Applied Psychology - Masters by Research Theses

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    A systematic review of the literature on mass murder and its sub-types: an evolutionary perspective
    (University College Cork, 2023) Minihane, Keith; Dempsey, Maria; King, Robert
    Background: Research on mass murder commonly focuses on specific sub-types of perpetrators (such as school shooters) or sub-styles (such as mass shootings), or focuses on specific countries, most commonly the United States. To identify the recurring proximate triggers and stressors suffered by perpetrators of mass murder, a systematic review was carried out on the empirical literature pertaining to mass murder, and its various sub-types, with an inclusive criterion which encompassed research worldwide. Behaviours may be thought of as having proximate (e.g., conscious) motives and ultimate (e.g., fitness enhancing) causes. This evolutionarily informed framework was used to explore how we can understand mass murderer's motivations at an ultimate level by identifying recurring proximate stressors and triggers. Method: For this systematic review, four search engines (Web of Science, Scopus, PsycARTICLES, PsycINFO) were used to identify empirical literature on mass murder. Searches were carried out between April 8th, 2022, and April 12th, 2022. Hand searching was also utilised, and this was carried out throughout April 2022. Findings: Of the 634 articles identified, 20 were eligible for data extraction, six of which were quantitative and 14 were qualitative. Study quality ranged from high to low. A narrative approach was used to synthesise the data. Three primary themes were identified. These were: precursors to mass murder, which showed most mass murderers had identifiable stressors, triggers, or motivations. Few ''snapped'' suddenly for no reason. The second theme was identified stressors, which took the form of chronic stressors (most commonly rejection suffered by younger perpetrators) and acute stressors (such as a relationship breakdown, suffered mostly by older perpetrators). A third theme was ''age and sex differences''. Significant differences emerged between younger and older offenders, in motive, victim choice, fame seeking behaviours, leakage, and end result of the crime for the perpetrator. Interpretation: An ultimate perspective on these findings indicate that these violent outbursts are functional in nature, with instrumental and fitness enhancing advantages evident for both younger and older perpetrators, though the aetiologies for their crime differ. Status is an important indicator of mate value for males and status losses were evident for older offenders who often victimised family members, or those who had damaged their reputation (such as employers who had fired them). Younger offenders had little to show in terms of status and prestige. Their crime may act as an extreme form of status grab, to finally garner attention from those who have rejected them. This is why they are more commonly ''fame'' seekers, and often leak their plans. Both types of mass murderer may be explored using evolutionary theory, but their differences are non-trivial. Future research should focus on the writings left behind by mass murderers. It is theorised that there should be significant difference in the writings left behind by older offenders compared to those left behind by younger offenders. It is probable that attempted mass murderers are theoretically relevant and further discussion should be had as to if these offenders would strengthen data sets. Terrorism may be included in further research, considering incels recently being termed terrorists by the Canadian high court. Evolutionary theory can add to the understanding of mass murderers and should be used to supplement other theories which commonly focus solely on proximate motivations.
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    Investigating the effects of oscillating sounds on the memory of older populations
    (2019-10-04) Pfalzgraf, Hadley C.; O'Neill, Cora; Chan, Jason; Timmons, Suzanne; US-Ireland Alliance
    Introduction: Memory functions are associated with various oscillations of electrical activity in the brain, and disruptions of those rhythms can be observed in many neurological syndromes, including Alzheimer’s Disease. Oscillations at the theta (3-7 Hz) frequency, in particular, are thought to play an important role in memory. The peak frequency and amplitude of the theta frequency are modulated by age and could be a useful target to combat the cognitive decline commonly associated with aging. Previous studies have induced theta oscillations using transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) and repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS). We hypothesized that oscillatory auditory stimulation could similarly entrain theta rhythms in a less invasive, more cost-efficient manner. Preliminary data collected from young adults indicated a positive relationship between theta entrainment and improved short-term visuospatial memory. Methods: We recorded the neural activity, using electroencephalography (EEG), from participants aged over 50 years while they completed a spatial memory task. Three groups of participants with varying memory ability were recruited with no memory complaints (n = 15), mild memory complaints (n = 16), and moderate memory complaints (n = 16). During the first part of the task, participants listened to amplitude modulated noise at 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 Hz to determine which frequency within the theta band induced the strongest increase in theta power with respect to a pure noise control. Next, participants learned the locations of 30 objects via a spatial memory task administered on a computer. Each object was consistently paired with one of three types of pink noise—constant noise, individualized theta frequency-modulated noise (3, 4, 5, 6, or 7Hz), and 15-Hz-modulated noise (beta). Results: Individuals who identified as having moderate memory complaints had significantly lower MoCA scores than individuals with no memory complaints and preferred lower theta frequencies. Individuals with moderate memory complaints also exhibited lower memory scores in the spatial memory task. Male participants (n = 17) on average displayed higher memory scores compared to female participants (n = 30), despite similar age and memory group distributions. Sounds at an individual’s preferred theta frequency led to an increase in theta activity in the brain compared to pure pink noise and beta sounds. Additionally, there was a main effect of memory complaint group on neural activity in the theta and alpha bands. Conclusions: Subjective memory complaints may be an accurate proxy for the beginnings of age-related neurological changes reflected in EEG activity. More research in this area could contribute to novel diagnostic techniques and therapies for Alzheimer’s Disease. Auditory stimulation could be an easy, non-invasive method to promote beneficial neural activity in aging populations.