psychology

Can artificial intelligence fight elderly loneliness?

A research experiment in England used the AI in Google Home to help residents in nursing home combat loneliness and isolation.

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200325-can-voice-technologies-using-ai-fight-elderly-loneliness

This blog is a project of the NOVA Fellowship at TU.  www.novafellowship.org

 

The NOVA Fellowship at The University of Tulsa (TU) has a mission to build and support the culture of innovation on campus and in our communities. We do this by providing small grants to help innovative student projects, faculty involved in innovative programs, and curating content related to current trends and recent developments in technology and innovation. This content includes topics relevant to the entire campus, including health sciences, economics, arts management, biology, computer science, finance, artificial intelligence (AI), communication, engineering, and global issues. Because NOVA students are studying in a variety of TU majors, our interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving is one of our great strengths.

NOVA also helps provide training to students and faculty in creativity, problem-solving, innovation, and entrepreneurship. We offer training on the TU campus in meetings and workshops, and through an exciting partnership with Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Every year since 2015, NOVA has sent several TU students and faculty to Stanford for 4-5 days of training with experts and interaction with fellow scholars from around the world. The student program is University Innovation Fellows (www.universityinnovationfellows.org) and the program for faculty is the Teaching and Learning Studio Faculty Workshop (http://universityinnovationfellows.org/teachingandlearningstudio/).

In these ways, NOVA exposes TU faculty, staff, and students to many processes and tools used in modern companies related to creativity, problem-solving, innovation, and entrepreneurship. One of these is “design thinking.” It is one of the most well-known problem-solving approaches used around the world today, used to develop concepts for new products, education, buildings, machines, toys, healthcare services, social enterprises, and more. According to the people who developed this tool, Dave Kelley and Tim Brown of the design firm, IDEO:

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success…. Thinking like a designer can transform the way organizations develop products, services, processes, and strategy. This approach, which IDEO calls design thinking, brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It also allows people who aren’t trained as designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of challenges.” (https://www.ideou.com/pages/design-thinking)

As the innovation field develops, new perspectives are emerging. One promising approach we are beginning to bring into NOVA meetings and workshops is called “systems thinking,” which builds upon the emergent field of complexity research. Systems thinking recognizes the inherent interactivity of the dynamic processes in our world and focuses on problem-solving with that complexity in mind. This approach isn’t completely new, but recent work has made systems thinking more accessible to people interested in solving problems of most any type. For example, Derek Cabrera, Ph.D. (Cornell University) has proposed a useful taxonomy designed to improve systems thinking called DSRP (Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, and Perspectives). He defines it as: “The recursive distinguishing of things and their interrelationships and part-whole organization from various perspectives” (https://blog.cabreraresearch.org/what-is-a-system-what-is-systems-thinking). Elsewhere, DSRP has been described as a particular way to think about problems, and that the use of these four patterns notably improves people’s problem-solving abilities – demonstrated in sessions with Kindergartners all the way to CEOs. The complex, adaptive mental models that are formed during systems thinking attempt to identify the most approachable and simplest explanations for phenomena. In his book with Laura Cabrera, Systems Thinking Made Simple, examples of the simplicity that drives complexity include: the interaction of CMYK colors in our world, the amazing biodiversity derived from combinations of DNA’s core nucleotides ATCG, the fundamentals of martial arts which practitioners use together to improvise during sparring matches, the almost infinite variety of models that can be built with modular Lego blocks, and the billions of possible moves in a chess match with just 6 unique pieces.

We invite you to join us and collaborate as we learn more about effective ways to solve problems that you and others care about in the community, in corporations, and on campus! Please visit www.novafellowship.org or email Dr. Charles M. Wood, Professor of Marketing at TU: charles-wood@utulsa.edu.

 

TU psychology faculty and students helping kids and teens with nightmares

When traumatizing nightmares plague a child’s sleep routine, parents often search for answers. University of Tulsa faculty and student researchers in the Department of Psychology have investigated this psychological condition since the early 2000s. Today, Associate Professor of Psychology and clinical psychologist Lisa Cromer leads a team of graduate and undergraduate students in nightmare treatment for children and adolescents.

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Professor Lisa Cromer and psychology students

The University of Tulsa’s specialization in sleep among children began with graduate student research that was mentored by Professor of Psychology Joanne Davis. She focuses on nightmare and sleep problems in trauma-exposed individuals and when Cromer joined the psychology faculty, Davis invited her to expand upon the original project. With her expertise in children and adolescents, Cromer developed manuals and workbooks to adapt the research more broadly. Since then, graduate and undergraduate students have helped her establish a children’s sleep lab. Cromer and her students currently are conducting their second clinical trial that provides a five-session therapy series for youth, ages 5 to 17, who experience nightmares.

Combining sports and child psychology

Second-year grad student Jack Stimson earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and worked with traumatized, abused and neglected children in Seattle, Washington, before beginning the psychology Ph.D. program at TU. A former rugby athlete, he is interested in both sports and child psychology. “That’s the reason I chose TU and Dr. Cromer in particular,” he said. “She is an expert in a lot of areas, and I have an immense passion for working with kids.”

Stimson contributes to the clinical trial by asking questions and assessing participants once they have received therapy for nightmares. So far, 14 kids and teenagers have entered the treatment with encouraging results. Stimson said the youth and teens are “almost glowing” when he meets with them following the successful therapy sessions. They sleep sounder, feel better and experience fewer nightmares. “In supervision, we’ll sometimes watch tapes from earlier assessments before they went through treatment, and it’s amazing to see the shift in body language,” he said. “Instead of having nightmares every single night, they now maybe have one once or twice a month.”

As an undergraduate, psychology senior Andrew Helt also serves an important purpose in Cromer’s lab. He discovered his career interests in trauma psychology while working with children with communicative disorders at Happy Hands Education Center his freshman year. Helt’s research is the focus of a Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge (TURC) project and his final class project. After learning about the enriching environment of Cromer’s lab, basic literature reviews and data entry led him to explore a sub-study within her clinical trial. “We started to notice that while there’s a lot of kids with nightmares, some of them were reluctant to get into research,” Cromer said. “We wanted to understand the hesitation for either seeking treatment or seeking treatment for a research study when the therapy is free.”

During the summer, Helt learned how to use software systems and review literature to understand the psychological constructs associated with children who suffer from frequent nightmares. Overcoming barriers to treatment can help make it more accessible for children who desperately need relief. “I’m looking at what factors play into whether a parent decides to express interest in joining the trial (before) and what impact the nightmare treatment has in reducing symptoms (after) related to cognitive, behavioral functions,” Helt said.

Additional benefits of nightmare treatment

Published findings show parents who pursue therapy typically are of a higher socioeconomic status, and Cromer’s lab wants to learn how to make therapy and research more accessible to diverse groups. Helt’s sub-study also looks at how treatment can improve executive functions such as impulse control, working memory, task switching and goal-directed behavior. “For most of the medical studies I’ve read about, it’s not about convenience but rather factors like a person’s evaluation of the risks vs. benefits of participating,” Helt explained. “Underprivileged populations, for various reasons, have lower executive function, which plays into poor academic and social outcomes. It’s important to find any way possible to improve those executive functions in kids. We want nightmares to go away, but we also want to see if nightmare treatment can help in other areas too.”

The main objective of the second clinical trial is to determine if nightmares decrease in severity and frequency after the five-session therapy series. To accomplish this, Cromer is teaming up with Dr. Tara Buck, assistant professor of psychiatry and Oxley Chair in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Research at the University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine. The university collaboration allows OU to recruit participants for the study while TU graduate students conduct the therapy and post-therapy assessments.

Resilience amid adversity

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Psychology students assist Cromer with the clinical trial

Cromer and TU have built a credible reputation nationwide for sleep research, but her lab also encompasses other important areas of study, including psychological resilience amid adversity. “Dissertations that have come out of my lab have focused on special populations such as athletes and military families,” she said. “Through the ongoing SHAPE (Student Health, Academic Performance and Education) program, we work directly with TU teams and coaches on goal setting, mental toughness and preventing anxiety.”

Cromer’s research in child and sports psychology is extensive, and her special interest in how sleep affects other aspects of physical and emotional health inspires students like Stimson and Helt to continue working in the field. “The cool part of being in Dr. Cromer’s lab is that we view sleep as this underlying thing that we’re finding pops up in so many disorders and problems,” Stimson said. “We’re on the leading edge of this kind of research.”

Interdisciplinary research institute works on various projects

The University of Tulsa Institute of Trauma, Adversity and Injustice is an interdisciplinary research institute that brings together scholars, scientists, professionals and students in community-engaged research, education and service initiatives. Most of our efforts focus on three areas: intervention and dissemination of best practices, collective trauma and occupational health. Through the interdisciplinary network of faculty, students and community partners, participants gain a unique perspective of numerous individual and social issues facing local and global communities.

Approximately 20 graduate students currently work on various projects, and several are funded through external grants and gifts from the TU Department of Athletics, the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Students are active participants in cutting-edge research, from development to execution to dissemination. The institute currently has a dozen active studies. Professors Lisa Cromer and Joanne Davis are conducting a clinical trial evaluating a treatment for children with trauma-related nightmares and sleep problems. Graduate students serve as project manager, assessor and therapists.

Elana Newman, TU’s McFarlin Professor of Psychology, supervises a project evaluating a prison diversion program for substance-abusing women. “Women in Recovery” is the first of its kind in Oklahoma. Students assisted in the development of the assessment battery and conduct assessments of the participants prior to the treatment, at several points during treatment, and after they graduate. This interdisciplinary collaboration involves criminological, psychological, legislative, educational, sociological and economic approaches both in the program and the evaluation.

The institute also collaborates with numerous departments across the university as part of the Sexual Assault Education and Prevention Committee, whose mission is to raise awareness and reduce the incidence of interpersonal violence on campus. Graduate students serve on the committee and develop, administer and evaluate violence prevention programs