Palma (Mallorca) from 12 to 13 July 2016
First meeting of the SEJyD
(Society for the Advancement of Judgment
and Decision Making Studies)

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Keynote speakers


SEPEX Plenary lecture by Dr. Martin Skov
Centre for Decision Neuroscience, University of Copenhagen.

“The influence of aesthetic cues on decision-making”

Aesthetic cues are often thought of as non-functional properties of an object that contribute to the appearance, but not the “content” of the object. For example, a chair can be made from any number of different materials, take on a variety of geometrical forms, or be colored whatever color was available to the chair maker. None of these features are relevant to the chair’s status as “chair”, or – in general – to its use. They do, however, affect the “look” of chair, its “design” or “style”. 

A vast array of empirical research show that such aesthetic cues influence decision-making, for instance decisions about how to act in social interactions, which products to buy, or how to organize the habitat we inhabit. To decision researchers this fact is of interest at least for two reasons. One is that, at least on some assumptions about how decision-making works, aesthetic cues should be irrelevant to the decision-making process. It makes little sense, for example, that people behave more fair or collaborative in social dilemmas when the other person they interact with is attractive. Or that the type of cutlery used can affect how much diners are willing to pay for a meal. (But it can.) The other reason is that aesthetic cues often are inconspicuous. We are rarely conscious of the fact that the facial features of the person we are dealing with inform how we assess economic options, or that the cutlery we eat with affects how we value the meal being eaten. In this sense, aesthetic cues can be said to be rather overlooked as a factor influencing decision-making.

In my talk I will present empirical results demonstrating how pervasive aesthetic cues are in human decision-making across many different domains. I will then discuss why they modulate decision-making processes. In short, recent neuroaesthetic research suggests that aesthetic cues can modulate neural processes in the reward system, impacting both valuation assessments for an object as well as motivational drive.





Plenary Lecture by Dr. Konstantinos Katsikopoulos
Deputy Director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin.


“Decision theory and rules of thumb”

Decision theory has been dominated by a logic of complexity: The world is complex, and so must be the models used to make decisions. Standard models evaluate as many options as possible, by making tradeoffs between each option’s good and bad features. Problems with this decision theory are well known. It is challenging to gather the information the models require, and decision-makers do not understand the models. In the last three decades, research in cognitive psychology and behavioral ecology has provided the foundations of an alternative decision theory: This theory is inspired by the simple rules of thumb animals and people actually use. These rules of thumb do not require a lot of information and do not perform complex tradeoffs; rather, they adaptively rely on human expertise, such as the knowledge of informative features and the use of core capacities (i.e., visual tracking or recognition memory). Surprisingly, in problems spanning economics, management, health and safety, simple rules of thumb can perform better than the more complex standard models. The future of decision theory depends on how wisely can researchers combine standard models and rules of thumb.





Plenary lecture by Dr. Wandi Bruine de Bruin
University Leadership Chair in Behavioural Decision Making, Co-Director of the Centre for Decision Research, Leeds University, United Kingdom.        


“Decision making competence across the life span”

Population age is steadily increasing in the EU and the US. Because age-related declines in cognitive ability are well-documented, concerns have been raised about older adults' ability to make good decisions and obtain good life decision outcomes. However, life-span developmental psychologists have suggested that this focus on cognitive loss is too limited, because the aging decision maker is also experiencing important changes in emotional skills and motivation. My presentation introduces an individual-differences measure of decision-making competence and builds on life-span developmental theories to examine how and why aspects of decision-making competence change across the adult life span. Findings have implications for interventions that aim to teach people of all ages how to make better decisions.





Plenary lecture by Dr. Todd Hare
Professor of Neuroeconomics, Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research, University of Zurich, Switzerland


“Recent Findings on the Neural Basis of Decision Making”

The past decade has produced hundreds of neuroimaging studies examining the neural basis of decision making. I will briefly review the general findings of these studies in order to set the stage for discussing recent experiments that demonstrate the importance of attention and context on the neural substrates of decision making. The first experiment shows that, while brain structures such as the posterior cingulate and ventromedial prefrontal cortex often appear to represent the same information during economic, value-based choices, examination of these brain regions during carefully matched economic versus perceptual choices reveals key distinctions in function. We show that the representation of value in ventromedial prefrontal cortex becomes more precise during economic compared to perceptual choices, but that activity in the posterior cingulate cortex has a consistent and automatic relationship with an object’s economic value even when that value is irrelevant for the current choice. Furthermore, this automatic representation of economic value in the posterior cingulate cortex is associated with indices of an individual’s propensity for value-based attentional capture. The second set of experiments seeks to understand how the brain modifies its valuation processes in response to changes in internal states or environmental conditions. Here, we demonstrate that interactions between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex play a critical role in modulating the weight given to each stimulus attribute when computing an overall value for the stimulus. Moreover, similar interregional interactions support both choices in which an individual’s current goal (i.e. internal state) prompts her to shift her preferences from immediate to delayed gratification and the adaptation of decisions to fit changing environmental circumstances. Together, these results indicate that neural mechanisms promoting flexibility in valuation and choice may play a key role in optimizing decision making in multiple domains.