psychology

SMU hosts 2015 Honorary Degree Symposia Friday, May 15

Three international leaders who will receive honorary degrees at SMU’s 100th May Commencement will participate in symposia on the main campus Friday, May 15. All symposia are free and open to the public.

The symposia will feature 2015 honorees Meave Leakey, a renowned anthropologist whose research in Africa has revealed important clues to humans’ earliest ancestors; Irene Hirano Inouye, who helped build the Japanese American National Museum and is founding president of the U.S.-Japan Council; and Helen LaKelly Hunt, a donor-activist, author and SMU alumna whose life focus has been to empower women and educate people about the value of healthy, intimate relationships. All three will receive the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, during the Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 16.

> The history of honorary degrees at SMU, including honorees by name, year and degree

Meave Leakey

“Human Evolution in the East African Rift Valley:
A Symposium Honoring Meave Leakey”
Friday, May 15, 2-4 p.m.
McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall

Leakey, one of the world’s most distinguished paleoanthropologists, is a research associate at the National Museums of Kenya, director of Plio-Pleistocene research at the Turkana Basin Institute, Nairobi, and research professor in anthropology at Stony Brook University, New York. In 2002 she was named a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. Leakey is a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and an honorary fellow of the Geological Society of London.

David Pilbeam, curator of paleontology at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, will moderate the symposium.

Leakey will speak on “Human Evolution in the East African Rift Valley.” Also presenting will be Frank Brown, dean and distinguished professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah, who will speak on “Time and the Physical Framework in the Turkana Basin, Kenya;” and Kay Behrensmeyer, curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, who will speak on “Faunal Context of Human Evolution in the East African Rift Valley.” Thure Cerling, Distinguished Professor of Geology and Geophysics and Biology at the University of Utah, will speak on “Floral Context of Human Evolution – as Represented by Geochemical Signatures;” and Bonnie Jacobs, professor of earth sciences in SMU’s Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, will speak on “Floral Context of Human Evolution – as Represented by Plant Fossils.”

Irene Hirano Inouye

“Celebrating the American Experience and U.S.-Japan Relations:
Irene Hirano Inouye, Her Life, Works and Achievements”
Friday, May 15
Reception, 3-3:30 p.m.
Panel Discussion and Remarks, 3:30-5 p.m.
Hillcrest Appellate Courtroom and Classroom, Underwood Law Library 

Inouye is a leader in international relations who, while still in her 20s, began tailoring her career toward service as director of a Los Angeles medical clinic providing affordable care for poor and uninsured women. She helped build the Japanese American National Museum, which opened in 1992, and became the founding president of the U.S.-Japan Council in 2008.

Panel participants are Admiral Patrick M. Walsh, U.S. Navy (ret.), Tower Center senior fellow and former commander of the Pacific Fleet; Anny Wong, research fellow in the Tower Center and a member of the board of the Japan-America Society of Dallas-Fort Worth; and moderator Hiroki Takeuchi, associate professor and director of the Tower Center’s Sun & Star Program on Japan and East Asia. Inouye will deliver closing remarks and will be available for questions.

The symposium is free, but registration is required; email the Tower Center to RSVP. More information is available at the Tower Center website.

Helen LaKelly Hunt

“A Revolutionary Approach to Conflict Resolution:
A Symposium Honoring Helen LaKelly Hunt”
Friday, May 15
Panel presentation 10:30 a.m.-noon, Smith Auditorium, Meadows Museum
Lunch and remarks, noon-1:30 p.m., Jones Room, Meadows Museum 

Hunt is a donor-activist, author and SMU alumna who has been recognized for both her work for healthy marriages and family and her efforts in helping to build the global women’s funding movement. She is the founder of The Sister Fund, a private foundation that supports women’s social, political, economic and spiritual empowerment. Hunt has helped establish several other organizations, including Dallas Women’s Foundation, New York Women’s Foundation, Women’s Funding Network and Women Moving Millions. Her books include Faith and Feminism: A Holy Alliance, as well as seven books on intimate relationships and parenting co-authored with her husband, Harville Hendrix.

Hunt and Hendrix will discuss the new science of relationships with panelists David Chard, dean of SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human DevelopmentRita Kirk, director of SMU’s Maguire Center for Ethics and Public ResponsibilityLorelei Simpson Rowe, associate professor and graduate program co-director in SMU’s Department of Psychology and an expert in couples relationships; and Michelle Kinder, executive director of the Momentous Institute.

Please RSVP for the lunch to Family Wellness Dallas.

Written by Kimberly Cobb

> Learn more about SMU’s Commencement ceremonies, events and traditions at smu.edu/commencement

No means no: SMU study shows that teen girls report less sexual victimization after virtual-reality assertiveness training

Stock photo of two people holding handsTeen girls were less likely to report being sexually victimized after learning to assertively resist unwanted sexual overtures and practicing resistance in a realistic virtual environment, according to a new SMU-led study.

The effects persisted over a three-month period following the training, says clinical psychologist Lorelei Simpson Rowe, lead author on the pilot study and an associate professor of psychology in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

The research also found that those girls who had previously experienced dating violence reported lower levels of psychological aggression and psychological distress after completing the program, relative to girls in a comparison group.

“The virtual simulations allowed girls to practice being assertive in a realistic environment. The intent of the program is for the learning opportunity to increase the likelihood that they will use the skills in real life,” said Simpson Rowe, who also serves as graduate program co-director in the Department of Psychology. “Research has shown that skills are more likely to generalize if they are practiced in a realistic environment, so we used virtual reality to increase the realism.”

The training program, called “My Voice, My Choice,” emphasizes that victims do not invite sexual violence and that they have the right to stand up for themselves because violent or coercive behavior is never OK.

“It is very promising that learning resistance skills and practicing them in virtual simulations of coercive interactions could reduce the risk for later sexual victimization,” said Simpson Rowe.

She cautioned, however, that the research is preliminary and based on a small sample: 42 in the “My Voice, My Choice” condition and 36 in a control condition. Future research is needed to establish the benefits of the program across different age groups and populations, for example, college versus high school students.

The study’s strengths included its randomized controlled design and a high participant retention rate among the 78 teen girls in the study.

The virtual-reality simulation component of “My Voice, My Choice” utilizes a software program developed by study co-authors Ernest N. Jouriles and Renee McDonald in conjunction with the game design program in The Guildhall at SMU. Jouriles and McDonald are clinical psychologists in the SMU Psychology Department. Jouriles is professor and chair. McDonald is a professor and associate dean of research and academic affairs in Dedman College.

“One advantage the virtual simulations offer is the ability to actually observe whether, and how, the girls are using the skills in coercive situations that feel very real,” McDonald said. “This provides girls with opportunities for immediate feedback and accelerated learning, and for facilitators to easily spot areas in need of further strengthening. The value of this advantage can’t be overstated.”

One question that remains for future research is whether the practice in virtual simulations was the operative factor that reduced sexual victimization, Simpson Rowe said.

“We need to determine if practice in a virtual setting is the key factor in making the intervention effective, or if other factors, such as being encouraged to stand up for themselves, led to the outcomes,” she said.

The researchers reported their findings, “Reducing Sexual Victimization among Adolescent Girls: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial of My Voice, My Choice,” in the journal Behavior Therapy. The article has been published online in advance of print.

Written by Margaret Allen

> Read the full story from the SMU Research blog

Research: To spank or not to spank? SMU studies show research can change minds about corporal punishment

Some parents who spank their children believe it’s an effective form of discipline. But decades of studies have found that spanking is linked to short- and long-term child behavior problems.

Is there any way to get parents to change their minds and stop spanking? Child psychologist George Holden, a professor in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, wanted to see if parents’ positive views toward spanking could be reversed if they were made aware of the research.

Holden and three colleagues in the Department of Psychology used a simple, fast, inexpensive method to briefly expose subjects to short research summaries that detailed spanking’s negative impact. With Professor Alan Brown, Assistant Professor Austin Baldwin and graduate student Kathryn Croft Caderao, he carried out two studies: one with non-parents and one with parents. They found that attitudes were significantly altered.

“Parents spank with good intentions – they believe it will promote good behavior, and they don’t intend to harm the child. But research increasingly indicates that spanking is actually a harmful practice,” said Holden, lead author on the study. “These studies demonstrate that a brief exposure to research findings can reduce positive corporal punishment attitudes in parents and non-parents.”

The findings, “Research findings can change attitudes about corporal punishment,” have been published in the international journal Child Abuse & Neglect. The researchers believe the study is the first of its kind to find that brief exposure to spanking research can alter people’s views toward spanking. Previous studies in the field have relied on more intensive, time-consuming and costly methods to attempt to change attitudes toward spanking.

Research has found that parents who spank believe spanking can make children behave or respect them. That belief drives parental behavior, more so than their level of anger, the seriousness of the child’s misbehavior or the parent’s perceived intent of the child’s misbehavior.

In the first SMU study, the subjects were 118 non-parent college students divided into two groups: one that actively processed web-based information about spanking research; and one that passively read web summaries.

The summary consisted of several sentences describing the link between spanking and short- and long-term child behavior problems, including aggressive and delinquent acts, poor quality of parent-child relationships and an increased risk of child physical abuse.

The majority of the participants in the study, 74.6 percent, thought less favorably of spanking after reading the summary. Unexpectedly, the researchers said, attitude change was significant for both active and passive participants.

A second study replicated the first study, but with 263 parent participants, predominantly white mothers. The researchers suspected parents might be more resistant to change their attitudes. Parents already have established disciplinary practices, are more invested in their current practices and have sought advice from trusted individuals.

But the results indicated otherwise. After reading brief research statements on the web, 46.7 percent of the parents changed their attitudes and expressed less approval of spanking.

“If we can educate people about this issue of corporal punishment, these studies show that we can in a very quick way begin changing attitudes,” said Holden.

Written by Margaret Allen

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

Ten SMU professors receive 2013-14 Sam Taylor Fellowships

Ten SMU faculty members have received 2013-14 Sam Taylor Fellowships from the Sam Taylor Fellowship Fund of the Division of Higher Education, United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

The Fellowships, funded by income from a portion of Taylor’s estate, award up to $2,000 for full-time faculty members at United Methodist-related colleges and universities in Texas. Any full-time faculty member is eligible to apply for the Fellowships, which support research “advancing the intellectual, social or religious life of Texas and the nation.”

Applications are evaluated on the significance of the project, clarity of the proposal, professional development of the applicant, value of the project to the community or nation, and the project’s sensitivity to value questions confronting higher education and society.

The winning professors for this academic year, and their projects:

• Tim Cassedy, English, Dedman College, for research at the Library of Congress for his book Language Makes the Difference, a history of ideas about language and identity at the turn of the 19th century.

• Michael Chmielewski, Psychology, Dedman College, to study the appropriateness of commonly used psychological tests and measures for diverse populations.

• Michael Corris, Art, Meadows School of the Arts, for interviews and illustration reproductions for his book The Armchair in the Studio: The Engagement of Art and Philosophy Since the 1960s.

• Benard Cummings, Theatre, Meadows School of the Arts, for a theatre adaptation of Babette’s Feast set during the Civil War.

• Kate Engel, Religious Studies, Dedman College, for archival research in Great Britain and Germany on international Protestantism at the time of the American Revolution.

• Blake Hackler, Theatre, Meadows School of the Arts, to take part in advanced training with the SITI Theatre ensemble and conduct research on embodied actor training methodologies.

• Andrea Meltzer, Psychology, Dedman College,  for a study of newlywed couples and weight-maintenance motivations.

• Lisa Pon, Art History, Meadows School of the Arts, to support reproduction of images for her upcoming book on the Madonna of the Fire.

• Candace Walkington, Teaching and Learning, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, to build a website containing mathematics problems that are personalized to middle and high school students’ interests.

• Eric White, Special Collections, Bridwell Library, to complete the first comprehensive documentary history of every surviving copy of the Gutenberg Bible, encompassing their discovery, changing ownership and rise in cultural significance.

Research: Depressed adolescents at risk for developing anxiety

Stock photo of pensive teenSome adolescents who suffer with symptoms of depression also may be at risk for developing anxiety, according to a new study of children’s mental health.

The study found that among youth who have symptoms of depression, the risk is most severe for those who have one or more of three risk factors, said SMU psychologist Chrystyna Kouros, who led the study.

Specifically, those who are most vulnerable are those who have a pessimistic outlook toward events and circumstances in their lives; those who have mothers with a history of an anxiety disorder; or those who report that the quality of their family relationships is poor, Kouros said.

A depressed adolescent with any one of those circumstances is more at risk for developing anxiety, the researchers found. The findings suggest that mental health professionals could target adolescents with those risk factors. Early intervention might prevent anxiety from developing, Kouros said.

“Depression or anxiety can be debilitating in itself,” said Kouros, an assistant professor of psychology in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. “Combined, however, they are an even bigger threat to a child’s well-being. That’s particularly the case during adolescence, when pre-teens and teens are concerned about fitting in with their peers. Anxiety can manifest as social phobia, in which kids are afraid to interact with friends and teachers, or in school refusal, in which children try to avoid going to school.”

The findings are reported in Development and Psychopathology. The study, “Dynamic temporal relations between anxious and depressive symptoms across adolescence,” appears on the journal’s web site.

Kouros co-authored the research with psychiatrist Susanna Quasem and psychologist Judy Garber, both of Vanderbilt University. Data for the study were collected by Garber, a Vanderbilt professor of psychology and human development.

The finding was based on data from 240 children from metropolitan public schools and their mothers, all of whom were assessed annually for six years. The children were followed during the important developmental period from sixth grade through 12th grade. The study was evenly divided between boys and girls.

Consistent with previous research, the authors found also that “symptoms of anxiety were a robust predictor of subsequent elevations in depressive symptoms over time in adolescents.” That link has been known for some time, Kouros said, and the current study confirmed it.

Less well understood by researchers, however, has been the link between depressive symptoms developing further into elevated anxiety, she said.

“The current study showed that depressive symptoms were followed by elevations in anxious symptoms for a subset of youth who had mothers with a history of anxiety, reported low family relationship quality, or had a more negative attributional style,” the authors reported.

Written by Margaret Allen

> Read more at the SMU Research blog

Load More Posts