Tag Archives: Fuzzy-Trace Theory


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.


 

Valerie Reyna

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

What is your role with Extension?

I've been a Director of Extension since 2005, and one of the jobs that I have is to get the word out about what people are doing in the Human Development Department. Our Department is filled with people that go into the community and do a variety of things, a lot of which takes place in New York State. We integrate fundamental, basic science with societal problems. It's a lot of work to do both, but we think that's where a place like Cornell--and the College of Human Ecology--fill a huge need.

How has working with CCE has informed your research?

Working with young people, adults in the community, and Extension staff have taught us a great deal about how to promote healthy choices.  For example, the content of the curriculum for reducing the risk of sexually transmitted disease and premature pregnancy has benefited from meeting with people on the front lines. We took their input and updated that curriculum. We took a curriculum, a multi-component curriculum that had some effect according to the CDC, and then we added our theoretical component to update it, magnify that effect, and make it last. We also developed an implementation manual. And all of this work benefitted enormously from  having a lot of discussions with staff in CCE as well as the people from the community. I always tell my students to do a lot of listening because people will have crucial information about the nature of their life experience.

How has your research on decision making influenced public programming or outreach?

We have done laboratory demonstrations where we carefully test why people are making the choices they're making, including the brain and their behavior. From there we develop curricula and public health programs that our students deliver.

For example, one intervention we developed, which is on the best practices list of the CDC now, is for teenagers to reduce sexual risk-taking. The goal is to reduce premature pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. It is a 14-hour-plus intervention that we train our students to deliver to youth clubs, CCE educators, New York State 4-H camps, and many other places.

We partner with CCE educators and we’ve gone into a variety of CCE sites over the years. For example, we've worked with Jackie Davis-Manigaulte  from Cornell University Cooperative Extension - New York City.

What kind of value do those environments and those relationships provide your research?

I think it's very important to have the feedback go both ways. We really want to listen to people in the community. Their concerns inform my research and help me test my theories.  Laboratory tests and real-world tests are an unbeatable combination: Lab tests tell you what is factually true, what causes human behavior. Real-world tests answer the question, is this really about something that's relevant? Do people think this is a problem?

For example, I recently had a graduate student, David Garavito, approach me, interested in concussions. And I knew concussions were a problem in the NFL, but the extent to which they’re an issue with ordinary middle school, high school and college students was really eye-opening. We, along with James Kim (a 2017 CCE summer intern), who joined us as an undergrad, performed outreach with the Ithaca Youth Bureau and designed and delivered a curriculum for 4-H camps and middle-schools.

All of this hasn't been done before. We build on health guidelines from the CDC, NIH, and other reliable sources, but we provide a psychological bridge between those facts and the human mind. We find that most people, especially young people, are in need of that bridge. We want to give them the facts and help them understand what they mean. What do they mean for your decisions? And how can we help you have insight into those facts, so that you can be the agent of your own choices that are healthy choices?

Read more about David Garavito’s work on concussions here. Read James Kim’s student journal about his summer internship experience studying concussions here.

How do you make complicated research more understandable for the general public?

Most adults want the bottom-line qualitative essence of information. They want to know what's the bottom line or the “gist” of what experts are talking about. For every domain that we study, whether it's healthy eating, fitness, concussion, or sexual risk-taking and HIV prevention, we say, what's the gist of this risk?

We understand that it’s not realistic, nor even healthy, to avoid all risk. You want to take some risks, but they should be healthy risks. So we try to distill the latest scientific information into its gist so that it can be in a usable form.

That's the centerpiece of our fuzzy trace theory. Fuzzy traces are the gist traces. It says get to the gist, teach the gist, illustrate the gist. Tell people the facts, but make sure you communicate the important essence of those facts, not just a lot of random things that may or may not be relevant to the decision you have to make.

For updates from Cornell University, College of Human Ecology’s Human Development department, including Dr. Reyna’s work, visit hdtoday.human.cornell.edu and subscribe to the HD Today newsletter.

Communicating the Gist: Misinformation, Memory, and Meaning - Valerie Reyna, Cornell University

Valerie Reyna participated in a panel discussion about best practices and a review of the available research on the effects of communicating science through storytelling and narrative through traditional media, social media, and entertainment media on misconceptions about information from science, including topics involved in controversy.

This talk was part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine's (NASEM) Colloquium 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.

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".


 

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.

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.

Reprinted from the Cornell Chronicle, Oct. 31, 2016

 

Researchers in the social sciences have been searching for a holy grail: an accurate way to predict who is likely to engage in problematic behavior, like using drugs. Over the years experts in economics, psychology and public health have designed hundreds of questionnaires in an attempt to understand who will binge drink or have unprotected sex – and why.

reyna_valerie_web

Valerie Reyna, Professor in Human Development

Valerie Reyna, professor of human development, and Evan Wilhelms,

Evan Wilhelms, Ph.D., Cornell Graduate School, '15

Evan Wilhelms, Ph.D., Cornell Graduate School, '15

Ph.D. ’15, of Vassar College, have just taken a sizable step toward answering those questions.

In a new study, Reyna and Wilhelms have debuted a new questionnaire that significantly outperforms 14 other gold-standard measures frequently used in economics and psychology. The measure’s 12 simple questions ask in various ways whether one agrees with the principle “sacrifice now, enjoy later.” Their study, “Gist of Delay of Gratification: Understanding and Predicting Problem Behaviors,” appeared Aug. 10 in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making.

“People who get drunk frequently, party with drugs, borrow money needlessly or have unprotected sex disagreed more with the concept ‘sacrifice now, enjoy later’ than people who didn’t do these things,” Reyna said. “Instead, they leaned more toward ‘have fun today and don’t worry about tomorrow.’”

Having fun is generally good, she said. “But not being able to delay gratification can interfere with education, health and financial well-being, and the impact is greater for young people,” she added.

The questionnaire is based on Reyna’s fuzzy-trace theory. It says people boil down their personal values into a simple, qualitative “gist” of an idea – such as “sacrifice now, enjoy later.” When they have to make a life decision, they retrieve that gist and apply it to their situation.

In contrast, prevailing theory, with many questionnaires based on it, says that people make specific, quantitative trade-offs known as “delay discounting.” For example, those measures ask questions like, “Would you like $10 now or $11.50 in a week?”

“People do size up the trade-off, but they don’t make their decisions on that analysis,” Reyna said. “They think, ‘sacrifice now, benefit later.’ And therefore they study for the exam rather than go out to the party. It’s not about the party per se. It’s about the life principle.”

The researchers conducted four studies to get their results, comparing the measure, the Delay-of-Gratification Gist Scale, against 14 others. The Gist Scale’s questions include, “I wait to buy what I want until I have enough money,” “I think it is better to save money for the future” and “I am worried about the amount of money I owe.” Money is used as a “stand-in” or proxy for tempting rewards.

The first study asked 211 college students to take the Gist Scale and other measures that predict poor financial outcomes. The second and third studies, with 845 and 393 college students, respectively, compared the new measure against others involving delay discounting. With 47 teens and adult participants, the fourth study compared the Gist Scale against a widely used measure of impulsivity.

The Gist Scale is not only more accurate, it’s also shorter and simpler – some other measures are more than twice as long. It is also gender and age neutral, meaning it can be taken by anyone.

Reyna points out that cultures all over the world have aphorisms that encourage the ability to delay gratification. That skill can improve with practice, she said.

“Sometimes we send young people very mixed messages about struggle. I think it’s extremely important for them to know that struggle and pain are part of life and to be expected,” she said. “Staying the course, keeping your eyes on the prize – these values make a difference. And they can be taught and they can be practiced.”

By Nora Rabah, Allison M. Hermann, Thomas W. Craig, and David Garavito

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. For his dissertation research, Garavito is developing a model based upon Dr. Reyna’s Fuzzy Trace Theory (FTT) which integrates research on Alzheimer’s dementia (AD), behavioral economics and decision making, and neuroscience to study the perception of risks associated with sports-related concussions among people vulnerable to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Garavito and undergraduates in the Laboratory for Rational Decision Making are working with a growing number of students, coaches, and administrators from high schools and colleges in New York (including Watkins Glen and Moravia high schools, Cornell University, and Ithaca College), Colorado, and Minnesota. Engagement with sports communities has provided the team with the opportunity to educate--and listen to-- the public about current research on concussions and how values or principles can affect perceptions and decisions about concussion risk. Garavito has found that coaches are very supportive of research projects that aim to help keep athletes safe and further knowledge about concussions. Many athletes have enthusiastically agreed to volunteer in Garavito’s studies. The student team also has been working with the Ithaca Youth Bureau and the experiences of coaches and educators at the center have been essential in the development of interactive activities to teach youth about the brain and concussions. The ultimate goal of the concussion intervention is to strengthen healthy values and educate people about risks, and the importance of reporting symptoms of concussions.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a form of dementia, like Alzheimer’s, which results in an accumulation of tau proteins in the brain, however, the onset and progression of CTE is related to a history of concussions. Athletes in contact sports are particularly vulnerable to CTE because many athletes fail to report concussions and their symptoms – a very risky decision that could result in brain damage and cognitive impairment. Using the FTT framework, Garavito and his team of undergraduates are studying this underreporting phenomenon.

Although current research on the underreporting of concussions has brought about the creation of laws mandating concussion education nationwide, research based on FTT has shown that not all education programs are equal. How people process information can have a profound effect on how they make decisions (Mills, Reyna, Estrada, 2008; Widmer, Wolfe, Reyna et al., 2015). Dr. Reyna’s research has shown that adolescents are more likely to rely on verbatim, surface-level details, whereas adults tend to rely on qualitative reasoning and the bottom-line gist of information (Reyna & Farley, 2006; Reyna, Estrada, DeMarinis et al., 2011). For example, if told an athlete has a 2/3 chance of having another concussion if they go back out on the field after having had a concussion on the same day, adolescents make their decisions about risk by considering the numbers and take the chance in order to play more sports because the benefits, to them, outweigh the risks. Adults, on the other hand, get the point that the mere possibility of a catastrophic injury, no matter how small, of getting another concussion (which could result in permanent brain damage or death), is not worth the risk for more playing time. This difference in information processing has not been studied in the underreporting or the perception of risks in sports-related injuries.

Many educational programs emphasize the acquisition of verbatim fact-based knowledge in the hope that these details will help the public understand and make better decisions. Unfortunately, this can lead to the opposite effect – giving people more detailed information causes them to engage in greater precise deliberation and leads them to take unnecessary risks. Football players, for example, may know verbatim facts about the symptoms of concussions, but still “gamble” by not reporting their symptoms, instead of choosing the “sure thing” of being safe and reporting them. This risky decision-making among athletes, in turn, is exacerbated by impairment from prior concussions.

Currently, Garavito, Dr. Reyna, and their team of undergraduates, are using scales based on FTT, to test several important hypotheses. These scales are sensitive measures that can detect if a person is relying more on categorical than fact-based thinking. Fuzzy Trace Theory predicts that categorical or gist-based thinking is more developmentally advanced and can deter people from taking dangerous risks. Garavito hypothesizes that adolescents affected by cumulative concussions may rely less on categorical thinking than non-concussed adolescents. This could lead concussed adolescents to engage in greater risk-taking, in general. Garavito and Reyna are studying whether FTT measures can cue developmentally advanced categorical thinking. Cuing adolescents to engage in categorical thinking will lead them to approach dangerous risks like adults, and is consistent with Dr. Reyna’s research on other types of risk-taking behavior (Reyna, Wilhelms, McCormick et al., 2015).

Nora Rabah is a Biology and Society major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Allison M. Hermann is the Research and Outreach Manager for the Laboratory for Rational Decision Making.

Thomas W. Craig is the Law, Psychology and Human Development Program Assistant.

David Garavito is a graduate student in the Law, Psychology, and Human Development Program at the College of Human Ecology.

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