Department of Psychology Recent Research Outcomes - Spring 2014

Auditory Discrimination and Higher Order Conditioning in Carassiusauratus
Jessica Pontis, Alexua Rairdon, Megan Reed, and Elizabeth Sacco

Researchers classically conditioned two fish to a food wand, which was then used as a positive reinforcement in operant learning. After the original pairing was demonstrated, and the fish acquired the reinforced behavior of following the wand through a hoop, they were introduced to three conditions. One fish functioned as a control in these conditions: "chimney" (a vertical hoop) training, a reinforcement period with the food wand, and a reintroduction to the chimney. A second classical pairing using a high pitched tone and food, and a reintroduction to the chimney in the presence of the tone. The fish who experienced a tone-food pairing averaged a higher success rate in the reintroduction condition, which may provide evidence for higher order conditioning in goldfish, as well as ability to be conditioned using sound.

The Effects of Conditioning and Backward Chaining in Goldfish
Mariah Cottrill, Kristen Custer, and Rebecca Brown

Three Comet Goldfish were trained using operant and classical conditioning. First, researchers used classical conditioning to pair a feeding wand with food. After the fish associated the feeding wand with a positive reinforcer, researchers used operant conditioning to train the fish to swim through a large hoop, a small hoop, and a tunnel. Once researchers saw consistency and successful trials with each of these conditions, backward chaining occurred with a three-pole slalom and a hoop or tunnel pattern. Improvement was seen during training and consistency was found throughout backward chaining.

The Effects of Distraction on Conditioned Behavior in Goldfish
Paoloa Maysonet, Killeen Schlegel, and Katie Livengood

Three goldfish were trained using operant and classical conditioning techniques. First, researchers used classical conditioning to pair a feeding wand with food. After the fish associated the wand with positive reinforcement, researchers used operant conditioning to train fish to swim through a hoop. Once this behavior was conditioned, researchers added three distractions in the tank varying in level of difficulty for the fish. Distractions included a plant, another fish, and the entire tank without a divider. All three of the fish demonstrated decreases in rates of success (swimming through the hoop) in two levels of distraction, when compared to baseline. It is believed that these results occurred because of the competitiveness and size of the fish. Future studies should look into finding valid measurements of distraction in the environment, as well as different methods for delivering reinforcement.

An Experimental Test of One Factor Influencing Consciousness Attributions
Allison Burke & Michael A. Kirkpatrick

The present study tested whether perceptions of consciousness among diverse organisms could be modified by altering the visual representations of those organisms. Test stimuli differed along two dimensions, each of which had two levels tested between different groups of participants. One stimulus dimension was degree of evolutionary development, represented by "high" and "low" conditions. The high condition included five different mammals: college student, chimpanzee, bottle-nosed dolphin, Siamese cat, and rabbit. The low condition was comprised of mushroom, flu virus, palm tree, daffodil, and clam. The second factor was a visual representation of each of the rated organisms. A computer video player displayed either a brief animated segment (video), or a still frame from the same video. Participants were assigned randomly to either of four conditions consisting of high versus low organisms and still versus motion video stimulus presentation. The stimuli were presented visually in a constant order while participants completed rating forms indicating the consciousness of each organism on both binary (yes or no) and continuous scales (0 - 9). Instructions explained that two ratings were used because some people regard consciousness as a continuum, while others perceive it as a binary characteristic. Consistent with prior research, higher organisms were more frequently rated conscious than were lower organisms on the binary scale. Higher organisms also received higher numerical ratings on the continuous scale. While the authors hypothesized that animation would result in higher ratings, differences were not evident between visual stimulus conditions.

The Application of Physiology to Psychology Courses: Utilization of Biocapture Software
Lindsay Baugh, Jenifer Leech, & Clinton Baynham

Physiology plays a very important role in the field of psychology. Unfortunately, many psychology students are not interested in or do not understand physiological concepts. New, innovative ways of presenting this material to students are needed. The new BioRadio equipment and Biocapture software from the Great Lakes Neurotechnologies Company provides ample opportunities for easier, portable, and interactive classroom demonstrations in general, cognitive, health and sport psychology. For example, electrodes, respiratory effort belts, pulse oximeters, and nasal cannulae may be used in a meditation demonstration designed to illustrate the effects of relaxation techniques on the body. Experimenters mastered the elementary operations of the new equipment, and a professor utilized the piloted methods in classroom demonstrations for students, thereby facilitating the first application of new equipment at WJU.

Studies in Attributions of Consciousness to Diverse Organisms and Systems
Ben Arthurs, Richard Kubacki & Lauren Zirkle

The purpose of this study was to evaluate if people would attribute consciousness or levels of consciousness to a variety of organisms. Participants completed a questionnaire that asked them to rate a list of living organisms on a zero to nine scale indicating how conscious they believed the organisms to be. Some examples of organisms on the survey were "Palm Tree, Human Infant, Chimpanzee, and Butterfly." Zero represented 'no consciousness' and nine represented 'most conscious'. Participants chose a number to identify the organisms' level of consciousness. Participants were not given a definition of consciousness before they completed the questionnaire. The goal of this study was to determine if people would attribute lower levels of consciousness to simple organisms and higher levels of consciousness to more complex organisms. Results concluded that participants rated simple organisms with low levels of consciousness and rated complex organisms with higher levels of consciousness. 

The Effects of Imagery of Psychophysiology
Ryan Naumann, Emily Robinson & Shannon Walsh

Past research has supported that a relationship exists between mental imagery and physiological responses. The current study was a pilot study conducted to illustrate the modern mind-body problem through gaining data on new advanced electrophysiological equipment. One researcher was the participant in the study to help further understand the equipment. The participant was attached to monitors that measured heart rate, oxygen saturation, respiration of the abdomen and chest, electroencephalogram, electromyogram on the right tricep, and airflow. These measurements were sent to a BioRadio, and then the BioRadio transmitted the signals via Bluetooth to the computer. The task was to shoot a basketball foul shot and then imagine shooting a basketball foul shot. Researchers also recorded if the participant "made" or "missed" the shot. The researchers hypothesized the actual shooting of the basketball and the imagery of shooting would have some similar physiological responses. Data were analyzed through the Vivosense Computer Program, which translated the physiological measurements into waveforms. These waveforms were used to make observations. The waveforms demonstrated a successful pilot study because data were collected through new electrophysiological equipment. Future efforts will aim to analyze the measurements to see if there were statistically significant results.

Perceptions of Consciousness
Alysha Ernst, Madeline Holt, Skylar Patten & Nikki Robinson

The present study was developed to evaluate how people would respond if asked to report on the consciousness of different living organisms. The purpose of this study was to identify a significant difference in the rating of the level of consciousness attributed to diverse organisms based upon whether or not a participant was provided the definition of consciousness. Participants were 50 semi-randomly selected, undergraduate students at a small liberal arts university. Group A (25 participants) completed the survey containing the definition of consciousness on the top of the paper, while Group B (25 participants) completed the survey without the definition. Aside from containing or not containing the definition of consciousness, each survey was identical. Participants rated 10 diverse organisms (daffodil, palm tree, mushroom, flu virus, clam, rabbit, Siamese cat, chimp, bottled nosed dolphin, and college student) using a 6-point scale ranging from 0 = no consciousness, to 5 = the most conscious. Once all 50 surveys were complete, 3 different tests were used to analyze data and acquire the results of the study. The results showed one significant difference in the ranking of the organisms; however, several organisms were close to being significant. In addition, results showed that the participants who were not given the definition rated organisms significantly higher on the scale, which correlated to having a higher level of consciousness. Participants with a definition gave more strict ratings because they generally rated the organisms on the lower end of the scale. Overall, the study showed that whether or not the participant was given a definition of consciousness slightly influenced the mean rating of each organism.

Verbal Feedback Elicits Heart Rate Discrimination While Running Outdoors
Haley Rush & Michael A. Kirkpatrick

The effects of verbal feedback effectively increased runner's ability to discriminate their heart rate (HR) while running outdoors. This study was conducted using an ABA research design in which participants varied in the number of sessions they spent in both no feedback (NFB) and feedback (FB) stages of the experiment. Participants chose their desired outdoor locations to run for 20 minutes while a researcher followed either on foot or riding a tandem bike. Each minute, the experimenter recorded record participants' guessed- and actual-HR. During the FB stage, the runners were verbally given their actual-HR after each guess. Participants showed a significant decrease in estimation error during the FB stage. Discrimination learning occurred, with runners successfully guessing (approximating) their HR during physical activity. Knowing HR during exercise could enhance the overall effectiveness of the exercise regimen by allowing careful control of exertion to maximize aerobic benefits while minimizing risks of overtraining or injury. 

The Effects of Portable Scent Administration on Pain Tolerance and Threshold
Kristin McCombs

Participants submerged a hand in a cold-pressor tank during two visits. All participants sniffed unscented oxygen on their first visit. For the second visit, participants were randomly assigned to either an unscented condition or a peppermint scented condition. A two-way within subjects ANOVA was performed. An interaction was found between time, peppermint, and sex F (1,9)= 2.17, p=.026. Males rated pain less severely as time elapsed. Females rated pain more tolerably after a transition period.

The Effect of Annual Income and Scent on Attractiveness Ratings in Female Participants
Mariah Cottrill, Ryan Naumann, Stephen Saldanha, Killeen Schlegel and Bryan Raudenbush 

Previous research has demonstrated the significant relationship between physical attractiveness and annual income. The present study chose to investigate this more in depth while also implementing a pheromone, androstadienone, into a room. Researchers studied 41 female participants for the study. A mock-Internet profile was created, and the salaries of the portrayed person were manipulated into a low, medium, or high condition. Participants were placed into either a scented or nonscented room and were asked to complete a brief questionnaire asking how attractive they perceived the male on the profile. Results found a trend for those in the high salary condition for question one on the questionnaire. In addition, a significant increase was found for question ten which read, "How willing would you be to have sex with this individual?" It was noted that future studies should be sure to use a larger sample size and make the salary a more easily identified aspect of the profile in order to decrease threats to internal validity.

The Effects of Peppermint Scent on Distracted Driving
Rebecca Brown, Kristen Custer, Emily Robinson and Bryan Raudenbush

Past research has shown that there is a relationship between scent and cognitive ability, scent and physiological responses, and scent and physical activities. The current study assessed the effects of a peppermint scent presented, while driving and being distracted with tasks and questions.. Fifty-one undergraduate volunteers (18 men and 33 women) participated in the study. Researchers provided participants with a Driving Behavior Survey to fill out and then were taken to another room and required to "drive". The participant was in either the control room with no scent or the scented room with the pharmaceutical grade peppermint oil. Participants then "drove" using the driVR system and VR driving system, the computer simulated driving course, for fifteen minutes. During the fifteen minutes of driving, researchers asked questions at one-minute intervals from the list of Distracter Tasks. After completion of the simulated driving course, participants were asked to complete the NASA TLX and POMS surveys. Researchers predicted that when participants drove in the peppermint scented room, they will be more alert and less fatigued, which will result in better driving performance and the distracting tasks will have little effect on these participants. Data were analyzed using a univariate analysis of variance, which was applied to one variable of the NASA TLX at a time, and also to each subscale of the POMS. Results were significant showing participants reported less mental demand while driving in the peppermint-scented room. Future studies hope to expand on this topic and find more effects peppermint has on driving ability.