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Research in the LCD Lab

I investigate the way people think and learn across the lifespan. Below, you can learn a bit more about some of my current areas of focus. I'm especially interested in people's ability to judge their own knowledge and how factors like visual displays and training can improve their understanding. 

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Health Communication & Risk Perceptions

People are presented with health information all the time: in the news, scrolling on social media, and at their doctor's office. Often times, health information includes numbers to convey risk, but people struggle to understand this numerical information accurately. One of my areas of research investigates whether we can train people to better understand this numeric information, the types of visual displays that may facilitate comprehension, and the downstream implications of (in)accurate health understanding. For example, people who poorly understand health risks may perceive a risky choice as less sever than it is, and then engage in (or not) behaviors that align with their ill-informed perceptions. 

Representative publications: 

Fitzsimmons, C. J., Woodbury, L., Taber, J. M., Schiller, L., Mielicki, M. K., & Thompson C. A. (accepted). How do visual models impact health-risk estimates? It depends on display size, shape, and prior knowledge. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making.

Fitzsimmons, C. J., Sidney, P. G., Mielicki, M., Schiller, L. K., Scheibe, D. A., Taber, J. M., Matthews, P. G., Waters, E. A., Coifman, K. G., Thompson, C. A. (2023). Worked Examples and Number Lines Improve Adults’ Understanding of Health Risks as Ratios. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition. 

Mielicki, M., Fitzsimmons, C. J., Schiller, L., Scheibe, D., Taber, J., Sidney, P. G., Matthews, P., Waters, E., Coifman, K., & Thompson, C. A. (2022). Number lines can be more effective at facilitating adults’ performance on health-related ratio problems than risk ladders and icon arrays. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied.

Metacognition & Self-Regulated Learning

How do people know what they know or don't know? Can you identify when you've made an error? These questions represent metacognitive monitoring - the skill of recognizing your own knowledge. People's judgments of their knowledge -- like the feeling of confidence they have in response to a test question -- are predictive of whether they ask for help on problems, whether they restudy, or if they are willing to turn in their work. Unfortunately, children and adults struggle to identify when they are right and wrong. I investigate why people's metacognition is biased, ways to improve it, and the downstream implications of their metacognitive thinking in educational and health contexts. 

Learning From Home

Representative publications: 

Fitzsimmons, C. J. & Thompson, C. A. (2023). Why is monitoring accuracy so poor in number line estimation? The importance of valid cues and systematic variability. Metacognition and Learning. 

Fitzsimmons, C. J., & Thompson, C. A. (2022). Developmental differences in monitoring accuracy and cue use when estimating whole-number and fraction magnitudes. Cognitive Development.

Scheibe, D., Fitzsimmons, C. J., Mielicki, M. K., Taber, J. M., Sidney, P. G., Coifman, K., & Thompson, C. A. (2022). Confidence in COVID problem solving: What factors predict adults’ item-level metacognitive judgments on health-related math problems before and after an educational intervention? Metacognition and Learning.

Rivers, M. L., Fitzsimmons, C. J., Fisk, S. R., Dunlosky, J., & Thompson, C. A. (2020). Gender differences in confidence during number-line estimation. Metacognition and Learning. 

Fitzsimmons, C. J., Thompson, C. A., & Sidney, P. G. (2020). Confident or familiar? The role of familiarity ratings in adults’ confidence judgments when estimating fraction magnitudes. Metacognition and Learning.

Magnetic Numbers

Numerical Knowledge, Biases & Misconceptions

Many people struggle in math and often have difficulty understanding number concepts. Fractions are especially difficult because many people incorrectly apply whole number strategies when they think about fractions, such as claiming 1/4 > 1/3 because 4 > 3. I investigate the source of these types of errors, the strategies people use when thinking about whole numbers and fractions, and ways to improve their number knowledge. One way I've improved people's number knowledge is by providing them with worked-out examples, an effective instructional strategy in math. Another way I've improved people's number understanding is to leverage their prior

knowledge appropriately, such as aligning whole-number and fraction estimates to highlight their proportional equivalence. 

Representative publications: 

Yu, S., Kim, D., Fitzsimmons, C., Mielicki, M., Thompson, C., & Opfer, J. (2022). From integers to fractions: The role of analogy in developing a coherent understanding of proportional magnitude. Developmental Psychology

Thompson, C. A., Taber, J. M., Fitzsimmons, C. J., & Sidney, P. G. (2021). Math Predictors of Numeric Health and Non-Health Decision-Making Problems. Journal of Numerical Cognition.

Thompson, C. A., Fitzsimmons, C. J., & Scheibe, D. (2021). Students’ ability to calculate their final course grade may not be as easy as you think: Insights from mathematical cognition. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology.

Fitzsimmons, C. J., Morehead, K., Thompson, C. A., Buerke, M.*, & Dunlosky, J. (2021). Can feedback, correct, and incorrect worked examples improve numerical magnitude estimation precision? The Journal of Experimental Education.

Fitzsimmons, C. J., Thompson, C. A., & Sidney, P. G. (2020). Do adults treat equivalent fractions equally? Adults’ strategies and errors during fraction reasoning. The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.

Math Attitudes & Anxiety

Many people will happily tell you that they "are not a math person." And, people especially dislike math with fractions. This is problematic because people's attitudes towards and anxiety about math are related to their math performance and engagement with math. Given the importance of math in daily life and educational settings, I study the factors that impact people's math attitudes and math anxiety. We consistently find that people have less favorable attitudes towards and more anxiety about math with fractions compared to other types of math, even though fraction understanding seems to be key in areas like health, finances, and higher-level mathematics. 

Working on Math Problems

Representative publications: 

Mielicki, M. K., Wilkey, E. D., Scheibe, D. A., Fitzsimmons, C. J., Sidney, P. G., Bellon, E., Ribner, A. D., Soltanlou, M., Starling-Alves, I., **Coolen, I., Ansari, D., & Thompson, C. A. (2022). Task features change the relation between math anxiety and number line estimation performance with rational numbers: Two large-scale online studies. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 

Mielicki, M. K., Schiller, L., Fitzsimmons, C. J., Scheibe, D., Thompson, C. A. (2022). Perceptions of ease and difficulty, but not growth mindset, predict specific math attitudes. British Journal of Educational Psychology.


Sidney, P. G., Thompson, C. A., Fitzsimmons, C. J., Taber, J. (2019). Children’s and Adults’ Math Attitudes are Differentiated by Number Type. The Journal of Experimental Education.

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