Department of Psychological Sciences
Kansas State University
492 Bluemont Hall
Manhattan, Kansas 66506-5302

785-532-5401 fax


Research conducted in the Young Cognition Laboratory

My primary lines of research fall into three general categories. The first involves the study of predictive learning and the factors that influence the induction of causality. Our current focus involves the effects of delays, spatial distance, competition, and contingency on the judgment of causality between physical objects. One of these objects is a possible cause because its action precedes the action of the other. We are examining the precise relationship between the predictability of whether and when the effect will occur and the role of various causal candidates; we are also testing various hypotheses regarding the effects of interventions on improving the accurate induction of causation. This research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Some representative papers on this topic include:

    • Young, M.E. (2014).  Sex differences in the inference and perception of causal relations within a video game.  Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 926. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00926.
    • Limongi, R., Sutherland, S.C., Zhu, J., Young, M.E., & Habib, R. (2013). Temporal prediction errors modulate cingulate-insular coupling. NeuroImage, 71, 147-157.
    • Young, M.E. (2012). Contemporary thought on the environmental cues that determine causal decisions. T.R. Zentall & E.A. Wasserman (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Comparative Cognition (pp. 141-156). New York: Oxford University Press
    • Young, M.E., & Cole, J.J. (2012). Human sensitivity to the magnitude and probability of a continuous causal relation in a video game. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 38, 11-22.
    • Young, M.E., Sutherland, S.C., Cole, J.J., & Nguyen, N. (2011). Waiting to decide helps in the face of probabilistic uncertainty but not delay uncertainty. Learning and Behavior, 39, 115-124. Reprint.
    • Young, M.E., Sutherland, S.C., & Cole, J.J. (2011). Individual differences in causal judgment under time pressure: Sex and prior video game experience as predictors. International Journal of Comparative Psychology (Special Issue), 24, 76-98. Reprint.
    • Nguyen, N., Young, M.E., & Cole, J.J. (2010). The effect of number of options on choices involving delayed causation. American Journal of Psychology, 123, 477-487.
    • Young, M.E., & Sutherland, S. (2009). The spatiotemporal distinctiveness of direct causation. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 16, 729-735. Reprint.
    • Young, M.E., & Nguyen, N. (2009). The problem of delayed causation in a video game: Constant, varied, and filled delays. Learning and Motivation, 40, 298-312. Reprint.
    • Young, M.E., & Falmier, O. (2008). Launching at a distance: The effect of spatial markers. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 61, 1356-1370.
    • Young, M.E., Beckmann, J.S., & Wasserman, E.A. (2006). The pigeon’s perception of Michotte’s launching effect. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 86, 223-237.
    • Young, M.E. , Rogers, E.T., & Beckmann, J.S. (2005). Causal impressions: Predicting when, not just whether. Memory and Cognition, 33, 320-331.
    • Young, M.E., & Wasserman, E.A. (2002). Limited attention and cue order consistency affect predictive learning: A test of two configural models. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 28, 484-496.
    • Young, M.E., Johnson, J.L., & Wasserman, E.A. (2000). Serial causation: Occasion setting in a causal induction task. Memory and Cognition, 28, 1213-1230. Abstract
    • Young, M.E. (1995). On the origin of personal causal theories. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 2, 83-104. Abstract

The second line of research is relatively new to the laboratory and involves the study of impulsivity in the face of short delays and probabilistic outcomes within the context of decisions made within a video game. This research program has been supported by the National Institute for Drug Abuse.

    • Rung, J., & Young, M.E. (in press). Learning to wait for more likely or just more: Greater tolerance to delays of reward with increasingly longer delays. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior.
    • Young, M.E., & McCoy, A.W. (in press). A delay discounting task produces a greater likelihood of waiting than a deferred gratification task. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior.
    • Webb, T.L, & Young, M.E. (in press).  Waiting when both certainty and magnitude are increasing: Certainty overshadows magnitude.  Journal of Behavioral Decision Making.
    • Young, M.E., Webb, T.L., Rung, J., & McCoy, A.W. (2014). Outcome probability versus magnitude: When waiting benefits one at the cost of the other. PLOS ONE, 9(6), e98996. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0098996.
    • Rung, J.M., & Young, M.E. (2014).  Training tolerance to delay using the escalating interest task.  Psychological Record, doi:10.1007/s40732-014-0045-8
    • Young, M.E., Webb, T.L., Rung, J., & Jacobs, E.A. (2013).  Sensitivity to changing contingencies in an impulsivity task.  Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 99, 335-345.
    • Young, M.E., Webb, T.L., Sutherland, S.C., & Jacobs, E.A. (2013). Magnitude effects for experienced rewards at short delays in the escalating interest task.  Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 20, 302-309.
    • Young, M.E., Webb, T.L., & Jacobs, E.A. (2011). Deciding when to "cash in" when outcomes are continuously improving. Behavioural Processes, 88, 101-110. Reprint.

The third line of research involves judgments of variability and stimulus attributes correlated with variability. Most of this work is now done collaboratively with other laboratories. We are interested in identifying the stimulus factors that impact the amount of perceived variability in collections of items (judged variability is known to affect consumer purchases and food consumption). To that end, we have developed a quantitative model describing the relationship between stimulus attributes and judged variability. More recently, we are studying the potential role between stimulus variability and the judged creativity of someone who produced that variability. Some representative papers include:

    • Young, M.E., & Racey, D.R. (2014). Effects of response frequency constraints on learning in a non-stationary multi-armed bandit task. Special Issue on Behavioral Variability in International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 27,106-122.
    • Castro, L., Wasserman, E.A, & Young, M.E. (2012). Variations on variability: Effects of display composition on same-different discrimination in pigeons. Learning and Behavior, 40, 416-426.
    • Racey, D.E., Young, M.E., Garlick, D., Pham, J.N., & Blaisdell, A. (2011). Pigeon and human performance in a multi-armed bandit task in response to changes in variable interval schedules.Learning and Behavior, 39, 245-258.
    • Stahlman, W.D., Young, M.E., & Blaisdell, A.P. (2010). Response variability in pigeons in a Pavlovian task. Learning and Behavior, 38, 111-118.
    • Wasserman, E.A., & Young, M.E. (2010). Same-different discrimination: The keel and backbone of thought and reasoning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 36, 3-22. Reprint..
    • Young, M.E., & Racey, D. (2009). Judgments of creativity as a function of visual stimulus variability. Empirical Studies of the Arts, 27, 91-109.
    • Young, M.E., Wasserman, E.A., & Ellefson, M.R. (2007). A theory of variability discrimination. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 14, 805-822.
    • Castro, L., Young, M.E., & Wasserman, E.A. (2007). Effects of number of items and visual display variability on same-different discrimination behavior. Memory and Cognition, 34, 1689-1703.
    • Wasserman, E.A., Young, M.E., & Cook. R. (2004). Variability discrimination in humans and animals: Implications for adaptive action. American Psychologist, 59, 869–878.
    • Young, M.E., & Ellefson, M.R. (2003). The joint contributions of shape and color to variability discrimination. Learning and Motivation, 34, 52-67
    • Young, M.E., & Wasserman, E.A. (2002). Detecting variety: What's so special about uniformity? Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 131, 131-143.
    • Young, M.E. & Wasserman, E.A. (2001). Entropy and variability discrimination. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 27, 278-293.
    • Young, M.E., Wasserman, E.A., Hilfers, M.A., & Dalrymple, R.M. (1999). The pigeon's variability discrimination using lists of successively presented visual stimuli. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 25, 475-490. Abstract
    • Young, M.E. & Wasserman, E.A. (1997). Entropy detection by pigeons: Response to mixed visual displays after same-different discrimination training. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 23, 157-170. Abstract

Students in my laboratory are free to pursue a variety of topics that intersect with my areas of expertise. .