Tag Archive for Psychology Department

Eye-Tracking Study Reveals How People Make Decisions

Andrea Patalano, associate professor of psychology, and Barbara Juhasz, assistant professor of psychology, have collaborated on research examining how decisive and indecisive people differ in their processing of information.

Andrea Patalano, associate professor of psychology, and Barbara Juhasz, assistant professor of psychology, have collaborated on research examining how decisive and indecisive people differ in their processing of information by using an eye-tracking instrument in the Department of Psychology.

To determine the difference between a decisive and an indecisive person, follow the movements of their eyes.

Andrea Patalano, associate professor of psychology, and Barbara Juhasz, assistant professor of psychology, have collaborated on research examining how decisive and indecisive people differ in their processing of information, which is a little-studied area.

Their full findings are scheduled to be published in the near future, and both researchers are excited about what they found.

Patalano has spent many years studying decision-making while Juhasz has spent time tracking readers’ eye movements using a device called an eye-tracker. Since the researchers were examining the individual differences between how decisive and indecisive people search for information, they were forging new ground.

Juhasz’s EyeLink 1000 eye-tracking machine (SR Research Ltd), housed in her Eye Movement and Reading Lab at Wesleyan, provided Patalano with the equipment she needed to validate prior assumptions and record precise eye movement data.

“I’ve been using the eye movements to study reading and it’s very helpful there,” Juhasz says. “I’ve always had the idea that it would be helpful to use when studying these higher-level cognitive processes. But to be able to see that you can observe individual differences in people’s decision-making strategies was interesting.”

These individual differences are what matter to Patalano.

“There’s a lot of uniformity in the way people read,” she says. “When people are making decisions, there’s a lot more variation in behavior.”

Research suggesting that indecisive individuals utilized more information when trying to make a decision compared to decisive individuals. However, there had been conflicting findings reported in the scientific literature. The two researchers decided to look at the issue more closely themselves using an eye-movement study

For the study, 54 Wesleyan students were studied as they completed a hypothetical course selection activity. Patalano had asked subjects do course selection tasks in the past. Originally, she used a paper-based exam and transferred the test to a computer, but there was no precision eye-tracker involved in the data sampling.

For the eye-tracking course selection study, the course titles and attributes were placed on a grid and the EyeLink 1000 machine sampled participants’ eye positions every millisecond as the selection tasks were done. The data were captured and recorded.

Students were told to imagine that they had one course left to select in order to complete their class schedules and all of the presented classes would fit into their weekly schedule. Participants had to choose among five courses, labeled Courses A through E and these courses differed on the following qualities: Meeting Time, Instructor Quality, Amount of Work, Usefulness for Goals and Interest in Topic. The courses were similar in quality and the students could only pick one course. One group of participants was allowed to delay their choice while another was not given that option.

After the participants completed the course selection task, they rated themselves on a standard indecisiveness scale.

It took just under two years for Patalano, Juhasz, and undergraduate research assistant Joanna Dicke ‘10 to complete their groundbreaking research. And that was not because they were indecisive. There were simply so much data to evaluate.

The results of the study suggested three major findings.

First, there was a difference in the way people scanned the information. While decisive people narrow down a decision based on a particular attribute, indecisive people take in all of the information. Decisive people might say that all of these courses have good and bad attributes, but they selected an attribute that was most important; indecisive people saw that all information had some good and bad points.

Secondly, indecisive individuals divided their time over a greater number of attributes of their course. The decisive participants focused on fewer attributes in order to make their decision. Interestingly, indecisive individuals spent more time overall looking at nothing, that is, they looked at the blank cells in the grid while (apparently) trying to make a decision. The researchers were not sure why the indecisive individuals spent more time looking at blank spaces, but theorized that doing so allowed them to ruminate or reframe their choices before making a decision.

Patalano said that applying eye tracking to decision-making research was a relatively new methodology for individuals who study how people come to final conclusions on things like buying a car, choosing an insurance plan or selecting a college course.

This research and subsequent studies could lead to the creation of strategies to assist people who far too often struggle with decision-making.

To read the entire journal article, titled “The Relationship Between Indecisiveness and Eye Movement Patterns in a Decision Making Informational Search Task” from The Journal of Behavioral Decision Making go here.

NSF Awards Grant to Dierker, Beveridge

Lisa Dierker, chair and professor of psychology, and David Beveridge, the University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, professor of chemistry, received a $174,999 grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant will support an inquiry based, supportive approach to statistical reasoning and applications. The award will be applied Jan. 1, 2010 through Dec. 31, 2012.

Blakemore ’65 Speaks on Psychologies of Global Warming

Bill Blakemore '65, an ABC News Correspondent, will speak on "The Many Psychologies of Global Warming," during a talk at 8 p.m. Nov. 3 in Memorial Chapel.

Bill Blakemore '65, an ABC News Correspondent, will speak on "The Many Psychologies of Global Warming," during a talk at 8 p.m. Nov. 3 in Memorial Chapel.

Four weeks before the nations meet in Copenhagen to try to avert the catastrophes that global warming may bring, ABC News Correspondent William Blakemore ’65 will identify many surprising psychological factors at play as people in all walks of life deal with the latest “hard news” on climate.

Blakemore will speak on “The Many Psychologies of Global Warming,” during a talk at 8 p.m. Nov. 3 in Memorial Chapel.

He’ll explore new definitions of sanity that may pertain, and give examples displaying different “psychologies, as well as manmade global warming’s place in “the long history of narcissistic insults to humanity itself.”

Two new time-line graphs of rapid and dangerous climate change will give fresh global context to the psychological challenges and experiences he has observed in the five years since he began focusing on global warming for ABC News.

Computer modelers trying to project the speed and severity of global warming’s advance often say that “the biggest unknown” in their equations is not data about ice or atmosphere, carbon or clouds, but “what the humans will do.” This talk probes that field and many states of mind already engaged.

The talk is sponsored by the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty, Department of Psychology, and the Robert Schumann Lecture Series in the Environmental Studies Program.

A follow-up discussion will be held at 4 p.m. Nov. 4 in the Wasch Center on Lawn Ave.

Sanislow Awarded NIH Grant for Psychopathology Research

Charles Sanislow, assistant professor of psychology, received a $349,939 grant from the National Institute of Health for his research titled “Cognitive Control in Borderline & Trauma Psychopathology.” The grant, awarded Aug. 24, will be applied over two years. It is a continuation of a six-year grant transferred from Yale University.

Barth, Bhandari ’08, MA ’09 Co-Author Article on Children’s Social Cognition

Keera Bhandari ’08, MA ’09 and Hilary Barth, assistant professor of psychology, are the authors of a new article on children’s social cognition. The article, based on Bhandari’s research project for her master’s degree in psychology, is titled “Show or tell: Testimony is sufficient to induce the curse of knowledge in three- and four-year-olds.” It will appear in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology in 2009.

NSF Grant Lets Shusterman Study Connections Between Children’s Acquisition of Language, Number Concepts

Anna Shusterman

Anna Shusterman, assistant professor of psychology, received a five-year National Science Foundation grant.

Anna Shusterman, assistant professor of psychology, recently received a five-year, $716,227 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study “The role of language in children’s acquisition of number concepts.” Shusterman will be evaluating 3-to-5-year-old hearing children in her Cognitive Development Laboratory at Wesleyan. She also will be studying deaf and hard-of-hearing children of the same ages who are learning English to try to determine how language delays affect children’s learning of number concepts.

The grant, which begins this year, comes from the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program. The program is only available to non-tenured faculty. Researchers may apply a total of three times to the program; Shusterman was awarded the grant on her first application.

“The CAREER Program truly provides NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty and demonstrates

Dierker, Rose Receive NIH Grant for Smoking Study

Lisa Dierker, associate professor of psychology, and Jennifer Rose, research associate professor of psychology, received a grant worth $521,938 from the National Institute of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse on May 14. The grant was issued under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Dierker and Rose are researching “Individual Differences in Smoking Exposure and Nicotine Dependence Sensitivity.” The grant will be applied over two years.

Shusterman Receives NSF Grant for Child Development Study

Anna Shusterman, assistant professor of psychology, received a grant worth $716,227 from the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program on June 1. Shusterman’s project is titled “The role of language in children’s acquisition of number concepts.” The grant will be applied over five years.

$700,000 NSF Grant Will Transform Plous’ Website

More than 1,500 people are members of the Psychology Social Network, managed by Scott Plous.

Approximately 2,000 scholars are members of the Psychology Social Network, founded by Scott Plous. The National Science Foundation recently awarded Plous a $700,000 grant to transform the site into a full featured social networking service.

Before the internationally-known social network site Facebook existed, there was Social Psychology Network (SPN), founded at Wesleyan in 1996 by professor of psychology Scott Plous. Three years after launching his site, Plous received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to enhance SPN. Now NSF is providing a new $700,000 grant to help Plous transform the site into a full featured social networking service for visitors and its approximately 2,000 members across the world.

The primary users of SPN are researchers, educators, students, and others interested in psychology. According to the site’s usage page, more than 10,000 people from over 100 countries visit the Social Psychology Network in a typical 24-hour period. All told, SPN’s pages have been visited more than 160 million times over the past decade.

The SPN features professional profiles of some of its members.

SPN features professional profiles of some of its members.

The new NSF grant provides support for Plous to hire a social networking specialist to add more Web 2.0 functionality. Currently, the site is operated by a small team consisting of Plous, executive director; David Jensenius, system administrator; Mike Lestik, web designer; Jen Spiller, senior web editor; R.J. Herrick, web programmer; and a few student assistants.

Plous says that the grant will allow SPN to bring the latest web-based networking technologies to the social psychology community. When this work is completed, users will be able to link their profiles to “colleagues” (similar to “friends” in Facebook) and establish mini-networks based on shared research interests, career level, geographic location or other attributes. Users will also be able to track each other’s publications, subscribe to profiles, and be notified of new content.

Social Psychology Network now includes a Google "mash-up" in which the global network of SPN profiles can be searched geographically.

Social Psychology Network now includes a Google "mash-up" in which the global network of SPN profiles can be searched geographically.

These features build on interactive and subscription-based services that Social Psychology Network has already developed. For example, SPN offers RSS feeds, Twitter updates, and a Google “mash-up” in which the global network of SPN profiles can be searched geographically. The Network’s searchable directory also includes nearly 700 Media Contacts willing to talk with reporters about behavioral science topics, and over 450 SPN Mentors offering free career assistance to students from underrepresented groups.

“Scott Plous’ continued success at securing significant financial support is a strong endorsement of his efforts to support the global dissemination of knowledge and facilitate communication among scholars worldwide,” says Ruth Striegel-Moore, professor and chair of psychology.

“Credit is also due to Information Technology Services and the Administration for their early support in the development of Social Psychology Network. And, of course, SPN thrives thanks to Plous’ vision, creativity, and boundless energy,” Striegel-Moore says.

Plous Awarded NSF Grant for Psychology Network

Scott Plous, professor of psychology.

Scott Plous, professor of psychology.

Scott Plous, professor of psychology, received a $700,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for the Social Psychology Network. Plous founded the web-based presence in 1996.

The grant will be used to transform the site into a full featured social networking service for visitors and its approximately 2,000 members across the world. For more information read the accompanying article in The Wesleyan Connection.

Barth Authors Article on Children’s Mathematical Thinking

Hilary Barth, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, is the lead author of a new article on the intuitive foundations of children’s mathematical thinking. The article, co-authored with collaborators at Harvard University, is titled “Children’s multiplicative transformations of discrete and continuous quantities.” It will appear in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology in 2009, in a special issue devoted to the typical development of numerical cognition.