Reprinted from the Cornell Chronicle, March 8, 2017.
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.
by Pooja Shah '17
Cornell psychologist Valerie Reyna, along with co-investigator Valerie Hans from the Cornell Law School, has received a $390,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to better understand damage award decision-making.
Juries are often at sea about award amounts, with widely differing outcomes for cases that seem comparable. To make sense of this process—and, ultimately, improve the process of juror decision-making—the grant builds on evidence-based scientific theory developed at Cornell.
Reyna, professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology, said the research seeks to identify the causes of inconsistent jury awards and to test credible and cost-effective solutions that could reduce unwarranted inconsistency. Researchers will apply fuzzy-trace theory, believing that jurors often understand the gist of damages but have difficulty mapping verbatim numbers (dollar awards) onto that gist.
Currently, jurors are provided with limited guidance by the legal system and are presented with injuries that are often difficult to value. For instance, Reyna said, how do we value the loss of a spouse, the pain of a severe physical injury, or the inability to hug a child? Researchers will evaluate the effectiveness of potential legal reforms—such as providing meaningful numbers as benchmarks and “scaling” instructions that place damages in perspective. Preliminary evidence suggests that such behavioral nudges can improve the process of translating a qualitative human injury into a quantitative monetary award.
Reyna, along with Hans and Cornell students, recently published a related paper, “The Gist of Juries: Testing a Model of Damage Award Decision Making,” in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. (Read more about the paper in the Cornell Chronicle.)
The grant was made by the NSF Law and Social Sciences Program, which supports interdisciplinary research proposals that promote a greater understanding of the connections between law and human behavior while advancing scientific theory.