Department of Psychology Graduate Theses

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    Peer Defending and Bullying at School: The Impact of Popularity, Resource Control Norms, and Gender.
    (2024-07-15) Hines, Cameron T.; Psychology; Craig, Wendy
    Bullying is common in Canadian schools and harmful for victimized youth. Peer defending is an effective means of dissuading bullying in schools, but students rarely intervene on behalf of others. Popular students engage in more peer defending and bullying than other students, as their social power increases their chance of success in these interactions. Whether popular students use their power to defend or bully others may be related to the norms in their school. Specifically, popular students may be more likely to defend others in the context of high prosocial control norms, and more likely to bully others in the context of high coercive control norms. In two studies, this thesis examined whether resource control norms and gender influenced the peer defending and bullying behaviours of popular youth. Study 1 used multi-level modelling to examine the influence of resource control norms on peer defending. Results indicated that popularity was positively associated with peer defending. Further, the association between popularity and peer defending decreased for girls as prosocial control norms increased, and the association between popularity and peer defending increased with coercive control norms for boys and girls. Study 2 used multi-level modeling to examine the association between resource control norms and bullying. Popularity was positively associated with bullying. The association between popularity and bullying increased for boys as coercive control norms increased, and the association between popularity and bullying decreased with prosocial control norms. Together, these findings supported the notion that resource control norms could be targeted by antibullying interventions to promote peer defending while simultaneously dissuading bullying in schools.
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    Children's Sharing Behaviour in the Virtual Environment
    (2024-05-23) Pinheiro, Sylvia Galvao de Vasconcelos; Psychology; Kuhlmeier, Valerie
    Sharing is a key prosocial behaviour for human success as a species. Its development within different contexts, however, is still poorly investigated. A timely and important question regards the similarity between our prosocial behaviours in virtual environments and those in person, given the near ubiquity of online interactions as well as the recent increase in remote testing methods for developmental science. This dissertation investigates 3.5- to 11-year-olds’s sharing behaviour online, with three specific aims: (1) examining the developmental hallmarks of sharing in a virtual experiment; (2) examining the influence of children’s subjective socioeconomic status on online sharing behaviour; and (3) assessing whether some aspects of the virtual testing environment may affect decision-making in relation to sharing and SSS. Chapter 1 reviews existing research on the development of sharing, highlighting the need to investigate sharing beyond traditional in-laboratory testing. Then, in Chapter 2, we test a virtual version of the Dictator Game. Our analyses revealed some characteristics of online sharing behaviour that are consistent with in-person situations: children share more and are more equitable after middle childhood and when the online interaction is monitored by an experimenter. However, the youngest children shared online more than what is observed in person, potentially due to differences in virtual resource value and challenges with the digital interface. Chapter 3 explores the effect of SSS on sharing patterns. We corroborated the developmental declines of SSS, with an observed alignment with caregivers’ report. Additionally, children in the low-SSS shared significantly more and in a more equitable manner than children in the high-SSS. In Chapter 4, we examine whether children’s differences in technology experience and need for assistance influence the outcomes in our testing platform. Our results suggest that while technology experience positively influenced sharing, the youngest children in the sample whose caregivers assisted during the familiarization tasks shared slightly less during the subsequent sharing tasks. Lastly, in Chapter 5, we suggest that these studies offer insights into how sharing behavior develops, discuss practical implications, and raise questions for future research.
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    Exploring Theory of Mind Subtypes in Adolescence
    (2024-02-06) 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.