Reprinted from the Association for Psychological Science's Journal, Observer, Feb., 2015
A high-quality journal of juried review articles on issues of broad social importance is needed now more than ever. Psychological science is directly relevant to the most pressing social, economic, and health problems of our day, yet is vastly underutilized. To be sure, PSPI has increased the uptake of behavioral research in policy and practice, but so much more potential exists. Building on the success of prior editors, I want to propel the scientific and practical influence of behavioral research forward.
This journal should influence — and be influenced by — the latest scientific theories as well as speak to the mysteries of human conflict, motivation, achievement, learning, feelings, disorders, and decision making.
Why theory? We need evidence-based theory in order to understand how to apply what we learn about human behavior. Theory explains and predicts behavior, so that it is possible to know what the “active ingredient” is when interventions change behavior. Theory also explains and predicts who will benefit from specific practices and policies. Therefore, I will emphasize causal mechanisms when appropriate, with a view to understanding how to generalize results of research to policy and practice. There is no reason why PSPI cannot be a cutting-edge theoretical and translational journal, and its audience should encompass scientists, practitioners, and policy makers.
Another important role of PSPI is to reconcile different viewpoints from researchers across disciplines.Scholarship means taking account of all of the relevant prior evidence, not just evidence produced by those with similar worldviews. Psychology as a cumulative science, in which current work builds on prior findings and ideas, is crucial for scientific and social progress. I have had the opportunity to interact with scholars from many different disciplines, and I will draw on those experiences to build bridges between psychology and other disciplines.
PSPI connects members of the Association for Psychological Science (APS) to members of the public — including policy makers. It should also serve as the go-to source for behavioral scientists from different disciplines because it provides the most rigorous evidence and the most exciting ideas about the most important issues.
About Valerie F. Reyna
Incoming PSPI Editor Valerie F. Reyna is a professor of human development at Cornell University, where she is also director of the Human Neuroscience Institute, codirector of the Cornell University Magnetic Resonance Imaging Facility, and codirector of the Center for Behavioral Economics and Decision Research. Her research integrates brain and behavioral approaches to understand and improve judgment, decision making, and memory across the lifespan. Her recent work has focused on the neuroscience of risky decision making and its implications for health and well-being, especially in adolescents; applications of cognitive models and artificial intelligence for improving understanding of genetics (e.g., in breast cancer); and medical and legal decision making (e.g., about jury awards, medication decisions, and adolescent culpability).
In addition to being an APS Fellow, Reyna is a fellow of the Society of Experimental Psychologists, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and several divisions of the American Psychological Association, including the Divisions of Experimental Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Health Psychology. She has been a Visiting Professor at the Mayo Clinic, a permanent member of study sections of the National Institutes of Health, and a member of advisory panels for the National Science Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the National Academy of Sciences. She has also served as president of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making.
Reyna helped create a new research agency in the US Department of Education, where she oversaw grant policies and programs. Her service also has included leadership positions in organizations dedicated to creating equal opportunities for minorities and women, and on national executive and advisory boards of centers and grants with similar goals, such as the Arizona Hispanic Center of Excellence, National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and Women in Cognitive Science.
2015 Psychological Science in the Public Interest Editorial/Advisory Board
APS Past President Mahzarin R. Banaji, Harvard University
Past APS Board Member Stephen J. Ceci, Cornell University
APS William James Fellow Uta Frith, University College London, United Kingdom
APS Past President Morton Ann Gernsbacher, University of Wisconsin–Madison
APS Fellow John B. Jemmott, III, University of Pennsylvania
APS William James Fellow Daniel Kahneman, Princeton University
APS Past President Elizabeth F. Loftus, University of California, Irvine
APS Fellow Marcus E. Raichle, Washington University in St. Louis
APS Past President Henry L. Roediger, III, Washington University in St. Louis
APS Fellow Daniel L. Schacter, Harvard University
APS William James Fellow Richard M. Shiffrin, Indiana University
APS Fellow Keith E. Stanovich, University of Toronto, Canada
APS Fellow Laurence Steinberg, Temple University
Cass R. Sunstein, Harvard University
APS Fellow Wendy M. Williams, Cornell University
APS Fellow Christopher Wolfe, Miami University
Valerie Reyna can be contacted at ReynaPSPI@cornell.edu.
By Ted Boscia
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, Jan. 12, 2015
Cornell gerontologist Karl Pillemer, the Hazel E. Reed Professor in the Department of Human Development, will become director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR) Jan. 15.
Pillemer succeeds John Eckenrode, professor of human development and BCTR director since its founding in 2011, who will continue as director of the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect.
Named for the late Cornell developmental psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner, whose research helped to inspire the federal Head Start program, the BCTR brings together Cornell social and behavioral scientists and real-world practitioners to disseminate research findings to community programs supporting human health and development and to develop, evaluate and disseminate innovative social and behavioral interventions. Home to more than 20 projects focused on nutrition, youth development, parenting, health care, aging and related issues, the center includes more than 120 Cornell faculty affiliates.
“Human Ecology has embraced translational research as its approach to extension and outreach, and the Bronfenbrenner Center is creating a better marriage between science and service,” Pillemer said. “It is a great honor to lead a center associated closely with Urie, whose human ecological approach set the standard for many of us working to create a seamless connection between research and practice.”
Pillemer joins the BCTR with extensive experience guiding translational research projects. He co-directs the Translational Research Institute on Pain in Later Life, a joint project with Weill Cornell Medical College researchers and community-based health-care partners to help older adults prevent and manage pain, and the Translational Research Priorities in Palliative Care Project. He founded the Cornell Legacy Project, a national social science survey to collect elder wisdom on love and marriage, work and careers, parenting and other topics.
“Karl is well-positioned to lead the center thanks to his deep ties with community partners across the state and with Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Cornell Office for Research and Evaluation and Weill Cornell Medical College, all of whom are vital partners in achieving the college’s translational research goals and in fulfilling Cornell’s land-grant mission,” said Alan Mathios, the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of the College of Human Ecology. “I am excited to see how the center will evolve under Karl’s direction, and I am grateful for John Eckenrode’s tremendous guidance of faculty, staff and students to deliver translational programs in its first three years.”
Under Eckenrode, the center developed an Innovative Pilot Study Program, awarding up to five grants annually to faculty teams leading research intended to influence real-world practice and policy. Its Research Navigator Initiative, which builds ties between faculty experts and CCE partners, has reached more than 100 extension educators and executive directors.
“It has been a tremendous honor to help launch the BCTR and work with our talented faculty and staff,” Eckenrode said. “I am sure the center will flourish under Karl’s leadership given his experience, skills and vision for the future.”
Pillemer intends to build on the center’s successes and to recruit more faculty members from across Cornell to pursue translational research. He also wants to deepen ties with Cornell University Cooperative Extension-New York City, calling it an “on the ground research-ready organization reaching thousands of city residents,” and the statewide 4-H program, which, he said, “can serve as a living laboratory to better understand and promote positive youth development.” Finally, he wants to enhance the center’s communications platforms, using social media and other nontraditional channels to deliver research findings to the public.
“The center is in a strong position, with a number of excellent projects with a broad community base and solid grounding in research,” Pillemer said. “I’m excited to help continue and strengthen this excellent work.”
Ted Boscia is director of communications and media for the College of Human Ecology.
Students and professors in Human Development worked this past summer to move their research into the real world at 4-H Camp Bristol Hills.
Guided by human development undergraduates Alexandra Holmes '16 and Kathleen McCormick '16, campers reflected on puberty in the "Writing about Life Changes" study led by Jane Mendle, assistant professor of human development.
Following a successful pilot study last summer, Mendle is again partnering with camp director Tim Davis to study the health benefits of writing about teen transitions.
“The 4-H program has always had a wonderful connection with the university,” says Davis, interim executive director and 4-H program leader of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Ontario County.
“There is a real emphasis on how the camp experience will develop the whole child, and if there is a good fit between faculty and our priority areas – healthy living, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), or workforce development – we’re very open to discussing partnerships.”
Indeed, 4-H Camp Bristol Hills is becoming a prime spot for Cornell professors and students to pursue research and outreach projects. Along with Mendle’s study this summer, the camp hosted the “Health and Brain Neuroscience Outreach” project by Valerie Reyna, professor of human development. Lindsay Dower '17, an undergraduate in human development, engaged campers in learning about neuroscience, genetics and nutrition through interactive games and bottom-line messages about health designed to help young people make healthy choices.
By Caitlin Harder
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, October 20, 2014
On Oct. 7, 26 students from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and College of Human Ecology (CHE) gave one-minute “lightning” presentations on topics ranging from helping New York farmers adapt to climate change to market testing alternative sap products and offering classes to second-time parents.
The presentations were followed by a poster session that outlined what the students learned through research conducted during the Cornell Cooperative Extension Summer Internship Program.
Pawan Angara ’16 conducted research on spotted wing drosophila, an invasive species that lays its eggs in otherwise viable fruit, creating significant losses for organic farmers in the Hudson Valley. Angara spent his summer developing a gel that attracted the insects to a location where they could be exterminated.
Angara discovered that field research doesn’t always go as planned. “You have to adapt and work with the tools you have on hand, rather than what you wish you had,” he said. “I definitely was inspired by all the innovation I saw in the lab and the quick thinking that went on. When you’re in the field, you can’t just drive back to the lab to get something you forgot.”
This was his second summer participating in the program. “Every year I see more and more people doing great things for the community and great things for the world through research,” he said.
Lindsay Dower ’15 updated a curriculum on nutrition and fitness and taught modules to middle school children in Canandaigua. Applying the research of Valerie Reyna, professor of human development, Dower tested a theory that learning by understanding overarching ideas is more effective than memorizing facts. “I learned so much about the research process and, beyond that, how to work with different groups and types of people … and I definitely strengthened my leadership skills,” Dower said. She is continuing her research in Reyna’s Laboratory for Rational Decision Making this academic year.
Food science major Susana Jimenez ’15 spent her summer in Wayne County working to increase participation of traditionally underrepresented Latino children in local educational opportunities. Building on the research of CHE senior lecturer Pilar Parra, Jimenez conducted interviews and focus groups and learned that parents and caregivers in the rural area showed high interest in extension programs. She identified and evaluated sites, learning that hosting programs in familiar spaces with established community leaders, such as Catholic churches, increased program participation. She said these groups wanted to learn about nutrition and food safety, but they were open to many of kinds of programs. “It’s not so much what you teach, but where and how,” she said.
Since its establishment in 2007, the Cornell Cooperative Extension Summer Internship Program has expanded from five student projects to 26.
Caitlin Harder is a writer intern for Cornell Cooperative Extension.
By Karene Booker
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, July 23, 2014
The land-grant university, 150 years after its inception, remains an extraordinary and compelling model for higher education, with ideas and ideals relevant to even the most elite academies, contends Professor Robert Sternberg in his edited volume, “The Modern Land-Grant University” (Purdue University Press).
“Land-grant institutions perhaps best represent the very core of what greatness means in American society – namely, equal opportunity for all and, through it, the chance to make our society and the world a better place,” says Sternberg, professor of human development in Cornell’s College of Human Ecology.
“Land-grant universities are about educating students, not just to be knowledgeable and smart, but also to be wise and ethical … to become future leaders, who will change the world in positive, meaningful and enduring ways,” he says.
The book provides a current and comprehensive review of the role and function of land-grant institutions, with four sections exploring the core mission, environment, public value and accountability of the modern land-grant university. The volume’s 20 chapters feature perspectives on teaching, research and outreach; undergraduate and graduate academic experience; economic development and entrepreneurship; diversity; promotion and tenure; and more. Sternberg’s epilogue concludes the volume with a summary of the values underlying the activities of land-grant institutions.
“The Modern Land-Grant University” offers university administrators, trustees, educational policymakers, faculty and staff not only a vision for higher education founded on the commitment to public service, but also practical insights for navigating today’s challenges.
Karene Booker is an extension support specialist in the Department of Human Development.
By Karene Booker
Last year Deanna Blansky ’16 jumped into a new initiative to translate faculty research into hands-on activities for teaching middle-school youth about the brain, health, and science. The initiative aims to develop a six-hour 4-H STEM curriculum on health and the brain and is led by Valerie Reyna, professor and director of the Human Neuroscience Institute in the Department of Human Development, and co-director of the Cornell MRI Facility.
To start, Blansky, a Human Biology, Health, and Society major, developed two modules, one on nutrition and fitness and another on breast cancer genetics, based on Reyna’s ongoing research. She piloted these modules with middle school campers at Bristol Hills 4-H Camp in Canandaigua, New York as part of her summer Cornell Cooperative Extension internship. Both modules combined aspects of health and neuroscience, while providing an interactive learning experience for the campers.
The campers particularly liked the hands-on lessons, such as competing in the nutritional breakfast cook-off and creating model brains they could keep, Blansky said. They had fun comparing breakfast ideas and seemed surprised by how easy it was to create their own healthy meals. They were eager to take their ideas back home, she said.
The combination of outreach through teaching at summer camp and empirical neuroscience research was really rewarding, Blansky concluded. What she learned about the research process, curriculum development and lesson planning for different age groups will come in handy - she is planning on entering the field of medicine and public health, and hopes to incorporate community health into her future career.
This year, Noah Rubin ’16 will be refining the two modules and developing new segments. Rubin is majoring in Policy Analysis and Management and minoring in Computer Science and Math. He joined Reyna’s Laboratory of Rational Decision Making propelled by an interest in human behavior and the neuroscience behind it. An interest, he says, that was sparked in high school after reading a story about a man who had developed software that predicted investing behavior based on reactions to current events.
The new and revised modules will be piloted with youth this summer, with the plan of eventually making them more broadly available.
By Olivia M. Hall
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, September 17, 2013
Summer camp is often about archery, swimming and singing around the fire. But this past summer, Natasha Herrick ’15, Leticia Vasquez ’15 and Meredith Moser ’15 were in for a different kind of camp adventure – their first academic research study.
Working with Jane Mendle, assistant professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology, the three served as research assistants for a pilot study to test expressive writing interventions with adolescent girls at 4-H Camp Bristol Hills in Canandaigua, N.Y.
The project, funded partly by Cornell’s Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, formed when Tim Davis, 4-H youth development program leader with Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Ontario County, discussed possible collaborations at the residential summer camp with Mendle.
“Everybody knows that puberty is rough on kids, as relationships with parents and peers are changing,” Mendle said. “Our lab, like a lot of others interested in puberty, tends to focus on the consequences of puberty – which can include depression, anxiety, externalizing or ‘acting out’ behaviors, poor self-esteem and body dissatisfaction. In this project we wanted to explore what happens if we intervene before teens get to that point.”
Mendle’s research assistants lived at Bristol Hills and used free slushies to recruit 45 girls, ages 11 to 13. (Boys will be included in a future study.) During six, weeklong camp sessions, the RAs gathered the girls after lunch on four days for an exercise in expressive writing, which Mendle describes as “a brief, focused intervention, in which people write about times of change in their lives.”
After filling out a standard psychological questionnaire on the first day, the girls spent 20 minutes daily writing about their relationships with their families, friends and the changes taking place in their own bodies
Though the data have yet to be fully analyzed – Mendle is planning to send out a follow-up questionnaire in a few months – the research partners are pleased with the outcomes to date of this first-time collaboration.
“4-H camps put a real emphasis on how the camp experience will develop the whole child,” said Davis. “This year we were really able to pilot how we can work with faculty to do research at the camp while greatly benefiting our campers.”
Mendle hopes to use the pilot data to write a grant proposal that will expand the study to include a control group and show more clearly how the writing intervention provides positive benefits to adolescents.
The undergraduate assistants, for their part, found their interest in working with adolescents confirmed. “This research helped to further convince me that kids in this age range and young adults are the focus I’d like to pursue later in life if I ever get my own private practice as a therapist,” said Vasquez.
Herrick, Moser and Vasquez assisted with the study as part of the CCE Summer Internship Program, which provides opportunities for Human Ecology and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students to support research and outreach projects in communities around the state. The RAs also assisted in a separate study on social exclusion among adolescents, led by Vivian Zayas, Cornell associate professor of psychology.
On Tuesday, Sept. 24, they and other CCE summer interns will present posters about their work at a reception, 5-6:30 p.m., in the Statler Ballroom.
Olivia M. Hall is a freelance writer.
By Rebecca Harrison
Reprinted from Cornell Chronicle, July 1, 2013
“Life is not a straight line,” as a former NFL lineman-turned-engineering professor will be the first to admit regarding the direction his career took – similar to many of his students, and even his own daughter.
Matt Miller, professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and his daughter, Chaney Miller ’14, a Cornell civil engineering major, addressed prospective science and engineering students in a film for a seminar on “Thinking Like a Scientist,” one of many workshops held during this year’s annual 4-H Career Explorations Conference, June 25-27. The conference hosted 600 high school students and chaperones from 45 New York counties.
Growing up, Chaney Miller shared a similar quality to many engineering students: She always liked building things. Like many students, though, her path changed in high school. “I got really involved in Spanish,” she said. “I had a really great teacher. She really got me fired up on languages, so that kind of stemmed into Mandarin. It was something that I really liked and wanted to pursue at Cornell.”
Said Matt Miller: “After she was admitted [to Cornell], she had decided to reinvestigate the possibility of being an engineer.”
During her first semester, Chaney Miller said she “just kind of got body slammed by a few of the exams.” Reminded by her father that “This is the way it goes; this is the process,” she persevered.
Charlotte Sweeney ’04, M.A. ’08, Ph.D. ‘13, discussed with students at the workshop how Chaney Miller’s success in languages led to an aptitude for engineering and how this could apply to a many career decisions. As one student observed: “We don’t think of languages as symbols, but a sentence is a little bit like an equation. I don’t think her leap was that giant from Mandarin, especially to engineering.”
Through exploring many Cornell programs, Chase Thomas, a junior at Oneonta High School and aspiring engineer, “saw that Cornell was a beautiful campus with smart and engaging teachers, where students can learn literally anything. They even have a particle accelerator under the campus!”
According to conference coordinator Nancy Schaff, there is a tradition of 4-H members coming to Cornell in June dating to 1922. “Lots of kids say it has made a difference in their college decisions and ultimately their career,” Schaff said. “Students stay in the dorms, eat in the dining hall and learn what college is like.”
This year, 10th to 12th grade students had an opportunity to explore nearly 20 programs ranging from permaculture to computer science, while eighth and ninth graders participated in the “University U” program, a broader sample of career-oriented workshops.
At the end of the conference, Anthony Burrow, assistant professor of human development, advised students: “… understand that you’re on a pathway. It’s hard for us to think of it like this. Life feels like a photograph looking at you in one point in time. But, you’re a movie. It’s dynamic; you’re moving. You got here for a reason. You came to career explorations for a reason. Why? Think about that.”
Rebecca Harrison ’14 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.
On April 25-26, eighteen Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) educators and executive directors attended an advanced Research Navigator Workshop at Cornell. The workshop was planned and facilitated by Karl Pillemer and Jennifer Tiffany.
College of Human Ecology faculty – Jane Mendle, Valerie Reyna, Nancy Wells, Tony Burrow, Gary Evans, and Rebecca Seguin – met with the group to present their “intellectual autobiographies” as researchers, describe current and future research projects, and work with the CCE educators to plan potential partnerships. The BCTR's John Eckenrode (director) and Debbie Sellers (director of research and evaluation) introduced the group to the center’s mission and resources.