Department of Psychology Recent Research Outcomes - Fall 2014

Effects of l-tryptophan consumption on attitudes towards community service
Bryan Raudenbush and Emily Robinson

Past research indicates the consumption of L-Tryptophan (TRP), the biochemical precursor of 5-HT, can produce significant changes in mood, decision-making behaviors, and interpersonal trust. In particular, participants who consumed TRP prior to a mutual trust game transferred significantly more money to their partners in the game. The present study assessed the consumption of TRP on attitudes towards community service. Participants (N=88, 32 men, 56 women, age range = 16 to 24 years) were administered either 200 mL of orange juice (the control condition) or 200mL of orange juice to which 0.8 g of TRP had been added. Both prior to and after consumption, participants completed a variety of questionnaires over the course of one hour, such as the Profile of Mood States (to assess mood) and a general health questionnaire, and had their physiological responses (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure) tracked. After one hour, participants completed a survey related to community service attitudes. Participants receiving TRP reported significantly fewer negative impacts of community service than the control group, t(85)=-2.15, p=0.034. The TRP group also reported significantly more positive impacts of community service than the control group t(85)= 2.91, p= 0.01. Thus, the administration of TRP can have a marked effect on promoting positive attitudes towards community service, thereby building a better community. Future studies should assess how such an effect then equates to actually performing community service.

Effects of peppermint scent administration on augmenting swimming performance: Challenges related to orthonasal vs. retronasal scent administration
Bryan Raudenbush, Nic Cochran and Melanie Lamp

Past research indicates the positive effects of peppermint scent administration on athletic performance in a variety of sports (ie. soccer, basketball, golf) and exercise (ie., push-ups, hand-grip, running speed) domains. The present study assessed the effects of peppermint scent administration on augmenting swimming performance. In Study 1, Division II swimmers completed both a 50m and a 200m race in both a orthonasal peppermint scent administration condition and a non-scented control condition. In addition, questionnaires related to mood (POMS) and workload (NASA-TLX) were completed. Controlling for sex, BMI and years of competition, there was a trend for the peppermint scented condition to decrease the 50m time by 3.3% and the 200m time by 0.7%, F(1, 15)=3.55, p=.08. Since this effect is lower than that noted in other sports, it was hypothesized that the sport of swimming presents a unique challenge, since swimmers often breathe through their mouth, thus diminishing the effects of orthonasal scent administration. In Study 2, swimmers completed the same races, but with the administration of an orally inhaled peppermint scented oxygen, with the hypothesis that this retronasal administration may be better suited to swimmers who breathe through their mouth. No significant oxygenated peppermint effect was found, F(1,9) = 0.94, p=.36. The results of these two studies indicate that some effect can be found through orthonasal scent administration for swimmers; however, the addition of a retronasal scent administration produces no tangible augmentation of swimming performance. With swimming competitions typically being won or lost by mere hundredths of a second, future studies should address additional ways of overcoming this scent administration challenge.

Student Perceptions of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Following Psychophysiology Demonstrations
Michael A. Kirkpatrick

Undergraduates in five courses (n = 125; 43% male, 57% female) and representing 21 majors underwent advanced psychophysiological demonstration activities using equipment purchased via a grant to encourage student careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. After all demonstrations were completed in each class, students were administered a five item survey, rating each question either strongly disagree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree. Since enhancing student interest in STEM was the primary objective of the instrumentation grants program, the percentages reporting agreement or strong agreement to each statement were combined and yielded the following totals: 88% agreed that the psychophysiology equipment aroused their curiosity and motivated learning, 53.6% agreed the measurements challenged their beliefs about the relevance of STEM to psychology, 93.6% agreed the demonstration enhanced their focus and attention, and 80.8% reported greater interest in relaxation, meditation or psychophysiological assessment (depending upon class). More than half acknowledged challenging their beliefs about STEM and psychology, and 40% had more interest in STEM. While survey data cannot be construed as predictive of vocational pursuits, these findings are encouraging insofar as they reveal that technological enhancement in the classroom is generally well received by students and encourages attitudes favorable to STEM education.

Physiological and Cognitive Responses to Imagined Versus Observed Visual Scenes
Michael A. Kirkpatrick, Katie Livengood, Elizabeth Sacco, Clinton Baynham, and Autumn Hager

Sixteen undergraduate students were instrumented for measurement of electroencephalography (EEG) using a BioRadio telemetric recording device from Great Lakes Neurotechnologies, which sends signals via Bluetooth to a laptop computer. EEG data were saved for later analysis, however, and were not otherwise part of the present investigation. Participants were instructed to observe, in counterbalanced order, each of two different brief videotaped basketball scenes. During each trial, they timed the duration of a shot occurring in the scene. After each trial, they completed a brief questionnaire consisting of 20 true or false statements describing the scene content (e.g., gender and clothing of the shooter, the presence of other people or objects, etc.). After four consecutive trials, participants were instructed to imagine the exact same scene they had just observed. Four trials under instructions to imagine proceeded in a fashion identical to the observation trials, with participants timing the shot and completing the scene description questionnaire. The same procedure was then repeated with the second video scene, which had been scripted to ensure that the observed shot was of different duration, and that questions on the content questionnaire that were true in the first video were false in the second video. The objective of the procedure was to test whether 1) responding under instructions to observe would occasion timing and content discrimination behaviors that would generalize or persist under instructions to imagine. Additionally, the conditions were contrived to clearly demonstrate that learning and generalization on one task would be quantitatively distinguishable from learning and generalization on the other. Questionnaire and timing data were analyzed using a repeated measures ANOVA and revealed main effects for instructional conditions (observe versus imagine) and video scene (video 1 or video 2) for both dependent measures. Additionally, significant interactions were revealed. Participants learned to discriminate the beginning and end of the scene, and to name its features. They generalized this behavior when asked to imagine the scene. The results demonstrate that behavior under instructions to imagine can be rigorously evaluated in terms of actual events provided the comparison conditions can be independently and quantitatively evaluated by experimenters (i.e., directly observed), thereby sidestepping complicated interpretative challenges concerning what participants experience "in their minds." Instead, it is possible evaluate how observational experience changes behavior absent environmental cues but conditioned instead to depend upon verbal cues.

Respiratory and Cardiac Effects on Either Supine or Sitting Positions During Guided and Silent Meditation
Paola Maysonet, James Allen, Ashley May, and Michael A. Kirkpatrick

This study was intended as a pilot investigation to identify effective methods for assessing some of the physiological effects associated with the relaxation response during guided meditation in either a sitting or supine position. Four participants were individually monitored over twenty minutes via a BioRadio telemetric recording device assessing abdominal and chest tension, respiration pressure, and heart rate. Participants listened to an 18-minute guided meditation audio recording. Data samples were taken from the first two minutes, minutes 16-18, and then two additional minutes after the relaxation instructions were completed (minutes 18-20). Data from these time intervals were used to run a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) for each dependent measure. We hypothesized that participants would show increased respiratory pressure and oxygen levels and slower heart rates during the last interval of the meditation session (which was silent), and that these effects would be strongest in the supine position. However, no significant differences were found between the supine or sitting positions. Other physiological effects were consistent with our hypotheses, but not conclusive. Results showed stable but slowing heart rates and increased respiratory pressure as the meditation sessions progressed. Silent meditation was reported to be preferred by some participants over guided meditation. However, the number of participants proved too small for results to be conclusive. Future investigations will further refine these methods.

Perceptions of Public Displays of Affection
Miranda Miller, Megan Rush, Cydney Comfort, Jessica Thobe, Rachel McGuire, Melanie Lamp

The purpose of this study is to gain insight into whether perceptions of public displays of affection differ when performed by traditional heterosexual couples vs. homosexual couples. Further, if perception variances are statistically significant, these findings may indicate areas of future study. Researchers designed a questionnaire to analyze participant perceptions concerning various levels of graphic sexuality and couple pairings; male/female, male/male, or female/female. A convenience sample of 191 university students provided data which was analyzed using a one way ANOVA with 3 levels. Statistical significance was found in 6 scenarios analyzed. In general, participant ratings suggest an overall less acceptable perception of certain sexual behaviors when performed by male/male homosexual couples than when performed by female/female homosexual or traditional heterosexual couples. These results will be useful in re-defining and directing future research in various areas such as social and couple role behavior and societal perceptions, as well as identifying potential issues for therapeutic focus and support. 

Public Displays of Affection
Brittany Bennington, Jenifer Leech, Lakin Roth, Shelby Ford, Cody Leonard, Tameka Eddy

A total of 191 college students, 78 men and 113 women, participated in our study. Participants were given one of three surveys that depicted a same-sex male couple, a same-sex female couple, or an opposite-sex female-male couple engaging in a total of 18 social scenarios. These social scenarios gradually became more sexual in nature, and participants were asked to rate their level of agreement on 9 items for each scenario on a 5-point scale, with 1 = strongly disagree and 5 = strongly agree. Our analysis focused on 6 of the 18 scenarios and the ratings on each of the 9 items for these scenarios were analyzed using univariate ANOVAs. Results showed that there were significant differences in how participants perceived public displays of affection performed by same-sex couples compared to opposite-sex couples. Same-sex couples' public displays of affection were typically regarded as inappropriate while opposite-sex couples' public displays of affection were perceived as generally appropriate and common. The behaviors depicted in the scenarios themselves also showed differences in ratings, such that the more overtly sexual a behavior was in nature, the more harshly it was rated regardless of the couple engaging in it.

The Effects of Conditioning on Imitation and Forward Chaining in Goldfish
Nic Cochran, Marque Marry, Emily Robinson, Lauren Zirkle

The present study involved training three Comet Goldfish through basic principles of Classical Conditioning, Operant Conditioning, and Observational Learning. A feeding wand was used to feed one fish that eventually associated the wand with food. The other two fish observed this continued pairing, and when presented with the wand, learned very quickly to associate it with food. Once the wand became an established Conditioned Stimulus for food, the researchers trained the fish to swim through a basic hoop, eat from the researchers' fingers, and a forward chaining procedure in which the fish would swim through the hoop and then eat out of a researcher's fingers. After each successful trial, the fish were reinforced with a pellet of food. After all three fish demonstrated proficiency in each task, defined as 6 successful trials in a row, the next phase of training began. However, all the training tasks were not formally completed by two of the fish due to death.

Responses Regarding Public Displays of Affection
Patricia Roper, Ethan Hoffman, Megan Randolph, Nic Cochran, and Sarah Mitchell

The purpose of this study was to determine the response of students regarding their perception of public displays of affection when demonstrated by either a male-female, male-male or a female-female couple. The survey was taken by 191 students at Wheeling Jesuit University, with the self-reported demographics of sexual orientation and gender. It began with a nonsexual scenario and became increasingly more sexual as the survey progressed. Each scenario was rated in the same 9 areas. The design was a one-way ANOVA with 3 levels, showing significant differences when the Tukey HSD test was complete. The primary difference is that public displays of affection are perceived differently with a male-female couple than a female-female couple or a male-male couple.

Training Comet Goldfish
Lindsay Baugh, Jenifer Leech, Ben Arthurs, and Allysha Ernest

Three Comet goldfish were trained using both classical and operant conditioning. We began first by wand training the fish, allowing them to make the association between food and the training wand. Next they were trained to swim through a large hoop to the training wand to receive a food reward. Although the training process was slow and the researchers ran into satiation issues, the procedure was ultimately a success. Sirius was the fastest learner. Chunk, while slower carrying out each trial, also learned rather quickly. The third fish, Tiny, took the longest to wand train, but did very well in hoop training.

The Effects of Conditioning and Observational Learning in Common Goldfish
Madeline Holt, Skylar Patten, Nikki Robinson, Shannon Walsh

Two Common Goldfish were trained using classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and observational learning techniques. First, researchers used classical conditioning to pair a feeding wand with food for both of the fish. After one week, only one fish continued to be wand trained; the second fish observed the process from the opposite side of the tank. After the first fish associated the wand with positive reinforcement, researchers used operant conditioning to train the same fish to swim through a hoop. Once the first fish was trained via classical conditioning and had begun training using operant conditioning, the wand training resumed with the second fish using imitation. The first fish served as a model for behavior and wand training was resumed with the second fish after the model behavior was observed. Results show that the first fish successfully learned via classical and operant conditioning and the second fish learned via observational learning.

Perceptions of Public Displays of Affection
Sarah Sleevi, Taylor Ulisse, Ben Arthurs, Jandre Strauss, James Allen

Our study was designed to investigate how undergraduates respond to male-male (MM), female-female (FF), and male-female (MF) public expressions of affection ranging from common social behavior to overtly sexual behavior in order to determine how individuals interpret the same behaviors when performed by different types of couples. One hundred and ninety one undergraduates (113 females and 78 males), recruited through convenience sampling, were asked to imagine eighteen scenarios in which either a MM, FF, or MF couple was engaged in public behavior that ranged from affectionate to overtly sexual. They were then asked to rate each interaction on a uniform set of nine statements using a 5 point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree and 5 = strongly agree). Each participant responded to scenarios about only one of the three types of couples. The four scenarios we centered our analysis on were 'One person pats the other on the butt', 'They kiss each other on the lips', 'They cuddle, lying on the couch together', and 'They put their hands in each other's pants'

Effects of Video Game Avatar Size on Body Image Dissatisfaction and Food Choice
Bryan Raudenbush and Patrick Dwyer

The size of an avatar, and in individual's identification with that avatar size, have been found to influence aspects of mood and performance. For example, participants who played a video game with a particular size avatar (underweight, average, overweight) rated their performance differently, with those having an overweight avatar showing decreased positive mood and decreased self-evaluated performance. The present study was designed to assess video game avatar size on subsequent body image and food choice. Both male and female participants (n=42) played 20 minutes of WWE 13 on an X-box gaming console. During play, they were randomly assigned an avatar characterized as "underweight," "average" or "overweight." After play, participants indicated, from a set of figure drawings, their current and ideal figures on a scale ranging from 10 to 90. A dissatisfaction score was obtained by calculating the difference between those two ratings. Controlling for BMI (Body Mass Index), a significant avatar size x sex interaction was found for dissatisfaction score. For males, the "underweight" avatar was associated with the greatest desire to be larger (i.e., ideal figure larger than current figure); for females, the "overweight" avatar was associated with the greatest desire to be smaller (i.e., ideal figure smaller than current figure). Participants were then placed in a cafeteria scenario where they could pick a meal from among 70 foods. Controlling for hunger level and BMI, as females experienced larger avatars they tended to decrease their choice of foods in a variety of categories (such as gram weight, calories, and carbohydrates). Future studies should examine the long-term effects of video game play with varying avatar sizes, as well as how such avatars may then influence individuals to alter their work-out and health behaviors.