Psychology
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  1. Decision Making and Behavioural Economics Research Group
Psychology

Decision Making and Behavioural Economics Research Group

The group's research activities focus on:

  • Decisions that individuals make in various situations
  • Why these decisions are sometimes not consistent with standard models of rationality
  • What the outcomes of these decisions are.

For instance, how do people make choices about the food they eat and the exercise they do? Doctor Katy Tapper identifies variables that influence health-related behaviours and explores ways in which we might intervene to bring about change. Other research in the department investigates judgments and decisions under conditions of risk, uncertainty and ambiguity (Professor Peter Ayton); personality neuroscience, individual differences in emotion/motivation and various experimental and applied economic behaviours (Professor Philip Corr) and financial decision making, including delay discounting, judgmental forecasting, behavioural game theory  and the psychology of taxation (Doctor Stian Reimers). This research often shows that people do not behave according to the rationality assumptions of neoclassical economics.

When can we say that a person is behaving rationally? In the famous Linda problem, participants consider more probable the statement that Linda is a bank teller and a feminist, than she is just a bank teller (the conjunction fallacy). Is this irrational behaviour? Standard approaches to rationality are based on classical probability theory. Doctor Emmanuel Pothos explores the extent to which an alternative system for probability, quantum probability theory, could provide a descriptive model for human decision making, as well as a normative model for human rationality. 

Other research in the department looks at the outcome of choices. How do choices about work, family, finances and other areas of life affect how satisfied individuals are with their lives? Drawing on theories and methods from psychology, economics and sociology Doctor Anke Plagnol investigates how such choices affect individuals' subjective wellbeing. How do people recover from work during their leisure time? Doctor Paul Flaxman evaluates therapeutic interventions for improving mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. 

These and related research questions are investigated by researchers in the group using a variety of empirical methods, including laboratory experiments, field studies, surveys, online experiments and secondary data analysis.

Achievements

Doctor Emmanuel Pothos published a target article in Behavioral and Brain Sciences:

Pothos, E. M. & Busemeyer, J. R. (2013). Can quantum probability provide a new direction for cognitive modeling? Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 36, 255-327. (target article)

Professor Philip Corr co-founded, in 2009, the British Society for the Psychology of Individual Differences (BSPID, which now has close to 100 members) - this Society was showcased as part of a special issue of The Psychologist (2013 January) on the topic of the past success and future promise of personality and differential psychology in the UK.

Professor Philip Corr was elected by Society members to the offices of President-Elect (2013-2015) and President (2015-2015) of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences (ISSID).

Professor Philip Corr co-edited a special issue on 'personality and economics' with Nobel Laureate in Economics, Professor James Heckman. This editorial sets out a new research agenda for linking personality and economics:

Ferguson, E., Heckman J. J. & Corr, P. J. (2011). Personality and economics: Overview and proposed framework. Personality and Individual Differences (Special Issue: Personality and Economics), 51, 201-209.

Doctor Emmanuel Pothos received a Research Staff Prize from City University London, for his work on modeling decision making with quantum theory. The prize scheme seeks to recognize and reward exceptional research-related achievement and carries a £1,000 research support bursary.

Related grants

Selected papers

Ungemach, C., Stewart, N., & Reimers, S. (in press). How incidental values from our environment affect decisions about money, risk, and delay. Psychological Science.

Pothos, E. M., Busemeyer, J. R., & Trueblood, J. S.  (2013). A quantum geometric model of similarity. Psychological Review, 120, 679-696.

Corr, P. J. & McNaughton, N. (2012). Neuroscience and approach/avoidance personality traits: A two stage (valuation-motivation) approach. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 36, 2339-2354.

Busemeyer, J. R., Pothos, E. M., Franco, R., & Trueblood, J. (2011). A quantum theoretical explanation for probability judgment errors. Psychological Review, 118, 193-218.

Hall, P. J., Chong, W., NcNaughton, N. & Corr, P. J. (2011). A neuroeconomic perspective on the reinforcement sensitivity theory of personality. Personality and Individual Differences (Special Issue: Personality and Economics), 51, 242-247.

Plagnol, A.C. Financial satisfaction over the life course: The influence of assets and liabilities. Journal of Economic Psychology. 32(1), pp. 45-64 (2011).Pothos, E. M., Perry, G., Corr, P. J., Matthew, M. R. & Busemeyer, J. R. (2011).

Understanding cooperation in the Prisoner's Dilemma game. Personality and Individual Differences (Special Issue: Personality and Economics), 51, 210-215.

Plagnol, A.C. and Easterlin, R.A. Aspirations, attainments, and satisfaction: Life cycle differences between American women and men. Journal of Happiness Studies. 9(4), pp. 601-619 (December 2008).

Ayton, P. and Fischer, I. (2004). The Hot Hand Fallacy and the Gambler's Fallacy: Two faces of Subjective Randomness? Memory & Cognition, 32, 1369-1378.

Arkes, H.R. and Ayton, P. (1999) The Sunk Cost and Concorde Effects: Are Humans Less Rational than Lower Animals?  Psychological Bulletin, 125, 591-600.

Related modules

  • PS3003 Judgement and Decision Making (Professor Peter Ayton)
  • PS3012 Health Psychology (Doctor Katy Tapper)
  • PS3024 The Psychology of Time (Doctor Stian Reimers; includes lectures on intertemporal decision making)
  • PS3029 Subjective Wellbeing (Doctor Anke Plagnol)

Academics

Professor Peter Ayton
Professor Philip Corr
Dr Paul Flaxman
Dr Anke Plagnol
Dr Emmanuel Pothos
Dr Stian Reimers
Dr Katy Tapper

PhD students and Post-docs

Alida Acosta (supervised by Stian Reimers)  

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City, University of London

Northampton Square

London EC1V 0HB

United Kingdom

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.