“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 cognition.
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)]
- Supporting and implementing open-science
- Recent push towards more pre-registered replications and pre-registered meta-analyses
- Meta Science
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a book “predictably irrational” (see books section below), presented in the following Ted talk (though, by now, a bit outdated):
This is a nice TED talk about behavioral economics and why studying judgment and decision making can help people in their lives… (some of it is over-hyped and oversimplified and has the TED format exaggeration, but it gives you an idea of some of the things we deal with)
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
Also check out this video as part of the Science of Religion MOOC.
Studying ethical behavior (dishonesty)
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 books
I’d say start from these:
- Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant. A fun clear take on adopting a humble scientist mindset, covering some core judgment and decision-making studies, mentioning some interesting case studies and tying it all to insightful practical implications.
- How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Katy Milkman. Katy summarizes a lot of the work in my domain of judgment and decision making with tips and tricks on how to change. Simple ideas, fairly solid evidence (though there is the occasional glitch). Interesting, relevant, and mostly up to date.
- The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t by Julia Galef. Though I don’t like the terms “scout mindset” and “soldier mindset” (I prefer Adam Grant’s “think again” scientist mindset, see above) I do very much appreciate the message in the book and the evidence and case-studies reviewed. Julia has a knack for explaining things clearly and with clear practical implications and examples. Practical skepticism, humility, science, and exploration as the basis for decision making and sense making.
- Time Smart : How to Reclaim Your Time and Live a Happier Life by Ashley Whillans. About time affluence emphasizing the importance of time over money, both for yourself and for society.
- Better, not perfect: A Realist’s Guide to Maximum Sustainable Goodness by Max Bazerman. A wonderful career summary of Max’s research and world view, from judgement and decision making to happiness, prosociality, and morality.
Heavier books, more academic and jargon:
- 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)
- 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.
Lighter books, much less academic, more story telling:
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
Morality / Lay-beliefs / Mind books
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Mindwise: Why We Misunderstand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want by Nicholas Epley. Great cover of the latest research on mind, reading and understanding minds. Covers biases (JDM) and social psychology literature, and Epley’s own work. Engaging, insightful, clear and to the point.
General: Beyond psychology books
Far beyond the field, but important reads, with implications for psychology:
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
- Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
- 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari
- Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman
- Utopia For Realists by Rutger Bregman
- Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker
- Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling
Psychological science podcasts
If you like podcasts, I regularly listen to:
More broadly beyond psychology, but sometimes touching on psychology:
- The TED interview / The TED radio hour (NPR)
- Making sense by Sam Harris
- Philosophy Bites
- Social Science Bites
- Human Risk
- Worklife by Adam Grant
- A Brief History of Humankind (Yuval Noah Harrari) [Youtube]
- Big history project (Bill Gates foundation)
- Improving Your Statistical Inferences | Coursera, by Daniel Lakens
- Improving Your Statistical Questions | Coursera, by Daniel Lakens
Timelapse of the entire universe:
Timelapse of the future: A Journey to the End of Time