Fall 2012 Awards

Cohort Highlight: From Babies’ Spatial Skills to Collective Bargaining, Social Science Research Gets Funding

Spatial Language and the Development of Spatial Cognition
Marianella Casasola, Human Development

The Promise of Augmented Reality: A Case Study of Real-Time Imaginings of Future Technologies
Tarleton Gillespie, Communication
Tony Liao, Communication

The Foreclosure Crisis and Racial Residential Stratification
Matthew Hall, Policy Analysis and Management

Development of Collective Bargaining in China: A Multidisciplinary Conference and Research Project
Sarosh Kuruvilla, International and Comparative Industrial Relations

How Health Care Policy Shapes Public Opinion: The Impact of the Affordable Care Act Over Time
Suzanne Mettler, Government

Life on the Frontier: Identity and Exchange at the Ancient Border Town of Abel Beth Maacah, Israel
Lauren Monroe, Near Eastern Studies
Funded with generous support by the President’s Council of Cornell Women

The Fourth Urie Bronfenbrenner Conference: New Developments in Aging, Emotion, and Health
Anthony Ong, Human Development

Causal Mediation Analysis in the Presence of Latent Heterogeneity
Felix Thoemmes, Human Development

Visualizing Speech: Real-Time MRI of the Vocal Tract
Sam Tilsen, Linguistics

The John Lossing Buck Project
Calum Turvey, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics & Management

Health Effects of Weather and Pollution: Implications for Climate Change
Nicolas Ziebarth, Policy Analysis and Management

Spatial Language and the Development of Spatial Cognition
Marianella Casasola, Human Development

Infants’ spatial skills are an important aspect of early cognition, allowing them to navigate their world, note commonalities in the spatial layout of their environment, and mentally translate objects to predict their appearance from a different angle. These skills lay the foundation for a number of later-emerging abilities, such as letter recognition, reading, building from instructions, and interpreting maps. Thus, examining how spatial cognition unfolds has the potential to provide insight into the development of a broad range of cognitive abilities. Taking a multi-method, developmental approach, we examine how spatial language contributes to advances in infant spatial skills, outlining new theoretical and empirical insights into the impact of acquiring spatial language on spatial cognition. This project will also seek to validate a new measure of spatial transformation that can be used to link its development from infancy into early childhood. The proposed work is significant in informing our understanding of early spatial cognition, the acquisition of spatial language, and the synergistic and evolving relation between spatial cognition and spatial language as each skill develops. Furthermore, documenting an effect of spatial language on spatial cognition would establish one pathway by which we can enhance spatial skills in infants and children, skills that have been linked to achievement in math and science.

Update: The study was designed to examine whether spatial language promotes children’s spatial cognition. Preschool children were assessed on their ability to spatially translate shapes (i.e., predict the shape made when two halves are joined), mentally rotate images, and perform spatial analogies, as well as their general and spatial vocabulary. Next, across eight spatial play sessions (e.g., origami, puzzles, Legos), children interacted with an experimenter. Half the children heard spatial language during these sessions and half instead heard only general terms (‘here’, ‘there’). Children exposed to spatial language showed a significant increase in their spatial vocabulary and their spatial skills relative to children who heard general language.  As of 2014, the results document the first causal evidence of how acquiring spatial language bolsters spatial cognition in young children.

 

The Promise of Augmented Reality: A Case Study of Real-Time Imaginings of Future Technologies
Tarleton Gillespie, Communication
Tony Liao, Communication

This proposal aims to develop an empirical understanding of the relationship between emerging technologies and the promises about the future that circulate around them, specifically around the case of augmented reality (AR) technologies. As the AR industry makes broad, sweeping claims about the transformation the technology will usher in, the trajectory this technology will actually take is being shaped by these individual ‘promise champions’ and the visions of the future they promote regarding AR (Van Lente & Rip, 1998). This study seeks to answer two main research questions. First, it aims to understand how AR is being framed and conceptualized as a future technology by a variety of stakeholder groups. Second, this study attempts to understand how competing visions of the future align and diverge at the intersection of multiple stakeholder groups, and how they become contested. Through qualitative fieldwork and participant observation at three different field sites, we hope to expand not just our understanding of AR as an emerging technology, but also our theoretical understanding of the important discursive constructions that surround and shepherd any emerging technology.

Update:  Data was collected following travel to augmented reality conferences in California, Barcelona, London, Rome, Munich, and Australia.  Several manuscripts are underway in 2014. The researchers’ paper examining how key technology stakeholders are contesting the form that future augmented reality devices should take, and debating whether they should pursue mobile devices/tablets or push head worn devices like Google Glass was named a Top Paper at the National Communication Association Annual Meeting.  For his research, Co-PI Liao was  interviewed for the Augmented Reality Dirt Podcast.  Principal Investigator Tarleton Gilliespie secured an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant Award.  Facebook Backs Down on Censoring ‘Napalm Girl’ Photo (September 2016).

The Foreclosure Crisis and Racial Residential Stratification
Matthew Hall, Policy Analysis and Management

This project seeks to examine the implications of the foreclosure crisis and Great Recession on racial inequality and racial change in American neighborhoods. Using address-level data on every housing foreclosures event in the U.S. between 2005 and 2012 linked to neighborhood-level data from the U.S. Census, the research proposed in this application will detail patterns of and trends in Americans’ exposure to foreclosure in their neighborhoods of residence, evaluate the correspondence between neighborhood foreclosure rates and their socioeconomic and racial/ethnic context, and evaluate whether and how the foreclosure crisis has altered patterns of racial neighborhood change within housing markets.

Update: As of 2013, construction and cleaning of the foreclosure data used in this analysis was completed and papers examining the spatiotemporal dynamics of foreclosure, the impact of foreclosure on neighborhood change, and implications for broader patterns of segregation were either in progress or under review. An NIH proposal to fund the next state of the analysis – exploring the residential recursions of foreclosure concentrations – was being prepared.

Development of Collective Bargaining in China: A Multidisciplinary Conference and Research Project
Sarosh Kuruvilla, International and Comparative Industrial Relations

Although labor strikes are illegal, during the last 5 years there have been more than 400 recorded strikes in China. One consequence of this new found militancy amongst Chinese workers has been an increase in collective bargaining. There appear to be two types of bargaining structures, one centralized at the sectoral (industry) level and one relatively decentralized at the company level. The purpose of this research project is to understand just how these two types of bargaining structures are becoming institutionalized in China. The question is crucial from a practical perspective given its implications for the bargaining power of workers and employers as well from a comparative research standpoint. Comparative industrial relations research has found that centralized bargaining is associated to greater labor strength in terms of union density, better bargaining coverage (and consequently better working conditions) and lower levels of industrial conflict. But these results have been found in democratic countries with a tradition of independent unionism. Whether sectoral bargaining or company-wide bargaining will prevail in China (where there is neither democracy nor independent unions), is an open question, but depends heavily on how these bargaining structures are become institutionalized. This process is the subject of our conference and collaborative multidisciplinary research project.

Update: The ISS’ award supported a multidisciplinary research conference and project held in Ithaca in May 2013 with 8 international attendees. Each attendee presented his/her current research, and the participants attended a workshop designed to develop a common research protocol for their field research. All participants agreed to complete their field research by October 2014. Funding was obtained from other sources to hold a second conference, enabling participants to present their field research results, in Beijing in December 14-15, 2014 at Renmin University. Papers from the Beijing conference will published as an edited volume.

How Health Care Policy Shapes Public Opinion: The Impact of the Affordable Care Act Over Time
Suzanne Mettler, Government

The sustainability of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, commonly called Obamacare, will depend not only on the program’s economic, legal, and administrative feasibility and on the stance of political elites in Washington, D.C. but also on how the new law itself gradually influences citizens’ attitudes about health care reform and affects their support for future changes. All such effects of the Affordable Care Act on Americans’ political behavior will impacts its durability and shape the contours of the next round of health care reform in the United States. The ISS grant provides support for a study examining how the new law affects public opinion, using a longitudinal survey of 1,200 Americans interviewed repeatedly over several years. The project will contribute to our knowledge of how public policies, once created, influence political behavior, potentially reshaping the political process.

Update: We presented the findings at two academic conferences and will submit a paper for publication. Americans remain sharply divided over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA),with critics consistently outnumbering supporters, but large majorities of Americans (including 70 percent or more of Republicans) have consistently approved of the ACA’s specific attitudes, generating perceptions of the ACA’s tangible effects, and producing more support for health reform. Partisanship is a powerful force but its impacts can be moderated or offset by policy feedbacks that recast the broader context of American politics.

Update: Suzanne Mettler sees high ed ‘caste system’ (April 2014) and Income Inequality is a Major Barrier To Attending College (NPR, April 2014).

Life on the Frontier: Identity and Exchange at the Ancient Border Town of Abel Beth Maacah, Israel
Lauren Monroe, Near Eastern Studies

Archaeology of “borderlands” provides evidence for the many aspects of social interaction and boundary-making elite that pious scribes overlooked; archaeology can show how the ancients themselves defined ethnic borders by developing material culture in a frontier situation. This project focuses on archaeological excavation at the ancient site of Abel Beth Maacah (ABM), in modern-day Israel, at the frontier of the ancient polities of Israel, Aram and Phoenicia. Through excavation, collection and analysis of pottery, architecture, organic and other material remains, this study will illuminate how the processes of identity construction reveal themselves in the lived experience of the inhabitants of this ancient border town. Rather than seeing the borderland as marginal, or unrepresentative of any one culture, the interactions and exchange between Israelites, Aramaeans and Phoenicians at ABM should help refine our understanding of what was essential to each.

Update: To facilitate the study of gender, field protocols and excavation techniques are being developed. During the summer 2014, students that have completed the course Archaeology of Gender in Syria Palestine are expected to convene at the site and develop field practices putting this Israeli site at the forefront of gender archaeology. An article on the subject can be found here, ISS’ 2012 Small Grant Awardee, Lauren Monroe, Involved in Archaeological Gender Studies in Israel.

The Fourth Urie Bronfenbrenner Conference: New Developments in Aging, Emotion, and Health
Anthony Ong, Human Development

The fourth biennial conference in honor of the legacy of Urie Bronfenbrenner, entitled ―New Developments in Aging, Emotion, and Health, will convene a panel of leading researchers to address the reciprocal relationships between affect and health in later adulthood. The overarching goal is to highlight advances in the fields of affective science and aging and to develop a basis for new research initiatives in the study of positive health across the lifespan.

Update: The 4th Urie Bronfenbrenner conference, entitled New Developments in Aging, Emotion, and Health, was held at Cornell University on October 3-4, 2013. The conference brought together distinguished scholars from across the country to advance research at the intersection of affective science and aging. The Conference generated a book contract with the American Psychological Association for an edited volume, New Developments in Emotional Aging. A major aim of the volume is to build on the commitment of Urie Bronenbrenner – a found of Head Start and longtime faculty member in the Department of Human Development at Cornell University – to translate basic social scientific research into programs and policies to improve health and enhance quality of life. The purpose of the edited volume is to coalesce chapters on empirical work at the intersection of aging, emotion, and health and likely to yield major advances in the near future. The volume is scheduled to be published in April 2015 as part of the Bronfenbrenner Series on the Ecology of Human Development. Media civerage includes, Interdisciplinary Experts Explore Roots of Healthy Aging with Support of ISS and Other Sponsors (2013), Research finds that staying positive is better for long-term health (2015), New book probes emotion, aging and health (2016)

Causal Mediation Analysis in the Presence of Latent Heterogeneity
Felix Thoemmes, Human Development

Mediation analysis has become increasingly popular in the social sciences because it enables researchers to examine causal mechanisms by which an antecedent variable changes an outcome through intervening variables (mediators). Traditionally, research on mediation analysis was focused on the parametric estimation of direct and indirect effects, but recently there has been much interest in the identification and estimation of causal effects. There are several assumptions that need to hold for the identification of causal mediation effects, one of them is the absence of so-called causal heterogeneity. This assumption posits that the true individual-level causal effect does not differ among individuals. This assumption is likely violated in real data settings, e.g., prevention programs affect individuals differentially thereby leading to distinct mediational pathways. An important consequence of causal heterogeneity is that it can lead to distorted estimates of indirect effects. To remedy this problem, we first lay out the theoretical framework to model causal heterogeneity and then use finite mixture models (FMM) to account for unobserved heterogeneity in the population. FMM is used to capture unobserved classes of individuals who follow the same mediational pathway thereby mitigating the biases due to causal heterogeneity. To the best of our knowledge, the application of FMM in the context of mediation analysis has not been studied. We will conduct simulation studies to examine the performance of developed methods in terms of parameter recovery (e.g., indirect effect bias) and class recovery. Finally, we will apply our methods to estimate causal heterogeneity in a real data set that evaluates a prevention intervention to promote health among firefighters.

Update: The grant supported the purchase of specialized statistical software used to explore issues in mediation analysis. Single-Level and Multilevel Mediation Analysis, published in the Journal of Early Adolescence, provides guidelines for mediation analysis in single and multi-level analyses, the latter characterized by data with hierarchical nature, i.e., clustering.  As of 2014, an additional paper and a grant application were being prepared.

Visualizing Speech: Real-Time MRI of the Vocal Tract
Sam Tilsen, Linguistics

To produce speech we control movements of the vocal organs, such as the lips, jaw, tongue, velum, and vocal folds. Yet except for movements of the lips, these articulatory movements are never seen; to perceive speech we rely mostly on auditory perception of the acoustic consequences of speech movements. In developing theories of speech communication, it is crucial to understand the relation between these two domains. Constraints on articulatory movements give rise to constraints on the range of possible speech sounds, which in turn influence how speech is used to communicate meaning—both linguistic and social. To better understand the control of speech articulation, it is necessary to observe the movements of the vocal organs directly; however, technological limitations on imaging the vocal tract during speech have hindered this effort. This project will use a powerful new technology—real-time Magnetic Resonance Imaging (rtMRI)—to collect and analyze video images of how speakers move their vocal organs while speaking. Real-time MRI offers an unprecedented combination of spatial and temporal resolution of the shape of the vocal tract, providing data that inform theories of speech communication in numerous ways. This project conducts an experimental study of reaction time—a widespread dependent variable in psycholinguistic research—using articulatory movements recorded with rtMRI.

Update: In the summer 2013, the Cornell Speech Imaging group – a collaboration among researchers from Weill Medical College, Cornell Engineering, and the Cornell Phonetics lab – developed and optimized a pulse sequence for real-time speech MRI. In the Fall 2013, the Speech Imaging Group began conducting an experimental investigation of factors influencing the timing of articulatory movements. To date, eight subjects have participated and another 12 are planned for Spring/Summer 2014. Preliminary results describing methods were presented at the meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Montreal in June 2013.  Initial results of the experimental study were presented at a speech MRI workshop at the University of Southern California in February 2014.

The John Lossing Buck Project
Calum Turvey, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics & Management

The primary objective of this study is to digitize up to 30,000 household surveys collected by John Lossing Buck (BS, MS, PhD Cornell) under the Nanjing Project in rural China between 1923 and 1933, and to evaluate this data using modern economic theories and statistical/econometric methods that were not available in the 1920’s and 1930’s. In addition to this as the primary goal we will also be linking data and research findings to contextualize the novels of Cornell alumni and Nobel Laureate Pearl S. Buck who was married to JL Buck and based much of her literature on what she observed in the field with him. Digitizing and investigating the data collected under the Nanjing Project is a joint effort between Cornell University and Nanjing Agricultural University. With each survey requiring at least one-hour to input into a worksheet, between 10,000 and 30,000 hours will be required in data input alone. Any notes recorded on the surveys need to be translated from old Chinese to modern Chinese and English. Many villages that were surveyed have had name changes and need to be located and identified. Surveys need to be collated, annotated, photocopied and then preserved so that seamless worldwide access made available through an integrated web-based interface.

Update: Data from John Lossing Buck’s statistical book (Land Utilization in China) was transferred onto electronic spreadsheets and are being used in the first study examining the economic effects of calamities (including the impacts of drought, famine, civil war, Japanese incursions, Communist uprisings, and floods) on agricultural productivity and household food consumption in rural China from 1929-1933. The first study is expected to be finalized by August 2014. A second study, using the raw household data aggregated by colleagues at Nanjing Agricultural University, is underway in 2014. The second study will investigate the supply and demand for agricultural credit in rural China between 1929 and 1933 including demand for production versus personal use, interest rates charged, and formal and informal institutions.

Health Effects of Weather and Pollution: Implications for Climate Change
Nicolas Ziebarth, Policy Analysis and Management

This research project intends to estimate the effects of weather conditions and pollution levels on population health. On a daily county level basis, we intend to match a census of all hospital admissions in Germany from 1998 through 2010 with rich weather and pollution data. This unique dataset allows us to analyze in detail how temperature fluctuations, including heat and cold waves, interact with variations in pollution levels, ultimately affecting human health. In a second step, using climate change scenarios, we will predict how climate change might affect population health in industrialized countries in the north temperate climate zone, where the majority of the world’s population resides. In addition, we also assess how climate change will shape demand for health care in the future and how it will affect health care expenditures. Finally, its interaction with population aging and the role of population aging in this long-term process will be assessed.

Update: Preliminary results were presented at the following conferences and seminars: 2014 meeting of the Midwestern Economic Association, 2013 meeting of the American Economic Association, 2nd Workshop on Energy Policy and Environmental Economics at Cornell, 2013 Conference of the European Society for Population Economics in Aarhus, 2013 UK Health Economists’ Study Group Meeting at Warwick, 2013 Canadian Health Economists’ Study Group Meeting in Winnipeg, Economics of Disease Conference in Darmstadt 2013, Cornell Population Center seminar, Institute on Health Economics, Health Behaviors and Disparities seminar at Cornell University, Cluster Seminar at German Institute for Economic Research, and the seminar of the Berlin Network of Labour Market Researchers. Dr. Ziebarth’s research was featured in the Cornell Chronicle. Subsequent grants were provided by the Cornell Population Center, and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future’s Academic Venture Fund for a joint proposal, led by principal investigator Paul Curtis (Natural Resources), entitled Climate change and conifer die-off: impacts on biodiversity and human health.