Taylor Nocera-Bolton Completes Master's Project

Taylor Nocera-Bolton
Taylor Nocera-Bolton, a master’s student who has been working in the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab and will be entering the Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program in the Fall, has successfully completed her master’s project. Taylor examined a number of dark personality variables in the prediction of cyber aggression among college students. In addition to generating useful information that will guide the lab’s future study of cyber aggression, Taylor’s work led to a poster at the Southeastern Psychological Association in March and a manuscript we plan to submit for publication very soon.

What is a master’s project? When students with master’s degrees who did not complete a formal master’s thesis during their master’s program are admitted to the Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program, they complete a master’s project before beginning work on their dissertations. A master’s project involves the completion of an independent research project that is similar to a master’s thesis but does not usually involve a thesis committee. These projects provide students with an opportunity to progress through the entire research process before taking on a dissertation. In addition to familiarizing the student with all aspects of research, they provide faculty with a clear sense of the student’s strengths and weaknesses, leading to the identification of appropriate training goals.

Taylor did a fantastic job with her master’s project, and we anticipate that she will have little difficulty transitioning into her dissertation work.

Dark Personality and Cyber Aggression Presentation Accepted for SEPA

Atlanta Night Skyline Wallpaper
We just had a presentation proposal accepted for the 63rd Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association, which will take place in Atlanta in March. Taylor Bolton a second-year master's student working in the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab, will present research based on her master's project. Taylor's research focuses on the role of dark personality traits in electronic aggression among college students.

One of the challenges in this area of research involves the lack of consensus in how electronic aggression (aka, cyber aggression, cyberbullying) should be defined and measured (Berne et al., 2013). Taylor is using what appears to be one of the better self-report measures available for emerging adults, the Cyberbullying Experiences Survey (Doane et al., 2013). We anticipate that her findings will provide useful information about the relationship between electronic aggression and offline relational aggression and between various dark personality traits and electronic aggression.

Congratulations, Taylor!

Introducing Taylor Nocera-Bolton

Taylor Bolton
Taylor Nocera-Bolton is a second year master's student in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Southern Mississippi. She is originally from Alabama, where she graduated from Auburn University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. During her undergraduate career, Taylor was involved in a parent-child interaction therapy lab where she was responsible for data collection and conducting behavioral observations.

Currently, Taylor is conducting a research project designed to evaluate one of the few published measures of cyber aggression suitable for use with college student samples. She is using it to examine various predictors of cyber aggression (also known as electronic aggression). Predictors under investigation include trait aggressiveness and several dark personality traits (e.g., psychopathy, narcissism, spitefulness, sadism). Not only is she well-positioned to make a meaningful contribution to the literature in this area, but she is helping to pave the way for future students in the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab to study cyber aggression.

Taylor's plans for the future involve pursuing her doctorate in Counseling Psychology, and she is applying to doctoral programs this year. Her career goals include working as a director/supervisor at an inpatient or residential treatment facility.

When asked what advice she might have for future applicants to the Counseling Psychology master's program at the University of Southern Mississippi, Taylor mentioned not to be afraid of asking questions or seeking clarification. It is important to remember, she said, that many people can relate to the inevitable anxiety surrounding the admission process and are eager to help.

Introducing Niki Knight

Niki Knight
Niki Knight is a fourth year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Southern Mississippi. She is originally from Arkansas, where she graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2012.

As an undergraduate, Niki joined a research team focused on social behavior and sleep studies. She collaborated on several projects (e.g., laboratory-based sleep studies, measure development, and personality and social behavior research). She found that she particularly enjoyed research related to personality and behavior. This interest guided her in applying to doctoral programs and has carried over into her research as a graduate student at Southern Miss.

Niki started the Counseling Psychology Ph.D. program in the Fall of 2013, at which time she joined the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab. Niki successfully defended her master's thesis, The Dark Triad and HEXACO Model of Personality in Relational Aggression, in October of 2015. She presented at the Mississippi Psychological Association (Relational Aggression Among Young Adults) and the Southeastern Psychological Association (The Dark Triad of Personality and Relational Aggression). Most recently, she successfully proposed her dissertation in September of 2016, Fear and Loathing in Peer Relationships: Indirect Aggression, Comparison-Based Traits, and Cognitive Vulnerabilities. She will begin data collection for this project soon.

Niki is in the process of applying for a predoctoral internship, which she hopes to complete at a VA Medical Center. Niki's long-term career goal is to become a VA psychologist, and she is particularly interested in the treatment of veterans with personality disorders, substance use disorders, and/or PTSD.

Ashley Morrison Proposes Thesis

Ashley Morrison, a doctoral student working in the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab, successfully proposed her master's thesis this week. Ashley plans to explore how Machiavellian personality traits may impact the relationship between trait emotional intelligence and relational aggression among emerging adults. While trait emotional intelligence is usually inversely related to aggressive behavior, Ashley is predicting that the presence of Machiavellian traits may alter or even reverse this relationship.

Congratulations to Ashley on a successful proposal!

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.

Presentation Accepted for SEPA

We just learned that Niki Knight's proposal to present her research at the 2016 Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA) conference in New Orleans was accepted. Niki will present The Dark Triad of Personality and Relational Aggression, based on work completed for her master's thesis.

Congratulations Niki!

Niki Knight Defends Master's Thesis

Niki Knight successfully defended her master's thesis today, The HEXACO and Dark Triad in Relational Aggression. Niki examined the HEXACO model of personality and Dark Triad (i.e., narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism) as predictors of proactive and reactive peer relational aggression in a college student sample.

With regard to the HEXACO model, the factors of Honesty-Humility and Agreeableness were positively associated with proactive and reactive relational aggression in peer relationships. Machiavellian, narcissistic, and psychopathic traits were positively associated with reactive relational aggression; narcissistic and psychopathic but not Machiavellian traits were positively associated with proactive relational aggression. Taken together, Niki's results supported the utility of both the HEXACO model and the Dark Triad constructs in predicting peer relational aggression among college students.

Niki is a doctoral student in her third year of the program and will soon begin work on her dissertation.

Congratulations to Niki on a successful defense!

Dark Personalities and Relational Aggression

The "Dark Triad" of personality refers to narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, three constructs with links to overt aggression and other socially undesirable behaviors. Despite the utility of these variables in understanding a variety of behaviors, relatively little is known about their potential role in relational aggression. Moreover, there may be other "dark personality" constructs not adequately represented in the Dark Triad that could be helpful in understanding relationally aggressive behaviors (e.g., sadism).

We recently started collecting data for a couple of studies examining the possible role of the Dark Triad constructs in relational aggression and how they fit into broader models of personality, such as the Five Factor Model and the
HEXACO model of personality.

These studies fit our goal of learning more about relational aggression among emerging adults. In addition, it seems that the study of dark personality constructs may be beneficial in some of our other research areas (e.g., anger and traffic psychology).

Niki Knight Proposes Master's Thesis

Niki Knight, a doctoral student in her first year of the Counseling Psychology Program, successfully proposed her master's thesis today, The HEXACO Model of Personality and Dark Triad in Relational Aggression. She can begin data collection after obtaining IRB approval.

Niki's thesis will examine the relationships between the constructs represented by the HEXACO personality model and relational aggression in college students, focusing on the role of Honesty-Humility and Agreeableness. Additionally, she will assess the predictive utility of the Dark Triad constructs (i.e., narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy) in predicting proactive and reactive relational aggression.