Professor of Psychology
B.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology; M.A., Ph.D., Vanderbilt University


Karen Yu has taught at Sewanee since 1996. She earned her B.S. in Brain and Cognitive Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from Vanderbilt University, supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship. Prior to teaching at Sewanee, Professor Yu taught on a part-time basis at Belmont University and Vanderbilt University.

Professor Yu teaches courses in cognitive psychology including a seminar on decision-making. Over the years, she has worked with Sewanee students on a range of research projects shaped by their interests and questions. These include studies examining academic dishonesty from a decision-making perspective, college students’ conceptualizations of mental health and mental illness, metaphor-consistent influences of taste sensations on personality judgments, cognitive performance on a computerized concussion battery in supervised vs. unsupervised test environments, effects of diagnosis threat on cognitive test performance, and change blindness during real-world interactions.

Along with Dr. Linda Mayes ’73, Professor Yu has helped to facilitate collaborations between Sewanee and Yale faculty and students, including an interdisciplinary course on Child, Family, and Community Development in Rural Appalachia co-taught by faculty from both institutions and local community partners. 

Professor Yu’s current scholarship focuses on the possibilities inherent in the option generation phase of decision making, and on the influence of framing on judgments and decisions. She co-authors the blog “Choice Matters” at Psychology Today, and is a passionate advocate for cognitive kindness.

Courses offered

208 Cognitive Psychology

230 Child, Family, and Community Development in Rural Appalachia

358 Cognitive Psychology (lab)

410 Cognitive Illusions 

411 Judgment and Decision-Making