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September 15, 2021

Mia Jovanova and Chioma Woko: 2021 Ackoff Fellowships

University of Pennsylvania

caption: Mia Jovanova

Mia Jovanova

caption: Chioma Woko

Chioma Woko

Annenberg graduate students Mia Jovanova and Chioma Woko have received the Russell Ackoff Doctoral Student Fellowship Award for 2021 from the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center. This is the seventh year in a row, and the thirteenth year overall, those Annenberg students have been fellowship recipients.

The research fellowship, now in its fourteenth year, is named in honor of Russell Ackoff, professor emeritus of management science, whose work was dedicated to furthering the understanding of human behavior in organizations. Made possible by an endowment from the Anheuser-Busch Charitable Trust, the fellowships are awarded to University of Pennsylvania doctoral students who are pursuing research in decision making under risk and uncertainty.

Ms. Jovanova will pursue a project called Brains, Social Networks and Susceptibility to Risky Health Behavior. 

Health behaviors are often not independent, and one important form of influence includes conversations among peers. As such, considerable effort has been invested to understand how the brain responds to interpersonal influences, and how social network characteristics relate to risky decision-making in groups, separately. Yet, little is known about how brains and social networks interact.

In the current project, Ms. Jovanova is part of a large team of researchers at Penn, Columbia, UNC, and Dartmouth, seeking to understand the interplay between brains and social networks. In her part of the project, Ms. Jovanova seeks to understand how differences in young adults’ brains relate to how they respond to social influences on drinking outside the lab.

To ask these questions, the team followed ten existing social groups of college students, across two campuses. Ms. Jovanova combines three different types of data: social network assessments, brain scans, and daily mobile phone surveys. The researchers characterized the ten social networks at baseline, 6 months, and 12 month periods. A subset of participants from each group was scanned and reported their alcohol-related conversations and drinking, twice a day over 28 days. Ms. Jovanova examines differences in brain activity in two brain systems, the reward, and mentalizing systems. These systems are associated with how individuals process rewards, such as social approval from peers, and make sense of peers’ mental states, among other cognitive processes. Ms. Jovanova relates differences in these neural responses to day-to-day drinking following pro-alcohol conversations. Further, she investigates how these links vary based on how connected people are to others within their social group.

Mia Jovanova and Chioma Woko: 2021 Ackoff Fellowships

Posted by ACASA on September 15, 2021 at 02:09 PM in Announcements | Permalink | Comments (0)