Mindsets and the Affect Gap

The affect gap in risky choice describes the tendency of individuals to use different decision strategies depending on different decision contexts. Researchers found that for affect-rich decisions (e.g., decisions involving medical side effects), individuals are more likely to show ‘probability neglect’ (i.e., concentrate on the dread of outcomes instead of their probability) than they do for affect-poor decisions (e.g., monetary gambles).

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Brains and Guts: How We Make Economic Decisions

Economic Decisions

How people make decisions that involve social (e.g., to split 10€ between persons), risk (win 10€ for sure or 25% chance to win 100€), or intertemporal (e.g., 10€ today or 100€ in a week) tradeoffs has long been investigated by behavioral scientists. More recently, the interest has shifted towards understanding the underlying cognitive processes. People can adopt different modes of cognitive processing - relying on gut feelings or engaging in deliberate thought. We investigate how people strategically adopt such modes of processing and the effects of doing so for their decisions.

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Self-control in Endurance Performance

The ability to endure physical performance over extended periods of time is an important ability in daily life, and most prototypically required during athletic activities. In exercise physiology, the capacity to endure strain is commonly studied from a purely physiological point of view, assuming that people work to exhaustion like batteries. Unlike a battery, however, people disengage from a straining activity even when their physiological resources would allow them to continue.

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Strategic Cognitive Control

People are continuously confronted with a massive amount of information competing for their attention. However, cognitive resources are limited and only information should be processed that is most relevant for goal-directed behavior. This neccessitates efficient cognitive control mechanisms that allow to quickly and accurately discern between relevant and irrelevant information. We investigate the conditions under which people use control mechanisms to regulate their attention, as well as strategies they can use to increase the efficiency of these mechanisms.

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Open-Minded Cognition and Logical Reasoning

People vary in their open-mindedness during their individual goal pursuits. It is crucial to remain receptive to new information regarding the feasibility and desirability of potential goals while deliberating which goal to pursue. However, once we decide in favor of one specific goal, it becomes necessary to shield this goal from new, contradicting information that may otherwise hinder or impede successful goal attainment. In this project, we investigate a) how problem-solving and b) open-minded cognition are affected by action-phase-related mindsets evoked by unrelated goal pursuits.

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Risk-Taking Behavior in the Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART)

Inter-individual differences in risk-taking behavior are the focus of many studies in psychology. One tool that is used frequently to assess risk-taking behavior in the laboratory is the BART. In this incentivized game, a participant has to decide whether to pump up a balloon increasing both its monetary value but also its risk of exploding. After each pump, the participant has to decide anew whether to keep on pumping or to save the balloon early. If a balloon explodes, all of its value is lost and the participant has to move on to the next one.

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Differences Between Primed and Deliberate Goal Pursuit

Researchers have long given explicit, deliberate goals to participants so that they perform well in a given task and have found that the more specific and the more challenging (to a certain degree) a goal was, the more it was able to boost performance. A bit more recently, however, researchers exposed call-center employees to the picture of an athlete crossing the finishing line and observed increased job performance. This observation can be explained using the concept of primed goal pursuit.

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Moral Identity and Compensatory Behavior

Morality has been described as a defining feature of people’s self-concept, such that moral traits are considered to be among the most essential parts of personal identity. While there is a substantial body of research supporting the idea that moral identity is the connective tissue between moral judgments and actual behavior, so far little attention has been paid to the relation of moral identity and other forms of the self, such as a professional identity.

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Moral Dilemmas

Moral decision making is essential to human social interaction. In many everyday situations moral decision making is easy and we can rely mostly on our intuitive, automatic responses. These are the times when we are typically not aware of the moral implications of our actions. Sometimes however, our moral autopilot needs the support of conscious decision making. These are the times when we are aware of the moral aspects of the situation at hand, often because our own moral values might are in conflict.

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