Paul Klaczynski

Assistant Professor

  • Ph.D. 1989 West Virginia University, Life-Span Developmental Psychology
  • M.A. 1987 West Virginia University, Life-Span Developmental Psychology
  • B.A. 1985 St. Bonaventure University, Psychology


My research addresses several broad questions: How can we better understand the relationships between social and cognitive development? How and to what extent do aspects of different social and cultural environments affect developments in the conscious and preconscious processes underlying judgments, decisions, stereotypes, and social reasoning biases? And, to what extent do stereotypes and beliefs affect children’s perceptions of and behaviors toward one another?  Much of my previous research was concerned with detailing developmental trajectories, and individual differences in those trajectories, in decision making, social reasoning biases, and stereotype maintenance (see decision making, social reasoning biases, and stereotypes). In the past two years, I have initiated new research intended to determine more precisely to social and cognitive mechanisms responsible that underlie reasoning biases and the impact of these biases on peer perceptions, social interactions, and personal decision making. 

To determine the generality of various biases, I have recently completed several cross-cultural studies of Chinese and American children.  On the surface, these studies seem disconnected.  Yet, this research is tied together by a dual-process theory of development (see theoretical perspective).  One focus has been on differences and similarities in Chinese and American children's informal mathematics, with a specific focus on biases in the use of simple probability information.  With my colleagues, we are now collecting follow-up data to more precisely determine why, under particular conditions, priming mathematical reasoning reduces biases more among Chinese than among American children.

Eating disorders or, more specifically, patterns of thinking and behavior linked to eating disorders, are at the center a second cross-cultural investigation.  Do appearance-related concerns, internalization of the "thin ideal," actual and ideal body image discrepancies, and age predict patterns of disturbed eating-related thoughts similarly in Chinese and American adolescents?  Do peers' beliefs predict eat-related thoughts and behaviors and, if so, do peer beliefs operate in a similar fashion in Chinese and America adolescents?  We hope to complete analyses of these data, and provide a preliminary answer to this question, during this coming academic year. 

Related to this study is our third cross-cultural investigation: How stereotypes of obese boys and girls similar or different in Chinese and American adolescents?  Are obesity stereotypes similarly linked to age, gender, and beliefs about the causes of obesity in these cultures?  At the same time, as a follow-up investigation to a study of obesity stereotypes, age, and ethnicity (Klaczynski, Daniel, & Keller, 2009), we are examining whether peer' and/or mothers' stereotypes predict adolescents' obesity stereotypes and whether the effects of peers and mothers different by adolescent age and for Hispanic and Caucasian adolescents (see beliefs about and reactions to obese children).

Finally, in a recently published (Klaczynski, 2008), I studied the reactions of Chinese an American children to drinks "created" by either obese or non-obese children.  These findings were quite revealing and suggest that children, across these two cultures, avoid not only obese children, but also "objects" with which obese children have had contact.  In the spring and fall of 2009, we conducted two additional "taste test" studies to address questions that arose from this initial study: Is children's aversion limited to obese children, or does it extend to children whose appearance is also morphologically different from the norm (Klaczynski, Stewart, Moore, Jones, & Schawns, 2009; Klaczynski, Traxler, Jones, Foss, Thompson, Feldman, & Westfall, 2009)?  And, at what age is "obesity" aversion first evident and does is aversion also evident in willingness to interact with or befriend obese peers (Klaczynski, Jones, Feldman, Foss, & Traxler, 2009).

Teaching Philosophy

The core of my teaching philosophy is straightforward: Regardless of whether it is geared toward memorization, improvements critical thinking, or both, learning is an active process that evolves in, and interacts with, the subcultures of a university and its classrooms.  I rely on an apprenticeship metaphor of teaching and see students are “novices” at various levels of preparedness for acquiring the “tools” of my trade.  Through appropriate scaffolding, active guidance, encouragement to engage in self-initiated learning activities, and individualized feedback, I hope to assist learners construct increasingly higher-order understandings of topical material.  An essential goal of facilitating the construction of these understandings is that their use is not tightly tied to the classroom; rather, students’ knowledge constructions should be sufficiently abstract that they transfer to other arenas (e.g., other classes, interactions with children, etc.).

The effective teacher should therefore engage the intellectual curiosity of students by creating an atmosphere of dialogue in which students are guided toward increasingly accurate understandings of the "trade" and toward applying those understandings beyond the walls of the classroom.  Active participation on both the teacher's and the student's part is essential as knowledge and understanding are created.  Teaching thus represents the nexus of teacher, student, context, and course material. 

Over the course of multiple interactions, students are challenged by the teacher and guided in their thinking through appropriate feedback and a willingness to openly contemplate issues.  In the ideal, the emergent outcome of this dialog is an active, independent learner—a student who is interested in the pursuit of knowledge, who understands the constructive nature of knowledge and knowing, and who strive toward achieving these goals without direct tuition.


  • Holland, J. D., & Klaczynski, P. A.  (2009).  Intuitive decision making during adolescence.  The Prevention Researcher, 16, 8-11. 
  • Klaczynski, P. A.  (2009).  Cognitive and social cognitive development: Dual-process research and theory.  J. B.  St. T. Evans & K. Frankish (Eds.), In two minds: Psychological and philosophical theories of dual processing (pp. 265-292)Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Klaczynski, P. A., Daniel, D, B., & Keller, P. S.  (2009). Appearance idealization, body esteem, causal attributions, and ethnic variations in the development of obesity stereotypes. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30, 537-551.
  • Amsel, E., Klaczynski, P. A., Johnston, A., Bench, S., Close, J., Sadler, E., & Walker, R.  (2008). A dual-process account of the development of scientific reasoning: The nature and development of metacognitive intercession skills.  Cognitive Development, 23, 451-471.  
  • Klaczynski, P. A.  (2008).  There’s something about obesity: Culture, contagion, rationality, and children’s responses to drinks ‘‘created’’ by obese children.  Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 99, 58-74. 
    Klaczynski, P. A., & Lavallee, K. L.  (2005).  Reasoning biases as mediators of the relationship between cognition and identity: A dual-process perspective. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 92, 1-24.
  • Jacobs, J. E., & Klaczynski, P. A. (Eds.)  (2005).  The development of decision making in children and adolescents.  Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Klaczynski, P. A.  (2005).  Metacognition and cognitive variability: A two-process model of decision making and its development.  In J. E. Jacobs & P. A. Klaczynski (Eds.), The development of decision making in children and adolescents (pp. 39-76).  Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Klaczynski, P. A.  (2004).  A dual-process model of adolescent development: Implications for decision making, reasoning, and identity.  In R. V. Kail (Ed.), Advances in child development and behavior, vol. 31 (pp. 73-123).  San Diego, CA: Academic Press. 
  • Klaczynski, P. A., & Cottrell, J. E.  (2004).  A dual-process approach to cognitive development: The case of children’s understanding of sunk cost decisions.  Thinking & Reasoning, 10, 147-174.
  • Klaczynski, P. A., Goold, K. W., & Mudry, J. J.  (2004).  Culture, obesity stereotypes, self-esteem, and the “thin ideal”: A social identity perspective.  Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 33, 307-317.