Center advances social sciences research with spring grants

Why has implicit bias persisted as self-reported attitudes have grown more tolerant? What are the consequences when owners of mobile platforms like Apple’s App Store compete in their own marketplaces? Could pretending to be a scientist help young girls overcome gender stereotypes about scientists?

Those are some of the questions scholars will study with the help of $118,000 in grants awarded by the Cornell Center for Social Sciences (CCSS). The center this spring funded 14 research projects and two conferences, involving two-dozen faculty members and researchers affiliated with five colleges and schools.

The spring 2020 round of grants sought to seed ambitious work by early-career faculty that could result in external funding applications or book proposals, and to elevate the work of mid- and later-career faculty, according to the CCSS, which funds the program in collaboration with the Office of the Vice Provost for Research.

A grant will help Amy Krosch, assistant professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), and Benedek Kurdi, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology, study how subtle, often unintentional biases contribute to widespread inequality, despite people reporting more accepting views of marginalized social groups. In “Taking a Computational Approach to Implicit Social Cognition,” the researchers propose using reinforcement learning, a type of machine learning, to deepen theoretical understanding of the information processing mechanisms that underly implicit biases and potentially help develop interventions to shift implicit social attitudes.

Ben Leyden, assistant professor of strategy and management in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, part of the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business (SC Johnson), will address the potential for anti-competitive behavior when platform owners compete in their own marketplaces. In “A Platform-wide Analysis of Firm Responses to Platform-owner,” Leyden will analyze five years of data to see how Apple’s entry into submarkets of its App Store impacted third-party firms, informing policy debates about the role platform markets play in the economy.

Lin Bian, assistant professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology (CHE), and Reut Shachnai, a Ph.D. student in the field of developmental psychology, will tackle gender stereotypes about scientists that start as early as elementary school, limiting women’s representation in science, technology, engineering and math. “A Role Model Intervention to Motivate Young Girls in Science,” one of the first studies developing interventions for young children, will look at whether assuming a female scientist’s identity – not merely being exposed to the scientist – increases 5- to 7-year-old girls’ self-association as scientists.

Additional research projects receiving small grants of up to $12,000 include:
    •    “The Developmental Origins of Sensitive Parenting”: Michael Goldstein, associate professor of psychology (A&S), and Mary Elson, a Ph.D. student in the field of behavioral and evolutionary neuroscience, will conduct a multigenerational study of communication between zebra finches, a socially gregarious songbird, to inform studies of human parenting.
    •    “The Geopolitics of Ottoman Imperialism in the Horn of Africa”: Relying on newly released archival records, Mostafa Minawi, associate professor of history and director of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Initiative (A&S), will develop a book analyzing Ottoman imperialism in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea Basin between 1885 and 1915.
    •    “Millionaire Migration after the Trump Tax Bill”: Cristobal Young, associate professor of sociology (A&S), will leverage confidential data from IRS tax returns to investigate whether the rich are moving to low-tax states following President Donald Trump’s tax reforms.
    •    “Effects of Prevalence Information in Framing Health Problems”: Jeff Niederdeppe, associate professor of communication in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), and Jiawei Liu, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Communication, will study the effectiveness of prevalence rates in public health messages about obesity and diabetes.
    •    “Landowners, Roadside Ditch Right-of-Ways and Pollution”: Rebecca Schneider, associate professor of natural resources (CALS), will survey 2,000 New York state landowners about their attitudes regarding roadside ditches and rights of way, better management of which could help reduce flooding and water pollution.
    •    “Using VR to Explore Young Children’s Transfer of Learning”: Marianella Casasola, professor of human development (CHE), and David Tompkins, a master’s student in the field of human development, will test the feasibility of using virtual reality to advance learning in very young children.
    •    “Neural Instantiation of Physical and Social Nutrients”: Marlen Gonzalez, assistant professor of human development (CHE), Adam Anderson, associate professor of human development (CHE); and Roger Figueroa, a Provost New Faculty Fellow in the Division of Nutritional Sciences (CHE), will study connections between two ostensibly preventable phenomena: environment-induced metabolic disorders; and social isolation.
    •    “U.S. Sick Pay Mandates: Coverage and Welfare Effects”: Nicolas Ziebarth, associate professor of policy analysis and management (CHE); Catherine Maclean, associate professor of economics at Temple University; and Stefan Pichler, a postdoctoral researcher at ETH Zurich, will empirically evaluate whether sick pay mandates are effective at reducing labor market inequalities in the United States.
    •    “Mortgage and Corporate Debt in the U.S. Great Depression”: Matthew Baron, assistant professor of finance at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management (SC Johnson), will assess the extent to which corporate and mortgage debt issuance helped precipitate the banking crises of the Great Depression, analyzing new micro-level data on U.S. cities and individual firms in the late-1920s.
    •    “Psychological Insecurities, Disclosure and Friend-Avoidance”: Soo Kim, assistant professor of marketing in the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management (SC Johnson), explores why people may be reluctant to share personal insecurities with friends they normally lean on for support, theorizing that they fear such disclosures will make them ruminate more about those insecurities.
    •    “Content and Impact of Diversity Statements in Course Syllabi”: Analyzing data from the Open Syllabus Project, Rene Kizilcec, assistant professor of information science in Computing and Information Science, will examine the effects of diversity statements on syllabi in shaping students’ expectations and experiences in college courses.
Two conferences and workshops received grants of up to $5,000:
    •    “The Yiddish Immigrant Left from Popular Front to Cold War”: Led by Jonathan Boyarin, the Mann Professor of Modern Jewish Studies (A&S), and visiting scholar Elissa Sampson (A&S), the Jewish Studies Program and colleagues from Syracuse University plan to host an interdisciplinary conference on the Jewish Left.
    •    “Political Science and the New Politics of Authoritarianism”: Thomas Pepinsky, Tisch University Professor of Government (A&S), will organize workshops tackling the central issues in the study of authoritarianism, seeking to produce a collective statement.

Read the story in the Cornell Chronicle.

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