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 AREA OF INTEREST

My research focuses on the development of critical thinking and the effects of beliefs stereotypes on children's, adolescents', and adults' decisions, judgments, and reasoning. Within this broad area, I am interested in several specific belief systems—including, but not limited to, beliefs about gender, occupations, and obesity—and how reliance on erroneous beliefs and stereotypes leads to biased reasoning and judgments (known as "motivated," "belief-based," and "critical thinking" reasoning biases).

The focus of several recent studies has been on "developmental reversals": Counterintuitive age trends wherein children reason and make better judgments than)adolescents and adults. We have found that, when adolescent and adults reason and make decisions, they often rely on misleading beliefs, stereotypes, and unreliable hearsay information, but children based their thinking on more reliable statistical (numerical) evidence. As a consequence, children are—at least under certain conditions—better critical thinkers. This line of research has led to an interest in identifying individual differences variables that let us predict which adolescents and adults reason best. Our findings indicate that adolescents and adults who are (a) more flexible thinkers, (b) have greater "metacognitive awareness" (for example, attend to their answers and strive for consistency), and (c) and focus more on numerical than on social evidence typically perform well. These findings do not diminish the importance of the developmental reversals we have found; instead, they have allowed us to show that children only outperform adults (and adolescents) whose beliefs are entrenched and who are unable (or unwilling) to consider different perspectives and ways of thinking.

We have studied developmental reversals in domains relevant to contemporary social issues including (but not limited to), gender, juvenile delinquency, career decisions, and obesity. In two recent studies of judgments regarding gender and obese peers, our team has found what appears to be an age-related increase in the "metacognitive gap." In evaluating the judgments they made of different stereotype-relevant problems, children's evaluations correspond closely to their actual responses. However, despite being more likely to respond incorrectly, adolescents and adults are also more likely to to believe that they based their responses on sound logic. This is what I have called the "metacognitive gap"—a contradiction in "thinking about one's own thinking" that, under some conditions, increases with age. This phenomenon reveals a developmental pattern difficult to explain on the basis on most theories of critical thinking and cognitive development.

Related to this research, I have also conducted a several investigations of cross-cultural similarities and differences in preschoolers', children's, and adolescents' perceptions of gender, obesity, and dieting/body image discrepancies), and how these perceptions relate to numeracy and open-mindedness.

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.

MY LATEST PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITY: Select Publications

  • 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.

LINK TO MY CURRICULUM VITA

PICTURES