Dr. Amber Abernathy Studies

Previously Completed Studies – Published

Seeing but Not Feeling: Machiavellian Traits in Relation to Physiological Empathetic Responding and Life ExperiencesPublished

Massey-Abernathy, A. R. & Byrd-Craven, J. (2016). Seeing but Not Feeling: Machiavellian Traits in Relation to Physiological Empathetic Responding and Life Experiences, Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, 2(3), 252-266.

Machiavellian personality traits are often associated with low levels of empathy and lack of interpersonal closeness. However, some individuals high on Machiavellian traits have been shown to be skilled at affective-perspective taking and thereby may appear to exhibit an empathic response. The current study examined reported empathetic response as well as physiological empathetic response (through skin conductance levels) in relationship to Machiavellian personality traits. Physiological responses were examined while participants watched emotion eliciting videos. In addition, life history traits and social strategies were examined in relation to the development of Machiavellian personality traits. The results of the current study reveal that individuals high on Machiavellian personality traits had lower levels of physiological emphatic responding (skin conductance levels), although they did not report less empathy. Additionally, Machiavellian personality traits were associated with the use of bi-strategic social strategies and having a childhood environment with a harsh or inconsistent father. More specifically, a relationship with a harsh or inconsistent father was found to moderate the relationship between Machiavellian personality scores and skin conductance levels, such that those high in Machiavellian traits appeared to be more resistant to the impact of harsh fathering on responses to others’ distress. These results suggest that personality characteristics, social styles, and father’s parenting styles are linked to particular

Functional Leadership: Bi-strategic Controllers High on Effortful Control Show Gains in Status and HealthPublished

Massey-Abernathy, A. R. & Byrd-Craven, J. (2016). Functional Leadership: Bi-strategic Controllers High on Effortful Control Show Gains in Status and Health, Personality and Individual Differences, 97, 193-197.

Most human studies reveal that social strategy is important to dominance rank within a hierarchy. In particular, bi-strategic controller strategies, the combination of prosocial (helping behavior) and coercive strategies (forcing others) are related to achieving and maintaining social dominance. Additionally, temperament traits such as effortful control are important in allowing the individual to fine-tune strategy use to the current context. However, social hierarchies also involve social dynamics that may create physical and emotional challenges, and these challenges are tied to health outcomes. The current study examines the relationships between social positioning, social strategy usage, temperament traits, and health. Findings reveal that self-reported social dominance was related to bi-strategic strategy usage. In addition, rating high in both bi-strategic resource control and effortful control (referred to as functional leadership orientation) was related to a variety of health components including energy, emotional well-being, social functioning and overall physical health. Although the causal direction remains unclear, it appears that bi-strategic controllers who are also high on effortful control are able to achieve both high status and better overall health.

From oxytocin to health: Exploring the relationship between OXTR rs53576, emotional stability, social support, and healthPublished

Massey-Abernathy, A. R. (2017). From oxytocin to health: Exploring the relationship between OXTR rs53576, emotional stability, social support, and health, Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, 3(3), 212-220.

Individuals are often biologically predisposed for certain personality traits. In addition, those traits may enhance or diminish health and overall life satisfaction. One recent area of biological study has been the OXTR rs53576, which is a polymorphic site in the oxytocin receptor gene. OXTR rs53576 is reportedly related to sociality and social orientation. Specifically, homozygous G allele carriers often display more empathy and less stress reactivity, higher trust behaviors, more sensitive parenting or reactivity to infants’ cries and higher optimism and self-esteem. The current study investigates the association between OXTR rs53576 (GG genotype) and the personality trait of emotional stability. Genes may affect psychological tendencies, as well as phenotypical expressions and life outcomes related to these traits. The results of the current study suggest that the oxytocin polymorphism receptor rs53576 may be related to the personality trait emotional stability. Individuals with the G homozygous allele had higher scores in emotional stability. In addition, emotional stability was related to greater overall social support and general health. Taken together, it appears that individuals with OXTR rs53576 G homozygous alleles may have more emotional stability, increased social support and better health

Power Talk: Communication Styles, Vocalization Rates and DominancePublished

Massey-Abernathy, A. R., & Haseltine, E. (2018). Power Talk: Communication Styles, Vocalization Rates and Dominance. Journal of psycholinguistic research, 1-10.

Humans are social beings that form hierarchies to gain and maintain resources. Dominant positions are often obtained through resource control strategies, displayed through language. Language can be examined in a number of ways including number of vocalizations and pragmatic skills. The benefit of pragmatic skills, in relationship to popularity (group dominance), can be explained by virtue signalling and the sociometer theory. The current study examined the relationship of individuals in a novel group setting. Results revealed that popularity within the group was related to the number of vocalizations and increased pragmatic skills. Taken together, it appears that vocalizations and pragmatic skills may help individuals signal their position within the hierarchy, while monitoring the social communications of others.

Health Enhancement and Stress Reduction with Scalar Therapy: Biochemical Stress reduction, scalar energy, healthy longevityPublished

Shealy, C. N., Sorin, S., Abernathy, A., Thomlinson, P., & Landis, P. (2018). Health Enhancement and Stress Reduction with Scalar Therapy: Biochemical stress reduction, scalar energy, healthy longevity, International Journal of Holistic Medicine.

  1. Scalar energy was discovered apparently originally by a Scotsman named Maxwell. Basically it is “longitudinal energy” as distinct from Hertzian transverse or what we ordinarily think of as essentially AC energy. Those who have been working with Scalar energy claim that it is possible to cure illnesses with Scalar energy. This study aims to determine the effects of short term scalar energy exposure on adrenomedullin and free radicals.
  2. Healthy longevity has been associated with low levels of adrenomedullin, with Salento, Italy having the longest living people in the world. Suspecting that there is a high level of longitudinal zero point energy in Salento, we enrolled 26 adults who agreed to have blood drawn for adrenomedullin and then over 4 weeks to spend 36 hours in a scalar energized room, with follow-up blood drawn at conclusion.
  3. Sixteen of the 26 or 62% showed decreased adrenomedullin after 36 hours exposure to scalar. The mean adrenomedullin level measured among research participants at baseline was 163.60 (SD=119.25), and this mean level dropped to 117.17 (SD=70.73) at the posttest, following 36 hours in the scalar room over a four-week period. The paired samples t-test reveals this to be a statistically significant reduction (t[25]=2.0, p=.03), using a one-tailed approach.
  4. Further work will be needed to be certain continuing reductions prove the potential for increasing longevity. Theoretically achieving a healthy 20-year-olds level of adrenomedullin would significantly enhance healthy longevity
  5. Additionally, exposure of 10 individuals to sapphire enhanced scalar for 3 hours led to 40% reduction in free radical production. Expose of live blood to sapphire enhanced scalar for only 20 minutes led to marked reduction in inflammatory markers. Overall, scalar energy, especially piezoelectrically enhanced by sapphire, appears to provide the broadest known reduction in biochemical markers of stress.

Submitted for Publication

Personality Promotion: The Impact of Behavioral Activation and Instructional Feedback on Trait Level Personality Changes. – 2 studiesSubmitted for Publication

  1. Behavioral Activation – Often used for depression – how can this treatment of goal setting be used to improve personality (Conscientiousness)
    1. Personality has evolved and is meant to be to be an adaptive trait for survival and reproduction by directing the behavior and outcomes of individuals through psychological mechanisms. Conscientiousness (one of the Big Five personality traits), in particular, is related to quality and quantity of life. Therefore, it is important to examine ways to enhance ones level of Conscientiousness. Behavioral Activation (BA), which is often used for depression, involves monitoring daily behaviors, selecting activities and goals, and being accountable for actions. The expectancy-value theory (EVT) and the control theory both provide a framework for explaining how behavioral traits of Conscientiousness might be impacted through Behavioral Activation. The current study examined the impact of brief Behavioral Activation training on trait levels of Conscientiousness. Findings showed that 5 weeks of Behavioral Activation increased both logical thinking and preparedness within individuals. -27 participants
  2. Personality Class Feedback – exploring if instructional feedback can change the big five personality factors
    1. 85 participants – 12 weeks of assessments, constructive feedback, repeated reminders, and monitoring.
    2. Change in C, N, E, A
    3. Change increase Wellbeing and General health perceptions
    4. Wellbeing change related to N, A, E
    5. General Health Perception change relating to C, E, A

Studies Being Written Up

  1. Parental Personality and Child Preparation: Warm Father’s and Conscientiousness.
    1. Several studies have examined the importance of a parent’s role in the development of their children. Parental investment has shown to be related to a child’s interpersonal development (Belsky, Steinberg, & Draper, 1991). Parent’s taking an active role in their child’s grown is a significant predictor in the outcome of the child’s life as well as how they interact with others.A parent influence on a child’s development is often studied in relation to their relationship with their mother. Although research is not as abundant, a father’s role in their children’s lives also plays a role in the child’s development into an adult. The amount of time that a father spends with a child has been shown to have an impact in the overall development of the child in many different areas (Byrd-Craven, Geary, Vigil, & Hoard, 2007). A father’s relationship with their child can be a predictor of future characteristics the child will acquire later in life. The current study examines the relationship between warm fathers (Byrd-Craven, et al., 2007 based on work by Skinner et al., 2005) and the presence of high levels of the conscientious personality trait in their children. Two studies were conducted looking at seated and online reports of participants’ personality and parental support. In both studies, the participants were college students, ages 18 to 30. Approximately, 150 students participated.
    2. Study One (49 Participants – Seated study)

In order to determine if warm fathers were related to conscientiousness, a linear regression was conducted revealed that warm fathers predicted conscientiousness (F(1,48) = 4.86, p =.03, ? =.31).

Study Two (107 Participants – Online study)

In order to determine if warm fathers were related to conscientiousness, a linear regression was conducted revealed that warm fathers predicted conscientiousness (F(1,106) = 4.07, p =.05, ? =.19).

My future makes me sweat: The impact of future selves on skin conductance levels, Conscientiousness, and Machiavellian World View. (84 participants)

Is conscientiousness related to more positive or more negative recall? How does Machiavellian world view impact Conscientiousness and skin conductance levels?

Procedural Steps

  • Skin conductance level (3 min) – baseline
  • Positive memory recall and SCL (3min)
  • SCL – baseline (3 min)
  • Negative memory recall SCL (3 min)
  • SCL – baseline (3min)
  • Projected future positive and SCL (3min)
  • SCL – baseline (3 min)
  • Projected future negative and SCL (3min)


  • Increased Conscientiousness related to decrease in skin Conductance levels (SCL) when discussing positive future self
  • Increase Machiavellian World view related to decrease SCL when discussing negative future self
  • Increase Conscientiousness related to decreased Machiavellian World View
  • Reasons – self-validation, Locus of Control (LOC)
    • LOC and Conscientiousness – internal
    • LOC and Machiavellian – external

Tell Me Something Good: the impact of positive primes on skin conductance levels (approximately 89 participants)

Stereotype, popularity, personality, empathy, prosocial behavior

  1. Procedures
    1. Fill out questionnaires
      1. Popularity, Number of friends, Personality inventory, Resource Control Inventory
    2. Attached to biopac for skin conductance (SCL)
    3. Watch video about social rejection – odd girl out video clip
    4. Prime with positive or negative stereotype about popularity from Researcher – 6 groups
      1. high pop with negative prime – Most popular people are selfish and cruel
      2. high pop with pos prime – Most popular people are really kind and friendly
      3. high pop no prime
      4. low pop with negative prime – Most unpopular people are awkward losers
      5. low pop with pos prime – Most unpopular people are really kind and friendly
      6. low pop no prime
    5. Rating of social interaction and anxiety level
    6. Investigator “Drops Paper”
    7. Testing
      1. Does person help?
      2. How does the person rate the social interaction?
      3. What is the empathy level during video?
      4. What is empathy level during Prime?
      5. What role does personality play?
  2. Findings
    1. Popular and unpopular significantly different on Empathy Quotient (EQ) – but not on Skin Conductance Levels (unpopular more empathetic)
    2. Priming impacted skin conductance levels. Greatest change was with Positive primes – regardless of popular or unpopular
    3. Reasons – self-validation, evolutionary benefit to positive

The Mediating Effects of Cortisol on the Relationship Between Conscientiousness and Judgments of Learning (JOL) (51 participants)

Graduate Student thesis -Work with Katy and Erin

  1. The results did not support the relationship between higher conscientiousness and more accurate JOLs. Thus, one might infer that being a conscientious individual does not put you at an advantage when it comes to accurately predicting your learning.
  2. The results from the multilevel model in the third hypothesis indicate that the relationship between the participants’ conscientiousness score and their cortisol level throughout the experiment was significant. It was found that those with higher conscientiousness scores had decreasing salivary cortisol levels over the course of the study. This implies that those who are higher in conscientious are better at evaluating stressors and coping with them, which is consistent with previous research (Gartland et al., 2012).
  3. The participants’ higher conscientiousness scores were associated with lower salivary cortisol levels. Possessing the traits that come along with conscientiousness, such as organization and responsibility, may help an individual with the appraisal of a stressor and the way they respond to it, in addition having an effect on the decreasing of cortisol levels. Looking at this relationship through the scope of an academic setting, it may lead to implications for more positive learning outcomes for those with higher conscientiousness levels.

Effects of a Brief Mindfulness Training on Heart Rate and Cortisol Levels

Graduate Student Thesis – work with Michael and Stephanie

  1. The current study sought to investigate whether a brief exposure to mindfulness could be effective at decreasing stress and increasing psychological flexibility as evidenced by changes in heart rate, cortisol levels and questionnaire scores. This study intended to replicate and extend previous research that shortened versions of mindfulness can be effective at reducing stress and mindfulness combined with corrective feedback could result in longer lasting behavior gains (Mackenzie et al., 2006; Viladaga, 2013). The results of the current study partially support the previous finding that mindfulness exercises can be effective at reducing stress and improving psychological flexibility (Carmody & Baer, 2009; Delizonna et al., 2009; Moore, 2008). Heart rate data was variable, but for some individuals, brief exposure to mindfulness was helpful in increasing psychological flexibility (according to test scores), decreasing cortisol levels and decreasing scores on the Perceived Stress Scale. Unlike previous research, this investigation examined the participant’s physiological reaction to a stress video after mindfulness was introduced and examined changes in heart rate, cortisol, and questionnaire scores.

Current Working Studies

Many faces of personality (Personality Class Study 2)

  1. Procedures
    1. Self-report Personality Assessment
    2. Stranger (in-class = unknown who it is) Personality Assessment
    3. Family member personality assessment
    4. Significant other/friend personality assessment
  2. Do people accurately rate their own personality? How do others see us?

I played a game to relax: how types of biofeedback may help with stress reduction – Dallas Thesis (Alive software and control)

Study investigates if biofeedback (alive software – video game through biofeedback) is beneficial to reduce stress and improve life quality and quantity. This will be determined by pre/post questionnaires as well as change in cortisol response.

Procedural Steps

  1. Participants take questionnaires – FFMQ, (five facet mindfulness questionnaire) – 39 questions, SURPS (Substance Use Risk Profile Scale) – 23 questions, anxiety scale, DASS (Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale) 21 items: has both stress and anxiety, anxiety is more focused on physiological stress seems more cognitive based on how one, STAI (state trait anxiety inventory) state portion, Scale that differentiates between cognition focused anxiety and physiological psychology, IPIP (personality inventory) – 50 questions short version, RAND- 36 health and wellness questionnaire, Acceptance measure AAQ-2 10Q, demographic
  2. cortisol and stress video – cortisol collected 3 times (6 times for both pre/post condition)
  3. Random selection
    1. AliveControl – look at magazines facts about stress and health
  4. Answer questionnaires again

Session 1: informed consent ? Saliva ? 5 minute stressor ? wait 15 minutes with magazine for peak ? saliva ? “Just relax” for 15 min ? saliva ? questionnaires ?trained on stress reduction condition and set up subsequent appointments ~1.5 hours

Session 2 and 3: stress reduction condition 1 or 2 ~15 min each (30 minutes total)

Session 4: Saliva ? 5 minute stressor? wait 15 minutes with magazine for peak ? saliva ? 15 minutes stress reduction condition 1 or 2 ? saliva ? questionnaires~1 hour

~60 minutes total training on stress reduction condition over 1-2 weeks

The impact of yoga and personality on cortisol levels after a stressor

Student thesis – Tabetha

  1. Random selection to control group (look at magazines or yoga group)
  2. Procedure
    1. Saliva collection
    2. Trier social stress test (TSST)
    3. Saliva collection
    4. Yoga with video or look at magazines (15 min)
    5. Saliva Collection
    6. Questionnaires (15-20 min)
      1. Personality
      2. others
    7. Saliva Collection
  3. Does yoga impact cortisol by returning to baseline sooner than control groups? Does personality play a role in cortisol response to TSST? Does personality impact the cortisol change after yoga or control?
  1. Meditation and Yoga Class vs. Abnormal Class
    1. Compare groups on the following through questionnaires
      1. Personality
      2. Health and emotional well-being
      3. Happiness and life satisfaction
      4. Acceptance
      5. Self-regulation
  2. Telomeres, yoga, personality, and health

Student thesis – with Dr. Ann Rost – Dr. Erin Buchannan

Evaluate yoga as an intervention for women with ovarian cancer. How does personality impact this? Can yoga help to not decrease telomere length in these patients? Is personality a factor in this relationship?

The impact of Pulse Electromagnetic Frequency on personality and emotional/physical health

  1. Daily use – 30 minutes for a month
  2. EMF’s are like a spark plug or catalyst for energy production in the cell. Bryant Meyers claims in his book “PEMF: The 5th Element of Health” the top 8 benefits for using PEMF therapy are:
    1. Stronger Bones
    2. Endorphins and Pain Relief
    3. Better Sleep and Human Growth Hormone secretion
    4. More Energy ATP
    5. Better Oxygenation and Circulation
    6. Improved Immunity
    7. Relaxation & Stress Reduction
    8. Nerve and Tissue Regeneration
    9. Placing the Shealy-Sorin Chakra Sweep PEMF near the head INCREASES gamma activity strikingly! HIGH GAMMA LEVELS are associated with high intelligence, creativity, happiness, compassion, self-control. Just 30 minutes of our PEMF increases brain, mind and body energy. Just add the Shealy-Wellness cap, put the PEMF coil on your head and enjoy GAMMA!
    10. PEMF is Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Field. Natural PEMF comes from more than 7 million lightning bolts that strike the Earth every day. These flashes of energy from above resonate and ring the proverbial bell of the ionosphere to an average note of 7.83 Hz, also known as the Schumann Resonance and its first 6 harmonics (multiples) that our bodies are accustomed. The sHEALy-Sorin Chakra Sweep device sweeps all those natural frequencies from 5.83 Hz thru 56.83 Hz with Pulsed Electro Magnetic Field signals. The sweep frequency starts at 5.83 Hz and increases 1 Hz every 15 seconds thru 56.83 Hz. A full sweep completes every 12 minutes and 45 seconds and runs continuously.

Inside each of our trillions of cells are 200 to 300 mitochondria; they turn the food you eat into electrical energy, or electrons in a high-energy state and store them in ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). The average person expends their body weight in ATP every day; since the normal person only has 50 grams of total ATP in their body, the ATP is recycled or recharged 1000 to 1500 times a day in the mitochondria. ATP is our ultimate rechargeable battery.

Personality (primarily conscientiousness), stress, and health behaviors – online study

  1. The purpose of this research is to examine the relationship between personality, stress, and health. Research has shown that personality impacts stress as well as decisions regarding health behaviors. This research will aid the previous literature by examining the interaction of these factors to determine the best possible health outcome for individuals.
  2. Additionally, different questionnaires will be used to measure conscientiousness and the questionnaires will be compared.

Long standing studies

Audio, visual, or both

The purpose of this study is to conduct a comparison of relaxation technology and effectiveness using: baseline, audio (Binaural Beats), visual (Relax Mate) and both as a combination (AVE-Audio-Visual Entrainment). There are many studies with benefit of each of these. To our knowledge, this will be the first to examine which, if any, of these technological devices are most helpful in relaxation. The study will include a single session with EEG recording the effect of each of these modalities (baseline/audio/visual/AVE).

Participants will complete a demographic questionnaire then fitted with a cap of electrodes that will measure the small electrical signals produced by their brain, in a completely non-invasive manner. Next, they will lay quietly for 12 minutes attached to the EEG in order to obtain a baseline reading. Next, participants will complete the Visual Analog Relaxation Scale. They will then wear the Relax Mate glasses and once again lay quietly while attached to the EEG for 12 minutes. They will complete the Visual Analog Relaxation Scale again. Then wear headphones while they listening to Binaural Beats and attached to the EEG for 12 minutes. They will complete the Visual Analog Relaxation Scale again. Then they will wear the Relax Mate Glasses and wear the headphones while listening to the Binaural Beat and attached to the EEG for 12 minutes. Finally, they will complete the Visual Analog Relaxation Scale for the final time. All information obtained from participants will involve an arbitrary number and your name will not be associated with responses.

Insomnia Study

Over the course of 5 weeks, you will complete several questionnaires and use a sound chair and relax-mate glasses with optimal vibration, color, sound and light. The combination of these at the right frequency is used to help with stress reduction, detox, and relaxation. You will be asked to complete 3 sessions during the first week and then once a week for 4 weeks. Sessions last approximately 30 minutes to 1 hours. A recheck of insomnia, stress, health, and conscientiousness will take place during last visit

Depression and Sapphire – 8 participants

Participants will complete a series of questionnaires through Qualtrics, an online computer program. Participants will then be randomly assigned one of two conditions; the first is crushed sapphire and the second is a placebo group, both groups will be asked to wear a small leather around the neck for one month. Participants will be instructed not to open the pouch and not to touch it often. The pouch is to be worn as often as possible but may be removed at night and may be placed in the participant’s pocket if they are not able to wear it around the neck. After the month, participants will complete the Questionnaire for a second time. In a pilot study, Norm found that wearing ground sapphire assists with reduction of anxiety, depression, and calcium in the cardiac vessels.

Possible Future Studies

  1. Improving Self-regulation (self-regulation and conscientiousness) Self-regulation is a large component on conscientiousness as well as better health practices. The study aims to improve individuals’ self-regulation and see if personality (conscientiousness) as well as health changes.Procedural Steps
    1. Personality assessment, self-regulation questionnaire, health and wellness
    2. Given impossible algorithms (heart rate obtained)
    3. Self-regulation training – temperature
    4. Two weeks of implementation (diary must be kept – text reminders)
    5. Redo assessments and algorithm task (heart rate obtained)
  2. Skin conductance levels (while watching stress video) of fathers and children. Examine in relationship to Personality (Conscientiousness) and Machiavellian traits
    1. Add cortisol synchrony

Mindfulness – Meditation?

Hard to determine a direct definition or way of studying mindfulness (often meditation) operates or trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness broad variety of practices that includes techniques designed to promote relaxation awareness – mindfulness generating an emotional state mantra concentrating on breathing physical posture mental silence

Meditation is often used to clear the mind and ease many health concerns, such as high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety – mental and physical conditions
Research – Changes in the brain – body awareness (prefrontal lobe)
Health (cortical thickness)
Sustained attention, selective attention, executive control
Emotional regulation
Brain waves in relaxing state
Monk – most left-sided asymmetry every recorded (pleasant emotions, positive thinking)
Mindfulness meditation – shift toward left-sided asymmetry – immune boost

Anxiety and Sound

Study involves layered sounds created by Sound and PTSD researcher. Participants will answer a series of questionnaires. Then given a stress task and skin conductance and heart rate variability will be examined. Participants will be given the sound/frequency CD and asked to listen a minimum of 2 hours a week for 4 weeks. Questionnaires will and stress task will be completed again.

  1. Social support and cortisol synchrony – how are levels of cortisol synchrony impacted by conscientiousness – positively or negatively (parent/child, friend/friend, partner/spouse)
  2. Emotional competency in relation to conscientiousness – possible EC training
  3. The conscious of conscientiousness – how religiosity is related to conscientiousness
  4. Pyramid sounds – sounds from inside pyramids and how they change brain waves