Penn State Harrisburg professor receives dissertation award

Ji Young Kim’s work was honored by the American Psychological Association
Ji Young Kim
Credit: Penn State Harrisburg

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Ji Young Kim, assistant professor of psychology in the Penn State Harrisburg School of Behavioral Sciences and Education, received an award from the American Psychological Association (APA) for her dissertation on applying behavioral economics concepts to education.

Kim, who earned her doctorate in applied behavior analysis at Teachers College, Columbia University, was named the 2023 recipient of the APA Division 25 SEAB Dissertation Award in Applied Research.

Kim said her goal in the dissertation, “Application of Behavior Economics to Education,” was to bridge behavioral economics — which often involves how individuals make decisions and choices — and education through the lens of behavior science.

“There’s a great need for more research in applying basic behavioral economics concepts to educational settings,” she said.

Her dissertation broke down into four studies, examining: the application of token economy (a behavior intervention tactic usually involving reinforcement of desired behavior) in educational settings; the concept of delay discounting (a measure of sensitivity to reward delays) in education; intervention to help teach optimal choice behaviors in children; and correlations to academic scores.

“I’m hoping to continue the line of research looking at choice and decision-making, in education and a variety of applied contexts,” Kim said. “Being an educator myself, I think there’s a lot of room for investigation or expansion in looking at how we can teach individuals to engage in meaningful choice behaviors.”

About receiving the APA award, Kim said, “It’s a huge honor. I’m very thankful for being recognized by people within the field.”

As the award recipient, Kim has been invited to present a summary of her research at the APA convention in Washington, D.C., later this year.