Graduate Research

Below are examples of master's theses studies that have been conducted during the master's in experimental psychology program at UAHuntsville.

Lauren W. Jones: Lauren's thesis examined a counter-intuitive memory phenomenon called retrieval-induced forgetting (RIF). RIF describes the finding that having individuals practice recalling some items after the initial encoding phase enhances recall of practiced items, while simultaneously impeding recall of semantically-related (unpracticed) items. Lauren examined whether participants became aware of their forgetting and whether manipulations designed to raise participants' awareness of RIF would help alleviate their forgetting. Lauren successfully defended her thesis and is now pursuing doctoral work at The Mississippi State University, where she works with Dr. Deborah Eakin examining issues of metacognition and memory.

Amber Lumpkin: Amber's thesis examined what predicts Peer Assisted Study Session (PASS) effectiveness. Prior research has demonstrated that students who consistently attend PASS achieve higher final grades, on average, than do non-attendees. Amber examined whether PASS attendance facilitates short-term and long-term retention of course information by longitudinally tracking introductory psychology students' performance on unit quizzes and a cumulative final exam. Consistent with prior research she found that PASS attendees earned higher final course grades, but also outperformed students who did not attend PASS on half of the unit quizzes as well as the cumulative final exam, supporting both the short- and long-term effectiveness of PASS.

Stacy Wetmore: Stacy Wetmore's research investigates the effects of jailhouse informant testimony (potentially a false secondary confession) on verdict decision making by juries. In order to do this, the testimony given by a jailhouse informant will be compared to other forms of trial evidence in a criminal trial. Participants will read the criminal trial, provide a verdict decision, and most importantly rate the pieces of evidence that allow them to make their verdict decision. Previous research has focused principally on primary confessions; she hopes to demonstrate the power that secondary confessions can have at trial as well.

Celia H. Green: Celia's thesis deals with identifying the personality traits associated with psycholgical reactance, a personality characteristic that deals with the tendency to act out when personal freedoms are threatened. Celia is also studying three different measures of reactance to determine if they measure the same things or if they are different.

Marcy McFarlin: Marcy's thesis deals with physiological reactivity and psychological reactance. She is studying the effects of frustration on cardiovascular reactivity in participants with differing levels of psychological reactance. Participants are classified as high, moderate, or low in reactance and then asked to complete a task that has an inherant degree of frustration in the experimenal condition. Participants' cardiovascular responses are measured during the completion of this task.

Callie Loyd: Callie's thesis focuses on cooperation in teams. She is investigating the degree to which three variables (team entitativity, member allocentrism, and organizational culture) impact team decision-making and cooperation. Entitativity refers to the degree to which team members perceive the team to be a cohesive entity (in contrast to a mere aggregate of individuals). Allocentrism is a personality characteristic that describes people who give group goals priority over their own goals and seek harmony within the group. Organizational culture refers to whether the organization in which the teams are embedded more greatly values competition or cooperation within and between teams. Teams participating in Callie's research engage in a resource allocation task and are videotaped while doing so. Their decision and group behaviors during the decision are then evaluated for cooperation.

Jeri Cassel: Jeri's thesis addresses how impressions of individuals on a team influences the impression of the team as a whole. She manipulates the degree to which team members are described with positive or negative characteristics, then has participants rate the likeability of the team as a whole, as well as the team's entitativity (extent to which the team is perceived as a cohesive unit, rather than a mere collection of individuals.

Jessica Swanner: Jessica Swanner's research investigates the use of suspicion as a mitigating factor for alleviating biasing effects of inadmissible coerced confessions in judicial decision making. In order to do this, there will be nine conditions and a confession absent control. In one condition the coerced confession is admissible and in the other eight it is inadmissible. The confession may be inadmissible due to level of coercion (high or low), the reliability of the recording, or a violation of due process. Participants will read one of ten different versions of a trial transcript then provided verdict decisions and a confidence rating for his or her verdict decision.

Stacy Bradley: Stacy Bradley is studying the effect of suspicion on perceived eyewitness confidence and credibility. Eyewitness confidence levels can be manipulated by presenting post-identification feedback, where positive feedback increases confidence levels of an eyewitness. Studies have shown that giving suspicion (making the eyewitness question the intention of the feedback) reduces the inflated confidence levels of the eyewitness. My research will determine whether lowered confidence levels from receiving suspicion will generalize to a juror's perception of the eyewitness.

Deah Lawson, who worked in Dr. Neuschatz' lab, won the prestigious American Psychological Society (APS) Albert Bandura Graduate Research Award. Her research focused on the effects of testimony by jailhouse informants on the decisions made by juries. The title of her thesis was "The Mitigating Effects of Suspicion on Post-Identification Feedback Using a Target Present Photo Lineup." She received from Psi Chi (the national honor society in psychology) $1,000 for travel expenses to attend the APS Annual Convention to receive the award and two engraved plaques, one for the winner and one for the winner's psychology department as a permanent honor to the winner. APS also gave Deah a three-year membership to APS, including subscriptions to all APS journals. The award was presented during the Psi Chi session of opening ceremony at the APS Annual Convention in Washington, D.C. Deah was accepted into PhD programs at Cornell, University of Michigan, and Iowa State. She has chosen to go to Iowa State to work with Gary Wells on eyewitness testimony issues.

Angelina Jimenez's project investigates whether suspicion, a condition designed to mitigate the post identification feedback effect, is moderated by psychological reactance. The main idea is that by giving confirming feedback to a witness after they select a suspect from a lineup, their confidence levels become inflated. Suspicion intended to mitigate this effect, however, may be confounded by the presence of psychological reactance.

Jamie Cummings' research deals with the effects of increased body temperature in children with autism. Specifically, she is investigating whether physical activity will raise body temperature and consequently stimulate an increase in verbal ability.

Nathan Pitts' research investigates various methods that attempt to improve the eyewitness identification procedure by increasing correct identification (in culprit present lineups) and lowering false identifications (in culprit absent lineups). Nathan's thesis manipulates context effects in order to increase correct identifications, while manipulating lineup presentation style in order to decrease false identifications. The thesis seeks to find a procedure that maximizes the overall accuracy of eyewitnesses' decisions.

Charlsie Myers' thesis is based on the social support-reactivity hypothesis, which proposes that social support can reduce the effects that stress can have on cardiovascular and endocrine reactivity. This study intends to break down possible sensory components of social support in order to determine whether simulation of physical contact during both a social stressor and a physical stress, and whether this simulation will reduce cardiovascular and cortisol reactivity in women involved in long-term relationships.

Angel Darmer's thesis deals with assessing the presence of a substance abuse disorder in adults. She is studying a widely used measure of substance abuse in college students, the SASSI-3, and assessing its convergence with another commonly used and validated measure. Participants are asked to complete both questionnaires, which will then be assessed for their degree of correlation.

Bridgette Hubble's thesis examines the relationship of driving cessation in older drivers and the prescription drugs -- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) and Benzodiazepines (BNZs). She utilized two archival databases from two separate studies and examined whether those who ceased driving at the three-year interview from baseline were more likely to take medication, if those medications were NSAIDs and BNZs, and then examined the different types of NSAIDs (COX-1 / COX-2) and BNZs (Long and Short Half Life) to determine whether the types of these two drugs had any relationship to driving cessation in older adults.