Tag Archives: Cornell University

Valerie Reyna

Holly Prigerson

Valerie Reyna is collaborating with Holly Prigerson of Cornell Weill Medical College on an intercampus palliative care project as part of the recently established Academic Integration Initiative which fosters research between the Cornell Ithaca and the Cornell Weill New York City campuses. Dr. Prigerson has been researching factors that hinder communications between patients and physicians about end-of-life decisions. In the course of her research, Prigerson discovered Dr. Reyna's fuzzy trace theory (FTT) and was eager to find a way to collaborate (read more in the downloadable article below). According to Reyna, an important principle of FTT is the "gist principle" which is a type of mental representation that "captures the bottom-line meaning of information, and it is a subjective interpretation of information based on emotion, education, culture, experience, worldview, and level of development" and can be applied to improve doctor-patient understanding and treatment options (click on the title of Dr. Reyna's paper, "A Theory of Medical Decision Making and Health: Fuzzy Trace Theory" to read more about FTT).

'Mortal Matters' by Anne Machalinski, Weill Cornell Medicine Magazine - Summer 2018.

Reprinted from Mothers Plant the Seeds for Children's Future Eco-Friendliness, APS Observer, April 9, 2018.

From remembering to turn off a light to purchasing an electric car, psychology researchers are examining individuals’ proenvironmental behaviors to gain insight into how people become environmentally responsible citizens.

Gary Evans

Building on previous work, researchers Gary W. Evans and Siegmar Otto of Cornell University, and Florian G. Kaiser of Otto von Guericke University, Magdeburg wanted to explore the early contributors that have a lasting influence on proenvironmental behavior into young adulthood.

“Given the central contributions of human decision making and behavior to local, regional, and global environmental challenges,” the researchers explain, “better insight into the early origins of adult environmental behavior is fundamental to understanding and ultimately changing environmentally destructive human activity.”

People who hold progressive political values and attain higher levels of education tend to be more inclined toward proenvironmental behavior. Previous research has also shown that parents’ eco-friendly behaviors, especially easily observable ones such as recycling, have an impact on the environmentally responsible behavior of their children. But what kind of effects do these early experiences have on children’s behaviors and attitudes as they age into adulthood?

Evans and colleagues recruited 99 children and their mothers from a rural and suburban area of the Northeast United States to participate in a 12-year longitudinal study, which tracked the children from ages 6 to 18.

When the children were 6 years old, the researchers assessed both the mothers’ and children’s proenvironmental behaviors and attitudes. Mothers completed the New Environmental Paradigm (NEP), a self-report measure of environmental attitudes, and the General Ecological Behavior (GEB) scale. The 6-year-olds completed modified versions of the NEP and GEB that used interactive games and pictures. The researchers also measured how much time the children spent outdoors and they collected data on mothers’ political ideology and educational attainment.

At age 18, 74 of the children returned to complete the second round of data collection. The young adults completed the same versions of the NEP and GEB scale that their mothers completed 12 years before.

The longitudinal data showed that individuals whose mothers had more proenvironmental attitudes demonstrated more proenvironmental behaviors themselves as young adults. Mothers’ educational attainment was also found to be an influential factor, although the researchers point out that there was low variance in the mothers’ level of education, as most had some post-college education and very few were high school dropouts.

As in past research, children who spent more time outdoors tended to report more environmentally responsible behavior and attitudes as adults. Evans and colleagues suggest that future studies should investigate whether different types of activities, such as fishing in wild nature versus gardening in the domestic outdoors, have divergent effects.

Interestingly, children’s environmental attitudes and behaviors at age 6 did not predict their behavior at 18. This could be due to potential methodological issues with the modified childhood measures, but another possibility, the researchers note, is that it simply takes time for these attitudes and behaviors to become stable.

Evans and colleagues note the significance of the results, explaining that “this is the first study to show that these parental factors matter for the eventual development of an adult’s engagement in proenvironmental behavior.”

Identifying early contributors to later environmentally responsible behaviors is a critical step in creating interventions, policies, and other strategies to improve these behaviors on a local, regional, and global scale.

Reference

Evans, G. W., Otto, S., & Kaiser, F. G. (2018). Childhood origins of young adult environmental behavior. Psychological Science. doi:10.1177/0956797617741894

 

Valerie Reyna

Valerie Reyna was on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Committee that produced the report, Pain Management and the Opioid Epidemic. Here are links to media coverage of the report.


Panel calls on FDA to review safety of opioid painkillers

Associated Press

In a sweeping report Thursday, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine pushed the FDA to bolster a public health approach that already has resulted in one painkiller being pulled from the market. Last week, the maker of opioid painkiller Opana ER withdrew its drug at the FDA’s request following a 2015 outbreak of HIV and hepatitis C in southern Indiana linked to sharing needles to inject the pills.


The U.S. should rethink its entire approach to painkillers and the people addicted to them, panel urges

Los Angeles Times

In a comprehensive report on what must be done to staunch the toll of opiates in the United States, a report released by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine makes clear that steps taken to prevent the creation of future opiate addicts will drive some now dependent on these drugs toward street drugs such as fentanyl and heroin.


Expert panel to FDA: time to hold opioids to a new standard

Science Magazine

To help bolster its campaign against an epidemic of opioid abuse that now kills about 90 people a day, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year called for help from an independent advisory panel. The resulting report, released today by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, makes some strong prescriptions. Among its assorted recommendations—from supporting state syringe exchange programs to increasing federal funding for neurobiology research—the panel suggests that FDA dramatically expand the types of evidence it requires from companies to show that an opioid is safe and effective, both before and after it gets market approval.


Major Science Report Lays Out a Plan to Tamp Down Opioid Crisis

Scientific American

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration screens new opioid drugs it should better anticipate how people might abuse them in the real world, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine warns in a major report issued Thursday on the country’s opioid crisis, which kills 91 people a day—often via overdoses on prescription drugs. The FDA needs to move beyond its traditional focus on clinical studies about drug effectiveness and side effects, and to seek public health data on potential abuse, the Academies advises in its 400-page proposal for targeting the deadly issue.


Painkiller Misuse Remains a Pressing Problem Across U.S.

HealthDay

However, experts say there's no quick fix for the opioid epidemic. According to a new report from the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, it will take years of coordinated effort on the part of local, state and federal agencies to halt and reverse the drug crisis.


Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report on pain management and prescription opioid abuse

FDA Statement

In March 2016, the FDA asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to outline the state of the science regarding prescription opioid abuse and misuse, as well as the evolving role that opioids play in pain management. We greatly appreciate all the work done by NASEM over the past year to produce the comprehensive report released today, which includes recommendations for the FDA and others on this important issue.

FEATURES

Stephen Ceci awarded APA's highest honor for developmental psychology

Stephen Ceci, the Helen L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology in the Department of Human Development, will receive the American Psychological Associations’ G. Stanley Hall award for distinguished contributions to developmental science at APA’s August 2018 meeting in San Francisco.


PRYDE forum focuses on youth and social media

More than 50 Cornell Cooperative Extension educators and 4-H program leaders, youth service providers from community agencies and Cornell faculty members discussed productive social media use and youth development.


The lasting effects of childhood poverty

Gary Evans is interviewed about his research on the influence of childhood poverty on biology, health, and development.


The "Diana Effect" - How Princess Diana helped many seek help for bulimia

On the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's death, Jane Mendle credits Diana with helping remove the stigma of mental illness and bulimia.


Aging brains make seniors vulnerable to financial scams

SprengIn a new paper, Nathan Spreng reports that some seniors are more at risk than others to scams because of age-related changes in their brains.


STUDENTS IN THE NEWS

Lindsay Dower - Outstanding Senior Award 2017

Lindsay Dower ‘17 spent her four years at Cornell working to improve the lives of both those within the College of Human Ecology and in the broader Ithaca community, truly embodying the mission of the college.


MULTIMEDIA

Valerie Reyna - member of the National Academy of Medicine

 


 

Reprinted from The Cornell Chronicle, September 14, 2017.

by Stephen D'Angelo

Stephen Ceci

Stephen Ceci, the Helen L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology in the Department of Human Development, will receive the American Psychological Associations’ G. Stanley Hall award for distinguished contributions to developmental science at APA’s August 2018 meeting in San Francisco.

The highest honor in the field of developmental psychology, the award is given to an individual or research team who has made distinguished contributions to developmental psychology in research, student training and other scholarly endeavors.

“Steve has made seminal contributions to the basic scientific research of the developing mind in young children and to the critical translation of research findings to real-life settings,” said Qi Wang, professor of human development and department chair. “His work best exemplifies the integrative approaches that we take in the use of scientific theories and methods to vigorously study real-world problems in diverse populations.”

The award is based on the scientific merit of the individual’s work, the importance of this work for opening up new empirical or theoretical areas of developmental psychology, and the importance of the individual’s work in linking developmental psychology with issues confronting society or with other disciplines.

Ceci has written approximately 450 articles, books, commentaries, reviews and chapters. He has served on the advisory board of the National Science Foundation for seven years and was a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Board of Behavioral and Sensory Sciences. He is past president of the Society for General Psychology, serves on 11 editorial boards, including Scientific American Mind, and is senior adviser to several journals.

Ceci’s honors include the American Academy of Forensic Psychology’s Lifetime Distinguished Contribution Award (2000), the American Psychological Association’s Division of Developmental Psychology’s Lifetime Award for Science and Society (2002), the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award for the Application of Psychology (2003), the Association for Psychological Science’s James McKeen Cattell Award (2005), the Society for Research in Child Development’s lifetime distinguished contribution award (2013) and the American Psychological Association’s E.L. Thorndike Award for lifetime contribution to empirical and theoretical psychology (2015).

Stephen D’Angelo is assistant director of communications at the College of Human Ecology.

Reprinted from The Cornell Chronicle, June 5, 2017.

By Stephen D'Angelo

In stark contrast to adolescent daily life prior to the digital age, social media allows today’s youth to see and interact with myriad individuals, images and information at any time, from any place.

This new reality has profound impacts on our interactions. Less clear is what those effects are and how they may shape the later life and social relationships of the youth growing up in it.

Such was the focus of the Seventh Annual Youth Development Research Update, a forum that brought more than 50 Cornell Cooperative Extension educators and 4-H program leaders, youth service providers from community agencies and Cornell faculty members from across campus to discuss issues relevant to the well-being and development of children and adolescents on May 31 and June 1.

The event, sponsored by the Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement (PRYDE), based in the College of Human Ecology, concentrated on productive social media use and youth development through research and evidence-based approaches.

Elaine Wethington

“The idea behind productive social media is that there are ways to encourage youth to develop positive and productive uses of social media,” said Elaine Wethington, professor of human

development and co-director of PRYDE. She also leads the research project Productive Use of Social Media by Youth, which focuses on learning how teens can be “nudged” to make positive uses of social media as they transition into adulthood.

“This is in contrast to the fears that we see in the news how social media is creating bad habits and getting into antisocial behavior, such as bullying, or using social media as a way to distract them from more positive developmental goals,” Wethington said.

The program brings together practitioners and researchers to explore major contributions in this field of research to better understand the impact of social media on youth, which in turn can drive research as well as extension and public outreach programs that help youth and their parents through the murky waters of growing up on social media.

Speakers, including those from the Departments of Human Development and Communication, covered research on youth development and social media in education, moral development, social engagement, health and well-being, career development, and citizenship.

Janis Whitlock, research scientist at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, said youth today are not narcissistic, privacy driven, materialistic, antisocial, mean or especially savvy about these new digital platforms. In general, she said, they are very much like everybody else.

“They do however, live in a different world than most of us grew up in, largely due to changes in technology,” she said. “These affordances allow young people to see, experience, interact and learn and know things that were just simply never possible, not even just in the previous generation, but ever in human history.”

Whitlock continued, “This has created a landscape that is unusual, and none of us really know exactly what it means, and there are some amazing opportunities to research this.”

The forum further acted as an opportunity for practitioners to share their expertise with research experts to help guide ongoing and future studies. Brainstorming sessions provided opportunities for attendees to consult on new research projects that focus on youth or that apply current research on social media to youth populations. Topics discussed ranged from cyberbullying to the need for greater media literacy.

Wethington presses that “social media use is a major source of social interaction for youth and can contribute to positive, healthy adolescent development. We are looking forward to working with researchers and practitioner partners alike to promote greater digital literacy for youth – not only teaching kids how to be safe online, but engage with others and grow in positive ways.”

PRYDE is funded by The Morgan Foundation.

Stephen D'Angelo is assistant director of communications for the College of Human Ecology.

This interview with Dr. Gary Evans, Elizabeth Lee Vincent Professor in the College of Human Ecologywas written for the Jacobs Foundation's BOLD initiative.

Reprinted from the Blog on Learning & Development, May 15, 2017.

Meeri Kim: Much of your work focuses on how children’s environment affects their health and well-being — in particular, the ways in which childhood poverty can lead to negative developmental outcomes. What are the components of poverty that tend to hit kids the hardest?

Gary Evans

Gary Evans: Throughout my work, I’ve tried to make the point that one of the reasons why poverty is harmful for kids is the chronic stress they experience as a result. One of the things that is unique and unfortunately quite powerful about childhood poverty is this accumulation of stressors, both physical and psychosocial. Physical stressors include housing issues, noise, crowding, and pollution. But the kids also experience psychosocial stressors like crime, family turmoil, and residential instability.

“Parts of the brain may change in children who grow up in poverty, leading to less efficient control and regulation of some cognitive and emotional processes than their wealthier peers.”

MK: How does constant exposure to such stressors impact the developing brain?

GE: The physiological response systems that are designed to handle relatively infrequent environmental stressors become overwhelmed for disadvantaged children. There is good evidence that parts of the brain linked to executive control — involved in coordinating things and keeping everything organized — are sensitive to chronic stress. Structurally as well as functionally, these regions may change in children who grow up in poverty, leading to less efficient control and regulation of some cognitive and emotional processes than their wealthier peers.

At the same time, other parts of the brain tied to automated, quick responses to stress and emergencies like the amygdala become over-developed and over-activated. So you have this bad mix of heightened emotional responses coupled with less regulation and control.

MK: Recently, you published a study on the link between childhood poverty and adult psychological well-being. What did you find?

GE: I looked at the psychological well-being of 24-year-olds in relation to their family income when they were 9 years old, finding relationships with a number of mental health and cognitive outcomes. Childhood poverty is linked to deficits in adult memory, greater psychological/physiological distress, and higher levels of aggression.

Another research interest is how motivation and helplessness differ for those who grew up in an impoverished environment. We have given both children and adults age-appropriate tasks to persist on, and we see consistently less persistence from the disadvantaged. When challenged, they’re much more likely to give up. To me, that unfortunately fits our model — if you grow up with a lot of stressors, your environment sets you up for feeling like you don’t have a sense of mastery or self-efficacy. This is a dynamic, particularly for children, that we need to look more at.

“If you grow up with a lot of stressors, your environment sets you up for feeling like you don’t have a sense of mastery or self-efficacy.”

MK: Given your findings on poverty, what kinds of policy changes could help enhance these children’s lives? Universal basic income?

GE: Various experiments have shown that when you increase the income of families in poverty, you may get better health outcomes, better parenting, and reductions in various negative outcomes. I believe any policy approach has to increase income in a way that is predictable and reliable, coupled with more available and affordable services for these families.

“Because poverty includes a convergence of multiple risk factors and stressors, it really means multiple interventions are necessary.”

Because poverty includes a convergence of multiple risk factors and stressors, it really means multiple interventions are necessary. You can’t just provide housing or job training. You really have to look across the board. A classic example is taking people off of welfare and giving them a low-income job, which is usually right around the minimum wage. However, if there is little or no childcare, the program winds up not being nearly as effective as it ought to be. Good-quality free or heavily subsidized childcare coupled with employment or job training may work better.

Jane Mendle, professor of Human Development, urges people to speak out about their mental illness and encourage others to seek help.

Reprinted from Motto from the Editors of Time, August, 30, 2017.

Jane Mendle, associate professor of human development

by Jane Mendle

A very specific image of Princess Diana comes to mind as we recognize the 20th anniversary of her death. We remember her as the “people’s princess” — from her jewel-studded wedding to her petrified final minutes in a Parisian tunnel. She walked through fields of landminesembraced an AIDS patient, introduced us to the vicious tenacity of the tabloid press and embodied the most glorious aspects of 1980s fashion.

But what is often forgotten is that Diana was also a paradox: under the magnificently poised image she presented to the world, she struggled with bulimia, self-injury and lingering feelings of worthlessness.

Princess Diana

In the early 1990s, toward the end of her marriage, Diana gave a series of interviews to promising to share “her true story.” In 1992, Andrew Morton published Diana: Her True Story (based on secret recordings Diana had an intermediary make for the author), which revealed that the princess was living with the eating disorder. In an 1995 interview with BBC, she described bulimia as a “symptom of what was going on in my marriage.”

Diana’s candid self-disclosures in these interviews may be her most powerful and unrecognized legacy. Her honesty helped chip away at the stigma surrounding mental health and encouraged others to get help. It is not an exaggeration to say that thousands of people changed their lives because Diana talked about hers.

Today, nearly one in six adults in the U.K. and one in five adults in the U.S. live with a mental illness. Millions in the U.K. and the U.S. currently have an eating disorder, which is often accompanied by depression or an anxiety disorder. But only a relatively small percentage of people will actually seek treatment. One of the biggest barriers is not access to help, but rather fear, shame and embarrassment. While a number of celebrities, including Demi Lovato and Catherine Zeta-Jones, have spoken out about living with mental illness in recent years, such frank disclosures were far less typical when Diana first opened up about her life experiences.

Even more unexpected was the clarity, honesty and depth with which Diana described her bulimia.“That’s like a secret disease,” she told the BBC in that 1995 interview. “You inflict it upon yourself because your self-esteem is at a low ebb, and you don’t think you’re worthy or valuable. You fill your stomach up four or five times a day — some do it more — and it gives you a feeling of comfort.”

“It’s like having a pair of arms around you,” she added, “but it’s temporarily, temporary.”

She said that she often came home from her official engagements “feeling pretty empty” and that she felt immense pressure to keep her marriage together despite the couple’s well-documented problems. “I was crying out for help, but giving the wrong signals, and people were using my bulimia as a coat on a hanger: they decided that was the problem — Diana was unstable,” she said.

For people who don’t understand why someone would feel compelled to binge and purge, Diana’s shockingly vulnerable explanations provided a simple answer. Binging, she said, functioned as a release valve for pressures and problems that seemed otherwise insurmountable. The stigma surrounding mental health can often be exacerbated by a lack of knowledge, and Diana’s candid interview allowed others to empathize and understand what it’s like to live with bulimia.

Diana’s disclosure had even more value for people with first-hand experience with bulimia. During the second half of the 20th century, rates of bulimia in Western, industrialized nations rose dramatically. Yet many women viewed bulimia as a private and deeply humiliating experience that should be kept hidden.

Remarkably, in the years during which Diana spoke publicly about her bulimia, rates of womenseeking treatment for bulimia in Great Britain more than doubled. The press dubbed this phenomenon the “Diana effect.” Mental health practitioners credited this shift to greater public awareness and dialogue about bulimia, as well as women identifying with Diana. If a princess could be bulimic, so could they. If she could explain why she hurt herself, they could recognize that side of themselves too. If she could overcome her eating disorder, they could too.

Self-disclosures, particularly of people in positions of power or visibility, can change how other people approach their own psychological health. Researchers have found that knowing someone else with a mental illness can encourage others to get help. “It is notable that the Princess’s death in 1997 coincided with the beginning of the decline in bulimia incidence,” researchers wrote in a 2005 study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry on time trends in eating disorder incidences. “Identification with a public figure’s struggle with bulimia might have temporarily decreased the shame associated with the illness, and encouraged women to seek help for the first time.”

Unfortunately, after Diana’s death in 1997, those rates slowly returned to baseline. By 2000, the “Diana effect” had vanished. Currently, in the United States, we are in the throes of a new mental health crisis. A study published in Pediatrics last year found that between 2005 and 2014, there was a 37% increase in the number of individuals aged 12-20 reporting a major depressive episode. But there hasn’t been a corresponding rise in treatment rates.

Hopefully, the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death will reignite conversations about why it’s so important to speak openly about mental health and encourage others to seek help. Her sons have already taken up that task. Earlier this year, Prince Harry spoke frankly about seeking counseling to address his grief over his mother’s death. Meanwhile, Prince William appeared in a documentary about anorexia, where he discussed his mother’s experience with bulimia.

“We need to normalize the conversation about mental health,” Prince William said in the documentary. “We need to be matter-of-fact about it, and not hide it in the dark where it festers.”

Diana did not set out to be a mental health advocate. She simply told her truth and her narrative resonated. These days, we could use more truth-tellers like her.

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