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Valerie Reyna, Cornell University

Valerie Reyna

Valerie F. Reyna is the Lois and Melvin Tukman Professor of Psychology, director of the Human Neuroscience Institute, and co-director of the Center for Behavioral Economics and Decision Research at Cornell University. She received her Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from Rockefeller University and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine. Her research integrates cognition, emotion, social factors, and neuroscience of risky decision making, and their implications for health and well-being, from adolescence through adulthood. Most recently, many of her activities have involved risk communication related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including advising the American Psychological Association, National Academies, and World Health Organization. She is a developer of fuzzy-trace theory, a model of the relation between mental representations and risky decision making that has been widely applied in law, medicine, and public health.   

Abstract: People routinely take risks that seem irrational, from not wearing masks to avoid the spread of COVID-19 to not wearing condoms to avoid the risk of HIV/AIDS. Fuzzy-trace theory explains these and other risky health and medical decisions, integrating behavioral economics and psychology, with implications for risk communication and social media.