The EADM Interview: Dirk Wulff


1) Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Dirk Wulff. I am a PostDoc at the Center for Adaptive Rationality at the Max Planck Institute of Human Development. I study experience-based decision making and semantic memory.

Within experienced-based decision making I focus quite a bit on exploration and information search. One aspect I am currently interested in is the impact of different stopping rules on the experiences that we make. We all know the problem of assessing the result of an experiment sample-by-sample. The same problem pertains to experience-based decision making. When we explore multiple options before making a choice, a stopping rule that is based on the perceived difference between the options will make the option appear more distinct then they actually are. What we experience can thus be influenced by what we wanted to experience.

Although I work mainly on decision making, I originally moved into research for my fascination with the study of semantic memory. Therefore, I feel lucky to be collaborating on a number of projects on the organization of semantic memory across the lifespan. One project that I find particularly cool is In this project researchers from many countries work together to obtain human-generated semantic networks for all words in 8 different languages. I help running the German version.

2) What do you consider your most important research tool(s) on your computer?

Hands down R. You have a new idea and you don’t know how it pans out – simulate it with R. You have a theory and you don’t whether it fits the data – model it with R. You have a nice result and want to show it exactly as you want to – plot it with R (base, not ggplot2). Writing code may actually be my favorite part of doing research – I mean aside from getting up late and coffee breaks – and R is perfect for it. Some time ago I also started using Python for natural language processing. The syntax is much more simple and elegant. Everything around the language, e.g., packages or available IDEs, is however nowhere near the convenience of using R (and RStudio).

3) What do you consider your most important research tool(s) outside of your computer?

A café. For some reason my mind is clearest, when working in my favorite café surrounded by chatting strangers. I sometimes joke that this is, because it lets me feel that I have a live outside of academia. The more likely reason however is: there is no Internet.

4) What is your favorite tip for getting writing done?

Force yourself. Or have someone else force you. Still desperately looking for alternative solutions.

Dirk’s CV

Favorite publication

Wulff, D. U., Hills, T. T., & Hertwig, R. (2015). How short- and long-run aspirations impact search and choice in decisions from experience. Cognition, 144, 29-37.

The EADM Interview: Peter Wakker


1) Who are you, and what do you do?

I am the grandson of

I will convert all of mankind, including all statisticians, to Bayesianism.
I will introduce the idea of conservation of influence.

2) What do you consider your most important research tool(s) on your computer?  Delete-key.

3) What do you consider your most important research tool(s) outside of your computer?

4)  What is your favorite tip for getting writing done?
Do not force yourself to write; it will not work.
Only forbid yourself to do anything other than writing.

Peter’s CV

The best paper that I ever co-authored was
Abdellaoui, Mohammed & Peter P. Wakker (2005). The Likelihood Method for Decision under Uncertainty. Theory and Decision, 58, 3–76.

It is also my least-cited paper. Explanation (to console myself): In those days the journal printed half per page what other journals did.  In another journal the paper would have taken 37 pages not 74.  No-one prints 74 pages for one paper.

The EADM Interview: Bettina von Helversen

BettinavHelversen1)    Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m a researcher at Basel University working at the Center for Economic Psychology. I investigate the cognitive processes underlying judgments and decisions and how they are shaped by the characteristics of the task and the abilities of the decision maker. A large part of my work focuses on when people rely on rule- and exemplar-based processing in judgment and understanding the memory processes underlying these processes. One project I’m currently working on aims on trying to understand when memories about previously encountered instances are likely to influence the decision process and how this depends on affective experiences when encountering the exemplars. In addition I’m interested in how and when people search for information and how this in influenced by affect and stress.

2)    What do you consider your most important research tool(s) on your computer?

After reading that question I got curious which programs I’m actually using on a daily basis and I downloaded an app that allowed me to track the programs I’m using (TimeSink). A one week trial run suggested that I used the following programs in order of frequency: Firefox, Mail, Word, Powerpoint, Preview (a pdf viewer), Mendeley, Excel, Skype, SPSS and Matlab. Overall, that seems about right, although the order probably changes quite a bit with the projects I’m working on and the amount of teaching I’m preparing. Taking office for granted, I could not imagine doing research without Mendeley, Skype or Matlab anymore.

3)    What do you consider your most important research tool(s) outside of your computer?

Well there is of course the lab without which I would not have much data, but even more important are the people I work with (though they are no tools). For me research works best as a collaborative effort in a team of two to three people.

4)    What is your favorite tip for getting writing done?

I have to admit I’m struggling quite a bit with writing. To get writing done I need to find a day without meetings and preferably no evening plans that allow me an early escape.Additionally, I can recommend fast working coauthors. The knowledge that someone is waiting usually gets me to get my part done much faster and it works even better if the other person was really fast in doing their part.

Bettina’s webpage

Bettina’s favorite paper:

Scholz, A., von Helversen, B., & Rieskamp, J. (2015). Eye movements reveal memory-processes during similarity versus rule-based decision making. Cognition, 136,228-246. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2014.11.019

The EADM Interview: Nathaniel Phillips

Nathaniel PhillipsWho are you, and what do you do?

My name is Nathaniel Phillips and I am a post-doctoral researcher at SPDS (Social Psychology and Decision Sciences) at the University of Konstanz in Germany. Thematically, I am interested in decisions under uncertainty, with a focus on information search, impression formation, and decision making. In other words, “How can organisms with limited time and cognitive limitations make good decisions in uncertain environments?” Methodologically, I try to use computational cognitive modelling, Bayesian graphical modelling, and agent-based simulations (I thank two summer schools, Lewandowsky and Farrell’s Computational Cognitive Modelling school and Wagenmakers and Lee’s Bayesian modelling school for introducing me to these techniques).

What do you consider your most important research tool(s) on your computer?

This is an easy one: Amazon mechanical turk (mTurk), and R (through RStudio). These two research tools completely changed how I envision psychological research. The mTurk allows virtually anyone (well, with an American bank account…) to obtain high quality data inexpensively from a highly diverse participant population. The mTurk has freed me from the physical and monetary demands of a computer lab, and has allowed me to program and conduct experiments in English while working in a non-English speaking city.

One note about the mTurk – some of my colleagues have wondered whether or not the low cost of mTurk data will lead to an explosion of a theoretical, p-hacked results. Indeed, if it only costs 5c per participant to collect data, why not run 64 conditions and only report the ones with significant results? Of course, p-hacking and the file-drawer problem existed long before the mTurk, but certainly the low cost of the mTurk makes this easier. However, mTurk p-hackers have a problem: anyone who questions the validity of their results can quickly and cheaply try to replicate the results using the exact same experimental materials on the exact same participant population. In short, if the original result was the result of a cheap mTurk p-hack, it can be rectified by an equally cheap mTurk replication.

The second most important research tool I have is R. Like most psychology students, my first stats courses used SPSS and I used SPSS through my Masters degree. At the beginning of my PhD, when I realised that all the senior researchers were using Matlab or R, I decided to make the switch to R (if for no other reason than to fit in). The first couple of months learning R were brutal – I went from feeling very comfortable with stats to a feeling like a complete beginner. That was definitely a hit to my ego, but after a few months of persistence and SPSS-reflex resistance, I made the complete switch and have been appreciating R more and more ever since.

There are just so many benefits to R and virtually no disadvantages (relative to SPSS, I’m sure some Python and Matlab users will find some drawbacks). R is free, constantly updated, allows you to make gorgeous plots, and is widely used by people working in all areas of research. However, I think the single best benefit of R is research transparency and replicability. Unlike SPSS analyses, R code can be easily stored and shared with others. If a colleague, or your notoriously forgetful future self wants to know how you conducted a certain analyses, just send them your code (properly commented of course).

I firmly believe that all undergraduate psychology students should be taught R from day-1 and should never be exposed to SPSS. So why aren’t we teaching students R? When I posed this question to one senior statistics instructor, he responded: “we can’t teach undergraduate students R because they won’t be able to or won’t want to use it.” Interesting … by the same argument, we should not teach statistics to psychology students.

I am confident that most students will learn how to conduct statistical analyses in R much faster than in SPSS. If a student can type “cor(x,y)” then she can calculate a correlation coefficient. If he can type “lm(y ~ x1 + x2 + x3)” he can conduct multiple regression. Bayesian stats? Not possible in SPSS and no problem in R, just type “BESTmcmc(x,y)” using Kruschke’s BEST R package and you’ve got a Bayesian “t-test” (see Kruschke, 2010). Additionally, because you can easily simulate data in R, you can easily program examples of important topics such as the central limit theorem and show students that it works.

Speaking of R, I recently started learning how to write in Latex using Sweave in RStudio and am kicking myself for not learning it earlier. For those who don’t know, Sweave is a way to incorporate R code into a Latex document. What’s really great about this setup is that it allows you embed your R analyses directly into your written document. For example, in Sweave you can write “The mean response time of distracted participants was \Sexpr{mean(response.time)}” where the result in \Sexpr{} is printed in plain text. The main benefit of Sweave is that it makes your analyses completely transparent to others, and your future self! If you use Sweave, you’ll never look back on an old document and wonder “How did I calculate that p-value?!” (not that you should be calculating p-values anyway…see Wagenmakers, 2007). You can always look at the Latex source code and see exactly where every analysis came from. For those that are interested in learning how to use Sweave, I recommend reading the short paper “Learning to Sweave in APA Style” by Ista Zahn

What do you consider your most important research tool(s) outside of your computer?

A moleskin journal and a mechanical pencil (with lots of erasers)

What is your favorite tip for getting writing done?

I think the best way to get writing done is to have firm deadlines and scheduled writing times. I learned these and many other great tips from Silviia’s book “How to Write a Lot

Nathaniel’s webpage

Nathaniel’s favorite paper:

Phillips, N.D., Hertwig, R., Kareev, Y. & Avrahami, J. (2014). Rivals in the dark: How competition influences search in decisions under uncertainty. Cognition, 133 (1), 104-119.

Workshop: Navigating Clinical Uncertainty

Navigating Clinical Uncertainty

10th European Workshop on Clinical Reasoning and Decision Making &

COGITA: Gut Feelings in General Practice

March 26th – March 28th , 2015

Marburg (Germany)

Dear colleagues,

we gladly announce the 10th workshop on Clinical Decision Making and Diagnostic Reasoning, this time in collaboration with the COGITA-group, a European network of researchers focusing on the role of gut feelings in the diagnostic reasoning of general practitioners. This conference will be hosted by the Departments of General Practice and Clinical Psychology at the University of Marburg (Germany). The aim of this interdisciplinary workshop is to bring together researchers from decision and clinical science as well as clinicians to share their ideas, their research and their experience. The workshop is sponsored by the European Association for Decision Making and attendance is free.

For more information see

We are looking forward to seeing you all in Marburg!


The Scientific Committee:

Norbert Donner-Banzhoff (Marburg/D), Laurence Claes (Leuven/B), York Hagmayer (Göttingen/D), Erik Stolper (Maastricht/NL), Winfried Rief (Marburg/D), Cilia Witteman (Nijmegen/NL)

The EADM Interview: Sabine Scholl

Sabine SchollWho are you, and what do you do?

My name is Sabine G. Scholl and I’m a researcher working at the University of Mannheim, Germany. In my recent research, I’m particularly interested in advice giving situations. In this context, I focus primarily on intertemporal decisions, risk assessments, and decisions about preventive medical examinations. So far, I’m concentrating on the underlying cognitive processes but I plan to combine the laboratory data with behavioral data from real world settings.

Additionally, my research focuses on consumer decisions (financial and investment decisions and decisions involving risk), intuition in judgment and decision making, randomness judgments as well as the influence of cognitive feelings in judgment and decision making (including direct effects on judgments and decisions, and indirect effects on cognitive processes).

What do you consider your most important research tool(s) on your computer?

My most important tools are PsychInfo and Google, which help in getting an overview of all those interesting research articles in the internet. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been some years ago when a search for literature was far more complicated and most papers were only available in libraries. However, the disadvantage is that my “to read-” folder increases tremendously every week and that I don’t manage to keep up with reading. Next to diving into the literature, I love analyzing data and writing software programs for my experiments. Therefore, SPSS and Visual Basic.Net are also very important for me. For instance, programming my own one-armed bandit or experimental software that reacts to participants’ responses during an experiment provides me with all the freedom I need for conducting my research. Last but not least, I would not survive without Microsoft Word and Dropbox, which help me to organize my thoughts and my incredibly numerous documents that I have accumulated over the last years.

What do you consider your most important research tool(s) outside of your computer?

One important „research tool“ outside of my computer is my daily train ride during which in the morning I use a calendar and a notebook to organize my day and to write down my thoughts. In the evening I review my day and start to redirect my thoughts away from work. But the most important research “tool“ is my husband who provides very valuable and important feedback on all the more or less elaborated thoughts and future research projects that go through my head.

What is your favorite tip for getting writing done?

What helped me a lot when I started my PhD was a „writing club“. In a kick-off meeting, my colleagues and I committed to a certain amount of writing time per day for the next month (e.g., 2 hours on 4 days per week). Additionally, person A was named as a reviewer for person B who served as a reviewer for person C. These roles changed every month. Such a „writing club“ with the self- and public commitment for a particular writing schedule helps to get used to writing (even in short time slots) and to improve writing skills. Today, it is important for me to write in a quiet place characterized by organized chaos, equipped with lots of food and drink so that I can work as long as I’m productive, to have deadlines, and to be committed towards collaborators.

Scholl, Sabine – CV

Sabine’s favorite paper:

Scholl, S. G. & Greifeneder, R. (2011). Disentangling the effects of alternation rate and maximum run length on judgments of randomness. Judgment and Decision Making, 6, 531-541.


The EADM Interview: Tim Rakow

Tim Rakow

Who are you, and what do you do?

I am Tim Rakow, and I have been teaching and researching in the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex since 2000. Much of my teaching focuses on methods for psychological research. I particularly enjoy teaching statistics to psychology students, and have – over the years – taught statistics at each level of our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. I have worked my way around a number of different JDM research topics over the years: from a PhD on medical decision making in paediatric heart surgery; via research on probabilistic inference from cues (e.g., Take The Best), and the deliberation-without-attention effect; to recent investigations of valuation, risk communication, and risky choice (especially decisions from experience). I have attended each SPUDM since 1999.

What do you consider your most important research tools on your computer?

Probably Real Studio (for Real/Visual-Basic), which I use to implement most of my computer-based studies. I see myself as more of an experimenter than a theoretician, so having a nice flexible tool that I can use to run a wide variety of studies is essential to my research.

What do you consider your most important research tool(s) outside of your computer?

My collaborators.

What is your favorite tip for getting writing done?

Do it with someone else. I see a number of benefits to this. First, I feel that I get more done when working to deadlines agreed with my co-authors than when working to deadlines that I set for myself on individual writing projects. I think this tells me that anticipated guilt is a better motivator than anticipated self-loathing. Second, the emotional component of writing (responding to reviews, making that difficult cut to the text) becomes much easier when there is someone else who on the project who can adopt a different role, or see things from a different angle. Third, writing with others just makes the whole process more interesting, and more fun. I’ve learned or developed some of my favourite paper-writing words (“prosaic”, “intriguing”), phrases (“in doing so” is a new one for me) and sentence constructions (I love using first-person plural) from writing with others. Some of my favourite writing experiences are when I get to write alongside a co-author (at the same computer). In particular, a few of my projects with long-term collaborator Ben Newell have been completed this way … gently wrestling the computer mouse and keyboard from each other, or dictating small sections of text to one another … turning what could be a rather solitary endeavour into something more sociable is a treat. You can learn a great deal from your co-authors, and I certainly feel that they need not be senior to you for this to be so.

Tim’s webpage

Tim’s favorite paper:

Rakow, T., Demes, K.A., & Newell, B.R. (2008). Biased samples not mode of presentation: Re-examining the apparent underweighting of rare events in experience-based choice. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 106, 168-179.




The EADM Interview: Cornelia Betsch

Cornelia BetschWho are you, and what do you do?

I am a psychologist at the University of Erfurt where I work at the Center for Empirical Research in Economics and Behavioral Science. My current major research motivation is to enlighten vaccine hesitancy – i.e. to understand why people do not vaccinate and finally to contribute to public health goals such as measles elimination. Additionally, I would like to improve evidence-informed health communication. I do this by applying an experimental JDM approach, combined with a strategic interaction perspective to basic and applied questions. My credo is that good research strives for a fundamental understanding of scientific problems and, at the same time, for high usability to solve societal problems. This perspective on research is also known as Pasteur’s Quadrant (really interesting work by Stokes, 1997). Thus, making contributions to understand basic questions is as important to me as making findings usable for practice. Working with colleagues from other disciplines and health organizations is key to me, as my work combines ideas and approaches from psychology, epidemiology, and economics.

What do you consider your most important research tool(s) on your computer?

Safari, Word, SPSS – very simple. Email is great to be in touch with co-workers, but it is the greatest enemy of effective working, too. Sometimes I also follow twitter – it’s a great way to see what happens among practitioners, but actually I feel that it is too time-consuming.

What do you consider your most important research tool(s) outside of your computer?

Talking and listening to practitioners has become my most influential, favorite, important, and fun research tool. Listening to what practitioners struggle with and mapping this to my theoretical ideas and understanding is very inspiring and has created some successful research ideas. I get the chance to listen to practitioners after invited talks or advanced trainings of doctors, or during my work in committees such as the European Technical Advisory Group of Experts in Immunization (ETAGE, WHO, regional office for Europe) or the National Verification Committee for the Elimination of Measles and Rubella (Robert Koch Institute, German Ministry of Health).

What is your favorite tip for getting writing done?

Turn off your email program. Or travel. Airports, trains, waiting rooms are perfect – you will not miss out on anything sitting there, listening to Bach, writing. I recommend Bach’s Goldberg Variations – they deliver a constant flow for a steady rhythm of typing and mask superfluous noise and thoughts.

Webpage Cornelia Betsch

Curriculum vitae Cornelia Betsch

Cornelia’s favorite paper:

Betsch, C., Böhm, R., & Korn, L. (2013). Inviting free-riders or appealing to pro-social behavior? Game theoretical reflections on communicating herd immunity in vaccine advocacy. Health Psychology, 32(9):978-85.



The EADM Interview: Rui Mata

Rui MataWho are you, and what do you do?

I’m Rui Mata, an Assistant Professor for Cognitive and Decision Sciences at the University of Basel. I try to understand the life span development of judgment and decision making.

I have focused quite a bit on aging and the question of whether age-related changes impact decision abilities. As one may expect, the answer seems to be: It depends!

The impact of life span development on decision making seems to depend strongly on the demands of specific tasks or ecologies. For example, older individuals have difficulties making decisions involving sequential retrieval of attributes from memory but be on par with younger adults when information is conveniently summarized. In other words, an ecological perspective is needed to understand the impact of aging on specific decision tasks or domains.

What do you consider your most important research tool(s) on your computer to get research done (multiple responses are welcome)?

I use an eclectic mix of methods in my research, including meta-analyses, behavioral experiments, large-scale surveys, computational modeling, and, more recently, neuroimaging. Different tools are therefore required.

These days my favorite tool for data management, analysis, modeling, and creating figures is R. I used to rely more heavily on MATLAB and to some extent still do (such as for SPM), but R fulfills more and more of my computing needs. R seems to have almost everything one can think of (and more!). Moreover, when something is missing it usually doesn’t take long before some guy in a basement writes a free package to handle your problem. I’m also a big fan of R-Studio and Shiny

I switched to Apple about 5 years ago and I since use quite a bit of Apple-friendly software, including Mail (to manage different email accounts), Calendar (to manage private and shared calendars), Keynote (a very good alternative to Powerpoint), and Papers (a scientific literature management and citation software), among others.

I use Ms Word for word processing but I’m meekly looking for alternatives and I dream of a future in which I can easily generate a table in R that gets automatically read into a manuscript (without me having to become a LaTeX whiz or spend 4.5 hours formatting tables in R).

I program most experiments in E-prime, which I often regret because of numerous crashes, version incompatibility issues, and so on, but from my experience, the hurdle to whip-up a study is still lower than in C# or some MATLAB toolboxes.

I also use dedicated software for a few specific purposes, such as G*Power (to compute a priori power, how else would one do it?), GingerALE (for ALE meta-analyses), or Mango (for nifti visualization)

What do you consider your most important research tool(s) outside of your computer to get research done (multiple responses are welcome)?

The internet makes the top of the list, but a large monitor (for writing) and a printer (for printing papers!, yes, I’m that old school) are not to be scoffed at.

What is your favorite tip for getting writing done?

Make time and have a good night of sleep. Knowing the topic well and caffeine also help.

Curriculum Vitae Rui Mata

Rui’s favorite paper:

Mata, R., Schooler, L. J. & Rieskamp, J. (2007). The aging decision maker: Cognitive aging and the adaptive selection of decision strategies. Psychology and Aging22, 796-810.