Tag Archives: College of Human Ecology

by David Garavito and Allison M. Hermann

Junior and senior high school students from Ithaca Youth Bureau’s College Discovery Program visited the Department of Human Development to learn about college, research, and concussions from members of Dr. Valerie Reyna's Laboratory for Rational Decision Making (LRDM).

gelatin brain used for concussion simulation

The middle schoolers attended a concussion and the brain workshop on July 17th at the LRDM lab in Martha Van Rensselaer Hall led by David Garavito (JD/PhD) and Joseph DeTello '18. The group participated in a research project on concussions and decision-making and then took part in an interactive program about concussions. Students shook eggs to demonstrate how you don’t need to crack a shell (their skulls) to damage a yoke (their brains). Then they compressed and stretched gelatin brains to see how diffuse damage to neural fibers (axons) in the brain can occur after the impact of a concussion.

Allison Franz '18 and middle schoolers from Ithaca Youth Bureau

Allison Franz '18 got the group moving with a game of “blob tag". In this game, a group of students form a “blob” and try to tag other students without letting go of each others’ hands. The tagged students then became part of the blob. As the blob grew and people pulled in different directions, the blob would break apart and lose the tagged players. This is similar to what occurs when there is a blow to the skull and the skull comes to a fast stop - the brain moves in different directions and the neural fibers break resulting in diffuse damage to the neuronal axons.

The high school students attended the second brain and concussion workshop in the LRDM lab on August 16th. They participated in the concussion and decision-making project followed by a hands-on demonstration of concussion risks even when wearing helmets. The students loved creating their own "helmets” to protect eggs which were dropped from a great height. They learned that not only did they need to protect the egg from hitting the ground, they also needed to slow the momentum of the egg. This is a very important lesson to learn, as there is often a false sense of security when wearing a helmet in sports like football. Although the skull may be protected by a helmet, an abrupt momentum shift causes the brain to keep moving, resulting in the brain hitting the skull and a concussion.

James Jones-Rounds, HEP lab, and high school students from the Ithaca Youth Bureau

The group also visited the HD EEG and Psychophysiology (HEP) Laboratory. James Jones-Rounds, HEP manager, the lab equipment used for gathering data about electrical activity of the brain, electrical characteristics of the skin, and measurement of eye activity. Many of the students volunteered to be in the demonstration - one student even tried on the mobile EEG headset and managed to move a box on a computer screen using her mind!

We gratefully acknowledge Engaged Cornell for funding the Engaged Risky Decision Making project which supports our research and outreach with adolescents on the risks of sports-related concussions.

The Cornell Chronicle, April 20, 2017.

By Susan Kelley

Giuseppe Arcimboldo. Vertumnus, 1590.

They say you are what you eat.

But that may not be true for vegetarians.

A Cornell undergraduate and his academic adviser have come up with a new way to think about vegetarians. And it’s not just about what’s on their plates.

The new theory proposes that vegetarianism is an identity, not just a series of decisions about what to eat. Choosing a plant-based diet – and a wide variety of ways that people think, feel and behave in relation to that choice – provides vegetarians with a sense of self, the researchers said, just as race, religion, gender or sexual orientation can provide an identity for others. The paper was published Jan. 18 in Appetite.

“It might seem that vegetarianism is just a diet,” said Daniel Rosenfeld ’18, co-author of the paper. “But for a lot of people, it can have a large impact on how they feel about themselves and how they reflect on who they are. Following a plant-based diet is really a core part of their identity.”

Eating a vegetarian diet and identifying as vegetarian are two different things, the authors said. For example, a 2012 survey found that 5 percent of adults in the United States considered themselves vegetarian. But only 3 percent actually ate a plant-based diet. And some who avoid animal products may not consider themselves vegetarian at all, according to the paper.

Rosenfeld, a human development major, came up with the idea of a vegetarian identity when he was taking a class on racial and ethnic identity with his co-author, Anthony Burrow, assistant professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology.

Learning about theoretical perspectives on race as identity, Rosenfeld began to see similarities between how people speak about vegetarianism and race. “Race and vegetarianism seem so different,” he said. “But when we look through a psychological lens at how any behavior or self-attribute can define who we are, it becomes very clear that people who identify with a racial group or with this plant-based diet group can both be thought of through identity frameworks.”

Drawing on several psychological theories, the Rosenfeld and Burrows’ Unified Model of Vegetarian Identity describes 10 measurable “dimensions,” or aspects, of a vegetarian identity.

The first three aspects – historical embeddedness, timing and duration – involve the social contexts that shape how someone sees themselves as an eater. For example, the time and place in which we live can affect expectations about how and what we eat; moving to a city with lots of vegetarians may influence someone to adopt a more vegetarian diet and maybe even change how they self-identify.

Other dimensions include how people incorporate their food choices into their sense of self. Salience and centrality, for example, involve the extent to which being vegetarian is a defining feature of one’s identity.

Motivation also plays a role. A notable finding is that vegetarians have different dietary motivations than people who eat just a small amount of meat but aren’t fully vegetarian. While only 21 percent of those in the low meat-eating group were motivated by animal welfare concerns, this figure was a whopping 71 percent among vegetarians, Rosenfeld said.

“These results suggest that having ethical motivations about animal welfare is more strongly associated with going full-on vegetarian, rather than just decreasing one’s meat intake,” he said.

Some dimensions refer to how positively or negatively a person feels about vegetarians and omnivores. For example, a vegetarian may feel disgust, anger or resentment when she sees someone wearing a fur coat or leather jacket; those feelings are part of what Rosenfeld and Burrow call “low omnivorous regard.”

Of course, food choice is also a factor. The dimension of “strictness” measures how closely one adheres to a plant-based diet, while the dimension dietary pattern refers to the foods one avoids, such as eggs, dairy or fish.

Dietary strictness has caused some methodological inconsistencies across studies, Rosenfeld points out.

“If a participant identifies as vegetarian but eats meat occasionally, should a researcher label them as a vegetarian?” he said. “It’s these intricacies that make studying vegetarianism so exciting. Going forward, I hope our identity model can provide a new perspective for making sense of what seems nonsensical.”

Elizabeth Cavic

Elizabeth Cavic is a rising senior in the Department of Human Development and was a 2017 College of Human Ecology CCE Summer Intern working on the project "Enhancing Children’s Play and Parent’s Knowledge in Suffolk County" under the direction of Dr. Marianella Casasola and the CCE partners, Suffolk County Family and Health and Wellness Program, and Suffolk County Farm and Education Center. She created the following e-journal of her internship experience.

 

Week 1!

This week was my first (almost) full week with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County (herein called "CCE"). I arrived on Memorial Day (Monday evening) around 10 PM and started work Tuesday. For the 6 weeks that I will be interning with CCE, I will be splitting my time between the Riverhead office and the Farm and Education Center (located in Yaphank). For the most part, I will be working in Riverhead Tuesdays and Wednesdays and in Yaphank on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

This first week was largely an orientation week for me. Several of my supervisors showed me around the farm and Riverhead office, I was given my duties and workspaces, and I just generally oriented myself to my new surroundings! I enjoyed my time at the office a lot, as I'm surrounded by people who are experts in all their respective fields (all somehow relating to Family Health and Wellness). My time at the farm, however, was also super incredible. Growing up in upstate New York, I was always surrounded by long stretches of countryside and there was always a farm no more than 15 minutes or so in any direction. However, this did give me the opportunity to get up close and personal with some things I haven't seen in a long time (namely lambs and roosters), which I really enjoyed!

Of course, my job there is not to hang out with the adorable sheep and lambs, but to develop a design that helps parents understand how critical play is to development. For example, the Outdoor Explore classroom contains an element that is intended for children to paint on (with water). Essentially, there are three pieces of slate (pictured left). Each piece of slate has a bucket attached, each bucket full of water and a couple paintbrushes. Water can be used to "paint" on these slates. While children may not look as though they are doing much during their painting sessions, the large sweeping motions that can be seen are critical to gross motor development in preschoolers.

Gross motor development (being able to control and manipulate the muscles in the shoulder and upper arm) is, then, absolutely imperative to the development of fine motor skills (manipulation of the hands and fingers). Of course, looking at a child fooling around with a bucket, and paintbrush, and a few pieces of slate may seem useless to parents who have little to no background in Human (specifically, Child) Development. That's where I come in. Of course, it's week 1, so I'm not quite sure yet how I come in, but I know that I definitely will! Until next week!

Week 2!

This week has flown by! Today marks the end of my first full week working for CCE of Suffolk County. This has been an extremely full week, complete with field trips, tours around preschools and other outdoor classrooms, a lot of statistics, graphs, charts, powerpoint presentations, and photos! Last week, largely an orientation week, was spent brainstorming ideas, as was much of this week.

The schedule for the duration of my internship is as follows: two weeks researching and brainstorming, two weeks implementing changes in the Outdoor Explore Classroom, and two weeks tweaking my adjustments. One of the final steps in my first two weeks was to visit other outdoor classrooms in the area. Our first stop was at Play Groups School in East Setauket. This school was an absolute blast to visit - the classrooms were incredible, the instructors were all so professional and so warm (the perfect mix for preschool teachers), and all the children were playing with developmentally appropriate materials. This little flower-filled shoe (left) was used during their recycling/Earth day project, in which children planted flowers in their old shoes. Because of this, there were dozens of little flower-filled shoes sitting around the outdoor classroom which nearly brought me to tears.

So much of the dialogue surrounding preschool education in the United States today is littered with talk of "didactic" learning or "academic- oriented preschools". However, the children of this preschool (and preschools across the country) were thriving with very simple (and age- appropriate) play materials! In fact, when walking in, I was a bit taken aback by the amount of material the children had at their disposal - water tables, dress up clothes, easels, fish tanks, huge playhouses inside the building, blocks, and countless other materials. It was, by all counts, incredible. The children were actively engaged in what they were doing and were learning new things with every move they made. Their outdoor classroom was equally impressive - between the water feature (right), the spot for bird-watching, the stage, the regular playground, and the block station, it was even difficult for me to stay professional.

Next, we visited the Long Island Children's Museum (LICM). One of their most interesting features was the Strawberry Maze (left). The black material was a "composting sock," filled with compost material on which the strawberry plants were growing. Children went into the maze, completed it, and ate strawberries along the way. The museum also contained a beautiful water feature (with dams, rivers, a water wheel, etc.). This inspired me to continue working on the farm's future water feature.

Next, we headed to the Middle Country Library. This library was so impressive for a whole multitude of reasons (some, but definitely not all of which, had to do with its outdoor explore classroom). This place was incredible:

  • The men's bathroom had a changing table, which shouldn't be such a big deal but, even in 2017, is not a super common occurrence and any public organization where that occurs is, in my opinion, way ahead of the game!
  • The outside of the building is - beyond being incredibly aesthetically pleasing - covered with what look like "fish scales". Very fitting for a library out in Long Island.
  • They had a "I read 1000 books before Kindergarten" feature - there were 100 clear backpacks on the shelves, each of which contained 10 picture -- or very short chapter -- books. A child could take out a backpack, bring it home, read the 10 books, return the backpack, and there would be 99 more waiting for the child. When the child completed all 100 of the backpacks (and consequently 1000 books), he/she/they got their face on a wall of the other children who had completed it. No lie, this bulletin board made me tear up it was so adorable.

- back to the classroom - it was absolutely incredible. It had places for building, places for reading, performing, digging, etc. (and SO SO many caterpillars)... The photo above (of the brick and my then-soaking-wet-from-walking-through-the-damp-grass-all- day espadrilles) was part of a fundraiser that the library did to fund the outdoor classroom. Each brick contained a title of a children's book (the book referenced in this brick can be found here) and a sponsor could "buy" a brick for $100 prior to the building of the classroom. I found it to be so heartwarming looking through the books that people held close to their hearts.

With all this work, I have (obviously) been very busy! However, there is always time to head down to the beach to put my feet in the water (it's still too chilly down here for a good swim - today is the best day thus far and it's only 75). As usual, I'm enjoying myself at work and in my spare time. I'm trying to read a book a week this summer and this week, the book that I have chosen is called "The Color of Water" by James McBride. So far so good. And for those of you who care or are curious, last week was "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell. Equally wonderful and a super interesting non-fiction read. I'll make sure to keep you all updated on my progress (both personally and professionally) for the remainder of my internship. Until next week!

Week 3!

This week was so busy, I almost forgot to publish my post for this week (sorry about that, folks). This week started out on Monday with me finishing up preparations for my project - including making a supply list and merging that with my budget, researching how to implement a QR code for an audio tour the farm will be adding to the Nature Explore Classroom, and finalizing my list of projects that I'm going to work on!

After several long weeks of preparation, I finally started doing a project! This began on Sunday when my friend Marissa and I went to Southold Town beach and collected 360+ nicely-sized rocks!

Surprisingly, that only took us 20-30 minutes (and I got to watch a super beautiful sunset on the water right afterwards, so I definitely was not complaining about having to be at the beach). On Monday, I brought my rocks to the farm and washed them off and then pre-sketched all the letters onto the rocks so they could be painted the following day that I was at the farm.

On Thursday morning, I scoured the farm for acrylic paints that we may have already had and began painting some of the rocks with that (below). Unfortunately, we only had 3 good colors (and of course, I'm a color addict, so I really wanted more than that for this project). Fortunately, one of my field supervisors (Katie) was super understanding about the fact that I needed more paint and we took a trip to Michaels to get supplies for the rocks (paints, paintbrushes, sealer, etc.) and a few of my other upcoming projects.

After returning to the farm, I finally got to start painting the bulk of them!

Now, I never really knew how to conceptualize 360 rocks before today, but now I know that that means literally an eight-hour day of just painting rocks.

I've added this photo (right) so that you all can begin to conceptualize how many rocks 360 really is! A ton! Regardless, I got it done and was really pleased with the final results. Next week, I will be sealing them so that they can be outside safely and will not chip or blister, etc. From here, I think that my next project will be the ribbon chandeliers. I don't foresee those taking too long, but I'm hoping that sometime soon I can get started on the mud kitchen!

International Mud Day is coming faster than I had expected (it's this coming Saturday at 10 AM at the farm!) and I am not as prepared as I'd like to be, but still truckin' along! I think the implementation of that project will be a real game-changer for the Nature Explore Classroom (or at least I hope it will - I know I would've loved a mud kitchen as a kid). But anyway, I hope you all are having as great a summer as I am! Until next week.

Week 4!

I cannot believe that it's already my fourth week! As I write this (on Sunday actually - past my deadline), I am in shock that I only have 9 days left of my internship! This coming week, I will work Monday - Friday, and then the following week will be a four-day week, with July 4th on Tuesday.

Anyway, this week was absolutely crazy! I (of course) got my weekly dose of run-ins with the farm cats (my favorite of which is pictured to the left), I got time at the Riverhead office, and yesterday (Saturday) was our celebration for international mud day! International mud day is actually June 29th, but for the sake of having a good turn out, we celebrated it the weekend before. For those who don't know know, mud day is literally just a day in which kids and adults come to the farm and play in mud (the entire time).

At the farm, that means two huge kiddie pools filled with topsoil are plopped on the ground, and water is added in the morning. Progressively, throughout the day, children play in the pools, carry the mud around, sit in it, step on it, throw it at each other (and their parents), scoop it up with kitchen utensils and shovels, put it in baking pans, etc. The aftermath is what you see (right). When the pools are picked up, there is a 4-inch layer of mud left on the ground everywhere except where the pools were stationed. As you can imagine, the clean up for this event took a substantial amount of time, even with several people helping to get everything de-muddied. In fact, I think there is mud so deeply embedded in my feet right now that I'm at least 3 sheets browner from ankle down (even after several hose- offs and a shower).

So, now to backtrack. This week I spent a lot of time prepping for International Mud Day. The biggest project that I worked on was making the mud kitchen (left)! This took several sketches and re-sketches, several trips to different stores, and a lot of help from Richard, the man who does maintenance work for the farm. It took a total of 7 hours, and by the end I couldn't feel my forearm (I used nails, not screws, ugh). However, I got my supplies on Thursday afternoon and it was finished by Friday and usable for Mud Day (which was the goal of this internship).

In total, the farm had about 2,000 people present for some portion of the festivities, a large number of those people being under the age of 5! I was super pleased to see people enjoying the mud kitchen during the day, especially little people (one of these little people pictured left). The concept was stemmed from my boss Allison and I (with a little help from pinterest) and the execution was mostly me (although my dad's insistence that I learn how to use power tools in middle and high school did come in handy).

Fortunately, my mud kitchen was a disaster by the end of Mud Day! Anything less would have meant that I did my job poorly. Luckily, however, it is really easy to clean again (just take the bowls out and hose it off) and it's back to usable condition! Overall, I would definitely recommend this project to any adult who has children or who works with children - little ones are so infrequently allowed to get dirty anymore and it is a critical part of childhood!

I was also lucky enough to have several of my other classroom additions ready in time for International Mud Day! Both my painted rocks and my scales were debuted that day (and from what I saw, kids were really enjoying them). Pictures of those can also be found below! I think there are a few things that I'd like to add or change, but overall I'm extremely pleased with the progress that I've made thus far. With a little under two weeks left, I'm signing off!

Week 5!

This week was, as usual, pretty hectic! I finished up several projects, including the water tables and my ribbon chandelier!

As you can see, my ribbon chandelier came out pretty cool! I was going for technicolor and really appealing to the eye (especially the young child's eye) and I think that's exactly how it came out! While I was securing it onto the gazebo, there was there this girl Marissa (who looked to be about two years old) with her parents and she kept coming up to me repeatedly saying, "there's a birthday party today!" because the ribbon chandelier looks like birthday streamers. Of course, her parents were rushing her along because her one-year-old brother was fussing, but what an incredible observation, connection, and conclusion on her part!

Finally, after it was hung up she got to go inside the hoop! As an added bonus, this was intended to a pretend play prop, which I believe it was for her. The entire time I was hanging this up, her hands were full of the letter rocks I painted, and she was putting them in the cupcake tins from Mud Day, calling them eggs she was using for "brownies" for the birthday that was happening! Very cool and imaginative little girl, indeed.

We were also fortunate enough to receive a donation from someone the other day of a whole set of painted wooden "blocks." They were really just a a 2" x 2" piece of wood cut into smaller pieces, but that's all blocks ever are anyway, and plus, they were a donation, so they were better than nothing and the person was generous to have brought them all the way over here when they could have thrown them out! Anyway! I upcycled them with some of the leftover acrylic paint from the letter rocks and now we have a really cool set of blocks that I'll be putting outside later today!

And finally I was able to somewhat finish my water tables! I still need some of the PVC pipe connectors for the actual base, but my frogs came in, so the inside of them is done, which is very cool! I added some beach rocks as well, making it a little more realistic looking (and the kids can take the beach rocks out, so that's an additional thing to get some tactile experience with). Overall, I would say that my projects are going well and I am looking forward to wrapping everything up next week though I truly cannot believe that 6 weeks went by so quickly. It really does feel like yesterday that I was proctoring the Human Bonding Exam in Barton Hall! Anyway, thanks all for reading. Until next week!

 

Valerie Reyna

Science Friday, August, 25, 2017.

Ira Flatow, host of NPR's Science Friday, discusses a recently published paper which HD's Valerie Reyna co-authored as part of a collaboration between researchers at Cornell University and University of Pennsylvania.

Research for the Public Good: Applying Methods of Translational Research to Improve Human Health and Well-being (Bronfenbrenner Series on the Ecology of Human Development)

Edited by Elaine Wethington and Rachel Dunifon

Translational research links scientific findings with programs and policies that improve human health and well-being. It includes research that evaluates interventions or policies for efficacy and effectiveness, as well as research that applies field experience to future development of basic theory and its applications.

Although translational research has traditionally emphasized biomedical studies with one type of application (i.e., individual-level intervention to treat disease), the concept has expanded to include various sciences and many types of applications.

Social and behavioral sciences now often contribute to public- and individual-level interventions that promote education, disease prevention, health care delivery, health care access, and more. This broader, more inclusive approach to translational research has gained popularity and been promoted by the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, medical centers, and university programs.

This book demonstrates how emerging methods of translational research can be applied to important topics of interest to social and behavioral scientists. Accessible models and real-world case studies are provided to help bridge the gaps among research, policy, and practice.

The American Psychological Association (APA) offers a 5-credit continuing education course based on the book, The Neuroscience of Risky Decision Making by Valerie Reyna and Vivian Zayas.

Whether the decision is to have unprotected sex, consent to surgery, spend rather than save for retirement, or have an extra piece of pie, risky decisions permeate our lives, sometimes with disastrous consequences. How and why risk taking occurs has important implications, yet many questions remain about how various factors influence decision-making.

This book advances basic understanding and scientific theory about the brain mechanisms underlying risky decision making, paving the way for translation of science into practice and policy. This compelling research topic crosses a number of disciplines, including social, cognitive, and affective (emotion) neuroscience psychology, brain sciences, law, behavioral economics, and addiction.

Learning Objectives of the course:

  • Describe the processes that govern risky decision-making.
  • Evaluate recent research on neurobiological and psychological theory that underlie risky decision-making, including recent theory on triple processing.
  • Identify the differences that underlie decision making in childhood, adolescence and older adulthood.

The American Psychological Association (APA) offers a 6-credit continuing education course based on the book, Emotion, Aging and Health by Anthony Ong and Corinna Loeckenhoff.

Although older adults face significant health challenges, they tend to have better emotion regulation skills than younger or middle-age adults. Why is this so? And how might we use this knowledge to promote better health and well-being in adulthood and later life?

This book explores the reciprocal relations between aging and emotion, as well as applications for promoting mental and physical health across the lifespan. The authors discuss the neural and cognitive mechanisms behind age-related shifts in affective experience and processing.

In addition to presenting emotion regulation strategies for offsetting age-related declines in mental and physical functioning, the book examines the role of culture and motivation in shaping emotional experience across the lifespan, as well as the factors defining boundary conditions between human illness and human flourishing in old age.

By highlighting these major advances in interdisciplinary research, the authors suggest promising avenues for intervention.

Learning Objectives:

  • Describe the reciprocal relations between aging and emotion.
  • Explain the neural and cognitive mechanisms behind age-related shifts in affective experience and processing.
  • Apply emotion regulation strategies to offset age-related declines in mental and physical functioning.

Emotion, Aging, and Health (Bronfenbrenner Series on the Ecology of Human Development) 

Edited by Anthony D. Ong and Corinna E. Löckenhoff

Although older adults face significant health challenges, they tend to have better emotion regulation skills than younger or middle-age adults. Why is this so? This book explores the reciprocal relations between aging and emotion, as well as applications for promoting mental and physical health across the lifespan. The authors discuss the neural and cognitive mechanisms behind age-related shifts in affective experience and processing. In addition to presenting emotion regulation strategies for offsetting age-related declines in mental and physical functioning, the book examines the role of culture and motivation in shaping emotional experience across the lifespan, as well as the factors defining boundary conditions between human illness and human flourishing in old age.

The Neuroscience of Risky Decision Making (Bronfenbrenner Series on the Ecology of Human Development)

Edited by Valerie F. Reyna and Vivian Zayas

Risky choices about sex, drugs and drinking, as well as diet, exercise, money and health care pervade our lives and can have dire consequences. Now, a new book aims to help us understand the neural roots of bad decisions. The Neuroscience of Risky Decision Making (APA Books) synthesizes the research in this relatively young field for the first time, and introduces new models of brain function to explain and predict risky behavior.

The harm caused by risky decision-making is enormous understanding how the brain processes risks and rewards is the key to unraveling the mystery of irrational decision-making in real life, said Valerie Reyna, Lois and Melvin Tukman Professor of Human Development, Director of the Human Neuroscience Institute in the College of Human Ecology and the Cornell MRI Facility.

We anticipate this work will transform the next phase of research in the field and inform policy and practice innovations that can save lives and improve health and well-being, said Reyna, who co-edited the volume with Vivian Zayas, associate professor of psychology at Cornell.

In the book, leading neuroeconomists, neuroscientists and social scientists discuss recent findings on why people take risks and how risky choices shift in different circumstances and across the life span.

By Allison M. Hermann

The Department of Human Development commended the graduating seniors of 2017 who made exceptional contributions to research and outreach.


The Henry Ricciuti Award for Outstanding Seniors in Human Development

Front row, left: Brian LaGrant, Angel Khuu, Prof. Elaine Wethington, Joanna Ezratty, Danielle Weinstein Center row, left: Emily Hagen, Ben Zang, Prof. Qi Wang, Assoc. Prof. Eve De Rosa Back row, left: Assoc. Prof. Adam Anderson, Prof. Robert Sternberg, Marcos Moreno, Sharnendra Sidhu, Assoc. Prof. Corinna Loeckenhoff, Deaven Winebrake (Not pictured: Anna Claire G. Fernández)

Ten graduating Human Development seniors received the Henry Ricciuti Award for having achieved "distinction in research, excellence in leadership, and/or have contributed to exceptional community and public service during their undergraduate career at Cornell University." Dr. Ricciuti  taught at Cornell for 53 years and was an expert in the cognitive and emotional development of infants and children and mentored many students in human development.


The Janet and Joseph Zuckerman Award for Excellence in Human Development Studies

From left: Prof. Elaine Wethington, Brian
LaGrant, Assoc. Prof. Eve De Rosa, Prof.
Anthony Ong

The Janet and Joseph Zuckerman Award is given to a senior whose honor's thesis is judged by HD faculty to be the most outstanding of the year. Brian LaGrant wrote “Individual Differences in Perspective Taking with Interactive Social Learning” and was advised by Dr. Eve De Rosa.  Here is the abstract from his thesis:

Imitation and perspective taking have been studied extensively independently, but little research has examined how they can impact one other. The purpose of this study was to determine how one’s perspective on a model performing a behavior can impact how veridically the observer imitates the behavior, and whether individual differences in autistic traits can mediate this relationship. 57 young adults and 29 young children were randomly assigned to observe a model open a puzzle box from one of three perspectives (0º, 90º, or 180º relative to model). All participants then attempted to open it from the model’s perspective. Surprisingly, perspective did not affect success rate or overimitation, but did show an unexpected effect on reaction time in adults. As predicted, autistic traits score did mediate some outcomes among individuals in the 90º and 180º conditions. Lowtrait adults had significantly more success at opening the puzzle box than hightrait adults. Moreover, the perspective from which participants desired to open the box was accurately predicted as a function of autistic traits: high-trait children were more likely to choose the perspective they initially observed from, whereas low-trait children were more likely to pick another perspective. The findings suggest that although the perspective from which one watches someone else solve a novel task does not substantially guide task performance, individuals with high levels of autistic traits can exhibit, and might be unconsciously aware of, deficits in imitation and perspective taking. Key implications of these results are discussed.


The Urie Bronfenbrenner Awards for Achievement in Research

From left: Prof. Qi Wang, Angel Khuu,
Sharnendra Sidhu, Assoc. Prof. Corinna
Loeckenhoff

The Urie Bronfenbrenner Award was presented to two students who demonstrated excellence in research. Urie Bronfenbrenner taught at Cornell for over 50 years and was a highly influential developmental psychologist famous for his holistic approach to human development. Angel Khuu received the award for her research project, "How Do you Remember More Accurately? Young Adults Postdating Earliest Childhood Memories " and was advised by Dr. Wang. Here is the abstract from her thesis:

Thirty-two young adults were recruited on SONA, a Cornell University Psychology Experiment Sign-up system. They reported their five earliest memories and the properties of these memories (i.e. personal significance). Parents were then contacted to confirm these memories and dating estimates, and to provide any additional details. Consistent with the first hypothesis, these young adults postdated memories before 48 months and predated memories after 48 months. Furthermore, more dating techniques was associated with less dating error and the most frequently used techniques were seasons, school year, and landmark events, consistent with my second hypothesis. Finally, memories with landmark events were not different in dating error from memories without, evidence against the third. This study is the first to examine postdating effects in young adults. These findings have important implications on autobiographical processes.

Sharnendra Sidhu also received the Bronfenbrenner award for her research project, "Racial and Ethnic Differences in Pain Self-Management Techniques Among Older Adults with Chronic Pain" and was adivsed by Dr. Loeckenhoff. Here is the abstract from her thesis:

The literature suggests that the adoption and use of pain-management techniques varies across racial and ethnic groups. However, potential mechanisms for the observed differences remain unclear. The present study wished to determine whether the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) could predict the use of two types of self-management techniques, exercise and psychological strategies, among White, Black, and Hispanic older adults with chronic pain (n = 134). Thus, we examined participants’ attitudes, perceived control, implementation intentions, and usage of these two techniques as well as the influence of race/ethnicity on this model. The results were consistent with the TPB, however race/ethnicity only showed to be a main effect on exercise usage. The implications and limitations of this study will be discussed in order to provide suggestions for future research.


Honors in Human Development

Front row, left: Professor Elaine Wethington, Professor Anthony Ong
Back row, left: Leona Sharpstene, Brian LaGrant, Angel Khuu,
Sharnendra Sidhu, Deaven Winebrake, Hsiang Ling Tsai
(Not pictured: Anna Claire G. Fernández)

The following seniors received Honors in Human Development having completed original, empirical research, and wrote and defended a honors thesis: Anna Claire G. Fernández, Angel Khuu, Brian LeGrant, Sharnendra Sidhu, Leona Sharpstene, Hsiang Ling Tsai, and Deaven Winebrake.

Congratulations to all of the 2017 Human Development graduates!