The Cognitive Science Distinguished Alumni Lecture Series is sponsored by the School of Cogntive Science and the Supporting Professional Alumni Returning to Campus endowment (SPARC) at Hampshire College.
Lectures are held in Franklin Patterson Hall on the Hampshire College campus.
October 11, 2012: Fred Conrad, Ph.D., director of the University of Michigan Program in Survey Methodology, Institute for Social Research, and research professor, Joint Program in Survey Methodology, University of Maryland
Cognitive and Social Factors in New Approaches to Survey Measurement
Lecture Abstract: Survey results inform key decisions throughout society and provide the empirical foundation for much of the research in the social sciences. Yet, survey results are typically based on self-reports, i.e., people's answers to questions, which can be inaccurate because of how they think when responding. For example, people take mental shortcuts to reduce effort and shade the truth to present themselves more favorably; both of these can compromise response accuracy and increase "measurement error." Much effort has gone into reducing error over the years, but as new ways to ask questions and record answers become available it is not clear how response quality will be affected. This presentation reports several experimental studies of response quality in online and mobile surveys. The first study concerns interactive interventions in online surveys to reduce "speeding," the tendency for respondents to answer faster than most people can read questions let alone think about their answers. The second study concerns virtual (animated) interviewers in an online survey and how their "race" affects responses to questions about racial attitudes. A third study compares the frequency of top of the head estimates (rounded numerical answers) and socially desirable responding (fewer embarrassing answers) in iPhone interviews conducted by voice to those conducted via text messages. A common thread across the studies is that measurement error comes with self-report but that new technologies offer promising ways to improve the quality of answers.
Biographical Statement: Frederick Conrad is a research professor in the Michigan Program in Survey Methodology (MPSM), University of Michigan, and the Joint Program in Survey Methodology (JPSM), University of Maryland. His training is in cognitive psychology: B.A. from Hampshire College, Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, and post-doc at Carnegie Mellon University. Professor Conrad's research generally involves the application of ideas and methods from cognitive science to survey methodology, especially conversational and human-computer interaction. He is co-editor of Envisioning the Survey Interview of the Future (2008) and co-author of The Science of Web Surveys (in press). Professor Conrad is currently the director of MPSM and JPSM.
Making Faces: Developmental Mechanisms of Craniofacial Evolution
Lecture Abstract: In order for individual musculoskeletal components to achieve their proper size, shape, orientation, and functional integration, embryonic progenitor populations require appropriate spatial and temporal cues. Our research focuses on the extent to which the neural crest, which is a mesenchymal stem cell population, serves as a source of spatiotemporal patterning information during craniofacial morphogenesis. Cranial neural crest cells originate along the dorsal margins of the developing neural tube, and they migrate extensively throughout the head. Their derivatives include cartilage, bone, and muscular connective tissues. In my lab, we have been developing an experimental chimeric system using two distinct avian species, quail and duck. This approach exploits the fact that as embryos, quail and duck are morphologically distinct and have considerably different rates of maturation. By exchanging premigratory cranial neural crest cells between quail and duck embryos we can identify neural crest-dependent molecular and histogenic programs of craniofacial development. We find that within quail-duck chimeras, donor neural crest mesenchyme executes autonomous molecular programs and regulates gene expression in adjacent host tissues. This in turn, establishes when derivatives of the donor and those of the host undergo differentiation, and determines the size, shape, and location of anatomical structures from both the donor and the host. Thus, neural crest mesenchyme functions as a primary source of spatiotemporal patterning information during craniofacial development, and in this capacity has likely played an essential role in facilitating morphological change during the course of evolution.
Biographical Statement: Rich Schneider is associate professor in the department of orthopaedic surgery at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF). He received his B.A. from Hampshire College, where he worked with Ray Coppinger and Mark Feinstein, and published his first article on skull evolution in domestic dogs. His Ph.D. at Duke University was the study of craniofacial development and evolution. Rich's research focuses on understanding how individual components of the head achieve their proper size, shape, and functional integration during development, using duck and quail as model organisms. By working with stem cells, his lab has identified genes that regulate the timing of musculoskeletal tissue differentiation, and control size and shape of tissues, ultimately enabling proper development of the head. One goal of his research is to devise therapies for repair and regeneration of musculoskeletal tissues affected by congenital defects, disease, and trauma. His work has also helped elucidate the important role of development in evolution.
The Science of Resilience: Understanding the Human Capacity to Thrive in the Face of Extreme Adversity
Lecture Abstract: Potentially traumatic events (PTEs) are more common than is usually assumed. Most people are exposed to at least one and often multiple PTEs during the course of their lives. Until recently, responses to such events have been understood almost exclusively in terms of extreme reactions (e.g., Posttraumatic Stress Disorder versus the absence of pathology) or in terms of measures of central tendency (e.g., average differences) between exposed and non-exposed groups. I demonstrate that although both approaches have been useful, neither approach captures the true heterogeneity of responses to PTEs, and both approaches underestimate the prevalence of human resilience. I will describe studies from our research program that have examined individual differences in response to such demanding life events as terrorist disaster, combat, traumatic injury, the death of loved ones, bio-epidemic, and cancer surgery. I place special emphasis on resilient outcomes and explore several of the many factors that predict resilient outcomes, including flexibility in coping and emotion regulation and the adaptive value of positive emotion.
Biographical Statement: George A. Bonanno is professor of psychology and education and professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University. He received his B.A. from Hampshire College and his Ph.D. from Yale University. His research over the past 15 years has examined how adults and children respond to and cope with extremely aversive events, such as the death of a loved one, war, infectious disease, sexual abuse, and terrorist attack. In recent years, Professor Bonanno's work has focused more specifically on defining psychological resilience in adults exposed to extreme adversity and on the psychological and contextual factors that might inform resilient outcomes. This work has been funded by generous grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. He is the author of The Other Side of Sadness.
Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live By
Lecture Abstract: We all tell ourselves stories to make sense of the world. These stories ultimately determine if we will lead healthy, productive lives or get into trouble. Social psychologists have developed a technique called "story editing" that helps people change their stories in beneficial ways. This technique helps people become happier, improves parenting skills, reduces teenage pregnancy, helps close the achievement gap, and more. I will discuss what story-editing is, how it has been used, and its limitations.
Biographical Statement: Timothy D. Wilson received his B.A. from Hampshire College and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He has taught at the University of Virginia since 1979, where he is currently Sherrell J. Aston Professor of Psychology. At the University of Virginia Professor Wilson received the All University Outstanding Teaching Award and the Distinguished Scientist Award. He is the author of Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious and numerous articles on self-knowledge--its limits, how people attain it, and its value. He is also the author of Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change. In 2009 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.