UW News

February 5, 2014

Public lecture series will explore the science of decision making

News and Information

Registration is available online or call 206-543-0540. The talks will be broadcast at a later date on UWTV. See previous years’ lectures on UWTV.

The ninth annual Allen L. Edwards Psychology Lecture Series will delve into “The Science of Decision Making,” to explain how the brain and an individual’s expectations influence decisions made in uncertain conditions.

The three-part series pairs University of Washington psychologists with experts from outside the university. The free lectures are on Wednesday evenings from Feb. 19 through March 5, beginning at 7 p.m. in Kane Hall 130.

Sheri J. Y. Mizumori, chair of the UW psychology department, organized this year’s series with Scott Murray, associate chair for research and associate professor of psychology. Mizumori said they chose the topic because understanding the decision-making process is fundamental to our ability to understand more complex psychological functions such as language and communication, or planning and remembering.

“The choices you make ultimately determine what you learn and remember. Your memories then determine the future choices that you make. It’s all very interconnected,” Mizumori said.

She said the lecture series will explore many factors that go into making decisions, and how your brain determines the best options for future choices.

Descriptions of the 2013 lectures are below, or read more about them online:

The Neuroscience of Good Decision Making
Feb. 19
Individuals vary widely in their ability to use available information to make good decisions. Chantel Prat, UW assistant psychology professor, and Randall O’Reilly, psychology and neuroscience professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, will discuss how individual differences and various brain regions contribute to good decision making.

How the Brain Makes Decisions Under Uncertainty
Feb. 26
In uncertain situations, our brains need to make split-second estimates about the future consequences of taking particular actions. Jeansok Kim, UW professor of psychology, and John O’Doherty, psychology professor at the California Institute of Technology, will discuss how rodent and human brains are capable of working out the “risk” and “value” of possible outcomes through trial-and-error experience, and how that information subsequently gets used at the point of decision-making.

Communicating, Understanding and Using Uncertain Information in Everyday Decisions
March 5
Experts often can provide us with relevant information to help make decisions in uncertain circumstances. Susan Joslyn, UW associate psychology professor, and David Budescu, psychometrics and quantitative psychology professor at Fordham University, will explore what people understand about uncertainty in decision making, how effectively they incorporate it into the decision-making process, and implications for how best to communicate uncertain information to nonexpert decision-makers.

The lecture series is funded by a bequest from Allen L. Edwards, a UW psychology professor from 1944 to his death in 1994, with the support of a bequest from Roger B. Loucks, a UW psychology professor from 1936 until his retirement in 1968. Edwards is credited with introducing modern statistical techniques into psychological science.

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