US tab

Amber Dukes

Undergraduate Majors: Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies

McNair Mentor:
Dr. Charles Negy, Psychology Department

Future Plans: Evolutionary Psychology Ph.D.

Amber Dukes

Amber Dukes was born in Ocala, Florida. She is earning dual degrees in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies, both with the distinction of Honors in Major. Her research interest is in Evolutionary Psychology with a focus on morality. Her current research project is an exploration of the 7 deadly sins from an evolutionary perspective. Previously, her research has explored variables associated with attraction to psychopaths. She was a participant in the 2008 Summer Research Academy, and is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar. Amber was selected to do summer research at the University of Pennsylvania with Dr. Robert Kurzban as part of the Leadership Alliance. At UCF, Amber is mentored by Drs. Charles Negy, Bernadette Jungblut, and Mason Cash. The following is an abstract of research Amber completed as an undergraduate at UCF:

Title: Is Causing Harm Wrongful? Or is a Harmful Wrong Causal?

Conducted at the University of Pennsylvania as part of the Leadership Alliance and Summer Undergraduate Internship Program (SUIP).

Mentor: Robert Kurzban, Psychology Dept, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract: Current theories in psychology, as well as lay intuitions, suggest that judgments of causality precede judgments of moral culpability: individuals perceived to have caused a harm are, everything else equal, judged morally culpable while individuals perceived not to have caused a harm are, holding aside special circumstances, held blameless. This idea – that moral judgments turn on prior causal judgments – has been suggested as the explanation for the “omission bias,” the finding that violations by omission are judged less morally wrong than violations by commission, holding intentions constant. Here we explore a counterintuitive hypothesis, that inferences go the other way. Do intuitions about moral culpability influence people’s judgments of causality? We presented subjects with a vignette in which a bystander observed a runaway train about to hit an object on the track and could divert the train around the object, but failed to do so. Two variables were manipulated in a 2x2 between-subjects design. In one case, the bystander did nothing at all; in the other, the bystander hit a button which had no effect on the train’s path. The other dimension was the identity of the object: either a pile of leaves, or a person. People were more likely to judge that the bystander caused the train to hit the object when it was a person, particularly when the bystander pushed the button as opposed to doing nothing. Although causality was constant across conditions, judgments of causality varied, and tracked intuitions of moral wrongness. 

Title: Variables associated with attraction to individuals with psychopathic traits.

Conducted at the University of Central Florida as part of the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program.

Mentor: Dr. Charles Negy, UCF Psycholgy

Awards: First place in Social Sciences I category, 2009 SURE; Honors in Major Scholarship; UCF Psi Chi Research Award

Abstract: Psychopaths are charming, manipulative, remorseless individuals who compose two to five percent of the population; the majority of these individuals are not incarcerated. Hare (1993) stated that psychopaths leave behind them a trail of “broken hearts, empty wallets, and shattered promises” (p. xi). This study entitled “Variables associated with attraction to individuals of psychopathic traits” sought to explore potential vulnerabilities that may lead an individual to the involvement with this potentially dangerous population potentially dangerous population. Participants were presented with a dating profile/vignette of an other-sexed individual with psychopathic characteristics. Undergraduate participants (n=587) were pooled from a large southeastern university which rated their desire to associate with an individual with psychopathic traits on 6 different scaled items. Participants then completed a series of valid and reliable personality instruments. Using multiple regression analyses, results suggested that scores on psychopathy, empathy, need for affiliation, age, and impulsiveness were significant predictors of attraction score. Whereas the majority of research regarding psychopathy focuses on clinical populations of psychopaths themselves, this study sought to explore variables that would correlate with a desire become involved with a sub-clinical psychopath. Results also suggest that there are personality variables that correlate with attraction to a potentially psychopathic mate, with younger participants being more apt to indicate higher attraction scores. Future directions of this research are to create programs to make at-risk individuals aware of ways to recognize and inhibit psychopaths.