2016-17 Selected honors theses

Understanding the prevalence, effects, and perceptions of Eating Disorders among different populations

Shirley Fang '17

Emphasis on appearance and social pressure to achieve a certain ideal have always pervaded society but have recently become much more pervasive due to the rise of social media. With edited images of models on every advertisement and website, is it any wonder that rates of body dissatisfaction are on the rise? In Project 1 of this study, I compare rates of eating disorders (EDs) among undergraduate students at Dartmouth College—specifically dancers, other athletes, and the remainder of the student body, as well as between men and women. My findings suggest that overall, women are at a higher risk for EDs than men, but participation in dance or other sports is correlated positively with body satisfaction for women, whereas men's body image does not change significantly with athletic activity. Project 2 of this study examines whether stigmatized attitudes towards individuals with EDs differ by gender. My results demonstrate that on average, women are more likely to be taken seriously than men with identical ED symptoms. Furthermore, women may be more inclined than men to accurately suspect that an individual suffers from an ED. Given that EDs have the highest rate of mortality of any mental illness, understanding the prevalence, effects, and perceptions of EDs among different populations is crucial to developing effective measures of prevention and treatment.

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The Effects of Anticipated Regret on Decision-Making

Dawit Workie '17

People tend to incorporate the possibility of experiencing future regret to make present-time decisions, such as choosing food at a restaurant or making investment decisions. However, it is unclear whether this anticipation of regret is a fully cognitive process, or if it actually recruits emotional processes to simulate how painful the future regret might feel. We used two different gambling experiments to test this idea of whether anticipated regret has similar emotional signatures as experienced regret. In the experiments, we recorded participants' autonomic arousal through heart rate and skin conductance response, as well as their facial expressions, while they make decisions between gambles. While some participants showed psychophysiological responses associated with regret, there is no robust evidence that the responses were correlated exclusively to anticipating regret. Moreover, we actually observed risk-seeking behavior in participants' gamble choices. These results showed that anticipated regret is not clearly used in the decision-making process in a loss domain, and does not elicit physiological responses prior to decisions.

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