Department of Psychology Graduate Theses

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    Exploring Theory of Mind Subtypes in Adolescence
    Psaradellis, Elaine; Psychology
    Theory of mind (ToM) and its subcomponents, such as cognitive (involving reasoning, inference, and logical analysis) and perceptual (perceiving and interpreting behaviour, body language, and facial expressions) ToM, undergo significant development during childhood. There remains a debate in the literature regarding whether each of these ToM subtypes exhibit distinct patterns of age effects. Nevertheless, there remains limited empirical support regarding how these changes unfold beyond childhood as well as the cognitive mechanisms driving them. As such, I hypothesized that ToM subtype would moderate the relationship between age and ToM accuracy in adolescence. Specifically, I anticipate a sharper and positive incline between age and accuracy in cognitive ToM, contrasted with a more stable or flatter association between age and accuracy in perceptual ToM. Although both ToM types have been found to draw upon executive functions (EF) and intelligence, the emphasis and specific use of these abilities may differ based on the nature of the task. As such, I hypothesized that cognitive abilities, such as EF and intelligence, would mediate the relationship between age and ToM accuracy, with cognitive ToM relying on verbal IQ and perceptual ToM relying on EF to a greater degree. The current study did not provide support that age is associated with ToM accuracy differentially as a function of the ToM subtype, so I did not explore EF and intelligence as potential mediators of this null effect. In exploratory analyses, I did find that EF and intelligence, specifically inhibitory control and verbal intelligence, are predictors of ToM accuracy over and above the effect of age, and that these relationships also are not moderated by ToM Type. The implications for future research are discussed.
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    Exploring Camouflaging in Autism Beyond the Diagnostic/Disability Threshold
    Man, Louisa; Psychology; Castelhano, Monica
    There are different ways to conceptualize autism, which can impact how autistic people navigate the world and are treated by others. It has been conceptualized through a medical model that identifies deficits (Ritvo, 1983) and through a neurodiversity/disability model that depicts autistic traits as natural variations (Den Houting, 2019). Camouflaging, behaviours that adjust for autistic trait, complicate the diagnostic/disability threshold is camouflaging (Hull et al., 2019) and can differentially impact autistic people with marginalized identities (Kalb et al., 2022). In this dissertation, we furthered the understanding of autism and camouflaging by examining a) impacts of gender differences, b) camouflaging-like behaviour beyond the diagnostic/disability threshold, and c) how camouflaging impacted diagnosis, therapy, and accommodations. Study 1 examined whether social desirability is an underlying mechanism for gender differences in autistic camouflaging. We found that camouflaging was distinct from social desirability and only partially accounted for gender differences; gender diverse autistic adults endorsed higher camouflaging than cisgender autistic adults (men or women), suggesting that higher camouflaging in gender diverse autistic adults may be motivated by reducing stigma associated with being gender diverse and autistic. Study 2 examined camouflaging-like behaviour across the autistic trait continuum using the autism quotient and measured cognitive tasks. We found variability in goal-oriented (i.e., more social, more camouflaging) vs. adjustment behaviour (i.e., less neurotypical social cognition, more camouflaging). Whether individuals were self-aware of their social cognitive differences also impacted camouflaging behaviour. Study 3 recruited autistic adults in a mixed methods design to explore the impact of diagnosis, therapy, and accommodations, and their relation to camouflaging. The qualitative study revealed that stigma prevented autistic adults from fully realizing the benefits from their care. We found that higher camouflaging tendencies correlated with a more recent diagnosis and with higher use of emotion regulation psychotherapy, whereas camouflaging tendencies were associated with higher access to social skills groups. Thus, stigma experienced from healthcare and the community was associated with camouflaging as an adjustment behaviour, potentiating long-term ‘autistic burnout’. These studies suggest that to best support autistic adults, systemic change is needed to foster safe spaces for autistic adults to decrease camouflaging (i.e., ‘unmask’).
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    Initial Steps of The Development of a Comprehensive and Inclusive Measure of Sexual Wellbeing Using Participant Reported Outcomes
    Henkelman, Megan S.; Psychology; Pukall, Caroline
    Background: Despite a call for a comprehensive measure of sexual wellbeing and for the inclusion of 2SLGBTQIA+ participants in sexual health research, limitations in measurement continue to be a barrier to comprehensive and inclusive research. No measure for assessing sexual wellbeing comprehensively exists. Current methods for assessing sexual wellbeing include combining multiple measures that assess different dimensions of sexual wellbeing; however, these measures have not been validated for this purpose. Additionally, researchers often include few select dimensions of sexual wellbeing and conflate the result with the global concept. The most common solitary dimension of sexual wellbeing assessed is sexual function; however, these measures rely on binary anatomy and assume penetrative intercourse and are, therefore, narrow in their approach to sexual wellbeing and insensitive to the experiences of 2SLGBTQIA+ participants. Based on a comprehensive literature review, I defined sexual wellbeing and chose a biopsychosocial-cultural and intersectional theoretical framework when developing the measure. Aims: The objective of this study was to develop the first comprehensive and inclusive measure of sexual wellbeing informed by input from gender and sexual minority and majority participants. This measure aims to allow for the study of sexual wellbeing outcomes across all gender/sex/sexualities and partner configurations within clinical and non-clinical samples. Method: This study used the Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs) guidelines, a participant-centred approach to measurement development. A pool of items related to sexual wellbeing was extracted from the literature and rendered to be inclusive in terms of language. Two timepoints of cognitive interviews and one timepoint of focus groups informed the measure's development. A codebook and coding framework were developed for the purposes of measure modification and collecting evidence of validity. The qualitative approach for item revision was grounded theory method. Results: Initial steps towards the development of the first comprehensive and inclusive PROM for assessing sexual wellbeing were undertaken. Participant feedback from cognitive interviews and focus groups helped inform the PROM and provided evidence for content and construct validity. Conclusions: The development of the Inclusive Sexual Wellbeing Scale (ISWS) PROM will serve to provide a multidimensional understanding of diverse people’s sexual wellbeing using inclusive metrics.
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    Establishing the Role of Perceived Believability in the Biographical Disruption of Lyme Disease
    Gravelle, Madelaine; Psychology; Salomons, Tim
    Many patients with Lyme Disease (LD) report facing high stigma (i.e., disbelief from others) regarding their disease status, both in and out of the healthcare system (Ali et al., 2014; Rebman et al., 2017). However, tools for quantitatively measuring perceived believability as a form of disease-related stigma have yet to be established in the chronic illness literature. Furthermore, little work has been done to understand how social disease-related events such as disbelief, and other biomedical (e.g., serodiagnostic testing) and/or psychological (e.g., illness uncertainty) experiences, may relate to an LD patient’s sense of self and, therefore, their mental health. Two samples of participants with self-reported LD (Sample A N=119, Sample B N=137) completed online surveys assessing various biomedical, psychological, and social variables. Aim 1 of the current study assessed the psychometric properties of a scale I developed called the Perceived Believability in Illness Questionnaire (PBIQ). The PBIQ demonstrated evidence of validity and reliability across Samples A and B. Using the biopsychosocial model (Engel, 1977) and Bury’s (1982) biographical disruption of chronic illness theory as guiding frameworks; I performed a moderated moderation analysis to explore how biographical disruption (involving perceived believability, illness uncertainty, and serodiagnostic testing status) may be related to LD patient well-being (i.e., depressive symptom severity; Aim 2). Findings suggest that perceived believability and serodiagnostic testing status work together in their relationship with depressive symptom severity, in tandem with illness uncertainty. Understanding the intricacies of these relationships is critical for developing efficacious, holistic LD healthcare that supports physical and mental health.
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    A Daily and Cross-Sectional Examination of Sexting Amongst Adolescents
    Novick, Jake R.; Psychology; Craig, Wendy
    Sexting is the digital exchange of sexually explicit texts, photos, or videos (Van Ouytsel et al., 2015) and has been associated with positive and negative outcomes (e.g., relationship satisfaction, damaged reputation, and positive and negative emotions; Parker et al., 2013; Houck et al., 2014; Reed et al., 2020). This thesis comprised two studies that examine whether sexting is associated with benefits or harm on a daily level (daily affect) and a cross-sectional level (e.g., general life satisfaction). Study 1 examined whether daily sexting was associated with a change in positive and negative affect, which revealed nonsignificant associations. These null findings may reflect conceptual and methodological issues such as an imperfect measure of sending and receiving behaviours within sexting, as well as limited sampling of sexting and affect throughout the studies. The implication of this study is for future daily research to include more specific and repeated measurements of sexting and affect to best elucidate their relationship. Study 2 utilized a person-centre approach to identify different classes of sexting based on varying risk behaviours, and whether latent classes were differentially associated with health outcomes. I found that three classes emerged: no/limited-risk, low-risk, and high-risk sexting classes and these classes were not differentially associated with outcomes. Further, I found that LGBTQ+ adolescents were more likely than cis-gender heterosexual (CGH) adolescents to be involved in higher-risk sexting. The results of this thesis highlight the importance of future research accurately conceptualizing and measuring sexting as a multidimensional sexual behaviour, as well as specifically examining the experience of sexting amongst LGBTQ+ youth.