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!

Doctoral Applications for Fall 2017 Under Review

back to school
December 1 was the application deadline for the Counseling Psychology doctoral program at the University of Southern Mississippi, and the review of applications is now in progress. The outcome of this highly competitive process is that a small number of applicants will be invited to campus to participate in the doctoral program's interview day and interview with Dr. Dahlen.

Following the interviews, 1-2 applicants who are selected for the doctoral program typically receive an offer of admission to the program and the lab. Some applicants who are not selected for the doctoral program may be encouraged to apply to the master's program, as this provides applicants with another opportunity to join the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab and gain the sort of research experience that can strengthen their application to the Counseling Psychology doctoral program at Southern Miss, as well as other doctoral programs.

Introducing Adijah Battle

Adijah Battle
Adijah Battle is a first year master's student in the Counseling Psychology program at Southern Miss. She is originally from North Carolina, where she graduated in from the University of North Carolina with a Bachelor of Science in psychology in 2016.

As an undergraduate, Adijah worked as a research assistant with a professor who was studying mindfulness. After deciding to continue her education, she applied to the Counseling Psychology Master's Program at Southern Miss because she was impressed with the benefits of the program's in-house training clinic and the high pass rate on the Examination for the Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP) obtained by graduates of the doctoral program.

Adijah joined the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab and is currently completing a literature review on depression and social media use. She also hopes to study various aspects of personality during her graduate training. After completing the master's program, Adijah plans to pursue a doctoral degree. She would eventually like to open a private practice with a focus in treating adults.

When asked for advice concerning potential applicants to our master's or doctoral programs, Adijah expressed her belief in the importance of being aware of what one is seeking from graduate training before one applies. Not only does this tend to be associated with a greater probability of success in obtaining admission to a program, but it allows one to begin graduate training with a clear goal in mind toward which one can strive in an efficient manner. Good advice!

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 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.

Daniel Deason Defends Dissertation

Daniel Deason successfully defended his dissertation today. He did a fantastic job developing and executing a complex project, and it was great to see him complete this important milestone.

Although the literature on relational aggression among emerging adults has advanced considerably over the last couple decades, surprisingly little is known about the role of culture in general and the nature of relational aggression among LGBT persons in particular. Daniel's dissertation, Hypermasculine, antifeminine: The role of masculine identity in relational aggression among gay men, examined relational aggression and victimization among gay men using Exclusively Masculine Identity Theory (EMIT; Killanski, 2003). Daniel's study utilized structural equation modeling to test models derived from EMIT in an effort to learn more about the possible role of adherence to masculine ideology and sex stereotypically.

The men who participated in Daniel's study differed from those described in some of the previously published research in terms of the masculine and feminine traits they considered desirable. Contrary to what we expected, participants with an exclusively masculine identity (i.e., those who had a more masculine ideal self and a more feminine undesired self) reported lower rates of relational aggression. Thus, while EMIT was useful in predicting relational aggression, the direction of the relationship was not what was anticipated. Daniel's results also suggest that certain domains of masculine ideology may be more useful in predicting relational aggression and victimization than the full EMIT model.

Daniel is currently completing his predoctoral internship at the University of Memphis Counseling Center in Memphis, TN.

Congratulations, Daniel!

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.

Coming Soon: Information About Students Working in the Lab

With graduate admissions deadlines approaching, undergraduate students planning to apply to graduate programs in psychology are in the process of researching programs and trying to decide where to apply. Although factors such as one's interest in the research areas of various faculty members, the reputation of the program, and the geographic location of the university are obvious considerations, many students are also curious about their fit with current students. Do they have similar life experiences, interests, abilities, or career goals as the students who are currently succeeding in the programs to which they are applying?

We recognize that this type of information is not always easy to find, so we aim to provide more of it for prospective students considering the doctoral or master's programs in Counseling Psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi who are interested in the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab. Specifically, we plan to begin sharing some additional information about the students working in the lab in the form of brief student bios we will make available here. This should be helpful to prospective applicants by giving them a sense of where our current students came from, what they were doing before joining us, what they are working on here, and what they hope to do after they complete their graduate training.

Our first student bio should be ready soon and will be posted here as soon as it is available.

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!

New Lab Photo for 2016

The Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab has updated our photo of the lab personnel currently working on campus for 2016.

2016 anger lab personnel

Top row (left to right): Philip Stoner, Dr. Dahlen, Adijah Battle, Savannah Merold
Bottom row: Skylar Hicks, Niki Knight, Taylor Bolton, Michael Vidana

Seeking Applicants Interested in Traffic Psychology

With regard to doctoral and master's admissions for the 2017 academic year, the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab is particularly interested in receiving applications from individuals interested in conducting psychological research on aspects of personality and driving behavior, with relevance to driving anger, aggressive driving, risky driving (e.g., speeding, driving while distracted), and/or accident-related outcomes. A variety of both adaptive and maladaptive personality constructs are of interest in this area. Examples of potentially relevant adaptive personality constructs include empathy for others, emotional intelligence, trait forgiveness, and consideration of the future consequences of one's behavior. Examples of potentially relevant maladaptive personality traits include impulsivity, sensation seeking, boredom proneness, and a variety of "dark personality" traits.

We have several ideas for research projects in this area and are hoping to attract qualified applicants with compatible interests.

Dr. Dahlen Appointed as Associate Editor

After serving as a member of their Editorial Board for several years, I was recently offered and accepted an appointment to serve as an Associate Editor at Accident Analysis & Prevention (AAP). AAP is a peer-reviewed journal published by Elsevier and affiliated with the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine. They publish research on accidental injury and damage from a variety of disciplines, including "studies of human, environmental and vehicular factors influencing the occurrence, type and severity of accidents and injury; the design, implementation and evaluation of countermeasures; biomechanics of impact and human tolerance limits to injury; modeling and statistical analysis of accident data; policy, planning and decision-making in safety." Many of the articles they publish involve investigations of human factors in transportation-related accidents, which is consistent with the lab's work in clinical traffic psychology.

As with any new responsibility, I expect a bit of a learning curve; however, I am excited by the opportunity to learn more about the editorial process and contribute to the field in a new way.

Lab Welcomes Adijah Battle

The Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab is pleased to welcome Adijah Battle, a student who will be entering the Counseling Psychology Master's Program at the University of Southern Mississippi and joining us in the lab this fall. Adijah completed her B.S. in psychology at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Her interests in personality and psychopathology should make her a good fit for the lab.

Congratulations to Adijah on her admission to the master's program! We are looking forward to your arrival next month.

How Mental Health Professionals Can Help With Bullying Prevention

Bully Free Zone has assembled a useful training module on bullying prevention aimed at mental health professionals, Understanding the Roles of Mental Health Professionals in Community-Wide Bullying Prevention Efforts (.pdf file). It reviews information on bullying and its effects, explains many of the roles mental health professionals have in solving the problem of bullying, offers suggestions for how mental health professionals can involve others in their communities, and shares several helpful resources.

It is hoped that making information like this more accessible will allow mental health professionals to approach the complex subject of bullying in a more informed manner and to make a difference in their communities.

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!

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.

Visiting Position in Counseling Psychology

The Counseling Psychology program in the Department of Psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi is soliciting applications for a full-time, 9 month, Visiting Assistant Professor position beginning August 2016. Additional information about the position and instructions for applying can be found here.

If you know of qualified applicants seeking academic jobs, please share this information with them.

Seeking Gay Male College Students to Complete Online Survey

internet research
Daniel Deason, a doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology Program at the University of Southern Mississippi, is seeking participants for his dissertation research. Specifically, he is hoping to recruit gay-identifying men currently enrolled in college.

Daniel's dissertation focuses on gay men's experiences of social aggression within the gay community and gender presentation (i.e., masculinity, femininity). Essentially, his study addresses experiences of marginalization within an already marginalized population. Participation consists of completing an online survey that should take between 15 and 30 minutes and has been approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of the University of Southern Mississippi. Participation is voluntary, anonymous, and can be terminated at any time.

For each participant who completes the survey, Daniel plans to donate $1 to the Trevor Project, a suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth and young adults.

To participate, please go to the following hyperlink to access the consent form and online survey:

Please consider sharing this post with any individuals or relevant groups (e.g., Gay-Straight Alliances) you know who may be interested in participating.

David Boudreaux Accepts Position at Tampa VA

new job
We just learned that David Boudreaux, an alumnus of the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab who successfully defended his dissertation in August, has accepted a position as a staff psychologist in the outpatient mental health clinic at the James A. Haley Veteran's Hospital in Tampa, FL, where he is completing his predoctoral internship.

David is almost finished preparing a manuscript based on his dissertation, which should soon be ready to submit for publication. He plans to take the EPPP exam for licensure this summer.

Congratulations to David on the job!

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.

Students Heading to Bay Pines VA and University of Memphis Counseling Center

Today is APPIC Phase I Match Day, the day where doctoral students in applied psychology programs across the U.S. who applied for predoctoral internships in psychology find out whether they have matched with internship sites. Two doctoral students working in the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab applied for predoctoral internships this year, and we just learned that both of them matched. Not only that, but both matched with their first choices!

Caitlin Clark will be completing her predoctoral internship at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in Bay Pines, FL.

Daniel Deason will be completing his predoctoral internship at the Counseling Center at the University of Memphis in Memphis, TN.

Congratulations to Caitlin and Daniel!

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.

Doctoral Program Interview Day

The Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program is holding our annual interview day on February 5, 2016. We had several good applicants this year, and it was not easy to select who to invite to interview.

We are looking forward to meeting the applicants who will be interviewing, hearing about their research ideas, and discussing plans for future research.