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Judgment and Decision Making  

Priscila G. Brust-Renck, Rebecca B. Weldon, and Valerie F. Reyna

Everyday life is comprised of a series of decisions, from choosing what to wear to deciding what major to declare in college and whom to share a life with. Modern era economic theories were first brought into psychology in the 1950s and 1960s by Ward Edwards and Herbert Simon. Simon suggested that individuals do not always choose the best alternative among the options because they are bounded by cognitive limitations (e.g., memory). People who choose the good-enough option “satisfice” rather than optimize, because they are bounded by their limited time, knowledge, and computational capacity. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky were among those who took the next step by demonstrating that individuals are not only limited but are inconsistent in their preferences, and hence irrational. Describing a series of biases and fallacies, they elaborated intuitive strategies (i.e., heuristics) that people tend to use when faced with difficult questions (e.g., “What proportion of long-distance relationships break up within a year?”) by answering based on simpler, similar questions (e.g., “Do instances of swift breakups of long-distance relationships come readily to mind?”). More recently, the emotion-versus-reason debate has been incorporated into the field as an approach to how judgments can be governed by two fundamentally different processes, such as intuition (or affect) and reasoning (or deliberation). A series of dual-process approaches by Seymour Epstein, George Lowenstein, Elke Weber, Paul Slovic, and Ellen Peters, among others, attempt to explain how a decision based on emotional and/or impulsive judgments (i.e., system 1) should be distinguished from those that are based on a slow process that is governed by rules of reasoning (i.e., system 2). Valerie Reyna and Charles Brainerd and other scholars take a different approach to dual processes and propose a theory—fuzzy-trace theory—that incorporates many of the prior theoretical elements but also introduces the novel concept of gist mental representations of information (i.e., essential meaning) shaped by culture and experience. Adding to processes of emotion or reward sensitivity and reasoning or deliberation, fuzzy-trace theory characterizes gist as insightful intuition (as opposed to crude system 1 intuition) and contrasts it with verbatim or precise processing that does not consist of meaningful interpretation. Some of these new perspectives explain classic paradoxes and predict new effects that allow us to better understand human judgment and decision making. More recent contributions to the field include research in neuroscience, in particular from neuroeconomics.

Article

Psychology and Oppression  

Wahbie Long

Psychology has always been a discipline immersed in the social and political currents of the day. At the level of psychological theory—whether one considers early pioneers such as Freud, Skinner, and Rogers, or, more recently, Seligman and the neuroscientific turn—its affinity with dominant socio-political concerns is easily demonstrated. Far from such individuals being calculating ideologues, however, they were interpellated—inevitably—by a field of power in which their personal and working lives were already embedded. On the other hand, it is equally true that Psychology’s phenomenal growth in the 20th century was built—most deliberately—on the alliances it formed with powerful bureaucratic elites. The discipline’s proximity to power, that is, meant not only that it could be co-opted ideologically but also that it would collude with oppressive regimes to enhance its own prestige. Project CAMELOT is one example where psychologists were willing to cooperate with the U.S. military in the service of a foreign policy that terrorized Latin America. The discipline also thrived under the Nazis with psychologists heavily involved in meeting the operational requirements of the Wehrmacht. Afrikaner psychologists in South Africa formed a close association with the apartheid state in both ideological and practical terms. More recently, the involvement of the American Psychological Association in a torture scandal has drawn attention once again to the discipline’s potential for collusion with institutional powers. In historiographic terms, some will take issue with the delivery of moral judgments when documenting the history of Psychology. However, the writing of history does not preclude such judgments, especially at a time when the exercise of power permeates disciplinary, institutional, and social life.