UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


London Judgement and Decision Making seminars

The LJDM seminar series is supported by

University College London

City University London

Originally established at UCL in the early 1970’s as a weekly Cognition and Reasoning seminar, it later became an intercollegiate seminar on Language and Cognition in the early 1980’s. 

The name LJDM was finally coined in 1990, and the group has been running seminars under this name ever since, with lecturers and researchers in and around the UK meeting on a regular basis to discuss judgment and decision making, judgments of likelihood, reasoning, thinking, problem solving, forecasting, risk perception and communication, and other related topics.

If you would like to present your research to the group or to suggest a speaker, please contact the organizers:

- Lara Kirfel (lara-christina.kirfel.15@ucl.ac.uk),
- Sabine Topf (sabine.topf.14@ucl.ac.uk), and
- Tamara Shengelia (tamara.shengelia.15@ucl.ac.uk)

Unless specified otherwise, all seminars take place on Wednesdays at 5pm, in Room 313 at the Psychology Department, University College London (on the corner of Bedford Way, Gordon Square and Torrington Place, London WC1H 0AP). Map.

To get updates on the current schedule and weekly reminders of the seminars, please subscribe to the Risk and Decision mailing list.

All are welcome to attend.

Term 2 Seminar Schedule

January – March 2018

17th January 2018

Do you recycle while others are watching? Personality, identity, visibility, and 21 pro-environmental behaviours

Cameron Brick

University of Cambridge

We know how to mitigate environmental problems like climate change, but don't know why many individuals reject those behaviours and policies. I argue pro-environmental behaviour is based not just on thoughts about the environment or on difficulty but also how individuals think about others. Examining the person in social situations may help predict or influence these behaviours. I present a research line showing how personality and social identity relate to pro-environmental behaviour and policy preferences (total N = 3504). Study 1 shows that pro-environmental behaviours may be caused by environmental concern, which may in turn be caused by the personality trait Openness. Studies 2-5 find that social identification with environmentalists uniquely predicts behaviour and policy preferences. In Studies 6-8, environmentalist identity interacts with the public visibility of behaviour to predict frequency of behaviour in a multi-level model controlling for perceived difficulty and effectiveness. Studying social reactions to environmental problems provides the opportunity for public impact and for basic science on cognition, social influence, and action.

24th January 2018

Checking the Structure of Chain Event Graphs

Rachel Lynne Wilkerson
University of Warwick

Chain event graphs have been established as a practical Bayesian graphical tool for decision analysis. While diagnostics have been developed for Bayesian networks, they have not been defined for the Chain Event Graph. We outline a number of diagnostics designed to check the continued validity of the selected model as data about a population is collected. A study of a government program to alleviate child food insecurity illustrates the efficacy of these diagnostics.

31st January 2018

Joint LSE Session "Moral Self image and moral decision making"

Anneli Jefferson

University of Birmingham

5.30-7pm in LAK.2.06. (2nd floor of the Lakatos Building) London School of Economics

Our moral decisions and actions are guided by what we take to be morally permissible and impermissible. In this talk I consider another factor which may affect both our judgment of moral permissibility and our moral conduct, our moral self-image. In particular, I ask whether a positive view of our own moral character traits is conducive to making good moral decisions and acting well. I discuss arguments from self-consistency that support this hypothesis. I then turn to the bias known as the better than average effect, and argue that our need for a positive moral self-image can lead us to be insensitive to evidence that we are acting immorally.  The belief that we are morally superior facilitates unwarranted complacency and can lead to warped moral judgment via mechanisms of self-justification. This danger is particularly high when moral self-descriptions and evaluations of behaviour are very abstract. Very concrete moral self-ascriptions on the other hand are likely to have a positive effect. I conclude that while a positive moral self-image can be of limited benefit under tightly circumscribed conditions, it will in many cases be detrimental to moral judgment and conduct.

7th February 2018

Social Decision Making

Giles Story

University of Warwick

Abstract to follow

14th February 2018

Reading Week

No seminar in reading week

21st February 2018

Your Password Is Mine: Understanding What Happens to Compromised Webmail Accounts

Jeremiah Onaolapo


Account credentials are attractive to cybercriminals who often seek ways to monetize the valuable and sensitive data in the online accounts that such credentials guard. However, it is unclear what exactly cybercriminals do with compromised accounts after gaining access. We built an infrastructure capable of monitoring the activity of cybercriminals that connect to webmail accounts, with the aim of understanding their modus operandi. We also created and instrumented Gmail accounts. In order to lure miscreants into interacting with the accounts, we leaked the associated account credentials on various outlets across the Surface and Dark Webs. We then monitored accesses to the accounts over several months. We observed attempts to evade login anomaly detection systems, and recorded some interesting case studies, including an attempted blackmail attack.

28th February 2018

Causality and Responsibility and their Applications to Problems in Computer Science and Beyond

Hana Chockler

Kings College London

In this talk, I will (briefly) introduce the theory of actual causality as defined by Halpern and Pearl. This theory turns out to be extremely useful in various areas of computer science due to a good match between the results it produces and our intuition. I will outline the evolution of the definitions of actual causality and intuitive reasons for the many parameters in the definition using examples from formal verification. I will also introduce the definitions of responsibility and blame, which quantify the definition of causality.

We will look in more detail at the applications of causality to formal verification, such as explanation of counter-examples, refinement of coverage metrics, and the current research in causality in testing. It is interesting to note that explanation of counter-examples using the definition of actual causality is implemented in an industrial tool and produces results that are usually consistent with the users’ intuition, hence it is a popular and widely used feature of the tool.

Finally, I will discuss the recent advancements, including the application of causality to legal reasoning, and formal definitions of efficient interventions and combining experts’ opinions for policymaking.

7th March 2018

A common theory for contextual effects in human decision making

Vickie Li

University of Oxford

Abstract to follow

14th March 2018

Effect of insufficient information on patients’ expectations and requests for antibiotics in primary care

Alistair Thorpe

University of Essex

Interventions aimed at reducing patients’ expectations and requests for antibiotics focus on the provision of didactic information. Such interventions assume that patients lack information about diseases and antibiotics effectivity, but these are hard to evaluate in complex interventions. In two pre-registered studies, we first identify the dimensions of individuals’ beliefs about diseases and antibiotics that are associated with, and predict, expectations to receive and/or request antibiotics from a GP. Second, we examine the causal link between the provision of incomplete or imperfect knowledge about diseases and antibiotics from a GP and individuals’ expectations and requests for antibiotics.