Publications

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Bruin de Bruine, W., Fischhoff, B., Downs, J., Florig, K., Mandel, D., & Lerner, J. S. (2011). Examining unintended consequences of risk communications that evoke fear - a bi-national study.Abstract
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Carnevale, J., Inbar, Y., & Lerner, J. S. (2011).

Individual differences in need for cognition and decision making competence among leaders

. Personality Assessment and Individual Differences, 51(3), 274-278.Abstract
When making decisions, people sometimes deviate from normative standards. While such deviations may appear to be alarmingly common, examining individual differences may reveal a more nuanced picture. Specifically, the personality factor of need for cognition (i.e., the extent to which people engage in and enjoy effortful cognitive activities; Cacioppo & Petty, 1982) may moderate decision makers' susceptibility to bias, as could personality factors associated with being a leader. As part of a large-scale assessment of high-level leaders, participants completed a battery of decision-making competence and personality scales, leaders who scored higher on need for cognition performed better on two of four components of a decision-making competence measure: framing and honoring sunk costs. In addition, the leader sample performed better than published controls. Thus, both individual differences in need for cognition and leadership experience moderate susceptibility in decision biases. Implications for broader theories of individual differences and bias are discussed.
individual_differences_in_need_for_cognition_and_decision_making_competence_among_leaders.pdf
Cryder, C., & Lerner, J. S. (2009). Uncertainty. In The Oxford Companion to Emotion and the Affective Sciences (pp. 395). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Abstract
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uncertainty_oxford_companion.pdf
Cryder, C. E., Lerner, J. S., Gross, J. J., & Dahl, R. E. (2008).

Misery is not miserly

. Psychological Science, 19, 525-530.Abstract
Misery is not miserly: Sadness increases the amount of money that decision makers give up to acquire a commodity. The present research investigated when and why the misery-is-not-miserly effect occurs. Drawing on William James's concept of the material self, we tested a model specifying relationships among sadness, self-focus, and the amount of money that decision makers spend. Consistent with our Jamesian hypothesis, results demonstrated that the misery-is-not-miserly effect occurs only when self-focus is high. That is, self-focus moderates the effect of sadness on spending. Moreover, mediational analyses revealed that, at sufficiently high levels, self-focus mediates (explains) the relationship between sadness and spending. Because the study used real commodities and real money, the results hold implications for everyday decisions, as well as implications for the development of theory. For example, economic theories of spending may benefit from incorporating psychological theories--specifically, theories of emotion and the self--into their models.
misery-is-not-miserly.pdf
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DeSteno, D., Li, Y., Dickens, L., & Lerner, J. S. (2014).

Gratitude: A Tool for Reducing Economic Impatience

. Psychological Science, 1-6.Abstract
The human mind tends to excessively discount the value of delayed rewards relative to immediate ones, and it is thought that "hot" affective processes drive desires for short-term gratification. Supporting this view, recent findings demonstrate that sadness exacerbates financial impatience even when the sadness is unrelated to the economic decision at hand. Such findings might reinforce the view that emotions must always be suppressed to combat impatience. But if emotions serve adaptive functions, then certain emotions might be capable of reducing excessive impatience for delayed rewards. We found evidence supporting this alternative view. Specifically, we found that (a) the emotion gratitude reduces impatience even when real money is at stake, and (b) the effects of gratitude are differentiable from those of the more general positive state of happiness. These findings challenge the view that individuals must tamp down affective responses through effortful self-regulation to reach more patient and adaptive economic decisions.
desteno.li_.dickens.lerner.2014.psych_.science.published.pdf
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Ferrer, R., Klein, W., Lerner, J., Reyna, V., & Keltner, D. (In Press).

Emotions and health decison-making

. In C. Roberto & Kawachi, I. (Eds.), Behavioral Economics and Public Health. Cambridge: Harvard University.Abstract
The growth of a robust body of research examining emotions and decision-making and an unprecedented societal focus on behavioral prevention of disease suggests that now is the time to leverage emotion science to improve health and health care. Extending the appraisal tendency framework (Lerner & Keltner, 2000), we predict how emotions may interact with situational factors to improve or degrade health-related decisions. We also discuss how policymakers can leverage emotional influences on judgment and decision-making to improve health decisions and healthcare. Our review examines four categories of judgments and thought processes of clear relevance to health decisions: risk perception, valuation and reward-seeking, interpersonal attribution, and depth of information processing. By building on prior research and theory, we illustrate ways in which a better understanding of emotion can improve judgments and choices regarding health.
emotion_and_health_jdm_2014_0724.pdf
Fischhoff, B., Gonzalez, R. M., Small, D. A., & Lerner, J. S. (2003).

Evaluating the success of terror risk communications

. Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science, 1, 255-258.Abstract
In a November 2002 survey of Americans, Blendon et al. documented the mixed success of communications about smallpox. We report on a concurrent survey with a similar sample, embedding beliefs regarding smallpox risks in a broader set of issues and focusing on facts that are easily understood if communicated properly and that are critical to managing widely reported risks. If citizens have not learned these facts, then our risk communication processes have somehow failed to convey them in a salient, comprehensible, credible way. Because effective decision making requires recognizing the extent of one's understanding, we look at the strength of lay beliefs, as well as their general trend. People who confidently hold erroneous beliefs may not consult better-in-formed sources before acting. They may also not be alert to signs of things going awry.
fischhoff_2003_bioterroism_paper.pdf
Fischhoff, B., Gonzalez, R. M., Lerner, J. S., & Small, D. A. (2005).

Evolving judgments of terrorism’s risks: Foresight, hindsight, and emotion

. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 11, 124-139.Abstract
The authors examined the evolution of cognitive and emotional responses to terror risks for a nationally representative sample of Americans between late 2001 and late 2002. Respondents' risk judgments changed in ways consistent with their reported personal experiences. However, they did not recognize these changes, producing hindsight bias in memories for their judgments. An intensive debiasing procedure failed to restore a foresightful perspective. A fear-inducing manipulation increased risk estimates, whereas an anger-inducing manipulation reduced them--both in predictions (as previously observed) and in memories and judgments of past risks. Thus, priming emotions shaped not only perceptions of an abstract future but also perceptions of a concrete past. These results suggest how psychological research can help to ensure an informed public.
fischhoff_2005_jep_paper.pdf
Fischhoff, B., Gonzalez, R. M., Small, D. A., & Lerner, J. S. (2003).

Judged terror risk and proximity to the World Trade Center

. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 26, 137-151.Abstract
In November 2001, a nationally representative sample of Americans (N = 973, ages 13-88), queried via WebTV's at home, judged the probability of five terror-related events (e.g., being injured in an attack) and three "routine" risks (e.g., being a victim of other violent crime), in the following 12 months. Judgments of terror risks, but not routine risks, were related to whether respondents were within 100 mi of the World Trade Center. This relationship was found only in the following demographic groups, and not their complements: men, adults, whites, and Republicans. These differential responses to risk have both theoretical and policy implications.
fischhoff_jru_2003_paper.pdf
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Garg, K., & Lerner, J. S. (2013).

Sadness and consumption

. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 23(1), 106-113.Abstract
Sadness influences consumption, leading individuals to pay more to acquire new goods and to eat more unhealthy food than they would otherwise. These undesirable consumption effects of sadness can occur without awareness, thus representing more than just conscious attempts at "retail therapy." In an experiment with real food consumption, the present paper examines the hypothesis that sadness's impact on consumption could be attenuated if the choice context counteracted appraisals of helplessness and enhanced a sense of individual control. Results revealed that: (1) sadness elevates self-reports of helplessness in response to the emotion-inducing situation, (2) helplessness mediates the sadness-consumption effect, and (3) inducing a sense of control (via choice) attenuates sadness's effect.
sadness_and_consumption.pdf
Garg, N., & Lerner, J. S. (Working Paper).

The misery-is-not-miserly effect: A review and exploration of the boundary conditions

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Goldberg, J. H., Lerner, J. S., & Tetlock, P. E. (1999).

Rage and reason: The psychology of the intuitive prosecutor

. European Journal of Social Psychology, 29, 781-785.Abstract
This study explores the conditions under which experimentally primed anger influences both attributions of responsibility and the processes by which people make such attributions. Drawing on social functional theory, it was hypothesized that people are best thought of as "intuitive prosecutors" who lower their thresholds for making attributions of harmful intent and recommending harsh punishment when they both witness a serious transgression of societal norms and believe that the transgressor escaped punishment. The data support the hypotheses. Anger primed bya serious crime "carried over" to influence judgments of unrelated acts of harm only when the perpetrator of the crime went unpunished, notwithstanding the arousal of equally intense anger in conditions in which the perpetrator was appropriately punished or his fate was unknown. Participants in the perpetrator-unpunished condition also relied on simpler and more punitive attributional heuristics for inferring responsibility for harm.
goldberg_ejsp_1999_paper.pdf
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Han, S., Lerner, J. S., & Kattan, M. (2009).

Accountability and medical decision making

. In The Encyclopedia of Medical Decision Making, Vol. 1 (pp. 7-9). Washington, D.C.: SAGE.Abstract
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accountability_article.pdf
Han, S., Lerner, J. S., Sander, D., & Scherer, K. (2009).

Decision making

. In The Oxford Companion to Emotion and the Affective Sciences (pp. 111-113). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Abstract
Classical theories of decision making were cognitive in nature: they assumed that decision makers dispassionately evaluated the consequences of alternative courses of action and chose the one that would yield the most positive consequences (for review, Loewenstein and Lerner, 2003). Research in the last several decades has, however, demonstrated powerful effects of emotion on decision making. Moreover, understanding the effects of emotion has become an essential part of building descriptively valid theories of decision making. Here we review some of the ways in which emotion enters into decision making.
decision_making_oxford_companion.pdf
Han, S., Lerner, J. S., & Zeckhauser, R. (2012).

The disgust-promotes-disposal effect

. Journal of risk and uncertainty, 44(2), 101-113. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Individuals tend toward status quo bias: preferring existing options over new ones. There is a countervailing phenomenon: Humans naturally dispose of objects that disgust them, such as foul-smelling food. But what if the source of disgust is independent of the object? We induced disgust via a film clip to see if participants would trade away an item (a box of unidentified office supplies) for a new item (alternatively unidentified box). Such "incidental disgust" strongly countered status quo bias. Disgusted people exchanged their present possession 51% of the time compared to 32% for people in a neutral state. Thus, disgust promotes disposal. A second experiment tested whether a warning about this tendency would diminish it. It did not. These results indicate a robust disgust-promotes-disposal effect. Because these studies presented real choices with tangible rewards, their findings have implications for everyday choices and raise caution about the effectiveness of warnings about biases.
the_disgust-promotes-disposal_effect.pdf
Han, S., Lerner, J. S., & Keltner, D. (2007).

Feelings and consumer decision making: The appraisal-tendency framework

. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 17, 158-168.Abstract
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appraisal_tendency_framework.pdf
Helgeson, V., Janicki, D., Lerner, J. S., & Barbarin, O. (2003).

Brief report: Adjustment to juvenile rheumatoid arthritis: A family systems perspective

. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 28, 347-353.Abstract
Objective: To examine the relations of the family environment in adjustment to juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), and to examine how those relations are influenced by child sex and age. Method: Ninety-four children with JRA completed a questionnaire on family environment and adjustment. Results: Family cohesion was related to good adjustment, whereas family conflict was related to poor adjustment. Some relations of family cohesion to adjustment were stronger for younger than for older children. The relations of child autonomy to adjustment depended on child sex and age. Conclusion: The relations of the family environment to adjustment to JRA are dependent on child sex and age.
helgeson_jpp_2003_paper.pdf
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Keltner, D., & Lerner, J. S. (2010). Emotion. In D. T. Gilbert, Fiske, S. T., & Lindzey, G. (Eds.), The Handbook of Social Psychology (pp. 317-352). New York: Wiley.Abstract
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c09.pdf
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Lerner, J. S., Tetlock, P. E., Schneider, S., & Shanteau, J. (2003).

Bridging individual, interpersonal, and institutional approaches to judgment and choice: The impact of accountability on cognitive bias

. In Emerging Perspectives on Judgment and Decision Research (pp. 431-457). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Abstract
Research on accountability takes an unusual approach to the study of judgment and decision making. By situation decision makers within particular accountability conditions, it has begun to bridge individual, interpersonal, and institutional levels of analysis. We propose that this multi-level approach can enhance both the study of judgment and choice and the application of such research to real-world settings. To illustrate the multi-level approach, we present a review of accountability research, organized around a enduring question in the literature: Under what conditions will accountability improve judgment and decision making? After considering the shortcomings of two seemingly straightforward answers to this question, we propose a multi-factor framework for predicting when accountability attenuates "bias," when it has no effect, and when it makes matters even worse. Key factors in this framework draw from multiple levels of analysis.
lerner_and_tetlock_2003_paper.pdf
Lerner, J. S., Li, Y., & Weber, E. U. (Working Paper).

Sadder, but Not Wiser: The Myopia of Misery

.Abstract
Abstract Hundreds of studies have examined the “sadder-but-wiser” hypothesis—that sad people make wiser decisions—and most find support for it. However, such studies typically examined judgments and decisions in domains without precisely quantifiable, normative standards of “wisdom.” Moreover, virtually no tests of the hypothesis examined financial decisions, arguably the most frequent and consequential decisions people make. To address these gaps, the present experiments examined the effects of sadness on intertemporal financial choices of the form $X now versus $(X+Y) later—typical of the choices people make when considering whether to spend now or save to spend more later. Studies of intertemporal choices typically reveal extreme impatience. That is, people typically choose earlier rewards over significantly larger, later rewards, leading to regret. Would sadness reverse the typical pattern by increasing wisdom and decreasing impatience—per the sadder-but-wiser hypothesis? Three experiments show the opposite and quantify the exact financial disadvantage of sadness: Whereas the median neutral-mood participant was indifferent between receiving $19 today and $100 in a year, the median sad-mood participant became indifferent at only $4 today. Moreover, sadness increased impatience even though the emotion was normatively irrelevant to the choice. In sum, sadder is not wiser when it comes to making tradeoffs between time and money, calling into question the otherwise long-supported view that “sadder is wiser.” Explanations and implications are discussed.