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


Regarding the Pain of Others: Social and Temporal Discounting of Pain

Giles Story

University of Warwick

When it comes to decisions involving money, impatience and selfishness are correlated tendencies. In behavioural economic theory, impatience is formalised as ‘temporal discounting’ – a measure of how much someone values immediate rewards relative to future ones – while selfishness is formalised as ‘social discounting’ – the value of rewarding oneself relative to rewarding others. Though extensively studied with respect to monetary reward, temporal and social discounting for pain have been underexplored. Here I present a series of behavioural experiments examining how people choose to schedule their own future pain, and how they distribute pain between themselves and others. In each case participants show strikingly different behaviour from that seen for rewards. I show how behavioural economic models can help understand the experimental findings, and discuss their application to everyday behaviour such as procrastination.

14th February 2018

Reading Week

No seminar in reading week


21st February 2018, 6 - 8pm

Gerd Gigerenzer: Making Decisions under Uncertainty

This talk is organised together with the UCL Centre for the Study of Decision-Making Uncertainty and the RCUK CRUISSE network – Confronting Radical Uncertainty in Science, Society and the Environment and will take place instead of the regular LJDM seminar.
Please register here if you would like to attend (waiting list available):


In conversation with David Tuckett, Gerd Gigerenzer, one of today’s most outstanding and interesting psychologists, will discuss differences in thinking about decision-making under risk versus uncertainty, a distinction that is of fundamental importance for cognitive neuroscience but one which often neglected – with significant consequences for understanding the macroeconomy and public and medical decision-making as well as the validity of research in neuroscience ad psychology. How can we improve research?

Gerd Gigerenzer is Director of the Harding Center for Risk Literacy at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and former Director of the Adaptive Behavior and Cognition (ABC) Center at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago. Awards for his work include the AAAS Prize for the best article in the behavioral sciences, the Association of American Publishers Prize for the best book in the social and behavioral sciences, the German Psychology Award, and the Communicator Award of the German Research Foundation. His award-winning popular books Calculated Risks, Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious, and Risk Savvy: How to make good decisions have been translated into 21 languages. His academic books include Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart, Rationality for Mortals, Simply Rational, and Bounded Rationality (with Reinhard Selten, a Nobel Laureate in economics). In Better Doctors, Better Patients, Better Decisions (with Sir Muir Gray) he shows how better informed doctors and patients can improve healthcare while reducing costs. Together with the Bank of England, he is working on the project “Simple heuristics for a safer world.” Gigerenzer has trained U.S. federal judges, German physicians, and top managers in decision making and understanding risks and uncertainties.

David Tuckett is Director of the UX Centre for the Study of Decision-Making Uncertainty and Principal Investigator of RCUK’s CRUISSE network – Confronting Radical Uncertainty in Science, Society and the Environment network.


28th February 2018 (CANCELLED, to be rescheduled)


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

Everyday decisions are made in a highly variable and uncertain environment. We need to rapidly average and assimilate environmental features to make decision in a variety of contexts: perceptual decisions, economic decisions, and action-related decisions. Sometimes, the environmental features or our knowledge of the world can be relevant for our goal-direct process but sometimes they can be irrelevant. An optimal decision can be characterised with weighting information according to its reliability and relevance to the choice at hand. However, empirical evidence showed that human decisions do not always resemble an optimal agent.

14th March 2018 (CANCELLED, to be rescheduled)

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.

We find evidence that the provision of information regarding the efficacy and side effects of antibiotics decreases, but does not diminish clinically inappropriate expectations and requests. The effect is small and partly depends on individuals’ prior beliefs. We observe no effect of information relating to the nature of the illness on expectations and requests. We suggest that interventions attempting to reduce expectations and requests should explore additional factors that will lead to a synergic effect.


21st March 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.