Dana Chesney

ProfessorDirector of the M.A. Program in Psychology
Ph.D., Rutgers University, New BrunswickM.S., Rutgers UniversityB.A., The University of Virginia

Education: Dana Chesney joins St. John’s as an assistant professor of psychology. She has a Ph.D. from Rutgers University and a B.A. from the University of Virginia.

Dr. Chesney studies how people understand numbers and math and how to improve this understanding. Numerical literacy is critical to individuals educational and economic opportunities, as well as to national development. A person’s likelihood of success in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics field (STEM field) is directly tied to that person’s numerical ability. In particular, numerical ability has also been linked to a person’s skill at making judgments in financial and health domains. She therefore believe it to be of practical as well as theoretical importance to uncover the cognitive foundations of numerical concepts.

Dr. Chesney’s program of research addresses multiple interrelated questions about numerical concepts:

*How do the basic mechanisms that underlie the perception of numerical magnitudes function?

*How are perceptually based numerical magnitudes linked with symbolic numbers?

*How are higher-order numerical concepts and skills linked to more basic abilities?

These research pathways all tie to one central question:

*How do multiple numerical processes, ranging from automatic perception of numerical magnitudes to higher-order mathematical skills, impact a person’s ability to use numbers?

Dr. Chesney’s long-term goal is to create interventions that can improve numerical understanding for people of all ages. If we fully understand how various processes interact to yield numerical understanding, we can see how best to leverage these processes to increase numerical literacy.

Current work in her lab includes research on the use of numbers in decision contexts and the development of short interventions that can yield immediate improvements in people's use of number when making decisions.




Chesney, D.L., & Matthews, P.M. (2018) Task constraints affect mapping from approximate number system estimates to symbolic numbers. Frontiers in Psychology, 9 (1801), 1-11.

Chesney, D.L., (2018). Numerical distance effect size is a poor metric of approximate number system acuity. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 80, 1057-1063.

Chesney, D.L.,  McNeil, N. M., Petersen, L. A. & Dunwiddie, A. E., (2018) Arithmetic practice that includes relational words promotes understanding of symbolic equations. Learning and Individual Difference, 64, 104-112.

Obrecht, N. A., & Chesney, D. L. (2016). Promoting deliberation increases base rate use in judgments.  Judgment and Decision Making, 1, 1-6. http://journal.sjdm.org/15/15811/jdm15811.pdf

Chesney, D. L., Bjälkebring, P., & Peters, E. (2015). How to estimate how well people estimate: Evaluating measures of individual differences in the approximate number system. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 77, 2781–2802. doi: 10.3758/s13414-015-0974-6

Chesney, D. L. & Gelman, R. (2015). What counts? Visual and verbal cues interact to influence what is considered a countable thing. Memory & Cognition, 43(5), 798-810. doi: 10.3758/s13421-015-0505-7

Matthews, P. G. & Chesney, D. L., (2015). Fractions as percepts? Exploring cross-format distance effects for fractional magnitudes. Cognitive Psychology, 78, 28-56. doi: 10.1016/j.cogpsych.2015.01.006

Byrd, C. E., McNeil, N. M., Chesney, D. L., & Matthews, P. G. (2015). A specific misconception of the equal sign acts as a barrier to children's learning of early algebra. Learning and Individual Differences, 38, 1-15. doi: 10.1016/j.lindif.2015.01.001

Chesney, D. L. & McNeil, N. M. (2014). Activation of operational thinking during arithmetic practice hinders learning and transfer. The Journal of Problem Solving, 7, Article 4. doi: 10.7771/1932-6246.1165

Chesney, D. L., McNeil, N. M., Matthews, P. G. Byrd, C. E.,  Petersen, L. A., Wheeler, M. C., Fyfe, E. R., & Dunwiddie, A. E. (2014). Organization matters: Mental organization of addition knowledge relates to understanding math equivalence in symbolic form. Cognitive Development, 30, 30-46. doi:10.1016/j.cogdev.2014.01.001

Chesney, D. L. & Matthews, P. (2013). Knowledge on the line: Manipulating beliefs about the magnitudes of symbolic numbers affects linearity of line estimation tasks. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 20, 1146-53. doi:10.3758/s13423-013-0446-8

Chesney, D. L., McNeil, N. M., Brockmole, J. R., & Kelley, K. (2013). An eye for relations: Eye tracking indicates long-term negative effects of operational thinking on understanding of math equivalence. Memory and Cognition, 41, 1079-1095. doi:0.3758/s13421-013-0315-8

Obrecht, N. A, & Chesney, D. L., (2013). Sample representativeness affects whether judgments are influenced by base rate or sample size. Acta Psychologica, 142, 370-382. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2013.01.012

Chesney, D. L. & Gelman, R. (2012). Visual nesting impacts approximate number system estimation. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 74, 1104-1113. doi:10.3758/s13414-012-0349-1

Chesney, D. L. & Obrecht, N. A. (2012). Statistical judgments are influenced by the implied likelihood that samples represent the same population. Memory and Cognition, 40, 420-433. doi:10.3758/s13421-011-0155-3

McNeil, N. M., Chesney, D. L., Matthews, P. G., Fyfe, E. R., Petersen, L. A., Dunwiddie, A. E., & Wheeler, M. C. (2012). It pays to be organized: Organizing arithmetic practice around equivalent values facilitates understanding of math equivalence. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104, 1109-1121. doi:10.1037/a0028997

Chesney, D. L. & Haladjian, H. H. (2011). Evidence for a shared mechanism used in multiple-object tracking and subitizing. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 73, 2457-2480. doi: 10.3758/s13414-011-0204-9


Obrecht, N. A., & Chesney, D.L. (2018). Tasks that prime deliberative processes boost base rate use. Proceedings of the 40th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society.

Chesney, D. (2016). The relationship between the numerical distance effect and approximate number system acuity is non-linear. In Papafragou, A., Grodner, D., Mirman, D., & Trueswell, J.C. (Eds.). Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Obrecht, N. A. & Chesney, D. L.  (2015). Support for a deliberative failure account of base-rate neglect: Prompting deliberation increases base-rate use. In Noelle, D. C., Dale, R., Warlaumont, A. S., Yoshimi, J., Matlock, T., Jennings, C. D., & Maglio, P. P. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 37th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Matthews, P. G.  Chesney, D. L., & McNeil, N. M. (2014). Are Fractions Natural Numbers, Too? In M. Bello P., Guarini M., McShane M. & Scassellati B. (Eds.) Proceedings of the 36rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 982-987. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Chesney, D. L.  & Obrecht, N. A. (2011). Adults are sensitive to variance when making likelihood judgments. In L. Carlson, C. Hölscher, & T. Shipley (Eds.), Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 3134-3139. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Matthews, P. G. & Chesney, D. L. (2011). Straightening up: Number line estimates shift from log to linear with additional information. In L. Carlson, C. Hölscher, & T. Shipley (Eds.), Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 1936-1941. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.