Spring 2021 Newsletter | Research Highlights

Are College Students’ Perceptions of Social Network Drinking Accurate? Examining the Validity of the Important People Instrument
Current research shows that alcohol use in college students is influenced by their social networks, for example, by how much an individual thinks their friends drink alcohol. The Important People Instrument (IPI) is a common method used to assess a person’s involvement in their social network, and how much alcohol individuals in their social network drink. A study completed by UMass researchers Allecia E. Reid, David W. Hancock, and Sanjana Kadirvel published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors tested whether IPI judgments of a close friend’s alcohol use (e.g., heavy or light drinking status and maximum drinks per day) are accurate. Accuracy was examined by collecting data from both an individual and one of their close friends. Gender, frequency of contact, and typical drinks per week were also considered.

They found that judgments of how much a close friend drinks in general and the most drinks consumed in a single day were highly accurate. Accuracy was strongest for both factors when participants had daily contact with their friend. Judgments of maximum drinks per day were also very accurate when friends’ weekly consumption was fairly low.

“Results support validity of the IPI for assessing social network alcohol use among students. Given that perceptions are accurate, research is needed on intervention strategies that facilitate management of risky peers,” the paper states. Read full paper

Associations between child theory of mind, mutuality in father-preschooler dyads, and household chaos
Sarah A. McCormick, Mamatha Chary, and Kirby Deater-Deckard
Summary: Early theory of mind development refers to the ability to understand the beliefs, desires, and knowledge of one's self and others. Social interactions with parents and others are important for developing a theory of mind, but these social processes may be disrupted by aspects of the home environment. The current study observed father-child dyadic mutuality (a construct representing responsiveness, reciprocity, and cooperation during a structured interaction) and its associations with child theory of mind and household chaos (i.e. noise, lack of routines) in a sample of 88 fathers and their 3- to 5-year-old children.  Findings suggest that higher levels of household chaos may disturb the beneficial social interactions between parents and children that influence theory of mind development. 

american flagThe Effect of War Commemorations on Support for Diplomacy: A 5-Nation Study
Faculty member Bernhard Leidner and past postdoctoral research associate Hanne M. Watkins have had a recent paper accepted by Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin on the psychological effects of military commemorations (e.g., Memorial Day, Independence Day) on potential support for military or diplomatic solutions to international conflict. This project gives insight into how collective memories of war may be used to encourage approaches to international peace-keeping and conflict resolution. For Memorial Day last year, Watkins also wrote an article for the SPSP blog "Character & Context" describing the project findings and her personal reflections on military commemorations. Read full article

Hearing and speech processing in midlife
Hearing and speech comprehension in noisy environments can be progressively more challenging as we age. Not enough research has been conducted on hearing problems specifically affecting middle-aged adults. Learning more about these difficulties in midlife will make clearer how to define their origins and the distinctive struggles of affected individuals. Alexandra Jesse, psychological and brain sciences, and Karen S. Helfer, communication disorders, have published a new article discussing research and issues related to hearing and the processing of speech in middle-aged adults. A special focus is on how seeing a speaker may help remediate at least some of the age-related problems in speech comprehension. The critical review provides valuable insight into how these problems may develop, and what future research could be pursued to uncover possible treatments. Read full paper

people mingling outdoorsThe Power of Contact, a new report by the International Organization for Migration
Linda Tropp, professor of social psychology at UMass Amherst, contributed her expertise to a new report by the International Organization for Migration, The Power of Contact: Designing, Facilitating and Evaluating Social Mixing Activities to Strengthen Migrant Integration and Social Cohesion Between Migrants and Local Communities | A Review of Lessons Learned. This report highlights the value of intergroup contact to promote integration and social cohesion. Read full report

Predictors of Contemporary under-5 Child Mortality in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Machine Learning Approach
Although child under-five years mortality remains a major public health concern (i.e., nearly 7% of live births in low- and middle-income countries), researchers have struggled to identify a hierarchy of correlates (representing potential causal factors) that can be replicated and that inform prioritization of prevention and intervention efforts. To address this gap, PBS faculty member Kirby Deater-Deckard has been working in an international collaborative group led by Prof. Gianluca Esposito (University of Trento, Italy, and Nanyang Technical University, Singapore) and Dr. Marc Bornstein (NICHD) that also includes team members at Duke University and UNICEF in New York. Read more

zebra finchAdult‐like abilities found in auditory processing system of zebra finch nestlings
Twitter thread on the latest paper from Katie Schroeder @katieschro8. Illustrations by Katie Schroeder

Baby songbirds already have a surprisingly well-developed auditory processing system! 
@HealeyLab and I are excited to share the first paper from my dissertation. Read more

Buju Dasgupta is interviewed on the Mind & Life Institute Podcast with Wendy Hasenkamp
They cover fascinating topics, including:

  • the crucial role of social environments on implicit bias; 
  • the malleability of implicit bias by changing key characteristics of our local environments;
  • turning research into social impact;
  • changing bias against women and underrepresented groups;
  • increasing cross-disciplinary collaboration to advance research on equity through the Institute of Diversity Sciences. Listen in

Supportive Partners Protect Relationship Quality in People with Depression or External Stress
New findings emerge from UMass Amherst newlyweds study
Having a responsive, supportive partner minimizes the negative impacts of an individual’s depression or external stress on their romantic relationship, according to research by a University of Massachusetts Amherst social psychologist. Read more

high fiveAdopted Student Advisory Panel presents on adoption in the media
Born out of the Rudd Adoption Mentoring Program, the Adopted Student Advisory Panel (ASAP) is a student organization at UMass whose mission is to advise professionals and non-professionals in the field of adoption about how to best support adoptees and their families. On May 1, ASAP presented at a University of Oregon conference on adoption. Their presentation "Adoption in the Media" explored the dominating narratives surrounding adoption (whose voices are uplifted and whose are ignored?) and how these narratives continue to perpetuate harmful misconceptions. The panel reviewed examples in pop culture, films, TV, and more to dissect how dominating narratives have reflected or denied lived experiences as adoptees.

wine bottlesDoes Attending a College With More Heavy Drinking Peers Increase Risk of Heavy Drinking and Consequences? A Prospective National Analysis
Allecia Reid and David Hancock also completed a recent study published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors that looked at whether attending a university with more heavy drinkers may increase engagement in heavy drinking and related consequences of this behavior (such as drunk driving) in first semester students. Data were drawn from a national survey of almost 200,000 students attending 245 universities who had been abstainers or moderate drinkers prior to starting college.

The study concluded that attending a college campus with a high proportion of heavy drinkers was the strongest predictor of moving from abstention or moderate drinking into heavy drinking in the first semester of college.  More physical contact with heavy-drinking individuals, or a belief by students that heavy-drinking is the norm could be possible explanations to these results. There was no convincing evidence that students choose to attend certain “party schools” that share their beliefs about alcohol use.

“Post hoc analyses supported that students did not self-select into heavier drinking environments. Campus heavy drinking is a key predictor of first semester alcohol use and an important intervention target,” the paper states. Read full paper

Sentence context guides phonetic retuning to speaker idiosyncrasies
Every one of us produces the speech sounds of our native language(s) slightly differently. For example, how you say an "s" is different from how someone else says "s". Yet these differences typically lead to no noticeable difficulties in understanding what was said. Listeners adapt how they process speech sound quickly to a new talker they hear. The research of Alexandra Jesse, psychological and brain sciences, focuses on how listeners adjust to these talker idiosyncrasies in pronunciation. Her latest published study identifies sentence context as a tool that listeners use to adapt to speakers. For example, when hearing "Tim could not locate the car key, though the whole time it had been in plain ...", listeners use their knowledge to figure that the next word has to be "sight" and not "fight" in order to learn that this speaker produces more f-sounding s-sounds. Sentence context thus provides listeners with a powerful tool to handle diversity in pronunciation and facilitate speech perception. Read full paper

More Publications:

Craft AL, Perry-Jenkins M, Herman R, Spencer RMC. Parents' Nonstandard Work and Children's Sleep: The Mediating Role of Bedtime Routines. J Pediatr Psychol. 2021 Mar 1:jsab016. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsab016. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33674877.

Craft, A. L., Perry-Jenkins, M., & Newkirk, K. (2021). The Implications of Early Marital Conflict for Children’s Development. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 30(1), 292–310. Link to paper

Herman, R. J., & Perry-Jenkins, M. (2020). Low-wage Work Conditions and Mother–Infant Interaction Quality Across the Transition to Parenthood. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 29(12), 3552–3564. Link to paper

Montagrin A, Martins-Klein B, Sander D, Mather M. Effects of hunger on emotional arousal responses and attention/memory biases. Emotion. 2021 Feb;21(1):148-158. doi: 10.1037/emo0000680. Epub 2019 Oct 7. PMID: 31589063; PMCID: PMC7781156.

Nephew BC, Febo M, Cali R, Workman KP, Payne L, Moore CM, King JA, Lacreuse A. Robustness of sex-differences in functional connectivity over time in middle-aged marmosets. Sci Rep. 2020 Oct 6;10(1):16647. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-73811-9. PMID: 33024242; PMCID: PMC7538565.