Fall 2023 Newsletter | Research Highlights

Liora Morhayim Duenyas and Heather A. Kumove
L-R: Liora Morhayim Duenyas and Heather A. Kumove

Liora Morhayim Duenyas and Heather A. Kumove have recently been awarded the Division 48 Society for the Study of Peace, Conflict & Violence Small Grant for their research project exploring how perceived distance from potential civilian casualties can influence empathy and support for the use of military force. Inspired by the US public’s support for drone strikes despite the risk of civilian casualties, the proposed study aims to explore the relationship between perceived physical distance and opinion on military action towards a national outgroup, through the path of humanization and empathy. According to construal level theory, distant events are mentally represented in more abstract terms where people tend to rely on schemas and prototypes while proximal events are mentally represented in more concrete terms. The researchers hypothesize that when people perceive outgroup members who are likely to be harmed by the strikes as spatially closer, they will humanize and empathize with them more which would then decrease support for military action (drone strikes in the target area). They will test this hypothesis via an online experiment manipulating perceptions of spatial distance with zoomed-in vs -out photos of people representative of the target outgroup which are presented in the form of fictitious news reports. 

Heather A. Kumove successfully defended her Master's Thesis entitled "Allies, Traitors, or Obstacles?: How Attitudes Toward Political Moderates Shape Political Polarization in the United States" in June of 2023. Her committee was chaired by Dr. Linda Isbell and her members included Dr. Gilad Hirschberger, Dr. Kevin L. Young, and Dr. Adrian Staub. The master's project would not have been possible without the contributions of Crystal Li, a recent high school graduate and former RA in the War and Peace Lab, and the late Dr. Bernhard Leidner. Heather's thesis focused on exploring how attitudes toward political moderates help predict attitudes toward members of the political outgroup and whether political moderates may ultimately be an important group to help reduce partisan animosity.

Dominic DenningEffects of Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms on Dialectical Behavior Therapy Outcomes for Eating Disorders
Dominic Denning led a paper examining the effects of borderline personality disorder (BPD) symptoms on partial hospitalization treatment outcomes for clients with eating disorders. His findings suggest that BPD symptoms do not differentially predict eating disorder treatment outcomes during dialectical behavior therapy-based partial hospitalization. Moreover, probable BPD diagnosis did not predict eating disorder remission or relapse at treatment discharge or 6-month follow-up, nor did it predict reliable change in eating disorders symptomatology.

Irina OrlovskyCan reflecting on past memories of resilience help us to regulate emotions arising from new difficult situations?
Irina Orlovsky, a PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology and participant in the Center for Research on Families 2019 Graduate Grant Writers Program, has received a 3-year National Institute of Health National Research Service Award (NRSA) Fellowship to study this question. A lifetime of resilience through emotionally challenging experiences may benefit older adults, lending to emotion regulation mastery with time. Yet the influence of autobiographical experiences on momentary reappraisal, the reinterpretation of negative situational meaning as more positive, has never been empirically tested. In an online study, Orlovsky's research team examined the extent to which associating life memories of resilience with novel negative scenarios enhanced reappraisal efficacy and reduced difficulty to reappraise. They found age-equivalent benefits of utilizing reappraisals when they were associated with past narratives of resilience, however older adults reported disproportionately greater subjective benefits of utilizing this novel strategy.

Understanding Change in How People of Color Respond to Narratives of Rising Diversity

 Linda Tropp (Psychological & Brain Sciences), Tatishe Nteta (Political Science), Seth Goldman (Communication).
From left: Linda Tropp (Psychological & Brain Sciences), Tatishe Nteta (Political Science), Seth Goldman (Communication).

Linda Tropp is member of a research team that recently received a new grant award from the Russell Sage Foundation, entitled "How People of Color Respond to Narratives of Rising Diversity." Seth Goldman (UMass Communication) is the Primary Investigator (PI), and Linda Tropp (UMass Psychological and Brain Sciences) is a co-investigator along with Tatishe Nteta (UMass Political Science), Yuen Huo (UCLA Psychology), and Efren Perez (UCLA Political Science).
Abstract: "According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation is undergoing a historic demographic shift: collectively, Asian, Black, Latino, and Multiracial Americans are projected to become the numerical majority, while non-Hispanic Whites will become the numerical minority. To date, most social science research has employed experiments to study the responses of Whites, whereas this project centers people of color and takes advantage of a natural experiment to understand real-world responses to narratives of rising diversity. To evaluate the nature and effects of media narratives surrounding these reports, this project employs a content analysis of media narratives and a three-wave panel survey with nationally representative samples of Asian, Black, Latino, Multiracial, and White Americans."