A Look at Our Latest Paper: Social Predictors of Change in Physical Activity among College Women

Standard

Our new paper in Psychology of Sport and Exercise takes a look at associations between within-person change in perceptions of the social environment and physical activity in college women. This project began in 2016 at The University of Scranton and involved several undergraduate research assistants, including current CHASE Lab Ph.D. student Kristen Pasko (who went on to coordinate data collection). The final product represents a collaboration with Dr. Jacqueline Mogle of Penn State’s ReMind Lab.

Based on our previous work with college women (see here, for example), we were interested in how daily changes in these women’s appraisals of their social experiences (i.e., positive vs. negative social interactions and social comparisons) might be associated with changes in their activity (i.e., steps and moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity, or MVPA). College women who were not student athletes and did not use technology to track their activity were asked to complete a baseline survey and attend an initial face-to-face training session. For the following 7 days, they wore Fitbit Flex wristbands to allow for activity monitoring and completed a survey online each night to assess their social experiences. See our infographic for description of social interactions and social comparisons:

What Was It Like to Run This Study?

“Working on this study provided me the opportunity to contribute to the evolution of a study from recruitment to dissemination, as I worked on various pieces as an undergraduate research assistant, research coordinator, and now Ph.D. student. One of the most rewarding aspects was the clinical research experience gained through interacting with participants, discussing their physical activity and setting them up with an activity monitor. This prepared me for my current work in integrated healthcare settings, which includes recruiting participants from a primary care clinic and working with them in our new studies.”

— Kristen Pasko, CHASE Lab Ph.D. student

“We’re really grateful to the women who participated. They were incredibly diligent, which means that we ended up with very little missing data! This is so helpful when it comes time to run statistical tests, and we can be much more confident in our conclusions if we aren’t missing a lot of information.

One of the things we learned through recruitment and data collection is that the college women who participated are getting a good amount of physical activity overall – during the weeks that they were in the study, at least. This is encouraging, though we need to do more to learn about college women who are less active, and how we can help them get more activity. And our findings show that even among college women who get a good bit of activity overall, there is important day-to-day fluctuation in their activity, and their social experiences may help explain why.”

— Dr. Dani Arigo, CHASE Lab director

What Did We Find?

Using multilevel modeling techniques, we found that increases in positive interactions per day (above a woman’s typical level of positive interactions) were associated with increases in steps per day. However, increases in negative interactions per day – particularly those with friends – were more strongly and consistently associated with decreases in activity (steps and MVPA). Days with health-based social comparisons, such as perceiving someone else to be healthier than they were, were days with decreases in activity, but only for women with low interest in comparisons – for those with high interest in comparisons, days with health-based comparisons were days in increases in activity. Contrary to previous research among college women with body image concerns, there was no association between appearance-based comparisons and activity.

What Does This Tell Us?

  • Days with negative interactions and health-based comparisons (for some women) are days when college women are at risk of decreasing their activity.
  • These decreases may be due to negative emotions or demotivation for activity prompted by negative social experiences.
  • Days with these experiences are opportunities for intervention, to prevent decreases in activity.

Next Steps

Dr. Arigo presenting our new preliminary findings at SBM 2019

We’re now on our second study designed to learn more about the temporal relations between social experiences and physical activity. To do this, we ask our participants to wear research-grade activity monitors and complete 5 surveys per day for 10 days. In these studies, however, we recruit adult women with elevated risk for cardiovascular disease; our goal is to identify key moments of opportunity for intervention among these women, and to design a smartphone app to deliver this intervention. We presented preliminary findings from data collected at The University of Scranton at this year’s Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) annual meeting, and we’re now collecting data at Rowan University. An important observation from this preliminary work is that we see some of the same relations between social experiences and physical activity among adult women with cardiovascular risk!

We’re still working to learn more about these relations in college women, and we hope to be able to compare their experiences to those of college men in the near future. Our current work in this area focuses on responses to #fitspiration images on Instagram.

Stay tuned for more on this and our other research!

Meet @RowanCHASELab: Interview with Megan Brown

Standard

Megan Brown, B.S. is the Research Coordinator (RC) for the CHASE Lab. She was interviewed by Kristen Pasko, B.S., a first-year Ph.D. student in clinical psychology.MB Interview

@RowanChaseLab: Let’s start off with the basics. Would you mind telling us about your undergraduate experience at Rowan and how you were introduced to psychological research?

MB: I was actually a biology major my first semester at Rowan, and I just didn’t feel as passionate about it. I was taking essentials of psychology at the time and found it extremely interesting and decided to try out psychology. Turns out I loved it, and when I took my research methods course I became extremely interested in research and decided to find a lab to get involved in. That’s when I realized I wanted to focus on psychology but with more of an emphasis on research, and decided to switch to a B.S. in psychological science and minor in neuroscience.

@RowanChaseLabContinuing with that theme, we know you previously worked in other Rowan research labs. What was that like?

MB: It was great, and gave me a more thorough understanding of how to actually conduct research. I was in Dr. Angelone’s lab, where we focused more on attention and visual processes. With the help of another student in lab, we ended up developing a study on distracted pedestrian crosswalk behaviors, and I am currently working on a manuscript with Dr. Angelone. I was also given the chance to develop and run a study in my advanced research course with Dr. Abrams, where we evaluated social physique anxiety in college students who go to the gym.

@RowanChaseLabHow does this experience relate to your specific research interests? How have they changed since then?

MB: Well my specific research interests revolve around mental health; specifically depression and anxiety. I have always been very physically active, playing sports my whole life and going to the gym. so I knew I had an interest in mental and physical health. I just didn’t know how to combine them. So when I got to do the study on anxiety and the gym I started to realize this would be the path I would like to take. My interests have only changed a little since then, where now I am also interested in stress and social influences. I reflected on the work I did with Dr. Angelone and Dr. Abrams and realized both have social factors that influence an individual’s behavior.

@RowanChaseLabWhat initially got you excited to work in the CHASE lab as our RC?

MB: I would definitely say the research topics are what got me excited initially, along with the chance to build my research skills and gain more experience. I saw the lab focused on health behaviors and social influences which was right up my alley. I also want to go into a Ph.D. program eventually, so I knew having the job of a research coordinator would help prepare me for that experience.

@RowanChaseLabWhat do you suspect you will be spending most of your time this year? What can we expect of any independent work you might be doing?

MB: Most of my time will be divided among the various projects we have going on. My role is to oversee recruitment, participant communication, data collection, and data entry for two large projects – one with students and one with midlife women. Along with that, I will also be spending time as a mentor for our research assistants and working on developing more as a researcher. As far as independent work goes, I am in the process of working with Dr. Arigo and Dr. Greeson on a study involving stress, sleep, and anxiety in participants who went through a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. I am also working with Dr. Angelone on a manuscript for the crosswalk study we did. So a lot of exciting projects going on right now!

@RowanChaseLabAny important lessons you’ve already learned already as an RC?

MB: Oh yes! Organization and taking notes is everything. As a research coordinator I am retaining a lot of information, not just about my own schedule, but about others schedules, projects, etc. so it is crucial to write everything down and have a very organized system for keeping track.

@RowanChaseLabLastly, what is something you want to do or are excited to learn about while working in the CHASE lab?

MB: Something I would like to do while working in the CHASE lab is enhancing my clinical experience. I know I will have the chance to work with participants in person, so being able to learn the skills needed in order to convey what our study is about and build a trusting relationship is something I am very excited to learn.

Research Coordinator Position at Rowan University

Standard

Fit5

Research Coordinator
Clinical Health And Social Experiences (CHASE) Lab
Rowan University

Application deadline: May 11, 2018

Start Date: September 1, 2018

Are you looking for an exciting opportunity to hone your skills in behavioral science research? Come work with the new Clinical Health And Social Experiences (CHASE) Lab at Rowan University! The CHASE Lab is hiring a full-time research coordinator. This position will provide opportunities to interact with research participants, collaborate with graduate and undergraduate students in clinical/health psychology, and receive mentoring to prepare for future graduate study in clinical/health psychology or a related field.

The research coordinator position will be under the direction of Danielle Arigo, Ph.D., who is joining Rowan from The University of Scranton in Pennsylvania (http://www.scranton.edu/faculty/arigod/index.shtml). Dr. Arigo’s research investigates social influences on health and health behavior, physical activity promotion, and weight control, particularly in the area of women’s health. This research emphasizes the development and optimization of digital health tools, including mobile health apps, wearable physical activity trackers, and social media platforms.

The coordinator’s primary responsibilities will be related to project management for an NIH-funded clinical trial (e.g., budget management; preparing and updating reports for NIH and IRB; managing participant recruitment, enrollment, and scheduling). Additional activities will include data management, training and supervision of research assistants, and contributing to the preparation of manuscripts and conference presentations. Previous experience with these tasks in the context of physical activity, weight control, women’s health, and/or digital health is desirable, and the coordinator will have the opportunity to improve skills in each of these areas.

Candidates should have a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related area; coursework and/or work experience related to clinical research is preferred. Experience with using social media (particularly Twitter) in a professional or organizational capacity is desirable. Reliable transportation and some early morning/evening hours are required.

To apply, submit a CV and a one-page cover letter describing your preparation for this position to arigo@rowan.edu by May 11, 2018. Questions about the position can be directed to this email address.

 

Research News, April 2018

Standard

BreakingNews-460x250

It’s an exciting time for @UofSHealthPsych! We have several announcements to share, all related to our clinical health psychology research:

1) If you follow us, then you know that we have multiple active lines of research related to promoting healthy behavior. Our goals are to understand the psychological and social experiences that influence health behaviors in the natural environment, and use this information to improve health behavior interventions. We have multiple papers coming out in 2018 that pursue these goals: two related to Type 2 Diabetes outcomes, one on the role of calorie labeling of restaurant-type foods in grocery stores, one on recommendations for using social media in health research, and several on the role of social comparisons in behavioral weight loss treatment. Each of these topics will get some air time on this site in the coming months, so stay tuned!

2) In March 2018, our research on determinants and interventions to promote midlife women’s physical activity received a prestigious grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (National Institutes of Health). This funding will allow us to hire team members, recruit participants, work with state-of-the-art assessment technology, and develop a digital health tool tailored to the needs of midlife women. We’re off to a great start with related projects, and the whole team has been involved in activities such as coding literature and preparing abstracts for conferences. Read more about the grant here.

3) We’ll be at the Society of Behavioral Medicine annual meeting (SBM, April 11-14) and the UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media conference (May 18) sharing our recent and developing findings. At SBM, you can find us at #SBM2018 and:

  • Thursday’s Behavioral Informatics and Technology SIG “Tech Madness” and Middday Business meetings – 7:00am and 10:45am, respectively
  • Thursday’s evening poster session, presenting on relations between social media use and health behaviors (Kristen Pasko) and perceptions of the #fitspiration trend on Instagram (Sabrina DiBisceglie) – 6:15pm
  • Friday’s Women’s Health SIG morning panel on science communication (Dr. Arigo) – 7:00am
  • Friday’s morning paper session on Social Media and Broadcast Messaging for Health (Dr. Arigo) – 10:45am
  • Friday’s afternoon symposium on Understanding and Harnessing Social Influences on Women’s Health Behaviors: Social Perceptions, Stigma, and Social Modeling (Dr. Arigo) – 2:00pm

4) This summer, @UofSHealthPsych is moving to Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. We’re taking our website, Twitter account, and research along for the ride, so please check for updates as we transition to our new home.

Thanks for following our progress and exciting news! We’ll be back with an SBM 2018 review post in two weeks.

Meet @UofSHealthPsych: Interview with Sabrina DiBisceglie

Standard

Sabrina DiBisceglie is a senior psychology major at The University of Scranton. She was interviewed by junior Madison Montalbano.

UofSHealthPsych: Where are you from, and what drew you to the University of SabrinaScranton?

SD: I am from a small town in Bergen County, New Jersey named River Edge. My guidance counselor in high school suggested I should look at the University of Scranton because it was a smaller school. Once I stepped onto campus I was drawn to the community feeling. As I looked around I saw many students walking in groups, playing frisbee, on the green, and walking with professors. I knew this was the type of atmosphere that I would want to spend my four years in.

UofSHealthPsych: When did you realize health psychology interested you?

SD: In high school I wanted to be a physical therapist or athletic trainer. It wasn’t until I had taken those college ‘what career would be best for you’ tests that my mind changed when It told me I should be a social worker. I knew that was not something I would be interested in, so I turned to psychology since I was drawn to the scientific aspect of the field. Freshman year I went into psychology thinking I was going to pursue sports psychology. I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. O’Malley and he pointed me towards Dr. Arigo, and he assured me health psychology was really the field that dealt with all my interests. Once I joined the Clinical Health Psychology lab, I knew this was exactly the field of psychology I wanted to be in.

UofSHealthPsych: Can you tell us a little bit about your individual research project for the Clinical Health Psychology Lab?

SD: I am most interested in physical activity and what motivates one to exercise. What I have been fascinated by is the movement of #fitspiration on social media. As college students we are shaping our future habits and behaviors. With social media engagement increasing and becoming a consistent and frequent behavior in our everyday lives, it shapes what kind of content and messages we encounter daily. I think with #fitspiration having a big presence on social media, it may have an effect on behaviors such as exercise engagement. Through my research I am exploring the reasons behind why people post #fitspiration and the perceived outcomes/benefits of viewing such posts may be. I am also interested in understanding the use of #fitspiration as a motivational tool to enhance exercise engagement in both men and women. I had a Presidential Fellowship to stay on campus and work on these projects over the summer, and I’m applying for grant funding to increase the scope of this work.

Sabrina and Marisa Scholar Day 2017UofSHealthPsych: Aside from research, what clubs or activities on campus are you involved in?

SD: This year I am an officer for the Psychology Club and Psi Chi (the Psychology Honors Society). I am also President of the University of Scranton chapter of the Association for Psychological Science Student Caucus (APSSC), which is the psychology research club on campus.

UofSHealthPsych: What would you say has been the greatest advantage of being a part of the Clinical Health Psychology Research Team?

SD: This lab has allowed me opportunities and experiences that would not be possible if I were not part of the research team. I have assisted in individual projects for other students, worked on Dr. Arigo’s research, and now have the opportunity to conduct my own research. This lab has also provided me with research skills through hands-on experience. I think learning the skills in class is helpful, but being able to apply and utilize what is learned about conducting research from the beginning of the process to the end is really beneficial.

UofSHealthPsych: What skills have you gained from working as a research assistant will be most useful in the future?

SD: I have learned how to communicate with participants which can help in research as well as clinical settings in the future. I have also learned how to read articles and discuss them analytically. This may seem like a general skill, but I believe being able to pull out the significant parts of an article and to be able to develop informed opinions and discuss the information is important in any scientific based field. Being able to understand what is already out there and to expand upon your knowledge is an important skill for all professionals.

UofSHealthPsych: What are your plans after graduation?

SD: In the upcoming year, I plan to take a gap year in which I will continue to work on my research, as well as apply to graduate schools. I plan on applying to Clinical Health Ph.D programs to continue studying the psychology of physical activity.

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

Standard

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

CHP 2017 Scholar Day Dinner2

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.

CHP 2017 Scholar Day Dinner1

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.

The Future of #Fitspiration

Standard

By Kristen Pasko, Kerri Mazur, and Sabrina DiBisceglie

In our series on #fitspiration, we have explored what it is, how it applies to different cultures and races, and its pros and cons. You can find #fitspiration posts on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Instagram is a major hotspot, with over 9.8 million images tagged as #fitspiration. This aspect of social media allows us to connect to others, even those we have not met in person. Though this ability is generally seen as positive, there is a flip side. Some users may post content that is potentially indicative of mental illness, and there has been a movement to help users who may feel they are unheard by those in their personal lives. In light of this, it is important to discuss what has been done in response to fitspiration. In 2015, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram attempted to censor material related to eating disorders, especially #thinspiration content, and provide warnings to users who might come in contact with it. However, material was still relatively easy to access, due to loose guidelines.

Some researchers believe social media could be helpful in spreading positive messages and helping people with mental illness. One 2015 study suggests that positive emotional expression spreads through social media platforms to a greater degree than negative emotional expression. Therefore, if you see a positive post, you are more likely to post something positive as well. By the same token, one 2016 study proposes that computational methods can use characteristics such as the colors of a photo filter and the amount of people in posts to identify those with symptoms of a depressive disorder. These methods were even more effective than talking with general practitioners. Such findings could have important implications for the future of mental health testing and diagnosis, in addition to improved and more cost-efficient treatment.

So what were some of these specific characteristics that were related to mental health? filterPhotos of depressed individuals received fewer likes; they tended to be darker (blue and gray, void of artificial light), and have fewer faces per photo. The characteristic of fewer faces is intuitive for a few reasons. First, depressed individuals are more likely to spend time in small social groups. Second, they are more likely to use self-focused language that might carry over into photos. Researchers from this study mentioned a need for further research on captions, comments, and tags.

Recently, Instagram added a new tool that allows someone to report a user they believe is at risk due to mental health symptoms. The person who posts the image will receive a pop-up message encouraging him or her to seek more support, if needed. Instagram worked with the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to develop these messages. Additionally, users receive a helpline and other mental health resources based on their current location. If users attempt to post with certain hashtags, like #thinspo, they will be redirected to a support page.

mh-instagram

Though many are excited about this new effort, it is important to question its implications and the potential for additional improvements. Some users may reject the resources because they deny having any distress. Some may not feel comfortable with their content being closely monitored. As a result, individuals may leave Instagram in fear of getting screened for mental illness. However, this tool, or a comparable one, could be advantageous if used with #fitspiration posts. It can provide motivation to the users that would benefit, and promote mental health resources for others. (We might still run into the problem of deciding what content would be helpful and harmful based on individual users, which deserves increased attention.)

Another way to take action is to spread awareness of the pros and cons of #fitspiration. If people are aware of the consequences #fitspiration, it may provide a user the opportunity to examine the function #fitspiration has on their life and adjust the content they view and post accordingly. There are popular Instagram fitness experts who already take responsibility in promoting the theme of “loving your body”. Linn Lowes is one such Instagram fitness guru who promotes exercise to enhance your own body instead of making your body look like someone else’s. Linn believes about being thin-shaming is just as much of an issue as fat-shaming. She also believes we shouldn’t focus on one fit body type; instead we should become the best and healthiest versions of ourselves.

The benefits and risks to #fitspiration are not so clear-cut. On one hand, there are many individuals who are likely to be find these posts to be inspiring and motivating, while others are likely to have unhealthy behaviors perpetuated by it. Social media platforms have made an effort to accommodate these differing individuals. Filtering and pop-up messages can ultimately help to reduce or even prevent the stigma surrounding mental illness and promote helpful resources for those suffering. It is important to explore further avenues to protect social media users, and these efforts support a future that reaches many individuals.