Kari Tucker, Ph.D.
Co-Chair, Social Sciences
Irvine Valley College
Phone: (949) 451-5447
Ph.D., Social/Personality Psychology, with a minor in Quantitative Psychology, University of California, Riverside, June, 2000
M.A., Psychology, Pepperdine University, 1994
B.A., Psychology, California State University, Fullerton, 1992
Research Interest 1:
My first area of research interest includes effective teaching and the improvement of student learning and commitment in college course-work. Students’ learning is partially dependent on their level of their interest in the material and their commitment to their coursework. However, some students fail to complete their work or attempt to turn in late papers, which is often detrimental to their scores on assignments and perhaps in the course overall. In one study, Caron, Whitmore, and Halgin (1992) found that the frequency at which students use legitimate and fraudulent excuses for late work was similar, and that the excuse of a “family emergency” was more often used in fraudulent excuses than in legitimate excuses. For these participants, it appears that the most common reason for using a fraudulent excuse was the hope of gaining more time. Perhaps the underlying problem is, then, not the veracity of the excuses, but students' procrastination. In a recent study, I explored the extent that students procrastinate in their schoolwork. Fifty-six students (26 males, 30 females) participated in exchange for course credit. Students completed questionnaires at the beginning of the semester and after the first exam. Students were asked several questions about their tendencies to procrastinate. Results showed that the most common reasons for students’ procrastination were related to other obligations, their own personality, their perceptions of working best when rushed, general lack of motivation, and previous history (i.e., they have always done it this way in the past). However, when asked about the primary reason for their procrastination after the first midterm exam, students most often reported that they underestimated the difficulty of the material. Furthermore, when asked what the best steps to changing their procrastination, students generated effective strategies (e.g., provide self-structure, eliminate distractions, stay focused on their goals, and create task lists). These findings suggest that although students know what they need to do to succeed in their course work, they might be initially set back by their lack of planning for the rigor of the class.
Research Interest 2:
A second area of research includes the relationship between cognitive and emotional processes. Recently, I investigated appreciation in happy and unhappy individuals. My research builds on Gray’s (1970, 1972, 1987) work on sensitivity to reward and punishment. He proposed that individuals differ in their sensitivities to reward and punishment because of individual differences in specific neurological structures in the Central Nervous System. Those who are sensitive to rewards are expected to recognize, learn, and recall rewarding stimuli more than are those who are less sensitive to reward. Also, individuals who are sensitive to punishment are expected to recognize, learn, and recall aversive stimuli more than are individuals who are less sensitive to punishment. Individual differences in these biological systems are believed to be the underlying causes of both individual differences in personality and chronic levels of positive and negative affect (these have been identified as the two affective components of happiness—the third, cognitive, component being life satisfaction). Results from numerous studies support the notion that happy people, compared to unhappy ones, are predisposed to experience greater positive affect and less negative affect, and to react more positively to favorable life events and less negatively to unfavorable life events perhaps because of the relatively greater sensitivity of their BAS over their BIS. These results might explain the relative stability in happiness over time and across situations, and how happiness is predicted much better by personality than objective life circumstances (e.g., income, age, objective health). In addition to affective experiences and reactions, the signal-sensitivity systems also explain individual differences in the way happy and unhappy people think about or appreciate their lives, thus bearing on the third component of happiness—i.e., life satisfaction. Although much of the literature on the BAS and BIS in humans has focused on affectivity, Gray (1970; 1985; 1987) acknowledged the importance of cognition in the signal-sensitivity systems, contending that differences in perceptions of stimuli also correspond to individual differences in the BAS and BIS. Therefore, the examination of individual differences, using chronically happy and unhappy people, in the context of reward and punishment signal-sensitivity systems, offers a useful tool in explaining individual differences in emotional and cognitive experiences and reactions to many different life events.
Lyubomirsky, S., Tucker, K. L., & Kasri, F. (2001). Responses to hedonically conflicting social comparisons: Comparing happy and unhappy people. European Journal of Social Psychology, 31, 511-535.
Lyubomirsky, S., & Tucker, K.L. (1998). Implications of individual differences in subjective happiness for perceiving, interpreting, and thinking about life events. Motivation and Emotion, 22, 155-186.
Lyubomirsky, S., Tucker, K. L., Caldwell, N. D., & Berg, K. (1999). Why ruminators are poor problem solvers: Clues from the phenomenology of dysphoric rumination. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 23, 17-49.
Tucker, K. L. (2007). Getting the most out of life: An examination of appreciation, targets of appreciation, and sensitivity to reward in happier and less happy individuals. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 26, 779-813.
Tucker, K. L., Ozer, D., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). Testing for measurement invariance in the Satisfaction With Life Scale: A comparison of Russians and North Americans. Social Indicators Research, 78, 341-360.
Rudmann, J., Tucker, K. L., & Gonzalez, S. (2008). Using cognitive, motivational, and emotional constructs for assessing learning outcomes in student services: An exploratory study. Journal of Applied Research in Community College, 15, 124-137.