From April 17 -18, we celebrated academic excellence at StMU by showcasing the final projects and presentations prepared by our fourth-year students during our 2023 Capstone Conferences. We’re excited to share the results of the hard work of our Honours Psychology students, who conducted their own research with the guidance of faculty supervisors.
Comparing the Impact of Self-Affirmations and Gratitude on Sense of Purpose and Well-Being in Older Adults – Payton Calibaba
As the median age of the world’s population continues to rise rapidly (Gu et al., 2021), older adults are becoming increasingly important in today’s society. Research has demonstrated that cultivating a sense of purpose is an effective way to improve their well-being (e.g., Baird et al., 2010). This study explored the impact of self-affirmations and gratitude interventions on sense of purpose and well-being in older adults. 33 participants aged 60-84 were randomly assigned to one of three groups: self-affirmation, gratitude, or control. Participants completed The Perceived Well-Being Scale (PWB; Reker & Wong, 1984) and The Purpose in Life Test (Crumbaugh & Maholick, 1969/1981) before and after a five day intervention period.
Results indicated that all groups experienced an increase in psychological well-being, total well-being and sense of purpose. However, the interaction was approaching significance, suggesting the gratitude intervention was most effective. Furthermore, it appears that changes in one variable were strongly correlated with changes in the other, suggesting mediation. Therefore, these interventions should be taken into consideration for use in programs targeting this population. These findings suggest that daily task interventions seem to have a positive impact on older adults’ well-being and sense of purpose; among these interventions, gratitude may be particularly effective.
Payton is a fourth-year Honours Psychology student minoring in Management at St. Mary’s University. Her remarkable academic performance has earned her recognition on the Dean’s list. Payton’s favourite courses included Health Psychology, Psychology of Aging, and Counselling Skills. She has a passion for helping others, which is demonstrated through her work as a support worker for a boy with autism who is non-verbal; seeing him make progress brings her immense joy. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors skiing, hiking, or rollerblading.
Payton aims to pursue a Master’s degree to pursue her career aspirations of working in the field of Health Psychology.
Young Adults’ Assessment of Compatibility on Dating Applications – Carolyn Kesler
Dating applications have become increasingly popular for individuals seeking romantic relationships. Young adults aged 18-25 make up a large portion of dating app users and have utilized these apps in an attempt to make connections with others and establish a sense of control within their own dating practices. Compatibility can be defined as an assessment made to determine whether or not an individual fits into one’s personal set of values. This qualitative study assessed the aspects of compatibility that young adults consider when choosing matches to meet with in person. This was done through six semi structured interviews and results were evaluated using thematic analysis. Five themes were derived from the analysis and included safety, context, attractiveness, perceived similarity, as well as quality of interaction.
Carolyn Kesler is completing her fifth year at St. Mary’s University with a major in psychology and a minor in family studies. In the future, Carolyn hopes to continue on to graduate school and pursue a career in couples counselling. Her honours project this year assisted in her understanding of relationship dynamics and the way in which young adults approach romantic connection online. In her free time, Carolyn enjoys photography, reading, and spending time with family and friends. She has a passion for creativity, academia, and developing a better understanding of the world.
Psychological Well-Being in Adolescent Athletes: Effect of Head Coach Gender – Lana Jackson
Sport participation for adolescent females has many academic, psychological, and physical benefits. These benefits reach beyond adolescence and into adulthood and later life. Despite the benefits, females are quitting sport in adolescent at a much higher rate than males. Since the benefits of sport participation are far reaching, it is important to understand how to encourage female adolescent athletes to continue in sport. My study aims to investigate if the psychological wellbeing of female adolescent athletes is higher in those athletes with a female head coach when compared to a male head coach. The study will have female adolescent athletes complete the Psychological Wellbeing Scale and will compare scores for overall wellbeing, personal growth, and self-acceptance between groups of athletes with female head coaches and male head coaches.
After completion of my undergraduate degree I will be continuing at St. Mary’s in the Education program. I have always wanted to teach high school math and when my life moved into a place where I could return to university to pursue that path, I took the opportunity. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at St. Mary’s and I am looking forward to continuing in the Education program. Outside of school, I am a mom to two and stepmom to one. I help coach a high school girls’ basketball team and I am a competitive powerlifter.
Factors Affecting Empathy in Adults – Mary Emmanuelle Molina
Empathy is a psychosocial construct about the understanding that takes place between human beings that has historically been defined from the lens of solely its cognitive or emotional factors, as well as sometimes described as mere emotional contagion or sympathy. In current research, however, multiple dimensions of what constitutes empathy have been identified and empathy has become increasingly multifaceted as additional correlational factors to it continuously emerge. Whether it is in familial relationships, friendships, school-related and workplace relationships, and even as acquaintances or strangers, an individual’s own ability to empathize is relevant to the type, degree of warmth, and situational consequences of any relationships that would be built across the life-span. This is especially relevant for adults in the undergraduate population who are particularly concerned with building a multitude of social connections for their desired future relationship dynamics and career network. The current study has explored both cognitive and emotional aspects of empathy and how other variables such as social functioning, relationship closeness, and altruistic behaviours may affect empathy levels in the adult undergraduate population.
The study recruited 48 post-secondary students, ranging from 18-50 years old. Overall, the strongest predictor of empathy levels in the adult population was perspective-taking. Significant positive correlations were found between empathic concern, altruistic behaviours, overall relationship closeness and perspective taking. These findings affirm the multidimensional nature and contemporary interaction theories of empathy, while highlighting the predominant predictor of perspective taking on empathy.
Mary Emmanuelle Molina is in her final semester of her 4-year Psychology degree with a minor in Family Studies. She has enjoyed the various challenges and learning opportunities offered by her program and appreciated the holistic growth she experienced at St. Mary’s University. Her area of interest is in the promotion of healthy social, emotional and cognitive development of children and adolescence into adulthood and beyond, especially considering the context of their cognitions, attachments and family relationships. Mary plans to continue her education in hopes of becoming a counselling psychologist for individuals and families in the future. Beyond being a student, she enjoys volunteering as a youth leader and advocate in various non-profit organizations and pursues her creative passions in singing, writing and performing music.
Metacognitive Self-Awareness Impairments Following Traumatic Brain Injury – Becca Carson
Self-awareness impairments are reported as a common cognitive issue among individuals with traumatic brain injuries which can negatively affect rehabilitation outcomes. While recent studies on self-awareness have incorporated the variables of metacognition and executive functioning to help develop interventions to address it, there has been a failure to also study the importance of locus of control orientation. The subsequent aim of the study was to investigate the connection between metacognitive self-awareness, locus of control, and executive functioning performance in individuals with a TBI while using a locus of control intervention. The hypothesis was that low metacognitive self-awareness individuals who received the pro-internal locus of control messages would have increased executive functioning and higher internal locus of control compared to their counterparts in the no message group. 24 main participants and 24 close confidants were recruited for the study to assess the metacognitive self-awareness of the main participants, their executive functioning, and their reported locus of control orientation. Main findings indicate no significant difference in the effectiveness of message group on low metacognitive self-awareness locus of control scores but unexpectedly, the low metacognitive self-awareness participants in the message group had worse executive functioning than those in the no-message group. The implications of the results are crucial to understanding how promotional messaging can both negatively and positively impact rehabilitation outcomes.
Becca Carson is a fifth-year honours psychology student who is excited to finish her undergraduate career with a thesis that signifies the culmination of her passions and experiences developed through the degree. Initially wanting to become a counsellor, Becca’s career trajectory changed when she took Sensation and Perception and realized her true passion for cognitive neuroscience. This culminated into her almost maxing out all the classes in the experimental psychology section and applying what she learned to acquire hands-on experience in multiple volunteer and paid internship positions within the cognitive neuroscience field. She is eternally grateful for the guidance given to her by Dr. Thackray and Dr. Kiryanova who have been instrumental in further developing her interest for the research process. After graduating, Becca will be taking some time off to explore the world outside academia before hopefully going back to graduate school to get a masters in experimental psychology.
The Effects of Haptic Feedback in Casual Video Games for Stress Reduction and Mood Improvement in Undergraduates – Ashtyn Leblond
Recent studies have found that casual video games (CVGs) can help reduce stress in an alternative way, especially for undergraduates as they are reported as to having high levels of video game usage. Other recent studies have found that the use of haptic stimulation and technology that uses it can help aid in stress reduction and mood improvement as well. Could CVGs that incorporate haptic feedback reduce stress and improve mood? Through measuring psychological stress through the Psychological Stress Measure-9 (PSM-9), physiological stress through the measurement of blood pressure and heart rate and Using the Brief Mood Introspection Scale (BMIS) to measure mood, the current study will test how well CVGs with haptic feedback will help reduce stress and improve mood in undergraduates in comparison to CVGs without haptic feedback. The study will also examine how much the participants get immersed in media, through the use of the Immersive Tendencies Questionnaire (ITQ) will affect the results, if at all. The results found that CVGs do help improve mood and reduce stress but haptic feedback provides no significant difference. These findings will help in the future development of video games, stress reduction techniques and further research in this area.
Ashtyn is in their fifth and final year of their psychology degree at St. Mary’s and has enjoyed every moment. In their third, fourth and fifth year, Ashtyn was a part of the Student Ambassador Program in which they shared their love and knowledge of STMU with prospective students and new students alike. In the future, Ashtyn plans on getting their Bachelor’s of Education to pursue their goal of becoming a Special Education teacher, as they have always had a passion for working with children with disabilities.
Metacognition and Measure of Cognition and Wellbeing – Timothy Evans
The present study sought to assess the association between metacognition and attention, verbal memory, GPA, and working memory in a healthy population of undergraduate students. The present study employed a sociodemographic questionnaire, a metacognition questionnaire, a digit span test, a trail making test, and the Hopkins verbal learning test. This study contradicts previous research indicating that attention and metacognition are closely linked, suggesting that attention may not be necessary for effective metacognition. However, older adults may be less affected by impaired attention due to greater metacognitive strategies. The study found a negative correlation between negative beliefs and working memory. Previous research suggests that high working memory capacity improves metacognitive abilities, but negative beliefs may impair it. Results disagree with some previous studies, and individual differences may explain the discrepancy. This present study found a positive correlation between self-consciousness and verbal learning. Previous research suggests that individuals with greater metacognitive abilities tend to have better verbal memory, processing speed, and intelligence. This could be due to greater motivation and better appraisal of their own behavior. The present study failed to find a significant correlation between GPA and metacognition, contradicting previous research linking superior metacognition to academic success and students with mastery goals.
I am an honors student pursuing a Bachelor of Art with a major in psychology. I was drawn to psychology because I find the exploration of thoughts, behavior, and emotions fascinating. Moreover, psychology interests me because it is a broad and diverse field that encompasses many
fields of study, like experimental psychology, clinical psychology, and even neuropsychopharmacology. I have a keen interest in cognition, psychopharmacology, and clinical psychology and hope to continue conducting research in the near future. In my free time, I enjoy playing chess, walking my dog, and spending time with friends.
The Attention Restoration Potential of Living and Artificial Plants – Kaitlyn Freckleton
Previous literature has demonstrated that exposure to living indoor plants can help restore direct attention capabilities during states of cognitive fatigue (Bringslimark et al., 2009). However, little is known about possible alternatives to living plants, such as artificial plants, in providing similar cognitive benefits. The present study compared attention restoration effects of living and artificial plants, while also exploring the effect of plant density and perceived room attractiveness (PRA). Participants (N=40) were exposed to living or artificial plants during a five-minute break between two rounds of the Stroop task. Attention restoration was measured by the change in the Stroop effect from the first to second round. While none of the main effects were significant, the interaction between plant type and density approached significance (p = .079). This appeared to be due to the findings that the Stoop effect decreased with three living plants, demonstrating a restorative effect. No relationship was found between attention restoration and PRA. Limitations of this study include the lack of a control group and small sample size. Therefore, future research should aim to address these limitations to fully evaluate whether artificial plants can produce attention restoration effects.
Kaitlyn Freckleton is a fourth year psychology student at St. Mary’s University, and is minoring in management studies. Through conducting independent research, with the help from her dedicated supervisor Dr. McArthur, Kaitlyn’s passion for the field of psychology has grown
exponentially. Kaitlyn is particularly interested in organizational psychology and is especially enthusiastic about topics such as career counselling and employee wellbeing. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree, Kaitlyn hopes to pursue a career in human resources. Her future aspirations are to apply the valuable knowledge she has acquired during her time at St. Mary’s and attend graduate school to study industrial-organizational psychology.
The Migratory Path of Resilience: Stories of Adversity Through Immigrant Perspectives – Iliana Guevara
This qualitative study explores immigrants’ experiences of adversity and resilience resulting from their migration journey and subsequent integration into host country, Canada. Led by a humanistic approach, the study examines the resilience construct from a non-pathological inclination that inherently conveys positive adaptation and a profound understanding of individual experiences as present in their values, beliefs, and cultural practices. The aim of my research is to contextualize culturally nuanced immigrant experiences that contribute to a broader framework and understanding of resilience. By focusing on culturally associated values, beliefs, and meaning making practices, I hope to capture potentially under examined strengths that sustain immigrants through life’s adversities. One hour long person-centred interviews aid in capturing Canadian immigrants’ experiences of adversity and their stories of built resilience, distinctly encapsulating the broader scope of immigrants’ challenges as they seek to integrate into their host country. Given the current global migration crisis, my research hopes to utilize this
unique opportunity to understand cultural perspectives which potentially impact resilience research, immigrant support resources, psychology research, and professionals.
Iliana Guevara is graduating with a BA in Psychology Honours and a minor in Sociology. Over her 5- year journey, she explored academic interests in Philosophy and English literature. Iliana participated in Dr. Turcotte’s President’s Volunteer Team, is a member of StMU’s Psychology
Association, and won placement on the Dean’s list. Iliana’s goal is to attain a masters in Counselling Psychology and one day complete her PhD. She aspires to counsel adolescents, women, and immigrants by helping them conquer traumatic experiences resulting from toxic family systems or migration. Iliana enjoys hiking, gardening, adult colouring, and time with family