E&H Students Honored for Research at Psychology Conference

Posted on: Thursday, March 16th, 2017 by Brent Treash
Four Emory & Henry College students brought home research awards from the annual meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA) meeting on March 8-11 in Atlanta, Ga.

Four Emory & Henry College students brought home research awards from the annual meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA) meeting on March 8-11 in Atlanta, Ga.

E&H students Myranda Staiano (Waxhaw, N.C.), Beth Stevens (Wytheville, Va.), Jordan Greenburg (Cordova, Tenn.) and Rachel Peters (Gate City, Va.) were all honored with a cash prize for their research by the Psi Chi International Honor Society.

Staiano’s research focused on selfless behavior as it relates to religion or spirituality. In her studies, she examined the belief that higher scores on empathy would predict altruism, higher religiosity would predict less altruism, more intrinsically religious (spiritual) individuals would have higher altruism scores and more extrinsically religious individuals would have lower altruism scores.

In her research, Stevens’ sought to investigate the predictive power of corporal punishment and parenting styles on levels of aggression in young adulthood. Stevens looked at the idea that participants who report being exposed to an authoritarian parenting style as a child would indicate higher levels of aggression, participants who report having experienced a permissive parental style would have lower levels of aggression and more severe levels of corporal punishment would predict higher levels of aggression.

Greenburg investigated the predictability that psychological aggression has on psychological distress. Greenburg looked at the idea that aggression will predict psychological distress, while levels of perceived social support would significantly mediate the relationship between psychological aggression and psychological distress.

Peter’s examined possible discrepancies between ideal and actual body image and how perceived body image related to college students’ self-esteem. She theorized that both men and women would rate their ideal body type differently than their current body type, men and women would rate the body type they thought to be most attractive to the other sex differently than their current body type and body dissatisfaction would be related to lower self-esteem.

Other students presenting posters at the annual conference included Alan Berry, Hannah Doss, Jessica Harosky, Caroline Taylor, Emilee Young, Danielle Loving, Skyla Renner, Grayson Reynolds and Emilee Young.

A Closer Look at the Student Research

Religiosity, Empathy, and Spirituality as Chief Correlates of Altruistic Behavior. Myranda Staiano & A. Celeste Gaia, Emory & Henry College.

Myranda Staiano Presents her Poster at the 2017 SEPA ConfernecePrevious research on altruistic behavior has created two schools of thought. The traditional school, relying on Allport's theory of religiosity, sees religion or spirituality as the main motivation for altruistic behavior (Huber & MacDonald, 2012; Sablosky, 2013). Allport's theory says that there are two types of religiosity: extrinsic (i.e., religious for secondary or worldly gain or notoriety) and intrinsic (i.e., religiosity that guides one's life in a fundamental way; Trimble, 1996). For the extrinsically religious, religion is a means to an end, whereas religion is an end in itself for the intrinsically religious (Trimble, 1996). Studies that rely on Allport's theory hypothesize that the intrinsically religious tend to be more altruistic than the extrinsically religious, which has been supported in many cases (Bernt, 1989; Trimble, 1996). According to Saslow et al. (2013), religiosity as we often define it may itself be extrinsic. That is, religiosity promotes an in-group out-group mentality, creating a high likelihood to behave altruistically toward the in-group but not toward the out-group. Spirituality (or intrinsic religiosity) has been investigated independent of religiosity as a motivation for altruism (Huber & MacDonald, 2012; Saslow et al., 2013). In all cases, it has been found that more spiritual individuals showed more compassion and prosocial behaviors. In contrast, other research relying on the Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis sees empathic concern as the main motivation for altruistic behavior (FeldmanHall et al., 2015; Knafo & Israel, 2012; Toi & Batson, 1982). Much of the research conducted on altruism reveals a great deal of support for the Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis. This is the idea that "empathic concern produces altruistic motive" (Batson, 2010, p. 16). In the present study of undergraduate students (N = 61), I hypothesized that (1) higher scores on empathy would predict altruism; (2) higher religiosity would predict less altruism; (3) more intrinsically religious (spiritual) individuals would have higher altruism scores; and (4) more extrinsically religious individuals would have lower altruism scores. Participants completed the Self-Report Altruism Scale (Rushton, Chrisjohn, & Fekken, 1981), the Empathic Concern and Perspective Taking subscales of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (Davis, 1983), Rohrbaugh and Jessor’s Religiosity Measure (Rohrbaugh & Jessor, 1975), and the Daily Spiritual Experiences Scale (Underwood & Teresi, 2002). Correlational analyses revealed no significant relationship between altruism and religiosity (r  = .224, p = .083) nor between altruism and empathy (r = .203, p = .116). Correlational analyses did, however, reveal a significant positive relationship between spirituality and altruism (r = -.254, p = .048; spirituality score is negatively coded), and a significant positive relationship between altruism and two religiosity subscales (ritual religiosity: r = .273, p = .033; consequential religiosity: r = .285, p = .040). Using stepwise linear regressions, I entered consequential religiosity, ritual religiosity, and spirituality as predictors of altruism. Results indicated that consequential religiosity was the strongest predictor of altruism, R2 = .13, p < .001; adjusted R2 = .066, p < .05. Though ritual religiosity and spirituality were significantly correlated with altruism, the regression analysis removed these as predictor variables. Because the altruism scale measures altruistic beliefs through hypothetical actions and the consequential religiosity subscale focuses on selfless action motivated by religious beliefs (i.e., volunteerism), it follows that a subscale measuring action would be the strongest predictor for altruism measured through action. Thus, the present study suggests that religious beliefs manifested through actions are the strongest predictor for altruism.  

The Role of Parenting Styles and Corporal Punishment in College Students’ Levels of Aggression. Beth Stevens & A. Celeste Gaia. Emory & Henry College.

Beth Stevens Presents her Poster at the Annual SEPA 2017 ConferenceStudies have shown that by the age of 9 or 10, 94% of children have been spanked at least once (Lee, Altschul, & Gershoff, 2015). Additionally, 55% of mothers have reported spanking their children by the time they are 3-years-old (Laprè & Marsee, 2015). This use of corporal punishment, along with particular parenting styles, are possible factors that may have a direct influence on the development of internalizing and externalizing behaviors in children (Braza et al., 2013). Parents who exhibit a lack of affection and communication, lower promotion of autonomy in children, bad humor, and greater behavioral control tend to favor negative disciplinary practices (Gomez-Ortiz, Romera, & Ortega-Ruiz, 2015, pp. 140-141). It is possible that these early childhood experiences with negative discipline, corporal punishment, and particular parenting styles may be associated with levels of aggression in later life. For instance, greater experience with corporal punishment and authoritarian parenting styles as children is associated with greater levels of aggression in college students (e.g. Braza et al., 2013; Friedson, 2015; Jiménez-Barbero et al., 2016; Whal & Cornelia, 2012).  The purpose of the present study was to investigate the predictive power of corporal punishment and parenting styles on levels of aggression in young adulthood. Undergraduate students (N=96), responded to the Aggression Questionnaire, which assesses physical aggression, verbal aggression, anger, and hostility (Buss, & Perry, 1992), the Parental Authority Questionnaire, which assesses parenting styles (Buri, 1991), and the Conflict Tactics Scale, which assesses non-violent punishment (example), physical assault (example), severe physical punishment (example), and psychological punishment (example; Straus, Hamby, Finkelhor, Moore & Desmond, 1998).  I hypothesized that (H1): participants who report being exposed to an authoritarian parenting style as a child would indicate higher levels of aggression; (H2): participants who report having experienced a permissive parental style would have lower levels of aggression; and (H3): more severe levels of corporal punishment would predict higher levels of aggression. H1 was partially confirmed. Using stepwise linear regressions, I entered authoritarian and authoritative parenting of both mother and father as predictors of the four types of aggression. Results indicated that authoritarian parenting of the mother was the strongest predictor of greater physical aggression, R2 = .13, p < .001; verbal aggression, R2 = .072, p < .01; anger, R2 = .028, p < .01, and hostility, R2 = .13, p < .001.  Though father authoritarian parenting was significantly correlated with the measures of aggression, the regression analysis removed this as a predictor variable. H2 was not supported, as permissive parenting was not significantly correlated with any type of aggression. H3 was partially confirmed. Results indicated that psychological punishment was a weak, but significant, predictor of anger, R2 = .045, p < .05; physical assault was a significant predictor of physical aggression, R2 = .104, p < .01; severe physical punishment was a significant predictor of verbal aggression, R2 = .052, p < .05; and non-violent punishment predicted less hostility, R2 = .058, p < .05. Findings suggest that the authoritarian parenting style of the mother may play a greater role than the father in the development of aggressive behaviors. Results also indicate that the severity of childhood punishment may influence the expression of aggression in adulthood. Future research could broaden the scope of this examination by looking at how other aspects of family dynamics may influence aggressive behaviors.

The Relationship of Belongingness to Emotional Distress among Victims of Psychological Aggression. Jordan Greenburg, Emory & Henry College; Alexandra Bellis and Kevin Swartout, Georgia State University

Jordan Greenburg Presents Her Poster at the Annual 2017 SEPA ConferencePsychological aggression is a form of intimate partner violence (IPV) that includes behaviors such as name-calling, verbal threats, ridicule, and attempts to control one’s partner. The most recent National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that nearly half of all women and men experience psychological IPV (Black et al., 2011). Psychological aggression is associated with depression and anxiety, even when controlling for co-occurring physical assault (Lawrence, Yoon, Langer, & Ro, 2009). A study of young adults engaged in common couple violence found that social support via help-seeking behaviors mitigated the effect of IPV on psychological distress for women but not men (Fortin, Guay, Lavoie, Boisvert, & Beaudry, 2011). Hypothesis: Psychological aggression will predict psychological distress, but levels of perceived social support will significantly mediate the relationship between psychological aggression and psychological distress. The method for this project involved 272 students from a large Southeastern university (122 men, 150 women). All participants self-identified as heterosexual. Students registered for the study via an online participant management system. After indicating consent, participants were redirected to an online survey. Measures used included the revised Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS-2; Straus, Hamby, Boney-McCoy, and Sugarman, 1996), Mental Health Index (MHI; Stewart, Sherbourne, Hays, et al.,1992), and the Feelings of Belonging & Psychological Distress subscales. 169 of the 272 par1cipants (62.1%) reported experiencing some form of psychological IPV victimization in their most recent intimate relationship. Men and women reported similar rates of psychological aggression victimization. We conducted mediation analysis using Baron & Kenny’s method: Step 1: A bivariate regression found psychological aggression significantly predicted psychological distress (outcome). Step 2: A second bivariate regression found psychological aggression significantly predicted feelings of belonging (mediator). Step 3: A third bivariate regression found feelings of belonging significantly predicted psychological distress. Step 4: Multiple regression found that feelings of belonging significantly, fully mediated the main effect of psychological aggression on psychological distress. The model accounted for 33.44% of the variance in psychological distress, F(2, 268) = 68.825, p < .001. To determine to calculate the indirect effect, we conducted a Sobel test which was significant, z = -2.67, p < .01. Although psychological IPV victimization alone explained a significant amount of variance in psychological distress, feelings of belonging fully mediated this relationship. A possible explanation for this effect is that psychological aggression disrupts a fundamental need to belong and feel loved, a lack of which (either real or perceived) has been linked to a range of negative psychological/emotional outcomes (Baumeister & Leary, 1995). Limitations of this study include the simplicity of the mediational model; future research should incorporate a more rigorous analysis. Additionally, we cannot definitively establish the temporal order of effects based on the cross-sectional data; future research should use a lagged or fully longitudinal design. Future research should seek to uncover further mechanisms by which psychological IPV victimization can lead to negative mental health outcomes.

The Role of Perceived Body Image on College Students’ Self-Esteem. Rachel Peters & A. Celeste Gaia, Emory & Henry College.    

BRachel Peters Presents Her Poster at the Annual 2017 SEPA Conference.ody image is defined as the mental image, perceptions, and personal beliefs about one’s own body including concomitant attitudes, thoughts, and feelings (Novella, Gosselin, & Danowski, 2015).  Western society has shaped the ideal body image for both men and women. Both struggle with how they see their own bodies as well as how others see them; however, the areas of focus and reasoning for dissatisfaction differ.  Men often desire a more toned body type because they are displeased with the leanness of their bodies (Cordes, Vocks, Dusing, Bauer, & Waldorf, 2015).  Women, on the other hand, consistently report that they wish to be thinner (Novella et al., 2015). Research has indicated that this body dissatisfaction can act as a predictor of lower self-esteem (Booth, 1990; Chittester & Hausenblas, 2009). Furthermore, women experience higher levels of body shame based on their physical appearance than do men, which can lead to a negative perceived body image (Dorland, 2008).  Men who possess a high drive for muscularity often resort to supplement use and may be exercise dependent, which correlates with lower levels of self-esteem (Chittester & Hausenblas, 2009).  The purpose of the present study was to examine possible discrepancies between ideal and actual body image and determine how perceived body image relates to college students’ self-esteem. I hypothesized that H1: both men and women would rate their ideal body type differently than their current body type, H2: men and women would rate the body type they thought to be most attractive to the other sex differently than their current body type, and H3: body dissatisfaction on the MBSRQ-AS would be related to lower self-esteem.  Undergraduate students (N=90) responded to the Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem scale (Rosenberg, 1965); the Presentation of Images on a Continuum Scale, which assesses current body image, ideal body image, and what body image participants consider to be most attractive to the other sex (PICS; Novella, Gosselin, & Danowski, 2015);, and the Multidimensional Body-Self Relations Questionnaire-Appearance Scales (MBSRQ-AS; Cash, 2000), which contains five subscales: Appearance Evaluation, Appearance Orientation, Body Areas Satisfaction, Overweight Preoccupation, and Self-Classified Weight. Participants also indicated whether they identified most as male or female. Paired t-test analyses indicated that women perceived their current body image (M=7.29, SD=2.32) as significantly larger than their ideal body image (M=5.64, SD= 1.66), t (93)= 4.00, p<.001,  and that their current body image was larger (M=7.29, SD=2.32) than the body image they believed to be most attractive to men (M=5.36, SD= 1.72), t (91) = 4.55, p<.001. There were no significant differences between men’s ideal and current body image, nor their current body image and the one they thought most attractive to the women; therefore, women’s results supported H1 and H2, but men’s did not. H3 was partially supported as three out of five MBSRQ-AS subscales were significant predictors of self-esteem:  Appearance Evaluation, r = .56, p < .001; Body Areas Satisfaction, r = .47, p < .001, and Overweight Preoccupation, r = -.33, p < .001.  Consistent with previous research, results suggest that women may feel greater pressure to be thinner than do men, and that men may be more satisfied with their current body size.  Furthermore, findings suggest that the more that individuals are concerned about the evaluation of their appearance, are dissatisfied with different areas of of their bodies, and are preoccupied with their weight, the less positively they evaluate their self-worth.  Future research could examine factors that influence individuals’ ratings of their current and ideal bodies and identify how professionals can encourage women’s satisfaction with their current body size. Furthermore, research could explore how current and ideal ratings may vary based on sexual orientation and gender identification.


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