Valerie Reyna


Valerie Reyna

Professor / Department Extension Leader
G331D, Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
Human Development
Phone: (607) 255-6778 Fax: (607) 255-9856
View Cornell University Contact Info
Curriculum Vitae
Biographical Statement:

Valerie Reyna is Professor of Human Development and Psychology at Cornell University, Director of the Human Neuroscience Institute, Co-Director of the Cornell University Magnetic Resonance Imaging Facility, and a Co-director of the Center for Behavioral Economics and Decision Research. Dr. Reyna holds a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Rockefeller University. Her research encompasses human judgment and decision making, numeracy and quantitative reasoning, risk and uncertainty, medical decision making, social judgment, and false memory. She is a developer of fuzzy-trace theory, a model of the relation between mental representations and decision making that has been widely applied in law, medicine, and public health. Her recent work has focused on aging, neurocognitive impairment, and genetic risk factors (e.g., in Alzheimer’s disease); rationality and risky decision making, particularly risk taking in adolescence; and neuroimaging models of framing and decision making. She has extended fuzzy-trace theory to risk perception, numeracy, and dual processes in medical decision making by both physicians and patients. Dr. Reyna also teaches an undergraduate and a graduate seminar on Risk and Rational Decision Making. 

Dr. Reyna has been elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is also a Fellow of the Division of Experimental Psychology, the Division of Developmental Psychology, the Division of Educational Psychology, and the Division of Health Psychology of the American Psychological Association, and she is a Fellow of the American Psychological Society. Dr. Reyna has been a Visiting Professor at the Mayo Clinic, a permanent member of study sections of the National Institutes of Health, and a member on advisory panels for the National Science Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and the National Academy of Sciences. 

Dr. Reyna was appointed Senior Research Advisor in the United States Department of Education, where she oversaw research grant policies and programs, and has also held leadership positions in organizations dedicated to equal opportunity for minorities and women, and on national executive and advisory boards of Centers and grants with similar goals, such as the Arizona Hispanic Center of Excellence, National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and Women in Cognitive Science (supported by a National Science Foundation ADVANCE leadership award). 

Dr. Reyna was appointed for a second term as associate editor of Psychological Science and as an editorial board member of both Psychonomic Bulletin and Review and Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, leading journals in experimental psychology, and associate editor of Developmental Review, the leading journal of literature review and theory in developmental psychology. Dr. Reyna has received many years of research support from private foundations and from U.S. government agencies, and currently serves as principal investigator of two National Institutes of Health grants.

Current Professional Activities:

Associate Editor, Psychological Science

Associate Editor, Developmental Review 

Editorial Board, Psychological ScienceDecisionPsychonomic Bulletin and Review, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, Journal of Behavioral Decision Making

Steering Committee, MacArthur Foundation’s Law and Neuroscience Network, Group to Individual project 

Roundtable and Advisory Committee, Research Center for Excellence in Clinical Preventive Services, funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2011-present.

Committee on Values Clarification of the International Patient Decision Aids Standards

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Risk Communication Advisory Committee

National Academies of Sciences' Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences.

Editorial Advisory Board, Biennial Bronfrenbrenner Conference Series.

National Advisory Board, Center for Learning and Human Development, Miami University.


Current Research Activities:

Organizer of Bronfenbrenner Conference, "The Neuroscience of Risky Decision Making" (click for video) and Editor of forthcoming book of the same title emerging from this conference to be published by the American Psychological Association.

Topics: Judgment and Decision Making; Risk and Rationality; False Memory; Aging and Cognitive Impairment; Cognitive and Social Neuroscience; Developmental Neuroscience. 

Dr. Reyna’s research focuses on dual processes in memory, judgment, and decision making, on how these processes change with age and expertise, and on their implications for risky decision making in law, health, medicine, and neuroscience. She is a developer  of fuzzy-trace theory, a theory of memory and its relation to higher cognitive processes.

Current Extension Activities:

Director of Extension, Department of Human Development, Cornell University

Director of New York City and Central New York outreach programs for risk reduction and obesity-prevention in youth. 


Ph.D. 1981 - Rockefeller University Experimental Psychology

B.A. 1976 - Clark University Psychology (Summa Cum Laude)

Courses Taught:

Courses Taught (selected)
HD 4010 Independent Study, Department of Human Development, Cornell University 
HD 4200 Laboratory in Risk and Rational Decision Making, Cornell University
HD 4250 Translational Research on Decision Making, Department of Human Development, Cornell University 
HD 4990 Honors Thesis, Department of Human Development, Cornell University 
HD 6020 Research on Risk and Rational Decision Making, Department of Human Development, Cornell University 
HD 7000 Directed Readings, Department of Human Development, Cornell University
HD 7010 Empirical Research, Department of Human Development, Cornell University 
HD 7030 Teaching Assistantship, Department of Human Development, Cornell University
HD 8990, Master's Thesis, Department of Human Development, Cornell University 
HD 9990, Doctoral Thesis, Department of Human Development, Cornell University

Related Websites:

Search and Download Reyna Publications

Laboratory for Rational Decision Making

Risky Decision Making in Adolescents

Medical Decision Making

Workshop on Higher Cognition in Adolescents and Young Adults

Judgment, Decision Making, and Social Judgment Project

Human Development Today e-News

Human Development and Law Dual PhD/JD Degree program

Cornell MRI Facility

Human Neuroscience Institute

Administrative Responsibilities:

Co-Director, Cornell University Magnetic Resonance Imaging Facility
Co-Director, Center for Behavioral Economics and Decision Research
Director, Laboratory for Rational Decision Making, Cornell University 
Director, Human Neuroscience Institute, Department of Human Development, Cornell University
Director of Extension, Department of Human Development, Cornell University

Selected Publications:

Reyna, V. F., Chick, C. F., Corbin, J. C., & Hsia, A. N. (2014). Developmental reversals in risky decision-making: Intelligence agents show larger decision biases than college students. Psychological Science, 25(1), 76-84. doi: 10.1177/0956797613497022

Reyna, V. F., Croom, K., Staiano-Coico, L., Lesser, M. L., Lewis, D., Frank, J., & Marchell, T. (2013).  Endorsement of a personal responsibility to adhere to the minimum drinking age law predicts consumption, risky behaviors, and alcohol-related harms.  Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 19(3), 380-394.

Reyna, V. F. (2012). A new intuitionism: Meaning, memory, and development in fuzzy-trace theory.Judgment and Decision Making, 7(3), 332-359.

Reyna, V.F. (2012). Risk perception and communication in vaccination decisions: A fuzzy-trace theory approach. Vaccine, 30, 3790-3797. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2011.11.070

Reyna, V.F., Chapman, S., Dougherty, M., Confrey, J. (2012) The adolescent brain: Learning, reasoning, and decision making. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

Reyna, V. F., Estrada, S. M., DeMarinis, J. A., Myers, R. M., Stanisz, J. M., & Mills, B. A. (2011). Neurobiological and memory models of risky decision making in adolescents versus young adults.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 37(5), 1125-1142.doi:10.1037/a0023943

Reyna, V. F., & Brainerd, C. J. (2011). Dual processes in decision making and developmental neuroscience: A fuzzy-trace model. Developmental Review, 31,180-206. doi: 10.1016/j.dr.2011.07.004

Reyna, V. F., Nelson, W., Han, P., & Dieckmann, N. F. (2009). How numeracy influences risk comprehension and medical decision making. Psychological Bulletin, 135, 943-973.

Lloyd, F. J., & Reyna, V. F. (2009). Clinical gist and medical education: Connecting the dots. Journal of the American Medical Association, 302(12):1332-1333.

Reyna, V. F. (2008). A theory of medical decision making and health: Fuzzy-trace theoryMedical Decision Making, 28, 850-865. 

Reyna, V. F., & Farley, F. (2006). Risk and rationality in adolescent decision making: Implications for theory, practice, and public policyPsychological Science in the Public Interest, 7, 1-44.

Reyna, V.F., & Lloyd, F. (2006). Physician decision making and cardiac risk: Effects of knowledge, risk perception, risk tolerance, and fuzzy processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 12, 179-195.

Reyna, V.F. (2004). How people make decisions that involve risk. A dual-processes approach. Current Directions in Psychological Science. 13, 60-66. 

Reyna, V.F., & Adam, M.B. (2003). Fuzzy-trace theory, risk communication, and product labeling in sexually transmitted diseases. Risk Analysis, 23, 325-342. 

Searchable Keywords:
Judgment and decision making, risk taking, memory, numeracy, medical decision making, neuropsychology

The information on this bio page is taken from the CHE Annual Report.