2020-2021 Senior Honors Theses

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This collection contains theses produced by Class of 2021 Honors students

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    Stable Isotopes of Macrofossils and Bulk Carbonates from the Late Miocene to Pleistocene Santa Rosalia Basin, Baja California Sur, Mexico
    (2020-12) Taylor, Laura L.
    Modeling of the response to future climate change predict that northwest North America will become more arid. By studying sedimentary deposits from the late Miocene and Pliocene time periods, when mean global air temperatures were ~3 ºC warmer than today and sea-surface temperatures were 3-8 °C warmer than today, scientists can further address the potential future impact of climate change. The late Miocene to Pleistocene Santa Rosalía Basin, located along the western margin of the Gulf of California in Baja California Sur, Mexico has a complex history of sedimentation but the paleoenvironments of fluvial, marginal-marine, and marine deposits in this area are poorly understood and the late Miocene to early Pliocene climate is relatively unknown. In this study, bulk carbonates from the late Miocene Boleo Fm. and bivalve and barnacle macrofossils from the late Miocene Boleo Fm., early to middle Pliocene Tirabuzón Fm., late Pliocene Infierno Fm., and Pleistocene Santa Rosalía Fm. were collected and processed for petrography, species identification, X-ray diffraction, and stable oxygen and carbon isotope analyses. X-ray diffraction analysis and the covariation trends between δ18O and δ13C suggest that the values recorded in these deposits are original. Comparison between the δ18O and δ13C values in this study and common values for Quaternary carbonates reveals a strong freshwater signal on deposits that were previously regarded as marine. In this study, δ18O and δ13C values from the late Miocene Boleo Fm. and the Pliocene Tirabuzón and Infierno Fms. suggest a substantial freshwater source into the basin not present today. δ18O and δ13C values from the Pleistocene Santa Rosalía Fm. no longer record a freshwater influence, as the climate transitioned to the modern arid regime. This suggests that during the late Miocene and Pliocene warmer temperatures did not lead to increased aridity in this region and instead this area was likely more humid than modern times. The Santa Rosalía Basin was likely influenced by a prolonged and intensified North American monsoon resulting from increased sea-surface temperatures and opening of the Gulf of California during the late Miocene and Pliocene.
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    Extractable Units of Bywater
    (2021-05) Flick, Ariana
    William Cronon argues that incoming settlers to the New England landscape could only define their findings in terms of their marketable value rather than their collective value as a system of growth. The danger of extracting profitable elements from an existing ecosystem is that it not only detracts from the overall richness of the place, but hinders any potential for future growth. The Bywater neighborhood in New Orleans is an ecosystem facing this same calculated extraction of its profitable parts: it lays on a natural levee; its located on the Mississippi River; it is in close proximity to downtown; there is cheap property due to the devastation of Katrina. Developers moving into the area buy out parts of the land based off these marketable values without understanding the complexity of the urban fabric. The Bywater neighborhood has a rich history of development from plantation lands to industrial barges to its current identity as an art and residential district. This thesis will seek to develop a rich and equitable infrastructure for the cultivation of both old and new cultural communities while still allowing space for growth in a place that has been historically defined and divided by its profitable parts.
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    Learning from the Non-Place: The Urban Surface of Pasadena, Texas
    (2021-05) Cruz, Cynthia P.
    “This new world of non-place privileges the fleeting, ephemeral, and contingent”, Marc Auge, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Super Modernity Pasadena developed as a small working-class bay area in the early 1900’s with strawberry fields as its identity and economic structure. The shift in the 1930’s to a petrochemical base grew the economy exponentially, and the city developed as a typical post-war urban sprawl. Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi used Learning from Las Vegas to embrace sprawl and the commercial strip as a meaningful way to read the city. They state, “Each city is an archetype rather than a prototype, an exaggerated example from which to derive lessons for the typical. Each city vividly superimposes elements of a supranational scale on the local fabric…” The character of the commercial strip is validation of meaning in the growing a-spatial American urban context. Pasadena’s idealized strip and petrochemical industry amalgamation create a destabilizing city structure. Learning from Las Vegas in Pasadena shows a late 20th century space, dependent on oil and gas in production and consumption. Pasadena resembles the Non-Place. As defined by Marc Auge, the Non-Place refers to anthropological spaces of transience where the human beings remain anonymous and that do not hold enough significance to be regarded as “places”. Pasadena suffers from past celebrations of the sign and strip, forming its existence as Non-Place. However, Alex Wall does offer an alternate way of describing the city- the urban surface. This thesis challenges Pasadena’s reliance on the non-place through the study of the urban surface and its barely visible structures that can support a post-petrol city. To stitch together and develop the urban surface of Pasadena, Texas, a solar park research and practice facility works to joins academia, profession, and commerce within the non-place.
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    What Hands Are Capable Of
    (2021-05) Flores, Matt
    A collection of poems and images with a critical introduction based on personal and historical experiences surrounding south Texas. Emphasizing a distinct Tejano perspective on craft, the found fragments of experience are (re)collected and pieced together here in a mosaic of lyric presentation. This thesis blurs the lines between activism and art as it engages with on the ground investigations surrounding the humanitarian crisis near the southern border, where numerous migrants perish in their attempt to circumvent highway checkpoints in the U.S. Combining this narrative with my own experiences of personal grief, this thesis aims to politicize mourning into fruitful action by way of poetry.
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    Lenses: Reading Palestine Then and Now
    (2021-04) Durrette, Cristobella L.
    Comics journalism tells nonfiction stories through the framework of sequential art. Incorporating literary devices utilized in New Journalism, comics journalism blends visual and verbal elements that create an immersive reader experience. Journalist Joe Sacco’s Palestine integrates text and illustrations to provide a glimpse into the lives of people in the Occupied Palestinian Territories at the end of the first Intifada. Departing from the traditional idea of journalistic objectivity by including himself in the story, Sacco allows readers to inhabit his position and to engage in the world of the story. Drawing on the formal cartooning techniques practiced by Joe Sacco, I crafted the script for a graphic novella to analyze questions about reader engagement and the ethics of witnessing stories of suffering. I illustrated Part 1 of the graphic novella to visually demonstrate theoretical comics concepts. The graphic novella script explores comics theorist Scott McCloud’s concept of a shell character—a narrator or witness whose position that the reader can inhabit within the story—by depicting protagonist Jessica engaging with Palestine. The story traces Jessica’s trajectory as she witnesses and contends with the treatment of Muslims in post-9/11 America and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Like Sacco, Jessica must negotiate between her growing awareness of political violence and her own ethical standing as a white, middle-class American citizen.
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    Data-driven Rules for Individualized Lifestyle Recommendations
    (2020-12) Odo, Chiwetalu P.
    Heart failure (HF) is a global pandemic affecting more than 26 million patients worldwide. Effective management of risk factors is extremely important for reducing heart failure. Lifestyle modification can effectively reduce the risk of heart failure but clinical guidelines are generalized and not tailored for individuals. This project developed a rule-based framework that automatically generates personalized lifestyle modification recommendations for heart failure risk reduction. The proposed framework integrates an ensemble learning-based rule discovery model (RuleFit) that translates the patient-level profiles into actionable patterns (rules), and a rule-based optimization algorithm that searches for the optimal lifestyle modification recommendations based on the patient’s unchangeable profile. The proposed framework was applied to a large population in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study to manage patient risk of fatal coronary heart disease events.
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    Sparse Deconvolution of Pulsatile Growth Hormone Secretion in Adolescents
    (2020-12) Genty, Jon X.
    Growth hormone (GH) is secreted by cells in the anterior pituitary on two time scales: discrete pulses over minutes that occur within a 24-hr pattern. Secretion reflects the balance of stimulatory and inhibitory inputs from the hypothalamus and is influenced by gonadal steroids, stress, nutrition, and sleep/wake states. We propose a novel approach for the analysis of GH data and use this approach to quantify (i) the timing, amplitude, and the number of GH pulses and (ii) GH infusion, clearance, and basal secretion (i.e., time-invariant) rates, using serum GH sampled every 10 minutes during an eight-hour sleep study in 18 adolescents. In our method, we approximate hormonal secretory events by deconvolving GH data via a two-step coordinate descent approach. The first step utilizes a sparse-recovery approach to estimate the timing and amplitude of GH secretory events. The second step estimates physiological parameters. Our method identifies the timing and amplitude of GH pulses and system parameters from experimental and simulated data, with a median R2 of 0.93, among experimental data. Recovering GH pulses and model parameters using this approach may improve the quantification of GH parameters under different physiological and pathological conditions and the design and monitoring of interventions.
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    Dating Violence and Peer Conflict In Adolescents With and Without Borderline Personality Disorder
    (2020-10) Asim, Nabeeha
    Background: A hallmark feature of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is unstable interpersonal relationships. Adolescents with BPD may be more likely to experience teen dating violence (TDV) and peer conflict. Yet, there is little research studying TDV and peer conflict in the context of BPD. The overall aim of this study was to examine whether adolescents with BPD or BPD features report higher levels of TDV and peer conflict. Method: The sample included 235 inpatient adolescents with BPD, 417 non-BPD psychiatric inpatient adolescents, and 441 healthy adolescents. Self-report measures of BPD features, TDV, and peer conflict were completed by the three groups of adolescents. A semi-structured BPD interview was conducted across the two inpatient groups. Results: While controlling for relevant demographic variables, results revealed that TDV victimization, perpetration and all forms and functions of peer conflict had a significant association with borderline features. Furthermore, the BPD group had higher levels of TDV victimization and reactive overt aggression than the psychiatric controls and healthy controls, even after controlling for relevant demographic variables. There were no significant differences between BPD and control groups in TDV perpetration and other forms and functions of peer conflict. Conclusions: Findings suggest that TDV and peer conflict are important correlates for BPD pathology. TDV and peer conflict ought to be considered for early prevention and treatment of BPD.
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    Sectarian Division in Islam: A Comparative Analysis of the Historical and Contemporary Shia-Sunni Schism
    (2021-05) Abidi, Dua Z.
    Through the use of primary and secondary sources, as well as several hundred responses to a survey sent to Muslim communities, this thesis examines sectarianism in Islam, its roots, historical narratives, and recent political events. More specifically, this thesis attempts to address whether certain divisions are irrevocably in place, whether they have been fostered for generations by familial transference, and whether there can ever be reconciliation between Muslims of different sects. In this thesis, I specifically seek to comparatively analyze the historically documented rifts between Shia and Sunni Muslims with the contemporary existence of sectarianism. Moreover, the aspect of politicization is included due to its significant role in the rift. Not only does this thesis provide insight into a millennium-long feud between members of the two largest Islamic sects, but it also gives modern-day Shia and Sunni Muslims a platform to express their own feelings about the internal schism. The disunity that exists within a faith which emphatically promotes brotherhood and unity is, in every sense of the word, paradoxical. Therefore, by examining key secondary sources, as well as amassing data and personal statements from a wide range of individuals who identify with one or the other sect, I provide a clearer view of the contemporary conflict. In the end, I hope that the understanding of these differences – from the point of view of historical and contemporary Muslims – illuminates the inherent desire for undisturbed unification.
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    Social Medias As an Agent In the Political Socialization of Second Generation Latines
    (2021-05) Grado, Karla
    Previous scholarship in political socialization has asserted the influence of parents and peers but is yet to address the influence of social media on the socialization process. Furthermore, within the growing literature of Latine politics and political psychology, the exploration of a bi directional process with social media as a leading agent has not been fully explored. This thesis seeks to contribute to the literature by exploring the way social media has facilitated the introduction to politics to second generation Latines.
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    Manuscripts Don't Burn: Bulgakov As the Soviet Artist, Western Readers, and the Struggle for the Master and Margarita
    (2021-05) Gardin, Russel A., Jr.
    The thesis, “Manuscripts Don’t Burn: Soviet Novelists, Western Readers, and the Struggle for Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita,” argues that Mikhail Bulgakov’s final novel, The Master and Margarita, depicts the moral failures and abuses by Joseph Stalin and the Soviet government in the early 20th century in greater detail than initially believed. The thesis also argues that The Master and Margarita can be read not only as a period piece commentary but autobiographical to a significant degree, recapitulating myriad events both witnessed by and inflicted on Mikhail Bulgakov. To understand why a book shrouded in mysticism and the fantastic would be withheld for the public for multiple decades, observers must look back to the Soviet system of censorship and Bulgakov’s experience with it. Bulgakov, through unusual working relationships with officials, including Stalin, and an inability to succumb to pressures by the government to cease writing, injected his final novel with themes mirroring some of the most difficult moments in the author’s life. The thesis also takes a look at a selected number of Bulgakov’s earlier works to demonstrate how his dealings with the Soviet government and artistic censorship committees alternated between positive and negative—and how he provoked the powers that be when relations soured. Finally, this thesis, using The Master and Margarita as the case study, analyzes the accessibility, reception, and historical legacy of Bulgakov’s work to explain what lessons were learned in the Western world about Soviet literature and society and how these processes evolved through dramatic changes—and an eventual collapse of the system of government.
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    Spanish Translation and Validation of the Medication Management Ability Assessment
    (2021-05) Garcia, Joshua M.
    Impairment in daily function is required for a dementia diagnosis, but no gold standard exists on how to assess this in clinical and research settings. Assessment of daily function often relies on self-report by the patient or on the report of a knowledgeable informant (e.g., spouse, caregiver). However, these subjective methods are vulnerable to unrelated factors, like insight, depression, and caregiver distress. Performance-based functional assessments (PBFAs) objectively assess an individual’s functional ability in activities of daily living and have demonstrated several advantages to subjective measures. In the context of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, certain communities are at increased risk but less likely to be engaging in research. One reason for this may be the lack of culturally appropriate tools. To address this limitation, we translated and validated the Medication Management Abilities Assessment (MMAA) from English to Spanish to increase the number of culturally-sensitive diagnostic tools available for use with Hispanic/Latin Americans, as well as provide a promising measure for medication adherence in this population. Face validity was demonstrated through a focus group (n=6) to revise the translation to acceptable contextual and cultural conditions, while construct validity was demonstrated with a multitrait-multimethod approach through a pilot sample (n=60) that completed psychological and cognitive assessment measures. The hypotheses for establishing convergent and discriminant validity were overall supported by the pilot sample analysis. The test-retest reliability estimate of the MMAA was medium in effect size and demonstrated a small practice effect. PBFAs and objective measures of cognition were significantly and positively associated with medium effect sizes. The self-reported measures of daily function and cognition, as well as the verbal health literacy and reading test were not significantly associated with MMAA performance. The present study provides a measure to further expand the potential clinical utility of PBFAs in culturally diverse, Spanish-speaking populations.
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    Augmented Intelligence Approach To Educational Data Mining: Student Drop Prediction
    (2021-05) Freeman, Keegan
    Educational Data Mining (EDM) and Augmented Intelligence (AUI) are two upcoming fields in the machine learning research industry. EDM refers to the use of machine learning elements in an educational format. Typically, this is in the form of utilizing educational data to better understand the learning process. Augmented Intelligence, on the other hand, is a niche of machine learning that refers to people taking a much larger role than typical in artificial intelligence projects. For example, a professional in a given field may provide better insight as to what metrics should be weighed more when considering a given prediction. In this thesis, I review the feasibility of using Augmented Intelligence in the genre of Educational Data Mining to predict the likelihood of a student dropping a course based on demographic, study habit, and student perception information recorded through a survey. Additionally, I will be testing three optimization algorithms to see which is most beneficial in the application of this research. The goal of this research is to ultimately provide instructors with a machine learning model capable of highlighting at risk students such that the instructor can provide intervention techniques in a more timely fashion.
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    An Improvement for the Pharmaceutical Value Chain: Using Lean Methodologies to Create a Patient-Centered Supply Chain
    (2021-05) Farooqui, Salman
    The pharmaceutical supply chain and medication-use process function to deliver medications to the right patients at the right time. Together, these two segments form the pharmaceutical value chain. The processes of the pharmaceutical value chain have become more complex, with new technology, new types of therapeutics, changing supply chain designs, and stringent government regulations. However, these changes also offer many opportunities for pharmaceutical value chains to increase value for patients. Value is a function of quality, service, and cost; every organization in the pharmaceutical value chain impacts these three variables. The most important variable is quality, since a lack of quality could translate to a medication error that could cause the patient an adverse drug event. To reduce medication errors and resultant adverse drug events, pharmaceutical value chain organizations must consider process improvements with the goal of maximizing value for the patient. Lean methodologies and tools provide an improvement framework that can help achieve greater value. This includes concepts such as continuous, incremental improvement, multi-level employee involvement, experimental thinking, standardization of processes, and error-proofing.
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    Across the Partition: A Creative Exploration of Black Queer Literature
    (2021-05) Reed, Devion T.
    This thesis is a creative project containing three short stories and a critical introduction that explore the intersection of black and queer literature.
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    The Role of Anxiety Sensitivity In Mental Health Outcomes Among Trauma-Exposed College Students and Young Adults During Covid-19
    (2021-05) Kabel, Katherine E.
    Emerging literature has documented the substantial negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of college students and young adults. Although extant work has shown that those with prior trauma exposure have poorer mental health outcomes during infectious disease outbreaks, broadly, substantially less work has focused on putative mechanisms underlying these relations during COVID-19. Therefore, the current study conducted a longitudinal analysis examining the mediating effect of one such vulnerability factor, anxiety sensitivity (AS; the fear of behaviors or sensations related to experiencing anxiety) on the association between baseline PTSD symptom severity and fear of COVID-19, worry about COVID-19, panic, social anxiety, general depression, and suicidality during COVID-19. Participants were 41 trauma-exposed college students and young adults (68.3% female, Mage = 25.39, SD = 6.66). Results indicated that the relationship between baseline PTSD symptom severity and fear of COVID-19 and panic was mediated by AS; however, the same was not true for worry about COVID-19, social anxiety, depression, or suicidality. The current study provides novel empirical evidence that AS is an important transdiagnostic vulnerability factor for trauma-exposed individuals that longitudinally predicts COVID-19 specific and general mental health facets, which may be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Such findings provide additional evidence for the importance of targeting AS in the content of treatment for trauma, stress, and related disorders in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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    Racial Disparities In Black-White Education: A Sociological Conflict Theory Explanation
    (2021-04) Hart, Darralyn Nicole
    Inequalities between African American and white public-school students have continued since desegregation with only slight decrease. Sociologists have attempted to understand how and why inequalities in education between Black and white students are still perpetuated despite desegregation being implemented over 50 years ago. Specifically, conflict theorists have attempted to explain the power construct that has purposefully put these differences in place. The focus of this research will be on disparities in education between Black and white students in America. The various disparities continuing the gap between Black and white education that will be focused on are historical practices and differentials in both funding and teacher credentials. This paper will analyze a set of hypotheses in accordance with these disparities. The hypotheses will have basis in conflict theory with emphasis on John U. Ogbu’s “acting white” theory. In correlation with these hypotheses, data and secondary analysis will be evaluated to reject or accept the hypotheses.
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    The Road To Nowhere
    (2021-04) Key, Noah
    This thesis explores the combination of two distinct film genres: the coming-of-age narrative and the losing-grip-on-reality trope seen in psychological films. Influenced by the global pandemic and other crises, this thesis looks to how young people have to grow up in a time where everything is unknown, and reality is not in its normal state. This thesis comprises of an analytical, introductory essay that explores my creative process, a Hollywood-standard treatment, and an original, feature-length screenplay entitled The Road to Nowhere. Works that inspired and influenced this thesis include Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Graduate, Birdman, Donnie Darko, Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand, and Talking Heads’ Road to Nowhere. The screenplay examines both a crisis of identity and a crisis of reality, asking the following questions: who are we and where do we belong in this world; how do we perceive the world around us; how much are we willing to risk finding happiness; and where do we find happiness: in the jobs and opportunities we earn or the people and environment we surround ourselves with?
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    The Office, Pennzoil Place And Drift: The Information Age
    (2021-05) Jones, Patrick Aaron
    The Houston Central Business District (CBD) is overwhelmed by existing tow-ers that consist of class “A” offic e space. Petroleum companies initially occupied these buildings, such as Pennzoil Place, developed by the real estate investment firm Hines. The recommendation proposed is an unconventional mixed-use program that redevelops the present Penn-zoil Place. As a response to the problem, the recommended design concept hinges on the existence of a flower or nature. The flower concept opposes the oil industry, plus the fascination with petroleum as a pri-mary fuel source since the Industrial Era. Moreover, the concept disrupts the oil and gas industry’s bond to class “A” off ice space. The existence of nature is not permanent. Similarly, class “A” office space and pe-troleum as a primary energy source do not eff ectively serve the Information Age compared to the last age. A mixed-use highrise design creates a living, working, and entertaining environment in one space that can be scaled and duplicated throughout the CBD. This solution will transform Houston’s downtown into an interactive space re-gardless of time, crisis, and economic condition. This approach will produce a more successful use of space which is the purpose of architecture in every age.
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    The Impact and Management of Investment Losses
    (2021-04) Gudapati, Sai P.
    The growing wealth disparity between the top 1% of America and the bottom 70%-80% is partly due to the lack of investment by the bottom half of the country in with the financial markets. The way to get out of poverty is to have income, but the way to achieve financial stability is to build wealth and plan long term. The problem however is that those who experience poverty or who are part of the bottom half of the country, have much more to lose, therefore are averse to investing. For example, the $600 stimulus check for someone who is just above the poverty line means that they will be able to pay the month’s rent or that their family does not have to starve. Any additional money generally goes to basic life necessities rather than investments. There is also the case of the lack of knowledge regarding the markets and market strategies, and the tendency to exit the market when loss occurs. Additionally, success in the stock market comes with experience, the good and the bad. However, those that cannot take such chances are not going to be able to run through experience and never get to truly succeed in the market. Furthermore, investors of all socioeconomic classes tend to feel pressured by the lack of time and the abundance of information when making transactions. This just adds another layer to the difficulty of participating in the market. I hypothesize that: investors react differently based on how they are informed of their losses, loss aversion causes investors to leave the market and forgo gains, and time pressure causes investors to make less than optimal choices. To test my hypotheses, I interviewed three experienced investors as well as three financial advisors to talk about their experiences with the stock market and the strategies they employ to deal with the changes in the stock market. Regarding hypothesis 1, I found that the way investment losses are phrased does affect individual investors. The investors stated that they try not to look at the absolute dollar amount of their loss at all, and that they look at percentages so they can make rational decisions. The financial advisors said that they only communicate their clients’ losses to them in terms of percentages. They state that it is the best way to keep their clients calm and help them make rational decisions to move forward or to mitigate the losses. Regarding hypothesis 2, I found that inexperienced investors will leave the market when they face loss. The financial advisors stated that they all had clients that left the market following the market crash in March 2020. Even when staying in the market meant gains in the long run, many investors chose to leave because of short term losses. Regarding hypothesis 3, I found that both the financial advisors and the investors admit that when they first started out, time pressure was a major reason for their mistakes. But they also said that making transactions under time pressure does get easier as one becomes more experienced.