Research

Some things happen of necessity, others by chance, others through our own agency.
For he sees that necessity destroys responsibility and that chance is inconstant;
whereas our own actions are autonomous, and it is to them that praise and blame naturally attach

 —  Epicurus allegedly discovers the free will problem and links free will to accountability (Letter to Menoeceus, ~3rd century BC)

 

My work is in the areas of social psychology/judgment and decision-making, with a touch of experimental philosophy and cogntion.

My research mainly focuses on the following topics :

  • Judgment and decision making, heuristics and biases: especially regarding agency and action.
  • Choice, agency, and related folk lay-beliefs (e.g. belief in free will, morality)
  • [Personal values (long-term desirable motivational goals)]

 

Methodology wise:

 

Put simply, I’m interested in why people believe what they believe, value what they value, and make decisions and choices in the way that they do.

 

Quick jump to sections: Judgment and Decision-making / Free will / Morality / Experimental philosophy / Suggested books / Suggested podcasts

 

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Recommended videos on my research interests

Judgment and decision making, heuristics and biases

Dan Ariely is a gifted public speaker and writer, and a prolific researcher, with lots on judgment and decision making, and a very clear summary of the basic ideas of this research domain in a book “predictably irrational” (see books section below), presented in the following Ted talk (though, by now, a bit outdated):

 

I don’t do much on the related practical field, but it’s an important growing research domain, recently acknowledged by a Noble prize to Richard Thaler. It’s commonly referred to as “Nudging”, nicely outlined by David Halpern (UK behavioral insights team) in the following RSA talk:

 

 

 

Studying “free will” scientifically

(More videos here)

 

Studying morality

 

Also check out this video as part of the Science of Religion MOOC.

 

Studying ethical behavior (dishonesty)

 

Experimental Philosophy with/versus Decision-making

Psychological science books

Some have asked me what books I recommend. Below is a part list, targeted at the general audience.

Judgment and Decision Making / Behavioral Economics

  1. The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis : the tales of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky and the academia on the bridge between psychology and economics and beyond. A fascinating read, brief mention of key theories and developments. A rare glimpse at the inner workings of academia, collaborations, and the psychology fields.
  2. Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely (a bit outdated, especially given the “crisis” but insightful and entertaining)
  3. Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter by Dan Ariely and Jeff Kreisler. A good laypersons and somewhat entertaining review of findings in the judgment decision making literature.
  4. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman: an important read in the field, summarizes key findings, even if sometimes a bit too straightforward and aimed more at academics than laypersons. Daniel won the Noble prize for economics in 2002. (a bit outdated, especially given the “crisis”, I would skip the priming chapter)
  5. Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard Thaler: Richard Thaler lays out behavioral economics and his and others’ research on the bridge between psychology and economics. Richard won the Noble prize for economics in 2017. Some of the tales entertaining, fairly simple language, but some chapters go deep into economics jargon.

 

Psychology as a Science (and the replication crisis)

  1. The Seven Deadly Sins of Psychology: A Manifesto for Reforming the Culture of Scientific Practice, by Chris Chambers.
  2. Understanding Psychology as a Science: An Introduction to Scientific and Statistical Inference, by Zoltan Dienes

 

Morality / Lay-beliefs

  1. The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone-Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely (a bit outdated, especially given the “crisis” but insightful and entertaining), you might also want to check out the 2015 movie – (Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies
  2. The Mind Club: Who Thinks, What Feels, and Why It Matters by Daniel Wegner and Kurt Gray. Summarizes theory of mind and attributions of mind, covers interesting laybeliefs, and somewhat related to the literature on layconcepts of free will and dualism (mind-body). Though provoking read.
  3. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. Although I don’t agree with it all, and it is derived from and is focused on the political divide in the US, there are some interesting insights here about Haidt’s moral foundations morality classification.

 

General: Beyond psychology

Far beyond the field, but important reads, with implications for psychology:

  1. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
  2. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
  3. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

 

Psychological science podcasts

If you like podcasts, I regularly listen to:

More low-level open-science meta-psychology kind of podcasts for those in the field:

More broadly beyond psychology, but sometimes touching on psychology:

 

Recommended online courses about statistics and science