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Service-Related Conditions and Decision-Making in Military Veterans

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An increasing number of veterans are transitioning from military service to college. Critical to academic success is the process of decision-making, which previous research has found to be influenced by a variety of factors including anxiety and working memory (WM).

An increasing number of veterans are transitioning from military service to college. Critical to academic success is the process of decision-making, which previous research has found to be influenced by a variety of factors including anxiety and working memory (WM). Many service-related conditions often influence anxiety and WM, and given the high prevalence of these conditions among veterans, the present study aimed to analyze the effects of working memory and anxiety on decision-making behavior in U.S. Military Veterans. Participants completed a large test battery including tasks assessing WM skills (Symmetry Span Task), anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory), and decision-making (Iowa Gambling Task). The study results indicated that WM and anxiety both play roles in decision-making performance in young military veterans. High anxiety is related to increased avoidance of adverse outcomes in decision-making for U.S. Military Veterans, while lower working memory span is associated with greater risk-taking behavior. This study provides both functional and clinical implications into areas of possible intervention that need to be assessed in military veterans, as well as modifications to these assessments that need to be made in order to appropriately measure decision-making behavior. Future work will be done in order to more effectively analyze the adverse impacts of service-related conditions and the ways in which intervention can be implemented in order to minimize these effects.

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2018-05

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Scientific Detail and Juror Decision-Making in Capital Scenarios

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By providing vignettes with manipulated scientific evidence, this research examined if including more or less scientific detail affected decision-making in regards to the death penalty. Participants were randomly assigned one of the two manipulations (less science and more science) after

By providing vignettes with manipulated scientific evidence, this research examined if including more or less scientific detail affected decision-making in regards to the death penalty. Participants were randomly assigned one of the two manipulations (less science and more science) after reading a short scenario introducing the mock capital trial and their role as jury members. Survey respondents were told that a jury had previously found the defendant guilty and they would now deliberate the appropriate punishment. Before being exposed to the manipulation, respondents answered questions pertaining to their prior belief in the death penalty, as well as their level of support of procedural justice and science. These questions provided a baseline to compare to their sentencing decision. Participants were then asked what sentence they would impose \u2014 life in prison or death \u2014 and how the fMRI evidence presented by an expert witness for the defense affected their decision. Both quantitative and qualitative measures were used to identify how the level of scientific detail affected their decision. Our intended predictor variable (level of scientific detail) did not affect juror decision-making. In fact, the qualitative results revealed a variety of interpretations of the scientific evidence used both in favor of death and in favor of life. When looking at what did predict juror decision-making, gender, prior belief in the death penalty, and political ideology all were significant predictors. As in previous literature, the fMRI evidence in our study had mixed results with regards to implementation of the death penalty. This held true in both of our manipulations, showing that despite the level of detail in evidence intended for mitigation, jurors with preconceived notions may still disregard the evidence, and some jurors may even view it is aggravating and thus increase the likelihood of a death sentence for a defendant with such brain abnormalities.

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2016-12

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Investigating the Relationship Between Visual Confirmation Bias and the Low-Prevalence Effect in Visual Search

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Previous research from Rajsic et al. (2015, 2017) suggests that a visual form of confirmation bias arises during visual search for simple stimuli, under certain conditions, wherein people are biased to seek stimuli matching an initial cue color even when

Previous research from Rajsic et al. (2015, 2017) suggests that a visual form of confirmation bias arises during visual search for simple stimuli, under certain conditions, wherein people are biased to seek stimuli matching an initial cue color even when this strategy is not optimal. Furthermore, recent research from our lab suggests that varying the prevalence of cue-colored targets does not attenuate the visual confirmation bias, although people still fail to detect rare targets regardless of whether they match the initial cue (Walenchok et al. under review). The present investigation examines the boundary conditions of the visual confirmation bias under conditions of equal, low, and high cued-target frequency. Across experiments, I found that: (1) People are strongly susceptible to the low-prevalence effect, often failing to detect rare targets regardless of whether they match the cue (Wolfe et al., 2005). (2) However, they are still biased to seek cue-colored stimuli, even when such targets are rare. (3) Regardless of target prevalence, people employ strategies when search is made sufficiently burdensome with distributed items and large search sets. These results further support previous findings that the low-prevalence effect arises from a failure to perceive rare items (Hout et al., 2015), while visual confirmation bias is a bias of attentional guidance (Rajsic et al., 2015, 2017).

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2018