We investigate how people form judgments and beliefs, as well as how these shape their decisions and behaviors. The types of judgments and beliefs we study could be about almost anything, but we have a particular interest in how people think about things that involve uncertainty—e.g., your team’s chance of success, the threat of a storm or a pandemic, the risks and benefits of a medical treatment, the validity of a claim, or your own confidence in your skills. Many of our studies focus on biases, their causes, and how they can be avoided. And often, our research involves the context of health-relevant decisions, but applications of our work can extend to other domains as well.

Keywords from recent and current projects

  • optimistic bias / overconfidence
  • perceived vulnerability / risk
  • social comparison
  • perceptions of personal health/nutrition 
  • egocentrism
  • motivated reasoning
  • above average effect / shared circumstance effect
  • selective exposure
  • wishful thinking / desirability bias
  • anchoring
  • debiasing
  • treatment beliefs and decisions
  • likelihood judgment / subjective probability
  • icon arrays and visual aids for communicating risk

Examples of recent and current research questions

How do motivations influence one's optimism about experiencing positive and negative events? If you want your favorite team to win, will you be (optimistically) biased in your beliefs about the chances that your team will actually win?

Do people want other people to be optimistic, or would they rather that people be realistic or maybe even pessimistic?  For example, do you want friends and leaders that are optimistically biased about avoiding another pandemic, or do you want friends and leaders who are a bit more pessimistic about this?

When people learn what two or more experts said about the chance of something being true, are they good at knowing how to combine those experts’ opinions? Or, do they end up being over- or under-confident about it?

Do perceptions of health and safety risks influence how people behave (e.g., take precautions)?  And how can we best measure these perceptions of risk, so they are as accurate and useful as possible?

How do you best inform people about risks, so that they both understand them and feel the right sorts of feelings and motivations about them – i.e., reactions that will lead to appropriate behaviors?

How does seeing the tools that someone else has at their disposal influence your own optimism about successfully completing a task with the tools you have? 

Research tasks and educational materials related to our lab's research

DART -- The Decisions about Risk Task

Classroom demonstrations for the shared-circumstance effect