Tag Archives: decision making

Valerie Reyna, Professor of Human Development and Director of the Human Neuroscience Institute

APS Roundtable: Psychological Science and COVID-19, What We Know and What We Can Do

On March 18, the Association for Psychological Science convened a virtual roundtable of four APS members who discussed the psychological dimensions of COVID-19 and how it is affecting both society and individuals. The online gathering produced intriguing insights on the pandemic and the research-based actions we can take to minimize its impact.

Panelists included Bethany Teachman (University of Virginia), Katie McLaughlin (Harvard University), Valerie Reyna (Cornell University), and Andreas Olsson (Karolinska Institutet).

Before we begin, let us go around the virtual table and introduce ourselves and our particular areas of expertise.

I am Bethany Teachman, and I am a professor and director of clinical training at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and I think the primary reason I’m on the panel is that I study anxiety and emotion dysregulation and how people think differently when they’re anxious and what kinds of things we can do to try to manage that.

This is Katie McLaughlin. I’m a professor at Harvard University in the psychology department and my research focuses on how experiences of stress influence the way we think, our emotions, our ability to regulate our emotions, and our health.

I’m Valerie Reyna, a professor at Cornell University where I direct the Human Neuroscience Institute and I study risk communication and medical decision making.  My research is about how people interpret the gist of risks, so that they can bring values to bear on their choices and lead healthy lives.

And I am Andreas Olsson, a professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. I’m directing a lab with a research focus on fear and defensive behaviors. We are inspired by a cross-species approach with a focus on experimental work in humans, and we are particularly interested in how fear and anxiety spreads across individuals, which is termed social fear learning.

The COVID-19 pandemic can be seen as a “collective crisis.” Does this perspective change the way people adapt to and manage the situation?

Bethany Teachman: This is a situation that can have both positive and negative effects as a function of it being a collective crisis. On the positive side, there is a sense that we’re in it together and we see many amazing examples of people supporting one another. On the negative side, we see some people respond to this with a sense that they need to “protect their own” and it is “us versus them.”

Valerie Reyna: And many people are feeling both impulses at the same time. They’re obviously going to feel fear because of the uncertainty, the present threat, and the potential threats. And the social cues around people right now are going to raise their perception that we’re in danger. Then there’s the talk of the long-term impact to the economy too, and you have a real recipe for people to be anxious and frightened.

Andreas Olsson: The good side of this [being a collective crisis] is that sharing others’ anxieties and fears can motivate us to help each other, but the flip side is that sharing others' anxiety can cause a lot of suffering for some individuals. Today, when some people are monitoring the situation 24/7, that means they have exposure to a lot of suffering […] and this takes a big toll.

Katie McLaughlin: Psychological science has taught us quite clearly that in situations of mass trauma or mass stressors, like a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, there’s a very clear link between the degree of media exposure that people have and their symptoms of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. People [should be] very mindful about how they’re engaging with media accounts of the virus in the current crisis and to try to limit exposure.

With the seemingly unrelenting stressors we are dealing with, is there a psychological equivalent to a low-grade fever that people may be experiencing?

Katie McLaughlin: This is unquestionably a period where people are experiencing an enormous amount of stress, given the large demands that the situation is placing on our daily lives—the changes in our routines and structures that we typically rely on, and the uncertainty surrounding how long this is going to last and what the ultimate impact is going to be on our families, on our communities, and on our workplaces. […] So absolutely, this is a period of time when people are likely going to be noticing higher levels of anxiety and depression than they might normally experience.

Bethany Teachman: It’s reasonable to have some anxiety and sadness. At the same time, it’s important not to get stuck there. There are a number of things that we can do to maintain as much of our normal lives as possible.

The first area is relationships. Social distancing does not have to equal social isolation. Those are two very different concepts and virtual interaction can make a big difference.

The second is thoughts and feelings. It really doesn’t help us to spend 10 hours a day scrolling through newsfeeds and posts on COVID-19. So in a number of anxiety treatments, we encourage people to pick a couple of times a day when they focus on their worries and get the information that they need to problem-solve but then spend the rest of their time living their lives as normally as possible.

The third piece is standard behavioral self-care. A lot of what helps at this time is healthy eating, sleep, exercise, and perspective-taking so that you don’t get stuck in assuming the worst.

And the fourth is to live your values. So be kind to yourself and be kind to others. This is a stressful time and anxiety is normal. We have to give ourselves permission to experience the feelings that we’re having and then to try to do as much as we can to maintain normality in the face of that situation.

Andreas Olsson: In the long run, if we would continue keeping up the vigilance and being stressed over time, this will definitely lead to a number of very bad consequences for us as individuals as well as society. We know that a long-term anxiety [can worsen attention spans], memory, and immune-system responses. So there’s a number of bad consequences in keeping this chronic anxiety for a longer period of time.

Katie McLaughlin: Social relationships are an incredibly important buffer against the negative consequences of stress. We know that having strong emotional support not only prevents anxiety and depression in periods of stress but also buffers against the negative physiological consequences of stress on the immune system and physical health. One of my very favorite studies shows that stress-buffering effects that you get from receiving social support you also get when you give social support to other people. And this is something that people can control right now—the degree of support they provide to others, including members of our communities who are more vulnerable.

Valerie Reyna: Human behavior is affecting everything from the stock market to the actions people take or don’t take to reduce risk, like social distancing. Behavior will determine the actual public health risk in the end. If we’re able to understand why behaviors are risky, and therefore follow appropriate guidelines, we will have a far better outcome than if we don’t.

From your experience, what is one thing psychological science tells us that we should know?

Valerie Reyna: One of the most important fundamental findings that informs what we’re dealing with right now is that people react to the gist of the events rather than the details and the facts. It’s how people interpret reality that governs their emotions and their actions, not the actual reality itself. So we have to think about this torrent of information washing over everybody. How can we help people extract the bottom-line gist of that information so that they can take effective action?

Bethany Teachman: We are not just passive recipients of what is happening. […] We can collectively work together to respond to this situation as a challenge, as opposed to appraising it as an impossible threat that we cannot manage.

Katie McLaughlin: Giving support to other people is just as effective at helping to reduce stress responses and the negative consequences of stress for our physical and mental health as receiving support from others.

We know very clearly that exposing yourself to a lot of media coverage about the pandemic is going to increase anxiety. The more we can create positive habits and boundaries around our exposure to media, the better.

Andreas Olsson: We not only have to understand our ability in our agency, but we also have to know the limitations of our minds. We really need to spend time trying to trust the experts. We have physicians and epidemiologists who are really good at explaining the effects of the virus on society. We also have psychologists who are really good at giving advice on how to cope with isolation, fear, and anxiety. In uncertain times like now, when it is impossible to have a full understanding of the situation, we need to rely on trusted sources of information.

 

 

HD TODAY e-NEWS: Insights from Human Development's Research & Outreach

HD TODAY e-NEWS is a quarterly digest of cutting-edge research from the Department of Human Development, College of Human Ecology, Cornell University. Explore the HD Today e-NEWS website at http://hdtoday.human.cornell.edu/ and discover a wide range of resources:


HD TODAY e-NEWS: Insights from Human Development's Research & Outreach

HD TODAY e-NEWS is a quarterly digest of cutting-edge research from the Department of Human Development, College of Human Ecology, Cornell University. Explore the HD Today e-NEWS website at http://hdtoday.human.cornell.edu/ and discover a wide range of resources:

SPRING 2019 ISSUE

Stephen Ceci is elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Stephen Ceci, the Helen L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology in the College of Human Ecology is elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Ceci’s research focuses on understanding real-world problems and settings. His work spans studies of intellectual development; children and the law; and women in science.


Imaging shows distinct pattern for tastes in the brain's taste center

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and a new method of statistical analysis, Adam Anderson and colleagues have discovered that sweet, sour, salty, and bitter tastes are represented in distinct areas of the taste center in the human brain.


An interview with Valerie Reyna by CCE News

Dr. Valerie Reyna is Lois and Melvin Tukman Professor and has been Department Extension Leader for the Human Development department of the Cornell University College of Human Ecology since 2005. She also directs the Human Neuroscience Institute and co-directs the Center for Behavioral Economics and Decision Research.


The Integrative Neuroscience Salon - where science is a team sport

Dr. Marlen Gonzalez founded the Integrative Neuroscience Salon to create an inclusive community of "neuroscientifically curious" scientists from disparate disciplines, including human development, psychology, communications, engineering, neurobiology, computer science and law to meet and discuss neuroscience research through presentations and papers.


Anthony Burrow explains how 4-H can foster identity and purpose

Anthony Burrow, Professor in the Department of Human Development and co-director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research’s Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement (PRYDE), was interviewed for the podcast "Extension Out Loud." He discusses how exploring identity and sense of purpose helps young people get more out of programs such as 4-H.


Advancing science communication through Fuzzy-Trace Theory

Watch Valerie Reyna's talk at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's (NASEM) Colloquium on Advancing the Science and Practice of Science Communication: Misinformation About Science in the Public Sphere held in Irvine, CA on April 3-4, 2019 and co-sponsored by Rita Allen Foundation, Science Sandbox, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and The KAVLI Foundation.


 

FEATURES

Stephen Ceci is elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Stephen Ceci, the Helen L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology in the College of Human Ecology is elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Ceci’s research focuses on understanding real-world problems and settings. His work spans studies of intellectual development; children and the law; and women in science.


Imaging shows distinct pattern for tastes in the brain's taste center

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and a new method of statistical analysis, Adam Anderson and colleagues have discovered that sweet, sour, salty, and bitter tastes are represented in distinct areas of the taste center in the human brain.


An interview with Valerie Reyna by CCE News

Dr. Valerie Reyna is Lois and Melvin Tukman Professor and has been Department Extension Leader for the Human Development department of the Cornell University College of Human Ecology since 2005. She also directs the Human Neuroscience Institute and co-directs the Center for Behavioral Economics and Decision Research.


The Integrative Neuroscience Salon - where science is a team sport

Dr. Marlen Gonzalez founded the Integrative Neuroscience Salon to create an inclusive community of "neuroscientifically curious" scientists from disparate disciplines, including human development, psychology, communications, engineering, neurobiology, computer science and law to meet and discuss neuroscience research through presentations and papers.


MULTIMEDIA

Anthony Burrow explains how 4-H can foster identity and purpose

Anthony Burrow, Professor in the Department of Human Development and co-director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research’s Program for Research on Youth Development and Engagement (PRYDE), was interviewed for the podcast "Extension Out Loud." He discusses how exploring identity and sense of purpose helps young people get more out of programs such as 4-H.


Advancing science communication through Fuzzy-Trace Theory

Watch Valerie Reyna's talk at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's (NASEM) Colloquium on Advancing the Science and Practice of Science Communication: Misinformation About Science in the Public Sphere held in Irvine, CA on April 3-4, 2019 and co-sponsored by Rita Allen Foundation, Science Sandbox, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and The KAVLI Foundation.


 

Developmental psychologist Charles Brainerd to receive APA award

Charles Brainerd

Charles Brainerd, professor of human development and human neuroscience, will receive the American Psychological Association’s G. Stanley Hall award for distinguished contributions to developmental science at the APA’s August 2019 meeting in San Francisco.

Regarded as 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.

Brainerd’s research has had an impact on educational, developmental and cognitive psychology, and he is credited with major breakthroughs across his theoretical and empirical work.

“Chuck has done groundbreaking work in human memory and reasoning through experimental behavioral methods, mathematical models and neuroscience techniques,” said Qi Wang, professor of human development and department chair. “He co-developed fuzzy-trace theory of memory, judgment and decision-making that has been widely applied in the law and in medicine. His work exemplifies the best integration of theory-driven experimentation and evidence-based translational research.”

According to the APA, 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 linking developmental psychology with issues confronting society or with other disciplines.

Brainerd’s current research centers on the relationship between memory and higher reasoning abilities in children and adults, also focusing on false-memory phenomena, cognitive neuroscience, aging and neurocognitive impairment.

He has published more than 300 research articles and chapters and more than 20 books. His research covers human memory and decision-making, statistics and mathematical modeling, cognitive neuroscience, learning, intelligence, cognitive development, learning disability and child abuse.

Brainerd has been elected to the National Academy of Education; is a fellow of the Division of General Psychology, the Division of Experimental Psychology, the Division of Developmental Psychology and the Division of Educational Psychology of the American Psychological Association; and is a fellow of the American Psychological Society.

The editor of the journal Developmental Review, Brainerd has served as associate editor for journals including Child Development and The Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Brainerd’s win of the 2019 G. Stanley Hall Award immediately follows the 2018 win of Stephen Ceci, the Helen L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology in the Department of Human Development.

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

bethany ojalehto

The Institute for the Social Sciences (ISS) grants awards to faculty to develop new research or seek external funding. bethany ojalehto received funding for her project, "Cognitive Drivers of Environmental Decision Making: Mobilizing Indigenous Ecocentric Conceptual Perspectives
in Diverse Contexts." In her work with the Indigenous Ngobe communities of Panama, ojalehto has studied the unique way they think about and interact with their environment. The Ngobe peoples behave in response to an environment they perceive as a dynamic agent. In contrast, our culture acts on an inert environment and makes decisions about it from a purely human-centered position. ojalehto will explore how the Ngobe's conceptual understanding of the environment can help us improve our ecological decision making.

Reprinted from College of Human Ecology's Alumni Profiles

by Stephen D'Angelo

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.

As a Human Development major and Policy Analysis and Management minor, working towards a career in health policy, she pursued coursework that allowed her to better understand the human condition in the context of healthcare. Lindsay took full advantage of the opportunities within the college to create an undergraduate experience that intertwined courses in behavioral neuroscience with those in healthcare.

Dr. Valerie Reyna and Lindsay Dower '17

She joined Professor Valerie Reyna’s lab for Rational Decision Making during her freshman year after learning about Reyna’s work in an introductory Human Development course. Further, Lindsay served as a Cornell Cooperative Extension Intern during the summer of 2014, bringing evidence-based curricula developed in the lab to middle school-aged campers at 4-H Camp Bristol Hills. Through a series of hands-on activities, she delivered an obesity prevention intervention to the campers, while completing a randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of the curricula.

The following year, she gratefully received a Human Ecology Alumni Association Grant to continue studying how people make decisions about their eating and exercise habits. Lindsay’s research then expanded to include a project on investigating the decision making behind medication adherence in Type I and Type II diabetics. Her passion for the projects in the lab earned Lindsay the role of Undergraduate Team Leader of the Health and Medical Decision Making Team when she was a junior. Lindsay led a group of over ten undergraduates in the lab, serving as a resource to help them engage with the material in meaningful ways.

Outside of the classroom, Lindsay was very involved with Alpha Phi Omega, a national community service fraternity with a chapter on campus. As a member of APO, Lindsay served as chair for the Loaves and Fishes project, during which she and other members volunteered to serve free, hot meals to those who needed them most in downtown Ithaca. Additionally, she played the flute in the Big Red Pep Band during her time at Cornell.

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.

Charles Brainerd

Reprinted from the Cornell Chronicle, March 8, 2017.

By Stephen D'Angelo

Charles Brainerd, professor and chair of the Department of Human Development in the College of Human Ecology, and 13 other scholars nationwide have been elected the newest members of the National Academy of Education (NAEd) for their scholarly contributions in the field of education research.

NAEd advances high-quality education research and its use in policy and practice. It consists of 209 U.S. members and 11 foreign associates who are elected on the basis of outstanding scholarship related to education.

“It was not something that I anticipated and came as a surprise,” Brainerd said. “For me, this is another indicator of the international stature of the human development department.”

Brainerd joins fellow Cornell NAEd members Stephen Ceci, Ronald Ehrenberg, Robert Sternberg and Kenneth Strike.

Brainerd has published more than 300 research articles and chapters and more than 20 books. His research covers human memory and decision-making, statistics and mathematical modeling, cognitive neuroscience, learning, intelligence, cognitive development, learning disability and child abuse.

Within the field, Brainerd’s research is known for having had deep impacts on educational, developmental and cognitive psychology, and he is credited with major breakthroughs across both his theoretical and empirical contributions.

His current research centers on the relation between memory and higher reasoning abilities in children and adults, also focusing on false-memory phenomena, cognitive neuroscience, aging and neurocognitive impairment.

Academy members are tapped to serve on expert study panels and are also engaged in NAEd’s professional development programs, including postdoctoral and dissertation fellowship programs.

“It’s an opportunity to serve,” said Brainerd. “The national academy forms committees and study groups of leading scholars to work on important issues in higher education – important and prominent questions of the day – and provides advice and leadership on those questions.”

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