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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Cognitive Science & Psychology Division, ULAB

There are 35 publications in this collection, published between 2020 and 2022.
Replication/Extension Papers 2019 - 2020 (14)

Aerobic Exercise for Alzheimer’s Disease

There is growing interest in the potential of exercise interventions in therapy for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This paper replicates and extends upon some of the analysis of a randomized controlled pilot study that investigates the effect of a 26-week aerobic exercise program on memory, executive function, functional ability, and depression in 68 participants who were likely to develop AD. The replication was focused specifically on the analysis performed on the Memory Composite outcome variable, reproducing an interaction model between two of the main variables, Treatment Arm (Stretching and Toning Exercise versus Aerobic Exercise) and Timepoint (Baseline, Week 13, Week 26). The replication yielded the same values as the original study with similarly insignificant p-values. Using RStudio, the present study tests three additional interaction models, the interaction between Sex and Treatment Arm, between Sex and Timepoint, and between Sex, Treatment Arm, and Timepoint. These tests yielded insignificant p-values, implying that, contrary to the previous literature on gender differences in AD and exercise interventions, gender may not be a differentiating factor in memory. The hypothesis was that the exercise type affects the interaction between time and memory loss in early AD patients.

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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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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 2021 - 2022 (8)

Analogical Transfer of Tool-Dependent Problem Solving in Toddlers: A Replication and Extension Study

Analogical transfer, or the ability to use similar solutions to solve seemingly dissimilar problems, has been studied in children using tasks that require the support of long-term memory. However, the transfer of solutions that require the use of tools, or objects with certain functional parts, has not been studied in great depth. This paper replicates and extends upon data collected from a novel study that investigated the role of age and memory on analogical transfer across children who attend public preschools in southern Sweden (Bobrowicz et al., 2020). The purpose of this study was to integrate analogical transfer with functional tool-dependent problem solving and study how both skills develop in toddlerhood. The replication yielded similar results to the original experiment in all five hypotheses tested, with the main finding being that age is not a significant predictor of being able to display analogical transfer from task to task. As an extension to the variables examined in the study, two additional models were created to see whether spending more time with the functional tool or with the relevant apparatus leads to a greater percentage of successes in solving the test task, but there were no significant differences found in this model.

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Origins of Homophily In Infants: A Replication and Extension Study

Previous research has documented that infants as young as six months have intuitions about affiliations regarding shared preferences as well as an understanding of homophily. Homophily ultimately influences friendships, marriages, hiring decisions — the interactions of everyday life. Moreover, understanding shared preferences is relevant to predicting human behavior, as well as guiding child development and socialization.The present study aims to (1) replicate earlier work proving the infants’ understanding of homophily and (2) extend our understanding of infant homophily in regards to characterizing the differences in homophily by sex. Both the replication and extension support the original study by proving the original theory that infants can recognize homophilic attractions. The extension, however, explores the roles that sex and test trial type play in homophily, which the original researchers did not observe. Ultimately, the extension provides preliminary evidence that there is a preference to affiliate with the same sex.

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Development of Racial Essentialism in Early Childhood

To analyze the development and nature of essentialist beliefs about race in earlychildhood, we replicated Mandalaywala and colleagues’ original study on the topic, in which a “switched-at-birth” task was used to test participants’ beliefs about the heritability of skin color and behavioral/psychological traits. We accessed their data through OSF and implemented quasibinomial and linear regression models using RStudio. As an extension to the original study, models were modified to incorporate participant sex as a variable. Overall, children judged skin color to be more heritable when the race of the birth mother was white but neither participant race nor sex was a strong predictor of general beliefs about the heritability of skin color. As expected, greater outgroup exposure was associated with a decrease in racial essentialism. Additionally, we found that Black participants exhibited higher levels of racial essentialism, and both Black participants and female participants displayed greater warmth toward Blacks. Despite children viewing skin color as a highly heritable factor, they do not hold strong causal essentialist beliefs of race, and these beliefs are further affected by the level of outgroup exposure that participants experience. Upon extending this model to compare across participant sexes, the results suggest that emotion-based judgments such as warmth toward Blacks differ more greatly between sexes, while general essentialist beliefs were not as differentiable. Essentialist beliefs may form more on the basis of intellectual development, in which there is a minimal distinction between males and females, rather than emotional experiences. The reason for certain variations across participant sex is hard to pinpoint but all in all, sex was not a significant determining factor in developing essentialist beliefs about race in children.

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