Fall 2018 Small Grant Awards

For Cornell Chronicle coverage, click here.

Conference

The Status of Religious Pluralism in Indonesia
Chiara Formichi, Asian Studies

Workshop on Gender and Psychology
Durba Ghosh, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Prediction in Practice: Understanding High-Stakes Human Encounters with Artificial Intelligence
Karen Levy, Information Science

Projects

A Social Network Analysis of House Flipping
Suzanne Lanyi Charles, City and Regional Planning

Pathways to Power: Multi-level Governance and Political Representation in Europe
Alexandra Cirone, Government

Why So Many People Find Informal Conversation So Stressful Despite Its Many Benefits
Thomas Gilovich, Psychology

Immigration Status at Work
Kati Griffith, ILR Labor Relations, Law, & History

A New Jury System at Work
Valerie Hans, Law

Intelligent Cognitive Assistant for Promoting Human-Centered Design Through Biometric Data and Virtual Response Testing
Saleh Kalantari, Design and Environmental Analysis

Cognitive Drivers of Environmental Decision Making: Mobilizing Indigenous Ecocentric Conceptual Perspectives in Diverse Contexts
bethany ojalehto, Human Development

The Positive Side of Morality: Cultural Influences on Judging Good People and Praiseworthy Acts
David Pizarro, Psychology

Surging Seas, Rising Fiscal Stress: A Study of U.S. Fiscal Vulnerability and Policy Response to Climate Change
Linda Shi, City and Regional Planning

How do Firms Respond to Investment Opportunities? The Role of Cities
Eva Steiner, Hotel Administration

The Celebration of Lives and Collective Valuation: Textual Analysis of Obituaries Featured in the New York Times, 1851 to Present
David Strang, Sociology

The Real Effects of Mandatory Gender Pay Gap Reporting of Firms: Evidence from the 2017 Reform in the UK
Margarita Tsoutsoura, SC Johnson College of Business


Conference

The Status of Religious Pluralism in Indonesia
Chiara Formichi, Asian Studies

The last twenty years have seen Indonesia navigate the rocky waters of post-authoritarian
democratic rule, a.k.a. reformasi. This workshop seeks to address the state of religious pluralism
in the post-Suharto era (1965-1998) with case-studies from across the religious spectrum
(Animism, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, and Islam) and across the Social
Sciences (invited speakers include scholars in the fields of Anthropology, Political Sciences, and
History, as well as think-tank practitioners). Although focused on Indonesia’s own particular
realities, this workshop will be of interest to the wider scholarly community at Cornell, as we’ll
touch upon issues at the core of the question of how state, citizens and organized civil society
interact on the field of religious in/tolerance. Following on the steps of previous workshops in
this series on “The State of the Field of Indonesian Studies” organized by Cornell’s Modern
Indonesia Program, contributions will be collected in an edited volume to be published by
Cornell’s Southeast Asia Program Publications, part of Cornell University Press.

Workshop on Gender and Psychology
Durba Ghosh, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

This project brings together scholars working at the intersection of gender and psychology in January 2019 to share scholarship, with an eye toward future research and teaching collaborations. Framed primarily as a pedagogy workshop, the goal is to support faculty development as four faculty in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies work with four faculty in psychology for several days to discuss how they teach human difference, emotions, cognition, and how these ideas are shaped by gender, race, and sexuality. The aim is to bring social scientific scholarship into the core gender and sexuality courses and to integrate feminist and queer scholarship into psychology and human development. The secondary aim is to foster potential research and writing collaborations. The two co-leaders, Melissa Ferguson and Durba Ghosh, will be joined by 8 faculty from across the university.

Prediction in Practice: Understanding High-Stakes Human Encounters with Artificial Intelligence
Karen Levy, Information Science

Powerful institutions increasingly base their decisions on AI-driven predictions of human
behavior: whether a job applicant will be a successful employee, whether an offender will recidivate,
how likely a recipient of social services is to get back on her feet, or how a student will perform on an
exam. In these settings and others, we often look to technical indicators of performance to measure
AI’s impacts. But these sorts of technical indicators tell only part of the story of how AI systems impact
high-stakes decisions. This is because the real-world impact of AI depends on systems’ sociotechnical
context: how a system’s predictions are (or aren’t) integrated into surrounding decision-making
processes, policies, and institutions. We need to learn more about these high-stakes human
encounters with AI. How can system architects best monitor and understand the actual, frequently
unanticipated ways that human decision-makers interpret and respond to a system’s predictions?
How do such predictions intersect with or challenge traditional forms of expertise? How and why are
systems procured, used, resisted, and manipulated? To address these questions, we propose a study-workshop
bringing together AI experts (including system designers and practitioners) with social
scientists from a range of disciplines to better understand how social processes affect high-stakes
applications of AI in public-sector decision-making. Our aim is to surface new ways of inquiring into
the impacts of AI, and of converting insights into changes in practice.


Projects

A Social Network Analysis of House Flipping
Suzanne Lanyi Charles, City and Regional Planning

“House flipping”—the speculative purchase of a house with the intent of quickly reselling it at a
higher price— is a popular notion reinforced through television shows such as Flip this House,
Flip or Flop, and Flipping Out, among many others. House flipping was abundant in the housing
boom of the mid-2000s, undertaken by real estate professionals and novices alike. It peaked in
2005 but then languished for several years during the 2008 housing crisis and Great Recession;
however, as the U.S. economy has recovered so has investor interest in house flipping. Scholars
contend that house flipping could lead to future instability in the housing market, and recent
reports cite negative neighborhood effects of house flipping, particularly on housing
affordability. This research project examines house flipping in the 128 inner-ring (i.e., Cook
County) suburbs of Chicago during a time frame that spans the housing boom, the housing crisis
and Great Recession, and the post-recession economic recovery. The first phase of the project is
an exploratory analysis of house flipping, identifying changes in the nature and magnitude over
the course of the study period. The second phase of the research project examines the
interrelationships between the key actors in house flipping. Using social network analysis, this
research project examines the links between two of the prime actors within the structure of
housing provision in the United States—speculative investors and lenders. In addition to tracking
changes in the practice over time, the project also examines the spatial locations of house
flipping across Chicago’s inner-ring suburbs. By examining the spatio-temporal nature of the
investor-lender relationships, we may better understand the depth and breadth of individual
investors’ and lenders’ involvement in house flipping across the suburban landscape.

Pathways to Power: Multi-level Governance and Political Representation in Europe
Alexander Cirone, Government

The book project analyzes the mechanisms behind multi-level political selection, and its implications for governance and policy outcomes, in the directly elected Parliament of the European Union. In particular, it examine two formal political institutions that strategically bridge the gap between national and supranational politics: i) multiple-office holding, and II) political dynasties. Both institutions are common throughout Europe, and allow supranational politicians in 28 European countries to retain significant national links. However, the implications of such institutions for governance are unclear — does this allow for better representation and accountability in a multi-level system, or do they reduce legislative effort and prevent the development of supranational parties and policies? Using these two institutions, the project will also explore to what extent multi-level opportunity structures open up political competition in order to allow for the entrance of either female or underrepresented minority candidates in the EU. This grant would be used to fund the collection and analysis of extensive data on biographical characteristics and career trajectories of all Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from 1979-2014, covering 28 countries over eight terms. Combining this information with national and European level electoral results, as well as data on legislative voting and policy effort, this project uses quasi-experimental methods to determine how national ties affect legislative voting, policy effort, and long term careers.

Why So Many People Find Informal Conversation So Stressful Despite Its Many Benefits
Thomas Gilovich, Psychology

Conversation is the most common social activity in which humans, a highly social species,
engage. Although psycholinguists have furthered our understanding of language and
communication, very little is known about the role of conversation in people’s lives, about what
makes for rewarding conversations, or about what makes people who are considered “good
conversationalists” better at talking than the rest of us. This proposal aims to fill this notable
knowledge gap by conducting a series of survey and laboratory studies with two goals: (1) to
explore why it is that so many people find informal conversation so stressful, despite its many
benefits; and (2) to examine what it is that people who are deemed to be good
conversationalists do in conversations that earns them their favorable reputations among their
peers. The ultimate goal of this research, beyond increasing our understanding of one of the
most common and important activities of daily life, is to help reduce the stress that so many
people feel about the prospect of informal conversation with people outside their immediate
families and close social networks.

Immigration Status at Work
Kati Griffith,  ILR Labor Relations, Law, & History

This study examines how immigration status affects workers’ ability to navigate job opportunities, working conditions and assert their rights at work. Existing studies tend to emphasize the un/documented binary, often focusing narrowly on employment and earnings patterns. There has been little theorizing, however, about documented immigrants with no pathway to permanent residence. Beyond guestworkers, few have examined how the “nonstatus” or “liminal legality” of temporary immigrants interacts with job opportunities, working conditions and employee claimsmaking, the motor of the U.S. labor/employment law enforcement regime. We also know little about how temporary immigrant experiences vary across race and local context. Through interviews with both Haitian and Central American Temporary Protected Status holders in the New York City metropolitan area, as well as comparative samples of their undocumented and documented counterparts, we assess how race intersects with legal status in the current period of extreme policy uncertainty. Our local interview strategy further takes into account the importance of place for shaping immigrant precarity at work.

A New Jury System at Work
Valerie Hans, Law

The project proposes to use interview methods to obtain in-depth information about the experiences of judges, lawyers, and jurors who have participated in the world’s newest jury system in the province of Neuquén, Argentina. Qualitative interviews with judges and lawyers will uncover how these legal actors prepared themselves to manage the conduct of an entirely novel way of adjudicating legal disputes. Guided focus-group discussions with citizens who have served as jurors, many of whom knew nothing about the introduction of trial by jury before they were summoned, will probe how jurors reacted to this unfamiliar civic responsibility. The results will have immediate practical significance for the improvement of trial by jury in Argentina. It will also address theoretical questions about deliberative democracy as well as the phenomenon of legal transplants.

Intelligent Cognitive Assistant for Promoting Human-Centered Design Through Biometric Data and Virtual Response Testing
Saleh Kalantari, Design and Environmental Analysis

The current movement toward “human-centered design” encourages researchers to document the effects
of the built environment on human and to pursue more rigorous studies of post-occupancy outcomes.
However, due to the tremendous investment required by architectural construction, it can be extremely
costly to experiment with new architectural designs and to test innovations. The uniqueness of each
building and each architectural setting also makes it difficult to rigorously compare the human effects of a
particular design solution against other possible designs. To address these challenges, we propose to
augment conventional post-occupancy studies with virtual testing, using Intelligent Cognitive Assistants
(ICAs) to evaluate human responses before the designs are physically constructed. This will allow
designers to gain crucial feedback on their work – to resolve problems or to justify the human benefits of
a plan – prior to the investment in physical construction. The researchers will develop a prototype mobile
brain-body imaging system that will monitor participants’ physical and conscious responses as they
interact with architectural designs in a virtual space. We will then use the system to examine the effects of
several specific building design factors on human responses such as anxiety, mood, and visual memory.
To adequately test human reactions to the architectural design we need to correlate a variety of different
response variables and analyze the type of architectural interactions that give rise to these responses. To
rigorously clarify and test this hypothesis, we need to determine if specific types and speeds of
architectural transition can be correlated to factors such as motor-related cortical potentials (gathered via
EEG) and self-reported emotional reactions. Our testing prototype will thus need to be able to collect a
variety of biophysical measurements as well as conscious reactions, in real-time, as participants explore
the virtual environment. This will allow us to analyze alert and subconscious responses to different
building designs objectively.

Cognitive Drivers of Environmental Decision Making: Mobilizing Indigenous Ecocentric Conceptual Perspectives in Diverse Contexts
bethany ojalehto, Human Development

The question of how to foster more adaptive environmental decision making carries urgent
practical import in the context of global climate change where ecosystems are under stress as a result of
human behaviors. Many decision scientists argue that fundamental conceptual change is needed in order
to transition to more adaptive human-environment interactions. The proposed project responds to this call
by foregrounding a conceptual resource that has not yet been considered in the decision sciences: a
cognitive framework for perceiving the environment not as a realm in which humans are exclusive agents
deciding on behalf of an inert environment, but where the environment itself is seen as a domain of agents
that respond to and thereby shape human decisions. The PI’s prior work with Indigenous Ngöbe
communities of Panama has systematically documented the cognitive signatures of this distinctive
conceptual framework and its beneficial consequences for environmental decision-making. Extending this
work, the proposed studies will break new ground by demonstrating how this conceptual framework may
serve as a powerful resource for capacitating more ecologically-minded decisions and values in diverse
contexts, including US laypersons and ecological experts. This work brings a unique vantage point on the
human dimensions of climate change from an underrepresented Indigenous perspective. Given the
significant challenges that humankind faces with respect to the environment, examining multiple
conceptual perspectives may prove to be a wise investment.

The Positive Side of Morality: Cultural Influences on Judging Good People and Praiseworthy Acts
David Pizarro, Psychology

Much of the psychological work on moral judgment has focused on how and why people
judge an act to be morally wrong, and when people hold others to be blameworthy for their
negative actions. In this project, however, we seek to investigate judgments about morally
positive acts—what makes an action or a person especially praiseworthy? We propose four
experiments aimed at investigating how and why people receive judgments of praise for their
morally good actions—both for actions that are positive but viewed as morally obligatory (i.e.,
are seen as part of one’s duty), and supererogatory actions (those that are above-and-beyond
one’s duty). We also aim to study these judgments of praise cross-culturally, comparing
judgments of US respondents to those of people from more collectivist countries in which norms
regarding what is considered a moral obligation may differ substantially from the strongly
individualist norms in the US.

Surging Seas, Rising Fiscal Stress: A Study of U.S. Fiscal Vulnerability and Policy Response to Climate Change
Linda Shi, City and Regional Planning

Cities across the country have become increasingly concerned about their vulnerability to
the impacts of climate change, prompting a slew of vulnerability assessments and adaptation
plans. Such efforts have studied the physical exposure of infrastructure systems, sensitivity of
different demographic groups, and the costs of climate impacts and adaptive responses, but few
have examined how municipal fiscal health will be affected by climate change. This proposal
seeks funding for research on how fiscal policy – particularly land-based municipal finance –
affects local exposure to the impacts of sea level rise and local government capacity to adapt. It
studies these relationships by quantitatively analyzing a national dataset of the impacts of sea
level rise on local property taxes together with local government financial data. It also aims to
develop methodologies for identifying and evaluating alternative spatial development and fiscal
policy responses. As one of the first studies to consider the fiscal dimensions of sea level rise,
this research seeks to open dialogue on the role of fiscal, land use planning, and governance
reforms in support of transformative climate adaptation.

How do Firms Respond to Investment Opportunities? The Role of Cities
Eva Steiner, Hotel Administration

Addressing economic inequality and creating economic opportunity requires studying
the drivers of growth at both the national and local levels. A key question is how cities
can create employment taking as given the skill level of the existing labor force. This
project will investigate how the characteristics of a firm’s headquarter city affect how
the firm responds to investment opportunities. The results will identify urban features
that facilitate local investment by prospective employers. The outcomes of this study
will thus inform policy-makers about how to attract employment opportunities to their
local areas, enabling them to develop measures to strengthen their economies.

The Celebration of Lives and Collective Valuation: Textual Analysis of Obituaries Featured in the New York Times, 1851 to Present
David Strang, Sociology

This project analyzes obituaries featured in the New York Times from 1851 to the present day. Collective memorialization provides insight into America’s evolving ethos of achievement; the changing place of class, race, and gender; the emergence of a consumer society; and the growth of mass media and a culture of celebrity. Study of the select individuals whose lives are commemorated in featured articles further provides an opportunity to develop and apply techniques for textual analysis, such as identifying an individual’s occupation as well as the personal characteristics ascribed to various `culture heroes.’

The Real Effects of Mandatory Gender Pay Gap Reporting of Firms: Evidence from the 2017 Reform in the UK
Margarita Tsoutsoura, SC Johnson College of Business

Gender pay disparities characterize labor markets in most developed countries. Recent proposals
suggest pay transparency policies should help eliminate such disparities and promote equal pay
for women. To study the effect of transparency on gender pay gaps on employee and firm
outcomes, we exploit a mandatory rule introduced in Britain in 2017 that requires companies to
disclose data on differences between median and mean salaries of male and female employees.
Using confidential employee-employer administrative microdata we first study how gender pay
gaps evolved over time across and within firms and relay our finding with the patterns of pay gap
in US. Moreover, we will be able to examine whether this new reform that allowed for more
transparency had an effect on gender pay gap. Furthermore, our goal is to understand what was
the effect of increased transparency on employee wages and the gender composition of firms’
labor force. Finally, we study how changes in firm wage policies following the passage of the
law affect firm productivity and profitability.