Month: January 2022

ACSHF Forum: Grad Student Presentations

The Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors (ACSHF) Forum will be held from 2-3 p.m. Monday (Jan. 24) virtually via Zoom.

There will be two speakers: Pomm Khaewratana and Alex Watral, both ACSHF graduate students.

Pomm Khaewratana:
Title: Learning with word game: Effects of crossword and elaboration on learning scientific vocabulary
Abstract: Crosswords have been used in a variety of science classrooms as a supplementary tool to help students learn technical vocabulary and to improve scientific thinking. However, the majority of crossword studies showed positive findings only for the former and almost none for the latter. We currently lack evidence for the usefulness of crossword in learning anything beyond the vocabulary and their definition or associated context provided as crossword hints. In this presentation, I will describe a continuation of the series of my experiments that evaluate the effect of crossword with an add-on elaboration task. The task supposedly enhances learning and retention of learned vocabulary by having learners generate sentences from technical words that depict an application-based use of the words. Fifty undergraduate students were recruited as participants in the aforementioned within-subject-design experiment. Results indicated significant improvement on memory level but not on the higher level of application.

Alex Watral:
Title: Online Assessment of Motor Learning in Younger and Older Adults
Abstract: Motor learning is a specific type of learning that occurs through repetition of a movement following the law of practice wherein rapid improvements in performance occur initially, followed by more gradual improvements as practice continues. In this sense, we can think of motor skill learning as unfolding in two phases that may rely on different cognitive mechanisms. Evidence has shown that motor learning abilities change with healthy aging such that older adults are slower to learn novel motor tasks initially while ultimately they are still able to learn to the same degree as young adults. One of the gold-standard approaches to studying motor learning is called the visuomotor rotation (VMR) paradigm. Motor learning tasks like the VMR paradigm are typically implemented in our lab using a robotic device called a Kinarm. As our understanding of motor learning evolves, we need to focus on options for testing that are more accessible than laboratory limited approaches. We have created a web-based application to assess visuomotor adaptation in a remote setting. No application downloads are required on the part of the participant. The only requirement is for them to have a computer (laptop or desktop) and an internet connection. This makes the application far more accessible than current laboratory and portable platforms. The overarching goal of this project is to validate the web-based application in younger adults as well as healthy older adults. We are also interested in verifying that previously identified correlations between the early and late stages of motor learning and implicit memory, spatial working memory, and visual-spatial abilities can be observed with this online app. Healthy younger adults (n=21) and healthy older adults (n=17) participated in this study. Each participant met with a researcher via Zoom and shared their screen while performing the VMR task and cognitive battery so that the researcher could troubleshoot as needed. Preliminary results suggest that the online application produced results similar to the laboratory task. Further analyses will be conducted to determine if there were significant differences between the two collection methods (app vs laboratory) and to see how cognitive constructs correlate with performance on the VMR app.

KCP Future Faculty Fellow – Brittany Nelson

It started when I took a critical thinking class where I learned how irrational many of my, and most people’s decisions, are. Many hold a misconception that we are rational creatures that we weigh pros and cons of each choice and choose the option that has the most utility. I was immediately fascinated that this is not the case; decisions are influenced by biases, environment, emotions, fatigue, and more. As an undergraduate, I conducted a blind experiment that measured the impact of reading a free will philosophy pamphlet on behaviors such as stealing candy and donating money. (Those who read the pamphlet that suggests we don’t have free will are more likely to steal candy and not donate money!) After learning how little we make rational decisions —without even being aware— I understood the potential the field of cognitive science has for helping people.

My interest in teaching allowed me to take many powerful lessons from my Masters’ degree in Applied Cognitive Science and share them with students when I was a visiting professor at Finlandia University. This position opened my eyes to how instructors can empower students through teaching. From this experience, I gained a passion for and concrete skills in how to be a professor.

Under the advisement of Dr. Erich Petushek, my current Ph.D. research at MTU involves identifying, measuring, and improving key factors that impact healthy lifestyle decisions. Lifestyle behaviors cause 60% of premature deaths and lead to 10 years longer life expectancy free of major chronic diseases. I hope that the long-term impact of this research is saved lives and a significant improvement in quality of life.

It is my goal to become a professor in psychology. As a professor, I can empower students to reach their potential and lead a lab devoted to helping people make good decisions. I am so grateful and honored to receive the King-Chávez-Parks Future Faculty Fellowship. I know it will help pave my way toward my goal.

The Next Chapter: Physical Therapy School

I’m Emma DeBaeke, I graduated in spring 2021 from MTU with a Bachelors of Exercise Science and a minor in Psychology. The research and the anatomical-based program have given me the perfect foundation for the next chapter in my life, Physical Therapy school. I have just started school at the University of Michigan- Flint in their DPT program. Personally, I feel as if U of M has been the right choice for me because of the ability to live closer to my family, the PT Heart clinic, and the amazing professors. However, MTU will always be in my heart.

I wouldn’t be who I am today without my experiences at Tech. With Michigan Tech being so far from my home town it helped me grow. It took a lot of tenacity, determination, and help from the Chemistry Learning Center to make it through my first semester. I also couldn’t have made it through without the supportive community at MTU. I have had numerous occasions where people have helped me shovel out my car from the snow, and I have run into countless alumni downstate who are always so kind. 

Throughout my time at Tech I was on the rowing team, a Resident Assistant in DHH, and an Athletic Training Intern. I am still active in the MTU community as a sister of Delta Phi Epsilon. I personally enjoy being busy and these roles allowed me to either give back to the community or better myself personally. I know preparing to apply for graduate school can be stressful. I believe when preparing your resume it’s important to find activities that you enjoy to fulfill the graduate program’s recommendations and help you stand out during interviews.

ACSHF Forum: Monday, January 10

The first Spring 2022 Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors (ACSHF) Forum will be held from 2-3 p.m. on Monday (January 10) in the Harold Meese Center (Meese), Room 109, and virtually via Zoom. There will be two speakers: Lisa Casper and Betsy Lehman, both ACSHF graduate students.

Lisa Casper’s Abstract:
Perspective shifting in design: Evidence of innovation in makerspaces

One of the critical 21st-century skills students need is to be able to think differently.  Makerspaces and design thinking have become part of university innovation education strategies across the world to help students develop these skills.  But how do we support innovation in makerspaces?   At Michigan Tech, we use design thinking in conjunction with the makerspace.  Most research and evidence of innovation in makerspaces is anecdotal.  My research is taking a cognitive engineering approach to supporting and developing innovation in makerspaces.  In this talk, I will review research on makerspaces and innovation theories with a backdrop of the design thinking process.  Using cognitive task analysis, we interviewed expert makers from Europe and the United and conducted a thematic analysis of the data.  Themes from these interviews suggest focus areas for innovations in makerspaces that will support future experiments. 

Betsy Lehman’s Abstract:
Taking It Easy: Ease of Generating Alternative Explanations As A Mediator Of Counterfactual Reasoning In Ambiguous Social Judgments

It is important to know how people make sense of situations and question their theories. Questioning one’s perspective may be critical in many situations, such as taking action against climate change, improving diversity and equity at work, or even promoting vaccine adoption.  According to sensemaking theory (Klein et al., 2007), people must first question their theory of a situation before they can shift their perspective. However, research on how people question their frame is limited.  Using counterfactual theory (Roese & Olson, 1995), we examined factors and strategies affecting this part of the sensemaking process in two studies.  In Study 1, 80 participants generated explanations and predicted outcomes in five ambiguous social  situations. Data were analyzed using path analysis to compare fit between a base model (i.e., ease, malleable factors, and missing information all predicting outcome likelihood judgments) and a model based on counterfactual generation theory (Roese & Olson, 1995). Results indicated that the latter model fit was better, indicating that ease of generation may be a critical mediator in the sensemaking process. Based on this result, Study 2 was designed to experimentally test this effect by manipulating ease of generation and a focusing strategy. This work contributes to research focused on understanding of the mechanisms of perspective shifts to support applications for system design and training, such as programs to reduce implicit bias.