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Psychology at Shady Grove

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Shady Grove @ URCAD

URCAD 2014

Kim C. Casimbon
Effects of Multitasking on Reading Comprehension and Puzzle Solving
Diane Alonso, Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology

Kim Casimbon URCAD Shady Grove UMBC

Recent research has examined the effects of multitasking on in-class laptop use, text messaging, and Instant Messaging (IM) during class lectures. Prior studies have found a negative relationship between IM usage and comprehension score. Those who spent more time instant messaging their partners online had poorer academic performance. The current study examines the effects of dual tasking, focusing on the performance of either two related or unrelated activities as compared with single task performance. One hundred fifty participants are assigned to either a dual task group attending to two related tasks (reading a passage while viewing a video), performing two unrelated tasks, (solving three side-by-side puzzles while viewing the video), or doing one task at a time, (either just reading the passage, puzzle, or video task by itself). Performance will be evaluated using assessment scores for each activity. Participants in the dual task groups are expected to score lower on their assessments compared to those in the single task groups. Furthermore, those who are reading a passage and viewing the video simultaneously will score the lowest compared to other groups. Due to various technological advances, it is important to note the consequences of multitasking particularly in learning environments.

Jonathan Neal
Empathy Reconceptualized as a Dynamic Skillset
Diane Alonso, Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology

Jonathan Neal URCAD Shady Grove UMBC

As a concept, empathy has lacked concrete definition, having been known in turn as sympathy and pity; terms that have proved vulnerable to semantic corruption over time. If one accepts that empathy can be decisive in the practice of compassion in social services and assumes that empathy is, in part, learned, then providing a mechanism for “teaching” empathy could be useful. This study sought to further support for a model of empathy based on neurocognitive evidence related to the discovery of mirror neurons as informed by social work practice wisdom. Sixty social science undergraduates completed a measure of empathic attitudes, the Empathy Assessment Index (EAI), with thirty participating in one of three standardized Cognitive Affective Workshops. These workshops explore five distinct components of empathy identified by cognitive neuroscientific research through lecture, demonstration, discussion and guided role play. Using a repeated measures design in which measurements collected after participation in the workshop are compared to those taken before participation, results are expected to show that participation in these workshops will inform future professionals’ comprehension of empathy as a functional, teachable skill set including applications in affect mentalizing, perspective-taking, self-other awareness, and emotion regulation.

Alexander B. Pilon
Empathy Scores of Alcoholics and Non-Alcoholics
Diane Alonso, Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology

Alexander Pilon URCAD Shady Grove UMBC

Limited research has been done measuring empathy in alcoholics. Previous research has shown that newly sober alcoholics (three to five weeks) have less empathy than non-alcoholics. The most effective treatments for alcoholism to date are 12-step programs. Essential to success in 12-step programs is helping other alcoholics. The empathy-altruism hypothesis suggests empathy motivates altruistic behavior – helping without conditions. A connection therefore can be suggested that links success in 12-step programs to empathy. The current study looks at empathy in alcoholics with long-term recovery (greater than five years), newly sober alcoholics (less than five years), as well as non-alcoholics. Both groups of alcoholics must regularly attend AA meetings (once or more per week). Empathy scores are determined by the Empathy Quotient (EQ) test. The current study tests the initial hypothesis that alcoholics with long-term sobriety will score higher on the EQ test, than non-alcoholics, who will score higher than newly sober alcoholics. The results will be used to evaluate AA’s efficacy, and suggest possible improvements to be made in the field.


URCAD 2013


Arielle Dolegui
The Effect of Listening to Different Genres of Music on Cognitive Processing Outcomes
Karen Watkins-Lewis, Lecturer, Department of Psychology

Arielle Dolegui URCAD Shady Grove UMBC

Listening to music for relaxation is common among students to counter the effects of stress or anxiety when completing difficult academic tasks. Some studies supporting this technique have shown that background music promote cognitive performance while other studies have shown that listening to music while engaged in complex cognitive tasks can significantly impair performance. This study focuses on the impact different genres of music played at different volume levels have on cognitive abilities. Additionally, the research aims to identify the effect of listening to a favored genre of music on performance. Thirty-three undergraduate students complete a series of five arithmetic tests while listening to two types of music, classical and hard rock, at two volume levels: high and low. Participants also complete a questionnaire to assess their interest with the background music and its distracting effect on their concentration. This research expects performance to worsen with increasing music intensity and the hard rock music condition at high intensity is predicted to be the most detrimental suggesting that both the type of music and the volume at which the music is played are major distracters. This research also predicts lower test scores for participants exposed to their favored genre of music.

Briana Garrett
Horror Movies and Emotional Calibration: How Revulsion Heightens Fear
Diane L. Alonso, Program Director/Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology

Briana Garrett URCAD Shady Grove UMBC

Horror films, especially grotesque and bloody cinema, are becoming increasingly popular and prevalent. This study examines the two major emotions that horror films prey on, disgust and fear; specifically, how these emotions affect arousal during a short movie clip. Prior research on arousal, fear, and revulsion has focused on advertising appeals. In the current study, 90 participants age 18 and above are recruited from the Universities at Shady Grove. Participants are assigned to one of three conditions: observing a disgust-inducing scene, a fear-provoking clip, or a fear and disgust-producing scene. All participants have their heart rate taken, are videotaped, and fill out four self-report questionnaires concerning their arousal level, disgust-propensity, enjoyment of horror films, and what emotions the film generated. Data collected from this research will shed light on the interactive effect of disgust and fear and may contribute to an etiology of mental disorders with this mixed emotion component such as obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Dana S. Robinson
Mulitmodal Learning with Tablet Computers
Diane L. Alonso, Program Director/Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology

Dana Robinson URCAD Shady Grove UMBC

Technology has offered educators a wide variety of ways to share information. Instructors can provide students with text, diagrams, lectures, videos, hands-on experiences, and more. This study seeks to explore whether targeting multiple sensory modalities in instruction can improve students’ learning of material. A single modality (aural) instruction design is compared with a bi-modal (aural and visual), as well as, tri-modal (aural, visual, and kinesthetic) design, each group with 30 participants. Emerging research has shown that general tablet use in the classroom may improve students’ exam performance. The current study specifically proposes the use of tablet computers as a means of kinesthetic/tactile instruction. It is hypothesized that students in the tri-modal condition will demonstrate the greatest increase in learning from pre- to post-test, whereas students in the single modality condition will demonstrate a lesser increase in learning. It is also expected that kinesthetic learners will perform better in the tri-modal condition than kinesthetic learners in other conditions. Learning, as measured by the difference from pre- to post-test scores for each participant, will be compared between conditions using a one-way analysis of variance. Results could provide insight for educators on which methods of instruction yield the best results in student learning.


URCAD 2012

Andrea P. Arellano
Emotional Images and their Effect on Pupil Dilation
Diane L. Alonso, Program Director/Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology

Various stimuli that involve emotions, in particular, visual images that produce an emotional response, can affect pupil dilation. Studies have shown that the amygdala, an area of the brain responsible for emotional processes, affects pupil dilation when impacted by emotional stimuli. This study uses positive, negative and neutral images to serve as emotional stimuli. Thirty adults view a set of fifteen randomized images, in which five are positive, another five are negative, and the remaining five are neutral. The pupils of the participants viewing the images are recorded and measured to see whether highly emotional (positive and negative) images cause the pupils to increase in size. The pupil will be measured while participants are viewing a fixation point before each image, and while viewing the image. When comparing the pupil size during the fixation point and image, the pupils are expected to increase for positive and negative images, but remain constant for neutral images. The expected increase in pupil size for positive and negative images can be influenced by emotional arousal and possible increase of activity in the amygdala.

URCAD 2010

Angelica R. Alexander, Laura A. Scaletti, Maureen M. Black
Parental Sense of Competence at Two Years of Age and Child Internalizing and Externalizing Behavior Problems at Age Four
University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics: Growth and Nutrition Division
Laura A. Scaletti, Lecturer, Department of Psychology

Past research has linked a parent's sense of competence to child behavior problems in toddlerhood. The present study hypothesized that parental sense of competence at 24 months of age was negatively associated with child internalizing and externalizing behavior problems at 48 months of age. Participants were selected, based on available data, from a longitudinal study that examined the effects of prenatal drug exposure on child development (N=173). Preliminary analyses revealed a negative association between total parental competence and 48 month behavior problems (internalizing, r(107)=-0.26, p<.01, and externalizing, r(107)=-0.39, p<.001). Specifically, the more competent a parent felt when his/her child was 24 months of age, the less likely they were to report that their child displayed externalizing and internalizing behavior problems at 48 months of age. In addition, a parent’s satisfaction in his/her parental role (another factor associated with parental sense of competence) was negatively associated with internalizing, r(107)=-0.29, p<.01, and externalizing, r(107)=-0.41, p<.001, behavior problems at 48 months of age. Multiple regression analyses will be conducted to further examine these relations and any possible covariates.

This work was funded by a grant to the third author (NIDA RO1 DA021059).

Rebecca Mullan
Conquering Visual Perceptions: An Exploration in Effective Media Literacy Strategies for Pre-Adolescents
Diane Alonso, Program Director, Department of Psychology at USG

There is no question that children today are facing many adverse effects from exposure to sensationalized messages presented in the media. Given the extreme increase of media usage on a daily basis, these negative repercussions have a greater impact and call for further exploration. This study was designed to gather information on the dominance of modality (visual versus auditory) in media presentations. After presenting two forms of opposing information (two slide shows with conflicting soundtracks), and by measuring which stimulus had a greater influence, children’s perceptions of the presentation were analyzed. The participants for this study included approximately sixty pre-adolescents, between the ages of ten and twelve from three elementary and middle school classes. The preadolescent population was chosen specifically because of its frequent targeting by the media and susceptibility to influence. The findings gathered might help to create effective methods for educating both parents and children on healthy media viewing strategies.

Monica Tith
, Laura A. Scaletti, Maureen M. Black
Caregiver Negative Life Events and Coping with Stress in Children
University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics: Growth and Nutrition Division
Laura A. Scaletti, Lecturer, Department of Psychology

Past research has found that stress, life events, and anxiety in children and adolescents are interrelated. The goal of this study was to investigate whether or not stressful life events moderate the relation between a child’s ability to handle stress at 6.5 and 13 years of age. The present study utilized an archival, longitudinal dataset of that examined the effects of prenatal drug exposure on child development. Participants were selected (N =58) based on available data; specifically, the Child Response to Stress Inventory at 6.5 years, and the Life Events Questionnaire and Child Behavior Checklist when the children were seven. Preliminary analyses revealed a significant association between a child's response to stress at 6.5 years and his/her ability to regulate his/her behaviors at 13 years of age, r(57)=.54, p<.001; i.e., the more difficultly a child had responding to stress at 6.5 years, the more difficult it was for him/her to regulate his/her behaviors at 13 years. In addition, a child’s response to stress at 6.5 years was significantly related to his/her working memory, r(57)=.40, p<.05, planning/organizing ability, r(57)=.32, p<.05, and his/her emotional control, r(57)=.52, p<.001, at 13 years of age. Additional analyses will be conducted in order investigate whether or not negative life events moderates these relations.
This work was funded by a grant to the third author (NIDA RO1 DA021059).


Carrie L. Strachan, Laura A. Scaletti, Maureen M. Black
Toddler Temperament and Parental Depression: Predictors of Poor Emotional functioning at Age Seven
University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics: Growth and Nutrition Division
Laura A. Scaletti, Lecturer, Department of Psychology

This study investigated the relations between toddler temperament, parental depression, and child depression in a sample of prenatally drug exposed children. The participants for this study were 173 prenatally drug exposed children and their caregivers. When the children were 18 months of age, the caregivers’ perceptions of their infants’ temperament were assessed via the parent-report Infant Characteristics Questionnaire (ICQ). The caregivers’ depression was assessed when the children were six and seven years of age using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). Lastly, the children filled out the Child Depression Inventory (CDI) when they were nine and 11 years of age. Preliminary analysis revealed a significant association between the children’s unstoppable temperament factor and their CDI scores, r(20)=.48, p<.05. In addition, the children’s depression at nine years of age was significantly related to parental depression at six, r(119)=.26, p<.01, and seven, r(20)=.29, p<.001, years of age. These findings could lead us to believe some of these temperament issues in toddlerhood are related to depression in late childhood. Additional analyses will investigate these relations further; multiple regression analyses will be used to test the ability of parental depression to moderate the relation between infant temperament factors and childhood depression.


Anna L. Ramirez, Laura A. Scaletti, Maureen M. Black
Parental Depression in Toddlerhood and Child Growth from Two to Four Years of Age
University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics: Growth and Nutrition Division
Laura A. Scaletti, Lecturer, Department of Psychology

Past research has found that family dysfunction may affect a child’s weight. This study investigated the relation between parental depression and a child’s growth from 24 to 48 months of age. The data was part of a larger longitudinal study that examined prenatally drug exposed children from birth through adolescence (N=276). When children were 24, 36, and 48 months of age, parents filled out the Center for Epidemiological Study’s self-report depression scale (CESD); at these same time points, parents were asked to provide the height and weight of their child from his/her last well-visit. Participants were selected based on available data. Higher CES-D scores at 36 months of age were associated with a decrease in the child’s weight percentile from 24 to 36 months, r(94)=-0.35, p<.001, and higher CES-D scores at 48 months of age were associated with a decrease in the child’s weight percentile from 36 to 48 months of age, r(119)=-0.25, p<.01. It is unclear whether these percentile changes were harmful or beneficial to the children (e.g., in the case of an obese child). Additional analyses will be conducted in order to probe the nature of these associations.

This work was funded by a grant to the third author (NIDA RO1 DA021059).


Crystal M. White, Laura A. Scaletti, Maureen M. Black
Father Absence: A Risk Factor for Developing Behavior Problems in Childhood
University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics: Growth and Nutrition Division
Laura A. Scaletti, Lecturer, Department of Psychology

Research that examines the effects of father-figure availability on child behavior is limited. However, a few studies suggest that father involvement is associated with lower incidences of child behavior problems. The present study hypothesized that father involvement is negatively associated with child behavior problems. Participants were selected from a study that examined the longitudinal effects of prenatal drug exposure on children development (N =200) based on available demographic and Child Behavior Checklist data when children were seven years of age. Preliminary analyses revealed no significant differences between the number of behavior problems displayed by the father and no-father groups; there were no differences in the type of behavior problems exhibited by males and females. Next, multiple regression analyses were conducted to test the effects of father involvement on behavior problems within the father figure group (n=181). After controlling for drug exposure, the amount of father involvement significantly predicted internalizing, F(2,178)=4.16, p<.05, externalizing, F(2,178)=9.41, p<.001, and total behavior problems, F(2,178)=10.39, p<.01; the less time spent with their father figure, the more behavior problems children displayed. The relations between specific types of father-involvement and behavior problems will be discussed.

This work was funded by a grant to the third author (NIDA RO1 DA021059).


URCAD 2008

Andrew T. Fritz
The Forms of Goal Orientation and its Relation to Fear of Failure: A Correlational Study
Diane L. Alonso, Program Director, Department of Psychology at USG
Based on past research conducted by Silver, Dwyer, and Alford (2006), this study investigates whether people who have a performance avoidance goal orientation also have a fear of failure. This study will also determine if people whose behavior falls into the other two subcategories of goal orientation, learned and performance-approach, experience fear of failure. Using a sample of 50 students from Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, Maryland, the researcher expects to see a positive correlation between fear of failure and performance-avoidance goal orientation, and a negative correlation between fear of failure and each of the other two goal orientations. Results of this study will support past research declaring that fear of failure is only found with people who experience performance avoidance.

For more information, check out this department's website:

Psychology at Shady Grove

For more information
Diane Alonso, Program Director at  or 301-738-6318
Janet McGlynn at or 410-455-5754