Decision processes at Penn


The University of Pennsylvania houses many opportunities to study decision processes. For graduate study, the two main options are the PhD program in the Wharton School and the graduate program in Psychology. Examples of other relevant graduate programs are in the School of Law, the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the Department of Philosophy.

In addition, Postdoctoral opportunities in medical decision making are available.


The topics under study include, among others, biases, intuitions about fairness, cooperation in both dyads and groups, decisions about risk, honesty, deception, moral judgment, medical decision making. Researchers approach these questions using a variety of methods, including the use of laboratory experiments, web-based surveys, collection of field data, techniques from experimental economics, and neuroscience.


Several weekly talk series, lab meetings, and periodic discussion groups are relevant to decision processes. The main one has been the Decision Processes Brown Bag ( including summer), which has run almost continuously for 35 years. It began as a local research discussion group. Now it brings in outside speakers as well as local ones, while maintaining the lively atmosphere of a lab meeting rather than a formal colloquium.

Schools, departments and institutes


The faculty and students in these various programs work closely with each other, regardless of school or department. For more information about each faculty member, each name has a link to his or her web page. This is a partial list. It is difficult to draw the line about where to stop, as many other faculty are interested in these fields, as well as students and post-docs.

David A. Asch (

I am interested in the moral and cognitive determinants of the decisions made by patients, physicians, and other health care professionals. I am particularly interested in decisions to use diagnostic tests (including genetic screening), end of life care, allocation of resources, and decisions that affect individuals and groups differently.

I also direct a post-doctoral program in medical decision making. This is open only to US citizens who have completed doctoral training and are funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs. For information about the post-doctoral program in medical decision making, contact Martha Trudeau.

Jonathan Baron (

I study intuitions and judgment biases that impede maximization of utility (good) by democratic government. These include parochialism, the act-omission distinction, moralistic values, and the isolation effect. Relevant rubrics are Behavioral Public Finance, Behavioral Public Economics, and Behavioral Law and Economics. I am also interested in experimentation and data analysis.

Cristina Bicchieri (

My intellectual affinities lie at the border between philosophy, game theory and psychology. My primary research focus is on judgment and decision making with special interest in decisions about fairness, trust, and cooperation, and how expectations affect behavior. A second research focus examines the evolution of social norms, especially norms of fairness and cooperation. A third, earlier research focus has been the epistemic foundations of game theory and how changes in information affects rational choices and solutions.

Keisha Cutright

Keisha Cutright studies the role of personal belief systems in individuals' consumption decisions. In particular, her research focuses on how consumption and certain belief systems(related to religion, personal control, culture, etc.) provide interchangeable sources of meaning and structure.

Geoffrey Goodwin (

My research is situated at the intersection of cognitive and social psychology. I am particularly interested in a variety of issues in moral psychology, including whether people think of their moral beliefs as objective facts, or alternatively as more like mere subjective preferences; how people place value on different human lives, particularly in conditions of scarce resources; and what predicts whether people are willing to take "neuro-enhancement" technologies that aim to improve aspects of their psychological functioning. I am also working on a set of projects on deductive reasoning and inference.

John C. Hershey (

My research interests center on normative and behavioral aspects of decision making, with special emphasis on health care and insurance decision making, and operations research applications to the service sector. In one recent project, I built and implemented a decision model that was used to select the states given public health awards by the National Cancer Institute. In another project, I investigated moral hazard and risk seeking in experimental insurance markets. I am collaborating on several projects examining the appropriate use of genetic screening tests, under a grant from the Human Game Project. I am also collaborating on a project investigating the choices of employees enrolled in health care flexible spending accounts.

Stephen J. Hoch (

My research focuses on managerial decision making, particularly on what psychology can tell us about how experts should interact with new information technologies and decision support systems. I am also interested in the psychology of self-control and consumer behavior and learning as it relates to the design of retail merchandising, pricing, and promotion strategy.

William C. Holmes (

My primary research interests are assessment of health status in HIV/AIDS and identification of antecedent risk factors for HIV risk behavior, particularly the role of childhood sexual abuse histories in men. I have developed the HIV/AIDS-Targeted Quality of Life Instrument (HAT-QoL), and which now has been translated into approximately a dozen languages. I also study how seropositive individual's illness-modeling has changed since the advent of highly active antiretroviral therapies, and increasingly, how men define childhood sexual abuse (of males), how decisions to disclose histories of abuse are made, and how abuse operates either directly or through mediators on decisions to engage in HIV risk behavior.

Wes Hutchinson (

Broadly speaking, my research focuses on the cognitive antecedents of decision making. In particular, I study the ways consumers and managers learn from experience and use that knowledge to make everyday decisions. The specific behaviors examined in my research have been eclectic (e.g., information acquisition, brand choice, brand name recall, budget allocation, etc.). However, most of this research has, in one way or another, addressed problems in modeling the representation of knowledge. More specifically, much of my work contributes to one of two areas: (1) consumer and managerial learning or (2) scaling methods for proximity, preference, and choice data.

Joseph Kable (

I am interested in understanding how people make decisions, and in tracing out the underlying psychological and neural mechanisms of choice. Research in my lab employs an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on methods and ideas from social and cognitive neuroscience, experimental economics, and personality psychology. Recently we have used fMRI to show how the subjective value people place on immediate and delayed rewards is represented in a common neural currency. Some broad questions motivating our current research include: How seriously do people’s choices deviate from rational choice theory, and what do the neural value signals in such situations help explain about these deviations? How does decision making differ across individuals, and what are the sources—psychological, genetic, neural—of such individual differences?

Barbara Kahn (

Consumer choice; variety seeking; brand loyalty; decisions under uncertainty/ambiguity; patient decision making, preventative health care; medical & financial services.

Howard Kunreuther (

My current research is concerned with understanding and improving decision making with respect to low probability high consequence events. Due to the limited statistical data as well as personal experience with these events it is difficult for individuals, groups and organizations to develop meaningful strategies for coping with these events. Often people use heuristics such as "it will not happen to me" (natural disasters) or "I don't want this facility in my backyard" (hazardous waste) in coping with these events. On the prescriptive side I am interested in the role of insurance, regulations, compensation, information provision and incentives in improving how society deals with these events.

Robert Kurzban (

My research focuses on the nature of evolved cognitive adaptations for social life. This includes relatively low level processes of social categorization as well as higher level processes including cooperative decision making, discrimination, and social exclusion. I use methods drawn from experimental economics and cognitive psychology to address these questions.

Barbara Mellers (

Psychological models of decision making; effects of emotions on judgment and choice; perceptions of fairness.

Katherine Milkman (

Her research documents various ways in which individuals systematically deviate from making optimal choices, and she is particularly interested in understanding what factors lead people to undersave for retirement, exercise too little, eat too much junk food, and watch too many lowbrow films

Cassie Mogilner

Professor Cassie Mogilner studies happiness, focusing on the role of time and money. Her research examines such questions as how thinking in terms of time (rather than money) influences consumers’ attitudes towards products and brands; how individuals’ daily choices and behavior are influenced by thoughts of time and money; how the meaning of happiness changes over the course of one’s lifetime; and how giving time away can increase feelings of having time. Professor Mogilner also studies decision making, examining how factors in the choice context (e.g., categorization and the simultaneous vs. sequential presentation of options) can influence the level of satisfaction that individuals experience from the choices they make.

David Reibstein (

My work in the area of decision processes has centered around the measurement of how customers form their choice preferences and how stable are our measures. In particular, I have focused on the reliability of conjoint measurement and what factors might influence this reliability.

Rom Schrift

Rom Schrift studies consumer behavior focusing on Behavioral Decision Theory. More specifically, he explores the psychological processes that consumers undergo prior to reaching a decision, the formation of consumers’ preferences, and how cues in the environment trigger different mind-sets.

Maurice Schweitzer (

My research interests include negotiations, deception, and trust. My negotiations research examines the influence of various factors such as alcohol and physical attractiveness on bargaining behavior. Much of my current work is focused on the deception decision process and the influence of deception on trust.

Joseph Simmons (

Judgment and decision making, experimental methods, consumer behavior.

Uri Simonsohn (

Consumer behavior; behavioral economics; judgment and decision making; experimental methodology.

Deborah Small (

Small's research examines fundamental processes underlying judgment and decision making, and their practical implications for consumers and for public policy. One focus of her research is affective influences on judgment and choice, especially: (1) the effects of identifiability on affective reactions toward others and (2) the effects of specific emotions on judgment and choice. Another research focus is gender differences in negotiation.

Philip Tetlock (

Political psychology, ideology, prediction, accountability, taboo trade-offs, value conflict, politicized psychology.

Kevin Volpp (

Health services research; health economics; delivery of health care; quality of health care; behavioral economics.

Keith Weigelt (

I study strategic decision making within groups. My research examines decisions at both the group and individual level. My models are game theoretic with an intuitive grounding in eastern philosophy. Much of my research focuses on small groups, especially the University of Pennsylvania Men's Basketball Team.

Patti Williams (

The persuasive effects of emotion; consumer responses to emotional and attitudinal ambivalence; Automatic (implicit) and effortful (explicit) uses of consumer memory.

Gal Zauberman (

I study consumer behavior, time in judgment and decision making, and memory for emotions and choice. I focus on factors that affect individuals' evaluations, preferences, and choice, with specific interest in the role of time in judgment and decision making. On this topic, I examine the psychological mechanisms that govern the way people develop preferences for outcomes in the future, and how the pattern of a sequence of outcomes over time affects people's evaluation of a consumption sequence.

Maintained by Jon Baron

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Last modified 03/30/14