Introducing Skylar Hicks

Skylar Hicks
Skylar Hicks is a second-year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Southern Mississippi. She is originally from Louisiana, where she graduated from the University of New Orleans with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.

As an undergraduate, Skylar was involved in two different research labs. The Stress Physiology in Teens (SPIT) Laboratory led her to examine the interplay between stress exposure, biological trajectories, and adolescent development in understanding why certain individuals develop psychopathology. Her time with the Youth Social and Emotional Development Laboratory was spent identifying social, emotional, and cognitive factors related to the development and maintenance of aggressive behavior in youth.

She applied to Southern Miss because the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab overlapped with her research interests in aggression. Skylar recently proposed her master’s thesis, The Role of Emotion Regulation in the Relationship between Trait Anger and Aggression, and is currently collecting data. She hopes to research other forms of aggression, such as sexual aggression. Skylar’s career interests include working in a maximum-security prison, as well as a psychiatric unit or major hospital.

When asked for advice concerning potential future applicants to our program, Skylar mentioned the importance of gaining research experience, as it can be helpful in defining a career path and in assessing which graduate programs best align with one’s personal research interests.

Introducing Michael Vidana

Michael Vidana
Michael Vidana is a second year master's student in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Southern Mississippi. He is originally from Minnesota and received his Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls in 2014.

As an undergraduate, Michael worked on an independent research project focusing on the behavioral effects of a college smoking ban. His curiosity in research and counseling continued to evolve by studying abroad, ultimately guiding him to apply to the master's program at Southern Miss.

Michael aims to become a licensed professional counselor upon graduation and is interested in a career in community mental health. As such, he hopes to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Community Counseling and Assessment Clinic, our program's in-house training clinic where both master's and doctoral students obtain much of their practicum experience under the supervision of program faculty. This experience, along with his coursework in the master's program, will prepare Michael to pursue licensure.

In addition to completing a literature review on alcohol-related aggression, one of the ways Michael has been assisting the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab is working with his peers to write biographical statements (just like this one) for our website. This is something we have been talking about doing for some time because we think it is helpful information for potential applicants to have. With Michael taking the lead on it, we are finally doing it!

When asked for advice concerning potential future applicants to our program, Michael voiced the importance of taking the time to create a well-crafted personal statement that best represents what an applicant has to offer to the program and makes a case for why the applicant is a good fit with the program.

Introducing Savannah Merold

Savannah Merold
Savannah Merold is a first year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Southern Mississippi. She is originally from Alabama and received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Southern Miss in 2016.

As an undergraduate, Savannah was involved in social and evolutionary psychology research. This resulted in her role as the second author of a 2016 paper published in Personality and Individual Differences. The paper, "Social and emotional intelligence moderate the relationship between psychopathy traits and social perception," reflects Savannah's interests in dark personality traits and social/emotional intelligence. These interests led her to apply to the doctoral program in Counseling Psychology at Southern Miss to work in the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab.

Savannah plans to continue studying psychopathic personality traits and social/emotional intelligence for her master's thesis, exploring their role in relational aggression. One advantage of her previous work in this area is that she already has a solid understanding of the variables and some great ideas about how best to assess them. This has allowed her to get a quick start on her thesis project. Savannah's plans for the future involve a career in academia where she can continue to conduct research.

When asked about any advice she might have for future applicants to our program, Savannah stressed the importance of knowing the research interests of potential faculty advisors, noting that this can help give one a better picture about where one would “fit” as a graduate student in the program. Very good advice!

Introducing Philip Stoner

Philip Stoner
Philip Stoner is a first year student in the Counseling Psychology doctoral program at the University of Southern Mississippi and one of the newest members of the lab. He is originally from Mississippi, and he graduated from the Mississippi University for Women with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and English in 2016.

As an undergraduate, Philip joined a research team at Mississippi State University, working in a self-harm lab which led to his interest in studying suicide. Philip’s research interests include aggression and self-aggression, non-suicidal self-injury, and research around preventative measures and their predictive utility in advancing the understanding of suicidal behaviors. His interest in research led him to apply to Southern Miss and the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab.

As for his future career plans, Philip plans to pursue an academic position where he can continue to conduct research. He would also like to provide counseling services, with a specific interest in college-age populations.

When asked for advice concerning potential future applicants to our program, Philip mentioned the importance of obtaining research experience and explained that his prior research experience helped to prepare him for graduate work at Southern Miss.

Skylar Hicks Proposes Thesis

Skylar Hicks successfully proposed her master's thesis yesterday. Skylar's thesis will examine the relationship between trait anger and the perpetration of relational aggression among college students while taking general negative affect into account and testing the potential role of emotion regulation as a moderator of this relationship.

If emotion regulation moderates the relationship between anger and relational aggression, this may have implications for the treatment of relationally aggressive individuals. For example, such findings might indicate that anger management and other interventions aimed at improving emotion regulation could be beneficial for relationally aggressive young adults.

Skylar is a second-year doctoral student working in the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab. She completed her undergraduate work at the University of New Orleans and entered the Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program in the Fall of 2015.

Congratulations to Skylar on the successful proposal!

Niki Knight Proposes Dissertation

Niki Knight successfully proposed her dissertation this week. Niki's dissertation will examine the potential role of dispositional envy, fear of negative evaluation, contingent self-esteem, and anger rumination in multiple forms of indirect aggression.

Indirect aggression describes forms of aggressive behavior that can be described as non-confrontational, manipulative, or concealed. It is similar to relational aggression in many ways; however, relational aggression can be direct or indirect, and indirect aggression can be broader in the behaviors it involves. The constructs Niki has selected are theoretically relevant to indirect aggression, and it is reasonable to test them as predictors. There has been little research directly linking them to indirect aggression even though all have been shown to predict direct aggression.

Niki is an advanced doctoral student working in the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab who is in the process of applying for a predoctoral internship this year. Her previous work involved an examination of normal and dark personality traits in the context of relational aggression. With a successful dissertation proposal behind her, she will soon be able to begin data collection on her study.

Congratulations to Niki!

The BPAQ-SF: A Brief Measure of Trait Aggression

The 29-item Aggression Questionnaire (AQ; Buss & Perry, 1992) is one of the most popular self-report measures of trait aggression. It yields four useful factors (i.e., Physical Aggression, Verbal Aggression, Anger, and Hostility); however, the four-factor structure of the AQ has not always been confirmed, raising questions about the structure of the measure.

Bryant and Smith (2001) developed a 12-item short form of the AQ that retains the four-factor structure and appears to have some psychometric advantages over the original, including improved model fit. This version, referred to as the Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire - Short Form (BPAQ-SF) in the literature, provides researchers interested in studying aggression with a more efficient alternative to the AQ.

In addition to Bryant and Smith's (2001) work testing the BPAQ-SF in multiple data sets, Kalmoe (2015) found support for the BPAQ-SF in nationally representative U.S. and college student samples. Slightly modified versions of the BPAQ-SF have also been used with mentally ill male offenders (Diamond, Wang, & Buffington-Vollum, 2005) and federal offenders (Diamond & Magaletta, 2006).

Thus, the BPAQ-SF provides researchers wanting to measure trait aggression with a relatively brief but psychometrically sound option.

Lab Welcomes Two New Doctoral Students

The Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab is pleased to welcome two new doctoral students who will be entering the Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program at the University of Southern Mississippi and joining us in the lab this fall.

Savannah Merold will be graduating this spring with a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi. At Southern Miss, Savannah worked as a research assistant in Dr. Sacco's Social Psychology Lab. She completed an independent project focusing on how social and emotional intelligence moderated the relationship between psychopathic personality traits and social perception.

Philip Stoner will be graduating this spring with a B.A. in Psychology and English from Mississippi University for Women. During his undergraduate career, Philip worked as a research assistant in the Clinical Studies Lab at Mississippi State University, where he obtained research experience in areas such as aggression, alcohol use, narcissism, and sleep.

Congratulations to Savannah and Philip on their admission to the doctoral program! We are looking forward to working with you both.

Electronic Aggression

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has some information available on the topic of electronic aggression and its connection to youth violence. Since we recently mentioned some of the varying terminology used to describe these behaviors, it seemed important to note that the CDC suggests that electronic aggression is preferred term. They offer the following as their rationale: “Although many different terms-such as cyberbullying, Internet harassment, and Internet bullying-have been used to describe this type of violence, electronic aggression is the term that most accurately captures all types of violence that occur electronically.” This seems appropriate since electronic aggression is probably the broadest and most inclusive of the various terms.

They characterize electronic aggression as an "emerging public health problem" and note it has been linked to a number of problems among youth, including increased victimization, emotional distress, and conduct problems. Finally they provide downloadable resources for educators, parents and caregivers, and researchers.

At the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab, we have just started collecting data for a new study on electronic aggression among college students. We are hoping to learn more about how to measure it effectively and how it relates to some of the dark personality variables we have been studying.

Cyber Aggression Study Planned

It goes by many different names (e.g., cyberbullying, cyber aggression, electronic aggression), but the concept will be familiar to anyone who has interacted with others online. Slonje and Smith (2008) referred to a form of aggressive behavior "in which the aggression occurs through modern technological devices, and specifically mobile phones or the internet." Dilmaç (2009) described "an individual or group willfully using information and communication involving electronic technologies to facilitate deliberate and repeated harassment or threat to another individual or group by sending or posting cruel text and/or graphics using technological means."

Consensus definitions of these constructs have been elusive (Zalaquett & Chatters, 2014), and the lack of consistently used and psychometrically sound measures has made it difficult to compare findings across studies. As a result, many basic questions about the nature of cyber aggression remain unanswered.

The lab is planning to begin collecting data soon for a study on cyber aggression. We hope to evaluate one of the more promising measures for assessing this behavior among college students and learn something about its correlates. Given the mounting evidence that these behaviors are associated with a number of adverse correlates for both aggressors and targets (e.g., Beran et al., 2012; Gini & Pozzoli, 2013), we believe the topic is worth investigating.

Caitlin Clark Recognized for Poster at Student Research Colloquium

Caitlin Clark, a second-year master's student working in the lab, presented a poster on parenting and relational aggression at the 7th Annual Student Research Colloquium at the University of Southern Mississippi in April. She just learned that her poster was selected by faculty judges as an outstanding poster. Congratulations to Caitlin!

Caitlin will enter the doctoral program in the Fall and plans to continue her work on aggression.

ISRA Offers Student Memberships

For those of us studying anger and aggression, it is not always easy to find professional organizations that seem relevant. I thought I'd mention that the International Society for Research on Aggression (ISRA) offers student memberships for graduate students who are interested in research on aggression and violence. Student memberships are only $30/year, and this can be a good way to stay connected with what is happening in the field.

Lab Welcomes Two New Doctoral Students

The Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab is pleased to welcome two new doctoral students for the Fall 2013 academic term.

Caitlin Clark is a master's student currently working in the lab who joined us in 2011 from Georgia College & State University. She plans to continue her research on aggression and hopes to broaden her focus beyond parenting-related variables. Niki Knight is completing her bachelor's degree at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Her interests make her a good fit for the lab.

Congratulations to Caitlin and Niki! We look forward to working with you.

Relational Aggression in Students' Dating Relationships

A paper we submitted based on Emily Prather's thesis has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma. The citation is:

Prather, E., Dahlen, E. R., Nicholson, B. C., & Bullock-Yowell, E. (in press). Relational aggression in college students’ dating relationships. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma.

Emily is an advanced doctoral student working in the lab. She is currently developing her dissertation proposal.

Kate's Dissertation Defense Set for October

Kate Czar has scheduled her dissertation defense for October 19th. Her dissertation, Regional Differences in Relational Aggression: The Role of Culture, compared college undergraduates from two universities (one located in Pennsylvania and one in Mississippi) on measures of aggression, gender role attitudes, and normative beliefs about aggression.

Southern participants reported more general/peer and romantic relational aggression and more traditional gender role attitudes than did Northern participants. Gender role attitudes were associated with relational aggression in that more traditional gender roles were positively correlated with relational aggression. Beliefs about the acceptability of relational aggression did not differ by region.

What is Relational Aggression?

relational aggression
Relational aggression refers to a set of behaviors through which the aggressor harms others by adversely affecting their social relationships, reputation, and/or feelings of inclusion or belonging (Crick et al., 1999; Linder, Crick, & Collins, 2002). Common examples include spreading malicious rumors and gossip, social exclusion, and public embarrassment.

Psychologists have been studying relational aggression since the mid-1990s, and it has long been recognized as a problem by many parents of school-aged children. However, it took the 2004 film Mean Girls to bring relational aggression to the attention of the larger public. Since then, the costs of relational aggression among children and early adolescents have become increasingly clear. Victims are more likely to suffer from a variety of psychological problems, including anxiety and depression; both victims and aggressors are more likely to misuse substances and engage in a number of delinquent behaviors (Archer & Coyne, 2005; Sullivan, Farrell, & Kliewer, 2006).

Surprisingly little is known about relational aggression among older adolescents and adults, but this is slowly starting to change. Research is underway to investigate the nature of relationally aggressive behaviors among college students. One of the interesting findings to emerge so far is that the gender difference observed among children and younger adolescents (i.e., relational aggression is more common among girls) does not appear to be present.

Lab's Work Noticed by the Wall Street Journal

Our work at the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab was noted by The Wall Street Journal in an article published today about “sidewalk rage.” I was one of several anger researchers interviewed for the story, and the author did an impressive job of capturing the current state of the research on this form of aggression.

“Sidewalk rage” is a relatively new term being used to describe aggressive behavior between pedestrians, but it is already starting to generate interest in major cities. According to the article, a measure of pedestrian aggressiveness has been developed, and this should facilitate additional research. It will be interesting to see how pedestrian aggressiveness compares to aggressive driving. I expect the processes underlying both conditions to be similar; however, I would not be surprised to find some important differences as well. For example, I suspect that impatience may play a bigger role in aggression among pedestrians than it does among drivers.

Culture and Relational Aggression

Kate Czar, a doctoral student working in the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab, successfully defended her dissertation proposal last week. Congratulations to Kate!

Although relational aggression has been widely studied among children and early adolescents, much less is known about it among older adolescents and adults. One particular area which has received little attention to date concerns the role of culture in relational aggression. Kate's dissertation, "Regional Differences in Relational Aggression: The Role of Culture," will focus on examining potential regional differences (i.e., North-South) in the U.S. Differing norms and expectations governing aggressive behavior, particularly among women, are expected to manifest themselves in different rates and perceptions of relational aggression. Relational aggression, normative beliefs about relational aggression, and gender role egalitarianism are among the variables which Kate will examine.

New Data on Youth Violence

A new study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides some interesting data about the problem of youth violence. Based on 2004 to 2008 data, 30.9% of U.S. adolescents between 12 and 17 reported having engaged in at least one of the following violent behaviors during the past year: being in a serious fight at school or work, participating in a group-vs.-group fight, and/or attacking someone with the goal of inflicting serious harm.

Lab News

Greetings! I plan to use this page to share news from the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab. Some of the information and resources from what used to be the Anger Research Consortium will now be relocated here. In addition, I will share information relevant to those seeking to understand anger, aggression, and traffic psychology.

Unhealthy Anger

Despite its positive effects, anger also can get out of control, fueling aggression and leading to problems with one’s health, relationships, occupational performance, and overall quality of life.

In determining whether someone is experiencing the sort of anger that might lead to these problems, psychologists often assess the intensity, frequency, and duration of angry episodes, how someone expresses anger, and the type of consequences anger has produced. Such an evaluation can be very helpful in planning an effective course of treatment.

Of course, some people who have an anger problem already realize it. They may feel out of control or act in ways that seem uncontrolled or frightening to others. They may experience negative effects of their anger in important relationships, work, or other roles. And they have often had others express concerns about their anger.