Tag Archives: environment

FEATURES

Charles Brainerd to receive G. Stanley Hall Award

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.


Assisted-living is better when family and staff communicate

Karl Pillemer, the Hazel E. Reed Professor in Human Development and senior associate dean for research and outreach in the College of Human Ecology, has developed the Partners in Caregiving in Assisted Living Program (PICAL)  to reduce staff-family conflict in assisted living facilities.


Institute for the Social Sciences grant awarded to bethany ojalheto

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."


Our brains are wired to earn money, but not save it

Adam Anderson and Eve De Rosa recently studied why it is hard for people to save money. They found that when people were given the choice, over 90% of the time they chose earning money to saving it. They discuss how our brains may be hard-wired for earning and that saving requires more conscious effort.


Teens old for their grade more likely to enroll in college

Felix Thoemmes uses math models to better understand why high school students who are old for their grade are more likely to enroll in college than students who are young. The article discusses how the age at which one starts school has implications for each student as well as for the class as a whole.


MULTIMEDIA

Robert Sternberg and the Triangular Theory of Love

Robert Sternberg was interviewed on October 9, 2018 for the podcastWhat Makes Us Human?from Cornell University's College of Arts & Sciences. This is the podcast's third season, "What Do We Know About Love?" and Dr. Sternberg discusses his "Triangular Theory of Love."


 

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.

FEATURES

Spotlight on HD department in APS feature

In a new recurring feature, the Observer showcases university labs and departments that have advanced integrative science. In the inaugural installment, APS Fellow Qi Wang talks about Cornell University’s Department of Human Development, which she chairs.


Human Development welcomes new faculty

The Department of Human Development welcomes 4 faculty members with research interests that include network science, social media, epigenetics, ecology, conceptual development and cultural diversity, and social cognition.


Lin Bian – Early gender stereotypes impact girls’ aspirations

Lin Bian will join the Department of Human Development in January 2019 as the Evalyn Edwards Milman Assistant Professor. Watch the NBC News video to learn more about her research on the acquisition and consequences of gender stereotypes about intellectual ability.


Innovative research at the Cornell Magnetic Resonance Imaging Facility

One of the central goals in the establishment of the Cornell Magnetic Resonance Imaging Facility (CMRIF) has been to help foster innovative technology development among faculty from diverse disciplines, including animal science.


Using gist to communicate end-of-life treatment choices

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.


Qi Wang – Studying Memory Development in Cultural Context

APS President Suparna Rajaram invited four distinguished psychological scientists to speak about memory from cognitive, neuroscientific, cultural, and developmental approaches as part of the Presidential Symposium at the 30th Annual APS Convention in San Francisco. Watch Qi Wang's presentation, "Studying Memory Development in Cultural Context: A Multi-Level Analysis Approach".


 

The Department of Human Development welcomes 4 faculty members with research interests that include network science, social media, epigenetics, ecology, conceptual development and cultural diversity, and social cognition.

William Hobbs

William Hobbs received his doctorate in political science from the University of California at San Diego and comes to Cornell from Northeastern University where he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Network Science Institute. At Cornell, he has a joint appointment in Human Development and the Department of Government. A central feature of Hobbs' research is the use of complex relational data to study "the social effects of government policies, on how small groups of people adapt to sudden changes in their lives, and on low-dimensional representation (data that has been processed to reduce the number of random variables) of social interaction and language." [Read Dr. Hobbs' CV to learn more about his research.] One of his recent publications involved an analysis of the effect of interacting on social media networks specifically, Facebook, and longevity. [Read more about the study in a story by CBS News.]


Marlen Gonzalez

Marlen Gonzalez arrived at Cornell this summer after completing the Charleston Consortium Internship Program, a joint endeavor of the Medical University of South Carolina and the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center. She received her doctorate from the University of Virginia (UVA), where she studied with Dr. James Coan and engaged in a truly diverse interdisciplinary research program, including, developmental psychology, neuroscience, epigenetics, evolutionary biology, and behavioral ecology. As a graduate student at UVA, Gonzalez was a LIFE Fellow from 2014-2017 which enabled her to study at UVA and at the International Max Planck Research School on the Life Course in Berlin. The central question guiding Dr. Gonzalez's research is "How do our developmental environments, and especially our social environments, shape our nervous system and biobehavioral strategies for coping in adulthood."


bethany ojalehto

Bethany ojalehto has returned to her academic roots in Human Development and the College of Human Ecology. She graduated with honors (she received the Zuckerman award for best senior thesis in HD) from Human Ecology in 2008 having majored in psychology and human rights with a certificate of African Studies and was a mentee of HD Chair, Qi Wang. Her undergraduate years were funded by a number of prestigious scholarships, including, The Nancy and Andrew Persily Scholarship, the Merrill Presidential Scholar, and the Cornell Presidential Research Scholar. Upon graduation, ojalehto received a U.S. Fulbright Research Grant to Kenya, Law and Psychology and studied cognitive development in a Kenyan refugee camp. She completed her masters and doctorate at Northwestern University under the mentorship of Drs. Douglas Medin, Sandra Waxman, and Rebecca Seligman. As a graduate student she received a Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Short-Term Fellowship for a study of “Cultural Models and Conceptual Development in a Ngöbe Community,” Panama. She was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for her dissertation and continued her work as a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern. According to ojalehto, her research "explores how people conceptualize agency and ecologies, with a focus on cultural variation in social cognition and human-nature relationships." [Read more about Dr. ojalehto's research and outreach at website: http://sites.northwestern.edu/ojalehto/ and watch her presentation at the National Academy of Sciences Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium, Pressing Questions in the Study of Psychological and Behavioral Diversity].


Lin Bian

Lin Bian will join the Department of Human Development in January 2019 as the Evalyn Edwards Milman Assistant Professor. She is currently completing a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Ellen Markman at Stanford University. Dr. Bian received her doctorate in developmental psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2017 under the mentorship of Drs. Andrei Cimpian and Renée Baillargeon. Her research examines the development of social cognition, with an emphasis on children’s reasoning about social groups. In this vein, she has pursued two major lines of research: One line of work focuses on the acquisition and consequences of stereo- types about social groups for children’s interests and motivation. The other line of work focuses on infants’ and toddlers’ sociomoral expectations, especially as how they apply to behaviors within vs. across group boundaries. [Watch the NBC News video about Dr. Bian's research, Psychologist Breaks Ground with Gender Bias Study].

 

FEATURES

Qi Wang Retraces Her Path to Memory Research

Qi Wang, an Association for Psychological Science (APS) Fellow esteemed for her scientific contributions on culture and autobiographical memory, reflects on her career path in an interview with Suparna Rajaram, the President of APS.


Special Issue on Women in Science 

Wendy Williams, founder, and director of the Cornell Institute for Women in Science (CIWS) has edited a special edition of a journal on evidence-based research about factors that affect the academic and professional lives of women in STEM fields. In her editorial of Underrepresentation of Women in Science: International and Cross-Disciplinary Evidence and Debate, Williams provides a framework for understanding some of the issues and viewpoints that surround the debate of women in science.


Mothers Instill Eco-Awareness

Gary Evans and colleagues are the first to show that parenting can have long-term effects on pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors in adulthood. This has important implications for education and public policy.


Long-Term Depression Risk for Girls Who Start Puberty Early

In his blog, The Methods Man, F. Perry Wilson MD, commends the quality of Jane Mendle's research on how early puberty may lead to depression in adulthood. Her results have important implications for depression screening recommendations of girls in early puberty.


Too Young to Plead

In a recent paper, Valerie Reyna and Rebecca Helm reported that adolescents are more likely than adults to plea guilty to crimes they have not committed. They argue that the decision-making processes involved with plea-bargaining are developmentally immature in adolescents and they are vulnerable to pleading to a lesser charge even if innocent.


Mapping Emotion in the Brain

Daniel Casasanto and graduate student Geoffrey Brookshire propose an exciting new theory that, contrary to the prevailing view that different emotions are localized in specific areas of the brain, emotions are “smeared over both hemispheres” depending on an individual’s handedness.


The Accents We Trust

Katherine Kinzler studies the development of social cognition, with particular emphasis on exploring infants’ and children’s attention to the language and accent with which others speak as a marker of group membership. A recent article by the BBC explores her research and its implications for empathy, cultural learning, and trust.


 

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

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.

DIV. 7 AWARD WINNERS

Early Career Outstanding Paper Award winner: Sarah R. Moore

A summary of Sarah R. Moore's research, “Neurobehavioral Foundation of Environmental Reactivity.”

By Sarah R. Moore

Sarah Moore, Ph.D. student in Human Development

Sarah R. Moore, Ph.D. student in Human Development

In this review article, I propose a framework for understanding the neurobiological processes that guide how individuals navigate and internalize environments. Previous work brought to attention the empirical evidence that some individuals with particular temperaments, physiological characteristics and, more recently, genetic polymorphisms, demonstrate heightened effects of social environments on development (Belsky & Pluess, 2009). My review article, published in Psychological Bulletin, steps beyond this question of whether individuals vary in responses to social environments, which is now well-established, to why individuals differ in their responses. In other words, I set out to address: What underlies this variation in sensitivity to experience, and how does it develop?

Since the publication of seminal work on gene-environment interactions (Caspi et al., 2002, 2003), gene-environment interaction has become quite common in investigations of individual differences in responsiveness to environmental factors. Collectively, the work suggests that particular genes encoding neurochemicals relate to the degree that social contexts have enduring consequences on developmental outcomes. What was missing in this area was an explanation as to how variation of these neurobiological systems shapes individual differences in the enduring consequences of environmental factors. The first part of my review article thus addresses the neurobiological functions of genes commonly implicated in gene-environment interaction studies of sensitivity. These functions bridge genetic variation affecting neural systems to actual differences in neuroplasticity processes to environmental inputs, explaining mechanistically why particular genotypes might be linked to larger effects of the environment on development.

Inherent to the notion of plasticity is the critical role of experience. Plasticity means that environments are interacting with biology in the development of traits. Despite this accepted view of development as plastic, and thus involving an ongoing interplay of biology and experience, there still exists a heavy emphasis on genetics, in and of itself, wherever one or more genes might be implicated. In the second part of my review, a developmental framework is proposed that accounts for the dynamic nature of the biological processes that are affected by genes. Simply put, if a genetic factor shapes plasticity to the environment, then the history of environmental effects on the biology of the brain is as important to understanding outcomes as the genetic susceptibility factor: Any long-term consequences of such a factor is intrinsically dependent on the surrounding environmental context.

Taken together, the importance of this article lies in its novel insights into the mechanisms that may account for individual variations in sensitivity at a point where the field is in need of such an analysis. For the increasing number of developmentalists turning to research on genetic and biological markers of sensitivity, this article serves to inform the biological role of the prominently studied genes in human development. It also highlights other biological systems relevant to how experiences are registered and internalized. The article advances the current literature's myopic focus on identifying genetic plasticity markers to understanding the plasticity processes at play. The plasticity of neurobiological systems directly accounts for who responds and adapts and to what in the environment. This is essential for understanding developmental change, and for identifying targetable mechanisms of risk. After all, changing genes is not an option.

Ultimately, this article is intended to jumpstart more in-depth research aimed at understanding the nuanced developmental trajectories of individuals with different susceptibilities and unique histories. Understanding how biological tendencies are modified by experience will pave the way for tailored interventions that target the specific needs of individuals and, ultimately, improve psychological and physical health outcomes. I will be continuing this work as a scholar at the Child and Family Research Institute at the University of British Columbia. In this next phase, I will investigate the epigenetic mediators bridging the interplay of genetic variation and experience to neurodevelopment.

References

Belsky, J., & Pluess, M. (2009). Beyond diathesis stress: Differential susceptibility to environmental influences. Psychological Bulletin, 135 (6), 885–908.

Caspi, A., McClay, J., Moffitt, T. E., Mill, J., Martin, J., Craig, I. W., et al. (2002). Role of genotype in the cycle of violence in maltreated children. Science, 297 (5582), 851–854.

Caspi, A., Sugden, K., Moffitt, T. E., Taylor, A., Craig, I. W., Harrington, H., et al. (2003). Influence of life stress on depression: Moderation by a polymorphism in the 5-HTT gene. Science, 301 (5631), 386–389.

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