54 research outputs found

    PSYC 287: Psychology of Personality—A Peer Review of Teaching Project Benchmark Portfolio

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    In this portfolio, I am assessing student learning in a mid-level Psychology course, Psyc 287: Psychology of Personality. The course introduces students to the major theories of personality, and covers a wide array of topics intended to provide a broad overview of issues in the field. The course attracts a somewhat representative sample of UNL students, including non-majors, and therefore most are from Nebraska. The course is not a prerequisite to any other courses, but it could be a useful foundation course for students pursuing a career in psychology research, and it could also help people to consider issues related to differences across people in a wide variety of work and social environments, where it is vital that we coexist in a peaceful and productive manner. In this large lecture-based course, my goal as the instructor is to provide a platform for which all kinds of students – regardless of their motivation for taking the course – can benefit. In-class activities include lectures and videos, with an opportunity to demonstrate learning through a series of practice exam questions from each lecture presented at the end of that lecture. Assessment is based on four exams, two papers, and a series of short writing assignments. Here, I outline the changes made to this course, and the impact of these changes on student learning. For example, I found the second paper and the short assignments to be useful in helping students achieve the course objectives, and I also found that exam questions that require students to apply their knowledge were useful. Finally, I outline my plans for future changes to this course, based on the valuable experience acquired through this program

    PSYC 287: Psychology of Personality—A Peer Review of Teaching Project Benchmark Portfolio

    Get PDF
    In this portfolio, I am assessing student learning in a mid-level Psychology course, Psyc 287: Psychology of Personality. The course introduces students to the major theories of personality, and covers a wide array of topics intended to provide a broad overview of issues in the field. The course attracts a somewhat representative sample of UNL students, including non-majors, and therefore most are from Nebraska. The course is not a prerequisite to any other courses, but it could be a useful foundation course for students pursuing a career in psychology research, and it could also help people to consider issues related to differences across people in a wide variety of work and social environments, where it is vital that we coexist in a peaceful and productive manner. In this large lecture-based course, my goal as the instructor is to provide a platform for which all kinds of students – regardless of their motivation for taking the course – can benefit. In-class activities include lectures and videos, with an opportunity to demonstrate learning through a series of practice exam questions from each lecture presented at the end of that lecture. Assessment is based on four exams, two papers, and a series of short writing assignments. Here, I outline the changes made to this course, and the impact of these changes on student learning. For example, I found the second paper and the short assignments to be useful in helping students achieve the course objectives, and I also found that exam questions that require students to apply their knowledge were useful. Finally, I outline my plans for future changes to this course, based on the valuable experience acquired through this program

    Social connectedness and negative affect uniquely explain individual differences in response to emotional ambiguity

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    Negativity bias is not only central to mood and anxiety disorders, but can powerfully impact our decision-making across domains (e.g., financial, medical, social). This project builds on previous work examining negativity bias using dual-valence ambiguity. Specifically, although some facial expressions have a relatively clear negative (angry) or positive valence (happy), surprised expressions are interpreted negatively by some and positively by others, providing insight into one’s valence bias. Here, we examine putative sources of variability that distinguish individuals with a more negative versus positive valence bias using structural equation modeling. Our model reveals that one’s propensity toward negativity (operationalized as temperamental negative affect and internalizing symptomology) predicts valence bias particularly in older adulthood when a more positive bias is generally expected. Further, variability in social connectedness (a propensity to seek out social connections, use those connections to regulate one’s own emotions, and be empathic) emerges as a notable and unique predictor of valence bias, likely because these traits help to override an initial, default negativity. We argue that this task represents an important approach to examining variability in affective bias, and can be specifically useful across the lifespan and in populations with internalizing disorders or even subclinical symptomology

    Through the Eyes of the Beholder: Simulated Eye-movement Experience (“SEE”) Modulates Valence Bias in Response to Emotional Ambiguity

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    Although some facial expressions provide clear information about people’s emotions and intentions (happy, angry), others (surprise) are ambiguous because they can signal both positive (e.g., surprise party) and negative outcomes (e.g., witnessing an accident). Without a clarifying context, surprise is interpreted as positive by some and negative by others, and this valence bias is stable across time. When compared to fearful expressions, which are consistently rated as negative, surprise and fear share similar morphological features (e.g., widened eyes) primarily in the upper part of the face. Recently, we demonstrated that the valence bias was associated with a specific pattern of eye movements (positive bias associated with faster fixation to the lower part of the face). In this follow-up, we identified two participants from our previous study who had the most positive and most negative valence bias. We used their eye movements to create a moving window such that new participants view faces through the eyes of one our previous participants (subjects saw only the areas of the face that were directly fixated by the original participants in the exact order they were fixated; i.e., Simulated Eye-movement Experience). The input provided by these windows modulated the valence ratings of surprise, but not fear faces. These findings suggest there are meaningful individual differences in how people process faces, and that these differences impact our emotional perceptions. Furthermore, this study is unique in its approach to examining individual differences in emotion by adapting a methodology previously used primarily in the vision/attention domain

    Affective flexibility as a developmental building block of cognitive reappraisal: An fMRI study

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    Cognitive reappraisal is a form of emotion regulation that involves reinterpreting the meaning of a stimulus, often to downregulate one’s negative affect. Reappraisal typically recruits distributed regions of prefrontal and parietal cortex to generate new appraisals and downregulate the emotional response in the amygdala. In the current study, we compared reappraisal ability in an fMRI task with affective flexibility in a sample of children and adolescents (ages 6–17, N = 76). Affective flexibility was defined as variability in valence interpretations of ambiguous (surprised) facial expressions from a second behavioral task. Results demonstrated that age and affective flexibility predicted reappraisal ability, with an interaction indicating that flexibility in children (but not adolescents) supports reappraisal success. Using a region of interest-based analysis of participants’ BOLD time courses, we also found dissociable reappraisal-related brain mechanisms that support reappraisal success and affective flexibility. Specifically, late increases in middle prefrontal cortex activity supported reappraisal success and late decreases in amygdala activity supported flexibility. Together, these results suggest that our novel measure of affective flexibility – the ability to see multiple interpretations of an ambiguous emotional cue – may represent part of the developmental building blocks of cognitive reappraisal ability

    Spring Break or Heart Break? Extending Valence Bias to Emotional Words

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    Ambiguous stimuli are useful for assessing emotional bias. For example, surprised faces could convey a positive or negative meaning, and the degree to which an individual interprets these expressions as positive or negative represents their “valence bias.” Currently, the most well- wellvalidated ambiguous stimuli for assessing valence bias include nonverbal signals (faces and scenes), overlooking an inherent ambiguity in verbal signals. This study identified 32 words with dual-valence ambiguity (i.e., relatively high intersubject variability in valence ratings and relatively slow response times) and length-matched clearly valenced words (16 positive, 16 negative). Preregistered analyses demonstrated that the words-based valence bias correlated with the bias for faces, rs(213) = .27, p \u3c .001, and scenes, rs(204) = .46, p \u3c .001. That is, the same people who interpret ambiguous faces/scenes as positive also interpret ambiguous words as positive. These findings provide a novel tool for measuring valence bias and greater generalizability, resulting in a more robust measure of this bias

    Neural responses to ambiguity involve domain-general and domain-specific emotion processing systems

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    Extant research has examined the process of decision making under uncertainty, specifically in situations of ambiguity. However, much of this work has been conducted in the context of semantic and low-level visual processing. An open question is whether ambiguity in social signals (e.g., emotional facial expressions) is processed similarly or whether a unique set of processors come on-line to resolve ambiguity in a social context. Our work has examined ambiguity using surprised facial expressions, as they have predicted both positive and negative outcomes in the past. Specifically, whereas some people tended to interpret surprise as negatively valenced, others tended toward a more positive interpretation. Here, we examined neural responses to social ambiguity using faces (surprise) and nonface emotional scenes (International Affective Picture System). Moreover, we examined whether these effects are specific to ambiguity resolution (i.e., judgments about the ambiguity) or whether similar effects would be demonstrated for incidental judgments (e.g., nonvalence judgments about ambiguously valenced stimuli). We found that a distinct task control (i.e., cingulo-opercular) network was more active when resolving ambiguity. We also found that activity in the ventral amygdala was greater to faces and scenes that were rated explicitly along the dimension of valence, consistent with findings that the ventral amygdala tracks valence. Taken together, there is a complex neural architecture that supports decision making in the presence of ambiguity: (a) a core set of cortical structures engaged for explicit ambiguity processing across stimulus boundaries and (b) other dedicated circuits for biologically relevant learning situations involving faces

    Cortisol responses enhance negative valence perception for ambiguous facial expressions

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    Stress exposure elicits a prolonged neuroendocrine response, marked by cortisol release, which can influence important forms of affective decision-making. Identifying how stress reactivity shapes subjective biases in decisions about emotional ambiguity (i.e., valence bias) provides insight into the role stress plays in basic affective processing for healthy and clinical populations alike. Here, we sought to examine how stress reactivity affects valence decisions about emotional ambiguity. Given that stress prioritizes automatic emotional processing which, in the context of valence bias, is associated with increased negativity, we tested how individual differences in acute stress responses influence valence bias and how this decision process evolves over time. Participants provided baseline ratings of clear (happy, angry) and ambiguous (surprised) facial expressions, then re-rated similar stimuli after undergoing an acute stress or control manipulation a week later; salivary cortisol was measured throughout to assay stress reactivity. Elevations in cortisol were associated with more negative ratings of surprised faces, and with more direct response trajectories toward negative ratings (i.e., less response competition). These effects were selectively driven by the stress group, evidencing that increased stress reactivity is associated with a stronger negativity bias during ambiguous affective decision-making

    Spring Break or Heart Break? Extending Valence Bias to Emotional Words

    Get PDF
    Ambiguous stimuli are useful for assessing emotional bias. For example, surprised faces could convey a positive or negative meaning, and the degree to which an individual interprets these expressions as positive or negative represents their “valence bias.” Currently, the most well- wellvalidated ambiguous stimuli for assessing valence bias include nonverbal signals (faces and scenes), overlooking an inherent ambiguity in verbal signals. This study identified 32 words with dual-valence ambiguity (i.e., relatively high intersubject variability in valence ratings and relatively slow response times) and length-matched clearly valenced words (16 positive, 16 negative). Preregistered analyses demonstrated that the words-based valence bias correlated with the bias for faces, rs(213) = .27, p \u3c .001, and scenes, rs(204) = .46, p \u3c .001. That is, the same people who interpret ambiguous faces/scenes as positive also interpret ambiguous words as positive. These findings provide a novel tool for measuring valence bias and greater generalizability, resulting in a more robust measure of this bias

    Political Identity Biases Americans’ Judgments of Outgroup Emotion

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    Social group identity plays a central role in political polarization and inter-party conflict. Here, we use ambiguously valenced faces to measure bias in the processing of political ingroup and outgroup faces, while also accounting for interparty differences in judgments of emotion at baseline. Participants identifying as Democrats and Republicans judged happy, angry, and surprised faces as positive or negative. Whereas happy and angry faces convey positive and negative valence respectively, surprised faces are ambiguous in that they readily convey positive and negative valence. Thus, surprise is a useful tool for characterizing valence bias (i.e., the tendency to judge ambiguous stimuli as negative). Face stimuli were assigned to the participants’ political ingroup or outgroup, or a third group with an unspecified affiliation (baseline). We found a significant interaction of facial expression and group membership, such that outgroup faces were judged more negatively than ingroup and baseline, but only for surprise. There was also an interaction of facial expression and political affiliation, with Republicans judging surprise more negatively than Democrats across all group conditions. However, we did not find evidence for party differences in outgroup negativity. Our findings demonstrate the utility of judgments of surprised faces as a measure of intergroup bias, and reinforce the importance of outgroup negativity (relative to ingroup positivity) for explaining inter-party biases
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