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Open Access Publications from the University of California

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The CogSci/Psych ULAB is the Cognitive Sciences and Psychology division of the Undergraduate Lab @ Berkeley (ULAB). We are an entirely undergraduate-run lab consisting of project groups who replicate a published study and extend the methods based on an original idea throughout the academic year.


Cognitive Science & Psychology Undergraduate Lab @ Berkeley (ULAB)

There are 27 publications in this collection, published between 2020 and 2021.
Replication/Extension Papers 2020 - 2021 (13)

A Reversal of Roles: Effects of Visual Attention on Emotion. A replication of Attention drives emotion: Voluntary visual attention increases perceived emotional intensity.

Extant research has continually indicated that emotion moderates attention such that attention can be caught, maintained, and/or intensified towards a given emotional object (Mrkva, Westfall, & Van Boven, 2019). However, sparse research has investigated the reverse— whether attention can intensify emotion. To examine the bidirectionality of the relationship between emotional intensity and voluntary attention, we conducted a replication of the Mrkva et al. study on visual attention and emotional intensity. We hypothesized that participants would perceive target images as more emotionally intense than control images, and that their post-search ratings of emotional intensity for each target image would be higher than their pre-search ratings. Each participant was instructed to search for a specific image in a randomized sequence with varying emotional valence in separate trials per participant (Mrkva et al., 2019). Our primary outcome measures were the participants’ self-reported intensity of their emotional reaction to each image as well as their perception of the inherent emotional intensity of each image. Additionally, our secondary measures included ratings of the extent to which participants liked each image and how distinct they perceived the images to be. Our results ultimately supported our hypothesis, suggesting that directed attention towards an image enhances its perceived emotional intensity and distinctiveness. Examining whether attention can affect emotions poses practical significance, as it will allow us to better explore and understand how the objects that we pay attention to can impact our emotions in day-to-day life.

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Evaluating the Effects of Fatigue-Induction on Mice’s Cognitive Behavior

Characterized as one of the most commonly distressing symptoms of cancer treatment, cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is reported to be more severe and persistent than “normal” fatigue. CRF has been shown to manifest in higher intensities and longer durations among cancer patients, impair mood and functional abilities, and, most relevantly, correlate with impairments in cognitive functioning, leading to impairments in other areas such as recognition memory and explicit memory. Despite its prevalence, CRF continues to be underreported and untreated due to a lack of information about the biological mechanisms underlying this symptom and its correlated impairments in cognitive systems. In order to uncover these mechanisms, the study conducted by Wolff, et. al. (2020) observed pelvic irradiation’s produced fatigue, and how it affects performance during various cognitive tasks, such as spontaneous altercations and reversal learning, as well as changes in whole-brain levels of mature and proBDNF. However, due to the possible behavioral confounds of the original study’s assessment of cognitive mechanisms and the inconclusive BDNF results presented, we aim to design a new list of cognitive tasks to more effectively assess cognitive impairments manifested after fatigue-induced pelvic irradiation. We hope that this new battery of cognitive tasks can aid future research attempting to specify the underlying cognitive mechanisms responsible for the cognitive impairments seen in cancer-related fatigue.

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Experiential Stress and Physiological Stress: Implication of Coherence. A Replication and Extension Study

The physiological response to stress and an individual’s subjective perception of stress are two systems vital to enabling adaptive responses to dangerous stimuli and maintaining individual well-being. When the body’s biological stress response and psychological interpretations of stress become misaligned, referred to as a low stress-heart rate coherence, detriments to health can occur (Sommerfeldt et al., 2019). Objective measures of physical stress, such as interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein, pro-inflammatory biomarkers of stress, and heart rate were analyzed in association with self-reported stress, measures of well-being, anxiety, and depression in a pool of Midlife participants from the United States. The present study utilized this data to replicate analyses performed by the original paper, “Individual Differences in the Association Between Subjective Stress and Heart Rate Are Related to Psychological and Physical Well-Being”. Preliminary findings from this effort indicate inconsistencies between standard statistical values due to missing data, however still illustrate a significant association between stress-heart rate coherence and wellbeing. We additionally attempted to explore the data further by running all statistical analyses for just white participants, hypothesizing that greater stress-heart rate coherence might be limited to this overrepresented demographic. We could not confirm nor deny the prediction, as we did not have access to full data to run analyses with minority data. In any case, all analyses yielded positive associations between individual well-being and stress heart-rate coherence, although further studies with more representative samples are imperative in understanding the generalizability and mechanisms for coherence.

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Replication/Extension Papers 2019 - 2020 (14)

A Cognitive Model of the Generation of Singular Concepts and the Mental Systems Involved

Psycholinguistics is the study of how neuroanatomical processes influence language acquisition, language structure, and language use (Menn & Dronkers, 2017). According to the field of psycholinguistics, a concept is represented in the mind and is different from the word associated with those representations. Representational theory of mind seeks to explain concepts through symbols and models of cognitive processes (Williams, 1984). In order to be relevant from a psychological standpoint, representational theory of mind must utilize a computational model rather than focus on individual beliefs. Many different theories use a representational model to explore how individuals acquire and categorize concepts. The aim of this study is to develop a theoretical cognitive model—titled the Semantic-Phonological Association Network (SPAN)—of singular concept generation. While developing SPAN, an examination of the current literature and different theories of models relating to concept generation are used as the foundation for the research. For example, Pinker’s “Why We Curse” explores the relationship between the phonetics of swear words and the physical manifestations they represent (Pinker, 2007). It is necessary to represent the phonological and semantic networks as separate but intricately connected systems. SPAN seeks to symbolize the connection between the phonological and semantic system. The main goal is to establish auditory-semantic priming effects from the relationship between the mental systems and introduce a nuanced version about how one is able to generate singular concepts that contain semantic, phonological and lexical information.You can find our presentation link here:

https://drive.google.com/file/u/2/d/1vRzU6wGm5Di0GQZclCa3VK34JWlOYmY0/view

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The effect of food anticipation on cognitive function- A replication study

Several lines of evidence indicate that glucose can enhance cognitive performancewithout being ingested. Previous research has found that the effect of food anticipation can boostcognitive resources in a testing environment [1]. This study was designed to replicate thefindings utilizing the same population, examining the effect that food anticipation has oncognitive abilities among multiple weight groups. 182 students were included in this replicationstudy. In order to accurately measure the results, the study randomized the order that foodanticipation tasks and cognitive tests were performed. The results indicated that an anticipatoryfood reward effect enhanced the cognitive capabilities of individuals categorized by BMI asoverweight and obese. Furthermore, this effect shifted the attention of these individuals towardlite food options as opposed to regular. Finally, this anticipatory food effect reduced emotionalarousal regarding food for individuals in the obese BMI category. We replicated previousfindings of increased cognitive resources in the presence of food anticipation prior to test taking.These findings add to the growing literature that the presence of food can boost cognitiveresources in testing environments. Future studies should shift the focus away from weight as adriving factor in the results, and instead look at how socio-economic status (SES) and foodinsecurity may affect eye gaze behavior and the anticipatory reward effect associated with foodcues.

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Consistency and variability in functional localisers

Much of research surrounding reading difficulties is based solely on behavioral analyses.A child’s early and correct diagnosis is imperative to insure that they receive adequate resourcesand support which can severely affect equal opportunities for success in the future. Afterstudying different methods of diagnosis for reading difficulties, we saw most of these tests couldnot assert significant differences between children with and without reading difficulties. Thiscontributes to diagnoses being heavily reliant on behavioral observations. Since statisticallysignificant distinction can’t be made with behavioral tests, researchers are pushed to exploredifferent approaches.In order to explore more concrete approaches to diagnoses, we then looked at fMRI datato determine if we could accurately attribute functional localizations in the brain to responses towords and pictures. Through this, researchers aimed to use specific neuroanatomical images todetermine how the brain activity of a person without reading difficulties corresponds to wordandimage-processing. We compared data between two runs of the same subject as well asbetween subjects in order to determine consistency of the study. Although we could not findconsistency between subject, we were able to explore possible ways to optimize fMRI studies forfuture diagnoses. We hope to one day optimize the data collection system in order to use thelocalization of brain activity to diagnose children with reading difficulties in an unbiased,systematic way.

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