1. Effects of in-vehicle assistive technologies on older drivers’ performance and safety.

    P.I. Dr. Mustapha Mouloua

    Professor and Director of the Applied Human Factors and Cognitive Psychology Doctoral program (from 2006 to 2017)

    Driving is important to the quality of life and independence of older adults.  However, driving is a very complex task that requires the precise coordination of perceptual, cognitive, and motor processes (Mouloua et al., 2004; Smither et al., 2004; Walker et al., 2001).  Our population is aging at an unprecedented rate and, at the same time, more telematics devices are being introduced into new vehicles. According to AAA reports, 10,000 people reach the age of 60 every day, and this significant number will likely continue to increase over the next few decades (AAA, 2013).  In addition, the elderly drivers are also prone to car accidents and crashes because of the various physical, psychological, and physiological declines that accompany both normal and abnormal aging and impact driving abilities (Mouloua, Smither, and Hancock, 2004; Smither, Mouloua, and Hancock, 2004).   A recent government report indicated that 6,165 people age 65 and older were killed in traffic crashes in 2015, which represents 18 percent of all Americans killed on the road for 2015 (NHTSA, 2017). This significant number will likely continue to increase over the next few years as more in-vehicle devices become readily available to elderly drivers (Eby, Molnar, Zhang, St. Louis, Zanier, & Kotstynuik, 2015). Thus, it is crucial to systematically examine the effects of in-vehicle devices on older driver performance and workload. Because older adults suffer from age-related declines in cognitive (e.g., Mouloua et al., 2004), perceptual (e.g., Smither et al., 2009), and physical (e.g., Smither et al., 2004) processes, these declines could impact how effective a given in-vehicle device is in improving driving safety.  On the one hand, an in-vehicle device that may only be marginally useful for a younger adult might provide great benefits for the older adult driver (perhaps by decreasing the need for large head movements).  On the other hand, an in-vehicle device that produces large benefits for younger adults might actually engender some performance cost to the elderly driver (perhaps due to the increased cognitive demands related to monitoring a device). That is, these may impose a disproportionate increase in cognitive demands on an older driver and ultimately undermine driving safety. Older drivers appear to be more involved in traffic accidents because advanced age is associated with functional declines in sensory and perceptual processing and in motor and cognitive abilities (Mouloua, Smither and Hancock, 2004; Smither, Mouloua, and Hancock, 2004; Rinalducci, Smither, & Bowers, 1993). And, traffic crashes caused by elderly drivers have been attributed to neglect or inattention to relevant information from road signs and from other cars and pedestrians (Ponds, Brouwer, & Wolffelaar, 1988). This is relevant because driver distraction crashes also seem to stem from the lack of attention to important information and/or events in the driving environment.  One would then predict that telematic devices would diminish the driving performance of elderly drivers even more than younger ones. Based on our understanding of relevant age-related declines and on our current knowledge of the impact of telematics on safe driving, it is important that more research be conducted so that we can begin to understand and evaluate the damaging effects of telematics on older driver workload and performance. The goal of this proposal is to systematically examine the impact of in-vehicle technologies on driving performance across the lifespan.  This will be accomplished by examining the effects of selected in-vehicle devices on older drivers.  Such devices may include “OnStar,” cell phones, entertainment systems, electronic moving maps, back up and blind spots cameras, and global positioning systems (GPS).  It is important to note that much recent advancement in in-vehicle technology have been aimed toward improving safety.  For example, back-up and blind spots cameras have been identified as a potential tool for reducing backing or lane switching crashes by providing drivers with an unencumbered view of the rear or side vehicle environment over a fairly broad distance.  However, these systems also require active monitoring by the driver in order to be effective (NHTSA, 2006); if a driver does not look at the camera feed, the tool is useless.  On the flip-side of the coin, if a driver is monitoring the camera feed then their attention is largely diverted from activity occurring in the front of the vehicle, and this might be particularly problematic for older adults.


    1. Applied research in category learning and use

    Mentor: Corey Bohil, Associate Professor and Senior Personnel

    Project 1 – Cybersecurity: human classification of spam emails 

    The objective of this project is to understand how e-mail users are able to classify messages as either legitimate or spam or as safe/unsafe.  Participants will be presented with a large number of e-mail messages to be classified, sorted and rated along many dimensions.  We will use a variety of statistical methods to understand regularities in the psychological representation for email messages.  The findings should have implications for training people from different age groups and levels of experience in the avoidance of potentially dangerous mistakes related to e-mail messages.

    Project 2 – Perception of cancer radiographs  

    The objective of this research is to gain understanding of how cancer radiographs are perceived and classified (e.g., tumor/non-tumor).  We plan to present x-ray images to novices and experts, and to analyze their performance using a mathematical model (multidimensional signal detection analysis) of the interaction between perceptual dimensions.  This research will help us understand a) which perceptual dimensions or features are most critical do diagnosing cancer x-rays, b) how those dimensions interact, c) the relationship between what we perceive and our decision making process, and d) how these factors change with experience.

    Project 3 – Cognitive neuroscience: Brain activity during category learning 

    The objective of this project is to understand the contribution of distinct brain systems specialized for explicit or implicit understanding to the learning of classification rules.  Participants will learn to categorize simple perceptual stimuli under a variety of conditions related to category discriminability, rule complexity, age, and level of distraction (to name a few).  We measure cortical blood flow using functional near infrared spectroscopy to gain insight into these manipulations on brain activity.  The results will have implications for theories of category learning, and could also inform the design of future training systems by underscoring the need to distinguish between explicit and implicit learning, and the importance of matching training feedback to the learning system primarily engaged by the task.


    1. Neurobehavioral bases of Visual cognition and search Perfornce

    Mentor: Joe Schmidt, Assistant Professor and Senior Personnel

    The Attention and Memory Lab is focused on the interactive and often reciprocal nature of memory, and attentional processes. To guide attention throughout the world in a goal directed way, we must maintain a mental representation of items we wish to find. This mental representation is subsequently matched to items in peripheral vision. One aspect of the lab investigates this interactive process from a multitude of theoretical and methodological directions by integrating eye tracking with event-related potentials (ERPs). By better understanding how memory representations interact with attentional processes, we hope to gain insights into how these processes are integrated into our broader cognitive function.  Real-world search tasks, such as finding your car in a parking lot, radiographic examination, TSA baggage screening, camouflage search, and satellite image analysis vary in their search circumstance, including target prevalence, time pressure, search difficulty, and consistency of the target. One large determinant of search performance is the target representation Also, recent evidence suggests that under situations of high reward or time pressure, healthy young participants more completely utilize both memory systems to maintain the target representation. This suggests that the utility of the target representation changes with the search circumstance. We will investigate how the joint target representation and the utility of the representation might change with the given search circumstance; does a visual working memory, long term memory, or a joint representation result in improved search performance across various circumstances? This work is critical for understanding how to train human searchers in a range of environments, including radiographic examination, baggage screening and camouflage search. This work will also inform computational and neural models of search that typically posit a single static target representation, unaltered by circumstance.  An example project from this line of work will utilize ERP and eye tracking to characterize the neural and performance changes that occur to the target representation with repetition of the target category. Pervious work has shown that repeatedly searching for the same target results in a reduced reliance on visual working memory and increased access to long term memory. We hypothesize that the same trade-off of memory systems will occur when searching for a consistent target category (a specific type tumor or any teddy bear). This pattern could exist due to visual similarity between consecutive targets or an increased reliance on categorical target representation.

    1. Training for Vigilance Using a Video Game Environment

    Mentor: James Szalma, Associate Professor and Senior Personnel

    Vigilance, the requirement to monitor a display or an environment over prolonged periods on watch represents a significant challenge to operational performance and a potential threat to mission success. Failures of sustained attention have been identified in a variety of military and civilian domains, including aviation, medicine, baggage screening, cybersecurity, and the detection of improvised explosive devices (IEDs;). Over 70 years of research on vigilance has established humans are ill-suited for such monotonous tasks (), which is reflected in the decline in detections with time on watch (the vigilance decrement;). In addition, there is ample evidence that tasks requiring vigilance impose considerable workload and stress on those who must perform them (. Even in cases in which performance is maintained over the course of a vigil there is high perceived workload and stress (, and such conditions increase operator vulnerability to performance failures. Given the importance of sustained attention for threat detection and mission success, it is essential that methodologies for training vigilance be developed and improved for maximum impact on soldier performance.  The purpose for the proposed work is to programmatically examine the structural and energetic factors that may be affected by knowledge of results (KR) training, and to further investigate these issues in the context of a new vigilance task paradigm that emerged from a previous development of a video game-based vigilance task. The goals are to improve our understanding of how KR training improves performance and to use this knowledge to identify modifications to the training module that would improve its effectiveness. A video game-based vigilance task using Virtual Battlespace 2 (VBS2) as a platform was developed by Szalma et al. (2014), and the effectiveness of KR training for feedback has been empirically validated for the movement-based vigilance task (). This existing task would be adapted for the proposed research, and would comprise the sensory vigilance task. The initial phase of the proposed research would be devoted to developing a ‘cognitive’ vigilance task in VBS2, in which the discrimination between targets and non-targets requires symbol manipulation. We will then conduct experiments to test the effectiveness of KR training for improving detection performance.  The proposed work is innovative in that 1) it utilizes and extends a recently developed first-person perspective, movement-based vigilance task using VBS2 as the platform; and 2) it systematically investigates which task elements are modified by KR training and it thus furthers our understanding of both sustained attention and the mechanisms by which performance can be modified using feedback-based training methods.

    1. The relationships between cerebrovascular burden (CVB), cognition, brain activity, mood, and sleep among older adults.

    Mentor: Daniel Paulson, Assistant Professor and Senior Personnel

    High cerebrovascular burden (CVB), characterized by poorly-controlled diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and cardiac disease, adversely affects the health and functioning of delicate cerebrovasculature throughout the body. Among older adults, high CVB is associated with white matter disease in the central nervous system. As the neurological effects of CVB accumulate, older adults enter an adverse clinical trajectory characterized by depression (termed vascular depression), cognitive impairment (eventually leading to vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other dementias), frailty, and a shortened remaining lifespan. Memory specificity, like rumination, is associated with both depression and executive functioning. However, it is not known how CVB relates to either rumination or memory specificity.  The proposed research will accomplish several key objectives. We hope to extend the principal investigator’s past research examining how CVB predicts geriatric mood disorders by investigating the role of circumscribed aspects of depression such as memory specificity and rumination in the development and maintenance of late life depression. It will also enable the comparison of several key indices of frailty, which addresses an important methodological question that has not been adequately evaluated. Finally, it will examine sleep as both a late life outcome of high CVB and also a mediator of CVB-related geriatric syndromes including vascular depression, cognitive decline, and frailty. Results of the proposed research are expected to 1) inform the development of novel interventions for the treatment of geriatric mood disorders, 2) inform the measurement and conceptualization of frailty, and 3) integrate sleep quality into developing models of late-life decline. Training Goals: In addition to being trained on the complex data management required for the described research (integrates Eprime, Qualtrics, paper-and-pencil data), undergraduate research assistants will be trained in the use and functionality of functional near infared spectroscopy (fNIRs). In combination, these research skills will prepare UCF undergraduates working in the OLDeR Lab for graduate training in clinical psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and related disciplines.

    1. Understanding Basic Attentional and Cognitive Mechanisms to Improve Human Performance

    Mentor: Mark Neider, Associate Professor and Senior Personnel

    The Applied Cognition and Aging Laboratory investigates a broad range of questions intended to advance both the theoretical understanding of human cognition across the lifespan and augment human performance on tasks people typically engage in on a daily basis.   At the core of our program of research is the premise that attentional mechanisms play an important role in the execution of most complex behavior. Similarly, my lab is focused on identifying the cognitive correlates of behavior in real world tasks. For example, the cognitive processes related to higher order planning, inhibition, and attentional selection, commonly referred to as executive functions, are what separate humans from lower order mammals. As a researcher, one of my primary interests is the extent to which individual differences in measures characterizing executive function can be used as predictors of real world task performance, and whether executive processes on the whole are malleable via training. Consistent with this idea, we also explore ways in which performance on everyday tasks across a variety of settings can be improved, either through training or technology integration. These projects are often multimodal in that they involve a number of different experimental techniques, including traditional manual measures (e.g., error and response time data), biological measures (e.g., functional near-infrared spectroscopy, eye movements), and simulated environments (e.g., virtual reality, driving simulation). Critically, this would allow REU program participants the opportunity to learn a number of cutting edge techniques in areas that might be of interest to them.  Currently, there are a number of lines of research in the lab that integrate engineering, human behavior, and health sciences that REU participants might choose to contribute to depending on their interest. These ongoing studies include a novel intervention to improve touch-screen interface performance in older adults, a series of experiments characterizing the potential benefits and costs associated with heads-up-displays in non-aviation contexts (e.g., driving), studies exploring ways in which human computer interaction can be improved with redundancy of information using Google Glass, longitudinal training studies developing novel ways for improving detection of concealed targets, and many others.

    1. The relationships between work (i.e., quality, conditions, organization of work), well-being, and employee behavior. 

    Mentor: Mindy Shoss, Associate Professor and Senior Personnel

    The Work Stress in Context (WSC) Lab takes a psychological approach to understanding the relationships between work (i.e., quality, conditions, organization of work), well-being, and employee behavior.   The first line of research within this overall program examines employee behavioral risks (e.g., sabotage, theft, production deviance) as reactions to threats to well-being in the workplace. At the core of our research is the idea that misdeeds are less committed by bad actors, but instead represent a set of coping reactions stimulated by deleterious circumstances. Utilizing a variety of different study designs, our research has elucidated circumstances that stimulate these behaviors, decision-making process underlying them, and the impact of personality and past behavior patterns. Our research has also identified potential positive individual, interpersonal, and organizational outcomes that can serve to reinforce these behaviors (e.g., affect regulation, revenge, achieving performance goals, fitting in). Current projects continue to build on a coping model as explanation for these behaviors, and apply this model to specific challenges such as insider cybersecurity threats.  The second line of research concerns the changing nature of work, in particular the ways that employees react and adapt to uncertainty and change within their jobs as well as within their careers more broadly. Our research in this area has sought to identify factors that impact individuals’ success in novel, uncertain, and changing environments. Other work examines causes and consequences of job insecurity following a new theoretical model of job insecurity published by Dr. Shoss. Current projects are aimed towards building a person-centric model of future-oriented uncertainty and adaptation over time.  Students involved in the REU program would have the opportunity to be involved with both lines of research. Current projects will expose students to a variety of study designs, including experimental, survey, and archival research. Students would have the opportunity to participate in on-going projects or develop their own related projects related to the research described above. Given that work in the WSC lab utilizes advanced statistical methodologies that include multilevel and structural equation modeling, students will have the opportunity to learn these advanced techniques.

    8  The impact of memory dependence and emotional information on age differences in neural processing and behavioral biases during our consumer judgment task

     Mentor: Nichole Lighthall, Assistant Professor and Senior Personnel

    Research Objective: Many consumer decisions are influenced by emotional information. Advertising agencies exploit this fact – infusing emotions into their marketing campaigns to make their ads convincing and memorable. Indeed, memory plays a central role in consumer choice, as consumer decisions often involve multiple exposures to products and their ads over time. Emotion may also interact with memory in determining judgment bias, such as when choice options are associated with both positive and negative past experiences but these experiences were not encoded equally.   Despite the fact that everyday consumer decisions involve both memory and emotion, little is known about how the neural correlates of these processing systems interact and affect decision behavior. The proposed research will address this gap by examining behavioral and neural predictors of memory-related decision bias using a novel functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) consumer judgment paradigm.  One prediction is that greater activation in “deliberative” vs. “automatic” brain regions during information integration and subsequent judgments will be associated with less emotion-related judgment bias.. However, when participants cannot recall all of the information about a consumer product, decision performance may benefit more from engagement of the automatic system. Further, if explicit memory for attributes is incomplete, engagement of the deliberative system could enhance judgment bias as participants will not have the necessary explicit memory for an optimal deliberation.  This study will also examine changes to consumer judgment processing in healthy aging. The brain regions associated deliberative processing appear to show more age-related decline than the regions associated with emotion processing.4 The proposed study will examine the impact of memory dependence and emotional information on age differences in neural processing and behavioral biases during our consumer judgment task. In sum, the proposed study will help us understand how characteristics of decision contexts and age-related changes to brain function may affect everyday decision making across adulthood.  Training Goals: Undergraduate research assistants will be trained in behavioral and brain imaging research with younger and older adults including use of neuropsychological testing, questionnaires, computer-based tasks, as well as structural (MRI) and functional (fMRI) data collection and analysis. Students will also participate in lab meetings with the PI, graduate students, and undergraduate research assistants including presenting research progress/findings on their assigned project and leading discussions of recent empirical papers that are relevant to the lab’s research.


    1. Personality traits related to motivation and reward processing.

    Mentor: Jeffrey S. Bedwell, Associate Professor and Senior Personnel

    While the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines anhedonia as a unitary construct of “decreased interest and pleasure in most activities most of the day” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013), recent advances in affective neuroscience suggest three distinct subtypes of anhedonia. These subtypes emerged from the drug abuse literature in relation to the reward constructs of wanting, liking, and learning (Robinson & Berridge, 1993), and were more recently applied to describe analogous subtypes of motivational, consummatory, and decisional anhedonia (Treadway & Zald, 2011). Anhedonia is a transdiagnostic symptom found across many different psychiatric disorders (Bedwell et al., 2014; Shankman et al., 2014), and is particularly resistant to current treatments (McCabe et al., 2010; Vittengl et al., 2015). Our overarching goal is to increase the scientific understanding of the three subtypes of motivational, consummatory, and decisional anhedonia. One aspect that has not been adequately addressed in the literature is the degree to which these three subtypes are independent in severity within individuals. In addition, little is known about how these three subtypes overlap with particular dimensions of psychopathology (e.g., anxiety, depression, mania). Finally, as these subtypes of anhedonia appear dimensional, it would be informative to examine their respective relationships with the five-factor model of personality, particularly as this model is likely to be adopted for broad clinical use (Trull & Widiger, 2013). The hope is that a better understanding of the etiology and pathology related to the distinct subtypes of anhedonia will lead to more effective targeted treatments for this treatment-resistant and transdiagnostic symptom.  We are currently collecting pilot data on this topic using three validated cognitive tasks that correspond to the three anhedonia subtypes and relating to various measures of personality and psychopathology in an undergraduate sample. I plan to use this preliminary data in a grant proposal to examine the same topic in a community sample which will include individuals with psychiatric disorders in which anhedonia is a common symptom, along with nonpsychiatric participants.


    1. Stress, Health, and Anxiety Research Lab

    Mentor: Amie Newins, Assistant Professor and Senior Personnel

    Despite federal mandates that universities provide sexual assault risk reduction programming (Clery Act, 2008; Institutional security policies and statistics, 2009), rates of sexual assault have remained fairly stable over time (). Furthermore, survivors of sexual assault are at increased risk of future victimization (i.e., rates of revictimization are high;.. An ecological model of revictimization has been proposed, and based on this model, the microsystem includes the risk factors that are most proximal and potentially amenable to change. While prospective studies have begun to identify potential mediators (), research assessing these constructs with more precision and closer proximity to risk is needed. Given the high prevalence of revictimization, the identification of proximal, modifiable risk factors for revictimization is needed to inform risk reduction programming.  To develop a model of proximal risk factors for sexual revictimization, we will collect data using ecological momentary assessment (EMA). Collegiate women who have experienced a previous sexual assault will report on multiple previously identified risk factors for sexual assault (i.e., social anxiety, PTSD symptoms, substance use, emotion regulation, risky sexual behaviors) at least twice per day during the assessment period. Time-lagged hierarchical linear models will be used to examine the temporal relationships between various risk factors and risky sexual behaviors.  Once proximal, modifiable risk factors for sexual revictimization, risk reduction programming can be designed to target these specific risk factors. Furthermore, by examining temporal chains, risk reduction programs will have the opportunity to provide strategies for reducing risk at multiple steps in the chain, which may increase the likelihood that women can intervene before being at risk. An undergraduate research assistant will assist with identifying eligible participants at the pre-screening stage, contacting eligible participants, obtaining informed consent, instructing participants on the use of the EMA device, providing debriefing information, entering data, analyzing data, and submitting conference presentations. This opportunity will provide the undergraduate student with hands-on experience in the conduct of research. Specifically, they will have the opportunity to see how what they have learned in their courses about research design and the ethical and responsible conduct of research applies to a research study in psychology. The undergraduate student will also learn about the use of mobile health technology (i.e., mHealth technology) for research and assessment purposes. Furthermore, the student will have the opportunity to submit a poster or paper presentation to a regional or national conference in order to gain experience in the presentation of research results.