Category: Michigan Tech News

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.  


Isaac Flint (PhD, CLS) receives HRI Fellowship

The Health Research Institute (HRI) at Michigan Tech is pleased to award fellowships to three individuals for the spring 2022 semester. Congratulations to all recipients!

HRI Spring Fellowship awardees are:

  • Shobhit Chaturvedi, Chemistry
  • Manas Warke, Biological Sciences
  • Isaac FlintCognitive and Learning Sciences

The mission of the Health Research Institute is to establish and maintain a thriving environment that promotes translational, interdisciplinary, and increasingly convergent health-related research and inspires education and outreach activities.


ACSHF Forum: Monday, December 6

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will host speaker Joel Suss (Assistant Professor of Psychology, Wichita State University) at the next Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors forum. The presentation, “Trials and tribulations of doing research with police agencies”, will be from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Monday (December 6) via Zoom only. Dr. Suss will present stories and insights of his research from a National Institute of Justice grant about police decision making.

Abstract: Come and hear research tales from a National Institute of Justice grant about police decision making. It’s been a real roller-coaster ride. Do you want stories about ethical dilemmas? I have those. Do you want stories of critical equipment failures? I have those too. This study had a training component—so come and hear about the level of compliance we achieved. I will demonstrate the experimental task (i.e., interacting with a video scenario) and then take you through the stimulated recall procedure that I used to probe participants’ underlying cognition (yielding qualitative data). There are no results yet, but plenty of stories about the challenges that the team encountered during the research.


Dopamine Dynamics in Adaptive Decision Making

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will host speaker Jeff Pettibone (Assistant Professor of Psychology at Finlandia University) at the next Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors forum. The presentation, “Dopamine Dynamics in Adaptive Decision Making”, will be from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. Friday (October 29) in Meese 109 and via Zoom.

Abstract: Adaptive decision-making relies on a distributed network of neural substrates that learn associations between behaviors and outcomes to ultimately shape and direct future behavior.  These substrates are organized in a system of cortical-striatal loops that are hypothesized to offer unique contributions to motivated behavior. Midbrain dopamine neurons strongly innervate these regions, however the consequences of dopamine fluctuations at these targets remain largely unresolved despite aggressive interrogation. Some experiments have highlighted dopamine’s role in learning via reward prediction errors (RPEs), while others have noted the importance of dopamine in signaling distinct aspects of motivation. The data presented will describe the precise role of dopamine in shaping decision-making during a stochastically rewarded trial-and-error task in rats.


New Faculty Lecture: Briana Bettin, CS and CLS

Dr. Briana Bettin will present a New Faculty Lecture on Friday, November 12, 2021, at 3:00 p.m. in Rekhi 214. Dr. Bettin is an assistant professor in both the Computer Science and the Cognitive and Learning Sciences departments. Her research interests span education, experiential design, and human factors. Her talk is titled, “Facets and Inclusions: Analogy as a Transformative Tool for Navigating CS Curricula.”

Briana Bettin

Abstract: Our increasingly digital society requires citizens to effectively communicate about and with computing technologies in order to thrive. Learning to navigate the digital landscape and computing topics can be immensely challenging. Shifting to “think like a programmer” is often challenging, and why the machine behaves as it does can appear antithetical to “the real world” assumptions students are used to in their daily lives. Coupled with stereotypical notions on the difficulty and societal impacts of computing and programming, students can easily become frustrated and discouraged from learning necessary skills and topics for the fourth industrial revolution.

This talk explores how using analogical representations to convey computing concepts and ideas can transform student relationships with computing material. Tying the “difficult novelty” of computing topics to lived experiences can help machine behaviors become relatable rather than flummoxing. Creative and cultural expressions using analogical representations create further avenues for CS curricular transformation, allowing students to foster their sense of self and community in relation to their computing studies. The lived experiences of students have many angles, and learning computing topics is a path paved with flaws. By transforming curricular dialogues to center students and their existing understanding, we can use these facets and inclusions to transform their experiences learning computer science.

Biography: Briana Bettin’s research blends user experience methodologies with education research to better understand programming students and the impacts of the classroom environment. She is a member of the Institute of Computing and Cybersystem’s (ICC) Computing Education research group.


The Human Factor, Design with the Human in Mind

The 2021 Michigan Tech Magazine is Live! And highlights the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences’ new BS program – Human Factors.

How can people use technology to improve work, society, and life? Students in Michigan Tech’s human factors program set out to answer that question by studying human abilities and limitations, and how they apply to design. In one of the first undergraduate programs of its kind in the nation, students explore how humans use, interact with, and think and feel about technology, and investigate the roles both humans and machines will play in solving the problems of tomorrow.

“Many of today’s college students will eventually work in jobs and industries that don’t yet exist,” says Kelly Steelman, department chair and associate professor in the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences. “We intentionally designed the human factors curriculum to encourage students to develop both depth and breadth of skills. Human factors students will take courses from across campus and engage in multidisciplinary, project-based work to pick up the diverse skill sets needed to succeed in a rapidly changing world.”

To read the full story see section: 1400 Townsend Drive, and to learn more about our Human Factors program visit https://www.mtu.edu/cls/undergraduate/human-factors/


ACSHF Forum: Monday, October 11

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will host speaker Stefka Hristova  (Associate Professor Humanities) at the next Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors forum. The presentation, “Emptied Faces: In Search For An Algorithmic Punctum”, will be from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Monday (Oct. 11) in Meese 109 and via Zoom.

Abstract: In his seminal work Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes wrote that in photographic portraits “[t]he air of a face is unanalyzable.” This argument connects to the larger theory of the photographic punctum, a laceration of time that signals the existence of a subject and forecasts its death. The punctum of the traditional portrait quickly became complicated as portraiture fueled composite portraiture linked to human typologies as exemplified by the work of Galton, Bertillon, and Lombrosso. This practice of combining and reconfiguring faces has found new currency in contemporary algorithmic culture where human faces are recorded, dissected, and recombined into seamless deep fake faces by what Deleuze and Guattari call “faciality machines.” This talk traces the articulation of faces in predictive algorithms through an investigation of the UTKFace data set. Further, it analyzes the rise of deep fake portraits through an engagement with Philip Wang’s This Person Does Not Exist and Mitra Azar’s DoppelGANger projects. This harnessing of portraits and therefore of human faces as raw material has been challenged in a counter project titled This Person Exists, which exposes the real people behind Wang’s project. This work brings back notions of personhood and humanity by revealing the original photographs as well as their authors and subjects and points to the ways in which algorithms feed on and erase humanity. I situate two additional sites of resistance to the decomposition of the human face: namely Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of “unknown tracts” and Barthes’ notion of the photographic punctum.


Erin Matas Named Association of Research Libraries Leadership Fellow

Library Director Erin Matas is one of 20 information professionals selected from the U.S. and Canada to join the 2021-22 ARL Leadership Fellows cohort. The ARL Leadership Fellowship develops and prepares the next generation of senior library and archival leaders. Past Leadership Fellows have emerged as successful leaders in a wide array of roles and settings, including as deans and directors of leading research libraries and archives.

“I am thrilled to join this cohort because of the impact that the program’s goals will have on my approach to library leadership,” says Matas. “ARL’s priority is to advance scholarship through systemic changes at the intersections of public policy, institutional policy and the ever-changing landscape of how we research, teach and learn. This program is an exceptional opportunity for library leaders to join these conversations and bring important guidance to their home institutions.”

In their press release, ARL shared that the 2021-22 cohort brings together an immensely diverse and highly accomplished group of library leaders, representing the broadest range of research institutions and communities since the program began in 2004

Provost Jackie Huntoon noted that Michigan Tech is proud to have a representative in the 2021-22 cohort of ARL Leadership Fellows. “Matas’ outstanding contributions on campus and beyond have clearly contributed to her selection. By participating as a Fellow, Erin will be able to continue to grow as a library professional and contribute her knowledge of best practices to the Michigan Tech community.”

Matas is the director of the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library and is pursuing an advanced degree in applied cognitive science and human factors at Michigan Tech.


ACSHF Forum: Monday, September 13

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will host speaker Cindy Miller (staff engineer, Harley-Davidson Motor Company) at the next Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors forum. The presentation, “Human Factors in Aviation, Healthcare and Motorcycles,” will be from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Monday (Sept. 13) via Zoom. Dr. Miller will present a summary of human factors engineering projects in aviation, healthcare, and motorcycles. She will discuss some of the tools, methodology, and design processes used for these projects, as well as provide a short review of her career path.

ACSHF Forum flyer


Dr. Kelly Steelman and CLS Affiliated Faculty Receive National Science Foundation Grant

Dr. Kelly Steelman (CLS) is the Principal Investigator of a newly funded project titled “EAGER: SAI: Illuminated Devices: A Sociotechnical Approach to Empowering Digital Citizens and Strengthening Digital Infrastructure.” The National Science Foundation (NSF) is awarding a research and development grant of $299,617.

Michigan Tech faculty members Dr. Briana Bettin and Dr. Leo Ureel, who have joint appointments in CLS and CS, and Dr. Charles Wallace, who is affiliated with CLS, are named as Co-Principal Investigators.

Find the project’s abstract and additional information on the NSF’s website here.