Research Themes

Social Cognitive Neuroscience Studies of Achievement

Funded by: CUNY, NIH

Additional Collaborators: Geraldine Downey (Columbia), Tory Higgins (Columbia)

Summary: How can students best achieve even under challenging circumstances? This research program examines how students’ motivation for achievement and other relevant personality attributes influence the types of strategies they rely on when faced with academic difficulty. In particular, we look at how these strategies influence both neural (brain) and behavioral responses to feedback in challenging academic tasks. Neural measures are made with EEG (Electroencephalography), a non-invasive way of measuring how neurons signal to each other in the human brain. The results of these studies inform interventions that can help students to achieve at their fullest potential. This study is open to all Baruch students. Please go to the Participate! page to learn more about becoming a research participant or research assistant.

Decision Making in Social Networks: Behavioral and Neural Studies

Primary Collaborators: Sibel Adali (Renssalear Polytechnic Institute)

Summary: Nowadays, individuals have access to vast amounts of information almost instantaneously through the internet. Often, they find themselves relying on the posted opinions of others they may or may not know personally to make decisions. In this heavily networked world, what cues are used to decide if a source should be trusted or not? What are the conditions under which this information will be used to shape behavior and when will it be rejected? We are working within a computer-science based framework that focuses on the interplay between cognitive trust and distributed decision making in composite networks, with an emphasis on diverse network properties, including perceptual features of the network nodes, qualities of the information content shared by those nodes (i.e., competence and credibility), and the flow of information between them (i.e., reliability and latency). These studies use both behavioral tasks involving problem solving, and in some cases, EEG recordings of brain activity, either of single players or in hyperscanning (multiplayer) environments. Please go to the Participate! page to learn more about becoming a research participant or research assistant.

Insight Problem Solving

Funded by: CUNY

Summary: Though there are often multiple ways to go about solving a problem, we are particularly interested in occasions when individuals experience insightful “Aha!” or “Eureka!” moments. Inspired by existing behavioral, EEG, and fMRI research into insight, as well as by anecodtal experience, our study attempts to further knowledge of the basic cognitive and neural processes involved in facilitating and experiencing insight.

Creating Scalable Interventions for Enhancing Student Learning and Performance (Co-PI)

Funded by: Institution for Educational Sciences (IES), Cognition & Student Learning (CASL) Grant

Collaborators: Joshua Aronson (NYU, Project Director); Matt McGlone, (University of Texas, Co-PI)

Summary: Students’ implicit theories of intelligence are powerful predictors of their learning and performance, above and beyond their actual abilities. In particular, students taught that intelligence is not “fixed” at one level, but can be shaped through effort and learning, show impressive gains in learning, engagement, test scores, and grades. However, practical versions of an intervention to teach this theory are needed that any teacher can employ and that have the flexibility to be used inside or outside the classroom. The current project focuses on developing and refining two unique intervention approaches — engaging fiction and interactive media — with the common goal of shaping student attitudes about the malleability of intelligence. This research is being carried out at public and private middle schools (8th grade) and high schools (9th grade) in New York City, New Jersey, and Texas.

Gender Differences in the Foundations of Sense of Belonging: Effects on Achievement, Aspirations, and Learning in STEM Disciplines (Co-PI)

Funded by: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Collaborators: Catherine Good (Baruch College, PI)

Summary: Although the percentage of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees going to women has increased recently, there is still a sizable gender gap in disciplines such as mathematics and engineering (National Science Foundation, 2006). A critical step in redressing this shortcoming is to understand the forces that contribute to females’ under-representation in STEM disciplines and professions. One factor that is beginning to receive more attention is sense of belonging (SOB)—feeling like an accepted member of an academic community whose contributions are valued (Good, Rattan, & Dweck, in press). This line of research extends our understanding of the effects of belonging by examining whether the foundation on which SOB is based both influences its effectiveness in boosting STEM outcomes and creates or mitigates gender differences. This researcher is being conducted in both college student populations at Baruch, as well as in middle schools in New Jersey to compare effects across different ages and academic levels. Please go to the Participate! page to learn more about becoming a research participant or research assistant.