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Social, Behavioral, and Economic SciencesBehavioral and  Cognitive SciencesNational Science Foundation



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Cognition, Action & Perception

Cultural Anthropology

Developmental and Learning Sciences

Geography and Regional Science


Physical Anthropology

Social Psychology


Auditory Source Event Perception Back To Top

Richard E. Pastore
SUNY Binghamton
Human Cognition and Perception Program

The footfalls and hoof beats in a western movie supply crucial realism to the moviegoer.  Things that make noise are tightly woven into the fabric of human experience.  It may come as somewhat of a surprise then that we know very little about the actual perception of auditory events.  This is true despite our extensive knowledge of how ears work, for example, and extensive knowledge about basic auditory capabilities of ourselves and other animals.  Basic knowledge of auditory event perception is necessary for the development of auditory virtual-reality capabilities; the development of effective surveillance systems for research, commercial, and military use; and to identify how listening skills may be improved with training and which attributes of sounds are most important to aid the hearing impaired.  The NSF funded basic research will accomplish the crucial first step to make such applications possible.  This first step is possible, because the acoustic properties of auditory events reflect physical and biomechanical properties of their sources.  The impact of a shoe on a wooden floor will sound differently than the same shoe on a metal floor, for example.  Richard Pastore and his colleagues will identify the physical and biomechanical properties of source events and the relations between these source properties and the acoustic properties of the resulting sound.  With this database in hand, they can conduct experiments to identify the sound attributes that listeners correctly (or incorrectly) associate with source properties.  The goal is a “source-sound-perception approach” that may be used to study perception of almost any auditory event.

Bayesian Analysis of Chronometric Data
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Trisha Van Zandt
Mario Peruggia
Ohio State University
Methodology, Measurement, and Statistics Program and Human Cognition and Perception Program

This research, conducted by mathematical psychologist Trisha Van Zandt and statistician Mario Peruggia of Ohio State University, will develop Bayesian models for chronometric data, particularly human response time data.  Pragmatically, response times are important for evaluating human performance in many areas.  They assist machine interface design decisions, such as the optimal way to present information to a pilot or the best location for a turn-signal indicator.  They also are used in medicine; diagnoses of some organic brain disorders such as Alzheimer's disease or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can be informed by a patient's response times on certain kinds of tests.  Theoretically, response times are used to test hypotheses about cognitive structure, the ways in which people use and process information, and how changes in the environment influence human behavior.

Although Bayesian techniques are well established in other fields, social and behavioral scientists rarely use them because they require a considerable investment in computational resources as well as additional statistical training.  This project will develop a number of strategies that will improve the analysis of response time data, including analyses that consider theories about how response times are produced and new procedures that can help untrained practitioners use Bayesian methods with relatively little additional effort.  The study also undertakes a program of education and dissemination to improve the overall quality of statistical analyses of response time data. Van Zandt and Peruggia plan to incorporate the results of this research into their classes, involve undergraduates in the research process, and provide tutorials and workshops for basic training of Bayesian methods to social and behavioral science researchers.  Thus, this project will result in more accurate characterization of response time data and therefore improved decision making about human capabilities and disease.

Cognition East and West: Attention, Categorization, and Reasoning for East Asians and European Americans Back To Top

Richard E. Nisbett
University of Michigan
Human Cognition and Perception Program

East Asians are held to reason holistically, attending to the context or ‘embedding field’ in which objects and events appear.  They attribute causality to interactions between the object (person, animal, or thing) and the embedding field.  There is no tradition of “western style” formal logic in East Asia.  There is a preference, instead, for dialectical reasoning in which opposing facts or points of view are resolved.  Europeans are held to be analytic, attempting to discern preoperties of the object, and attibuting causality to such properties.  Scholars in many fields believe that different cultures breed different styles of reasoning.  Richard Nisbett’s research provided a rigorous test of these beliefs.  The following short list of topics and findings illustrate the larger set of outcomes in this research:

1) Attention & Perception:  Participants are shown realistic underwater scenes and report what they have seen.  Japanese usually mention first the environment whereas Americans mention first the focal object.  Japanese mention many more details about the environment and relations involving inert aspects of the environment than do Americans.

2) Causal Analysis:  Americans tend to think that a person’s disposition must be the source of their behavior, even when it is elicited by the environment—the Fundamental Attribution Error.  Asians appear to be more sensitive to contextual and environmental cues.  On the other hand, Asians tend to believe mistakenly that they knew all along that some outcome would occur—a Hindsight Bias error—which may be due, in part, to the same tendency that makes the attribution error less likely for Asians.

3) Relationships vs. Categories:  Chinese participants find word pairs to be more 'closely associated' when they are linked via a relationship (bus-passenger) than when they are members of the same category (bus-car).  The reverse tends to be true for American participants. 

4) Logic vs. Dialecticism:  Americans tend to think one of two contradictory arguments must be correct and actually are more persuaded by the more plausible of the two arguments than if it had been presented alone.  Chinese are actually more persuaded of the less plausible of the two arguments if it is contradicted than if it is presented alone.  When both are presented, Chinese choose the 'middle way,' accepting both arguments equally, a tendency that is different from that of the Americans but equally dubious on normative grounds. 

Apparently, East Asian and Western thought differ substantially.  The two mentalities are embedded in different beliefs about the nature of the universe and how we may know about the universe.  Nisbett’s findings raise serious questions about the universality of mental processes commonly regarded as basic—psychologists have not correctly identified the `fault lines` of cognition.  These findings also suggest that there may be different styles of learning that should be taken into consideration when teaching members of different groups; and they provide evidence that cultural diversity of work groups has advantages for problem-solving.  Finally, the results are relevant to understanding interaction between Asians and Americans in business and government contexts: The two groups are likely to have different and potentially conflicting understandings of the motives underlying behavior.

Development of Reaching in Human Infants
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Neil E. Berthier
University of Massachusetts, Amherst  
Human Cognition and Perception Program

Adult humans possess a remarkable capacity to use their hands to manipulate objects in the world.  Almost no other animals exhibit such dexterity.  Remarkably, manual dexterity involves the coordination of a vast number of muscles of the trunk, arm, and hand—a control problem that is well beyond what we can do with control artificial devices such as robot arms.  Dexterity does not appear fully formed in adults; however, it requires a protracted period of development that starts soon after birth.  Neil Berthier will conduct three years of research to examine how infants develop a capacity for dexterous manual reaching and how experience improves dexterity.  The NSF-funded project uses mathematical models of neural and muscular systems to describe how one generates arm movements.  Behavioral experiments will test the model’s predictions against the actual abilities of human infants.  Other behavioral experiments will focus on the role of attentive vision for control of reaching.  This research will lead to a better understanding of how reaching and manual dexterity develop, and may also shed light on more general processes of human development.  Furthermore, the models used are closely related to current schemes for control of reaching by robots.  Thus the funded research may suggest novel approaches to the problem of robot control.

Exploration of a Neurological Model to Improve the Extraction of Linguistic Features in Speech
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Carol Espy-Wilson
University of Maryland, College Park
Linguistics Program

Carol Espy-Wilson will study a knowledge-based speech recognition system’s performance in noise. The research is linguistically motivated, in that it seeks acoustic correlates of linguistic features. This project emphasizes two components of the Espy-Wilson’s larger research agenda: (1) analysis of signal representation to ensure its robustness, and (2) application of a neural model to enhance the signal-to-noise ratio before or during the extraction of a knowledge-based speech signal representation. The broader impacts of the project lie in its progress towards speaker-independent speech recognition, which has practical applications in industry, education and speech rehabilitation.

Simulation, Situations, and Embodiment in Conceptual Processing
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Lawrence W. Barsalou         
Emory University
Human Cognition and Perception Program

Abstract cognitive activities such as language and reasoning are grounded in the situated everyday workings of the body—thus the terms situated cognition or embodied cognition.  For example, our knowledge of cars reflects how we interact with cars, what it is like to actually drive a car; to see, hear, touch, and smell a real car; or to feel an emotional response to a car.  This innovative, somewhat risky working hypothesis will be explored by Lawrence Barsalou, who was recently was appointed Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.  This view, which he shares with a growing number of Cognitive scientists, contrasts with a tradition whereby our knowledge of the world is assumed to be fully abstract and detached—something like the “centralized” one-kind-of-knowledge-structure-fits-all way in which a computer program can be written. 

In the funded research, human participants will perform classic “knowledge tasks,” responding to questions such as “What are the properties of a car?” or “Is a tire a property of a car?”  Carefully controlled laboratory experiments have been designed around such questions and tasks to assess whether situated and embodied forms of knowledge are used to perform them.  Support for the working hypothesis could motivate big changes, a fundamental shift, in how we think about ourselves.  Moreover, this research should have a broad applied impact in education (i.e., how best to teach a knowledge domain) and cognitive engineering (i.e., how machines should be designed to best interact with human beings).  Finally, this work may suggest new forms of artificial intelligence.  Intelligent machines that use situated knowledge, shaped around their peripheral devices, are more robust than traditional centralized intelligent machines.  Possible new machines could resemble the robots used in exploration of Mars, for example, a second-generation of robots that better situate themselves in their environments.

The Effects of Action and Knowledge on Spatial Inference
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Daniel L. Schwartz
Stanford University
Human Cognition and Perception Program

Action facilitates imagination.  Suppose you close your eyes and pull a string from a spool that, you believe, turns a miniature merry-go-round resting on top.  As a consequence, you may also better imagine the movement of objects placed on the merry-go-round, like the benches or horses.  The spool example illustrates two central claims: (1) timing of bodily action facilitates spatial imagination about the consequences of tool use; and, (2) knowledge of a physical situation controls how timing influences a spatial inference.  In the research, participants must picture themselves in a different location to judge the position of two objects with respect to each other.  This judgment is facilitated by rotating a map by hand (with eyes closed).  The proposed studies include various devices for turning the map at different rates:  People may tap a lever that turns the map a few or many degrees at a time; they may turn a steering wheel clockwise, to make the map rotate counter-clockwise; or, they may turn an imaginary map in their hands, as though they were holding a map, although they know that they are not.  The studies will clarify the significance of timing in action and the knowledge and beliefs that couple action and inferences about changing spatial relations. The ability to use complex tools and imagine their consequences is a uniquely human ability.  Most aspects of life include tool use.  To understand how tool use and imagination are intertwined is to understand a fundamental aspect of human ability.  Because it speaks directly to imagination, this work will supply a partial explanation of invention—how we may imagine the potential of novel tools.  It also speaks to the learning, use, and transfer of knowledge about complex physical tools.  Likewise the imaginative component speaks to development and application of virtual environments in which bodily motions are not actually physically connected to outcomes.  Another application of this work would be for training in the use of tools, as in medical practice, for example, where a tool is not directly in view, as in orthoscopic surgery.  But, perhaps, the most interesting implication of this work is how the use of hands-on materials may teach abstract ideas to children.

Web-based Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America
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Joel Sherzer
Anthony Woodbury
Mark McFarland
University of Texas
Linguistics Program (ITR Small Grant)

Latin America hosts a great diversity of indigenous languages, but many of these languages are in danger of extinction.  By creating a linguistic archive, anthropologists Joel Sherzer, Anthony Woodbury and Mark McFarland are ensuring that these languages will be documented.  The Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA) is a web-accessible database of audio and textual data featuring naturally occurring discourse. Scholars, students, and indigenous people are able to access the AILLA database using their web browsers, search and browse the contents of the database, and download audio and text files from the database onto their own computers, which they can then listen to or read immediately, using free, downloadable software. AILLA archives primarily unpublished and previously unavailable audio recordings and texts, and both preserve them and make them easily accessible by creating a centralized and organized repository of digitized copies of these materials. By developing and implementing the database and web-browser interface, these anthropologists created a robust information infrastructure for use by researchers, students, and indigenous peoples. In addition, AILLA features: search tools for comparative, typological, and historical research on language; language data related protocols including a metadata scheme, data structures, and applications; and standards and tools to address ethical issues of privacy and intellectual property rights for language materials on the web. The fundamental goal is to create an infrastructure for distributed scholarship in language-related disciplines concerned with indigenous Latin America.

In addition to making data available for basic research, AILLA will provide a wide range of data for use in teaching courses in anthropology, linguistics, and other language-related fields. It will facilitate the interchange of data between Latin American, North American, and European scholars and between scholars and indigenous communities, and will form an important new link in the network of people working with the indigenous languages of Latin America. AILLA will also be a resource for indigenous communities working to preserve, maintain, and revitalize their languages.

Brazilian National Identity and Individual Adjustment
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William Dressler
The University of Alabama
Cultural Anthropology Program

In research on the social and cultural factors contributing to individual adjustment (as measured by both physical and psychological indices of well-being), William W. Dressler and his associates are examining a variety of different factors in research in southern Brazil.  One of these is the relationship between the individual and his or her cultural environment.  The question here is the extent to which an individual must adopt the beliefs and values of his or her own society in order to function effectively in that society.  Of the variety of domains that define the cultural environment, one that they are examining is national identity.  Is there a broadly shared model of what it means to be “Brazilian,” and must individuals adopt those beliefs and values to function effectively in society (as assessed by their physical and psychological well-being)?  Fig. 1 represents major concepts that people use to talk about being a Brazilian.  People tend to group these into three broad clusters.  The first is the Brazil that most of the world knows: the Brazil of carnival, samba, fun and futebol (soccer).  The second is the Brazil that is less well-known outside the country, and represents the serious and hard-working side of Brazilian national identity.  The third represents a side of Brazil that many people in the country dislike, even though they argue that this part of being Brazilian is necessary for survival.  This cluster is dominated by the concept of jeitinho, or a uniquely Brazilian notion of flexibility and the ability to find a way around seemingly insurmountable bureaucratic obstacles.  Research to date has shown that, indeed, these concepts of national identity are broadly shared, but the relative importance of the different aspects of Brazilian national identity is highly contested.  Currently, data on how these concepts are translated into beliefs and values of individuals in everyday life are being collected.  The photographs show Brazilians celebrating World Cup soccer victories, a time at which Brazilians feel most intensely Brazilian.

chart - photo - Brazilians celebrating World Cup soccer victories

Ethno-experimental Investigation of Foundations of Economic Norms in 16 Small-scale Societies
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Jean Ensminger
California Institution of Technology
Cultural Anthropology Program

In all human societies, a wide range of social phenomena are governed by self-regulating institutions, or sets of norms that prescribe appropriate behaviors and proper sanctions for inappropriate behavior.  Such norms influence an enormous range of human activity, from marriage patterns and sexual inequality to political processes and market exchange. Both experimental and field data from across the social sciences indicate that neither limited economic self-interest nor evolutionary models based on kinship or reciprocity are sufficient to account for the observed patterns of human pro-sociality.

To probe the diversity of social norms and preferences across the human spectrum, a set of researchers headed by Jean Ensminger will explore the foundations of social norms by experimentally measuring individuals’ preferences/tastes for altruism (or fairness), direct punishment (willingness to punish norm violators), and third party punishment (willingness of third-party observers to pay a price to punish unfairness) across 16 small-scale societies.  These field sites include foragers, slash and burn horticulturalists, pastoral-nomads, small-scale agriculturalists, and urban wage laborers on most continents of the world.  One of the advantages of running experiments in these contexts is that the social spectrum of subjects is broadened from those typically found in U.S. university laboratories. 

This research will replicate earlier work (including the finding that altruistic behavior increases with the level of market integration), broaden the research by including nine new sites and new experiments, tighten the data collection methods across sites, and to extend the research with new testable predictions. A core package of three games (the Dictator, Ultimatum with Strategy Method, and Third-Party Punishment Games) will be used at all 16 field sites. This project should contribute to theoretical work that explores the importance of social learning, institutions, cultural evolution, and culture-gene co-evolution on human behavior.  The work has already been written about in the Economist and other major publications.

Pictures: Members of the Orma tribe of Kenya playing theoeretical-economic games:

photo - Members of the Orma tribe of Kenya playing theoeretical-economic games     photo - Members of the Orma tribe of Kenya playing theoeretical-economic games

Assessment of Children’s Attention Back To Top

Michael Posner (with Bruce McCandliss)
Weill Medical College of Cornell
Child Learning and Development Program (now Developmental and Learning Sciences)

Accurate assessment of children’s attention is essential for continued examination of the role of attention in the development of skills such as literacy and numeracy as well as examination of the neurological substrates of attention.  Dr. Michael Posner and colleague Dr. Bruce McCandliss from the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell have developed the Attention Network Task to reliably assess orienting and alerting aspects of attention in children.  In their own work, the Attention Network Task is being used to track an attention-oriented literacy-training program that is showing initial promise in the laboratory and in public school settings.   As well, they are using this task to link genetic, EEG, and fMRI findings to attentional behavior.  These collaborators have been involved in a series of international meetings on “Brain and Education.”  Other researchers have begun to use the Attention Network Task to study ADHD, autism, child abuse, and other conditions that might affect attentional functioning.

photo - Dr. Michael Posner holding an infant

Building Knowledge from Perception in Infancy
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Scott Johnson
Cornell University
Developmental and Learning Sciences Program

Over the course of their first 6 months, infants use perceptual input to move towards an adult-like understanding of properties of objects.  The work of Dr. Scott Johnson at Cornell University indicates that 2-month-old infants do not understand the continuity of the existence of an object as it moves across a screen, becomes occluded, and reemerges on the other side.  By 4 months, infants can do this under limited circumstances, and by 6 months they can do so under the most demanding conditions.  A careful look at eye tracking indicated that 6-month-olds show anticipatory eye movements when viewing a partially occluded trajectory.  For 4-month-old infants, prior experience following the ball moving along an unoccluded trajectory leads to anticipatory eye movements like those of older infants as they track a partially occluded object.   This suggests that the particular experience of visually following a moving object induces adult-like perceptions in very young infants.  Other experiments in this series have examined the efficacy of two-dimensional and three-dimensional displays, and the extent to which infants respond to violations in the motion and location of the hidden regions of an object.   This line of work supports the idea that infant’s knowledge about properties of objects is built through perceptual experience. 

Screenshot from eye movement experiment

Children’s Learning as a Reflection of Family Income and Employment Back To Top

Hirokazu Yoshikawa (with Pamela Morris and Lisa Gennetian)
New York University
Developmental and Learning Sciences

By pooling data from 12 experimental welfare-to-work demonstrations, Dr. Yoshikawa and colleagues from New York University have examined the effect of family changes in income and employment on children’s learning.  Mediating factors that may help explain the relations between family work characteristics and child learning include parenting, use of childcare, academic expectations, family structure, and the presence of domestic violence.  Simple explanatory models do not work; in fact, the direct and indirect relations between family income/employment and learning in middle childhood are different in families of different races and ethnicities.  This finding that experimental changes in income and employment affect children differently, depending on their race/ethnicity, brings a focus on culture and development to public policy analysis and evaluation (typically engaged in by labor economists) and a policy-relevant focus to cultural and developmental science (typically engaged in by developmental psychologists).  This research brings econometric methods to the field of developmental psychology and an emphasis of developmental mediating processes to economics.

CAREER: Globalization and the Transnational Development of Civil Society Back To Top

Matthew Sparke

University of Washington
Geography and Regional Science Program

With the support of a CAREER award, geographer Matthew Sparke has created new ways to integrate research and instruction by using globalization as a unifying theme.  Over the past two years, he has developed a new globalization course at the University of Washington.  The course will be taught to more than 500 first-year students this year and involves an outreach program to minority students in the Seattle area.  The course draws from Sparke's original research on new patterns of cross-border regionalization under globalization.

Using the Indonesia-Malaysia-Singapore "Growth Triangle" as a case study, he has advanced understanding of globalization processes.  As in other regions, the Growth Triangle regional promotion plan seeks to attract inward investment by marketing itself as a key node of global commerce.  While this strategy is similar to regional place promotion found elsewhere, and while it involves a mix of both cooperation and competition across the region's borders, Sparke's research into the local cross-border networks reveals that development in the Growth Triangle is based substantially on extreme asymmetries between Singapore and what are effectively resource hinterlands in Johor, Malyasia, and the Riau islands of Indonesia.  Interestingly, this development pattern promises to change as Singaporese investments in industrial parks and other infrastructure in the neighboring hinterlands have now set the stage for increasing competition with Singapore itself.  Industrial parks such as Panbil on Batam island in Indonesia now market themselves not only as places that are close to Singapore but also as places from where it is easier to enhance global competitiveness.

photo - Billboard advertising Panbil Industrial Park

Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science
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Michael F. Goodchild
Richard P. Appelbaum
University of California, Santa Barbara
Geography and Regional Science Program

Over recent decades, major advances in three sets of technologies (geographic information systems, the Global Positioning System, and remote sensing) have provided dramatic new insights into patterns, processes, and changes on the Earth's surface.  Although many disciplines have adopted these technologies and use them successfully for a variety of inquiries, fewer social and behavioral scientists have begun to use them on a significant scale.  To accelerate the adoption and use of these technologies, a national center based at the University of California-Santa Barbara is focusing on the methods, tools, techniques, software, data access, and other services needed to promote and facilitate a novel and integrating spatially enabled approach to the social and behavioral sciences.  The center builds on the efforts of the National Center for Geographic Information and Analysis, engaging in six core programs that are targeted across the full spectrum from inductive, exploratory science to theory-based, confirmatory science.  Center activities include:  (1) Development of a collection of learning resources covering core concepts, examples, references to be made available via the World Wide Web.  (2) Conduct of intensive national workshops to introduce social and behavioral scientists to the methods and tools of spatially enabled social science.  (3) Sponsorship of best-practice examples of the use of spatial approaches in the social and behavioral sciences.  (4) Development of services to facilitate place-based searches for information resources on the World Wide Web and in digital libraries.  (5) Further development and dissemination of a powerful and easy-to-use suite of software tools for analysis in the presence of spatial effects, in collaboration with industrial partners.  (6) Initiation of an open virtual community to share software tools, modeled on the highly successful communities defined by Linux and GRASS.  Through these and other related activities, many individuals and groups working in the social and behavioral sciences will find their capabilities to use new technologies greatly enhanced.  Among major research areas that are benefitting as a result of these efforts are human-environmental interactions, urban studies, social and economic inequality, social and business networks, health and disease, criminal justice, and community-based grassroots organizations.

Photo by Susan Baumgart.

Collaborative Research: Globalization and Urban Restructuring in the Periphery of the World Economy: A Comparative Analysis of Accra and Mumbai
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Jan Nijman
Richard Grant
University of Miami

Geography and Regional Science Program

Over the last few decades, cities in the developing world have undergone major transformations as a result of widespread policies of economic liberalization.  Because of such policies, many cities have been drawn into the global economic market place.  Geographers Jan Nijman and Richard Grant of the University of Miami documented the corresponding changing corporate geographies of two cities with comparable historical roles in the global political economy: Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, and Accra, Ghana.  Based on extensive field research and surveys, the investigators constructed a database of foreign corporate activity across these cities and compared the data with existing data on domestic corporations.

Nijman and Grant's findings identified an unprecedented surge in foreign corporate activity, a restructuring of the urban economy, and a profound reorganization of urban economic space in both cities.  Both Mumbai and Accra witnessed the emergence of a new central business district (CBD) with a high presence of foreign-controlled companies and large numbers of domestically controlled multinational corporations.  These "global CBDs" are highly specialized in finance and producer services, and they are quite distinct from the nationally oriented CBDs that developed as "European towns" and locally oriented "native towns" that also emerged colonial times.

When compared with cities in the developed world, the economic geographies of Accra and Mumbai are much more segmented and fragmented.  This finding is at odds with theoretical arguments about globalization and homogenization and suggests, instead, that global economic integration is accompanied with increased spatial differentiation, at least in the less-developed world.  From a practical point of view, this fragmentation poses a challenge to urban planning and regional development policies that aim for inclusiveness and even development.

Collaborative Research on Spatial Decision Making Using Geographic Information Technology and Multi-Criteria Decision Models
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Timothy Nyerges
University of Washington
Piotr Jankowski
University of Idaho
Geography and Regional Science Program

Multiple stakeholder groups undertaking salmon habitat restoration in the Duwamish Waterway of Seattle Washington (see 1st map) now find it easier to negotiate a consensus about where to develop restoration sites.  This project developed decision support software using geographic information system (GIS) tools to allow groups of people to identify, describe, rank, and then visualize site options.  A new type of “consensus map” was devised to allow groups of people to visualize both the priority of their preferred rankings as well as the consensus status about those priorities (see 2nd map).  The larger the circle the higher the priority; the smaller the circles the lower the priority.  Green circles indicated higher consensus.  Yellow circles indicate medium consensus.  Red circles indicate low consensus.  Since the maps are generated in an interactive manner within the GIS, multiple scenarios can be developed to take into consideration multiple stakeholder views of what might be best for habitat restoration.   During the group-based laboratory experiment in which the software was evaluated, numerous participants, both professional environmental analysts and students, requested access to a version of the software they could use within their own work.  Such encouragements lead the researchers to redevelop the software, generalizing it so that it could be used for any site selection problem.  The redeveloped version, call Geo-Choice-Perspectives, is now being used not only in classrooms at the University of Washington and the University of Idaho, but also in classrooms around the US and in Europe to enhance education in collaborative geographic decision making.  It has been used for transportation, public health, environmental cleanup, and a variety of other complex geographic problems.

Upon completion of the project Professors Jankowski and Nyerges co-authored a book summarizing five years of research about collaborative spatial decision making entitled Geographic Information Systems for Group Decision Making, published by Taylor & Francis in 2001.  The book provides the first comprehensive framework and examples about how GIS is and can be used to support collaborative geographic decision-making.

Multiple stakeholder groups undertaking salmon habitat restoration in the Duwamish Waterway of Seattle Washington (see 1st map) now find it easier to negotiate a consensus about where to develop restoration sites.  This project developed decision support software using geographic information system (GIS) tools to allow groups of people to identify, describe, rank, and then visualize site options.  A new type of “consensus map” was devised to allow groups of people to visualize both the priority of their preferred rankings as well as the consensus status about those priorities (see 2nd map).  The larger the circle the higher the priority; the smaller the circles the lower the priority.  Green circles indicated higher consensus.  Yellow circles indicate medium consensus.  Red circles indicate low consensus.  Since the maps are generated in an interactive manner within the GIS, multiple scenarios can be developed to take into consideration multiple stakeholder views of what might be best for habitat restoration.

During the group-based laboratory experiment in which the software was evaluated, numerous participants, both professional environmental analysts and students, requested access to a version of the software they could use within their own work.  Such encouragements lead the researchers to redevelop the software, generalizing it so that it could be used for any site selection problem.  The redeveloped version, call Geo-Choice-Perspectives, is now being used not only in classrooms at the University of Washington and the University of Idaho, but also in classrooms around the US and in Europe to enhance education in collaborative geographic decision making.  It has been used for transportation, public health, environmental cleanup, and a variety of other complex geographic problems.

Upon completion of the project Professors Jankowski and Nyerges co-authored a book summarizing five years of research about collaborative spatial decision making entitled Geographic Information Systems for Group Decision Making, published by Taylor & Francis in 2001.  The book provides the first comprehensive framework and examples about how GIS is and can be used to support collaborative geographic decision making.

Map of Duwamish Waterway New type of “consensus map”

Doctoral Dissertation Research: Activism and the Cultural Politics of Scale: The Case of the American Indian Movement
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Don Mitchell (PI)
Bruce D’Arcus (co-PI)
Syracuse University
Geography and Regional Science Program

Geographer Bruce D’Arcus, working under the direction of his advisor Don Mitchell, explored geographic issues associated with the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, by American Indian activists.  Specifically, they investigated how then-new media technologies influenced the ways that a range of key actors -- government officials, local tribal government members, and the occupiers themselves -- responded to this significant protest.  D'Arcus' inquiry focused on how the occupiers were able to stage a dramatic protest event in what was a marginal location and how federal representatives responded to such a defiant challenge to their authority.  Drawing on documents from the FBI and other organizations, he found that protests like Wounded Knee present significant challenges for governments to manage, and the way governments choose to manage these acts of political dissent in turn has significant implications for democratic practice.  This research contributes to understanding the relationships between geography, political dissent, and state power.

Map of Wounded Knee

Doctoral Dissertation Research:  Transnational Corporations and Livelihood Transformation in the Peruvian Andes
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Anthony Bebbington
Jeffrey Bury
University of Colorado-Boulder
Geography and Regional Science Program

Under the direction of Anthony Bebbington while working on his doctoral dissertation, Jeffrey Bury investigated how transnational corporations (TNCs) are affecting local livelihoods in the Peruvian Andes.  Specifically, the research evaluated how one company's mining activities have altered household livelihoods in the Cajamarca region of Peru.  By exploring Peruvian archives, conducting interviews with mine employees and other actors, and holding a series of focus groups, Bury and others working with him were able to illustrate how transnational gold mining corporations have radically altered the resources of the region and how livelihoods are being transformed.  Specifically, the project demonstrated that while positive changes can be documented with respect to economic and human capital resources that households use to produce their livelihoods, negative changes have been seen in natural resources and social relations.  The project has generated substantial research training opportunities for both investigators as well as extensive outreach activities.  Dr. Bury trained several Peruvian field researchers and offered guest lectures and workshops at universities in Cajamarca and Lima, Peru.

Three publications have been generated from the research project thus far and more are in the process of being submitted to peer-reviewed journals.  Dr. Bury has accepted a job as an assistant professor at San Francisco State University, and he plans on extending his research in Latin America focusing on livelihood changes and transitions in the region.

Topographical map of Cajamarca Region

Research Area


Mining in the Cajamarca area


Research Interviews and Training

photo - 2 Cows and farmer plowing fields

Livelihoods in the Research Area


Doctoral Dissertation Research: Social Networks and Women's Development Institution in Rural Ghana Back To Top

Barbara Louise Endemaño Walker
University of California Berkeley
Geography and Regional Science Program

Exploring the pivotal role that women fishtraders play in Ghana's small-scale marine fishing industry, Dr. Barbara Louise Endemaño Walker has expanded knowledge about the role of women in the degradation and conservation of marine resources.  While many policy makers assume that fishing practices are controlled by male fishers, Walker's study illustrates that women have tremendous influence in the industry through the processing and marketing of fish and the ownership and financing of fishing equipment such as canoes, nets, and motors.   Data from an ethnographic study of three fishing villages, including more than 150 interviews with fish traders and fishermen, indicate that women make important decisions about when fish are caught and whether or not destructive gear (such as nets with a small mesh size, dynamite, and poisons) is used.  Local social conditions in the context of wider political and economic changes in Ghana, particularly internationally funded development interventions, influence these decisions. Walker recruited Nana Derby (shown conducting an interview), an undergraduate student at the University of Ghana, to assist in the research.  Darby has since come to the United States to pursue a graduate degree.  With the support of this award, Walker completed her dissertation, "Sisterhood and Seine-Nets:  Engendering Development and Conservation in Ghana's Marine Fishery, was recognized as a finalist in the Association of American Geographers' Nystrom dissertation competition.  She also has actively presented and published the results of her research.

photo - Three women   photo - Woman handling fish photo - Women cleaning fish

Doctoral Dissertation Research:  Differential Access to Irrigation Water and Vulnerability to Flood Hazard in the Punjab: An Analysis of Structural Factors Back To Top

Daanish Mustafa
James Wescoat
University of Colorado-Boulder
Geography and Regional Science Program

he Indus basin of Pakistan is home to the largest contiguous surface irrigation system in the world.  Working under the supervision of advisor James Wescoat, Daanish Mustafa, investigated the social and geographical reasons for persistent inequities and inefficiencies in irrigation water distribution and vulnerability to flood hazard in the basin.  Mustafa conducted household-level surveys of water users and flood victims at the local level as well as detailed interviews with water managers in the nation to document an assessment of the impact of differential social power on access to irrigation water and vulnerability to flood hazard.  His study found that the large landowners and tenant farmers are the least affected by irrigation water scarcity, while small farmers are affected the most.  Most flood victims attribute their flood hazard vulnerability to their powerlessness and the machinations of the government bureaucracy.  Mustafa also found that the state further accentuated the social power differentials by neglecting social issues and by emphasizing the pursuit of engineering solutions. His results have furthered understanding of vulnerability and have clear policy implications for resource management in Pakistan and in other regions where water shortages and surpluses are volatile.

photo - Researchers with 3 Pakistanis

Multi-scale Analysis of the Biogeography, Ecology and Genetic Structure of Sand Pine in Florida Back To Top

Kathleen and Albert Parker
University of Georgia
Geography and Regional Science Program

Since the mid-1990s, Kathy and Al Parker have been studying the relationship between disturbance and genetic response in sand pine, a species that dominates scrub environments in Florida.  Tree-ring and allozyme analyses were used to characterize populations throughout the species range both demographically and genetically.  The Parkers'  principal findings underscore the importance of geographic variation in exposure to prevailing disturbance regime (wind vs. fire), which is linked to pronounced contrasts in forest structure and, in turn, to genetic organization within populations at the local scale.  This research emphasizes the need to tailor forest management strategies to local environmental condition rather than blindly applying uniform treatments to different populations of a species across its range.

The Parkers are particularly proud of the educational development of the students supported by this NSF grant.  Four students assisted them in the field and with subsequent data analyses.  An undergraduate supported by an associated REU award is now in the final year of his doctoral work at Penn State.  A Ph.D. student received an NSF doctoral dissertation research improvement award for a related project and is now on the faculty at Colgate University, where she has obtained additional NSF research support to investigate biological invasions.  In addition, two other students successfully completed Masters degrees in conjunction with the project.

photo - Researcher conducting land survey   photo - Large treetops   photo - Researchers measuring trees

Spatial Aspects of Pedogenesis and Soil Organic Carbon in the Great Lakes Region Back To Top

Linda R. Barrett
University of Akron
Geography and Regional Science Program

How long does it take for a soil to form?  How much carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere as a soil develops, and how long does it stay under the ground?  These are among the questions geographer Linda R. Barrett of the University of Akron is investigating as part of activities funded by a Faculty Early-Career Development (CAREER) grant from the NSF.  In order to answer these and related questions, she has identified three unique locations in northern Michigan where geological processes have left an age sequence of sandy soils ranging from just a few years old to 5,000 years old.  Each sequence contains 30 to 50 soils of different ages that function in the study like a freeze-frame "snapshot."  By sampling the soils through the whole range of ages, Dr. Barrett has observed how soil properties changed as the soil developed.  In addition, Dr. Barrett installed samplers for extracting water from the soil at several locations so that she can monitor the chemical qualities of the water that are moving through the soil as it develops.  Information gained from this study should aid scientists studying global warming to understand how these sandy soils remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  

The first image shows Dr. Barrett collecting water samples from a previously installed soil water sampler on a snowy day near Munising in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in April of 2002.

The next image shows a pit dug for describing and sampling soil at a site in the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.  The soil shown has been developing about 1500 years, and has a dark layer of organic matter at the surface, a gray-white zone of leaching below, followed by an orange-brown zone of accumulation.

photo - Dr. Barrett collecting water samplesphoto - A pit dug for describing and sampling soil


The HERO Collaboratory
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Brent Yarnal
Penn State
Geography and Regional Science

Understanding global environmental change in local places cannot happen in isolation.  To build a picture of the local causes and consequences of global change, scientists who study and monitor this problem must share data, methods, and ideas.  The World Wide Web makes it possible for scientists to work collaboratively without leaving their computers.

Researchers working on the Human-Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) project are developing a collaboratory to foster remote collaboration among scientists studying global change in far-flung local places.

Collaboratories use the interconnectivity of the Web to link scientists in near-real to real time.  Collaboratories go beyond e‑mail and instant messengers to include such novel ideas as Web-based videoconferences, electronic Delphi tools for collective discussion and decision-making, shared notebooks and databases, and interactive maps and graphs.

The image here shows HERO investigators holding a meeting.  Although the individuals here are at the central meeting site in Pennsylvania, HERO team members from Kansas, Arizona, and Massachusetts join the discussion through a Web-based videoconference.  This tool makes it possible for scientists from around the world to meet routinely at nominal expense.  The techniques being explored by HERO have greatly facilitated their collaboration, and they demonstrate the utility of this approach for researchers engaged in a broad range of topics.

Photo credit: Chaoqing Yu, Department of Geography, Penn State, 2002

Screenshot of web video conference

Screenshot of web video conferenceScreenshot of web video conferenceScreenshot of web video conference

The Human Dimensions of Reforestation in the Humid Tropics: An Ecuadorian Case Study Back To Top

Thomas Rudel
Rutgers University
Geography and Regional Science Program

Could zones that once were centerpieces of colonization programs in the urbanizing and industrializing countries of Latin America become sites where tropical forest transition sees reforestation become more prevalent than deforestation?  Geographer Thomas Rudel of Rutgers University has addressed this question through a case study of land-use change and migration since 1985 in a long-settled region of the Ecuadorian Amazon.  Data from remotely sensed images, household surveys, and land-use maps of individual farms reveal two distinct patterns of reforestation in the region, one on peripheral lands far from roads and the other on lands close to roads.  Reforestation is more prevalent near roads in part because small landholders of an indigenous Amerindian tribe, the Shaur, have abandoned cattle ranching in order to practice short cycle shifting cultivation of crops for expanding urban and export markets.

This example suggests that tropical forest transitions may differ from earlier temperate forest transitions in that reforestation does not signify land abandonment.  Even as they come to rely more completely on non-farm sources of income, smallholders in developing countries continue to manage their land, reforesting only if it eliminates expenses or promises new streams of income in the near future.

Trans-nationalism and the Salvadoran Migrant Community of New York
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Adrian Bailey
University of Leeds
Richard Wright
Dartmouth College
Ines Miyares
Hunter College
Alison Mountz
University of British Columbia
Geography and Regional Science Program

Salvadorans constitute one of the fastest growing foreign-born populations in the U.S.  Lead by Richard Wright of Dartmouth College and Adrian Bailey of the University of Leeds, a team of researchers studied the heterogeneous Salvadoran community living in northern New Jersey and El Salvador for more than three years.  Through ethnographic approaches, semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and participant observation, the investigators found that many of the Salvadorans had entered (and often remained in) the U.S. as undocumented immigrants and unrecognized refugees struggling to gain political asylum.  This project extended immigration theory by exploring how legal status -- notably the U.S. policy of Temporary Protective Status ‑‑ affected the decision making of Salvadoran migrants and their families.  Analyses of employment patterns, remittance returns, health status, family organization, and settlement ambitions cast doubt on the universality of claims about immigration as a transnational process.  The researchers described the way that many Salvadorans lived their lives as "permanently temporary."

The project enabled the researchers to develop and disseminate a dynamic model of collaborative research that involved researchers of different rank.  Several graduate students used field data that maintained the confidentiality of respondents in their Masters thesis research, and one of these students (Alison Mountz) is completing her doctoral dissertation in geography on a related topic.  The research also spawned an REU project that gave a well-qualified undergraduate (Caroline Kerner--currently completing her graduate work in public health) field experience and ultimately primary authorship responsibility for an article presenting some of the results of the team's work.

A Cross-linguistic Study of Sign Language Classifiers Back To Top

Diane Brentari
Purdue University
Linguistics Program

Dr. Diane Brentari is studying the classifier systems of nine sign languages from three different language families. Classifier systems exist in all known sign languages, but in only some spoken languages. Classifiers refer to certain properties of noun arguments but may be expressed in a variety of grammatical units. For example, they may appear in noun phrases (e.g., "grain" in "a grain of sand" in English) or verb phrases expressing motion or location (e.g., "3-handshape + go_by" in American Sign Language; translation: "A car is going by".  Classifiers in sign languages are typically expressed as handshapes. This research asks whether nine sign languages use similar handshapes to express similar meanings and how each system compares to the set of all languages that contain well-developed classifier systems, both spoken and signed. The relatively young Israeli Sign Language is included to compare to more mature classifier systems. Brentari and a linguist in each language community will collect the data. Elicitation tasks target specific semantic distinctions such as stative/active, agentive/non-agentive, and telic/atelic. Researchers will analyze how each sign language uses the components of the total handshape in its classifier system to express these distinctions.

Three scientific questions motivate this study of sign language classifiers. First, this project will contribute to our knowledge of sign languages by providing cross-linguistic information about a fundamental structure that is not yet well understood. Second, this project will add to our knowledge of morphology and the way that it is expressed, since morphology in sign languages is expressed predominantly by simultaneously organized phonological units rather than by sequentially organized units. Finally, this research will contribute to our understanding of the range of classifier typology in natural languages. In addition to its scientific merit, this project will recruit native-signing Deaf undergraduate students to help analyze data, and so provide an opportunity for these students to engage in first-hand scientific research on their native languages.

      photo - Model car and hand performing sign language

Dictionary of American Regional English
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Joan H. Hall
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Linguistics Program

Dr. Joan Hall and her staff are documenting regional and social variation in American English in the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE).  This project concentrated on entries for Volume IV of DARE (P-Sk), due for publication in 2002. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press has published two previous volumes. DARE is based both on extensive fieldwork conducted in 1,002 communities across the United States between 1965 and 1970, and on a massive collection of written sources (including materials such as diaries, letters, newspapers, novels, folklore collections, government documents, and electronic collections) that document English in this country from the 17th century to the present.  DARE provides full historical treatment of the words, phrases, and pronunciations that vary from one part of this country to another or that characterize the usage of one social group or another. Unique to DARE is the inclusion of maps (adjusted to reflect population density rather than geographic area) showing distributions of words. Though language inevitably changes over time, and though some have predicted a homogenization of American English, DARE makes it clear that regional words and phrases are still very much alive. The dictionary is useful to many: to forensic linguists, who have used it to help identify crime suspects; to physicians, who are not be familiar with folk terms for ailments and diseases; and to psychiatrists and gerontologists who rely on diagnostic tools that ask patients to give the names of everyday objects. The DARE volumes are also widely used by teachers, researchers, librarians, journalists, historians, and playwrights, as well as by readers who simply delight in our American English language.

    Map of 'dropped egg'  Cover of Volume 1

Ethnic, Stylistic, and Perceptual Aspects of the Southern Vowel Shift
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Valerie M. Fridland
University of Nevada, Reno
Linguistics Program

In her research on vowel shifts in Southern dialects of American English, Dr. Valerie Fridland will compare recent changes in Southern vowels to both older Southern speech and contemporary Northern speech. Vocalic positions in Northern and Southern speech are realigning. The resulting systems suggest increasing divergence between the two dialects. Using Memphis as a field site, Fridland's research team is collecting naturally-occurring conversational data and elicited interview data. The acoustic position of vowels in those data will be analyzed and compared to perceptual tests of the same, as well as the attitudinal load associated with changes in individual vowels. By examining the social embedding and the perceptual salience of each shift, this project will assess the internal (regional) and external (national) pressures affecting dialect variation and determine how incoming norms are judged and how they function as displays of local, ethnic, or national identity for speakers. Shared speech norms generally suggest that speakers participate in the same communication networks. Thus, an important part of this research is its documentation of whether both European-Americans and African-Americans participate in the changes, an indication of racial integration in the Memphis area. African-Americans do not appear to participate in the vocalic changes identified in Northern cities, but their role in the changes affecting Southern speech might explain the origin of some changes in the Northern African-American vowel system.

This sociolinguistic project will contribute to the emerging picture of contemporary Southern speech and speech perceptions. This is significant for both education and linguistic theory. First, Southern speech is stereotyped as non-standard nationally. Understanding local norms and the perceptions behind them is crucial to national testing in education. On an applied level then, the research has implications for language specialists and educators concerned with how dialect variation relates to educational and social disadvantages. Second, this survey of changes in contemporary Southern English will document convergence and divergence in dialects and reveal the social motivation of some sound changes. On a theoretical level, the research will provide insight into the mechanisms behind linguistic change, one of the fundamental questions driving sociolinguistic research.

Idiomatic Language:  Multiword Expressions Back To Top

Ivan A. Sag
Stanford University
Linguistics Program

Dr. Ivan Sag will study multiword expressions (MWEs), a problem that must be solved en route to robust and natural language technology. Fixed expressions can be entered into a lexicon as words-with-spaces, but this is inadequate even for cases like 'kicks/kick/kicked/kicking the bucket' ("die") and 'part(s) of speech'. Further, some semi-fixed expressions exhibit positional variation (e.g., 'look up the answer/look the answer up'), while others of equal semantic idiosyncrasy do not (e.g., 'falling off a log/*falling a log off'). Some patterns appear rule-governed but contain unexpected exceptions (e.g., 'call/ring/phone/*telephone someone up'). Decomposable phrasal idioms allow even greater syntactic flexibility: 'Kim pulled the strings that got Pat the job' and 'The strings that had been pulled in order for Pat to get the job were more extraordinary than those pulled to get Chris employed'. Linguistic research has not provided an adequate theory of these diverse phenomena. This project will fill that gap, developing a mathematically precise and computationally tractable theory of various classes of MWEs. The research team will analyze and computationally manipulate corpus data, integrating discrete and frequentistic methods into a hybrid theory of the different kinds of MWEs. The emphases include complex word structures, lexical selection, partially similar grammar rules organized into "construction hierarchies", idiomatic construction rules – a new technique for analyzing constructions where idiomatic expressions may be separated from one another by considerable distance. Compositionally structured, institutionalized phrases like 'traffic light' and 'phone booth' will be treated as purely statistical dependencies. The most recent extraction techniques will be used to develop stochastic constraints and integrate them into fundamentally discrete, constraint-based grammars.

Since there is still no comprehensive account of MWEs, this research will contribute to both basic grammatical theory and our understanding of lexical knowledge. Because the analyses are mathematically precise and implemented with open-source software, the results will be of immediate use for the development of robust language technology in a variety of constraint-based frameworks currently being explored in the field. Natural language processing applications will benefit from the results, including those involving language understanding, language generation, machine translation, and speech-related systems of various kinds (including speech prostheses for individuals with certain disabilities). All such applications involve scaling grammars up; and scaling grammars up to deal with MWEs will necessitate finding the right balance among various analytic techniques. Of special importance will be finding the right balance between symbolic and statistical techniques, a difficult problem whose solution this project's results bear on.

Integration of linguistic knowledge and language processing
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Colin Phillips
University of Maryland, College Park
Linguistics Program

This CAREER award supports Dr. Colin Phillips as he challenges the widespread view of linguistic knowledge and language processing as independent systems of the mind-brain: a declarative grammar, and procedural systems dedicated to specialized tasks. This division is fostered by the typically independent training that students receive in linguistics and psycholinguistics. Phillips investigates the hypothesis that the grammatical component of linguistic knowledge and language processing are products of the same incremental procedural system. If true, this simplifies the architecture of language and closes the gap between linguistics and psycholinguistics. Phillips has developed a program of training for graduate and undergraduate students that provides students with the skills required for active involvement in an integration of these approaches.

The project’s research component has two main foci. In syntactic theory, the project extends the coverage of a model of incremental left-to-right grammar, in which grammatical structures are assembled in the same order as sentences are comprehended and produced. The rest of the research investigates the extent to which human sentence processing is fully incremental, and the syntactic search mechanisms that make this possible, using mainly reading-time measures. A cross-linguistic study of pronoun interpretation compares verb-initial and verb-final constructions, using a probe-recognition measure. Finally, studies using high-density ERP recordings investigate the extent to which electrophysiological measures of the disruption of syntactic parsing reflect the syntactic search processes underlying normal, successful parsing.

Complementing the research program, the project includes an integrated program of training in theoretical and experimental linguistics that emphasizes an active learning approach. Graduate and advanced undergraduate students study experimental linguistics in a laboratory-based course sequence that includes training in experimental design and analyses. Beginning undergraduate students in large enrollment introductory courses use linguistics as a vehicle for developing skills in active research and scientific theory testing, substantially through the use of instructional technology resources.

Investigation and documentation of three endangered languages in China
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Fengxiang Li
Graham Thurgood
California State University at Chico
Linguistics Program

Drs. Fengxiang Li and Graham Thurgood will document three endangered languages in China: Tsat, an Austronesian language of Hainan Province; Anong, a Tibeto-Burman language of Yunnan Province; and Oroqen, a Tungusic language of Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang Province in northeast China. Although these languages are undergoing rapid change because of their close contact with Chinese, they are geographically separated, typologically different, and genetically distinct. Comparison of them is a rare opportunity to study how very different languages change under intense contact, not with a variety of different languages, but with the same language. American scholars will work with Chinese specialists in these languages whose detailed but unpublished records predate the most intense contact and continue to the modern era. Li and Thurgood will translate the existing Chinese descriptions, incorporating new material to fill gaps. In collaboration with Chinese linguists, they will then update analyses based on the data collected in summer fieldwork trips. A comprehensive reference grammar for each language will be produced at the end of the project period.

Three interrelated areas of linguistics are significant in this project: language change, typology, and history. In terms of language change, the project investigates effects of dialectal variation, patterns of bilingualism, intense contact of three distinct languages with the same super-stratum language, and language obsolescence on structural shift. Typological studies are often based on well-known languages. This project will address that imbalance with typological information about minority languages in China. In all three cases, but especially for Anong and Oroqen, this project will provide more accurate assessment of the genetic affiliations within their respective language families. In addition, this documentation is urgent because the speakers of these languages are beginning to disappear and the Chinese linguists who worked on their earlier stages have begun to retire. Every time another language dies, aspects of culture are lost. For example, thousands of years of the history of a people can only be accessed through study of their language. The project also brings American and Chinese linguists together to save part of their mutual heritage.

Language Change Across the Lifespan Back To Top

Gillian Sankoff
University of Pennsylvania
Linguistics Program

Dr. Sankoff studies how language change at the community level relates to stability at the individual level. Her project investigates linguistic change in a community of French speakers, taking advantage of a unique series of tape recordings made between 1971 and 1995. The original corpus consists of tapes and transcripts of 120 native French-speaking Montrealers, stratified by age, sex, and social class. Half the speakers were re-recorded in 1984, and a subset of those were followed through 1995. The project will establish trends at the community level and assess the degree of stability across individual speaker lifespans. Since the speech has already been collected and transcribed, research activities will emphasize quantitative analyses of phonetics, grammar, and lexicon across speakers. Eight different features will be used to track differential malleability of these linguistic subsystems. For example, people might modify their grammars more readily than they do their childhood accents.

This sociolinguistic research will refine the concept of a "critical period" for language learning. This is the maturational period before puberty when children acquire their native languages. For most people, basic linguistic knowledge forms a relatively stable system throughout life. Although people learn new vocabulary across their lifespan, most 50- or 60-year olds are faithful to the sound system and the grammar of the language they learned as children. And yet, languages are constantly changing. To account for how both situations can be true, earlier models of language change emphasized the transmission of linguistic information from adults to children. This research also addresses how language change affects communication, even across generations within the same speech community. Understanding language change as experienced across the lifespans will help to solve the puzzle of how and why people alter their speech, when the ensuing changes affect communication. The project will also address the limits of the possible, in examining the barriers to linguistic remodeling in later life for people who encounter new languages or dialects as adults.

A Genetic Database for Anthropology (Infrastructure Award
) Back To Top

Kenneth Kidd
Yale University
Physical Anthropology Program

The human genome project has provided a surfeit of data on human DNA including not just a reference sequence for the species but increasingly information on the variation in that sequence that makes each human unique. That variation, when examined in specific human populations, carries important information about the histories and demographics of human populations and is important for both physical anthropology and human population genetics.  The NSF has funded development of an online database, ALFRED <>, as a tool to allow ready access to these data for the entire scientific community.  In order to be maximally useful, the database must store information on the exact molecular nature of the DNA variation and the frequencies of the variants in specified human populations.  During the first year of funding, the focus has been on refining the structure of the database, developing tools for the curators to manage the data being extracted from a highly diverse scientific literature, and improving the ways scientists (and students) can search for and display information using the World Wide Web.  The amount of genetic data in the database has doubled to more than 6000 tables; each table contains the frequencies of variants at a specific site in the human genome in a specific, well defined human population.  Efforts are now focusing on entry of more data from the literature.  Currently, ALFRED has tools for accessing the raw allele frequency data and the data can be displayed graphically either as frequencies or as heterozygosities and numerically in different tabular representations.  The data can also be downloaded to the researcher's local computer. To the degree possible ALFRED will either have links to or contain specific laboratory protocols used to type the polymorphisms as well as links to other relevant molecular and genetic databases. ALFRED also contains detailed descriptions of the populations for which genetic data are available and active links over the World Wide Web to other databases containing ethnographic, demographic, and linguistic information on each population. Though still in its developmental phase, ALFRED, is already being accessed by 30 scientists per month.

chart - Average Haplotype Frequencies by Geographic Region for the DM Locus

Collaborative Research: Integrated Primate Biomaterials and Information Resource
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Jeanne Beck
Coriell Institute
Jeanne Altmann (co-PI)
Princeton University

Oliver Ryder
Zoological Society of San Diego
Nathan Flesness (co-PI)
International Species Information System
David Stockwell (collaborator)
San Diego Supercomputer Center

Physical Anthropology Program

A central and essential resource for the myriad of studies concerned with the nature of human cognition and origins, primate social systems, primate evolution, primate biodiversity, conservation, and molecular evolution is a biomaterials collection that makes available to the research community well documented and well characterized cells and DNA from a wide variety of primates.  Recognizing this need, the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) has recently funded the Integrated Primate Biomaterials and Information Resource (IPBIR).  The Resource was created by a partnership of five organizations: Princeton University, the Coriell Institute for Medical Research (Coriell), the Zoological Society of San Diego (ZSSD), International Species Information System (ISIS), and the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC).  The purpose of the IPBIR is to assemble, characterize, and distribute high-quality biomaterials from animals of know provenance with accompanying demographic, geographic, and behavioral information in order to stimulate and facilitate research in primate genetic diversity and evolution, comparative genomics, and population genetics. The collection will include species from each genus of the order Primates with each species being represented by at least one male and one female and numerous samples from a few species for the study of genetic variability and to support developmental studies.  Tissues have been obtained from both captive and wild animals and these have been used for the establishment of many types of cell lines, including those derived from blood, skin, brain, and fat.  Where possible adult stem cells have been isolated and cultured in vitro since these cells may be capable of differentiating into many different types of cells under the appropriate growth conditions. The samples will be distributed openly by the Coriell Institute to the broad scientific community which agrees to restrict use to non-commercial purposes.  IPBIR has the great potential for enhancing our understanding of the genetic diversity and evolutionary relationships within and among species of primates.  This is particularly important as most primates are highly endangered and such efforts will aid in conservation.  The resource also is making significant strides towards enhancing the development of scientific infrastructure in countries that are home to nonhuman primates.

photo - Western lowland gorilla fibroblasts

Text Box: Fibroblasts from a four year old female Western lowland gorilla grown in Minimum Essential Medium (Eagle) Alpha Modification with 10% uninactivated fetal bovine serum (passage 10)

Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: Genetic Transposition of Baboon Endogenous Virus (BaEV) in Hybrid Old World Monkeys (Primates: Papionini) Back To Top

Clifford J. Jolly
Todd R. Disotell
Monica Uddin
New York University
Physical Anthropology Program

The purpose of this project was to investigate the relationship between transposable element (TE) activity and reproductive isolation by testing a graded series of hybrids in the Old World monkey (OWM) papionin group while assisting in the support of doctoral research by a promising female scientist, Monica Uddin. 

TEs are small (100-10 kb bp) genetic elements that have retained their ability to move about, or transpose, within genomes.  Higher rates of transposition occur when genomes are subjected to stressful conditions, including hybridization events between individuals from genetically distinct populations.  The specific, NSF-supported goals of the thesis were 1) to test for evidence of a correlation between amplification of a particular TE, baboon endogenous virus (BaEV), and hybrid fertility in the genomes of hybrid papionins; and 2) to determine the degree to which amplification increases with increased evolutionary distance between parental taxa.  Samples included: fertile hybrids between the closely related baboon species Papio hamadryas and P. anubis from a natural population in the Awash National Park (ANP), Ethiopia (N=79); a fertile female hybrid gelada (Theropithecus gelada) x hamadryas (P. hamadryas) and a sterile male hybrid of the same cross; and a sterile male macaque (Macaca mulatta ) x hamadryas (P. hamadryas) hybrid.  Non-admixed individuals (N=69) were also tested to determine BaEV copy number prior to possible amplification.  A combination of  PCR techniques were used to collect data from this graded series of OWM hybrids, and results were combined with previously collected BaEV sequence data to determine the extent of BaEV variation in a natural primate population.  The findings should contribute to an initial assessment of the evolutionary significance of TE activity in mammalian hybrids, enabling us to infer at what point hybrid recombination ceases to be a potential site of reproductive isolation and, possibly, speciation.

Although this project has yet to be completed, significant progress has been made toward the overall goal of obtaining an improved dissertation.  NSF funding of this project has enabled the training of the student in areas that extend beyond the classic boundaries of anthropology.  The research areas investigated with the assistance of this grant—transposable elements, speciation, primate evolution, to name a few—have provide expertise in areas that will become the basis of her future work as a scientist.  According to Uddin "the most valuable aspect of the project, however, has been the opportunity I have had to conceive of and execute a non-traditional thesis; the experience has been pivotal to my training as a scientist and will undoubtedly serve me well in my future career."

Field Research in the Middle Awash Valley, Ethiopia
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Tim White
University of California, Berkeley
Physical Anthropology Program

A fossilized skullcap discovered by the NSF-funded Middle Awash research project in the Afar desert of Ethiopia was announced in the March 21st, 2002 cover story of Nature.  The skullcap, found by Berkeley graduate student Henry Gilbert, represents the latest clue in efforts to decipher the evolutionary role of Homo erectus, a species whose remains were first found in Java more than a century ago. 

The Middle Awash project has found several other important hominid fossils, but the team’s latest research revealed the skullcap, leg bones from the same early human, as well as abundant stone tools.  Project geologists established that the sediments embedding the antiquities were deposited one million years ago.

At one million years old, and placed geographically in Africa’s Horn, the hominid fossils were perfectly positioned in space and time to solve a major research problem that has confounded researchers attempting to understand the evolutionary relationships of different early hominids.  Homo erectus originated around two million years ago in a yet-unknown region.  Once Homo erectus had originated, its way of life allowed it to spread widely and invade new habitats.

The new Ethiopian fossils, the most complete evidence of Homo erectus in that country, are very similar to other African, Asian, and European contemporaries.  The team’s analysis of the new fossil skullcap showed that it is impossible to cleanly segregate Homo erectus crania from different continents.  According to Professor Tim White of U.C. Berkeley, the analysis showed that as of one million years ago, Homo erectus was probably a single species with gene flow across its known range from Java to Italy to Ethiopia.  Like other widespread large mammals such as the tiger, Homo erectus was a species that comprised local populations (demes) that differed slightly, but gene flow among them prevented subsequent species-level splitting.

The international team noted that it is possible that the global effects of the major Pleistocene glaciations (the “Ice Ages”) that began about 950,000 years ago played a critical role in splitting this once-widespread ancestral species into Asian and Afro-European branches.  After the split, the western branch appears to have led to Homo sapiens in Africa and Neanderthals in Europe.  In Africa, the new Ethiopian fossils complete an evolutionary sequence between 1.8 and 0.6 million years ago.  Indeed, the Middle Awash research area, with a record now spanning the last six million years (three times longer than at the famous Olduvai Gorge), has already yielded the world’s most impressive succession of human ancestors.  The research team is confident that ongoing work there will continue to allow a deeper understanding of human origins and evolution.

The diagram shows the inferred relationships between the new Ethiopian fossil hominids from Daka and other sets of fossils across the Old World.  The circles indicate “paleo-demes” for which fossil evidence has been recovered.  Demes are local populations within a species.

diagram - inferred relationships

Advanced Training Institute in Social Psychology: Using the Internet to Conduct Experiments
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Michael Birnbaum
California State University, Fullerton
Social Psychology Program

his Advanced Training Institute provides training on the new methods and techniques by which social psychological research can be conducted via the internet. The internet allows for rapid collection of large samples of data with minimal costs associated with printing, mailing, testing, lab space, lab assistants, and data coding/entry. The Internet can also be used as a device for recruiting participants from different cultures or participants who have special characteristics that might be rare in the world's population. The first training institute was held at California State University, Fullerton in January, 2002. It included a team of six instructors, and 15 participants, who spent four days studying methodological issues associated with using the internet to conduct experiments and learning how to use software tools to assemble such experiments. The Institute will continue to offer the same course of training on an annual basis, and maintains a web site ( for course materials, software resources, useful links, and archives.

CAREER: Stereotype Threat Back To Top

Joshua Aronson
New York University
Social Psychology Program

t has been documented that African Americans and Latinos do not perform as well as Whites on standardized tests and in school. Explanations for this problem typically point to economic, cultural, and educational factors, and sometimes even to group differences in intelligence. However, these factors do not fully account for the observed differences because the differences persist even when students of different ethnicities are equated in their preparation, skill, and socioeconomic status. Other factors must be involved. The PI has documented the influence of a powerful psychological factor operating in academic and testing situations. This factor -- stereotype threat -- is an apprehension about confirming widely-held stereotypes alleging the academic inferiority of certain people (e.g., Blacks, Latinos) or of certain people in specific situations (e.g., women in mathematics domains). Stereotype threat can arise any time a negative stereotype is relevant or pertains to an academic or achievement setting (e.g., taking an intelligence test, being called upon in class). Research supported by this CAREER award aims to develop methods that can reduce or eliminate the negative consequences of stereotype threat.

In a report published in the March, 2002 issue of Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, the PI reported a successful method for helping students resist these responses to stereotype threat. Students in the experiment were encouraged to see intelligence -- the object of the stereotype -- as a malleable rather than a fixed capacity. This mind-set was expected to make students' performances less vulnerable to stereotype threat and help them to maintain their psychological engagement with academics, both of which could help boost their college grades. Results were consistent with this hypothesis. The African American students (and, to some degree, the White students) encouraged to view intelligence as malleable reported greater enjoyment of the academic process, they showed signs of greater academic engagement, and they obtained higher grade point averages than their counterparts in two control groups.

Individual Differences in Emotion Discrimination Back To Top

Lisa Feldman-Barrett
Boston College
Social Psychology Program

A powerful methodology in the study of social behavior is called experience sampling. The idea is to query people as they go about their daily lives, without having to bring them into the laboratory. The challenge with this methodology is having the tools with which data can be collected and managed in the field. Taking advantage of the recent availability of small, palm-sized computers, the PI developed a software package to accomplish experience sampling. The package – called ESP (Experience Sampling Program) – is distributed free of charge from the PI’s website. The software runs on handheld computers running either the Palm or Windows CE operating systems. It allows the experimenter to program questions, and it records answers (including the participant’s response time). The data can then be downloaded in the laboratory at the conclusion of the study. Thanks to the PI’s investment in developing this tool (with a grant supplement) many researchers have been spared the cost and time of developing similar software. In addition, it helps to introduce some standardization and sharing of resources within this research community.

photo - Palm Pilot    
Callout - Palm Pilot Screen:  "How happy are you feeling right now?"  


PECASE: Rethinking the Value of Choice: Considering Cultural, Individual, and Situational Mediators of Intrinsic Motivation Back To Top

Sheena S. Iyengar
Columbia University
Social Psychology Program

Conventional wisdom and decades of research in American psychology have suggested a link between the provision of choice and intrinsic motivation, which in turn has been correlated with numerous psychological benefits, including better performance and higher levels of satisfaction. Conversely, the absence of choice has been shown to detrimentally affect intrinsic motivation and performance. So ingrained is the assumption that people will find choice intrinsically motivating, that psychologists have rarely paused to examine the more general applicability of these findings. Rarely have circumstances been considered in which the provision of choice(s) may not be intrinsically motivating. Considered even less, is the possibility that having others make the choice may, in certain contexts, inspire greater intrinsic motivation and increased commitment to the chosen activity. Moreover, it has been implicitly presumed that the phenomena demonstrated in laboratory experiments with primarily European American participants will generalize cross-culturally. This research explores the mediating mechanisms underlying the relationship between choice and intrinsic motivation.

The relevance of this research can be observed across a wide array of choice-making settings. In organizational settings, this research examines the way correlates of employee motivation and performance vary across culture and vary across their choice-making perceptions and goals. Financial 401k decisions may be influenced by choosers' perceptions of their choice-making goal in that people striving to identify the personally most optimal 401k retirement plan option may actually prefer to opt out of the choice-making process, even when doing so is sub-optimal. Similarly, interviewees perceiving employment options as involving the identification of the personally most optimal preference may in the choosing process examine more options, and yet experience greater dissatisfaction resulting in reduced tenure in their jobs of choice, as compared to interviewees searching for the employment choice which enables them to fulfill their obligations to others. The research takes place in corporate, consumer, financial, and job interview contexts in addition to laboratory settings, and therefore enriches a theoretical understanding of choosers responses to various choice-making contexts and provides better information about important aspects of choice in complex real-world settings.

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