Tag Archives: social cognition

 

 

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:

Tamar Kushnir, professor of human development

Tamar Kushnir is Director of the Early Childhood Cognition Laboratory in the Department of Human Development. Dr. Kushnir's research examines mechanisms of learning in young children, with a focus on social learning. She continues to explore the role that children's developing knowledge - in particular their social knowledge - plays in learning, a question with implications for the study of cognitive development as well as for early childhood education. Three of her 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.

TERESA FLANAGAN

Teresa Flanagan

Can you tell me a little about your background and why you came to the Human Development program at Cornell?

Before graduate school, I attended Franklin & Marshall College for my undergraduate career. There I studied Scientific and Philosophical Studies of the Mind with a focus in Cognitive Science and was the lab manager of the three developmental psychology labs. I came to the Human Development program at Cornell because I admired the interdisciplinary mindset, something I am incredibly passionate about. I knew that this program would provide me with opportunities to learn and conduct research from multiple academic perspectives.

What research projects have you been involved with during your time here at Cornell?

I have been working on a few different projects. I am currently analyzing and overseeing a study that addresses the relationship between children’s free will beliefs and ability to imagine different possibilities. I am also preparing for a study that addresses the influence of culture on children’s understanding of other’s preferences. The last study I am working on addresses children’s free will beliefs and trust of humanoid robots after playing a collaborative game with one.

When you are not doing research or teaching, what do you like to do?

Outside of academia, I am the secretary for Cornell’s Graduate Women in Science [GWIS], an organization that aims to supporting marginalized identities in scientific fields (GWIS is a national organization that was founded in 1921 by women graduate students at Cornell--Ed.). I also love acting and comedy and so I have been rehearsing with an improv comedy group based in downtown Ithaca. Outside of all of that, I love doing yoga, going on hikes, and hanging out with friends!


ALYSSA VARHOL

Can you tell me a little about your background and why you came to the Human Development program at Cornell?

Alyssa Varhol

I met my now-adviser, Tamar Kushnir, at the biennial conference for the Cognitive Development Society last year. She was one of the first academics who didn’t flinch after hearing how many topics I wanted to incorporate into my research. Instead, she enthusiastically supported (and matched!) the breadth of my interests and encouraged me to apply for the Human Development PhD here. At the time, I was a lab manager for Melissa Koenig’s and Dan Berry’s labs at the University of MN’s Institute of Child Development, and before that, I earned undergraduate degrees in Psychology and English in Atlanta, GA and a MSc in Psych Research Methods in Sheffield, UK, (Alyssa received a Fulbright Award to study at the University of Sheffield--Ed.) and I had spent those 8 years of trying to find a way to integrate all of my diverse interests (including language, social cognition, individual differences, learning, parent-child dynamics, social norms, creativity, etc.) into a reasonable research program.  Now, after my first semester, I can’t imagine a better place to begin establishing that research program in the integrated topic that, with Professor Kushnir’s guidance, I have finally chosen: the development of social learning across different contexts.

What research projects have you been involved with during your time here at Cornell?

I am interested in the ways children learn anything from words to social norms from other people early in life and how that might vary across individual differences (e.g., in cognitive and social skills or in parenting style ) and group differences (e.g., culture or socioeconomic status). I have been working on different stages of 3 projects related to this topic. I have primarily been working on a study of preschoolers’ learning from adults who demonstrate different knowledge states-- specifically, their willingness to learn the names and functions of unfamiliar objects from an adult who previously admitted she did not know the name of a familiar object like a cup-- to explore how children begin to evaluate people as sources of information. Professor Kushnir, Tess Flanagan, and I have also been preparing to begin an NSF funded study exploring how children learn to evaluate people’s behavior as social norms versus personal preferences across two cultures, but we will really get moving on that project in early 2019.

When you are not doing research or teaching, what do you like to do?

I feel incredibly fortunate that my cohort of 1st year grad students is very social, so we spend a lot of time doing things together outside of our working hours, like having reading groups about topics of mutual interest, watching the series Dark, and going bowling.  My favorite of our activities is always our hiking trips to Tremen, Taughannock, and Buttermilk-- it’s unbelievable how many beautiful places are nearby! I also love anything that has to do with animals, especially dogs, so I help out my neighbors with their golden retriever puppy every week, which is delightful.


ALICE XIN ZHAO

Can you tell me a little about your background and why you came to the HumanDevelopment program at Cornell?

Alice Xin Zhao

Before coming to HD, I did my undergrad in Psychology at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China (Tsinghua University is one of China's C9 League elite universities with a long history of international partnerships--Ed.). During my undergrad study, I was fortunate to work as a research assistant remotely for two cross-cultural projects on children’s causal reasoning and free will beliefs led by Alison Gopnik’s lab at UC Berkeley. I thus found my research interest in children’s early social cognitive development and applied to work with Tamar Kushnir (who is an expert in the area I’m interested in).

What research projects have you been involved with during your time here at Cornell?

During my time at Cornell, I’ve been working on a series of projects on children’s beliefs about choices, and their implications on children’s behavioral regulation and social evaluations. Some questions my studies have tried to answer include: 1) What do children perceive to be choices in light of various constraints (e.g. social and moral norms, physical constraints)? 2) How these beliefs relate to children’s self-control experience? 3) How do children evaluate someone who overcomes temptations to fulfill social and moral obligations? Do they understand the virtue of self-control?

When you are not doing research or teaching, what do you like to do?

In my free time (I try to have some…), I enjoy reading, playing board games, skiing, shopping and baking.

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."


 

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].