & van Gisbergen, 2017). The efficacy of VRET on reducing performance-based social anxiety could be due to what Gurthrie (1952) calls counterconditioning, or the replacement of an old, negative response with a new, neutral or positive one. By being exposed to an anxiety-provoking threat without the possibility of negative feedback, VRET provides a unique opportunity for patients with anxiety disorders to become desensitized to certain social situations in which they were previously fearful. Potential Use of VRET for SM Similar to SM, social anxiety disorder is marked by a fear of social interactions in which speech is expected (e.g., having conversations with peers, meeting a new person). Additionally, the fear or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in important areas of functioning (e.g., socially, educationally, occupationally) in both of these disorders. Furthermore, there is an overlap in the likelihood of genetic influence as a risk factor, as the DSM-5 explicitly states, â€œ[b]ecause of the significant overlap between selective mutism and social anxiety disorder, there may be shared genetic factors between these conditionsâ€? (APA, 2013, p. 196). Because there are such apparent overlaps in symptomology, and because numerous studies have effectively shown that VRET is an effective form of treatment for social anxiety disorder, more research should be done into the potential benefits for individuals with a primary diagnosis of selective mutism.
19 VRET and Children In order to fully comprehend the benefits that VRET could have on children with SM, future research should be conducted on children specifically, as the aforementioned studies have been focused on the effect of VRET as treatment for adults. While this is beneficial for an understanding of the overall effects of this treatment, the treatment has not been looked at specifically through the lens of its effect on children. However, several hypotheses may give insight into the potential impact of VRET on children. The simulation hypothesis, first proposed by David Hume in 1739, is the notion that simulated interactions with the environment are the basis of thought (Hesslow, 2002; Hume, 1888). According to this hypothesis, media may augment the ideas children can draw from in their play through the creation of new memories, and consequently, increases children’s imaginative thinking (Valkenburg, 2001). In anxiety disorders, memory and imagination limit an individual’s functioning in that they may have recollections of negative events, and imagine them happening again in the present (Vincelli, 1999). Vygotsky (1990) hypothesizes that imagination reaches its full maturity and becomes relatively stagnant in adulthood, indicating that imagination is most malleable in childhood. By linking memories of positive computer-generated speaking situations to the imagination of future situations in which a child is expected to speak, VRET may relieve anxiety in children (Glantz, Durlach, Barnett, & Aviles, 1996). Nevertheless, due to the lack of research on VRET on children, this outcomes can only be assumed. However, if Hume’s and Vygotsky’s hypotheses hold true, VRET should be just as effective, if not more effective, for children with SM as it is for the adults with social anxiety disorder as explored in previous research (Hume 1888; Vygotsky 1990).
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Fetal Functional Neuroimaging Dani Miano A cutting-edge and transformative technology recently available to the scientificcommunity is fetal functional neuroimaging. Moriah Thomason, one of the pioneers of this advancement, is a strong advocate for this technology to become more widely used. According to Dr. Thomason and her work, understanding the fetal brain can contribute greatly to understanding the adult brain, as well as the developmental years in between. In some cases, experience and environment have an effect on the wiring of the brain, and in other cases, it is thewiring of the brain that affects an individualâ€™s experience later in life. One of Thomasonâ€™s studies, which was data-driven, looked at the effects of exposure to lead on fetal brains. She and her colleague Alex Burt found that fetuses whose mothers lived in an environment with high levels of lead exposure had stronger within-system posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) connectivity than controls, whose mothers were not exposed to any significant amount of lead. The PCC is responsible for episodic memory retrieval and is activated when we daydream. In neurotypical adults, the PCC is quieted when the prefrontal cortex (pFC) is activated, meaning that when we are engaging in a task we suspend our daydreaming. The fetuses in the control group showed low PCC connectivity, indicating a well-functioning pFC; however, the strong PCC connectivity in the lead exposed fetuses indicated a poorly functioning pFC. By conducting studies on the fetal brain, we can determine what environme have which consequences, if any, on the developing brain. On the other hand, wiring of the brain before birth can have an effect on how individuals interact with their environments later in life. Thomason and her colleagues
25 performed an analysis on fetal brain sex-differences and found a stronger fetal-brain to infant-behavior link in females than males. Though future studies would have to be conducted to make an actual scientific claim about the following conjecture, Thomason speculated that this link may indicate females are more hard-wired than males at birth, meaning that they display more brain connectivity on average. Brains that are more hard-wired are less susceptible to environmental shaping, which could mean two things: first that it is better protected against trauma, and secondly that it is less flexible in the development of things like creativity and intelligence. There are countless questions that arise from whether or not the female brain is more hard-wired at birth than the male brain, and whether or not having a more hardwired brain is a good thing, but we have very little information in the scientific vault to answer any of them. Researchers should conduct studies to target all of these questions and others that arise about the fetal brain, as all such explorations would provide us with a greater understanding of the human brain. An important springboard to that is accessibility of existing data and fetal functional neuroimaging methods. Dr. Thomason discussed the importance of open science and collaboration, especially within an emerging subfield that is not widely known and whose method of neuroimaging was a complex one to develop. If researchers could save time independently developing another fetal neuroimaging method by using an existing and available one, they would have more time to spend on the research itself, and science would benefit. Fetal functional neuroimaging is an incredibly exciting development and field of study that brings with it many new psychological advancements on the horizon.
Influence of Dating Applications Prianka Koya There is an increasing number of social network users across the globe. It is estimated that there will be 2.77 billion social networks users in 2019 which is significantly more than the 2.46 billion users in 2017 (Number of social media users worldwide, 2019). Simultaneously, the amount of dating application users is rapidly growing and the stigma surrounding dating applications is decreasing (Gordon, n.d.). How and why people decide to utilize dating applications can provide us with insights on human behavior and innate desires. Yet, it is also important to note that there are several aspects that influence the outcomes people face when utilizing dating applications. Review of Literature When analyzing dating applications one must understand the way they are used and the different factors that influence people when using them. Many dating applications are primarily utilized on smartphones but differ in several different ways. As of January 2018 Tinder was declared the second most popular online dating app (Morning Consult, 2018). Apps like Grindr target gay, bi, trans, and queer people. Coffee Meets Bagel and Hinge require one to input more information in oneâ€™s personal biography than apps like Tinder and Bumble. However, all applications require users to create a personal biography with photos and descriptions of themselves. They are then shown users who are in close proximity and if both users indicate they like each other, they match and are provided a chat box. Through this chat box, they can converse. Therefore, factors like proximity, sexual orientation, and motivations for using the applications can help explain the different experiences people have when engaging with applications like Tinder or Grindr.
27 Proximity Many studies examine the role proximity plays in facilitating relationships. In the 1940s MIT created a student housing project called “Westgate West” for American servicemen after serving in World War II (Festinger, Schachter, & Back, 1950). Students were randomly assigned to live in one of 17 ten-unit apartment buildings (Festinger et al., 1950). Researchers conducted a study observing relationships formed within the buildings and found two-thirds of residents who said they were friends lived in the same building (Festinger et al., 1950). There were 19 feet between doorways of adjacent apartments and 89 feet between apartments at the end of each hallway (Festinger et al., 1950). Forty-one percent of those in adjacent apartments said they were friends while only 10 percent of those living 89 feet apart said they were friends (Festinger et al., 1950). The stairs were positioned so occupants in middle apartments were more likely to run into each other, and the study found twice as many friendships occured between those living in middle apartments than between those who did not (Festinger et al., 1950). The MIT study observed the effects of functional distance, which is how architectural layout encourages or inhibits activities including contact between people (Gilovich, Keltner, Chen, & Nisbett, 2016). Another study observed diverse populations in a Manhattan housing project and similarly found proximity was a common factor among friendships made across all age and racial groups (Nahemow & Lawton, 1975). Therefore, closer proximity and functional distance likely facilitate relationships. Person-situation Debate The person-situation debate is a historical debate about the relative power of personality traits compared to situational influences on behavior (Diener & Lucas, 2018). In the 1960’s, Walter Mischel claimed people overestimate the effect of personality traits and how consistent they are across different situations (Mischel, 1968). Research conducted after the person-situation debate indicates that on average the effect
28 of the situation is about equal to the effect of personality traits (Diener & Lucas, 2018). Personality traits may determine how people act on average but are not as reliable in predicting how a person will act in a certain situation at a specific moment (Diener & Lucas, 2018). Sensation Seeking Majority of studies suggest there is a link between sensation seeking and being in vulnerable situations. For instance, people that have higher levels of sensation seeking have been reported to attend more parties, drink excessively, and are more likely to admit to using illegal substances (Boyle, Murray, & Boekeloo, 2002; Kalichman & Rompa, 1995; Reece, Dodge, & Cole, 2002). Many findings also link sexual sensation seeking to having a higher number of unfamiliar sexual partners (Fisher & Misovich, 1990; Newcomb & McGee, 1991; Zuckerman & Kuhlman, 2000) and less consistency with condom usage (Davis et al., 2014). Sexual sensation seeking has been shown to be positively correlated with the number of sexual partners and frequency of unprotected anal intercourse regardless of oneâ€™s sexual orientation (Kalichman et al., 1994; Kalichman & Rompa, 1995; Kashubeck-West & Szymanski, 2008; McCoul & Haslam, 2001; Hess et al., 2014). However, in another study there was no correlation between engaging in unprotected heterosexual intercourse and sensation seeking (Gaither & Sellbom, 2003). Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM) There are many variables that should be accounted for when comparing heterosexual men and men who have sex with men (MSM), especially when observing their use of dating applications. Several studies indicate that higher percentages of MSM use dating applications than heterosexual men (Liau, Millett & Marks, 2006; Rosser et al., 2011). This could be due to the fact that it is more difficult to locate partners with the same sexual orientation for homosexual men (Rosser et al., 2011). Additionally, the Internet allows people with different sexual orientations to express their sexuality in
29 an accepting and open environment (Rosser et al., 2011). It provides anonymity, which allows people with stigmatized sexual orientations to avoid negative responses. In 2008, one of the first empirical studies analyzing MSM and dating applications sampled participants online and divided them into 3 groups (Hovath, Rosser & Remafedi, 2008). The first group included MSM who used offline and online methods, the second contained MSM who exclusively used online methods, and the third group included those who exclusively used offline methods (Hovath et al., 2008). The study found MSM who reported having the most sexual partners used both methods and were more likely to have been intoxicated during intercourse (Hovath et al., 2008). MSM who only used online methods had a higher percent of unprotected anal intercourse than those who used exclusively offline methods (Hovath et al., 2008). Yet, in 2014 another study examined sexual health history, behavior, and personality of MSM who used dating applications and there were no statistical difference in unprotected sex between MSM who used dating apps and those who did not (Lehmiller & Ioerger, 2014). Therefore, it is difficult to determine whether or not dating applications are facilitating more casual sex. Condom Use Condom use is generally inconsistent according to the 1988 National Survey of Adolescent Males (Ku, Sonenstein & Pleck, 1994). It indicated 35 percent of sexually active teenage males always used a condom in the preceding year, 43 percent used them sometimes, and 22 percent never used them (Ku et al., 1994). Other studies supported inconsistent condom use among teenage males (Hingson et al., 1990). Additionally, an increase in age is associated with an increase in sexuality and a decrease in condom use (Ku et al., 1994). Alcohol and other intoxicating substances may facilitate risky sexual behavior.
30 One study found alcohol use decreases the probability of condom usage in Thai MSM (Boonchutima & Kongchan, 2017). Despite the role technology may play in sexual behaviors, condom use is generally inconsistent. Motivations for Using Dating Applications A study recruited homosexual, bisexual, and other MSM and found 7 major motivations for using dating applications: safety, control, easiness, accessibility, mobility, connectivity, and versatility (Miller, 2015). Homosexual men face different obstacles regarding their sexual orientation in comparison to heterosexual men suggesting they may have unique motivations for using dating applications like anonymity (Miller, 2015). Another study recruited Dutch 18-30 year olds (heterosexual males and females) for an online survey and researchers found 6 major motivations for using Tinder: love, casual sex, ease of communication, self-worth, validation, thrill of excitement, and trendiness (Sumter, Vandenbosch & Ligtenberg, in press). It was found that while men had a stronger motivation for casual sex than women, the motivation for love was stronger than the motivation for casual sex for both genders (Sumter et al., in press). Another study observed 509 heterosexual cisgender undergraduate students and found at least 90 percent of participants using dating applications claimed that their motivators were “to have fun,” “meet new people,” and “be social/chat with others” (Sawyer, Smith, & Benotsch, 2018, p. 186). Other motivators such as “finding a dating partner” and “initiate sex” were also common (Sawyer et al., 2018, p. 186). The study indicated that the use of dating applications is associated with sexual risk behaviors, unprotected intercourse, and lifetime number of partners (Sawyer et al., 2018). Individuals in casual relationships were also found to be 5 times more likely to have unprotected sex than non committed participants (Sawyer et al., 2018). Individuals who used applications had higher impulsivity scores and lifetime number of partners so their traits
31 may contribute to their behavior and reasons for downloading dating applications. Social Media The daily time spent social networking by internet users worldwide from 2012 to 2017 had a steady increase from 90 minutes in 2012 to 135 minutes in 2017 (GlobalWebIndex, 2017). The number of daily active Snapchat users from 2014 to 2017 also increased from 46 million to 187 million (Snap Inc., 2018). Daily, active Facebook users began at 372 million in 2011 and increased to 1449 million by 2018 (Facebook, 2018). The dating revenue made by Match.com has increased since 2012, therefore, it is likely these trends will repeat and be evident in dating applications (IAC, 2018). Like other social media platforms, people will become more familiar with social dating applications facilitating more dates and sexual behavior. Abstinence Education In 1981 teenage pregnancy and STIs were fought against through federal funding for abstinence-only education in the United States (Perrin & DeJoy, 2003). In 2002, The Heritage Foundation published a paper stating abstinence education programs for youth were effective in reducing sexual activity and included 10 studies (Perrin & DeJoy, 2003). However, Douglas Kirby of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy said 9 of the 10 studies provided too little evidence and poor research design to draw conclusions (Perrin & DeJoy, 2003). In the 1990s teen sexual activity decreased and it could be due to the increased use of contraception, fear of AIDS, and a shift in sexuality education from abstinence to safer sex (Perrin & DeJoy, 2003). It is not unlikely that dating applications are facilitating more connections and sexual interactions between people. When sexual activity increases, there may be an increase in STIs and unprotected sex. However, claiming these applications should be avoided is similar to saying sex should be avoided to prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancies. It seems the most effective way to reducing risks according to research done
32 by “The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy” is to focus on the adolescents’ behavior in social settings and which factors influence risky behaviors (Perrin & DeJoy, 2003). Limitations When studying dating applications there are many limiting factors. Often, people are recruited online skewing the population to people who use the Internet. Additionally, when using online methods there is less accountability and a higher chance of non-response, and less effort and time spent answering questions (Jhangiani, 2018). There is not a lot of research done on dating applications because they are relatively new, and this area of research is part of a niche field in psychology. This makes it even more difficult to draw conclusions, especially when the existing research is contradictory. Conclusion Similarly to social media applications, dating applications affect people and their behaviors. Studies suggest dating applications facilitate more connections and increase one’s number of sexual partners and sexually risky behavior. From current research, it is impossible to determine whether dating applications are primarily influencing behaviors or if people using the applications are naturally attracted to them due to personality traits. However, if there is an increase in unprotected sex it seems the way to combat it is to conduct more research investigating which factors play the largest role in condom use. For example, targeting ages that drink the most and emphasizing the importance of safe sex even while intoxicated may be effective in preventing unprotected sex. There needs to be more studies examining dating application users and understanding which groups of individuals should be targeted when trying to teach safer sex practices.
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Effect of Hours Spent on Social Media on Anxiety Levels in Middle School-Aged Children Julia Moses In the book “Born to be Wild,” Dr. Jess Shatkin states the pleasure that is felt as a teenager is the most intense one will ever feel in their life (Shatkin, 2017). Social media hijacks the adolescent brain with constant dopamine bursts with each ‘like’ and ‘follower’ on a person’s profile (Sherman, Payton, Hernandez, Greenfield, & Dapretto, 2016). The use of social media sites over the past decade has grown more and more (Pew Research Center, 2018). Considering the consistent and large growth of social media, this has prompted recent research studies to explore the possible effects of social media on human psychology (Hardy & Castonguay, 2018; Shensa, Sidani, Dew, Escobar-Viera, & Primack, 2018). A study conducted in 2018 that looked at social media use in middle schools found that 17% of students interviewed started using social media at age 9 or younger (Martin, Petty, Wang, & Wang, 2018). Instagram is of particular importance due to the nature of the application and its popularity among the younger population (Lup, Trub, & Rosenthal, 2015). Instagram is a photo vand video sharing site that allows people to post photos and videos of themselves as well as ‘follow’ people such as friends and family, along with major celebrities (Apple iTunes Store). Instagram is infamous for its implications in social comparison among its young users. This has prompted studies regarding social comparison in its relations to self-esteem and anxiety levels (Lup et al., 2015; Vannuccia, Flannerya, &
38 Ohannessian, 2016). This paper builds on the limited literature surrounding the effects of social media on adolescent psychology. Research Hypotheses The current study aims to examine the relation between hours spent on social media per day and anxiety levels as moderated by the number of followers one has on their Instagram profile. The first hypothesis is: the more time the participant spends on social media, the higher anxiety they will feel. This is indicative of a middle-schoolerâ€™s desire to be accepted and liked by peers that is amplified by social media (Shatkin, 2017). Additionally, it is predicted that the greater the number of followers an individual has on their profile, the greater their anxiety will be. More followers suggest that more people are viewing their profile, and therefore more people they feel the need to be accepted by. Social media and anxiety will be positively correlated; it is believed the number of followers on oneâ€™s profile will either heighten this anxiety if there are many followers or the anxiety will be less severe if one does not have many followers. Method The study will be conducted over a period of 30 days. This will be a quasi-experimental design. We cannot and do not want to assign the participants to high or low social media usage because the purpose of the experiment is to study their existing behaviors, not to alter them. Participants One hundred participants will be recruited from five randomly selected middle schools across the continental United States. The participants will be aged thirteen and fourteen.Instagram has an age minimum of thirteen years (Instagram.com); therefore people under this age will not be allowed to participate in the current study. Students who do not have at least one form of social media will also be excluded from the study.
39 Because we will be studying random schools in the United States, it should be representative of the U.S. population ratio of ethnicities, races, and religions. This will control for these variables as possible confounding factors. Measures Phone application – The students who meet the criteria to participate will install an application on their phone that tracks how many hours per day they spend on their phone as well as how long is spent on each individual application. The participants will be required to keep this application on their phone for the 30 days the study is taking place in order to accurately measure their social media usage. This will be a continuous variable. State-trait anxiety inventory for children (STAI-CH) – The participants will also be required to take the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children (STAI-CH). (Spielberger, Gorsuch, Lushene, Vagg, & Jacobs, 1983) at the end of the one-month period (Appendix). The STAI has been proven to have a high internal consistency with a=0.86 (Quek et al., 2004). This will also be a continuous variable. Instagram followers – vInstagram followers will be a continuous variable that will be measured by looking at the participant’s Instagram follower count at the beginning of the study. Data Analysis The results from the social media tracking application will be looked at after one month of use and will be compared to the scores on the STAI-CH (Speilberger et al., 1983). These two variables will be compared and then the third moderating variable will be introduced—amount of followers on Instagram. A moderation analysis will be done on the statistical programing software SPSS with the collected data. Following guidelines outlined by Baron and Kenny 1986), a hierarchical multiple regression analysis will be used to test for the moderation since the predictor variable and outcome
40 variable are continuous. First, descriptives will be run on all three variables. Next, a bivariate correlation will be run between all the variables. The predictor and moderator will then be centered to prepare for the hierarchical multiple regression, but the outcome variable will not be centered. Next, an interaction term will be created between the predictor and moderator (hours on social media Ă— number of followers). The hierarchical linear regression will give us the output tables to compare all three models. An incremental F test would be used to determine whether the interaction accounted for additional significant variance in anxiety. Finally, the moderation analysis will be graphed. Limitations Even with certain parameters in place, every study will have threats to internal and external validity. Every study will have confounding variables that may threaten the interna validity of the study. A confounding variable in this study in particular may be pre-existing mental health conditions. We will not know if the participants already have a genetic predisposition to anxiety or other related mental disorders. This may create outliers where a participant would have a low follower count and low time on social media but still high anxiety which would go against the hypothesis of the study. This would alter the results yet would not be indicative of the actual effect of social media usage and follower-count on anxiety levels. To account for this, a mental health screening will be done before participants are admitted to the study. The participants will not necessarily be excluded from the study if the test for higher anxiety levels, but it should be noted in the data while their results are analyzed to account for how it may skew the results. There could also be possible experimenter bias since the experimenters will be looking for relations between the variables. To account for this, in the future the study should be double blinded to account for this possible bias.
41 It is also possible that the results of this study would not be generalizable to other age groups outside of this sample. People of different age groups use social media in different ways (Pew Research Center, 2018). Therefore, number of hours spent on social media and number of followers one has may not affect older samplesâ€™ anxiety levels in the same way it would in the middle school aged participants of the current study. If people did not grow up with social media in the same way this population did, their brains will be wired to respond in different ways; therefore we can assume their anxiety will manifest differently as well. The results of this study may also not be generalizable to people, even of the same age group, in other countries. The social expectations of social media may be different in countries in Asia or Europe and therefore these results may not predict the results of the same study done elsewhere. If one were to replicate this study in the future, these limitations should be addressed. Future studies could study different age groups to see if the results of the current study are consistent with other populations. This study should also be replicated in countries around the world and then researchers can see how the results compare. By accounting for these factors, the generalizability of the results will be greater for future possible implications.
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