Ph.D., University of Pennsylvannia, 1964
General Area of Research
Decision making, reasoning and abstract measurement
Protective Decision making:
The overall goal of this research is to understand better how people balance their efforts and investments of resources in pursuing two different kinds of goals: achieving their desires (promotion goals) versus avoiding dangers or difficulties (prevention goals). We already know that people's decisions can be changed, depending on whether they frame a decision problem as one of promotion or prevention, decisions also change depending on how people keep track of the resources that they will devote to different goals.
There are several principles that may help people frame problems and keep track of resources so that they make better decisions (according to their own opinion as well as in others' opinions). We use hypothetical vignettes, usually relevant to the kinds of decisions that people actually make, to test hypotheses about the effects of problem framing. We also present instructional materials that discuss general or case-specific principles of decision making, in order to test hypotheses about the benefits of instruction concerning decision making.
Rock, Paper, Scissors:
My research with Christian Schade on the Paper/Rock/Scissors game has several goals. First, we want to study how people vary their choice trial-to-trial in a highly familiar and symmetric game in which there is an obvious benefit to being unpredictable (and to predicting the opponent's choice, if possible). In particular, in what ways do the sequences of choices depart from "random" sequences? Second, we want to study how people use a randomizing device in this same context, when one is made available. Third, we want to understand the role of trial-by-trial feedback. In particular, do people use it to guess about opponents' strategies? I may be that the main role of such feedback is to force a player to be unpredictable (because the opponent is getting feedback). Fourth, there are analogs to the P/R/S game in business competition, because consumer intransitivies generate intransitive market-entry strategies. However, the business analogs generally break the perfect symmetry of P/R/S, so that optimum randomization strategies differ from 1/3, 1/3, 1/3. We want to study strategic choice in asymmetric P/R/S games, with business and with "playful" cover stories.
Biocomplexity and Lyme disease:
Over the course of a four year involvement with a study entitled, “Biocomplexity of Lyme disease in heterogeneous landscapes,” Elke Weber and I will develop and administer a series of surveys to determine knowledge about Lyme disease and related ecological factors, attitudes toward Lyme disease risk and toward use of natural areas, and behavioral correlates of Lyme disease incidence in the Dutchess County area. After compiling our findings, we plan to develop tools to be used by the community for the purposes of educating the public on this topic.
Cooperation and Altruism:
Climatologists and political scientists ask why Americans are so much less concerned about global warming than Europeans, and so much less prepared to make sacrifices to curb carbon emissions.
This raises fundamental questions about why people cooperate in situations where coordination is needed and is voluntary. There is already a vast literature on this topic, none of which serves to answer the preceding question, as far as I can see. We have been led to consider several new hypotheses about reciprocation and cooperation, and are planning a series of tests of these hypotheses in laboratory groups and by observation of group decision making in our field projects. A possible answer to the question about America vs. Europe has to do with the actual payoffs in the commons-dilemma situation, which may be modified (by group identity) so as to yield a stable Nash equilibrium for cooperation.
Fong, G.T., Krantz, D.H. and Nisbett, R.E. (1986). The effects of statistical training on thinking about everyday problems. Cognitive Psychology, 18, 253-292.
Courses Frequently Taught
Psychology Dept. &
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