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Keith O’Brien

This person is an alumnus of the department.
The information on this page was last updated on 27th January 2017.

My research interests are broad, but are mostly concerned with the psychology of judgment & decision-making in various domains; i.e. political judgment and strategic voting, dynamic cognition, and ‘behavioural architecture’.

My current research focuses on the cognitive processes involved in voter choice. Studies (Lau & Redlawsk 2006, 2006, 2013) have shown that when there are 4+ candidates to choose from in an election, 70% of people do not vote ‘optimally’ or ‘correctly’; that is, in line with their actual preferences on issues or values. This has obvious implications for democracy, and party politics. We simulate the dynamics of election campaigns, and analyse how people use information to form political judgments and enact decisions- be it for a candidate or a specific policy. While much of this research is done in the USA, we are the first to specifically examine the psychology of ‘correct’ voting in the UK, where multi-party and multi-seat dynamics greatly increase the complexity of political JDM for voters.

I plan to examine the effects of probability statements via polls/pundits, argumentation, and emotion on the cognitive processes; responsibility attribution and feedback in determining vote outcome; and to conduct a large field study in the 2014/2015 elections. This research has broad implications for improving democratic processes worldwide, and advancing our understanding of political psychology.

Beyond the lab, I believe we should use behavioural science and design to improve human wellbeing (a.k.a. ‘behavioural architecture’), and advise private & public bodies on socially responsible projects. As part of UCL’s Grand Challenges of Human Wellbeing, our team won a £10,000 prize to tackle social disconnecton though redesigning behaviour in transient public spaces.

I blog at The Experimentalist – A blog of Psychology, Behaviour, & Politics

Contact details

Department of Experimental Psychology
Division of Psychology and Language Sciences
University College London
26 Bedford Way
London WC1H 0AP

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