UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Previous LJDM seminars

Here you can find a list of abstracts from previous speakers that have joined us for a LJDM seminar. Links to recordings will also be posted here!

Wednesday 3rd of November 2021

Dr Mohsen Mosleh (University of Exeter)

Understanding and reducing the spread of misinformation online

There has been a great deal of concern about the negative impacts of online misinformation on democracy and society. In this talk, I provide an overview of my research on understanding why people share misinformation and how to combat spread of low-quality content online. I first focus on the why question and describe a hybrid lab-field study in which Twitter users (N=1,901) complete a cognitive survey. I show that people who rely on intuitive gut responses over analytical thinking share lower quality content. I then build on this observation with a Twitter field experiment (N= 5,379) that uses a subtle intervention to nudge people to think about accuracy. I show the intervention significantly improve the quality of the news sources they shared subsequently. Finally, I will talk about a follow-up study where we directly correct Twitter users (N=2000) who shared misinformation by replying to their false tweets by including a link to the fact-checking website. We show that unlike the subtle accuracy nudge, the direct public correction results in users sharing lower quality content. Our experimental design translates directly into an intervention that social media companies could deploy to fight misinformation online.


Wednesday 17th of November 2021

Professor Ken Manktelow (University of Wolverhampton)

Peter Wason: Beyond reasoning

Peter Wason spent his entire career as a psychologist, from undergraduate to emeritus, at UCL. His research was characterised by extraordinary creativity: he was the principal instigator of a whole field, the psychology of reasoning, and introduced many of the methods, and some of the important theoretical ideas, that remain current to this day. Two of the most important figures in the field were students of his at UCL, as were many others. He also made important contributions to psycholinguistics, pure and applied, and to the study of writing. In this talk, based on a recently published biography, we shall look at aspects of his background and personal history that help explain how he did what he did.


Wednesday 24th of November 2021

 Dr Claire Heard (LSE)

Title: Acting pro-socially? Factors influencing the decision to provide first aid during single and mass casualty events.

There is a growing appreciation of the potential role the public could play in responding to mass casualty events (e.g. the 2017 Manchester Arena Bombing). However, most research on people’s willingness to provide first aid has focussed on smaller scale emergency scenarios. Across 15 interviews with first-aid practitioner and 10 public focus groups (n=54), we investigated the factors which affect people’s decisions to offer first aid in response to three scenarios: a cardiac arrest, an acid-attack, and a mass-casualty event. Through thematic analysis, we identify barriers/facilitators to helping and differences between scenarios including beliefs about situational ambiguity and danger (uncertainty and risk), treatment urgency, first-aid skill simplicity, the role of other bystanders, and differing emotional responses to the emergency.


Wednesday 1st of December 2021

Dr Simon Stephan (University of Göttingen)

The interplay between covariation, temporal, and mechanism information in singular causation judgements

Singular causation queries (e.g., “Did Mary’s taking contraceptives cause her thrombosis?”) are ubiquitous in everyday life and crucial in many professional disciplines, such as medicine or law. Knowledge about general causal regularities is necessary but not sufficient for establishing a singular causation relation, because it is possible that co-occurrences consistent with known regularities are in an individual case still just coincidental. Thus, further cues are helpful to establish a singular causation relation. One such cue is information about the temporal relation between the possible causes of an effect. A further cue that I will focus on in my talk is information about causal mechanisms. What has been missing in the literature on causal reasoning is a formal model of singular causation judgments explaining why mechanism is helpful in the assessment of singular causation. In my talk, I will present a computational model that we proposed that integrates covariation, temporal, and mechanism information to predict whether two co-occurred events were causally connected instead of a mere coincidence. The model not only provides a formal explanation of why mechanism information is helpful in the assessment of singular causation relations, but also can be used to identify factors that restrict the utility of mechanism information. The results of several experiments we conducted suggest that most reasoners systematically use mechanism information, largely in accordance with our formal model. However, we also find that some people seem to rely on simpler, computationally less demanding reasoning strategies. Our studies also suggest that reasoners also understand when mechanism information is less helpful.


Wednesday 8th of December 2021

Dr Christopfer Bryan (University of Texas)

Values alignment: An alternative to pragmatic appeals for behavior change

Abstract: The science of behavior change has become an increasingly important frontier in the quest to improve human health and well-being. Recognition of this is now widespread in the scientific community, but the science of behavior change—the development of effective, empirically validated techniques for producing lasting, internalized motivation for the behavioral choices people know they should be making but usually do not—is still badly underdeveloped. Most public appeals to engage in such “should” behaviors (e.g., exercise, eat healthily, save for the future, conserve energy) focus on the pragmatic reasons why those behaviors are important. The problem with this approach is that such pragmatic appeals lack the motivational immediacy to drive the needed changes in behavior for reasons psychologists have understood for decades. Here, I suggest an alternative approach: reframing should behaviors in terms that emphasize how those behaviors serve the values that are already immediate and important to the people whose behavior one seeks to change. I demonstrate the potential of this approach using the example of an intervention to get adolescents to adopt healthier dietary habits by framing manipulative food marketing as a subversion of important adolescent values, including autonomy from adult control and social justice.


Wednesday 2nd of February 2022

Dr Yefim Roth (University of Haifa)

Decisions from Valuations of Unknown Payoff Distributions

Four experiments are presented that clarify the impact of experience on the way people use valuations. In each of the 100 trials of Study 1, participants were asked to choose between the status quo and an unknown binary lottery based on valuations by two expert systems: a well-calibrated “expert” reporting the expected values, and an expert that ignores the low probability outcome and reports the medians (that equaled the modes). The results suggest that experience decreased the inclination to follow the recommendation of the well-calibrated expert. This deviation from maximization appears to reflect two biases: the tendency to follow the expert that has recommended the action that provided higher payoff in most cases, and the tendency to follow the more extreme valuation. Studies 2 and 3 suggest similar reliance on experts that recommend the best choice in most trials, in choices between two payoff distributions, and even when these experts do not provide the median or the mode of the distributions. Study 4 shows that the impact of experts that direct people toward the optimal choice can be increased by exaggeration (inflating the estimated advantage of the payoff maximizing option). However, the long-term impact of exaggeration depends on the proportion of cases in which the optimal choice leads to the best payoff; a lasting positive effect of exaggeration was observed only when this proportion was high. These results can be captured by assuming several “expert weighting rules” and the selection between the rules based on small samples of past experiences. 

Recording available below!
 YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wh8mEsGbblY&ab_channel=LJDMUCL


Wednesday 9th of February 2022

Dr Dawn Holford (University of Bristol)

The role of pragmatic inferences in communication and decision-making

In this talk, I present a series of empirical work that tested the different pragmatic inferences that people make when given a piece of information. In three series of empirical studies (covering 16 experiments) that used different contexts (e.g., food, health, COVID-19), we showed that people make inferences about what the “speaker” means, beyond what is there in the written information. We found that people take cues (1) from the way information is framed and (2) from the context of the situation to reach conclusions about (a) whether the speaker recommends an action or item and (b) what are the relevant events to focus on. I will discuss these findings and avenues for future research, particularly in the context of health and risk communication and the COVID-19 pandemic.


Wednesday 16th of March 2022

Dr Nura Sidarus (university of Royal Holloway)

Who's in control? Prospective contributions to the sense of agency

Human voluntary action is typically accompanied by an experience of being in control of our actions and their consequences, referred to as sense of agency. Previous research has shown that the sense of agency relies on a retrospective comparison between expected and observed action outcomes. Our work has shown that there is also a prospective component to the sense of agency, related to the metacognitive monitoring of decision-making processes. Difficult decisions reduce our sense of agency over action outcomes. These effects generalise across tasks, from unconscious to conscious manipulations, in dynamic video games, and in social contexts. I will discuss the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying these prospective contributions to the sense of agency, and how they are integrated with outcome-related information. Furthermore, I will consider the implications of this work for understanding decision-making and learning processes, in both individual and social contexts.

Please click here for seminar.

Wednesday 23rd of March 2022

Dr Jonathan Rolison (University of Essex)

The psychological processes that drive self-reported risk preference

Why are some people more willing than others to take risks? While behavioural tasks (e.g., monetary lotteries) are often regarded as a gold standard for capturing a person’s risk preference, recent studies have found stated preferences (e.g., responses to hypothetical scenarios) to exhibit higher reliability, convergent validity, and test-retest stability. Yet, relatively little is known about the psychological processes underlying stated preferences. Central to the stated preference approach is the notion that people’s perceived risks and benefits are integrated in a trade-off to determine their risk propensity. I will discuss the results of studies designed to cast a light on the psychological processes that drive people’s risk preference. The results of these studies indicate that some people intentionally evaluate the risks and benefits of activities when deriving their risk propensity, resulting in more consistent integration of perceived risks and benefits. Associations with thinking dispositions indicate that participants who deliberately compute risk-reward trade-offs are more disposed to analytic thinking. The studies also reveal a broad repertoire of processes/representations that people report using for evaluating activities. The processes/representations people use are stable over time, associated with thinking dispositions, and influence their risk preference. The findings also provide causal evidence to underpin the as-if psychological risk-return model of risk preference.