Mitchell Rabinowitz

Mitchell Rabinowitz


Counseling Psychology

113 West 60th Street
Room 1008

Office hours: By appointment. 

  • PhD Psychology, University of California, San Diego, December, 1982
    MA Psychology, University of California, San Diego, December, 1981
    MA Educational Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, June, 1979
    BA Psychology, SUNY at Albany, Albany, NY, December, 1976

  • Beliefs about trauma

    Brooke Haseltine (current Ph.D. student in Counseling Psychology and Mitchell Rabinowitz
    This study will investigate how individuals think about what does and what does not constitute a traumatic event, and if these beliefs change when people are asked to consider the perspectives of others or themselves. The study will additionally explore if personality traits and demographic information (including age, gender and political ideology) play a part in participants’ answers.

    Perceiving the underlying causes of emotional states

    Ilya Lyashevsky (Teachers College) and Mitchell Rabinowitz

    This study investigated the ability of adults (N=134) to perceive the underlying causes of emotional states in ambiguous scenarios in which these causes were not explicitly identified as the focus of interest. A triad judgment task was used and participants had to choose which of 2 scenarios “goes best” with a target scenario. Three types of triads were presented: (a) a scenario with similar surface features (in story narrative) versus unrelated features, (b) scenarios with similar deep structural features (similar emotion causes) versus unrelated features, and (c) scenarios with similar surface versus similar structural features. Results showed that when there was competition between surface and structural features, participants were worse at perceiving the underlying cause of emotional states. However, participants were able to perceive the causes when distracting features were removed. Results are consistent with past studies employing the triad paradigm to evaluate deep structure perception, and suggest that while untrained participants tend to be distracted by the surface features of a scenario, they have the ability to perceive important underlying features of emotional situations. The findings have implications for how deep structure perception is approached in the context of emotion knowledge, and might be used to inform and improve social emotional learning practice.

    Beliefs about Sexual Assault in China

    Xiaoxiao Dong, HangYi Chen, and Mitchell Rabinowitz

    In recent years, the issue of sexual assault or xing sao rao has been receiving increasing attention in China, as evidenced by its involvement in movements against sexual assault, such as the #MeToo campaign. The core of #MeToo entails the focus on feminism and gender equality (Ozkazanc-Pan, 2018). The rise of such movements is accompanied by heightened awareness of and public discussions on the issue of sexual assault in China. A household survey conducted in Hong Kong back in 2003 indicated that about 1.6% of women had been subjected to some form of sexual assault in their life outside of their marital relationship (Ko-ling, 2005). However, there are no national statistics on the prevalence of sexual assault in Mainland China. Considering the ongoing social revolution in China related to sexual assault, it is critical to examine the publics attitudes in this domain.

    Methods. The current survey study aimed to investigate the perception of the culpability of sexual assault (victim vs. perpetrator blaming) in China. A survey link was posted on a major Chinese social networking site, WeChat. All participants met the following inclusion criteria: (1) being 18 years of age or older, (2) currently residing in China, and (3) being a native Chinese speaker. The final sample included 227 participants (177 women and 50 men). The sample varied in their age, educational level, and locality of residence. The survey included 26 statements about sexual assault. Participants were asked to indicate their level of agreement with the statements. Thirteen statements assessed participants' tendency to blame the victim (e.g., people provoke sexual assault when they act in a promiscuous manner). The other 13 statements evaluated their tendency to blame the perpetrator (e.g., intoxication does not make the assailant innocent of sexual assault). Furthermore, we asked participants to list three instances in which they felt fearful or threatened. Existing literature indicates a link between emotional arousal and blaming behavior. For example, one study observed increased conviction rates when gruesome photographic evidence was presented to the mock juries, and anger was found to be the mediating factor in such phenomenon (Bright & Goodman-Delahunty, 2006).

    Results. Findings suggested that men tended to agree with statements that blame the victim more than those that blame the perpetrator compared with women. Older adults also showed higher rates of blaming the victim than younger participants. A significant interaction effect was found between age and gender, with a larger effect for men than women. While both women and men were more likely to agree with blaming the victim statements as they get older, older men more frequently endorsed such statements. Regarding the tendency to blame the perpetrator, there was no significant difference between men and women. Counter to findings in previous studies, we did not find a relationship between fear and participants' tendency to attribute culpability. More detailed results will be presented with considerations of the Chinese socio-political and cultural context. Implications for practice and policy-making, as well as directions for future research, will be provided.

    Polarization of beliefs about sexual assault as a function of political ideology

    Mitchell Rabinowitz, Thanos Patelis, Margaret McGuire and Nitzan Cohen

    It is common to hear claims of increased polarization about beliefs on numerous topics within our society.  The current study documents this in the context of beliefs about sexual assault through agreement statements related to blaming the victim vs. blaming the perpetrator.  We collected data from three national samples in the U.S. using mTurk during three time periods: Time 1 (4/24/2017 to 5/21/2017, N = 335), Time 2 (2/26/2018 to 2/28/2018, N = 333, and Time 3 (9/28/2018 to 9/30/2108, N = 330). We also collected data regarding political ideology (conservative, moderate, liberal).  Overall, people were much more likely to agree with statements that blamed the perpetrator than blamed the victim.  Along the continuum of liberal to conservative, there is a decrease in agreement with statements that blame the perpetrator and an increase agreement to statements that blame the victim.  Finally, in relation to the time variable, at Time 3, there was a marked decrease in agreement to statements that blamed the perpetrator and an increase in agreement with statements that blamed the victim. Liberals showed both these trends across time a little, moderates a bit more, but the major shift came from conservatives.  These results argue that polarization is not occurring because liberals are becoming more liberal and conservatives are becoming more conservative.  If anything, liberals were becoming a bit more conservative.  However, the major shift came from conservatives who were moving to a more conservative position.  We interpret these findings from the context of system justification theory.

    Who’s at fault?: Beliefs about victim and perpetrator blame in cases of sexual assault.

    With Nitzan Cohen and Maggie McQuire (current Ph.D. students in Counseling Psychology)

    This study investigates people’s beliefs about who is at fault in situations involving sexual assault.  Specifically, we look at how people’s beliefs vary as a function of characterological and situational variables and the interaction between the two. Characterological variables include gender, degree of religious observance, and political ideology. Situational variables include degree of fear and pre and post the #metoo movement. 

    Orienting to See the Invisible: Learn to Ignore the Irrelevant

    With Jaclin Gerstal-Friedman (Doctoral candidate – Counseling Psychology program)

    Poster presented at the bi-annual meeting of the International Society for Psychological Science. Amsterdam

    The current study used a triad judgment task to assess whether blocking by comparison type could lead people to pay less attention to surface level (irrelevant) features and pay more attention to deep (structural) features of information. On each triad, participants were asked to evaluate which of two source scenarios went best with the target scenario. Three types of triads were constructed with materials related to the ability to perceive ethical issues within the practice of psychology. One type of triad contrasted a scenario that was similar to the target in terms of surface level features and a scenario that was similar in terms of deep features (SS/SD). A second triad type contrasted a scenario that was similar in terms of deep features with an unrelated scenario (SD/U). The third contrasted a scenario that was similar in terms of surface features with an unrelated scenario (SS/U). There were ten triads of each type. We found that for the SD/U triads, participants were reliably able to pick out the scenario that was similar in terms of deep features. However, with the SD/SS triads most participants reliably chose the scenario that was similar in terms of surface level features with the exception of one condition. Participants, who first were shown the ten SD/U triads, were significantly more likely to choose the scenario that was related by deep features on SD.SS triads.. The results provide evidence that people often have the ability to perceive the deep, but they are distracted by the surface-level features. The results also show that people can be oriented away from being distracted by the surface level features so that they can see the deep.

    Teachers' Educational Beliefs About Students With Learning Disabilities

    With Andrew Landers (PhD Candidate, School Psychology)

    Teachers’ educational beliefs, ranging from expectations of student performance to notions about instructional practice, and their connection to student outcomes and teacher behavior, have been well documented in research. The way in which teachers evaluate and categorize concepts and information in relation to their work with students with learning disabilities, however, does not share the same developed history in the current literature. Additionally, there is a lack of research exploring how the overall socioeconomic status of an educational environment relates to variations in teachers’ educational beliefs. This study has four goals: to examine teachers’ agreement on statements about students with learning disabilities, to assess how well teachers can predict the beliefs of other teachers, to examine the categorization of statements as facts or beliefs, and to assess how these variables vary in teachers across educational environments that differ by prominent socioeconomic status (SES).

    A Trip Down Memory Lane: Attachment Related Differences in Memory for Relational Information

    With Heather Yeghnazar (Doctoral candidate, Counseling Psychology)

    Poster presented at the bi-annual meeting of the International Society for Psychological Science. Amsterdam.

    This study investigates the role of constructive processes in memory for relational information as presented through prose. Attachment theory is applied as a schema for interpreting relational information, and its role on memory is assessed through use of a false recognition paradigm. Previous research suggests that individuals vary in their memory for information pertaining to relationships based on their level of attachment security or insecurity (Belsky et al., 1996; Edelstein, 2006; Feeney & Cassidy, 2003; Fraley & Brumbaugh, 2007; Fraley et al., 2000; Kirsh & Cassidy, 1997; Mikulincer & Arad, 1999; Miller & Noirot, 1999; van Emmichoven, van Ijzendoorn, De Ruiter, & Brosschot, 2003). Additionally, individual attachment security predicts unique variation in false recognition of attachment related words (Block, 2009). This study extends prior research by investigating individual differences in false recognition of attachment related themes within a narrative about relationships.

    Domain Effects on Knowledge Organization Preferences

    With Nina Proestler, (PhD, Educational Psychology)

    Poster presented at the 24th annual convention of the Association for Psychological Science, Chicago, IL.

    This study used a triad judgment task to investigate whether participants preferred taxonomic or thematic associations within the domain of the animal kingdom. Eleven different triad types were constructed where we contrasted varying degrees of taxonomic relatedness with thematic associations (thematically related animals – food – and thematic location. While the taxonomic choice was preferred when paired with thematic related animals, locations presented as thematically related terms seemed to be favored equally and even stronger than taxonomic related animals. Surprisingly, thematic related locations were preferred over thematically related animals.

    The Effects of Ease of Processing on the Perception and Use of a Verbal Strategy

    With Kenneth Woolley (PhD, Educational Psychology)

    This research assesses how ease of processing of relevant knowledge would affect the efficacy, perception, and maintenance of a cognitive strategy. Participants were instructed to use of a componential strategy for solving verbal analogy problems and performance was assessed on both initial learning and maintenance trials. The familiarity of problem content was varied in a between-subjects fashion for both vocabulary and concept relationship accessibility. Results confirmed the effectiveness of the componential strategy training and the significant effect of the knowledge manipulations. Also, knowledge accessibility affected the way in which the strategy was perceived. Participants rated the strategy as more useful, easier to use, and less effortful when their initial strategy experience involved solving analogy problems based on familiar vocabulary and relationships. Also, participants who had experience with both the easy vocabulary and easy relationships were significantly more likely to maintain use of the strategy on the maintenance task. These results were contrasted with the position advocating for presenting desirable difficulties.

    Beliefs About Addiction: The Role of Political Ideology

    With Jaclin Gerstal-Friedman (PhD Candidate, Counseling Psychology

    This research examines how Liberals and Conservatives differ in their perceptions of addiction. We will look at three models of addiction: (a) a disease model which conceptualizes addiction through a medical paradigm, (b) a sociological model, which looks at the macro causes of addiction, and (c) a moral or personal characteristic model which views a flaw in character as the source of addiction. Additionally, the study will investigate the actual and perceived consensus, and accuracy of consensus predictions, within political groups. Finally, the study will assess addiction paradigm preferences within political groups, as they relate to epistemological beliefs about the nature of science.

    Guided Cognition Of Unsupervised Learning: A New Approach to Designing Homework

    With William B., Whitten II and Sandra Whitten

    Guided Cognition is an instructional design approach where homework tasks guide learners to engage in specific, observable cognitive events hypothesized to elicit cognitive processes that result in learning. Five experiments employed Guided Cognition design in authentic learning environments. Homework was enriched by inserting cognitive events common in supervised learning. Designing homework questions to include content-focused cognitive events significantly increased learning compared to traditional homework. Advantages of Guided Cognition study were not due to content, time-on-task, or teaching, and occurred across a range of abilities, subject matter, and retention intervals. These advantages likely result from effective cognitive processes triggered by the embedded cognitive events which create more elaborate, salient, durable, and accessible representations.

    Beliefs about Vaccinations: Comparing a sample from a medical school to that from the general population

    With Lauren Latella (PhD student in counseling psychology) and Robert McAuley (Oakland University)

    In the current study, we surveyed students and faculty within a medical school (n = 58) and a sample from the general population in the US (n = 177) about beliefs related to vaccinations. Recently, a number of parents have chosen to stop vaccinating their children and as a consequence a number of diseases that were nearly eradicated such as whooping cough, measles, and diphtheria have returned.

    Each participant was asked to evaluate statements about vaccinations (both pro and con) on a number of dimensions. Overall, we found that people in both samples agreed with pro more that con statements, but the medical sample tended to be more likely to categorize the pro statements as facts than the general population. In reference to categorizing statements into facts vs. beliefs, we observed that there was little consensus within each group as to which statement was which. We also looked at “illusion of uniqueness effect” (Stern, West, & Schmidt, 2014) that investigates whether people underestimate the percentage of people who would agree with them. We observed that while both samples exhibited this effect, the medical sample exhibited this more than the general population. The implications of the medical sample underestimating the general population level of agreement is discussed in reference to implications in terms of how doctors and patients communicate.

    Does health consciousness influence the way individuals perceive illness?

    With Lauren Latella (PhD student in Counseling Psychology)

    In the current study, we assessed people’s beliefs about illness causation as a function of health consciousness. Using Mechanical Turk and obtaining a national sample from the U.S. (n = 101), we asked people to evaluate different statements environmental/biological and spiritual/psychological causations of illnesses on a number of dimensions. With the increasing demand for universal health care in the US, clinicians and policymakers are seeking ways to understand how people’s perception of illnesses relate to health related behaviors. This drive to greater the wellbeing of US citizens has created a push for preventative health measures, influencing citizens’ the level of health consciousness. Overall, we observed that research that regardless of the level of health consciousness, participants agreed more with environmental/biological statements (vs. spiritual/psychological). Participants were also more likely to categorize environmental/biological (vs. spiritual/psychological) statements as “facts” and spiritual/psychological (vs. environmental/biological) statements as “beliefs.” Importantly, we found that participants that exhibited a higher level of health consciousness (as measured by Hong’s (2015) adaptation of Dutta-Bergman (2004, 2006, and 2007) scale) significantly overestimated the percentage of people who would agree with them on both types of illness statements, thereby exhibiting the “the truly false consensus bias” (Krueger & Clement, 1994), whereas the individuals classified as lower health consciousness did not. The implication of the higher health consciousness overestimation as it relates to health related decision making will be discussed.

  • Recent Publications

    Rabinowitz M, Latella L, Stern C, Jost JT (2016). Beliefs about Childhood Vaccination in the United States: Political Ideology, False Consensus, and the Illusion of Uniqueness. PLoS ONE, 11(7): e0158382. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0158382

    Fialkov, E. D., Jackson, M. A., & Rabinowitz, M. (2014). Effects of Experience and Surface-Level Distraction on Ability to Perceive Ethical Issues. Training and Education in Professional Psychology.

    Rabinowitz, M. & McAuley, R. (2014). The Effects on Ease of Processing on the Use and Perception of Strategies. Journal of Cognitive Psychology.

    Blau Portnoy, L, & Rabinowitz, M. (2014). What’s in a Domain: Understanding How Students Approach Questioning in History and Science. Journal of Educational Research and Evaluation.

    Rabinowitz, M., & Acevedo, M, Casen, S., Rosengarten, M., Kowalczyk, M., & Blau Portnoy, L. (2013). Distinguishing facts from beliefs: Fuzzy Categories, Journal of Language and Communication, 17(3), 241- 267, DOI: 10.2478/plc-2013-0016.


    Rabinowitz, M. (Ed.) (1993). Cognitive science foundations of instruction. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Hedley, C., Antonucci, P., & Rabinowitz, M. (Eds.), (1995). Literacy and thinking: The mind at work. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Stein, N. L., Bauer, P. J., & Rabinowitz, M. (Eds.), (2002). Representation, memory, and development: Essays in honor of Jean Mandler. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Rabinowitz, M., Blumberg, F. C., & Everson, H. (Eds.), (2004). The impact of media and technology on instruction. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Other publications (selected)

    Wyatt, J., & Rabinowitz, M. (2010). The impact of subject specialization upon knowledge organization. American Journal of Psychology, 123, 295-305.

    Hogan, T., & Rabinowitz, M. (2009). Teacher expertise and the development of a problem representation. Educational Psychology, 29, 153-169.

    Rabinowitz, M., & Hogan, T. M. (2008). Experience and problem representation in statistics. American Journal of Psychology, 121(3), 395-407.

    Rabinowitz, M., & Shaw, E. J. (2005). Psychology, instructional design, and the use of technology: Behavioral, cognitive, and affordances perspectives. Educational Technology, 45, 49-53. (invited paper).

    Ullman, C. & Rabinowitz, M. (2004). Course management systems and the reinvention of instruction, T.H.E. Journal. (not peer reviewed).

    Hogan, T. M., Rabinowitz, M, & Craven, J. (2003). Problem representation in teaching: Inferences from research of expert and novice teachers, Educational Psychologist, 38, 235-247.

    Rabinowitz, M & Hodulik, C. (1997) Categorizing physics problems. Proceedings from the annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Rabinowitz, M., & Goldberg, N. (1995). Evaluating the structure-process hypothesis. In F. Weinert & W. Schneider (Eds.), Memory Performance and Competencies: Issues in Growth and Development. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Rabinowitz, M., & Steinfeld, R. (1995). SIVL:The instructional design underlying a foreign language vocabulary tutor. In C. Hedley, P. Antonucci, and M. Rabinowitz (Eds.), Literacy and thinking: The mind at work. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Rabinowitz, M., & Woolley, K.E. (1995). Much ado about nothing: The relation between computational skill, arithmetic word problem comprehension and limited attentional resources. Cognition and Instruction, 13, 51-71.

    Rabinowitz, M., Ornstein, P.A., Folds-Bennett, T., & Schneider, W. (1994). Age-related differences in speed of processing: Unconfounding age and experience. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 57, 449-459.

    Rabinowitz, M., Freeman, K., & Cohen, S. (1992). On the use and maintenance of strategies: The influence of accessibility to knowledge. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 211-218.

    Hergenrather, J., & Rabinowitz, M. (1991). Children's understanding about illness: A developmental perspective. Developmental Psychology, 27, 952-958.

    Rabinowitz, M. (1991). Semantic and strategic processing: Independent roles in determining memory performance. American Journal of Psychology, 104, 427-437.

    Rabinowitz, M., & McAuley, R. (1990). Conceptual knowledge processing: An oxymoron? In W. Schneider and F. Weinert (Eds.), Interactions among aptitudes, strategies, and knowledge in cognitive performance. (pg. 177-133). New York: Springer-Verlag.

    Rabinowitz, M. (1988). On teaching cognitive strategies: The influence of accessibility of conceptual knowledge. Contemporary Journal of Educational Psychology, 13, 229-235.

    Rabinowitz, M., and Chi, M. T. H. (1987). An interactive model of strategic processing. In S. J. Ceci (Ed.), Handbook of the cognitive, social, and physiological characteristics of learning disabilities, Vol. 2. Hillsdale, NJ: Eribaum.

    Rabinowitz, M., and Glaser, R. (1985). Cognitive structure and process in highly competent performance. In F. D. Horowitz, and M. O'Brien (Eds.), The Gifted and the Talented: A Developmental Perspective. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

    Rabinowitz, M. (1984). The use of categorical organization: Not an all-or-none situation. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 38, 338-351.

    Rabinowitz, M., and Mandler, J. M. (1983). Organization and information retrieval. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 9, 430-439.

    • 1982-1984 Post-Doctoral Fellow, Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA; with Robert Glaser
    • 1984-1988 Assistant Professor of Education, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
    • 1987-1988 Assistant Professor of Health Professions Education, School of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
    • 1987, 1988, and 1989 Visiting Scholar - Max-Planck-Institute of Psychological Research, Munich
    • 1988-1996 Associate Professor of Education, Fordham University
    • 1996- Professor of Education, Fordham University
    • 9/1996 – 12/2005 Director - Center for Technology in Education
    • 9/1998 – 12/2004 Director, Educational Psychology Programs
    • Spring, 2005 Visiting Scholar, Educational Communication and Technology Program, Steinhardt School of Education, New York University; Visiting Scholar, PACE Center, Yale University
    • September, 2005 - June, 2012 Chairperson, Division of Psychological and Educational Services
    • Fall, 2012 Visiting Scholar, Department of Psychology, New York University; Visiting Scholar, Department of Human Development, Teachers College
    • College Board Graduate Training Program (Mitchell Rabinowitz, PI) 9/1/2005 – 5/15/2013, (funded: $543,915.00).
    • Guided Cognition of Unsupervised Learning (William B. Whitten II & Mitchell Rabinowitz, Co-PIs) 6/1/05 – 5/31/08, Cognition and Student Learning panel, Institute of Educational Science, Department of Education. (Funded $623,390).
    • Guided Cognition of Unsupervised Learning in Mathematics (William B. Whitten II & Mitchell Rabinowitz, (Co-PIs) 6/1/08 – 5/31/11 Cognition and Student Learning panel, Institute of Educational Science, Department of Education. (funded: $889,937).