OMG or GMO – To Vax or Not to Vax: A Fuzzy Trace Theory Approach to Risk Perception

Worksite Location
The intern will be in residence in Ithaca and will coordinate with CCE of Tompkins County to develop local program delivery sites.
Project Dates
May 15 - August 14, 2020
Faculty Sponsor
Valerie Reyna, Human Development Professor and Department Extension Leader
Field Mentors/Supervisors
Lara Parrilla of CCE-Tompkins County
Project Summary and Intended Outcomes

Cooperative Extension educates the public more about food safety than any other organization and their educators work to improve public awareness of quality, safe, and affordable agricultural products. However, efforts to expand awareness, acceptance and adoption of foods grown and/or processed with modern food safety technology, often face consumer apprehension and resistance. Our research aims to show how differences in information representation can alter perception, understanding, and acceptance of modern foods grown and/or treated by modern food safety technologies, including pasteurized and unpasteurized dairy and genetically engineered (GMO) foods. Understanding factors that influence decision-making processes in assessing potential risks for a given food will result in more effective economic decision-making for food purchases, increased skills and knowledge for healthy, accessible, and affordable food choices that assure greater food security. We have been studying how people perceive vaccination risk and we want to compare these perceptions to risk perceptions of GMO foods. The intern will help us develop a survey, recruit community groups and give them a survey measuring memory for presented information and other knowledge and attitude tests, plus fuzzy trace theory concepts. Also, the intern will work with our CCE partner to identify community engagement strategies for our outreach goals.

Roles and Responsibilities

The intern will work closely with Dr. Reyna’s research team as well as with CCE staff. Responsibilities will include, but are not limited to: planning, research on interventions, research on survey design and delivery methodology, and pilot teaching the intervention.

Qualifications and Previous Coursework

The preferred candidate will demonstrate a high level of enthusiasm for Dr. Reyna’s research in memory across the life span and adolescent risky decision making, as well as for applying this research in outreach and educational settings, including working with youth. The candidate will also have completed general coursework in at least one of the following: Human Development; Psychology; Human Biology, Health and Society; Neurobiology; or related fields. The candidate should be in excellent academic standing.

Benefits and Skills

The intern will have the opportunity to gain skills in program development, translation and application of research to real-world problems, working with and through others, and translating research into outreach and educational materials, and youth development programming. They will also have the opportunity to gain knowledge of psychology and related behavioral sciences, public health and issues in education.