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Article

Social cognition refers to the ways in which people “make sense” of themselves, other people, and the world around them. Building on social psychological contributions, this entry summarizes processes through which we perceive, interpret, remember, and apply information in our efforts to render meaning and to interact. Rather than a rationalistic depiction, we see complex relationships among cognitions, emotions, motivations, and contexts. Social cognition provides guidance to mechanisms or venues through which personal and environmental transactions related to meaning take specific form, thereby offering crucial insights into adaptive or maladaptive development as well as change strategies. A principal benefit of social cognition for social work practice is its empirically supported and broadly applicable framework for explaining how person–environment interactions unfold and might be altered in the service of social work practice and social justice. Social cognition includes, for example, social knowledge, social influences, the relationship between social structures and categories (age, race, and sex) in constructing meaning, stereotyping and other biases in information processing, dynamic processes through which memories get stored, recall, and revised, attributions of others' behavior and motives and of one's own responses and internal states, identity development, and processes through which affect, cognition, and neurophysiology interrelate as people interact with their social environments.

Article

Victor Ottati and Chase Wilson

Dogmatic or closed-minded cognition is directionally biased; a tendency to select, interpret, and elaborate upon information in a manner that reinforces the individual’s prior opinion or expectation. Open-minded cognition is directionally unbiased; a tendency to process information in a manner that is not biased in the direction of the individual’s prior opinion or expectation. It is marked by a tendency to consider a variety of intellectual perspectives, values, attitudes, opinions, or beliefs—even those that contradict the individual’s prior opinion. Open-Minded Cognition is assessed using measures that specifically focus on the degree to which individuals process information in a directionally biased manner. Open-Minded Cognition can function as an individual difference characteristic that predicts a variety of social attitudes and political opinions. These include attitudes toward marginalized social groups (e.g., racial and ethnic minorities), support for democratic values, political ideology, and partisan identification. Open-Minded Cognition also possesses a malleable component that varies across domains and specific situations. For example, Open-Minded Cognition is higher in the political domain than religious domain. In addition, Open-Minded Cognition is prevalent in situations where individuals encounter plausible arguments that are compatible with conventional values, but is less evident when individuals encounter arguments that are extremely implausible or that contradict conventional values. Within a situation, Open-Minded Cognition also varies across social roles involving expertise. Because political novices possess limited political knowledge, social norms dictate that they should listen and learn in an open-minded fashion. In contrast, because political experts possess extensive knowledge, social norms dictate that they are entitled to adopt a more dogmatic cognitive orientation when listening to a political communication.

Article

Michael J. Beran

Comparative psychology is the study of behavior and cognition across species. In recent decades, much of this research has focused on cognitive capacities that are well studied in humans. This approach provides comparative perspectives on the evolution of these cognitive capacities. Although in many areas humans shows distinct aspects of various cognitive processes, it is clear that for most major topics in human cognition, important and illustrative data are available from studies with other animals. Moreover, these areas of investigation increasingly show continuities between the behavior of other species and human behavior. Several of these cognitive processes, including concept and category learning, numerical cognition, memory, mental time travel and prospective cognition, metacognition, and language learning, highlight these continuities and demonstrate the richness of mental lives in other animals. Nonhuman animals can discriminate between categories of perceptual and conceptual classes, they can form concepts, and they can use those concepts to guide decision making and choice behavior. Other species can engage in rudimentary numerical cognition, and more importantly share with humans certain core quantitative abilities for the approximate representation of magnitude and number. Nonhuman animals share many phenomena of memory that are well-recognized in humans, and in some cases may even share the capacity to mentally re-experience the past and to anticipate and plan for the future. In some cases, some species may even reflect on their own knowledge states, memory accessibility, and perceptual acuity as they make metacognitive judgments. And, studies of animal communication provided the basis for intensive assessments of language-like behavior in certain species. Taken together, these results argue much more for continuity than discontinuity. This should not be seen as a challenge to the uniqueness of human minds, but rather as a way to better understand how we became the species we are through the process of evolution.

Article

Skylar M. Brannon and Bertram Gawronski

The desire to maintain consistency between cognitions has been recognized by many psychologists as an important human motive. Research on this topic has been highly influential in a variety of areas of social cognition, including attitudes, person perception, prejudice and stereotyping, and self-evaluation. In his seminal work on cognitive dissonance, Leon Festinger noted that inconsistencies between cognitions result in negative affect. Further, he argued that the motivation to maintain consistency is a basic motive that is intrinsically important. Subsequent theorists posed revisions to Festinger’s original theory, suggesting that consistency is only important to the extent that it allows one to maintain a desired self-view or to communicate traits to others. According to these theorists, the motivation to maintain consistency serves as a means toward a superordinate motive, not as an end in itself. Building on this argument, more recent perspectives suggest that consistency is important for the execution of context-appropriate action and the acquisition and validation of knowledge. Several important lines of research grew out of the idea that cognitive consistency plays a central role in social information processing. One dominant line of research has aimed toward understanding how people deal with inconsistencies between their attitudes and their behaviors. Other research has investigated how individuals maintain their beliefs either by (1) avoiding exposure to contradictory information or (2) engaging in cognitive processes aimed toward reconciling an inconsistency after being exposed to contradictory information. Cognitive consistency perspectives have also been leveraged to understand (1) the conditions under which explicit and implicit evaluations correlate with one another, (2) when change in one type of evaluation corresponds with change in the other, and (3) the roles of distinct types of consistency principles underlying explicit and implicit evaluations. Expanding on these works, newer lines of research have provided important revisions and extensions to early research on cognitive consistency, focusing on (1) the identification of inconsistency, (2) the elicitation of negative affect in response to inconsistency, and (3) behavioral responses aimed to restore inconsistency or mitigate the negative feelings arising from inconsistency. For example, some research has suggested that, instead of following the rules of formal logic, perceptions of (in)consistency are driven by “psycho-logic” in that individuals may perceive inconsistency when there is logical consistency, and vice versa. Further, reconciling conflicting research on the affective responses to inconsistency, recent work suggests that all inconsistencies first elicit negative affect, but immediate affective reactions may change in line with the hedonic experience of the event when an individual has time to make sense of the inconsistency. Finally, new frameworks have been proposed to unite a broad range of phenomena under one unifying umbrella, using the concept of cognitive consistency as a common denominator.

Article

Amy E. Richardson and Elizabeth Broadbent

Cognitions about illness have been identified as contributors to health-related behavior, psychological well-being, and overall health. Several different theories have been developed to explain how cognitions may exert their impact on health outcomes. This article includes three theories: the Health Belief Model (HBM), the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB), and the Common Sense Model (CSM), with the primary focus on the CSM. The HBM posits that cognitions regarding susceptibility to a health threat, the severity of the threat, and the benefits and costs associated with behavior, will determine whether or not a behavior is performed. In the TPB, behavior is thought to be a consequence of intention to act, which is shaped by attitudes regarding a behavior, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control. The Common Sense Model (CSM) proposes that individuals form cognitive representations of illness (known as illness perceptions) as well as emotional representations, which are key determinants of coping behaviors to manage the illness. Coping behaviors are theorized to have direct relationships with physical and psychological health outcomes. Cognitive representations encompass perceptions regarding the consequences posed by the illness, its timeline, personal ability to control the illness, whether the illness can be cured or controlled by treatment, and the identity of the illness (including its label and symptoms). Emotional representations reflect feelings such as fear, anger, and depression about the illness. The development of illness representations is influenced by a number of factors, including personal experience, the nature of physical symptoms, personality traits, and the social and cultural context. Illness cognitions can vary considerably between patients and health care professionals. There are a number of methods to assess illness-related cognitions, and increasing evidence that modifying negative or inaccurate cognitions can improve health outcomes.

Article

Katina Sawyer and Judith A. Clair

Stereotypes are a central concern in society and in the workplace. Stereotypes are cognitions that drive what individuals know, believe, and expect from others as a result of their social identities. Stereotypes predict how individuals view and treat one another at work, often resulting in inaccurate generalizations about individuals based on their group membership. As such, it’s important to break down and combat the use of stereotypes in decision-making at work. If stereotypes can be overcome in the workplace, fairness and equity in organizations becomes more likely.

Article

Ravi S. Kudesia

Since the 1980s, the management and organizations literature has grown substantially, turning over the years toward cognitive, discursive, and phenomenological perspectives. At the heart of this continued growth and its many turns is the matter of sensemaking. Construed narrowly, sensemaking describes the process whereby people notice and interpret equivocal events and coordinate a response to clarify what such events mean. More broadly, sensemaking offers a unique perspective on organizations. This perspective calls attention to how members of organizations reach understandings of their environment through verbal and embodied behaviors, how these understandings both enable and constrain their subsequent behavior, and how this subsequent behavior changes the environment in ways that necessitate new understandings. Whereas organizational psychology constructs typically fit most comfortably into a linear “boxes and arrows” paradigm, sensemaking highlights a recursive and ongoing process. Sense is never made in a lasting way: It is always subject to disruption and therefore must be continually re-accomplished. As a result, sensemaking is especially evident when equivocal events cause breakdowns in meaning. Such breakdowns render organizations incapable of answering two key questions: “What’s going on here?” and “What should we do about it?” Not coincidentally, such events—including crisis situations, strategic change episodes, firm formations and dissolutions, and new member socialization—are among the most pivotal events that occur in organizations. Sensemaking is therefore strongly implicated in organizational change, learning, and identity. Sensemaking can appear impenetrable to newcomers for precisely the same reason that it enables remarkably incisive analyses: the sensemaking perspective helps disrupt limiting rationality assumptions that are so often embedded in organizational theories. As such, sensemaking sensitizes scholars to counterintuitive aspects of organizational life. These aspects include how action in organizations often precedes understanding rather than following from it, how organizations are beset by a surplus of possible meanings rather than a scarcity of information, how retrospective thought processes often trump future-oriented ones, and how organizations help create the environments to which they must react. Nonetheless, despite these advances and insights, much remains to be learned about sensemaking as it relates to emotion and embodiment; as it occurs across individual, group, organizational, and institutional levels of analysis; and as it both shapes and is shaped by new technologies.

Article

The glucocorticoid hormones cortisol and corticosterone coordinate circadian events and are master regulators of the stress response. These actions of the glucocorticoids are mediated by mineralocorticoid receptors (NR3C2, or MRs) and glucocorticoid receptors (NR3C1, or GRs). MRs bind the natural glucocorticoids cortisol and corticosterone with a 10-fold higher affinity than GRs. The glucocorticoids are inactivated only in the nucleus tractus solitarii (NTS), rendering the NTS-localized MRs aldosterone-selective and involved in regulation of salt appetite. Everywhere else in the brain MRs are glucocorticoid-preferring. MR and GR are transcription factors involved in gene regulation but recently were also found to mediate rapid non-genomic actions. Genomic MRs, with a predominant localization in limbic circuits, are important for the threshold and sensitivity of the stress response system. Non-genomic MRs promote appraisal processes, memory retrieval, and selection of coping style. Activation of GRs makes energy substrates available and dampens initial defense reactions. In the brain, GR activation enhances appetitive- and fear-motivated behavior and promotes memory storage of the selected coping style in preparation of the future. Thus, MRs and GRs complement each other in glucocorticoid control of the initiation and termination of the stress response, suggesting that the balance in MR- and GR-mediated actions is crucial for homeostasis and health.

Article

James M. Honeycutt and Robert M. McCann

Imagined interactions (IIs) are a process of social cognition and mental imagery in which individuals imagine and therefore indirectly experience themselves in anticipated and/or past communicative encounters with others. They have been studied in intergroup communication in terms of communication apprehension (CA), group conflict, teasing and bullying, cross-cultural differences, political partisanship, and sexual orientation. They have their theoretical foundation in the work of classic symbolic interactionists and phenomenologists, as well as cognitive script theory. IIs possess many of the same attributes as real conversations, in that they may be fragmentary, extended, rambling, repetitive, or coherent. They are a means of problem solving by allowing an individual to think through a problem. There are 14 features of IIs, comprised of eight attributes (frequency, proactivity, retroactivity, valence, discrepancy, self-dominance, variety, and specificity) and six functions (compensation, rehearsal, understanding, conflict linkage, relational maintenance, and catharsis). Brief descriptions of the functions follow: They compensate for lack of real interaction, they maintain conflict as well as resolving it, they are used to rehearse messages for future interaction, they aid people in self-understanding through clarifying attitudes and beliefs, they provide emotional catharsis by relieving tension, and they help maintain relationships through intrusive thinking about a relational partner outside of their physical presence. In terms of the attributes, frequency represents how often people experience them. Proactivity and retroactivity are concerned with the timing of the II in relation to actual conversations. Proactive IIs occur before an anticipated encounter, while retroactive IIs occur afterward. Retroactivity is very common in films and movies in which characters have flashbacks. Proactive and retroactive IIs can occur simultaneously, as individuals replay prior conversations in their minds while preparing for ensuing interactions. Discrepancy occurs when what was imagined is different from what happens in actual conversations. Since IIs can be used for message planning, most of the imaginary talk comes from the self, with less emphasis being placed on listening to what the interaction partner says. This reflects the self-dominance attribute. The variety characteristic of IIs reflects individual differences in the number of topics that are discussed in the IIs and whom they involve. IIs tend to occur with significant others such as relational partners, family, and friends. They do not occur with people whom we rarely see. Valence reflects how positive or negative the emotions are while having an II. Finally, IIs vary in their specificity, or how vague the imagined lines of dialogue are, as well as the setting where the imaginary encounter occurs.

Article

Online processing, and the models arising from it, starts with an optimistic view of the American voter, in which it is supposed that the seeming ignorance of voters does not prevent them from expressing rational attitudes about the very political objects they do not know much about. This means that the seeming ignorance of voters is not necessarily a threat to electoral democracy, but the cognitive structures needed for this sort of rationality also lead to necessary, and sometimes extreme, biases in political information processing. Since information stored in long-term memory is linked, both semantically and affectively (that is, based on the perceived positive or negative valence of the information), affect—understood here as a simple positive or negative valence—colors all steps of information processing. For instance, individuals are likely to avoid, or counter-argue, or simply reject information that is at odds with their existing views. As a result, individuals of different political persuasions may have difficulty coming to agreement on the correct interpretation of relevant facts, or even the facts themselves. Alternative memory-based models, which propose that evaluations are constructed on the spot when a question is asked, may help to explain response instability, but fail to serve as complete replacements for the online processing approach. The bias caused by affect-infused cognition seems to present challenges for electoral democracy just as much as the seeming ignorance it accounts for, but it is argued that such biases are mostly limited to individuals who already hold fairly strong existing attitudes, a group which is unlikely to include most voters. Moreover, some degree of intransigence is likely a good thing, as the alternative is views that shift rapidly with new information.

Article

Sarah Krichbaum, Adam Davila, Lucia Lazarowski, and Jeffrey S. Katz

The contemporary field of animal cognition began over 150 years ago when Charles Darwin posed questions regarding the abilities of the animal mind. Animal cognition is a science dedicated to understanding the processes and mechanisms that allow nonhumans to think and behave. The techniques that are used and the species that are studied are diverse. The historical questions originally proposed by ethologist Nikolas Tinbergen as a framework for studying animal behavior remain at the core of the field. These questions are reviewed along with the domains and methods of animal cognition with a focus on concept learning, memory, and canine cognition. Finally, ideas on how a field rich in tradition and methodological strength should proceed in the future are presented.

Article

Ruth I. Wood and Kathryn G. Wallin-Miller

Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are both performance-enhancing substances and drugs of abuse. Although AAS are banned in competitive sports, they are widely used by both elite and rank-and-file athletes. All AAS are derived from testosterone, the principle endogenous androgen produced by the testes of adult men. While AAS increase muscular strength and athletic performance, they also have serious consequences for health and behavior. AAS are implicated in maladaptive behavioral and cognitive changes such as increased risk-taking and altered decision-making. However, effects of AAS on cognition are not well understood. Studies of human AAS users are limited by an inability to control for pre-existing psychopathology and behavioral differences. Furthermore, in order to understand AAS effects on behavior, it is important to discover how AAS impact the brain. Animal models of AAS abuse parallel human studies to uncover effects on cognition, decision-making, and underlying neurobiological mechanisms. In operant discounting tests, rats treated with chronic high-dose testosterone are less sensitive to effort, punishment, and delay but are more sensitive to uncertainty. Likewise, they demonstrate impaired cognitive flexibility when tested for set-shifting and reversal learning. It appears that AAS induce many of these cognitive changes via effects on the mesocorticolimbic dopamine system, particularly through the dopamine D1- and D2-like receptors in subnuclei of the nucleus accumbens. AAS also have rewarding effects mediated by similar neural circuits. In preclinical studies, animals will voluntarily self-administer AAS. Human users may develop dependence. These findings highlight the vulnerability of brain circuits controlling cognition and reward to androgens at high doses.

Article

Paul de Lacy

Phonology has both a taxonomic/descriptive and cognitive meaning. In the taxonomic/descriptive context, it refers to speech sound systems. As a cognitive term, it refers to a part of the brain’s ability to produce and perceive speech sounds. This article focuses on research in the cognitive domain. The brain does not simply record speech sounds and “play them back.” It abstracts over speech sounds, and transforms the abstractions in nontrivial ways. Phonological cognition is about what those abstractions are, and how they are transformed in perception and production. There are many theories about phonological cognition. Some theories see it as the result of domain-general mechanisms, such as analogy over a Lexicon. Other theories locate it in an encapsulated module that is genetically specified, and has innate propositional content. In production, this module takes as its input phonological material from a Lexicon, and refers to syntactic and morphological structure in producing an output, which involves nontrivial transformation. In some theories, the output is instructions for articulator movement, which result in speech sounds; in other theories, the output goes to the Phonetic module. In perception, a continuous acoustic signal is mapped onto a phonetic representation, which is then mapped onto underlying forms via the Phonological module, which are then matched to lexical entries. Exactly which empirical phenomena phonological cognition is responsible for depends on the theory. At one extreme, it accounts for all human speech sound patterns and realization. At the other extreme, it is little more than a way of abstracting over speech sounds. In the most popular Generative conception, it explains some sound patterns, with other modules (e.g., the Lexicon and Phonetic module) accounting for others. There are many types of patterns, with names such as “assimilation,” “deletion,” and “neutralization”—a great deal of phonological research focuses on determining which patterns there are, which aspects are universal and which are language-particular, and whether/how phonological cognition is responsible for them. Phonological computation connects with other cognitive structures. In the Generative T-model, the phonological module’s input includes morphs of Lexical items along with at least some morphological and syntactic structure; the output is sent to either a Phonetic module, or directly to the neuro-motor interface, resulting in articulator movement. However, other theories propose that these modules’ computation proceeds in parallel, and that there is bidirectional communication between them. The study of phonological cognition is a young science, so many fundamental questions remain to be answered. There are currently many different theories, and theoretical diversity over the past few decades has increased rather than consolidated. In addition, new research methods have been developed and older ones have been refined, providing novel sources of evidence. Consequently, phonological research is both lively and challenging, and is likely to remain that way for some time to come.

Article

Cedric Boeckx and Pedro Tiago Martins

All humans can acquire at least one natural language. Biolinguistics is the name given to the interdisciplinary enterprise that aims to unveil the biological bases of this unique capacity.

Article

Christopher Hertzog and Taylor Curley

Metamemory is defined as cognitions about memory and related processes. Related terms in the literature include metacognition, self-evaluation, memory self-efficacy, executive function, self-regulation, cognitive control, and strategic behavior. Metamemory is a multidimensional construct that includes knowledge about how memory works, beliefs about memory (including beliefs about one’s own memory such as memory self-efficacy), monitoring of memory and related processes and products, and metacognitive control, in which adaptive changes in processing approaches and strategies may be contemplated if monitoring of memory processes (encoding, retention, retrieval) indicates that alternative strategies may be required. Older adults generally believe that their memory has declined and that, on average, they have less control over memory and lower memory self-efficacy than young and middle-aged adults. Many but not all aspects of online memory monitoring are well preserved in old age, such as the ability to discriminate between information that has been learned versus not learned. A major exception concerns confidence judgments concerning whether recognition memory decisions are correct; older adults are more prone to high-confidence memory errors, believing they are recognizing something they have not encountered previously. The evidence regarding metacognitive control is more mixed, with some hints that older adults do not use monitoring to adjust control behaviors (e.g., devoting more time and effort to studying items they believe have not yet been well-learned). However, any age deficits in self-regulation based on memory monitoring or adaptive strategy use can probably be addressed through instructions, practice, or training. In general, older adults seem capable of exerting metacognitive control in memory studies, although they may not necessarily do so without explicit support or prompting.

Article

Rupert Wegerif

Dialogic education is a relatively new force in educational theory and practice. Despite the variety of approaches to dialogic education, it nonetheless offers a coherent theory of education with implications not only for how education should be practiced but also for the purposes of education. Dialogic education takes place through dialogue which means opening up dialogic spaces in which different perspectives can clash or play together and new learning can occur. But dialogic education is not only education through dialogue, it is also education for dialogue, meaning that as a result of dialogic education learners become better at learning together with others through dialogue. The intellectual background of dialogic education theory goes back at least as far as Socrates and includes thinkers as varied as Freire, who saw dialogic education as a means of liberation from oppression, and Oakeshott, who understood education to be a process of engaging learners in their cultural inheritance, described as “the conversation of mankind.” Bakhtin, an influential source for recent dialogic educational theory, argues that meaning requires the clash and interaction of multiple voices. There are a range of approaches to implementing dialogic education, varying in the extent to which they focus on teacher to student dialogue, small group dialogues, and whole class dialogues. All approaches include some idea of (1) a dialogic orientation toward the other, characterized by an openness to the possibility of learning, and (2) social norms that support productive dialogue. Published assessments of the impact of dialogic education in relation to general thinking skills, curriculum learning gains, and conceptual understanding have been positive. However, the assessment of dialogic education raises methodological issues, and new methodologies are being developed that align better with dialogic theory and with the idea of measuring increased dialogicity, or expanded “dialogic space.” Assuming that dialogic education works to promote educational goals, various hypotheses have been suggested as to how it works, including some that focus on the co-construction of new meaning through explicit language use, others that focus more on changes in the identity of students, and others on changes in the possibilities of engagement afforded by the culture of classrooms. There are many issues and controversies raised by dialogic education. One issue is the extent to which dialogue as a goal is compatible with a curriculum that pre-specifies certain learning outcomes. Another is the extent to which teaching a set of social norms and practices promoting dialogue might be a kind of cultural imperialism that fails to recognize and value the culture of the students. These and other challenges to dialogic education are part of a lively and constructive debate in the field, which values a multiplicity of voices within the broader context of convergence on the value of teaching through dialogue and teaching for dialogue.

Article

Sheila L. Macrine and Jennifer M.B. Fugate

Embodied cognition theories are different from traditional theories of cognition in that they specifically focus on the mind–body connection. This shift in our understanding of how knowledge is acquired challenges Cartesian, as well as computational theories of cognition that emphasize the body as a “passive” observer to brain functions, and necessary only in the execution of motor actions. Historically, mental representations within the brain were typically considered abstractions of the original information (i.e., mental representations). Accordingly, these amodal (disembodied) theories provided the knowledge used in cognitive processes, but did not reflect the original sensorimotor states themselves. In contrast, Embodied cognition provides a starting point to advance our understanding of how perceptual, sensorimotor and multisensory approaches facilitate and encourage learning throughout the lifespan. Derived from embodied cognition, embodied learning constitutes a contemporary pedagogical theory of knowing and learning that emphasizes the use of the body in educational practice. Embodied learning approaches scientifically endorse and advance sensorimotor learning, as well as offer potentially useful tools for educators. This article begins with a discussion on the historical progression of embodied understanding in the disciplines of philosophy, cognitive psychology, and neuroscience, with a focus on how embodied cognition differs from traditional models of cognition. Empirical evidence from varied field domains (e.g., reading, handwriting, STEM fields, haptic technology, mixed reality, and special education) are presented that show how embodied learning increases and facilitates learning and memory. Discussions within each content area draw upon embodied principles and show why the reviewed techniques facilitate learning. Also discussed are examples on how these principles can be further integrated into educational curriculum, with an eye toward the learner as a unified whole.

Article

Rebecca Heaton and Richard Hickman

A range of arguments is used to justify the inclusion of the arts in schools’ curricula from different parts of the world, moreover, "the arts" can mean different things to different audiences. It is therefore useful to contextualize why and how arts education contributes to such things as social utility, personal growth, and aesthetic awareness. Arts education in many countries is being marginalized, and the cognitive value of arts education is being sidelined. By reinstating the arts in education as cognitively driven, culturally relevant, and progressive, an arts offering can be formed that aligns with, and advances, contemporary perspectives and practices in education.

Article

Priscila G. Brust-Renck, Julia Nolte, and Valerie F. Reyna

The complexity of numerical information about health risks and benefits places demands on people that many are not prepared to meet. For example, much information about health is communicated numerically, such as treatment risks and effectiveness, lifestyle benefits, and the chances of side effects from medication. However, many people—especially the old, the poor, and the less educated—have difficulty understanding numerical information that would enable them to make informed health decisions. Some evidence also suggests cultural and gender differences (although their causes have been disputed). The ability to use and understand numbers (i.e., numeracy) plays an important role in how information should be displayed and communicated. Measuring differences in numeracy provides a standard to guide one’s approach when communicating risk. Several surveys have been developed to allow for a descriptive assessment of basic and analytical mathematical skills in nationally representative samples (e.g., NAEP, NAAL, PISA, PIACC). Other measures assess specific skills, such as perception of numbers (e.g., number line, approximation, dots tasks), individual perception of one’s own ability (i.e., Subjective Numeracy Scale), and arithmetic computation ability (i.e., Objective Numeracy Scales, Abbreviated Numeracy Scale, and Berlin Numeracy Test). Difficulties associated with low numeracy extend well beyond the inability to understand place value or perform computations. Understanding and remediating low numeracy requires getting below the surface of errors in judgment and decision making to the deeper level of scientific theory. Despite the relevance of numbers in decision making, there is a certain level of disagreement regarding the psychological mechanisms involved in numeracy. Studies show that people have a basic mental representation of numbers in which the discriminability of two magnitudes is a function of their ratio rather than their difference (psychophysical approaches). Numerical reasoning has been identified with quantitative and analytical processes, and such computation is often seen as an accurate and objective way to process information (traditional dual-process approaches as applied to numeracy). However, these approaches do not account for the contradictory evidence that reliance on analysis is not sufficient for many decisions and has been associated with worse performance for some decisions. Studies supporting a more recent dual-process approach—one that accounts for standard and paradoxical effects of numeracy on risk communication—emphasize the role of intuition: this is a kind of advanced thinking that operates on gist representations, which capture qualitative understanding of the meaning of numbers that is relevant in decision making (Fuzzy Trace Theory). According to Fuzzy Trace Theory, people encode both actual numbers (verbatim representations) and qualitative interpretations of their bottom-line meaning (gist representations) but prefer to rely on the qualitative gist representations when possible. Thus, potential difficulties in decision making arising from deficits in numeracy can be resolved through meaningful communication of risk. Creating narratives that emphasize the contextually relevant underlying gist of risk and using methods that convey the meaning behind numeric presentations (e.g., use of appropriate arrays to communicate linear trends, meaningful relations among magnitudes, and inclusion relations among classes) improve understanding and decision making for both numerate and innumerate individuals.

Article

Keiko Ishii and Charis Eisen

Socioeconomic status (SES) is a multidimensional construct based on access to material resources and one’s own rank relative to others in a social hierarchy. It fundamentally shapes individuals’ psychological and behavioral tendencies. In many ways, socioeconomic variation parallels East–West cultural dynamics. Like East Asian cultures, lower SES fosters interdependence, a reduced striving for personal choice, holistic thinking, and the attribution of events and behavior to external causes. In contrast, similar to Western cultures, higher SES supports independence, a strong desire for control, self-expression through choice, analytic thinking, and internal attribution. SES has also been found to shape additional psychological tendencies. Because limited access to resources and education makes it necessary to rely on other people, lower SES has been shown to be linked to a greater understanding of others’ emotions and a tendency to act altruistically. Although the evidence is still limited, this article describes what is known about the simultaneous influence of SES and culture. Some studies have explored similar SES effects across cultures. However, reflecting the variation in the dominant ideas and practices shared among people within sociocultural contexts, some studies have suggested that socioeconomic contexts elicit different psychological processes across national cultures. Higher-SES individuals especially seem to adjust themselves to culturally sanctioned ideas and practices. The article suggests directions for future research that will enhance our understanding of the interplay between SES and national cultures.