Dr. Joe McFall

  Dr. Joe McFall, Ph.D.

Dr. Joe McFall, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Thompson Hall E356 Thompson Hall

(716) 673-3129

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Ph.D., West Virginia University

Dr. McFall is a Life-Span Developmental Psychologist specializing in everyday cognition (problem-solving effectiveness, decision making theory, cognitive impairment) across adulthood, defining age and adulthood and understanding effects of ageism, as well as complex research design and multivariate data modeling and analysis. He is a native of Olean, NY and alum of Fredonia.

Teaching Interests

Dr. McFall’s teaching interests align with his scholarly interests. As a life-span developmental psychologist by training (concentrating in research design and data analysis) and a researcher in everyday cognition, Dr. McFall enjoys teaching Cognitive Development, Child Psychology, Psychology of Adulthood, and Advanced Research Methods. He also coordinates the department internship program periodically, teaches Foundations of Psychology, and offers elective courses such as Senior Honors Seminar in Judgment an Decision Making Theories, Honors course in Decision Making and Reasoning, and special topics courses in the Psychology of the Awkward and Uncomfortable.

Dr. McFall maintains an active research lab through which he collaborates and supervises several independent study students each semester on their original investigations. He views this as vital mentoring experience for students seeking professional careers or graduate education.

Dr. McFall also works with academic advisees seeking entry to graduate school to assist with application material development.

Research Interests

Dr. McFall’s overarching program of research involves factors predicting adults’ everyday life success, such as problem-solving effectiveness, decision-making outcomes, and the relation of attitudes about adulthood identity to health and well being. His research typically focuses on normative development processes related to applied cognition, but occasionally examines atypical or non-normative cognition, such as early temperamental predictors of mild cognitive impairment.

The bulk of Dr. McFall's research, including collaborative work with his research students and national collaborators, falls within three primary lines: (1) meta-theory of everyday decision making, including experimental manipulation of cognitive biases and reasoning errors across adulthood, (2) defining age and understanding the effects of ageism and interpersonal transgressions on adults’ health and well-being, and (3) effectiveness of everyday problem-solving strategies across early and alter adulthood.

Dr. McFall and his team are currently developing a conceptual cognitive process model of everyday decision making and are conducting experiments to assess whether its predictions based on hypothetical research match behavioral data from the lab. The goal is to unify existing theoretical approaches to understanding decision-making processes while providing ecological validity of the model. This model also provides a connective framework for predicting how and when reasoning errors and cognitive biases result from the normative decision making process. Some projects within this line have involved multicultural analyses of decision making and reasoning and have included both quantitative and qualitative data analysis.

Dr. McFall's interest in defining age and adulthood has resulted in his participation in a national collaborative to define "emerging adulthood." Emerging adulthood is a tendency for young adults to delay traditional activities that serve as societal markers of adulthood (e.g., marriage, living independently from parents, raising children, starting a career) in pursuit of other goals or activities (e.g., education, career exploration, identity exploration). Researchers suspect that increases in life expectancy and cultural changes, especially in developed nations, drive this lengthening of the time between adolescence and traditional adulthood. In two recent papers based on data from 33 colleges and universities located primarily in the United States, Dr. McFall conducted multilevel analyses to test the psychometric properties (reliability and validity) of some of the scales that are used to assess emerging adulthood, as well as perform a replication study to test whether previous research about individual differences in young adults’ personality and values vary across regions. The data is also published online for open public use (see Journal of Open Psychology Data).

Current Research

  • Implicit Theories, culture, personality, and sexual behavior
  • Investigating the link between temperament and cognitive status in younger and older adulthood
  • Predicting sunk cost effect lab-based behavioral data from hypothetical vignette pre-survey data
  • Probability estimation errors: Contextual effects, cognitive biases, or methodological artifacts?
  • There's no time like the present: A replication, expansion, and alternate explanation of Kassam et al., 2008

Professional Membership

  • Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science

Intellectual Contributions

  • "PSACR: The Psychological Science Accelerator's COVID-19 Rapid-Response Dataset," Nature Scientific Data / Springer Nature (N/A).
  • "Measuring the Semantic Priming Effect Across Many Languages," Nature Human Behavior / Springer Nature (N/A).
  • "Situational factors shape moral judgments in the trolley dilemma in Eastern, Southern, and Western countries in a culturally diverse sample," Nature Human Behavior / Springer Nature (2022).
  • "Examining COVID-19 vaccination intentions between early stages of the pandemic and one year later in the United States," Psi Chi Journal of Psychological Research (2022).
  • "Do Institutional Characteristics Predict Markers of Adulthood? A Close Replication of Fosse and Toyokawa (2016)," Emerging Adulthood/Sage Publications (2018).
  • "Emerging Adulthood MoA/IDEA-8 Scale Characteristics from Multiple Institutions," Emerging Adulthood/Sage Publications (2018).
  • "Emerging Adulthood Measured at Multiple Institutions 2: The Data," Journal of Open Psychology Data/Ubiquity PRess (2018).
  • "Directions toward a meta-process model of decision making: Cognitive and behavioral models of change," Behavioral Development Bulletin/American Psychological Association (2015).
  • "Rational, normative, descriptive, prescriptive, or choice behavior? The search for integrative meta-theory of decision making," Behavioral Development Bulletin/American Psychological Association (2015).
  • "Age differences in everyday problem-solving strategy effectiveness: Are older adults' strategies more likely to solve problems, prevent future problems, or manage emotions?," The Gerontologist/Gerontological Society of America (2011).
  • "Endorsement of interpersonal strategies for dealing with hypothetical everyday arthritis problems as a function of marital status, gender, and problem severity," The International Journal of Aging and Human Development/Sage (2010).
  • "Inerpersonal processes between older adult friends: An actor-partner model," The Gerontologist/Gerontological Society of America (2009).
  • "A look at effectiveness of older & younger adults' everyday problem-solving strategies: Does collaboration make a difference?," The Gerontologist/Gerontological Society of America (2008).
  • "Age differences in effective everyday problem solving," The Gerontologist/Gerontological Society of America (2008).
  • "Aging in a social context: Implications for everyday cognitive performance," The Gerontologist/Gerontological Society of America (2008).
  • "Perceptions of custodial grandparents: Problem interpretations predict expectations about grandparent adjustment & caregiving," The Gerontologist/Gerontological Society of America (2008).
  • "Collaborative everyday problem solving among same-gender friends in early and later adulthood," Psychology and Aging/American Psychological Association (2008).
  • "Are older adults less subject to the sunk-cost fallacy than younger adults?," Psychological Science/Sage (2008).


  • "Measurement Enthusiasts: Problems in Psychological Measurement in Research and Applied Domains," SIPS 2022 (2022).
  • "Measurement Enthusiasts: Science meets Meta-science," PSACON21 (2021).
  • "Conceptualizations of Adulthood Confidence: A Mixed Methods Study," 24th Annual American Association of Behavioral and Social Sciences Conference (2021).
  • "Age Differences in Conceptions of Adulthood and Identity: Multilevel Analyses of the EAMMI2 Dataset," 2020 American Psychological Association Annual Convention (2020).
  • "The role of sunk costs in authorizing terrorism sting operations in the US and India," 49th Annual Meeting of the Society for Cross-Cultural Research (2020).
  • "Multilevel Modeling, a Basic Introduction Using the EAMMi2 (Emerging Adulthood Measured at Multiple Institutions 2)," N/A (2019).
  • "Scale Revision Design and Analysis: Multilevel Scale Psychometrics with the Revised Markers of Adulthood Scale," N/A (2019).
  • "From online survey to the lab: The validity of hypothetical sunk cost research in emerging adults," 9th Biennial Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood (2019).
  • "Authentic research project-based learning in the Introductory Psychology classroom," Fifth Annual Applied Learning Conference (2018).
  • "Understanding indirect effects of interpersonal transgressions on health and well-being in emerging adults: A comparison of stress process and discrimination models," 8th Biennial Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood (2017).
  • "Between general education programs: Leading transition," 2017 Association for General and Liberal Studies Annual Conference (2017).
  • "“Linking Cognitive Impairment to Human Temperament across Adulthood: Biological Bases of Executive Functioning”," State Society on Aging of New York’s 44th Annual Conference (2016).
  • "There's no time like the present: "Presentism" outweighs "future anhedonia" in explaining affective forecasting errors," 28th Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science (2016).
  • "Cultural differences in reasoning errors: Comparison of United States and India," 27th Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science (2015).
  • "Processing Speed and Age Differences in Sunk Cost Health Decisions," 25th Annual Conference of the Association for Psychological Science (2013).