The Department of Psychology
Phone: (646) 312 3837
Location: VC 8-282
I earned a Doctor of Philosophy in General Psychology (2002) in Rome ( Italy ), University of Rome "La Sapienza," where I began a line of research on everyday problem solving and perceived self-efficacy. The primary scientific questions in this line of research were: 1) whether young and older people display high levels of cognitive performance on tasks that are representative of challenge that occur in their day-to-day life; and 2) whether people's subjective appraisals of their capabilities for performance, or self-efficacy appraisals, directly contribute to observed differences in cognitive performance among older versus younger adults.
My dissertation studies revealed age differences among younger and older adults' abilities to perform tasks that require sustained cognitive effort, such as abstract reasoning and solving everyday problems. The results of these studies indicated that, compared to older adults, younger adults have higher self-efficacy beliefs and performance on an abstract problem solving task and on everyday problems that are representative of problems commonly confronted by young adults. The reverse is true when problems are representative of the challenges confronted by older adults; older adults' self-efficacy beliefs and performance exceed those of young adults.
The focus of my research has broadened while working with Professor Daniel Cervone as a Research Scientist in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Our collaboration has enriched my understanding of social cognitive theory and its impact on individuals' behavior. We are advancing a project in which we are studying the coherence of people's personality. Self-efficacy or the ability to perform successfully given challenging behaviors is the main variable of interest. We are concerned not only with interindividual differences in the population, but also with individual persons. We strive to characterize the qualities that make individuals unique, such as the interaction between salient beliefs about themselves and the social contexts in which such beliefs come into play. We are able to document for each subject unique patterns of activation between their personal beliefs (i.e., I am independent, I am a nice person) and the social situations in which such beliefs are relevant (in class, with peers, etc.).
Preliminary results indicate that people are faster, in a reaction time assessment, to say that they can perform a challenging behavior in the situations in which their personal attributes are relevant with respect to the situations in which their personal attributes are not relevant. People's perceived self-efficacy is higher in the situation in which their personal attributes will help them to perform the behavior vs. the situations in which their personality attributes will hinder their ability to do so.
I am currently addressing psychological processes of potential importance to the well-being of older adults. One of the most important of these processes is the effect of "context" on the accomplishment of personally valued behaviors. This work is in progress and is funded by the National Institute of Aging (Artistico, 2003) and a grant from PSC-CUNY (Artistico, 2006).
The first goal of this project is to explore the impact of contextual factors on adults' belief in their capabilities for performance, or self-efficacy beliefs, as well as relations among context, self-efficacy beliefs, and actual performance on everyday problem solving tasks. The anticipated results are in line with our previous findings indicating that people perform optimally when everyday problems are embedded in the context that is more ecologically representative of their life experience (i.e., a young person is supposed to generate more solutions when the problem is to buffer a financial strain related to college tuition payment than to questions of social security with mounting bills to pay - the reverse should be true for older adults). We are expanding this paradigm of research in two novel directions. First, our preliminary study included only younger and older adults, whereas the present study includes adults of all ages.
The second direction in which we are expanding this paradigm of research coincides with the second goal of the project, that is, to improve the assessment of everyday problem solving ability. Research on everyday problem solving has been group-centered rather than person-centered. This group-level focus may lead us to underestimate the everyday problem-solving capacities of the unique individual -- including the unique older adult who possesses idiosyncratic domains of expertise and high self-efficacy. Thus, I am employing idiographic procedures to assess everyday problem solving performance on problems that are of maximally ecological relevance to the individual. I anticipate that all individuals, including older adults, will display their highest levels of problem-solving performance in idiographically-identified domains of personal relevance.
Artistico, D., Cervone, D., & Pezzuti, L. (2003). Perceived self-efficacy and everyday problem solving among young and older adults. Psychology and Aging , 18 , 68-79.
Caprara, G.V., Steca, P., Cervone, D., & Artistico, D. (2003). The contribution of self-efficacy beliefs to dispositional shyness: On social-cognitive systems and the development of personality dispositions. Journal of Personality, 71 , 947-970.
Cervone, D., Artistico, D., Berry , J. (2005). Self-Efficacy and Adult Development. In C. Hoare (Ed.) Handbook of Adult Development and Learning , Oxford University Press (pp 169-196).
Cervone, D., Orom, H., Artistico, D., Shadel, W., & Kassel , J. Using a Knowledge-and-Appraisal Model of Personality Architecture to Understand Consistency and Variability in Smokers' Self-efficacy Appraisals in High-Risk Situations (in press).
Pezzuti, L., Artistico, D., & Cervone, D. Training in everyday problem solving increases self-efficacy and everyday problem solving performance among older adults (manuscript submitted for publication).
Cervone, Caldwell, Fiori, Artistico et al. Applying a knowledge-and-appraisal personality architecture (KAPA) to smoking and cessation: Assessing the content and response time of contextualized self-appraisals (manuscript in preparation).