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School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences - The University of Texas at Dallas

Faculty Research in Press



Alice O'tooleDr. Alice O'Toole, Aage and Margareta Møller Professor, recently authored a review article in Visual Cognition discussing how computational models represent the human bias for better remembering faces within a person's own racial category.


Computational models strive to emulate the human process of recognizing and distinguishing faces, both across individual and demographic differences. To demonstrate the same facial recognition bias that humans have for their own race, models must computationally learn to do so during the process of feature selection.


According to O'Toole, the need for the models to learn racial recognition biases emphasizes the importance of developmental learning in this effect in humans.


Article: Computational perspectives on the other-race effect



In a recent article in Visual Cognition, Dr. Alice O'Toole, Aage and Margareta Møller Professor, reviewed the neural basis for the human preference for better remembering faces within a person's own racial category.


Studies show that people demonstrate a better memory for faces of their own race than for the faces of people in different racial categories. Neurological studies examining this bias approach the topic examining socioaffective aspects or high-level visual processing. Socioaffective studies take into account emotional and sociological biases and look at areas of the brain including the amygdala, anterior cingulate cortex, and the parahippocampal gyrus; while the high-level visual processing studies focus more on picture processing areas of the brain, such as the fusiform face area.


O'Toole found that several factors, such as experience, cultural learning, and bias, modulate the patterns of neural activity experienced during racial recognition biases.


Article: Neural perspectives on the other-race effect



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Cindy de FriasDr. Cindy de Frias, assistant professor in BBS, has authored a new paper in the "Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences" about factors affecting memory compensation strategy use in older adults.


Engaging in adaptive everyday behaviors is at the cornerstone of successful cognitive aging. Some individuals experience memory changes in advanced aging, and applying compensatory strategies may allow older adults to overcome or mitigate losses in memory functioning. This study examined how three factors affect the frequency of an individual's use of memory compensatory strategies in everyday life. First, low health-related quality of life (mental and physical health) predicted greater use of compensatory strategies (e.g., reliance on other people, and more time to remember information). Second, cognitive reappraisers reported using more complex compensatory strategies (i.e., internal mnemonics). Third, individuals who are more mindful (e.g., having an unbiased awareness of actions) reported less use of several forms of compensation strategies. Dr. de Frias states that "cognitive resilience in mid- to late adulthood is tempered by the boundaries of health and strengthened by self-regulatory processes and mindfulness landscapes."


Article: Memory compensation in older adults: The role of health, emotion regulation, and trait mindfulness



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Candice MillsDr. Candice Mills, associate professor, recently co-authored a study in Developmental Science examining how a child's perception of the niceness of an expert influences the child's trust in the expert's credibility.


In these experiments, the researchers examined how preschool-aged children may be influenced by how nice or mean someone is when deciding whether to trust their claims or to believe that they have knowledge. Their first experiment established that preschool-aged children could recognize when an expert (e.g., a bicycle expert) was likely to know something. Follow-up experiments revealed that children's trust in the experts could be shaken once they found out that an expert had been mean in the past. Preschoolers trusted claims made by people who were nice with no expertise over people who were mean with clear expertise.


These findings suggest the power of seeming nice - that children could in some cases be more influenced by how nice someone is than by how much they know. According to Mills, it is possible that children may conclude that someone who appears nice is both trustworthy and competent, even if the friendly appearance is a carefully crafted act of manipulation.


Former Behavioral and Brian Sciences students Asheley Landrum and Angie Johnston were also authors on this study.


Article: When do children trust the expert? Benevolence information influences children's trust more than expertise"



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Noah SassonDr. Noah Sasson, assistant professor, and Dr. Emily Touchstone, clinical assistant professor at the Callier Center, recently authored an article in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders examining social attention in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Children with ASD are characterized by a reduction in social attention, that is, attention devoted to people and social situations, and an increased attention to non-social stimuli. The researchers simultaneously presented preschool aged children with pictures of faces and objects on a computer screen. Half of the children had ASD, while the remaining half was normally developing. Using an eye tracking device, they found that attention to faces by children with ASD was relatively similar to normally developing children when the faces were presented with everyday objects, such as furniture or clothing. However, when faces were presented with objects of more interest to the child, such as a train, ASD children focused significantly less on faces than normally developing children and more on the object.


The researchers conclude that the preschoolers with ASD in their study did not exhibit an absolute deficit in social attention or actively avoid attending to faces, as had been suggested by prior research. Rather, their interest in faces varied depending on the type of object competing for their attention. This suggests that social attention in young children with ASD may be more context-dependent than previously believed.

Article: "Visual attention to competing social and object images by preschool children with autism spectrum disorder"



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Mandy Maguire

A new study by Dr. Mandy Maguire, associate professor, was recently published in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. In this paper, Maguire reviews a method of measuring brain activity during cognitive development in children.


Measuring the signals between neurons is made difficult in part by the incredible speed they use. Electroencephalograph (EEG) is one of the most precise methods for measuring the timing of neuronal communications, and is the most common method for studying neuronal communications across the human lifespan. Neuronal oscillations, such as alpha or theta waves, are patterns of coordinated neuronal activity across regions of the brain that become evident through examining EEG signals. However; current analytical methods lose much of the information about cognition that the EEG can capture. Time-locked frequency analysis, a newer method for analyzing EEG, is able to identify and distinguish multiple changes across brain signals underlying cognition. By examining neuronal oscillations using this method, researchers have elucidated many cognitive processes in adults. Still, scant work has been done looking at cognitive development in children.


Maguire's review looks at the basics of neuronal oscillations and what these oscillations reveal about cognition, tying in the adult literature and what little in known for children. Specifically, Maguire looks at language development because of the early age at which it begins and the complexity of the brain systems involved. The review emphasizes the analytical power of time-locked frequency analysis and encourages its use throughout developmental cognitive neuroscience.


Article: "What changes in neural oscillations can reveal about developmental cognitive neuroscience: Language development as a case in point"



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