Xi Shen’s postdoctoral project is part of a new Zuckerman joint track in which part of her research is being conducted in collaboration with her doctoral advisor at Yale University, and part in the Psychology Department & The Center for the Study of Rationality at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her topic, improving scientific understanding of self-control, examines the enormous psychological and financial costs of failure. Using academic success as an example of a desirable end-goal, she investigates factors that make people more likely to succeed, despite the tedium or unpleasantness of behaviors (i.e., “means”) needed to attain their goal.
Dr. Shen uses the Implicit Association Test (IAT) and other measures on student subjects from both Hebrew U and Yale to see if their concept of the importance of needed behaviors can predict whether they find it easier to choose a means that leads toward their focal goal (i.e., academic success) over another competing goal (i.e., social life). Does the test of implicit importance predict their abilities to stick to the task at hand better than other explicit tests? At a later stage, Dr. Shen will test whether implicit importance can be manipulated and influence real life behaviors. She expects her results to have implications for cognitive and social theories of self-control, and inspire further research in implicit cognition, social psychology, education, consciousness, and cognitive science.
Dr. Shen sees working with two advisors as a precious opportunity to broaden her research expertise and immerse herself in the academic environment of both institutions.