Graduate Theses & Dissertations

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Social Anxiety and Emotional Competence
Prior research has examined social anxiety, emotional competence (EC) and life adjustment (i.e., loneliness and life satisfaction) using cross-sectional designs, although there is limited information on their association over time. The present study examined the impact of social anxiety on life adjustment and assessed if EC could mediate this relationship from young to middle adulthood. University students (N = 283) completed self-report measures at two time points: in first year university and 15 years later. The results accord with previous research demonstrating the stability and slight decrease of social anxiety over time. Social anxiety in young adulthood was a robust predictor of loneliness in middle adulthood, and a weak predictor of life dissatisfaction for men. Mediation analyses revealed that social anxiety was indirectly associated with interpersonal adjustment via EC, especially the intrapersonal EC domain. Social anxiety requires early intervention and EC may help to prevent later social anxiety and maladjustment. Author Keywords: emotional intelligence, life adjustment, social anxiety
It's All in Your Head
The Continuity Hypothesis states that dreams reflect waking day cognition and experiences, which reflect one’s mental health status. As such, dreams are, by extension, cognitions that occur during sleep. To date, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is deemed the most efficacious method of social anxiety treatment by working with cognitions. The current study utilized both CBT and The Storytelling Method (TSM) of dream interpretation, whose methodology is based on CBT; CBT works with waking cognitions and TSM works with sleep cognition. This study examined the effectiveness in decreasing social anxiety symptoms with TSM and comparing its efficacy to a traditional CBT technique. Undergraduate psychology students (N = 36) completed a daily journal of either the TSM or CBT format for two weeks. Participants completed self-report measures of social anxiety, state-anxiety, and depression before and after practicing either method. TSM did not significantly decrease levels of social anxiety, state-anxiety, or depression, whereas CBT significantly decreased only social anxiety levels. Dream content reflecting waking day anxiety and depression did not decrease over time, coinciding with the findings that students did not experience a decrease in their waking day life, supporting the Continuity Hypothesis. Findings suggest anxiety and depression to be very stable in this sample. Future research should explore interventions that are clinician-guided, in a group setting, or, occur over a longer period of time. Author Keywords: Content Analysis, Social anxiety, The Storytelling Method
An Emergent Model of the Return to Learn Process for Adolescents with Prolonged Concussion
Current literature on concussion management focuses primarily on the return to physical activity, while the return to learn process is less clearly understood. This knowledge gap is particularly problematic for adolescents, whose primary responsibility is academics. The present study sought to develop a more in-depth understanding of the return to learn process through the perspectives of adolescents who had sustained a concussion and their parents in in-person, semi-structured interviews. A substantive grounded theory of the return to learn process for adolescents that emerged from the data is provided. The basic model is consistent with many speculative, non-empirically based concussion management protocols, but extends these models by emphasizing the central role of parents in managing their child’s recovery process, highlighting the importance of role fulfillment within the concussion management network, and identifying the impact of the adolescent’s capacity and readiness for help-seeking. The results also highlight the vulnerability of concussed adolescents to losing their support structure as they move through key school transitions. Implications for educators, medical professionals, parents, and adolescents in the return to learn process are also discussed. Author Keywords: Adolescent, Concussion, Concussion Management, Multidisciplinary Management, Return to Learn, Return to School
Academic Procrastination, Self-Regulation, Anxiety and Personality (ASAP)
Academic procrastination is analogous to a common cold: pervasive and with no established cure. Students experience repercussions that are not inclusive to academic performance, but rather, are experienced across mental, physical, social and emotional domains as well. While this necessitates treatment, much of the behaviour has yet to be explained. In the current study, a state approach was integrated to explore procrastination in terms of the Yerkes-Dodson paradigm. Procrastination was hypothesized to arise for one of two reasons: students are either too low or too high in anxiety. A sample of 847 Ontario undergraduate students completed measures of procrastination, state-anxiety, personality, and self-regulation. Results suggest 88% of students procrastinate regularly, and contrary to what was hypothesized, procrastination and anxiety were linearly related. Independent t-tests establish that relative to non-procrastinators, procrastinators are significantly more emotionally and biologically dysregulated and less socially integrated. Factor analysis demonstrated three central reasons contributing to procrastination, which were used as the basis to establish types of procrastination: social (n=61), self-doubt (n=70) and low-energy (n=76) procrastinators. Results indicate divergences across procrastination type with respect to personality as well as biological, affective and social domains. Findings also inform that the expression of procrastination, varies across student. Overall, findings suggest that academic interventions should acknowledge and address the variability among procrastinators. Author Keywords: ACADEMIC PROCRASTINATION, ANXIETY, PERSONALITY, SELF-REGULATION
Comparison of Dehydration Techniques for Acute Weight Management in Rowing
Mild sauna dehydration and fluid abstinence were investigated as weight loss strategies for lightweight rowers. Rowers (N=12) performed a power test, an incremental VO2max test, and a visuomotor battery: once euhydrated, once following sauna dehydration (SAU), and once following fluid abstinence and then sauna dehydration (FA). The percent body mass change (%BMC) achieved, %BMC attributable to sauna dehydration, and %BMC attributable to fluid abstinence were used within linear mixed effects models to predict hydration and performance variables. Sauna and overnight dehydration exerted indistinguishable effects on plasma osmolality, urine osmolality and thirst (p > .05). Fluid abstinence but not sauna dehydration was related to lower power production on the power test (b = 12.14W / 1%BMC, FA = 673.46 ± 79.50, SAU = 683.33 ± 72.08, p = .029), a lower total wattage produced on the incremental VO2max test (b = 4261.51W / 1%BMC, FA = 71029.58 ± 16256.56, SAU = 74001.50 ± 14936.56, p = .006), lower wattages at 2 mmol/L (b = 27.84W / 1%BMC, FA = 180.74 ± 40.27, SAU = 190.82 ± 50.79, p < .001) and 4 mmol/L (b = 20.45W / 1%BMC, FA = 221.90 ± 52.62, SAU = 238.89 ± 40.78, p = .002) blood lactate, and slower movement time on a visuomotor task (b = -38.06ms / 1%BMC, p = .004). Mild fluid abstinence but not sauna dehydration reduces rowing performance when two-hour rehydration is allowed. Author Keywords: crew, fluid, hydration, lightweight, sauna, weight
Impaired contextual fear discrimination learning after long-term amygdala kindling
Cognitive impairments, such as memory loss, are a frequent and devastating co-morbidity associated with epilepsy. The neurobiological mechanisms through which recurrent seizures induce cognitive impairments are not well understood. New neurons born after seizures develop abnormal morphological and functional characteristics that promote network hyperexcitability and hippocampal dysfunction. Previously, we found that kindling dramatically increases the rate of neurogenesis at early stages of seizure development, followed by a long-term suppression at later stages. These changes in the rate of cell proliferation coincides with aberrant modifications in the migration, excitability, and functional integration of these new neurons. It has been suggested that the long-term consequences of seizure-induced neurogenesis contributes to the development of cognitive impairment seen in chronic epilepsy. However, direct experimental evidence has been limited. The present series of experiments sough to determine if blocking aberrant seizure-induced neurogenesis can reduce cognitive deficits associated with chronic epilepsy. Our findings suggest that chronic seizures impair the ability of rats to differentiate between similar contexts. In addition, blocking aberrant seizure-induced neurogenesis through treatment with the cytotoxic agent temozolomide was capable of preventing some of the deficits in context discrimination learning when neurogenesis levels were reduced to non-epileptic control levels. This research provides further support of targeting aberrant neurogenesis as a novel treatment to restore cognitive functioning in individuals living with epilepsy. Author Keywords: Amygdala kindling, Dentate gyrus, Hippocampus, Neurogenesis, Pattern separation, Seizures
To Sext or Not to Sext
The risks and benefits of sexting within an intimate relationship were explored. The present study focused on sexual gratification, relationship benefits, and sexual communication as benefits and risky sexual behaviour, unethical forwarding, and infidelity as risks. A cross-sectional online survey of both undergraduate students and a community sample was used. Results indicated that sexual gratification, relationship benefits (sexual and relationship satisfaction, relationship quality, and commitment), and sexual communication are related to sexting. It appears that risky sexual behaviour is not associated with sexting, instead those who sext frequently engage in more safer sex behaviours than those who sext infrequently. Unethical forwarding does not appear to happen very often in the context of intimate relationships. Lastly, the current research indicates that some participants are sexting secondary partners, and many consider sexting secondary partners infidelity. These results show that there are both risks and benefits of sexting, which can be used to develop sext education and therapeutic programs. Author Keywords: infidelity, relationship benefits, Sexting, sexual behaviour, sexual communication, sexual gratification
Perceive Me, Perceive You
The use of threats to feelings of intimacy and belonging, also known as relational aggression, has been previously explained using attachment representations and attributions in childhood. However, the combined role of attachment representations and attributions in explaining relational aggression in adult peer and romantic relationships has been unexplored. This study tested the associations between attachment, attributions, and relational aggression with a specific focus on the mediating role of attributions. A final sample of 258 undergraduate university students completed self-report surveys and vignettes to measure the variables of interest. Results suggested that attachment predicted relational aggression but, with one exception, attributions did not explain unique variance in relational aggression after controlling for attachment. Interestingly, hostile attributions mediated the relationship between dismissing attachment to romantic partners and romantic relational aggression. Therefore, individuals‘ attachment representations directly influenced their levels of relational aggression in relationships regardless of their attributions. Author Keywords: Adulthood, Attachment, Attributions, Mediation, Relational Aggression
What’s the trouble with women? Fostering female engagement in substance abuse programming
Although Canada’s healthcare system is designed for everyone to access services regardless of the person’s gender, age, or income, there are significant barriers for individuals accessing substance abuse services that live in areas outside of urban centres (Adbool, et al., 2017; Hardill, 2011). Women are particularly stigmatized by the lack of anonymity in smaller communities and often avoid engaging in substance abuse programs (Ashley, Marsden, & Thomas, 2003). The aim of the current thesis was to explore RedPath, a grassroots initiative in Port Hope, Ontario, geared to engaging individuals and encourage them to participate in substance abuse programming. This initiative employs a member from the community, called an Activator, who is tasked with engaging their peers. A qualitative study was conducted to explore the role of a hired RedPath Activator in facilitating access of female community members with substance abuse issues to services in the Port Hope community. Her role in supporting women was a specific interest, as the selection of a female Activator was a strategy to support the engagement of women to the program. The data was analyzed using a thematic content analysis approach. The most significant of these themes were (1) barriers and challenges in the community and (2) building trust to facilitate engagement and maintain attendance in the program. Author Keywords: activator, community, mental health, substance abuse, woman, women
Balance is key
While preferences for symmetry are seemingly universal, they can be seen at their most extreme among individuals high in trait incompleteness. As yet, it is unclear why incompleteness yields heightened symmetry preferences. Summerfeldt et al. (2015) speculated that individuals high in incompleteness may develop heightened preferences for symmetry due to its greater perceptual fluency. Accordingly, the aim of the present set of three experiments was to examine this relationship. Implicit preferences for symmetry were measured using a modified version of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) reported by Makin et al. (2012). Experiments 1 (N = 24) and 2 (N = 24) examined whether the general implicit preferences for symmetry and influence of perceptual fluency reported by Makin et al. (2012) extended to a within-subjects design. Experiment 3 (N = 86) examined whether trait incompleteness is related to greater implicit preferences for symmetric stimuli, and whether perceptual fluency affects this association. Results showed that incompleteness and implicit preferences were related, and that incompleteness-related differences in preferences were eliminated when the patterns were equally perceptually fluent, supporting the idea that incompleteness-related preferences for symmetry are linked to perceptual fluency. Implications of these findings are discussed. Author Keywords:
Using a real-world chopping task to study motor learning and memory
Typically task interference is studied using reaching adaptation tasks (visuomotor rotation and/or force-field learning). Participants in these experiments are already experts at the base task (point-to-point, planar reaching) and their ability to adapt reaching to the imposed perturbation is studied. The pattern of data induced by the perturbation is used to make inferences about the nature and neural correlates of our learning and memory for reaching perturbations, specifically, and motor performance in general. We wanted to see if it is possible to demonstrate this same interference pattern using a novel vegetable-chopping task, where we can easily recreate natural performance settings using a task for which we can easily identify non-experts. Participants performed a chopping task in which they are asked to chop a sweet potato into 5 mm-wide slices, matching the beat of a metronome (120 bpm). Following this initial learning, participants were exposed to an interference condition. Participants then performed trials of the original task again. Interference was inferred if the second performance of the original task was impaired, compared to initial performance. Experiment 1 involved novice choppers, and either the force or frequency of chops was manipulated. Only the altered frequency task produced interference effects. In Experiment 2, competent and expert choppers had to manage either a faster or slower frequency. We found evidence for interference in competents, but not experts. These results support the idea that the vulnerability to interference of motor memory changes with practice, and so any inferences made about memory structure must take into account not only expert performance, but every level of skill. Author Keywords: expertise, interference, motor learning, reaching adaptation
Assessing the Clinical Usefulness of Three Tablet-Based Visuomotor Tasks to Evaluate Closed Head Injury
Evidence suggests that visuomotor system behaviour may be more sensitive to the prolonged effects of mild brain injuries than neuropsychological tests. We evaluated whether participants with a mild closed head injury (CHI) would show lingering visuomotor deficits, but not cognitive deficits, up to three years post-injury compared to participants with an orthopaedic injury and healthy controls. All three groups completed a tablet-based visuomotor assessment tool and a brief neuropsychological test battery. The CHI participants scored comparable to the control groups on the neuropsychological tests, but when assessed for visuomotor function requiring adjustment to a changing stimulus, CHI participants showed poorer performance than the control groups. Combined, these findings add to the evidence that CHI can lead to persistent visuomotor deficits that extend beyond those of neuropsychological tests. Therefore, visuomotor assessment should be included in brain injury and recovery evaluation, and this can be accomplished easily using tablet-based tasks. Author Keywords: closed head injury, neuropsychological assessment, recovery, tablet, traumatic brain injury, visuomotor

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