Friday, March 24, 2017 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

To Eat or Not to Eat:  Memory Representations for Food in Omnivores, Vegetarians, and Restricted Eaters

Valerie Sims Ph.D.

Abstract: Among diet researchers, there is growing interest in vegetarianism and its many variants (e.g. vegan, pesco-vegetarian), including examinations of the reasons underlying diet choice, and whether diet predicts the way one thinks about food.  Most of this research has used explicit attitudinal measures of food perception.  Classic research in cognitive psychology provides alternative ways of measuring mental representation of concepts (e.g., lexical decision tasks).  The present research examines millisecond reaction times to classify items as generally food or as something one would consume.  Diet is a strong predictor of the mental representation of food and food-related items, suggesting that diet choice can be examined in terms of individual differences in cognitive representation.

Biography:  Dr. Valerie Sims is an assistant professor in the Psychology Department. Her lab, the Applied Cognition and Technology (ACAT) group studies human experiences of non-humans, including computers and animals. Dr. Sims obtained her B.A. in psychology with a concentration in cognitive studies from Carleton College in Northfield, MN. She holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology, as well as an interdisciplinary emphasis in human development from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Prior to coming to UCF, Dr. Sims worked for three years as an assistant professor at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, PA. Her primary research interests are in the areas of human-computer interaction, human-animal interaction, and individual differences in spatial ability. Some of her research has centered on the cognitive abilities of video game experts. Her teaching interests include Cognitive Psychology, Sensation and Perception, Developmental Psychology, and Research Methods. In her spare time, Dr. Sims likes to swim and play video games, and she loves to go to the beach.


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