Flus and Floods: Getting the Gist of Natural Disaster Risks

CCE plays an important role in informing communities about natural disasters through the New York Extension Disaster Education Network (NY EDEN). This project will investigate people’s perceptions of risk for two kinds of natural disasters, infectious disease, and natural hazards, specifically, flu outbreaks and flooding. Our approach is motivated by Fuzzy Trace Theory which posits that people encode information in two ways, a “verbatim” format which conveys the surface details, and a “gist” format, which conveys the essential meaning and is affected by background knowledge and beliefs. Dr. Reyna’s research indicates that people prefer to make decisions based on gist representations. The goal of the project is to examine how decision-making about two types of natural disasters, infectious disease, and natural hazards, may or may not share underlying gists.

Roles and responsibilities 

The intern will work closely with Dr. Reyna’s research team and meet with our CCE partners remotely to develop a pilot survey comparing people’s perceptions of flu risk to flood risk. Responsibilities will include, but are not limited to: outreach, recruiting study participants, data entry, and data analysis.

Qualifications and previous coursework

This opportunity is available to students in Cornell University's College of Human Ecology.

The preferred candidate will demonstrate a high level of enthusiasm for Dr. Reyna’s research in risk communication and 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.

Learning outcomes 

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.