FABBS is pleased to announce the 2020 Early Career Impact Award winners. This award is presented to early career scientists of FABBS member societies during the first 10 years post-PhD and recognizes scientists who have made major contributions to the sciences of mind, brain, and behavior. The goal is to enhance public visibility of these sciences and the particular research through the dissemination efforts of the FABBS in collaboration with the member societies and award winners.
2020 Cognitive Science Society Award Winner
Tilburg University, Netherlands
Neil Cohn has developed a detailed and original theory for a new domain of cognitive science research (including cross-cultural investigation); mounted an extensive experimental program testing the theory; made meaningful connections to other domains such as linguistic theory, psycholinguistics, and experimental work on verbal narrative – an exceptional record for a researcher only seven years out of graduate school.
Cohn’s basic questions are how readers conceptualize drawings, and how they unify a sequence of individual wordless cartoon panels (comics and other sequential images) into a narrative. A gifted cartoonist himself, he approaches these questions through the methods of theoretical linguistics and psycho/neurolinguistics. He explores numerous aspects of narrative structure and their contribution to the reader’s understanding, many of which have parallels to verbal and film narrative. He proposes that narrative structure has a basic “Arc,” built around four constituents: “Establishers” set the scene; “Initials” mark an action’s onset; “Peaks” mark its culmination; and “Releases” mark its aftermath. Moreover, these four basic constituents can each be elaborated as a subordinate Arc. Hence narrative structures are potentially recursive, enabling them to be expanded to arbitrarily large size and complexity.
Crucially, the grammar of individual panels goes well beyond iconicity. Comics also make use of conventionalized symbolic devices such as thought bubbles, speed lines (representing motion), and light bulbs above a character’s head. Moreover, many of the connections between panels must be inferred by the reader. Cohn compares the construction of panels in Japanese and American comics, as well as the semiotics of Australian aboriginal sand drawings, which convey information quite differently from more familiar visual depictions.
Cohn’s experimental work tests the psychological validity of his theoretical constructs. His techniques include subjects creating a narrative from individual panels, subjects’ timing in recognizing a probe panel, timing in self-paced reading, eye-tracking, EEG/ERPs, and more. The experimental results in large part parallel comparable results with language, suggesting that Cohn’s theoretical analysis reveals genuine structure in readers’ comprehension of sequential images.
According to Ray Jackendoff, Cohn is the most original and enterprising student he worked with. Since receiving his Ph.D., he has more than fulfilled the promise he showed then, more or less single-handedly inventing a new and important subfield of cognitive science.
Neil Cohn is the author of “The Visual Language of Comics,” which presents his approach in layman’s terms. It is regarded as ground-breaking not only by cognitive scientists, but by comics scholars and comics creators. He is a presence at the huge annual meetings of Comic-Con International, giving talks and taking part in panels. He has been frequently interviewed or mentioned in such venues as BBC Radio 4, Atlantic Monthly, The Japan Times, Sputnik Radio, Der Spiegel, Discover, WGBH, and Slate. He has made many presentations to the general public on the science of sequential images, including on drawing and learning to draw, and on effective graphic communication. He has been a consultant to the BBC News Labs, Microsoft, CAST, Inc., and LingoZING! on the creation of news comics and the use of comics in education. Most recently, he has become involved in research on how individuals with autism spectrum process visual images. I am sure that coupling cognitive science with a subject matter as popular as comics has brought the science a good deal of attention, especially when done with the energy, spark, and humor of Cohn’s presentations.
2020 International Society for Developmental Psychobiology Award Winner
Bridget L. Callaghan
University of California, Los Angeles
Dr. Bridget Callaghan’s research examines how early-life experiences influence interactions between physical and mental health across the lifespan, including how early-life adversity impacts the gastrointestinal microbiome and increases risk for developing anxiety-related disorders. As both a clinically-trained psychologist and a basic science researcher, Dr. Callaghan performs interdisciplinary research linking physical and emotional health in children who experience extreme psychosocial deprivation due to institutionalized care, children who have experienced out of home (e.g., foster care) placements within the United States, and youth who have experienced physical illnesses in early life. Her work has been highlighted by several media outlets, including the AAAS Eureka Alert, Science Daily, and Huffington Post as some of the first evidence linking disruption of a child’s gut microbiome with activity in brain regions associated with emotional health.
Dr. Callaghan also conducted studies in rodent models of early-life adversity in which she showed accelerated maturation of fear-memory in male rats exposed to early-life trauma. This dysregulation of emotion was transmitted across generations but could be reversed by probiotic administration. These studies indicate that gut microbiome-targeted dietary interventions can ameliorate the effects of adversity on the central nervous system, especially during the first years of life when the developing brain and microbiome are more plastic.
In her Brain and Body Lab at UCLA, Dr. Callaghan and her group take a multi-faceted approach toward examining the effects of early-life adversity, including studying behaviors related to emotion and memory development, observing activation of underlying neural systems using fMRI, characterizing the gut microbiome using gene sequencing, evaluating basic physiological health (using e.g., gastric function, heart rate, skin conductance), and exploring the role of parental scaffolding in healthy emotional development. She also hosts a blog called “The Two Brains” (a reference to the gut as a second brain).
Dr. Callaghan is the recipient of numerous awards, including a K-99 Pathway to Independence Award from the National Institute for Mental Health, the Kucharski Young Investigator Award from the International Society for Developmental Psychobiology, as well as a Young Investigator Grant from the Brain Behavioral Research Foundation. She has published papers and acted as a peer-reviewer for scientific research in a diverse range of high-ranking journals, has guest-edited special issues, and is an active member of several professional societies. Dr. Callaghan’s work reaches a broad audience as she strives to create better mental and physical health treatments across development that are informed by psychological functioning, trauma history, and central and peripheral biology.
2020 National Academy of Neuropsychology Award Winner
University of Alabama – Birmingham
Dr. Gerstenecker earned his PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Louisville in 2014, where he was awarded the John Richard Binford Memorial Award for excellence in scholarship and leadership, one of only two awards given to doctoral‐level graduates, regardless of discipline. After completing his degree requirements, Dr. Gerstenecker completed a 2-year postdoctoral neuropsychology fellowship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), and has been an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology since that time.
Dr. Gerstenecker currently is primary investigator on an NIH-funded K23 research grant. The focus of the study is to investigate the effects of systemic inflammation on hippocampal internal architecture, cognition, and daily functioning in persons diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Dr. Gerstenecker hopes to use data from this grant to target mechanisms of cognitive decline in future projects. Dr. Gerstenecker also serves as Co-Investigator and lead neuropsychologist for the NIH-funded Alabama Udall Center. The central hypothesis of the Alabama Udall Center is that innate and adaptive immune cells are activated early in Parkinson’s disease (PD), and that inhibiting their activities will protect from further PD-linked neurodegeneration. Alabama Udall Center investigators propose that a brain inflammatory response initiated by abnormal forms of α-synuclein, and leading to the entry and pro-inflammatory differentiation of peripheral monocytes and T-cells, is a key driver of PD neurodegeneration, which underlies both the motor and cognitive symptoms of the disorder. Finally, Dr. Gerstenecker also serves as Co-Investigator on an NIH-funded study that aims to develop commonly used clinical measures for online use and thus more rapid screening of older adults for inclusion in clinical trials. In terms of scholarship, Dr. Gerstenecker has been author or co-author on 42 peer-reviewed papers that are either published or in-press, with several other papers in various stages of peer review. Dr. Gerstenecker has been published in a number of well-respected journals including Neurology, Movement Disorders, Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, Psycho-Oncology, and Cancer. Much of Dr. Gerstenecker’s work has offered specific recommendations to the clinical community about appropriate ways to evaluate risk of cognitive and functional decline in neurologically vulnerable populations, thus, providing clear benefit to the medical community and society as a whole.
2020 Psychonomic Society Award Winner
Lisa K. Fazio
Dr. Lisa Fazio studies how people learn new information, both true and false, and how to correct errors in people’s knowledge. She received her PhD from Duke University in 2010 and completed postdoctoral fellowships at both Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. Currently an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Human Development at Vanderbilt University, her research focuses on how to mitigate the effects of reading false information and how to increase classroom learning. Her work informs basic theories about learning and memory, while also having clear applications for practitioners, such as journalists and teachers.
Dr. Fazio’s research focuses on the human memory system and how our brains support and derail efforts to gain new, accurate knowledge. The same processes that support everyday learning can lead us astray when we are exposed to false information.
Over the past few years, Dr. Fazio has written two articles for The Conversation (over 130,000 views), summarized recent research findings into blog posts, written two teacher guides, and been a panelist at SXSW and at the Tennessee Press Association annual meeting. In addition, she has appeared on multiple podcasts, and was recently featured in a segment on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.
2020 Society for Judgment and Decision Making Award Winner
David G. Rand
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Bridging the fields of behavioral economics and psychology, David’s research combines behavioral experiments run online and in the field with mathematical and computational models to understand people’s attitudes, beliefs, and choices. His work uses a cognitive science perspective grounded in the tension between more intuitive versus deliberative modes of decision-making, and explores topics such as cooperation, misinformation, political preferences, outrage, and social media platform behavior. His work is both highly theoretical, pinpointing underlying mechanisms, as well as applied, investigating and testing interventions (e.g., how to combat fake news).
David has published over 130 peer-reviewed articles in journals including Nature, Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Psychological Science, the American Economic Review, Management Science, and the New England Journal of Medicine, and has received widespread attention from print, radio, TV and social media outlets. His scholarly work currently has over 15,000 citations on Google Scholar. He has also written many popular press articles for outlets including the New York Times, Wired, New Scientist, and the Psychological Observer. He was named in Wired magazine’s Smart List 2012 of “50 people who will change the world,” was chosen as a 2012 Pop!Tech Science Fellow, received the 2015 Arthur Greer Memorial Prize for Outstanding Scholarly Research, and was selected as fact-checking researcher of the year in 2017 by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network. He has also been the recipient of best paper of the year awards in Social Cognition, Experimental Economics, and Political Methodology.