Fall 2007 Awards

Cohort Highlight: Social Scientists Receive Small Grant Awards

Conference on Homogeneity and Heterogeneity in Public Opinion
Peter Enns, Department of Government
Christopher Wlezien, Department of Political Science, Temple University

Risk Communication and Lung Cancer Screening
Katherine McComas, Department of Communication
Sahara Byrne, Department of Communication
Natalie Bazarova, Department of Communication
Zheng Yang, Department of Communication
Claudia Henschke, Department of Radiology, Weill Cornell Medical College
David Yankelevitz, Department of Radiology, Weill Cornell Medical College

Threats to Group Survival, Status, and “Upping the Threat Level”
H. Kern Reeve, Department of Neurobiology & Behavior
Pat Barclay, Department of Neurobiology & Behavior
Stephen Benard, Department of Sociology

Scripting the Future of a Community: A Participatory Visioning Process for Iowa’s Amana Colonies
Deni Ruggeri, Department of Landscape Architecture
Paula Horrigan, Department of Landscape Architecture

Revisiting the Relation Between the Private and the Public “Spheres” After Welfare: A Feminist Legal Studies Project
Anna Marie Smith, Department of Government

Law and Social Sciences: Using Theory and Research on Discrimination in Title VII Class Action Litigation
Pamela S. Tolbert, Department of Organizational Behavior
Quinetta M. Roberson, Department of Organizational Behavior
Esta R. Bigler, Department of Labor & Employment Law Programs

A Systematic Assessment of Service Scripts in the Hospitality Industry
Rohit Verma, Operations Management, School of Hotel Administration
Liana Victorino, Department of Management, University of Utah

Adult Attachment: Integrating Social, Cognitive, and Neurophysiological Approaches
Vivian Zayas, Department of Psychology

Conference on Homogeneity and Heterogeneity in Public Opinion
Peter Enns, Department of Government and Christopher Wlezien, Department of Political Science, Temple University

Public opinion matters. When the public moves in a liberal or conservative direction, politicians respond. What we do not know, however, is whose opinions matter. Do politicians represent all people equally? Or are some preferences better represented than others? How much do preferences differ in the first place, for example, across income and education levels? Answers to these questions have dramatic implications for equality and representation in the United States. Our goal is to gather 20 prominent public opinion scholars from diverse intellectual backgrounds at a conference that explores “Homogeneity and Heterogeneity in Public Opinion.” Specifically, the conference will focus on three questions. How much heterogeneity exists in public opinion? When and why does heterogeneous public opinion emerge? And, what are the consequences of heterogeneous public opinion for representation and inequality in the United States? We expect two tangible results from the conference: (1) an edited volume organized around these three questions and (2) a collection of the data (to be housed at CISER) that participants use in the papers they write for the conference. We also expect the conference to promote discussion and research among social scientists at Cornell who are interested in inequality in public opinion and political representation.

Update: This conference led to the development of the book, “Who Gets Represented?,” which was published in February of 2011. More on this book can be found in the article “ Book Takes on Assumptions About Political Representation.”
Super Rich Benefit from ‘Status Quo Bias’
New research shows young U.S citizens are taking more liberal positionsEnns to lead Roper Center at Cornell

Risk Communication and Lung Cancer Screening
Katherine McComas, Department of Communication, Sahara Byrne, Department of Communication, Natalie Bazarova, Department of Communication, Zheng Yang, Department of Communication, Claudia Henschke, Department of Radiology, Weil Cornell Medical College, and David Yankelevitz, Department of Radiology, Weil Cornell Medical College

2007 Project Description: Lung cancer survival rates can potentially greatly increase with early screening, yet the number of individuals getting screened represents only a fraction of the targeted population. The overall goal of this multi-phase research project is to investigate factors that encourage or discourage lung cancer screening. Previous research has shown that exposure to risk information can result in both desired and undesired outcomes: Risk messages can either encourage people to get screened or produce an opposite, “boomerang” effect by discouraging people from screening. By drawing on theories of attribution, protection-motivation, and unrealistic optimism, we seek to understand the independent and interactive effects of susceptibility/efficacy, optimistic biases, and internal/external attributional orientation on lung cancer screening attitudes and behaviors. The first phase of this project has three components: (1) an analysis of existing survey data collected from over 4,000 patients who have gotten screened for lung cancer at Weill Cornell Medical College since 2001 to examine how key communication variables might have influenced their decisions; (2) the addition of new communication questions on the patient survey for future data collection and analysis; and (3) the use of a random telephone survey of New York adults (the Empire State Poll) to examine attitudes and behaviors of individuals who have not gotten screened.

Update: This research concluded in the article entitled “Risk Communication and Lung Cancer Screening” in January of 2007 and was recognized in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Research and Impact website. Media coverage includes: “ISS’ Small Grant Awardee, Katherine McComas, Publishes Study on Genetically Modified Crops” and “ISS Small Grant Award Winners Byrne and Niederdeppe Receive $3M Grant to Study Tobacco Warnings” (2014).

Threats to Group Survival, Status, and “Upping the Threat Level”
H. Kern Reeve, Department of Neurobiology & Behavior, Pat Barclay, Department of Neurobiology & Behavior, and Stephen Bernard, Department of Sociology

When faced with external threats or obstacles, research has shown that human groups generally become more cohesive and individuals refrain from within-group competition in order to promote group welfare. Such “stability-dependent cooperation” is in fact predicted from evolutionary theory because it can be in all group members’ interest to overcome mutual threats to survival. Given that people respond this way to cues that their group survival is threatened, some theorists have argued that people might attempt to manipulate fellow group members’ perceptions of external threats in order to elicit higher within-group cooperation or to suppress within-group competition. However, there is as yet no experimental data investigating whether people will deliberately misrepresent the level of group threat in order to increase cooperation. Theory suggests that in particular, those who hold high status within the group can benefit from reducing within-group competition because doing so suppresses attempts to usurp their position and allows the high status people to keep their high status position. Thus, high status individuals have a greater interest in “upping the perceived threat level” than do low status individuals. This project consists of evolutionary models and two behavioral experiments investigating people’s willingness to manipulate cues of group threats, how this willingness varies with relative status within the group, the effects that this has on group cooperation, and the effects of task insurmountability.

Scripting the Future of a Community: A Participatory Visioning Process for Iowa’s Amana Colonie
Deni Ruggeri, Department of Landscape Architecture and Paula Horrigan, Department of Landscape Architecture

This small project undertakes a participation action research project with Iowa’s Amana Colonies-a significant historic utopian society in existence since 1855. Since their founding, the Amana Colonies have struggled to preserve their way of life, their values, social traditions and cultural landscape. Today, having abandoned communal living, the Amana’s livelihood relies heavily on tourism. Facing a tourism boom and the need for additional hospitality establishments, the Amana’s are seriously concerned for their community’s future and for the impacts of growth and development. Desperately in need of a vision, they have approached Cornell and X-Sense to assist them in examining, understanding and facilitating how they will plan, envision and script their future growth and development. Using place based participatory design methods and practices this research project will enable the Amana community to “own” the process of planning their future. Both the process and its results will provide evidence regarding how democratic place-based participatory planning and design processes can be used to facilitate community planning while sustaining the vitality of our most valued cultural landscapes.

Update: This research concluded in the article entitled “Scripting a Community’s Future: A Participatory Visioning Process for Iowa’s Amana Colonies” in January of 2007 and was recognized in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Research and Impact website.

Revisiting the Relation Between the Private and the Public “Spheres” After Welfare: A Feminist Legal Studies Project
Anna Marie Smith, Department of Government

I will conduct research for, and write the first draft of, a conference paper/journal article on the implications of contemporary American welfare law for feminist conceptions of the relation between the private and public “spheres.” This project is located in an interdisciplinary space that straddles the humanities/social sciences divide, and that is crisscrossed by the following intellectual strands: feminist social and political theory, American constitutional law, and American social policy analysis. I intend to seek external funding for this project; in particular, I intend to seek a faculty fellowship from the Russell Sage Foundation.

Update: This project aimed to examine the implications for feminist theory on welfare reform and child support enforcement. Throughout the research process the focus was narrowed down to the scope of feminist theory by concentrating on the most recent work of Nancy Fraser. In particular, this project drew on interpreting and intervening in the debate between Fraser and noted German social theorist and political philosopher, Axel Honneth.. The research concluded  with a study of respective approaches and then framed my critical intervention with a set of policy questions relating to President-elect Obama’s approach to poverty assistance and family formation, with a special focus on his perspective on responsible fatherhood. This research developed in the scholarly paper entitled “Fatherhood, Poverty Programs, and Neoliberalism: Reading Obama through the Fraser and Honneth Debate.” Additional funding in the amount of $278,000 has been awarded by the Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship to help support this conference.

Law and Social Sciences: Using Theory and Research on Discrimination in Title VII Class Action Litigation
Pamela S. Tolbert, Department of Organizational Behavior, Quinetta M. Roberson, Department of Organizational Behavior and Esta R. Bigler, Department of Labor & Employment Law Programs

Social scientists who study discrimination often use different conceptual frameworks and terminology in their research, making it difficult to establish the degree of comparability in theoretical ideas and empirical findings across disciplines and even across sub-areas within disciplines. Assessing such comparability, however, is increasingly important to legal actions involving workplace discrimination, given changing standards used by courts to determine the admissibility of evidence from expert witnesses. In this context, we propose an interdisciplinary conference to bring together leading social scientists who are engaged in research on discrimination and lawyers who may draw upon such research in handling discrimination lawsuits to discuss the use of social science research in legal practice. Our broad aims are to contribute to the advancement of academic research on the problem of discrimination by fostering interdisciplinary exchange, and to encourage more effective dissemination of social science research to attorneys engaged in litigation involving discrimination. The conference will be a first step in this direction, and will engage a select set of approximately 25-30 academics and lawyers in a discussion of these issues. The conference is intended to lay the foundation for a larger conference, which will produce an edited volume, as well as a proposal for an ISS theme project on the social sciences and discrimination law.

Update: This project involved preparing an interdisciplinary conference that brought together leading social scientists who are engaged in research on discrimination with lawyers who are involved in discrimination lawsuits held in New York City on January 31 and February 1 at ILR’s Institute for Workplace Studies. This conference aimed contribute to the advancement of academic research on the problem of discrimination by fostering interdisciplinary exchange, to encourage more effective dissemination of social science research to attorneys engaged in litigation involving discrimination, and to identify areas in which additional research was needed for effective application of the law.  One immediate outcome of the conference was the initiation of a research project focusing on the impact of prescribed legal remedies in settled lawsuits on organizational changes.  These will be coded and matched with EEOC data on firms for analysis.  We plan to make these decrees publicly available for use by legal practitioners as well as academic researchers in an electronic repository through the ILR library.  Additional funding in the amount of $30,000 has been awarded by the Netter Foundation to help support this conference.

A Systematic Assessment of Service Scripts in the Hospitality Industry
Rohit Verma, Operations Management, School of Hotel Administration and Liana Victorino, Department of Management, University of Utah

A regular customer to any service establishment such as a restaurant or a hotel has been familiarized with the use of service scripts. Scripts cause the service encounter to be highly standardized providing a consistent level of service across all customers. Scripts also allow customers to become an active participant in the service encounter, where they follow the lead of the common script. However, in such a predictable service environment how is it possible to ever truly “delight” a customer. Thus, what affects does the use of service scripts have on quality and provider performance? In addition, when should scripts be utilized and when is a customized approach more appropriate. In this study, we plan to explore the preceding research questions through a triangulation of empirical research methods. During the qualitative research phase, we intend to lay the foundation for the uses of scripting and customization in services. Next, we will conduct a web-based choice surveys (Verma 2007) with different scenarios to explore the scripting preferences of customers and managers in the service encounter. Finally, we will design and conduct a controlled laboratory experiment to vary the usage of scripting in different service settings to determine when it is optimal to use a scripted versus a customized approach. In conclusion of our empirical analyses, we aim to address under which situations scripting is appropriate as well as the affects scripting has on provider performance and quality.

Update: The successful findings of this research were recognized in the article “Study – Apply Service Scripts Judiciously” in December of 2008. In 2013, PI co-authored with Liana Victorino and Don Wardell a paper published in Production and Operations Management Journal. Paper received the most influential services operations award in 2015.

Adult Attachment: Integrating Social, Cognitive, and Neurophysiological Approaches
Vivian Zayas, Department of Psychology

Attachment relationships (e.g., with parents, partners, close friends) are vital to the physical and psychological health and well-being of an individual. What are the cognitive and affective processes that underlie a secure attachment? The proposed research addresses questions regarding the cognitive and affective processes underlying adult attachment utilizing a variety of research designs (e.g., correlational vs. experimental designs), methodologies (e.g., implicit, explicit, neurophysiological), and statistical procedures (Structural Equation Modeling). The goal of Study 1 is to examine the extent to which mental representations of attachment figures (e.g., one’s mother, romantic partner) automatically and effortlessly activate positive reactions, and the degree to which such reactions, in turn, relate to feelings of attachment security, subjective experience of well-being and positive relational outcomes. Study 2 examines the extent to which such automatic reactions are malleable. Does increasing the accessibility of positive memories with an attachment figure (e.g., one’s partner) promote the automatic activation of positive reactions? Conversely, does increasing the accessibility of negative memories decrease the activation of positive reactions or even promote negative ones? By taking advantage of the methods at the vanguard of the field, and approaching the study of the individual and his or her relationships from a multi-level and interdisciplinary approach, the research findings offer to elucidate the processes – cognitive, affective, neurophysiological – that influence subjective experience and behavior within relational context.

Update: Zayas press coverage includes:
ISS’ Judgment Faculty Fellows’ Book Debuts Brain Models of Risky Decision-Making.”
‘Involuntary excluders’ aren’t always in cahoots (2014).
Two Cornell psychologists give academic take on human bonding (2015)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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