KU News: Study suggests COVID face masks don’t impair most social interaction

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Study suggests COVID face masks don’t impair most social interaction
LAWRENCE — A new study just published in Journal of Applied Social Psychology debunks the idea that wearing a mask to slow the spread of disease damages most everyday social exchanges. Reporting results from an experiment with 250 university students carried out in 2012 — before masks became fodder for political and cultural angst — psychology researchers based at the University of Kansas and Wellesley College found mask wearing “had no effect on the ease, authenticity, friendliness of the conversation, mood, discomfort or interestingness” of interactions between students.
Fall 2022 KU Architecture Lecture Series lineup announced
LAWRENCE — The School of Architecture & Design at the University of Kansas has announced programming for the Fall 2022 Architecture Lecture Series, welcoming architectural and experiential design leaders from across the country to illuminate new ideas and inspire purpose-driven design practices. The series begins Sept. 9 with a presentation by Kapila Silva, KU professor of architecture.
Study finds common creativity assessment in education may not be completely valid
LAWRENCE — A new study from a University of Kansas educational psychology researcher has found that one of the most common methods used in studying creativity may be reliable, but it varies widely in how it is used, depends on subjective judgments and may not be completely valid.
Educate & Act Series will offer opportunities to learn about civic participation
LAWRENCE — The Educate & Act series, led by The Commons and partners at the University of Kansas, will host three virtual events this fall for students, staff and faculty. The first event will take place Sept. 8 and will offer insights about the upcoming general election Nov. 8. Speakers will include Marcus Winn, director of integrated voter engagement at MORE2, and Ursula Minor, president of the Lawrence NAACP.
Full stories below.
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Contact: Brendan Lynch, KU News Service, 785-864-8855, [email protected], @BrendanMLynch
Study suggests COVID face masks don’t impair most social interaction
LAWRENCE — A new study just published in Journal of Applied Social Psychology debunks the idea that wearing a mask to slow the spread of disease damages most everyday social exchanges.
Reporting results from an experiment with 250 university students carried out in 2012 — before masks became fodder for political and cultural angst — psychology researchers based at the University of Kansas and Wellesley College found mask wearing “had no effect on the ease, authenticity, friendliness of the conversation, mood, discomfort or interestingness” of interactions between students.
Each student was instructed to chat with another participant who seemed like themselves, though the pair had to share the same gender and mask condition. Participants chatted with their partner for two minutes about their favorite vegetables, whether Pluto is a planet or the number of credits needed for their major. Afterward, they reported on their interactions via questionnaire.
“Actually, we were disappointed at the time because covering the face did almost nothing,” said lead author Chris Crandall, professor of psychology at KU. “It just really didn’t change it much. It didn’t make conversations awkward. People didn’t think it was weird. They didn’t make the conversations unfriendly. And they still found people to meet. There’s a little slippage of how similar the other person was to them, but it was very modest. This was in 2012, and we set aside the data because we did this big interaction and we got nothing. Now, many years later we discover, ‘Oh, it’s really quite meaningful.’ People have the skills to look past things that block the face — a mask, a hat, sunglasses and so on. We’re still able to get through to people.”
When choosing a discussion partner who seemed similar to themselves, masked participants only reported a significantly different experience from their unmasked counterparts in relying on the “look of their face and head” when picking. In important other measures, like “their friendliness,” or “seemed similar to me,” the masked vs. unmasked state made little difference, researchers found.
Previously, the team had run a similar student experiment, but instead of obscuring faces, half of the participants’ torsos were hidden with black plastic bags — a hindrance that skewed normal social interactions much more than the experiment with the masks, hats and shades.
“I was surprised by the results,” said co-author Angela Bahns, associate professor of psychology at Wellesley College. “We assigned people to wear masks or not because we thought masks would have an effect on who people interacted with and how the conversation went. Wearing the mask had almost no effects at all, except that people recognized they were wearing one. I think the biggest lesson to be learned from our study is that there is nothing inherent about wearing a mask that interferes with everyday social interactions. People — mostly grown-ups — have made mask wearing controversial in the era of COVID, politicizing the use of face masks so that the choice to wear one or not carries excess social meaning.”
In 2012, mask wearing hadn’t yet become a hot-button political issue, but the researchers did gather survey data on participants’ political leanings, among many other traits. At the time, a student’s stance along the conservative-liberal divide had no relationship with their attitude toward wearing a mask. “Wearing a mask, a hat and sunglasses did not impede liberals or conservatives,” the team reported. Omri Gillath, professor of psychology at KU, also served as a co-author.
“The research we did in 2012 can’t be done today,” Crandall said. “There’s just no way to do it, because when you say, ‘Put on a mask,’ people say, ‘Well, OK, you liberal Fauci follower, you’re a sheep for putting on the mask.’ Masks are suffused with meaning — political, social, health — in a way they weren’t then. Today, putting on a mask is a loss of liberty, so you might expect Republicans or conservatives could be more sensitive to losses of liberty and freedom — here, it was ‘deep-state’ professors trying to control their actions. You might think that conservatives, when assigned to the mask experiment, might be more resentful or more upset. We found nothing at all like that. So, I don’t think putting on mask is a fundamental loss of freedom, except in the context of being told by Big Government to put on the mask for the purposes of safety to self and others.”
Stripped of today’s political and social significance, wearing masks didn’t interrupt social interaction for people of any political stripe in 2012. Indeed, the authors conclude, “The data have direct public health and policy implications — wearing masks does not end normalcy.”
“What do masks really do to social interactions? Well, at least for the everyday kind of interactions, you know, talking to somebody at the checkout counter, the grocery store, at the gas station or walking around — everyday kind of stuff with stranger interactions — masks just don’t really do much at all in our setting,” Crandall said. “The question is, ‘What does masking up do?’ Aside from the underlying political effects, the answer seems to be not very much. Look, if you put on a mask and you go out on a first date, that’s going to be more troublesome. But for most of the everyday interactions, which I think our experiment models, where you go talk to somebody about something not so important, we find masking isn’t anywhere near as disruptive as some people think — and that’s really the good news.”
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The official university Twitter account has changed to @UnivOfKansas.
Refollow @KUNews for KU News Service stories, discoveries and experts.
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Contact: Dan Rolf, School of Architecture & Design, 785-864-3027, [email protected], @ArcD_KU
Fall 2022 KU Architecture Lecture Series lineup announced
LAWRENCE — The School of Architecture & Design at the University of Kansas has announced programming for the Fall 2022 Architecture Lecture Series.
The Architecture Lecture Series welcomes architectural and experiential design leaders from across the country to the University of Kansas to illuminate new ideas and inspire purpose-driven design practice. Lecturers bring a wide range of expertise in areas such as sustainable building, digital environments, public interest design, historic preservation, health and wellness design, and more.
Fall 2022 lectures will be offered in-person in the Forum at Marvin Hall and livestreamed. Lectures will begin at 11:30 a.m., except where noted.* See events site for streaming information.
Sept. 9
Kapila Silva: “Cities as Cultural Landscapes”
Kapila Silva is a professor of architecture at the KU School of Architecture & Design. His research focuses on the social, cultural and psychological aspects of architecture, urbanism and historic preservation. In geo-cultural scope, his work focuses specifically on non-Western traditions within the Asian context. In addition, he studies vernacular environments in the region, developing a theoretical framework to study those environments and deriving lessons for contemporary architectural situations, such as community design and post-disaster resettlement housing.
Sept. 29 at 3:30 p.m.*
Dianne Lee: “Leveraging Stereotypes to your Advantage”
Dianne Lee is a construction management professional, author and advocate for empowering individuals regardless of gender, age, race or status. During this series event, she will discuss her book “Leveraging Stereotypes to your Advantage,” in which she shares her personal story as an Asian immigrant in a highly male-dominated industry. This event is co-sponsored by the KU architecture & design school and the following KU organizations: Center for East Asian Studies; Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity; the Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging; and School of Engineering.
Oct. 21
Jeffrey Huber of Brooks + Scarpa
Jeffrey Huber, FAIA, is a principal at Brooks + Scarpa, where he manages the firm’s south Florida office. Brooks + Scarpa is a multidisciplinary practice that includes architecture, landscape architecture, planning, environmental design, materials research, graphic, furniture and interior design services that produces innovative, sustainable iconic buildings and urban environments. A distinguished architect and landscape architect, Huber specializes in public realm projects that combine ecological, landscape, urban and architectural design. Huber’s research, teaching and professional work have garnered more than 75 national design awards, including multiple Progressive Architecture Awards, AIA National Institute Honor Awards in Architecture and Regional and Urban Design, American Society of Landscape Architects, American Architecture Awards and the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture.
Nov. 11
Grant Gibson and Sean Lally: “Drawing & Representation Techniques in Architecture”
Grant Gibson is principal at CAMESgibson Inc., a clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago and author. His work has been widely exhibited and recognized, especially in his home city of Chicago. In 2014, he was awarded an Emerging Vision Prize by the Chicago Architecture Club. Two projects by CAMESgibson have received Citations of Merit by AIA Chicago, and another was nominated for a Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize for Emerging Practices. Gibson is the author of “A Performed Memoir,” published and exhibited by the Graham Foundation in Jimenez Lai’s Treatise Series. He has taught undergraduate and graduate design and building technology courses since 2006.
Sean Lally is principal at Sean Lally Architecture, associate professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago and an author. Sean Lally Architecture is dedicated to engaging today’s greatest pressures — a changing climate and advances in health care and consumer devices that are redefining the human bodies that occupy our environments. Lally is the author of the “The Air from Other Planets: A Brief History of Architecture to Come” (Lars Müller). Lally is the recipient of the Young Architects Award from the Architectural League of New York and the Prince Charitable Trusts Rome Prize in landscape architecture from the American Academy in Rome.
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Contact: Mike Krings, KU News Service, 785-864-8860, [email protected], @MikeKrings
Study finds common creativity assessment in education may not be completely valid
LAWRENCE — Creativity is increasingly viewed as an essential part of education and vital for the future of a competitive nation. Yet not a lot is known about what makes a person creative, or how to identify and teach those traits. A new study from the University of Kansas has found that one of the most common methods used in studying creativity may be reliable, but it varies widely in how it is used, depends on subjective judgments and may not be completely valid.
Subjective creativity assessment is one of the most popular methods in creativity research. In essence, the approach depends on judges who study a work or topic, then provide a rating on whether it meets creativity criteria. Haiying Long, associate professor of educational psychology at KU, led research that analyzed 84 studies using the approach, also known as Consensual Assessment Technique, and found their approaches vary widely and do not necessarily prove its validity. That should warrant caution in depending on the approach or attempting to translate it to use in schools, she said.
Long compared the approach to voting for the Academy Awards, in which voters watch a film, then provide a rating. The CAT, introduced in 1982 and widely used since, is similar.
“I feel like there are a lot of things about this approach that are not consistent with what I learned about educational measurement. We don’t often use subjectivity to measure in education,” Long said. “A popular assessment that’s been used for 40 years without much evaluation or consideration for validity seems like it could be dangerous to me.”
Long’s study, co-written with Jue Wang of the University of Miami, was published in the journal Educational Psychology Review. The researchers analyzed the studies, finding that most focused on the reliability and consistency of judges. While some were rated as experts and some as quasi-experts in their fields, the studies mostly focused on the consistency of the judges’ ratings. The analysis showed the judges were reliably consistent about 70% of the time. But that reliability cannot be assumed to mean the assessment is valid.
“What I found was the 84 studies are very different in their fields,” Long said. “Some were in writing or the arts, or in science. Some are for elementary, some for college. And the raters are very different, too, in their characteristics, like how long they’ve worked in the field, their interests and their motivations.”
The creativity studies also rarely divulged whether judges gave a high score to a work they observed because they liked it, because they thought it truly met the criteria of creativity or both. That wide-ranging subjectivity and lacking consistency in approach means caution should be used in pronouncing subjective creativity assessments completely valid, according to the researchers.
The CAT is one of three dominant approaches in creativity research, along with creative and divergent thinking tests and questionnaires used to assess different aspects of creativity, such as creative activity and creative self-beliefs. Consensual Assessment Technique is the only one that relies on subjective judgments to rate creativity of a product or work.
Long and Wang wrote that the goal is not to discredit CAT or discourage its use, but to encourage further study and better understanding of the assessment and how it is used. That could lead not only to enhancing creativity research and understanding its role in education, but in helping develop curriculum and methods for educators to teach creativity and identify it in students. Currently, students are identified as creative most of the time by teachers who judge them as such or as having the potential to be creative, based on classroom observations.
“When we use this approach, we need to be aware of its weaknesses and use other approaches as well,” Long said. “At the same time, we need to study this approach more and get a better idea of how it works to better understand how it can be applied for classroom use.”
To the classroom use point, Long — who has previously published research on the pros and cons of the most popular classroom creativity assessments in education — hopes to continue research into developing creativity models to study students holistically, focusing on their strengths. That could help translate creativity research into tools educators can use to identify where a student’s creative potential is strongest, and build from that, while also providing support in areas that may be lacking.
“I want to do that in a modern way, with the best available technology. I don’t want teachers to feel like this is one more thing they have to do,” Long said. “Every student can be creative, but we need to support them. The tests shouldn’t be to see who’s creative and who’s not, but what each individual’s strengths are and how best to support them.”
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Don’t miss new episodes of “When Experts Attack!,”
a KU News Service podcast hosted by Kansas Public Radio.
https://kansaspublicradio.org/when-experts-attack
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Contact: Emily Ryan, The Commons, 785-864-6293, [email protected], @TheCommonsKU
Educate & Act Series will offer opportunities to learn about civic participation
LAWRENCE — The Educate & Act series, led by The Commons, the Center for Service Learning and the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity at the University of Kansas, will host three virtual events this fall for students, staff and faculty.
Now in its third year, this series offers opportunities to learn more about individual issues and general engagement in democracy in the United States, offering information and sharing resources about civic participation.
The first session, scheduled for noon Sept. 8, will be led by the Center for Service Learning. It will offer insights about the upcoming general election on Nov. 8, including ways in which the process has changed, what offices and issues are on the ballot, and the effects of the recent redistricting. Speakers for the event:
1. Marcus Winn, director of integrated voter engagement at MORE2.
2. Lindsay Ford, associate director of the Voter Network.
3. Paul Buskirk, senior associate athletics director for student athlete support services at KU Athletics.
4. Ursula Minor, president of the Lawrence NAACP.
5. Donnavan Dillon, undergraduate student at KU and student power campaign fellow at Loud Light.
The session will be moderated by Kate Kemper, associate director for student and civic engagement at the Center for Service Learning.
A second session will take place at noon Oct. 6 and center on the Indian Child Welfare Act, which is at the center of recent cases scheduled for a Supreme Court hearing in November.
The final session of the semester will take place at noon Nov. 3, focusing on reproductive justice advocacy. To complement this virtual event, Students United for Reproductive & Gender Equity will host an in-person watch party.
Register for the events at https://bit.ly/ElectionsEA.
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Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, director of news and media relations, [email protected]
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