SPUR 2020 Projects: Social & Behavioral Science

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SPUR projects are listed in alphabetical order by faculty mentor last name.

Sociology | College of Social & Behavioral Science
Environmental & Sustainability studies | College of Social & Behavioral Science


Sara Grineski, Professor

Air pollution is a serious hazard to human health, with children being more vulnerable than adults. Children are more often rooted in specific local environments and they spend significant time at school. Prior studies have found that racial and ethnic minority and low-income children are overrepresented in schools with higher pollution levels. Increased exposure to air pollution at school is associated with negative health effects for students, as well as poorer academic performance and attendance. My research team has conducted several studies in this area of research and we are eager to accept a SPUR student to assist us in the next phase. This summer project aims to 1) characterize social inequalities in environmental exposures at Utah public schools; and 2) link those environmental exposures to standardized tests scores. We will bring together spatial data from the National Center for Education Statistics (i.e., public school demographics and locations for Utah), the Utah State Board of Education (i.e., standardized tests scores), the Environmental Protection Agency (i.e., ozone and particulate matter levels around schools), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (i.e., greenness around schools based on NDVI), and the US Department of Transportation (i.e., traffic and air noise around schools). We will create a school-level data set that joins together information from these varying sources, and then conduct statistical analysis on the dataset to address the two research aims.

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Psychology | College of Social & Behavioral Science


David Strayer, Professor

Each and every day, you make mistakes, and often you receive some sort of feedback in committing them. For example, when you swing a baseball bat, miss the ball, and hear the umpire yell “strike!”. While errors and feedback are common in everyday life, the neuroscience behind them, and especially the relationship between them, remains mysterious. The Applied Cognition Lab is seeking a further understanding of the relationship between error-processing and feedback reward-processing in the brain by studying the electrophysiological (EEG) correlates of each. The current project will specifically examine the error-related negativity, which reflects the error-processing system, and the reward positivity, which reflects reward-processing system. Both generated in the anterior cingulate cortex, the error-related negativity and reward positivity are historically thought to both be indicative of error processing and negative feedback about errors. However, more recent developments in electrophysiological research have found that the reward positivity is more likely driven by sensitivity to reward (positive feedback) than by sensitivity to errors. We would like to further explore the relationship between these two ERP components by looking at how they correlate with, or diverge from, each other depending on task demands and motivation. This research will give us a firmer understanding of cognitive control as it relates to processing both errors and rewards.

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