Getting things done

Utilizing little helpers to get our daily research work done become more important every year. We crowdsource the knowledge of our society’s member in the EADM Interview on a monthly base. Now there is another source for such information. Nature started a series called The digital Toolbox in which software literacy is a central aim. Here is the first contribution on How to tame the flood of literature coming in every day.


The EADM Interview: Robin Hogarth

Robin Hogarth

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Robin Hogarth and I am Emeritus Professor in the Department of Economics and Business at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain where I have been since about 2000. Before that I was at the University of Chicago for some 20 years. Two questions have driven my research agenda over my career: (1) How do people make decisions? (2) How can you help people make better decisions? My research is thus very much mainstream judgment and decision making. My work involves three activities: (1) I teach in our MSc program and also work with PhD students, (2) I work on my own research projects, and (3) I help run the PhD program in my department. Officially I am “emeritus” but I still seem to spend a lot of time at the office.

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

The most important research tool on my computer is simply the access it provides to the internet and email. This allows me to be in easy contact with many people all over the world, to follow developments in the literature, and so on. I don’t think that young researchers today (who have effectively always known the internet) realize just how valuable this is. Of course, I also appreciate the word processing capacity of the desktop computer as well as the ability to handle and analyze datasets without having to do battle with mainframes.

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

Outside of my computer, my most valuable research “tool” is my network of contacts with colleagues (both at my university and elsewhere), students, and former students. I feel that I am part of a large “discussion” and this constantly informs and animates my work.

What is your favorite tip for getting writing done?

I don’t really have tips for writing. I quite enjoy doing it and I always know that it will take me many re-writes to say precisely what I want and how I want. (In this, the computer is really useful). I keep firmly in mind some principles of good writing that I learned when I was a PhD student many years ago at the University of Chicago. I am more effective at writing in the mornings (my best time) and I am incapable of writing when there are distracting noises. (I find it difficult, for example, to write with music in the background).

Webpage Robin Hogarth

Robin’s favorite book:

Hogart, R.M. (2001). Educating Intuition. University of Chicago Press.


The EADM Interview: Adele Diedrich, Professor

Who are you, and what do you do?

I am Adele Diederich, Doctor of Philosophy, and Professor of Cognitive Psychology at Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany. As typical for German universities, my position includes teaching and research. The main topic of my research is the study of information processing in various psychological contexts. I have worked, in particular, on sensory processes in perception and higher cognitive processes in decision making. My approach includes both the development of theories and models and their testing by experiment and empirical observation. In decision making I develop models for multiattribute decision problems which take into account both the dynamic and stochastic nature of decision making. My goal is to describe the motivational and cognitive mechanisms that guide the deliberation process in decisions.  I’m interested in why preferences waver over time and how long it takes to come up with a decision; how time pressure influences the decision; how conflict in multiattribute decision is solved; and how preference reversals can be explained by a dynamic approach. More applied research centers around prioritization in medicine. This is very different from basic research since politics also plays a role. Another area focuses on multisensory interaction, that is, the interaction of different modalities (vision, audition, touch) in space and in time. This research is inspired by neurophysiological evidence and might be of less interest to the JDM community.

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

 I’m a modeler, that is I develop models that are rather complex. Without my Matlab (this is computational software) I would be lost. It does all the parameter estimations which could not be performed by “hand”. Another very important tool is the search machine for finding articles on related work. Electronic access to all the data bases like Web of Science makes work so much easier and efficient.

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

This is definitely the laboratory. All the models I develop are tested in rigorous experiments in the lab. Since I’m interested in choices and decision times we need to collect choice frequencies and choice response times. And I also record eye movements. The experiments need to be highly controlled. This would be very difficult to do in the field. However, for decision making in the medical context, I apply (web based) questionnaires as well.

What is your favorite tip for getting writing done?

If you have a lot of other duties, like teaching and administration, try to reserve, if possible, at least one entire day of the week for writing, without interruption by students, meetings, or emails.

Where would JDM research be without gambles?

At JDM workshops or conferences, we are all supposed to be gamblers.  We are asked: Would you prefer a gamble with a probability of .7 to win € 75 and a probability of .3 to win € 235, or another one with a probability of .1 to win € 1000 and otherwise nothing? Would I prefer a gamble with a probability of .65 to win € 75 and a probability of .25 to win € 235, or another one with a probability of .15 to win € 1000 and otherwise nothing?

I would prefer neither. With most of these talks, if I do attend, I doze off. I think they are artificial tasks, with no links to the real world, at least not mine. Why not ask whether I prefer orange juice or beer? Whether I would choose a blind date with a bald-headed artist or a long-haired academic? That would say something about me. You could ask for my arguments, track my eyes while I am comparing the options, and find out what I pay attention to and what decision strategy I use. Ask many people, and you get really usable and interesting information.

I don’t choose between monetary gambles. Don’t I, indeed? To be honest I do: I deliberate about taking out travel insurance. Like many other people, I prefer certainty to gambles. If I take the insurance, I want to pay just enough that I am certain that I will win out if I have to claim. But often no such certainty can be had, and I tend to travel un-insured. The lack of certainty is manifest especially in health care. Let me illustrate this with a real world example (violating the rule that you should not argue from your own experience, or use “I know somebody who” arguments – but who is going to stop me!, and I hope you recognize one of your own dilemmas).

I once saw a tuberculosis consultant, with who I had the following conversation: Consultant: your test, which we asked you to come in for because somebody in your vicinity was found to have active TB, was positive. So take these pills for the next month, and do not combine them with alcohol or any other drug. Me: What does that mean: my test was positive? Consultant: That means that you have anti-bodies to TB, which suggests that you may have latent TB. Me: If you say ‘suggests that you may’, what chances are you talking about, how likely is it that I actually have it? Consultant: You do not have it now, and the anti-bodies may be the result of an earlier exposure to TB; the chances that you will develop it given this positive test are 5 %. Me: That is a low chance of a future event. And what do these pills do, are they any good at lowering those chances? Consultant: They are not foolproof; it is estimated that they lower the chances by 20 %. Me: So from 5 % to 4 %? Consultant (losing his composure): It would seem so, yes. Me: And are there any side effects of these pills? Consultant (sighing when realising I was a ‘difficult’ case): Yes there are possible side effects, some rather serious. He got quite uncomfortable, so I chose not to ask for specific details of the chances of each of the side effects, but announced my decision that I would not take the pills. He exclaimed: But everybody with a positive test takes them! As if that would convince me. After some more discussion he gave in, and agreed that not taking them was quite sensible, and that if I ever felt symptoms, there was still time enough to start taking them. I felt bad, for him, for being stubborn, for pretending to know better; but mostly I felt good, for not taking unnecessary medication. (For those of you who like closure: no signs of TB now, 20 years later (yet J)).

Is this gambling? The opposite: calculating, I would say. Gambling with my health, doctors would say. Am I risk averse or risk seeking? I would say the first, doctors would say the second. Interesting! What would you have done? Now if JDM researchers would study this type of gamble, their talks at conferences would be so much more interesting!

Maybe I’m stretching it. But you must admit: this is about real things, real choices (even though many people would not experience it as a choice, but just take those pills). We can find out about the probabilities of each outcome. So we can construct gambles that are not artificial, but that are about actual choices. Would we prefer to have chemo with a 70% chance of success and a 30 % chance of very serious side effects, or an operation with a 60 % chance of a cure and 40 % chance of death? As a mother, what would you prefer for your very sick child? This is the type of gamble that unfortunately many people today are faced with. It is also the type of gamble discussed at medical decision making conferences, where they present results of studies with real people facing real dilemmas. It would be a relief to hear such talks at JDM conferences and workshops too, instead of talks about winning or losing hypothetical money. You would want to know what type of people would make which choice, and why. Interesting! I would go to all those talks, and stay awake.


Cilia Witteman
July 3rd 2014

33rd Meeting of the European Group of Process Tracing Studies in Judgment and Decision Making

We are pleased to announce the next EGPROC meeting (European Group of Process Tracing Studies in Judgment and Decision Making), to take place in Salzburg, Austria, from 1st May to 3rd May 2014.
The EGPROC conference is an annual meeting of researchers interested in process tracing research in JDM (eye-tracking, computerized tools capturing information search [like MouseLab, or mouse tracking], verbal protocols, skin conductance resistance, …). It has a long-standing tradition reaching back to 1982 and since then is a highly stimulating event of leading European researchers working with process tracing approaches in JDM and neighboring fields.
Two types of contributions will be accepted: (i) standard presentations of 45 minutes allowing for ample discussion; (ii) work-in-progress presentations of 15 minutes. For submitting a contribution, please write an e-mail to containing the title of your presentation, your co-authors (if any), the type of submission (standard presentation; work-in-progess) and an abstract (max. 300 words) by 04th April 2014. We will quickly review your submission and get back to you within two work days.

Besides of the main conference on Friday and Saturday, we are also holding a pre-conference workshop on eye-tracking , and (ii) a panel discussion on what qualifies as a process model. The pre-conference workshop on the use of eye-tracking in JDM research will be held on Thursday, 1st May. This workshop will provide hands-on experience on doing eye-tracking research and a discussion of relevant issues in eye-tracking. It will be jointly held by Dr. Benjamin Gagl (University of Salzburg) and Dr. Frank Renkewitz (University of Erfurt).
The meeting will also include a panel discussion, on Saturday, 3rd May, on what process models are and how to define them. Jana Jarecki from the MPI of Human Development (Berlin) will give the input presentation inviting discussion.
Updated information about the conference and the registration can be found at the EGPROC homepage. We will keep you informed using the EGPROC mailing list (if you are not a member of the mailing list yet, you can join in here).

We are looking forward to see you in Salzburg.

The Organizing Committee (Anton Kühberger & Tom Scherndl)

2nd EADM JDM Summer School


The European Association for Decision Making (EADM) is pleased to announce its second Judgment and Decision Making (JDM) Summer School for PhD Students. It will take place from

Friday 15 August to Saturday 23 August 2014

at the

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in Bonn, Germany.

The Summer School will consist of a weeklong program of courses covering issues of methodology in Judgment and Decision Making (JDM) research including hands on courses on:

Methodology in JDM Research (Frank Renkewitz, University of Erfurt)
Current methodological debate, efficient research design & theory evaluation.
Cognitive Modelling  (Andreas Glöckner, University of Göttingen)
Understanding, implementing, and testing cognitive models of choice.
Bayesian Approaches to JDM   (Benjamin Scheibehenne, University of Basel)
Bayesian models for judgment and choice, Bayesian statistics and model comparison for JDM research.
Anti-social Decision Making and Cheating  (Shaul Shalvi, Ben Gurion University)
Investigating what and how JDM research can teach us about people’s (im)moral behaviors.
Introduction to Eye-tracking  (Susann Fiedler, MPI Bonn)
Eye-tracking as a tool for investigating cognitive processes in JDM including hands on experience with the technology.
Social Decision Making   (Carsten De Dreu, University of Amsterdam)
Investigating the basic structures of social dilemmas as they emerge in (small) groups of people and how this translates into (i) social decision, and (ii) negotiating agreement. Special attention will be given to cooperative choice and negotiation strategies among representatives who navigate personal interests, those of their constituents (in-group), and those of the rivaling out-group.

Accepted participants take part at the Summer School free of charge due to the generous funding by the EADM. Accommodation, food and travel costs are not covered.

To apply for the Summer School the following materials are required:

(a) 2-page CV that gives details of your academic achievements,

(b) summary of your PhD research (800-1000 words),

(c) short letter of recommendation (maximum of one page) from an academic with knowledge of your research (e.g., supervisor).

Please email your application in pdf format to:

by April 5th, 2014 with “EADM Summer School Application” in the subject line.

For further details you find the full call for applications here.



Happy 2014!

Dear decision making colleagues,

The board of your association wishes you the very best for 2014: health, happiness, and scientific success.

For EADM the future looks bright. We will have the second EADM Summer School in August 2014, in Bonn – look out for more information. It promises to be inspiring and informative.

The next SPUDM will be in Budapest in 2015 – a bit of a wait but sure to be great again.

We continue to support Jon Baron’s Journal of Judgment and Decision Making as our joint outlet with SJDM.

And do not forget to organise decision making workshops: funding is available! Check the website for more information.

Andreas Glöckner
Michel Handgraaf
Michael Schulte-Mecklenbeck
Barbara Summers
Cilia Witteman

Tell politicians what we know about good decision making

Recently I was asked to give a lecture about decision making for a governmental committee that assesses furlough requests of delinquents with a preventive detention, to advise the minister of Safety and Justice.
Since in my Presidential Address in Barcelona I had told all of us that we should tell politicians what we know about good decision making, I accepted. After a period of panic because of the audience (Important People: psychiatrists, judges) and because the topic was so general (Decision making: what to say? how to limit myself?) I decided to tell them the following.

Decision makers are expected to follow normatively correct rules of probability and logic, but they most probably rather follow psycho-logic. Examples are rife: people are often inconsistent, they take irrelevant information into account, see too many ‘special cases’, often do not learn from feedback, are influenced by recent experiences, and get tired and bored.
Furtive laughter from a captive audience; stupid people! Other people, yes maybe, but you are not talking about us surely!

Then I presented them with some classic decision problems, such as the Linda problem and the Asian disease, asking for their judgments. That silenced them. I explained that they were excused, since that is what people’s mental make-up looks like – we need to use heuristics to allow us to cope with our complex environment. Also I pointed out that these problems were not completely fair – how can you not use the representativeness heuristic: Linda is obviously not just a dull bank clerk; how can you not be influenced by frames: who wants to send hundreds of people to their deaths?
I quoted Freud, who, according to the psychoanalyst Theodor Reik, had once told him that for decisions of minor importance, he always found it useful to weigh all pros and cons. In matters of vital importance however, such as the choice of a partner or profession, he thought the decision needs to come from the unconscious, from somewhere within.

Indeed, the audience approved, that is how it is with people. You can make lists of pros and cons, but in your personal life you will still decide what feels good.

Then I showed how Darwin had decided to marry. He made two lists, one in favour of marriage and one against. In favour was the possibility of having children, having a companion, musical entertainment that is good for your mood. Against were things such as no freedom, forced visits to in-laws, and loss of time. In the end the list of pros was longer than that of against, and he decided to marry. Ironically the marriage was quite unhappy.

I proposed that from a human perspective, we obviously cannot avoid using intuitions. Indeed, many in the audience were eager to report instances in which they had relied on their intuitions. They saw a delinquent, and immediately knew what to decide. They felt rather proud of themselves at that point.

They again became a bit more modest after Frederick’s Cognitive Reflection Test. It took some people quite some time to realise that a ball cannot cost 10 cents when the bat and ball together cost $1,10 and the bat costs $1,00 more than the ball; some don’t believe it to this day.
I told them that this illustrates that we tend to use our intuition first, and only sometimes, when forced or upon second thought, correct our intuitions by reflection. But also that in many instances our immediate initial response is flawed.

We discussed intuition, and I convinced them (I hope ☺) that intuitions can be correct – provided they are well learned, in Robin Hogarth’s Kind Environment. Dangers should however not be underestimated: tunnel vision, overconfidence, and premature closure. But then again reflecting can also lead to wrong conclusions, so inaccuracy is not the prerogative of intuition.

Since they decide in a group, I showed them the two views on team decision making: Two heads are better than one; versus A camel is a horse designed by a committee. I pointed out dangers of groupthink and unthinkingly follow authority (Milgram being a case in point) versus profiting from the knowledge of your superiors. The bottom-line was that it is always best not to be prejudiced, not to overestimate your own decision making skills, to remain alert and to know the pitfalls, including your personal biases.

Why am I telling you all this? To remind us all that this is what we can and should do: tell policy makers what we know about the problems with decision making.

I am not overconfident that they will take all our warnings to heart. These psychiatrists and judges will still defer to the group, they will still advise more negatively about somebody who has tattoos of bimbo’s on his forceps than about a shy mister Nobody, they will base their decision on what they did previously with a similar delinquent – but maybe, just maybe they may sometimes think twice.
If we succeed in making some policy makers think twice before they make their decision errors, that might save lots of money and sometimes lives. Although that is probably arrogant, it does keep us focused.

So keep up the good work, and let the whole world know about it!

Cilia Witteman
December, 2013