CHASE Lab Plays Work From Home Bingo

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We’ve now been working from home for almost eight weeks, and although our tips to stay sane and productive have worked well, we’re still itching for some new ways to connect with each other and infuse some new energy into our work. A few weeks ago, lab member Bernard Kwiatek (junior Psychology major) suggested that we all play Work From Home Bingo, using a bingo card he made. 

We selected a date (Tuesday, 4/28) and everyone kept track on their bingo card. At our lab meeting that week (Thursday, 4/30), we discussed the activity as a group. Although Dr. Arigo was the only one to get BINGO, we had a lot of fun using a new way to track and share our work experiences with each other. Check out what our members had to say about it:

  • Megan: I really enjoyed playing this game, and it made me laugh realizing how many of the boxes I was able to relate to. I think it’s especially important right now to have lighthearted activities like this to do during the day, which may help take your mind off of other serious matters.  
  • Emily: It was fun reading through the board and I’d get so excited when I could mark off a square. It was a nice little break to take during work hours. 
  • Kristen: I tried to check off the board at the end of the day so that I didn’t influence my chances, and unfortunately, I did not get BINGO. But, it was still a fun activity to do during lab hours that made me smile, which goes a long way during these difficult times. 
  • Cole: This was the only time in my professional career that I had wished for technical difficulties to happen (so I could mark it on my bingo card). Sadly, my laptop performed perfectly that day. Despite not winning, it was an entertaining break from my usual work routine.
  • Laura: It was the perfect distraction throughout the day and served as a nice reminder to not take things so seriously. 
  • Bernard: Going through the day and trying to hit each spot was a hectic but in a good way. It’s interesting seeing what spots I usually hit normally than if I could potentially fill the entire board.

Want to play along, or make your own bingo board? Visit Bingo Baker!

#HealthyFinalsWeek Tips

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Finals week is stressful, and it may be even more stressful this semester as we take finals remotely. Below are some tips from Rowan CHASE Lab to help you stay healthy, manage stress, and finish the semester strong.

DO these things:

  • Make a plan for studying so that you can prioritize effectively. Take into consideration that some finals will be earlier in the week than others, and some will require you to devote more time.
  • Take breaks! Overworking is the best way to get burnt out, so plan a 15- minute break after every hour. At the end of each day, plan a slightly longer break as a reward for hard work. Breaks can include walks outside, coloring, crocheting, or any other activity that lets your brain rest for a few minutes. 
  • Get extra sleep. Research shows that memories are consolidated and integrated during sleep, and fewer hours lead to worse academic performance. 
  • Try to recall what you have learned as you study – real-world examples, how to apply concepts in new situations, etc. This will be more useful than attempting to memorize all of the course material. Your professors care more about learning! 
  • Create your own study guides. Research shows that generating your own study instead of using your professors’ allows you to engage with the material more. 
  • Quiz yourself. Prompting yourself to recall the information in a manner similar to the exam will you help you prepare. 
  • Work with others virtually. Seek out students in your classes who are motivated and doing well – check class discussion boards and/or post a thread about virtual study sessions (Google Hangouts, Facetime, etc.). Quiz each other, support each other, pool resources. If you can explain challenging material effectively to someone who is not in your class, you can be confident that you know it well. Everyone wins.
  • Drink LOTS of water. Staying hydrated will reduce discomfort and distraction. (One of our team members goes without coffee for the whole week! He swears that he feels just as energized with water.) 
  • Plan meals ahead of time. Stock your room/apartment with healthy food, bring meals and snacks with you when you study, or have a plan for where to access healthy options near your study location. Without a plan, it’s easy to get stuck with junk food options that won’t give you the energy you need to power through and perform well. 
  • Spread out your unpacking over the week. If you moved off campus, unpacking offers a productive break from studying.
  • Take off from work. If you are still working during this time, and can afford to schedule a week off from your job, this will free you up to focus on studying and reduce your stress level. 
  • Plan a way to reward yourself for your hard work. An evening in video chatting with friends, ordering a big item you’ve been waiting to splurge on, diving into that new show you’ve been waiting to start…

DON’T do these things:

  • Start a new series on Netflix this week. You will get addicted and not study. Use a new series as a reward at the end of the week!
  • Skip meals, or skip exercise, to study. Research shows that giving yourself a short break and engaging with social support and/or physical activity is best for performance. But make sure you’re doing it virtually, or from the safety of your home! 
  • Forget about professors’ office hours. Make a list of questions for review, and set up an online WebEx meeting with your professor. 
  • Overdo it on coffee and/or energy drinks. Energy drinks in particular will disrupt your sleep and result in worse performance. 
  • Study in your bed. WAY too tempting to lie down, which makes it easy to fall asleep and lose valuable study time. Make your bed and study sitting up (if you have to study in bed) to limit the temptation. (This will also make it easier to fall asleep in bed at night.) 
  • Plan on studying during breaks between exams. Something always comes up, and you may simply be too exhausted to study during short breaks. 
  • Neglect your personal hygiene. Taking care of yourself is just as important as acing your exams! 
  • Ask your professors the day before what is on the final – they will not be happy, and they’re not likely to be able to get back to you in time.
  • Leave studying for the night before a final. You’ll perform better if you review a little bit each day for a few days before. 
  • Drink alcohol the night before a final. Enough said. 

Share your tips with us at @RowanCHASELab on Twitter!

Close-Up on Our Latest Paper – Social Comparison Features in Physical Activity Apps: Scoping Meta-Review

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In a few of our recent posts, we (re)introduced you to the concept of social comparison and described our efforts to understand how it influences health and health behavior. CHASE lab’s newest paper is an extension of this previous work, focused on the potential to use social comparisons in physical activity interventions. This systematic scoping review of existing review papers is now published in Journal of Medical Internet Research.

A number of research studies show that social comparison can prompt people to be physically active. For example, when we see other people like us being more active than we are, this can motivate us to keep up with or do better than them, and that motivation can lead to activity engagement. We might also be motivated to stay ahead of people who we see as less active than we are. Evidence showing that social comparison can motivate physical activity has led researchers and app developers to include features such as leaderboards and challenges (competitions). These are included to prompt users to make comparisons, as comparisons should lead to increases in activity.

But people who study the effects of social comparisons understand that comparisons are not always motivating:

  • Seeing someone doing better than we are can be discouraging – it shows us that we’re not achieving as much as we could and that we’re being outperformed by others
  • Seeing someone doing worse than we are can show us the worst-case scenario – this can activate anxiety or a sense that effort is pointless

It’s not clear whether satisfaction, anxiety, hope, frustration, or some combination of these experiences is the best immediate consequence of comparison, because any of these experiences could motivate someone to increase their physical activity. And most importantly, the “optimal” consequence of a comparison can differ between people, and within the same person over time. (For more details about these ideas, see Dr. Arigo’s 2018 post for UCL’s Digi-Hub and her 2018 publication with Dr. Jerry Suls in mHealth.) So it’s pretty likely that just giving all users the same physical activity-based social comparison opportunities isn’t going to work equally well for all of them. This means that personalizing the social comparison features of apps might work better than what we’re currently doing.

What Did We Do?

One of our overarching research goals is to determine how best to harness the power of social comparison and other social processes to promote healthy behavior. For this project, which spanned more than a year of work, CHASE Lab teamed up with Dr. Jerry Suls, a longtime colleague and expert in social comparison processes and health. 

Because social comparison is a complicated process, we wanted to understand how apps currently prompt comparison. And because researchers have already published more than 100 reviews (or overviews/summaries) of physical activity app features and related topics, we took a step back to look at what’s already been done. We summarized how other researchers have defined, classified, and attempted to personalize social comparison features of physical activity apps, and compared these to evidence of attempts to engage or personalize other processes (such as goal-setting or feedback).

To do this, we began by developing inclusion criteria. Existing publications were eligible if they:

  1. Were available in English
  2. Were published on or before May 31, 2019
  3. Conducted a systematic or narrative review, or meta-analysis
  4. Reviewed the features of commercially available smartphone apps or included formal intervention programs delivered via smartphone apps 
  5. Used increasing physical activity or reducing sedentary time as a key behavioral outcome. 

We then searched publication databases such as PubMed using specific key terms, and pulled in any publications related to using smartphone apps for physical activity. Our initial search totaled in 3,743 articles. After removing duplicates and reviewing the remaining 1,496 publications, we were left with 26 reviews that met our inclusion criteria. Co-authors Megan Brown and Kristen Pasko then went through each review and extracted specific data points, such as whether the reviews included social comparison as a category, what they used as their definition of social comparison, and which features they classified as prompting comparison processes.

What Was It Like to Work on This Project?

This was my first time being a part of a systematic review project, and this experience has made me so much more appreciative of the work and time that goes into a paper like this. At first it was intimidating knowing we would have to code so many publications, but having a team that encouraged communication and questions made the process much easier. I also found it valuable being a part of the extraction process of the final 26 reviews, where we were able to gather all of this valuable information and answer some very important questions with it. I’m looking forward to seeing how our review contributes to future research aiming to use social comparison in physical activity apps.”

— Megan Brown, CHASE Lab Research Coordinator

“I’m grateful that Dr. Arigo invited me to assist with this project. By and large, when health psychologists have studied social comparison or tested a comparison intervention, there has been little recognition or appreciation of the nuances associated with comparison. It has been treated as a concept that can just be taken off the shelf. This scoping review confirms that impression and leads the way to testing social comparison interventions with more attention to the factors influencing comparison choice and outcomes. The physical activity apps context is really an excellent one to examine these issues. A very rewarding collaboration for me!”

— Dr. Jerry Suls, Northwell Health

This has been one of my passion projects for a long time – we even presented an early version of it at a conference in 2017! It went through several iterations and updates, and it seemed that there always was more to do before we had a final product. The author team did a great job of staying committed to the work and we really benefited from having Dr. Suls’s expertise. He and I have worked together for about 10 years on understanding social comparisons among adults with chronic illness, but social comparison features of apps were new to him. It was fun to be able to introduce him to this new area. The final version is something I’m really proud of. It ties together several lines of our work and t paves the way for our upcoming projects.”

— Dr. Dani Arigo, CHASE Lab Director

What Did We Find?

Of the dozens of reviews we found, 26 met our criteria, and 8 of those included social comparison as a process underlying various app features. Across these 8 reviews, researchers used different definitions of social comparison and classified different features as using vs. not using comparison:

  • Definitions: some authors counted only features that allowed comparisons between users, rather than comparisons to experts like fitness instructors (this was called “modeling”); others allowed comparisons with anyone
  • Features: some authors counted only direct exposures to others’ data in a ranked format (leaderboards or challenges), whereas others counted any social networking (where users could share progress in other forms, such as via message boards); some were even more restrictive and counted challenges as “gamification” rather than comparison

Social comparison was described just as often as social networking (i.e., using message boards), but less often than behavioral modeling (i.e., providing examples of behavior engagement to encourage others to engage). And although we found evidence of personalizing features such as goal-setting and feedback, we found no evidence that (the potential for) personalization had been addressed with respect to social comparison features.

What Does This Mean?

Research is inconsistent about what constitutes social comparison in physical activity apps. This makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the utility or benefit of social comparison processes in these apps, or how to improve these features to make apps more effective. Further, existing work shows that people respond to social comparison differently (from each other and from themselves over time), but we found no evidence that physical activity apps have taken these differences into account. Together, this means that there is a huge opportunity to better understand how social comparison processes can be used to promote physical activity and other healthy behaviors – which is what CHASE Lab will continue to work on!

Close-Up on Our Newest Paper: Accelerometer Cut Point Methods for Midlife Women with Cardiovascular Risk Markers

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Our research team takes a specific interest in women who are between the ages of 40 and 60, a period often called “midlife.” Women in this age range have elevated age-related risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), are beginning menopause, and are experiencing health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol – all of which independently increase CVD risk. Therefore, midlife women have a lot to gain from physical activity, as it can protect against CVD even when other risk factors are present. So health professionals have spent a good bit of effort on promoting physical activity in this group. A focus has been on getting women to meet U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommendations for moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), or activity at an intensity that gets the heart rate up.

If you’re someone who tries to follow public health recommendations for physical activity (or you do research in the area of physical activity), you may be aware that recommendations changed last year. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services changed the way it defines MVPA. For several years prior to 2019, guidelines indicated that MVPA should happen in “bouts” (or episodes) sustained for at least 10 minutes at a time, and that adults should get 150 minutes of this kind of activity per week. The most recent report has removed the requirement that MVPA happen in 10-minute bouts, indicating that all MVPA is helpful for accruing health benefits. Although this is good news, as it means that shorter bouts of MVPA now count toward the 150-minute total, it raises important questions about population-level activity engagement. For example, most U.S. adults fail to meet the old guidelines; is that true now that shorter bouts count?

To make matters even more complicated, measurement of physical activity engagement isn’t entirely consistent across research studies. There are several methods for calculating whether activity reaches the threshold to be considered MVPA, and it’s not clear whether these methods give the same answers about how much time midlife women spend in MVPA. In other populations (such as among children and pregnant women), different methods give wildly different answers about how much MVPA participants get – differences of up to 100 minutes.

In our new publication (currently in press at Menopause), we took a closer look at two questions about midlife women’s MVPA:

(1)  How different are estimates of MVPA between considering only 10-minute bouts and considering all minutes?

(2)  How different are estimates of MVPA (bouted and all minutes) between different calculation methods?

What did we do?

We looked at four popular calculation (or “cut point”) methods for MVPA: Freedson et al. (1998), Swartz et al. (2000), Matthews et al. (2008), and Troiano et al. (2008) in two separate studies. The first was an observation-only study conducted by our CHASE team at The University of Scranton (before we moved to Rowan University in 2018), and the second was part of a weight loss clinical trial conducted by our collaborators at Drexel University’s WELL Center. This two-study approach allowed us to replicate our initial findings in a separate sample and confirm that findings were consistent across contexts.

What did we find?

In both studies, we met with midlife women at our research center for brief interviews, to train them in the use of a research-grade physical activity monitor to wear during waking hours for the following 7 days. Both studies showed that (1) using non-bouted (total) minutes of MVPA resulted in significantly more minutes than using 10-minute bouts only (across calculation methods), and (2) calculation methods meaningfully differed in the number of MVPA minutes they estimated (across non-bouted and bouted MVPA). Additionally, two of the methods (Freedson et al., and Troiano et al.) showed that midlife women did not meet MVPA recommendations using either bouts or not-bouts, while the other two methods (Matthews et al., and Swartz et al.) showed that midlife women met or exceeded MVPA recommendations if non-bouted minutes were considered.

What does this tell us?

Overall, our series of studies seems to be the first of its kind to focus on differences between cut point methods for physical activity among midlife women with elevated CVD risk, and to compare MVPA bouts with total (non-bouted) minutes. Findings suggested that using different cut points provide different answers, and researchers should keep in mind respective strengths and weaknesses of each method. This work is not only timely considering recent changes in physical activity recommendations, but also necessary for understanding how to estimate MVPA toward the goal of reducing CVD risk in midlife women.

What was it like to work on this study?

“It is amazing to think about how far the lab has come with various iterations of this [observational] study. When it first started, Dr. Arigo and I were at The University of Scranton running a pilot for our WHADE project, which is now in its full form. At this time, we were just beginning to learn the ins and outs of recruiting through primary care. I still remember being excited at the thought of getting any experience in this setting. This was my first research experience recruiting outside of the college population. It was thrilling to be recruiting those out in the community, trying to meet people where they were. ”

– Kristen Pasko, CHASE Lab Member

“Collaborating with Dr. Arigo and her team at Rowan University was an incredible experience. I processed some of the accelerometers from Drexel University that were used as part of this larger study. Working on this project allowed me to see the research process through from start to finish, from assisting with analyzing the raw data to the writing of the manuscript. Before this project, I had never worked on research specifically relevant to the question of women’s health and physical activity. It was a pleasure to work with Dr. Arigo and her students to answer such an important research question that has clear clinical implications for how women are advised to engage in physical activity.”

–  Savannah Roberts, Former research coordinator at Drexel’s WELL Center (current Ph.D. student at the University of Pittsburgh)

“This was a pretty large project that involved a number of team members, for two different studies, across three different universities (including Rowan, Drexel, and Penn State). So it took a lot of open communication and teamwork to bring the project together and communicate what we found. Our group was fantastic and stayed focused on learning what we could from the project. It’s been fun and rewarding to do this work and see it published in a journal that focuses on women’s health.”

– Dr. Dani Arigo, CHASE Lab director

Next Steps

If you follow our posts, you’ll remember that recently, we summarized our review of studies that assess social comparison using within-person methods – those that capture comparisons repeatedly for the same person over days or weeks. This review and the physical activity study described in this post was designed to help us make informed decisions about how to estimate midlife women’s physical activity in our women’s health study, which is running now. The goal of this work is to understand the circumstances that contribute to changes in midlife women’s physical activity from day to day, and ultimately, to design better activity interventions for midlife women. Stay tuned as we work toward these goals!

Inside our Newest Paper – Methods to Assess Social Comparison Processes within Persons in Daily Life: A Scoping Review

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Have you ever had the experience of comparing yourself to others? For example, learning that someone in your work unit got a raise (typically a positive for them) or got written up (typically a negative for them), and thinking about your situation in comparison to theirs? This experience, called social comparison, is extremely common. It can happen in response to conversations with close others and information we get about other people through social media or TV, or by simply imagining someone in a particular situation. More than sixty years of research on social comparison suggests that this process can make us feel good or bad and that it can affect our self-perceptions and behaviors (for better or worse). 

Our team is particularly interested in understanding how social comparisons can affect health behaviors such as eating and engaging in physical activity. We’ve done a lot of work in this area (see our list of publications) and we have multiple ongoing studies devoted to understanding particular aspects of these associations. A consistent challenge for this research is selecting with tools and methods to use to assess comparison, as these decisions can affect the answers we get. For instance, asking someone how often they make comparisons or how interested they are in making comparisons requires people to consider their thoughts and behaviors over long stretches of time (we’re not good at doing this accurately!) and over different situations (which could affect our responses – yes in some situations, no in others). 

Recently, we’ve been asking questions about the best way to assess social comparison – as in, how to get the most accurate information about how and when comparisons happen and how people respond. To avoid the problems associated with a person indicating how much they make comparisons overall (called the “between person” method), we’ve considered asking the same person to report their comparisons as they happen in daily life, repeating the same assessment for each person multiple times (called the “within-person” method). 

Repeated, within-person assessment should allow us to map how often comparisons happen and any changes in how a given person makes or responds to comparisons with greater accuracy. But because this approach is relatively new, there hasn’t been much work to provide guidance on how to conduct within-person assessments of social comparison or how to report findings from these studies. Our group wanted to meet these needs by giving an overview of existing social comparison studies that use within-person methods and identifying next steps for this type of research. 

To do this, CHASE lab teamed up with members of the ReMind and SHADE labs at Penn State University for a large-scale project. We conducted a systematic scoping review (now published in Frontiers in Psychology), which involves a process of carefully searching for and identifying existing research on a topic and summarizing what this research can tell us, using pre-identified research questions and selection criteria. (Our review questions and criteria were preregistered with the Open Science Framework.) We searched the databases PubMed, PsycInfo, and CINAHL for studies of social comparison that used within-person assessment methods. This resulted in 621 potential articles that we could include, which we evaluated with respect to our inclusion criteria. In the end, we included and reviewed 36 studies; we coded these studies on a range of variables, including how participants recorded their comparisons (via paper vs. technology such as smartphones), how often they were asked to record comparisons (how many times per day), and what other experiences were assessed.

What was it like to work on this project?

“Social comparison is my primary research interest, and a key training goal of my current K23 grant is to learn more about using within-person methods to study it. So working with Dr. Mogle to coordinate a multi-lab review of what we know in this area was a dream come true. Our teams worked really well together, as usual. Most papers don’t have submission deadlines, but this one did [as part of a Frontiers in Psychology special issue], and everyone stepped up to overcome some logistical setbacks and keep us on track to finish and submit on time. It’s exciting to see the final product after months of intense focus to get us here.”

— Dr. Dani Arigo, CHASE Lab, Rowan University

“Working on this review opened my eyes to the extent of differences between study methods, even when the studies have similar goals. I enjoyed working collaboratively with colleagues from another institution, and was impressed by how easily collaboration was. This was mostly due to our lead authors consistent and clear communication to the rest of the team. This was the first paper I have had the opportunity to work on, and the process was extremely rewarding. I’m excited for future work!”

— Laura Travers, M.S., second-year Ph.D. student

“Conducting this review with the CHASE lab was fascinating! My area of expertise is in methodology, and I didn’t know as much about social comparison measurement. There are so many ways researchers are trying to capture this experience in the real world, which all get at different aspects of the experience. We worked together to create a method for coding and summarizing the differences across studies so we could synthesize and make sense of the scope of this literature in the paper. I enjoyed working with the team and together we generated an exciting product; we’re hoping that our conclusions and recommendations will be helpful to other researchers.”

— Dr. Jacquie Mogle, ReMind Lab, Penn State University

What did we find?

  • Most studies assessed only comparisons of appearance comparison and included only college students or young women. 
  • The majority of studies collected information in response to signals (rather than initiated by participants). 
  • Studies meaningfully differed in the number of assessments of comparison per day, the number of days of assessment, how participants recorded comparisons, and even how “comparison” was defined.

From this and other information we summarized, some of our recommendations for future work are:

  • Conducting more work to understand social comparisons that occur in understudied groups, such as men, older adults, people with chronic illnesses, and people who attempt to change their behavior
  • Several aspects of the method should be more clearly spelled out in future publications, including: the rationale for selecting the number of assessment days, total number of assessments, timing of assessments, item wording, specific definition of comparison, and the instructions provided to participants (regarding what “counts” as a comparison and how to recognize one)
  • Published reports should include estimation of within-person fluctuation in the number of and response to comparisons during the study

Next steps

We’re combining what we learned from this review with findings from two studies of midlife women’s physical activity.* This contributed to the design of a within-person study on associations between social comparisons (and other experiences) and physical activity among midlife women (currently underway), which will help us better understand how to deliver physical activity interventions in this population. Stay tuned for updates as we move this work forward!

*See our upcoming post on this paper!

Reflections on #SBM2019

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We’re back from a busy and invigorating week at the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) 2019 annual meeting in Washington, D.C.! Read on for our lab members’ reflections on their experience.

Megan M. Brown, B.S., CHASE Lab Research Coordinator (First-Time Attendee)
Brown SBM2019Attending the 2019 SBM conference was an inspiring and motivating experience. Before SBM I had never attended a large, four-day long professional conference. The thought of this was intimidating, and despite our preparations on campus, I was unsure of what to expect. However, as soon as I walked into the first poster session I felt welcomed and surrounded by individuals who appreciate research as much as I do. I enjoyed knowing there was a mix of peers attending SBM, from students to early-, mid-, and senior career health professionals. I knew I had so much to learn from peers at all different levels. As the days went on, I experienced many firsts: attending symposia, keynotes, breakfast roundtables, and paper sessions, and presenting two posters.

After observing how experts in the field communicated their research and findings, it made me think of ways to improve how I convey my research, and the types of questions I want to develop. Being a research coordinator with clinical psychology Ph.D. aspirations, I had a broad idea of the research I wanted to pursue in a clinical psychology program. But after being exposed to the vast amounts of research at SBM, I found myself beginning to mold my general interests into specific questions. With that being said, there is something truly motivating about watching other people get passionate about their research, and this experience made me eager to go back home and further mine. An observation I noticed during the conference was the excitement I felt getting to pick talks that sparked my interest, and getting to sit in rooms filled with people who have similar passions as I do (e.g., mental and physical health).

SBM not only exposed me to novel and innovative research, but it also allowed me the opportunity to network and introduce myself to experts in the field of behavioral medicine. From the personal one-on-one conversations I had at poster sessions, to the information I learned during research talks, SBM 2019 was an overwhelmingly positive experience, and I look forward to attending next year’s conference.

Kristen Pasko, B.S., First-Year Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Student (Second-Time Attendee)
The 40th Annual Society of Behavioral Medicine Conference was a powerful illustration of the need to increase the scope of influence in addressing healthcare barriers. The evolution of our communication and behavior through social media is considerable. In the opening keynote, Duke University Researcher Susannah Fox spoke about Health and Technology Megatrends: How You Can Anticipate the Future. Through various health psychology research findings, she demonstrated the power of a bottom-up approach with social resources in a healthcare system that prioritizes top-down policy and treatment. This allows patients and their families/friends to be the experts of their own bodies and treatment. It promoted more attention on training and equipping our caregivers who are often the first responders in our healthcare. In addition, this does not have to stop at in-person social interaction. Individuals are increasingly turning to social media to get the latest health information and advice. We need to better capitalize on these built-in resources, especially when research dissemination to the public can be as simple as a tweet.

Pasko SBM2019However, it is important to note that we are not all as lucky to have these caregivers, or an environment conducive to accurate health information and resources. This was demonstrated in a keynote, Heroes Tackling the Social Determinants of Health, presented by Mindi Knebel (Kaizen Health) and Khali Sweeney (Detroit Boxing Gym Youth Program). Transportation access alone is associated with medical appointment adherence and likelihood of more effective treatment. Further, growing up in a “bad neighborhood” without sufficient social support and resources can put a child at extreme economic, educational and medical disadvantage. For many who enter the behavioral medicine field without this background, it could be easy to forget or take for granted how these environments and resources affect our health. We were reminded through this presentation that as healthcare professionals, we need to be culturally and socioeconomically sensitive to health disparities. Anything can be a barrier within healthcare, especially social influence and resources.

By attending SBM, I increased my general knowledge about healthcare and further specified my own research questions was related to social influences. We rarely experience health in a vacuum. Therefore, as we move forward in our navigation and advancement in behavioral medicine, we must not forget social influence.

Dr. Dani Arigo, Lab Director (Multi-Time Attendee)
Arigo SBM2019.2I’ve attended SBM annual meetings nearly every year for more than 10 years – ever since my Ph.D. mentor introduced me to the Society in 2007. Even after all this time, I still experienced some firsts at #SBM2019. In my time with SBM, this organization has increased its focus on science communication (#scicomm; i.e., getting our science and message to the public). I have embraced this notion both within and outside of SBM, running Twitter and LinkedIn accounts for my professional work (@DrDaniArigo, @RowanCHASELab) and for SBM entities such as the Behavioral Informatics and Technology Special Interest Group (@SBMDigitalHlth, BIT SIG LinkedIn Group). This year, I served as a speaker for two science communication sessions* and contributed to dissemination of SBM content via Twitter throughout the week.

“First” #1 – Leadership Activities
As I’ve become more involved in SBM, I’ve started to take on leadership responsibilities. Just before last year’s annual meeting, I was elected co-chair of the SBM Behavioral Informatics and Technology SIG; I assumed that role after the meeting and began a very full year of administration for the SIG. This was my first year planning for the annual meeting as a SIG leader, which came with a number of organizational tasks – helping to decide which sessions to sponsor, which abstracts to select for awards, coordinating our Tech Madness data blitz preview, and facilitating our business meeting. I also helped to initiate our new leaders. I’ve now started my one-year term as SIG chair, and I serve in collaboration with our new co-chair and student co-chair. It will be a busy and exciting year for the SIG.

“First” #2 – K23 Check-In and Disclosures
Arigo SBM2019.1Technically this wasn’t my *first* check-in, as my NHLBI K23 award started on 3/1/2018. But it was the first year that I scheduled specific times to meet with mentors who are not at my institution, to give them updates on my progress and plan for Year 2. But it was the first time that I got to disclose my K23 for its support of my time, and for its funding to continue the lines of research I presented in symposia and poster sessions (see below). It’s an honor to be able to describe our CHASE work as NIH-funded.

Scholarly Presentations
Arigo SBM2019.3In addition to co-leading two BIT SIG meetings, I also gave research talks in two symposia and led a poster presentation (expertly taken over by Kristen when I had to leave for a meet-and-greet session). All three of these submissions were based on preliminary data for our now-funded NHLBI women’s health study. Findings demonstrated that: 1) accelerometer cut points for moderate-to-vigorous physical activity need to be carefully considered and selected when applied to activity data from midlife women with elevated cardiovascular risk (see open access poster here), 2) among these women, increases in certain social experiences (such as the quality of social interactions and social comparisons) are associated with changes in food intake recording and objectively assessed physical activity. To Kristen’s point above, we still have much to learn about how the social environment influences health behavior, and how we can harness these influences in tailored interventions.

Stay tuned for more updates on our work toward these goals!

*I was supposed to give only one of these talks; a speaker for a session I chaired didn’t make it to the conference, and I subbed for her as best I could.

Rowan’s Clinical Health And Social Experiences (CHASE) Lab at #SBM2019

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SBM2019Our newest research findings will be on display at #SBM2019, and we’re involved in additional sessions focused on science communication and digital health. Come check it out and talk with us!

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6th
Preconference Workshop: Learning How to Effectively Communicate Your Science
Location: Monroe
Date: Wednesday March 6, 2019
Time: 2:30 PM to 5:00 PM
Chairs: Dr. Dani Arigo and Dr. Jennifer Funderburk

Poster: The Effect of #Fitspiration Messaging on College Students’ Fitness Center Use: An Experimental Pilot Study
Poster Number: A200
Time: 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM
Presenters: Megan Brown and Dr. Dani Arigo

Poster: Examining Differences between Accelerometer Cut Point Methods among Midlife Women with Cardiovascular Risk Markers: A Two-Study Approach
Poster Number: A308
Time: 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM
Presenters: Kristen Pasko and Dr. Dani Arigo

THURSDAY, MARCH 7th
Breakfast Roundtable: Behavioral Informatics and Technology (BIT) SIG Presents ‘Tech Madness’ (Data Blitz)
Location: Jefferson East
Date: Thursday March 7, 2019
Time: 7:00 AM to 7:50 AM
Chairs: Dr. Dani Arigo and Dr. Lisa Cadmus-Bertram

Symposium: Measuring Proximal Factors Associated with Change in Weight-related Behaviors Using Advanced Technology
Location: Columbia 8
Date: Thursday March 7, 2019
Time: 8:00 AM to 9:15 AM
Presenters: Dr. Dani Arigo, Dr. Kat Ross, and Becca Crochiere (Discussant: Dr. Graham Thomas) – Dr. Arigo presenting “Social Influences on Midlife Women’s Food Intake Recording in Daily Life: A Pilot Ecological Momentary Assessment Study”

Poster: Do Gender, Anxiety, or Sleep Quality Predict Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Outcomes?
Poster Number: B160
Time: 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM
Presenter: Megan Brown

FRIDAY, MARCH 8th
Breakfast Roundtable: Women’s Health SIG (Science Communication)
Location: Columbia 4
Time: 7:00 AM to 7:50 AM
Presenters: Dr. Dani Arigo and Dr. Becca Krukowski

Midday Meeting: Behavioral Informatics and Technology (BIT) SIG Business and Networking Meeting
Location: Columbia 10
Time: 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Chairs: Dr. Dani Arigo and Dr. Lisa Cadmus-Bertram

Poster: Does Social Support Buffer against the Influence of Depressive Symptoms on Motivation for Illness Management in Prediabetes?
Poster Number: C170
Time: 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM
Presenter: Kristen Pasko

SATURDAY, MARCH 9th
Symposium: Social Processes in Daily Life: What Do They Mean for Women’s Weight Control Behaviors?
Location: Georgetown East
Time: 8:00 AM to 9:15 AM
Presenters: Dr. Dani Arigo, Dr. Tyler Mason, and Rachel MacIntyre (Discussant: Dr. Genevieve Dunton) – Dr. Arigo presenting “Daily Social Experiences and Physical Activity Among Midlife Women with CVD Risk: A Pilot Ecological Momentary Assessment Study”

The University of Scranton’s 2018 Celebration of Student Scholars (Student Research Day)

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The University of Scranton’s annual Celebration of Student Scholars (aka Scholar Day) is a three-hour poster session featuring research by University students and faculty. This year, we presented two posters: a systematic review of social comparison features in mobile apps that promote physical activity (Arigo, Pasko, Plantier, and Montalbano), and an empirical study of #fitspiration posters and followers’ perceptions (DiBisceglie, DiLorenzo, Pasko, and Arigo). Here, our student presenters reflect on their experience of the 2018 event.

Madison Montalbano, junior, on her first poster experience

scholarday2018.4Student Scholar Day was a wonderful learning experience for me. I’ve never presented a poster before and I was grateful for the opportunity. Explaining the research and discussing it with professors and fellow students was a great way to prepare for future conferences I may attend. The I enjoyed the supportive nature of the environment. The students presenting posters were friendly and seemed excited both to talk about their research and hear about what I was presenting. Overall, I was happy to present the poster and practice conveying the research in an engaging way.

Elle DiLorenzo, sophomore, on her first poster experience

Student Scholar Day was a unique and wonderful learning experience for me.  I have never presented a poster before scholar day, and I am grateful I got to have the experience early in my undergraduate career.  I was able to present findings in a scholarly way to a variety of people who all had different of understandings of psychology and #fitspiration.  I learned to adjust how I described the study based on who I spoke to (and their familiarity with psychology research/fitspiration), and to try to relate what was being said and asked back to the results and implications of the research. Everyone was supportive, so that allowed me to feel comfortable and to get a lot out of the experience. I am happy I was able to present at Scholar Day before going to a conference, because it gave me a preview of what a conference could be like.  Overall I think the event allowed me to become more comfortable with presenting research and believing that I know what I am talking about, even if the poster isn’t about my own independent project. Scholar Day is a wonderful way to engage students and professors in intellectually stimulating conversations and presentations about the research taking place at Scranton.

scholarday2018.3Nicole Plantier, graduating senior, on her second Celebration of Student Scholars event

Although I presented at a regional professional conference earlier this year, this was my first time presenting at Scholar Day, and it was a great experience. I am grateful for the opportunity to present my research findings to members of the University community. Students and faculty showed interest in my research posters (one with (UofSHealthPsych and one with another lab), and answering questions and interacting with individuals from other fields was enjoyable. Also, seeing the work my fellow classmates have been doing was great. I’m often so consumed with my psychology research, I forget that departments across the University are actively engaged in research as well. Overall, the experience of assisting with poster-making and presenting was rewarding.

Sabrina DiBisceglie, graduating senior, on her second Celebration of Student Scholars event

scholarday2018.2This Student Scholar Day was a different experience than the past Scholar Day that I attended (2017). Lat year, I assisted a senior student with creating and presenting a poster on a secondary analysis project. This year, I presented my independent research, which was supported by a Presidential Summer Fellowship in 2017. I was proud to present the research that I have been working on for a year and was glad to see people interested in my research. I also found it fulfilling to take a leadership role in assisting other lab members with their first time presenting a poster. This event is a great tool to prepare students for future professional poster sessions. This experience allowed me to become more comfortable with presenting my research and I feel well prepared to present at a professional conference later this month.

Read and see more about the 2018 event here. For our reflection on last year’s event, see here.

 

 

 

 

 

UofSHealth Psych on the Road: Trainee Reflections on the Society of Behavioral Medicine Annual Meeting (New Orleans, April 2018)

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Post by Kristen Pasko, B.S. (research coordinator) and Sabrina DiBisceglie (senior undergraduate student). This was their first opportunity to attend a professional conference. 

SBM 2018 Logo

Kristen

The 2018 Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) conference was a learning opportunity distinct from any of my prior professional development experiences. Specifically, I was able to disseminate my original findings, discover cutting-edge research in health psychology, connect with pioneers in the field of similar interest, and experience growth as a budding clinical psychologist.

As someone who is about to enter graduate school, SBM provided me KP SBM 2018 2with an opportunity to grow as an independent researcher. This experience was a chance to build my network of potential collaborators, train my eye to qualities of impactful posters and presentations, and gain a deeper understanding of topics of particular interest. One observation was how specific the research projects were, which got me thinking about how generalizable these findings are, beyond the particular context of each study. From these lines of consideration, I was able to make connections across findings and develop new research questions.

I also realized that I am now a member of this professional organization, in the same learning environment among fellow beginners, intermediate and advanced individuals alike. The continued educational aspect of this field excited me. Likewise, experiencing many collaborative efforts in action was helpful, as members of SBM include healthcare professionals from a variety of disciplines besides psychology. These differences between fields provoked interactive conversation within almost every presentation to work across disciplines and perspectives for the common goal of creating research for the best healthcare outcomes.

Social Divides and Health Divides – Keynote: Sandro Galea
In a seamless narrative that led with data, this keynote addressed the connection between social and health disparities across the United States. The speaker demonstrated the extent to which life expectancy can range at the levels of country, state, and even county. For example, an individual could receive the same treatment in two different countries for a chronic illness and still have a large gap in life expectancy depending on where they reside. Furthermore, when we compare healthcare costs by country, the United States prioritizes treatment over prevention, as opposed to most other countries. Overall, the speaker acknowledged that health behaviors don’t exist in a vacuum and proposed getting social and economic forces into the healthcare conversation.

Acceptance-Based Approaches to Behavior Changes; Application to Weight Control and Physical Activity Interventions – Symposium: Jocelyn Remmert, Leah Schumacher, Courtney Stevens, Meghan Butryn
This symposium centered around the affective barriers before, during, and after engaging in physical activity. It was suggested that acceptance-based therapy (ACT) could mitigate barriers that stem from the associated uncomfortable feelings (fatigue, sweat) as many aspects of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity are not subject to change. Taken together, these findings are intuitive as ACT and psychological flexibility go hand-in-hand and are associated with the greatest long-term outcomes for physical activity. Individuals could benefit from being flexible with guidelines for physical activity for a more tailored approach to their ability and goals.     

Sabrina

SD SBM 2018SBM was a stimulating experience that bolstered my interest in pursuing a career in the behavioral medicine field. Sandro Galea’s opening keynote provided an eye opening presentation on social divides and health divides. His enthusiasm and fascinating findings set the tone for the following days of the conference. As this was my first professional conference, this was a great learning experiences as to how conferences work as well as an experience to be exposed to thought provoking research.

Not only did I gain knowledge on interesting topics and research, I also gained professional knowledge in terms of sharing and presenting research. Attending poster sessions as well as paper sessions allowed me to observe different ways people shared knowledge. It was exciting as a beginner to be introduced to new information alongside experts in this field. My favorite portion of the conference was the poster sessions. These sessions allowed close and personalized interaction with investigators. I was amazed by the breadth of topics that were covered throughout these sessions.

This experience has allowed me to not only gain knowledge on topics new to me, but it has also allowed me to reflect on my individual research and to reevaluate as well as add components to support and further my research. I look forward to continuing my membership with SBM and to continue to use this society to further my research interests.

 

The University of Scranton’s 2017 Celebration of Student Scholars (Student Research Day)

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By Kristen Pasko (Summer Research Coordinator) and Sabrina DiBisceglie (Presidential Summer Research Fellow).

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Graduating members of the Clinical Health Research Team at the Celebration of Student Scholars (L-R): Katie Notarianni, Kristen Pasko, Dr. Arigo, Marissa DeStefano, and Zuhri Outland.

The University of Scranton held their 17th annual Celebration of Student Scholars on May 11th from 1-4 pm in the lobby of our campus’ main science center. Students from various departments (such as occupational therapy, exercise science, chemistry, biology, neuroscience, computer science, communications, and physical therapy) presented their recent research findings in their respective fields. Student peers, faculty, and the general public listened and asked questions of the student researchers as they viewed posters. The event ended with a dinner in honor of the scholars and their mentors. Student scholars Maria Begliomini and Victor Dec from M.S. program Health Administration spoke of their experience with the Telehealth Intervention Program for Seniors (TIPS).

Preparing for the Celebration of Student Scholars allowed each of us to engage in the research process from beginning to end. Last year, most of us presented summaries of literature reviews, rather than original research. This year, each team of students started with an original research question (way back in the fall of 2016!) and worked toward new and interesting findings. At the celebration, it was rewarding to share these findings and the hard work we put into the research, as well as to see the interest our peers took in our findings.

Sabrina and Marisa Scholar Day 2017

Sabrina and Marissa with their poster.

The poster session at the Celebration of Student Scholars provided a unique experience for members of the Clinical Health Psychology Lab. It shed light on differing perspectives in research between fields, as well as between researchers and the public. After speaking to fellow students, we discovered a large gap in communication and understanding between different fields of research. For example, several guests were unaware of particular domains of psychology, and some members of the lab had to preface their individual work with a background in clinical health psychology. This is especially important to our lab because the field of health psychology emphasizes an interdisciplinary mindset. This understanding can potentially help us in later research and clinical practice as we strive to close the gap between health professions (and between professions broadly).

This experience allowed us to deliver information that is relevant to our audience, which primarily consisted of college students. Our goal was to provide this audience with information about our work that could easily be understood and applied in their everyday lives to promote better health. We learned that presenting major findings with complex statistical analyses alone would not suffice in starting conversation relevant to our audience.

K&K Scholar Day 2017

Research Selfie! Kristen and Katie with their poster.

Lab member Kristen Pasko presented her independent study on relations between use of different types of social media and self-reported health behaviors, including sexual activity, eating behavior, alcohol consumption, and physical activity. She enjoyed beingable to collaborate with her partner, Katie Notarianni, and other lab members – this teamwork made it easier for ideas to expand. She also appreciated the support from ZO Scholar Day 2017the lab throughout the process. Another member, Sabrina DiBisceglie, assisted Marissa DeStefano with her research on the predictive value of different types of motivation for objectively assessed exercise engagement among college women. She valued the experience she gained throughout the process and learned skills from Marissa that will be useful when completing her own independent study. Lab member Zuhri Outland (right) presented two separate sets of analyses: one on relations between college women’s living situations and their reported social comparisons and health behaviors, and a second on perceptions of male and female body types with respect to perceived attractiveness.

During the Celebration dinner, Maria Begliomini and Victor Dec impressed the audience with their personal accounts of experience with research with the TIPS program. They delivered first-hand accounts of working for TIPS, which included showing older adults how to monitor vital signs such as blood pressure, pulse, oxygen levels, and weight, in conjunction with providing checkups to inform them about available services and programs. These components were designed to increase the likelihood that older adults would be proactive in their health behaviors, and decrease medical expenses to improve overall health. This presentation was highly relevant to the work we do in clinical health psychology.

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The whole team at the post-Celebration dinner.

The hosts noted that this was the first time in the event’s history that students, rather than professors, were invited to speak about their research experiences. This change felt appropriate, as the day was about honoring the research accomplishments of students. Specifically, our lab members identified with the speakers’ processes of maturation through research. Their stories demonstrated that the impact of student research goes far beyond the Celebration of Student Scholars. We look forward to presenting our updated research findings at the Society of Behavioral Medicine’s annual conference in the spring of 2018.