Minicon 2017

Thursday, May 11th, 09:00am-2:30pm

Engineering Sciences Building (ESB) 1001

09:00am - Snacks

09:15am: Opening remarks by Michael Miller, Co-Chair

Jocelyn Parong

Jocelyn Parong (CPCN)

Time: 09:30am

Enhancing Executive Function Through Focused Video Games

Executive function (EF) is the set of cognitive processes used for effortful, controlled, goal-directed thinking and behavior. EF, which is comprised of shifting, updating, and inhibition, is not only important for everyday activities, but also has critical academic implications as it predicts academic success among students. Because of its importance, means of enhancing EF have been examined. One technique that has been proposed to enhance EF is through video game training. The focus of this study was to examine the effects of video game training on the shifting component of EF and the conditions under which these effects are present. In this study, college students played a custom video game, Alien Game, which was designed to target and train the shifting component of EF as it required switching between competing tasks. When students played Alien Game for 2 hours over 4 sessions, they developed significantly better performance on cognitive shifting tests compared to an inactive control group and an active control group that played a game that did not require shifting between tasks. However, this difference did not appear when they played for 1 hour over 2 sessions. Results show the effectiveness of playing a custom-made game that focuses on a specific executive function skill for sufficient time at an appropriate level of challenge. These results support the specific transfer of general skills theory, in which practice of a particular cognitive skill in a game context transferred to performance of the same skill in a non-game context.

Spencer Mermelstein

Spencer Mermelstein (DEVO)

Time: 9:45am

The Image of God: Psychological and Physical Intuitions about People Underlie the Representation of a Supernatural Entity

Barlev, Mermelstein, and German (2016) demonstrated that early-developing intuitions concerning the limitations of persons coexist and interfere with later acquired beliefs about the supernatural attributes of God. In an extension of that work, the current study systematically tested if the representation of God is based on a cognitive template of a person or that of a disembodied intentional agent. To adjudicate between these hypotheses, adult Christian religious adherents participated in a statement judgement task where, as quickly as possible, they endorsed or rejected different sentences about the beliefs, perceptual access, physicality and biology of God. Critically, half of the statements were consistently true or false for people and theology concerning God (e.g., “God has beliefs that are true”) and half were inconsistent, true for one but not the other (e.g., “All beliefs God has are true”). Lower accuracy was observed for the latter type of statement, with the strongest effects for the psychological characteristics of God, followed by physical properties, and no effect for biology. Finally, as measured by a novel scale, theological expertise was found to predict accuracy on the sentence judgement task, but not response time to inconsistent items. Implications of these patterns for religious cognition, and human reasoning in general, are discussed.

Mari Purpura

Mari Purpura (N&B)

Time: 10:00am

Modeling Methamphetamine Addiction Vulnerability in Rats: Effects of Sex and Exercise

Methamphetamine (METH) abuse remains an extremely serious problem in the United States. METH has a long duration of action, and therefore leads to prolonged stimulant effects. Both METH and cocaine increase levels of dopamine however administration of METH leads to much higher levels of dopamine because it not only blocks re-uptake of the neurotransmitter but also increases the release of dopamine, leading to much higher concentrations in the synapse. Currently, there is limited information on the individual differences in vulnerability to substance abuse and how subject factors may impact the selection of METH over a competing reinforcer. To explore factors contributing to addiction vulnerability for METH in an animal model, we compared sex, dose (0.05 and 0.1 mg/kg/inf IV), short (20 s) or long (10min) inter-trial intervals (ITI) and the effects of exercise on the behavioral allocation of effort on drug taking. If the reward for exercise and drug taking have overlapping circuitry, then engaging in exercise may reduce the need for drugs. Rats were allowed voluntary exercise in Whamann wheels (6 hr/day, 4 weeks) followed by assessment of choice between METH (1 mg/kg/inf IV, FI20s) or food (2‐3x45 mg, FI20s) reinforcement in standard operant chambers. There was a significant interaction between sex and dose. ITI of 20 s and dose of 0.1 mg/kg/inf was the most preferred combination and females exhibited higher and more plastic (i.e. dose dependent) selection between METH over a competing reinforcer. There was a negative correlation between running wheel rotations/hour and preference in the first week of running wheel access, indicating that METH preference seemed to decrease as running increased. Thus engagement of voluntary exercise may be producing a protective shift away from METH preference and drug taking. Generally, the results of this study are consistent with the growing body of clinical and preclinical evidence demonstrating that females exhibit higher addiction vulnerability for stimulant drugs of abuse.

Youngki Hong

Youngki Hong (SOC)

Time: 10:15am

The relationship between core body temperature and intergroup bias

In a series of three studies, we examined the relationship between core body temperature and intergroup bias. In Study 1, we showed that participants’ core body temperature moderates their outgroup negativity in face representations. Study 2 showed that the extent to which participants’ mental representations of ingroup and outgroup faces were trusted was moderated by their core body temperature. Finally, Study 3 revealed that participants’ evaluations of stigmatized and non-stigmatized groups in the United States were differentially related to their core body temperature. Together, these studies suggest that core body temperature may be closely linked to how people perceive, and feel about different groups.

Evan Layher

Evan Layher (CPCN)

Time: 10:30am

Cautious decision criterion drives widespread fronto-parietal fMRI activity across multiple domains

Previous recognition memory fMRI studies have revealed that the successful retrieval effect (SRE) contrast (hits > correct rejections) is associated with increased activity across prefrontal and dorsal parietal cortices when people establish a cautious versus lax decision criterion. To better understand the processes underlying the observed fronto-parietal activation, we orthogonally manipulated decision domains (memory and perception), decision criterion, and decision evidence during fMRI. Participants (N=30) viewed images of scenes for 200ms and either made memory judgments by responding ‘old’ (studied) or ‘new’ (unstudied), or perceptual judgments by determining if a human was ‘present’ or ‘absent’ in the scene. Participants were rewarded for correct responses and incentivized to switch between lax and cautious decision criteria by either penalizing a ‘miss’ or ‘false alarm,’ respectively. Memory strength was manipulated by how often a scene was repeated at study, while perceptual strength was determined by the difficulty of finding the human in a scene. In total, there were 8 different mini-blocks (memory vs. perception, cautious vs. lax, and low vs. moderate d’) composed of 16 trials within each of the 8 fMRI scans. The fMRI SRE contrasts in the cautious versus lax conditions revealed widespread activation of fronto-parietal regions for both the memory and perceptual judgments, whereas moderate vs. low d’ comparisons showed little to no differences in either domain. These results suggest that establishing a cautious decision criterion is strongly associated with increased fronto-parietal activity regardless of task domain or the strength of evidence.

10:45am - 11:15am: Coffee Break

Sakura Arai

Sakura Arai (DEVO)

Time: 11:15am

Willingness to Share with You Matters: Why Generosity is Attractive in Partner Choice

Generosity is one of the most universally preferred traits in potential romantic and cooperative partners. But why is the mind designed to find generous people attractive? There are several candidate hypotheses, but very little research that tries to distinguish between them. In a series of experiments we ask whether generosity is attractive because it indicates an individual’s (1) ability to accrue resources, (2) willingness to invest in oneself, or (3) general willingness to help others (trait generosity). The results support the hypothesis that generosity is attractive when it indicates a potential partner’s willingness to invest in you, regardless of how generous the partner is to other people or the partner’s skill in acquiring the resource offered. This pattern held for both men and women, whether they were rating potential mates or opposite-sex friends. Additionally, the results revealed that there are separate dynamics for mate choice and cooperative partner choice. Both sexes had higher standards for mates than for friends, and women had higher standards than men did, as predicted by parental investment theory.

Lindsey Purpura

Lindsey Purpura (CPCN)

Time: 11:30am

Investigating the Effect of Exercise on Working Memory Encoding, Resolution, and Maintenance

Working memory is a fundamental cognitive ability that underlies our action and performance in daily life. Since working memory is such a critical function, it is important to understand how it may be affected by varied behavioral states. One such state is exercise. It is reasonable to expect, and it has been demonstrated in previous literature, that exercise, reflective of movement through our environment, has an impact on brain activity through altered neuronal firing patterns, the stimulation of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and altered neurotransmitter concentrations (Bullock, Elliot, Serences, & Giesbrecht, 2017; Hakansson et al., 2016; McMorris, Sproule, Turner, & Hale, 2010). The current study aims to elucidate the effect of exercise on working memory encoding, resolution, and maintenance. Previous research provides mixed findings regarding the effect of exercise on working memory which suggest that separating the components of working memory is critical to understanding this effect. The current studies employ two working memory paradigms that allow us to critically investigate encoding and resolution (study 1) as well as maintenance and filtering over time (study 2). The results from study one suggest that encoding rates decrease for larger set sizes during exercise compared to at rest and, subsequently, the resolution of encoded information is higher during exercise compared to at rest. Results from study two suggest that there is no difference in the amount of information encoded and maintained through retention between subjects with low versus high working memory capacity at rest but a difference emerges during low intensity exercise. While these data do not provide a complete picture of the effect of exercise on working memory, we do see clear evidence that low intensity exercise modulates working memory in some way. Further research is needed to elucidate and explore the neural mechanisms of these effects.

Amanda Kaczmarek

Amanda Kaczmarek (SOC)

Time: 11:45am

Tylenol and Advil Effects on Ingroup Positivity

About 80 million Americans - a third of the adult population - will take either Tylenol or Advil in any given week. We take these drugs expecting them to affect our perception of pain, but they are also affecting some of our mental processes related to visual perception and social perception. This double-blind, placebo-controlled study investigates both acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen's (Advil) effects on perceptions of positivity towards ingroup members by utilizing a minimal group paradigm to create arbitrary ingroups and outgroups, then generating facial representations of these group members which are evaluated on a number of traits.

Peri Gunalp

Peri Gunalp (CPCN)

Time: 12:00pm

Factors That Contribute to Individual and Sex Differences in Perspective Taking Ability

Factors that influence sex differences in perspective taking ability in favor of males have been under-explored, and no unified explanation of the extant sex differences in this ability exists currently. Task components (for example including a directional cue in an Spatial Orientation Test [SOT] array), social nature (presence of a human figure in an array), or embodied nature of the task (ease of imaging self in task) may each shape/inform perspective taking ability. Experiment 1 examined how perspective taking ability was influenced by both a social directional cue, and an abstract, non-human, directional cue. The social condition included a human avatar in the SOT array. The spatial condition included an arrow. Results indicated that females and males performed best in the social condition and no better in the spatial condition than the control condition, indicating that social task components are influential in this ability. Experiment 2 compared a replicated social condition to a different non-human directional cue (chair). Results showed that there was no significant difference between the avatar and the chair for males and females. This suggests that the “social” effect found in Experiment 1 is nuanced, and that perspective taking ability may rather be influenced by ease of embodiment of the focal/central task object. This may indicate that prior evidence of sex differences in this ability have reflected task components rather than inherent ability.

12:15pm - 1:00pm: Lunch Break

Tadeg Quillien

Tadeg Quillien (DEVO)

Time: 1:00pm

Generosity as a commitment device: a computer simulation

Engagement rings are costly by design: showing that one is willing to invest a lot in a relationship signals commitment to that relationship. This illustrates a general logic that applies to many aspects of social life: by incurring a cost, you can show to someone that you care about them. Because being able to show your commitment to someone makes you more valuable to that person, this suggests that many instances of human generosity can be understood as "mini engagement rings". Using a computer simulation, I explored the hypothesis that we are hard-wired by natural selection to use generosity as a signal of commitment. In the simulation, evolution created agents that understood that generous individuals could be trusted not to walk away from a potential relationship. Interestingly, this mechanism was able to promote high levels of generosity even in some cases where agents believed that they were not likely to meet each other again. These results suggest an alternative to traditional reciprocity-based accounts of the evolution of generosity.

Dipanjana Das

Dipanjana Das (CPCN)

Time: 1:15pm

Modulation of inhibition as a function of distractor cue validity

Prior knowledge of location of an upcoming target results in faster and more accurate identification of the target. There is some evidence that prior knowledge of distractor locations, provided by a cue, can also aid target identification. Here we further test the nature of distractor inhibition by manipulating the validity of the cues that signal the most likely location of distractors. If inhibition is a top-down mechanism, then there should be reduced distractor interference on validly cued compared to invalidly cued or neutral (un-cued) trials. We tested this prediction in two experiments using speeded, spatially-distributed flanker tasks in which the location of a distractor was cued validly (80 percent), invalidly (20 percent) or neutrally (i.e., un-cued, 10 percent). In both experiments, participants discriminated a target stimulus while ignoring a distractor stimulus, which could be compatible or incompatible to the target. Results indicate a significant flanker effect in invalid trials compared to a reduced flanker effect in validly cued trials. These findings point to an adaptive, top-down mechanism of distractor inhibition.

Christopher Bromberg

Christopher Bromberg (SOC)

Time: 1:30pm

The Impact of Resources on Social Approach/Avoidance Goal Adoption

Research on approach and avoidance goal adoption has focused primarily on the influence of dispositional factors in shaping the goals individuals adopt in daily life. However, theoretical models acknowledge that situational and environmental factors should also influence goal adoption processes (Gable, 2015). Consistent with this idea, recent work has found that goal-relevant resources influence goal adoption in the achievement domain, such that greater resources (e.g., time) lead to the adoption of more approach (versus avoidance) goals. In two studies, we aimed to expand this work to determine if higher levels of social resources (social competence and social support) would increase the adoption of approach (versus avoidance) goals in social and achievement domains. Study 1 experimentally manipulated the resources of a hypothetical target as a first step in testing whether social resources would influence perceptions of others’ approach and avoidance goals. As predicted, we found that having higher social resources led to more approach goals in both social and achievement domains. Study 2 extended these processes to the self. In this study, we manipulated participants’ personal sense of social competence and then examined their adoption of approach and avoidance social goals, as well as social outcome expectancy as a potential mediator. As predicted, participants in the high social competence condition had higher social outcome expectancy, which predicted more approach social goals. However, participants did not differ by condition on achievement goals or achievement outcome expectancy. These results expand the literature by demonstrating that goal-relevant social resources shape approach and avoidance goal adoption in the social domain.

Puneeth Chakravarthula

Puneeth Chakravarthula (CPCN)

Time: 1:45pm

Eye movement strategy in a challenging ethnic group identification task

Faces carry visual information critical for a variety of evolutionarily important tasks. Humans also show consistent eye movements to initially look at points in the face that maximize the acquisition of information in tasks such as person identification, emotion and gender (Peterson, M.F., Eckstein, 2012). However, little is known about eye movement strategies during more complex tasks such as ethnic group categorization of faces. In this study, we investigated eye movements of Indian and Caucasian observers while categorizing Indian faces into two ethnic sub-groups: North vs. South Indian. Indian observers performed significantly better at the face categorization task while Caucasian observers were at chance (mean percentage correct responses 59.86% and 48.81% respectively) . In contrast, Indian and Caucasian observers performed equally well in a control face identification task with Indian faces (mean percentage correct responses 89.02 % and 91.15% respectively). We found that the first fixation within the face was to a featureless point between the eyes and the nose, and not significantly different across tasks for both groups of observers. We observed small (about 0.6 degrees of visual angle) but significant differences in fixation strategy across ethnic groups. In a separate set of experiments, participants were forced to fixate different locations on the face while performing the same set of tasks. We observed that ethnic group categorization performance of the Indian observers was rather insensitive to point of fixation while their face identification performance was dependent on their initial fixation location. A computational model (a foveated ideal face categorization observer) that integrated information from across the face with varying visual spatial resolution like the human visual system correctly predicted human behavior. Together, the empirical results suggest that the adopted point of fixation (“just below the eyes”) that is known to optimize face identification can successfully support ethnic group categorization of faces.

2:00pm: Graduate Students Awards Presentation & Closing Remarks