Department of Psychology

Honors Theses

Abstracts are provided to give a brief overview of individual projects. Click on each link in order to see the complete thesis paper.



Breda, Aili. The Use of Cognitive-Behavior Therapy Combined with Computer Technology in the Treatment of Selective Mutism: A Case Study

This study was designed to determine whether a child with Selective Mutism could be treated using an intervention consisting of Cognitive-Behavior Therapy and the use of computer technologies, within a school setting. A voice recording “app” on an iPod allowed the child to communicate in an indirect verbal manner, by playing voice recordings, thus exposing him to his voice and anxiety, while enhancing his self-efficacy. Parent/Teacher questionnaires given pre/post-treatment, showed improvement in the child’s non-verbal communication. Observations revealed high compliance rates to the CBT intervention, as well as an increase in non-verbal and indirect verbal communication. One-on-one interviews with his teachers and parents further confirmed these findings, and revealed improvements in the child’s overall academic and social performance, across a variety of settings.

Waters, Aaron F. Expressing Gratitude: A Refined Intervention to Increase Resilience and Thriving in Adults Recovering from Substance Abuse

The current study aimed to refine a successful intervention previously developed by Waters and Gerson (2012). Participants (n = 73) consisted of adults recovering from substance abuse who were currently involved in some type of recovery program. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three visualization/writing exercises: expressing gratitude, describing ways in which they had helped another person, or listing daily activities. Immediately following the exercise, participants completed resilience and thriving measurements. It was hypothesized that expressing gratitude would lead to significantly greater resilience and thriving than either of the other two conditions. MANOVAs revealed no significant differences; however, mean scores on the thriving measurements followed the hypothesized direction, with the expressing gratitude condition having the highest scores.



Borhaug, Tiahna. Triangulation in Relationships

This study aimed to investigate how triangulation in one's family is associated with dependency, attachment orientation, and behavioral interactions in best friend relationships among young adults. Undergraduate students at California Lutheran University completed the Personal Authority in the Family System Questionnaire (PAFS-Q; Bray & Harvey, 1992) to assess triangulation and intergenerational family experiences and the Experiences in Close Relationships-Relationship Structures Questionnaire Revised (ECR-RS; Fraley, Heffernan, Vicary, & Brumbaugh, 2011) to measure attachment orientation in close friendships. Additionally, the Network of Relationships Inventory: Behavioral Systems Version (NRI-BSV; Furman & Buhrmester, 2009) was utilized to assess various behaviors connected with attachment. Interpersonal dependency was measured using the Lack of Social Self-Confidence and Assertion of Autonomy subscales on the Interpersonal Dependency Inventory (IDI; Hirschfield et al, 1977). It was predicted that more triangulation in the family of origin would be related to more negative peer relationship experiences.

Casas, Rebeakah. Older Adults Perceptions of Stress and Effective Coping Strategies

Older adults will increase from 36 million to 72 million in the United States from 2003 to 2030, accounting for 20% of the population (Yancura & Aldwin, 2008). It is important for researchers to understand this growing population wave in order to best serve it. As people age, they often find themselves dealing with a new set of obstacles or problems. Some individuals deal with these problems or obstacles well and others do not. Coping styles play an important role in stress management. In-depth interviews were conducted with 12 residents of local retirement communities to explore older adults’ experiences with stress and their perceptions about successful coping strategies. The objective of this study was to describe the kinds of issues and ways of thinking elders use in regard to coping with stress and to explore predictors of resilience.

Mohr, Danielle. Personality and Behavioral Correlates of Body Dissatisfaction

This study sought to examine the relationship between body dissatisfaction, eating behaviors, and personality traits. Questionnaires were distributed to 95 randomly selected undergraduates, and students were asked to disclose their healthy and unhealthy eating behaviors, complete a personality inventory (CAQ; Block, 1961), and assess their current and ideal body using a pictorial scale (Frederick & Peplau, 2007). Comparisons between participant’s perceived current and ideal body shape revealed that both genders were dissatisfied with their bodies, desiring a skinnier or more muscular body, respectively. Correlations between body dissatisfaction and eating behaviors revealed that participants who were dissatisfied with their bodies engaged in both healthy and unhealthy eating behaviors more often, such as consuming fruits and vegetables and using appetite suppressants and diet pills. Higher levels of body dissatisfaction were associated with traits that were both well researched (e.g., body dissatisfaction is related to wanting to keep people at a distance), and novel (e.g., body dissatisfaction is related to feeling cheated and victimized by life). Results suggest possible problem areas to target for body image interventions (e.g., reducing the frequency of unhealthy eating behaviors), and possible protective factors (e.g., encouraging relaxation and finding personal meaning in life).

Nelson, Samuel O. Exploring the Relationship Between Coping Style and State of Mind Score

Maladaptive coping styles and excessive amounts of negative automatic thoughts are linked to depression. This study takes two well researched areas of psychology – coping style and automatic through content – and attempts to identify their relationship with one another. Participants filled out the “Ways of Coping Checklist” which was used to determine if they generally use a problem-focused or emotion-focused coping style. Participants also completed the “Automatic Thoughts Questionnaire” from which a ratio of positive to total automatic thoughts, known as a state of mind score, was obtained. Of the 74 participants, the majority were Caucasian and female ranging in age from 18 to 38 years old. Participants in the positive dialogue state of mind range engaged in significantly higher levels of problem focused coping. There was no significant relationship between gender and coping style or GPA and coping style.