Listen to the HD Today e-NEWS Listen Notes playlists of podcasts featuring HD faculty interviews.
Listen to the HD Today e-NEWS Listen Notes playlists of podcasts featuring HD faculty interviews.
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 https://hdtoday.human.cornell.edu/ and discover a wide range of resources:
Elaine Wethington is elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society. Dr. Wethington is recognized for distinguished contributions to medical sociology.
Corinna Loeckenhoff says that shifting stereotypes is no simple feat. People develop their views on aging when they are toddlers, but they also change based on experience. Unfortunately, negative beliefs are often built on inaccurate impressions.
Research has found that loneliness is a known risk factor for cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, disability and depression. Anthony Ong urges addressing the direct, indirect, and moderated effects of social isolation and loneliness on health.
Since its launch in September 2016, the Cornell Race and Empathy Project has recorded, archived and shared the everyday stories of Cornellians that evoke racial empathy. To continue fostering the ability to identify and understand the feelings of someone of a different background, the project has evolved into an online presence.
John Eckenrode and Karl Pillemer discuss the origins of translational research, and how it differs from "basic" and "applied" research. There are some examples of translational research projects and throughout the conversation they touch on why this research method is so effective and more and more in-demand by funders, policymakers and practitioners.
Three of Tamar Kushnir's graduate students--Teresa Flanagan, Alyssa Varhol, and Alice Xin Zhao--reflect on what led them to work with Dr. Kushnir and enroll in the Department of Human Development Graduate Program.
thehindu.com, Age well: attitudes matter in a greying world, June 14, 2018, by Jim Rendon and Olumfemi Terry.
Healthy ageing has become increasingly important, but a WHO analysis found that 60% of people surveyed across 57 countries had negative views of old age.
At 85, Claude Copin, a retired French welder, may have discovered a secret to living a long, healthy life. She stays active by playing a petanque game with friends in a Paris park. And she has made friends with her teammates’ children, many of whom are teenagers. They take her to parties and movies — sometimes forgetting that she might need a rest before they do.
“I make my life beautiful,” says Ms. Copin. “I am still healthy because I have activities and I meet people.”
Ms. Copin is right. A growing body of research and global data collected and analysed by Orb Media shows a strong connection between how we view old age and how well we age. Individuals with a positive attitude towards old age are likely to live longer and in better health than those with a negative attitude. Older people in countries with low levels of respect for the elderly are at risk for worse mental and physical health and higher levels of poverty compared with others in their country. A shift in attitude, the research shows, could improve a lot.
Healthy ageing is increasingly important: countries everywhere outside Africa are rapidly growing older. If population trends continue, by 2050 nearly one out of five people in the world will be over 65, and close to half a billion will be older than 80. Smaller, young populations will have to care for large, older populations with increasingly expensive health care needs.
Surprisingly, in a world brimming with older people, negative views of old age are common. A World Health Organization analysis found that 60% of people surveyed across 57 countries had negative views of old age. Older people are often viewed as less competent and less able than younger people. They are considered a burden on society and their families, rather than being recognised for their valuable knowledge, wisdom and experience.
Orb Media compiled data from over 1,50,000 people in 101 countries to learn about their levels of respect for older people. Pakistan was among the countries that scored the highest.
Respect for older people is a long-standing tradition in Pakistan, says Faiza Mushtaq, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi, Pakistan. But as more people move to cities, traditional family structures are being disrupted, making it harder to care for elders. Without a government safety net, many older people fall into severe poverty, she says.
Nonetheless, there are tangible benefits to the way elders are viewed, says Ms. Mushtaq. “This attitude towards ageing is a much healthier embrace of the ageing process, rather than having all of your notions of well-being and attractiveness and self-worth being tied so closely to youth,” she says.
Japan, with the world’s longest lifespans and low birth rates, is at the leading edge of this global demographic shift. There Orb found low levels of respect for the elderly. Kozo Ishitobi, an 82-year-old nursing home physician, says that older people were traditionally seen as a burden.
“Japanese people are starting to realise that elderly people need support,” he says. “We all go through it, so we should support each other.”
It turns out that one’s attitude towards ageing has broad implications. Becca Levy, a Professor of Epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health in the United States, has been fascinated by the power of age stereotypes for decades. She started her work in the 1990s with a hunch. If older people are respected in society, perhaps that improves their self-image.
“That may in turn actually influence their physiology and that may influence their health,” says Ms. Levy.
Over the past two-and-a-half decades, Ms. Levy, the leader in the field, and the researchers that followed have found just that: those with positive views about old age live longer and age better. They are less likely to be depressed or anxious, and they show increased well-being and recover more quickly from disability. They also are less likely to develop dementia and the markers of Alzheimer’s disease. In one study, Ms. Levy found that Americans with more positive views on ageing who were tracked over decades lived 7.5 years longer than those with negative views. Studies in Germany and Australia have found similar results.
“Some of the magnitudes of the findings have been surprising,” says Ms. Levy.
Orb’s research and analysis found that these effects can also be seen across cultures. Older people in countries with high levels of respect for the elderly report better mental and physical well-being compared with other groups in their countries, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United Nations and others. Those countries also report lower rates of poverty among people over 50 compared with younger people in each country. It seems too simple: How can holding a better attitude towards old age help someone live longer? Ms. Levy found that people with negative age stereotypes have higher levels of stress. And stress has been correlated with a range of health problems. Those who expect a better life in old age are also more likely to exercise, eat well and visit the doctor, says Ms. Levy.
That has been the case for 57-year-old Marta Nazare Balbine Prates who moved her family into her parents’ home in Sao Paulo, Brazil a decade ago. She had to quit her job as a nutritionist at a hospital to care for them (her father passed away at the beginning of the year). It has been hard financially and emotionally. But, she says, the experience has made her think about the kind of life she wants when she is older.
“I try to watch what I eat. I work out as much as possible,” she says, “so I can reach old age in good physical condition.”
We should be grateful that we are even concerned about growing old, says Marilia Viana Berzins. She has worked with the elderly in Brazil for 20 years and founded the advocacy group, Observatory of Human Longevity and Aging. “Old age is actually an achievement,” she says. “It’s humanity’s biggest achievement of the last century.”
But, Ms. Berzins says, in Brazil old age has become associated with incapacity. “When we change this mindset and old age is seen like just a stage of life, we’ll move forward,” she says. “And the elderly will be treated with more respect.”
Shifting stereotypes is no simple feat. People develop their views on ageing when they are toddlers, says Corinna Loeckenhoff, an Associate Professor of Gerontology in Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, who has studied age stereotypes across cultures. But they also change based on experience. Unfortunately, negative beliefs are often built on inaccurate impressions.
As people grow older, their health usually remains stable until about five years before they die, says Ms. Loeckenhoff. Only then will most people experience the mental and physical decline most associated with old age. “People keep mixing up ageing and dying,” she says.
Some research shows that increasing meaningful contact between young and older people can break down negative stereotypes. For the past five years, the Résidence des Orchidées, a nursing home in Tourcoing, France, has tried to do just that. Every week, the home brings children from a neighbouring daycare centre to visit the residents. Pierre Vieren, a 91-year-old retired business owner, loves seeing the children.
“When I went to my balcony, the children said ‘Pierre, he is here,’” he says. “They all wave at me to say hello. That is my little ray of sunshine in the morning.”
The nursing home’s director, Dorothee Poignant, says the experience normalises old age for the children. “It recreates a family spirit with joy, children laughing, older people laughing,” she says.
“We don’t only have elderly, we have children, elderly, disabled people. It’s inclusive.”
Everyone can gain from improving ideas about old age, says Ms. Loeckenhoff. “The single-most important thing to realise about ageing stereotypes is that they are the only fair ones,” she says. “You will be the victim of your own stereotype, or the beneficiary as you get older.”
(Access full report at Orbmedia.org/agewell)
Cornell Chronicle, "Empathy project goes online," August 17, 2018, by Stephen D’Angelo
Since its launch in September 2016, the Cornell Race and Empathy Project has recorded, archived and shared the everyday stories of Cornellians that evoke racial empathy. The physical incarnation of the project – a cozy listening booth shaped like a stylized ear – is showing wear and tear and will have to be retired.
To continue fostering the ability to identify and understand the feelings of someone of a different background, the project has evolved into an online presence.
“This online archive provides a record of the responses that we have gathered over the past one-and-a-half years and makes them available to a broader audience,” said Corinna Loeckenhoff, associate professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology and of gerontology in medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine.
The project was funded through the Cornell Council for the Arts’ 2016 biennial and meant to remain open for three months. Because of strong resonance with the local community, the project has remained active with stopovers at Mann Library, the Human Ecology Commons, Gates Hall and off-campus venues.
According to research, interracial conversations can be experienced as stressful, which limits willingness to engage in them. Yet powerful stories of racial empathy exist and, when shared, can provide opportunities to celebrate one another’s joy and happiness or lament suffering and grief.
The digital archive features thoughts and ideas gathered over the years, provides a space for conversation and invites users to listen to other’s stories, write a response and share their own story.
Although older adults face significant health challenges, they tend to have better emotion regulation skills than younger or middle-age adults. Why is this so? And how might we use this knowledge to promote better health and well-being in adulthood and later life?
This book explores the reciprocal relations between aging and emotion, as well as applications for promoting mental and physical health across the lifespan. The authors discuss the neural and cognitive mechanisms behind age-related shifts in affective experience and processing.
In addition to presenting emotion regulation strategies for offsetting age-related declines in mental and physical functioning, the book examines the role of culture and motivation in shaping emotional experience across the lifespan, as well as the factors defining boundary conditions between human illness and human flourishing in old age.
By highlighting these major advances in interdisciplinary research, the authors suggest promising avenues for intervention.
Although older adults face significant health challenges, they tend to have better emotion regulation skills than younger or middle-age adults. Why is this so? This book explores the reciprocal relations between aging and emotion, as well as applications for promoting mental and physical health across the lifespan. The authors discuss the neural and cognitive mechanisms behind age-related shifts in affective experience and processing. In addition to presenting emotion regulation strategies for offsetting age-related declines in mental and physical functioning, the book examines the role of culture and motivation in shaping emotional experience across the lifespan, as well as the factors defining boundary conditions between human illness and human flourishing in old age.
By Allison M. Hermann
The Department of Human Development commended the graduating seniors of 2017 who made exceptional contributions to research and outreach.
The Henry Ricciuti Award for Outstanding Seniors in Human Development
Ten graduating Human Development seniors received the Henry Ricciuti Award for having achieved "distinction in research, excellence in leadership, and/or have contributed to exceptional community and public service during their undergraduate career at Cornell University." Dr. Ricciuti taught at Cornell for 53 years and was an expert in the cognitive and emotional development of infants and children and mentored many students in human development.
The Janet and Joseph Zuckerman Award for Excellence in Human Development Studies
The Janet and Joseph Zuckerman Award is given to a senior whose honor's thesis is judged by HD faculty to be the most outstanding of the year. Brian LaGrant wrote “Individual Differences in Perspective Taking with Interactive Social Learning” and was advised by Dr. Eve De Rosa. Here is the abstract from his thesis:
Imitation and perspective taking have been studied extensively independently, but little research has examined how they can impact one other. The purpose of this study was to determine how one’s perspective on a model performing a behavior can impact how veridically the observer imitates the behavior, and whether individual differences in autistic traits can mediate this relationship. 57 young adults and 29 young children were randomly assigned to observe a model open a puzzle box from one of three perspectives (0º, 90º, or 180º relative to model). All participants then attempted to open it from the model’s perspective. Surprisingly, perspective did not affect success rate or overimitation, but did show an unexpected effect on reaction time in adults. As predicted, autistic traits score did mediate some outcomes among individuals in the 90º and 180º conditions. Lowtrait adults had significantly more success at opening the puzzle box than hightrait adults. Moreover, the perspective from which participants desired to open the box was accurately predicted as a function of autistic traits: high-trait children were more likely to choose the perspective they initially observed from, whereas low-trait children were more likely to pick another perspective. The findings suggest that although the perspective from which one watches someone else solve a novel task does not substantially guide task performance, individuals with high levels of autistic traits can exhibit, and might be unconsciously aware of, deficits in imitation and perspective taking. Key implications of these results are discussed.
The Urie Bronfenbrenner Awards for Achievement in Research
The Urie Bronfenbrenner Award was presented to two students who demonstrated excellence in research. Urie Bronfenbrenner taught at Cornell for over 50 years and was a highly influential developmental psychologist famous for his holistic approach to human development. Angel Khuu received the award for her research project, "How Do you Remember More Accurately? Young Adults Postdating Earliest Childhood Memories " and was advised by Dr. Wang. Here is the abstract from her thesis:
Thirty-two young adults were recruited on SONA, a Cornell University Psychology Experiment Sign-up system. They reported their five earliest memories and the properties of these memories (i.e. personal significance). Parents were then contacted to confirm these memories and dating estimates, and to provide any additional details. Consistent with the first hypothesis, these young adults postdated memories before 48 months and predated memories after 48 months. Furthermore, more dating techniques was associated with less dating error and the most frequently used techniques were seasons, school year, and landmark events, consistent with my second hypothesis. Finally, memories with landmark events were not different in dating error from memories without, evidence against the third. This study is the first to examine postdating effects in young adults. These findings have important implications on autobiographical processes.
Sharnendra Sidhu also received the Bronfenbrenner award for her research project, "Racial and Ethnic Differences in Pain Self-Management Techniques Among Older Adults with Chronic Pain" and was adivsed by Dr. Loeckenhoff. Here is the abstract from her thesis:
The literature suggests that the adoption and use of pain-management techniques varies across racial and ethnic groups. However, potential mechanisms for the observed differences remain unclear. The present study wished to determine whether the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) could predict the use of two types of self-management techniques, exercise and psychological strategies, among White, Black, and Hispanic older adults with chronic pain (n = 134). Thus, we examined participants’ attitudes, perceived control, implementation intentions, and usage of these two techniques as well as the influence of race/ethnicity on this model. The results were consistent with the TPB, however race/ethnicity only showed to be a main effect on exercise usage. The implications and limitations of this study will be discussed in order to provide suggestions for future research.
Honors in Human Development
The following seniors received Honors in Human Development having completed original, empirical research, and wrote and defended a honors thesis: Anna Claire G. Fernández, Angel Khuu, Brian LeGrant, Sharnendra Sidhu, Leona Sharpstene, Hsiang Ling Tsai, and Deaven Winebrake.
Congratulations to all of the 2017 Human Development graduates!
Valerie Reyna and Evan Wilhelms developed a new questionnaire for predicting who is likely to engage in risky behaviors, including, unprotected sex and binge drinking. Their questionnaire significantly outperforms 14 other gold-standard measures frequently used in economics and psychology.
The research of Professor Nathan Spreng and his collaborators sheds light on the basal forebrain region, where the degeneration of neural tissue caused by Alzheimer’s disease appears before cognitive and behavioral symptoms emerge.
Financial exploitation of older people by those who should be protecting them results in devastating health, emotional and psychological consequences. International elder abuse experts met at Weill Cornell Medicine to map out a strategy for conducting research on this problem.
Childhood poverty can cause significant psychological deficits in adulthood, according to a sweeping new study by Professor Gary Evans. The research, conducted by tracking participants over a 15-year period, is the first to show this damage occurs over time and in a broad range of ways.
Camille Sims '15 says fate brought her to Cornell and the Department of Human Development. And now it has propelled her to reign as Miss New York and to finish second runner-up in September's Miss America competition.
Brian LaGrant ’17, a human development major from New Hartford, N.Y., discusses his research on factors surrounding imitation among children and adults.
David Garavito, graduate student in the Law, Psychology, and Human Development Program, under the supervision of Dr. Valerie Reyna, is working with communities in New York and around the country with support from an Engaged Cornell grant for student research. He is working with coaches and student athletes to study the effects of concussions on decision making about risks.
Adrienne Day writes about how Barbara Lust, professor in Human Development, and other researchers are studying changes in language patterns in early Alzheimer’s disease.