Yian Xu at SPSP in Atlante (above), and Jessica Leffers at EPA in Philadelphia, March 2018.

Doctoral Students Yian Xu and Jessica Leffers both presented their work at major conferences this March.

Do people essentialize mental disorders? How does essentialist belief relate to causal understanding and treatment decisions in clinical contexts? Yian presented a poster entitled Essence of Mental Disorders? Intuitive Beliefs, Diagnosis, and Treatment Decisions, coauthored with undergraduate researcher Amanda Luken, Dr. Nancy Kim (and Dr. Coley) at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in Atlanta. Her preliminary findings suggest that essentialist thinking increases the tendency to view mental disorder symptoms as being caused by personality factors. Further, essentialist belief positively predicted need for treatment decision in anxiety cases. The next step of the project is to examine how culture and expertise shape essentialist thinking about mental disorders, and the consequences of essentialist thinking for clinical decision-making.

As students enter the science classroom, they bring their intuitive beliefs about the world with them. Jess presented a poster entitled Learning through the Intuitive Lens: Relations between Evolutionary Understanding and Intuitive Thinking in Undergraduates and 8th Graders, coauthored with undergraduate researchers Kaila Atkins, Angie Chan, Tory Govan, and Samantha Strella (and Dr. Coley) at the 2018 meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association in Philadelphia. This study explores how intuitive thinking affects learning biology concepts, and specifically, evolution. Results suggest that intuitive thinking was negatively associated with understanding evolution in 8th graders and undergraduates, but also facilitated some aspects of evolutionary knowledge in 8th graders. This research demonstrates the importance of considering, and perhaps even leveraging, intuitive understanding in science education.