I am a scholar of human judgment and decision-making (JDM), with education and research training at the intersection of psychology, economics, and neuroscience. I explore basic psychological questions by building on insights and using methodologies from multiple disciplines. My deepest curiosity is regarding the origins and often-overlooked purpose of everyday observed behavior. In particular, I aim to better understand how responsibility attributions influence interpersonal impressions and conflict. My interest and goal is to examine the implications of these phenomena for organizations, specifically conflict management, workplace incivility, and negotiation.
The central focus of my work is communication about credit and blame. George Loewenstein and I have developed Responsibility Exchange Theory (in press at Psychological Review), which links four communications previously considered unrelated—thanking, apologizing, bragging, and blaming—and provides an explanation for why these forms of supposed “cheap talk” carry so much meaning for people and why people are sometimes reluctant to send them. I combined experimental, qualitative, and observational techniques across a series of studies to test the theory’s predictions. This work not only contributes to psychological theory but also has diverse practical applications.
In other, related streams of research, I investigate whether, when, and how people explain difficult choices to others, self-deprecate as a way to prevent others from feeling threatened, and punish bystanders who fail to get involved in transgressions they observe. I have also examined the effect of autonomy on worker motivation. Lastly, at the Wharton Risk Center, I developed a separate line of work on risk perception and communication, with a focus on getting people to prepare for catastrophic floods like those caused by Hurricanes Florence and Harvey as well as others in recent years.
General research interests include:
- judgment and decision-making
- attributions of responsibility
- impression management / person perception
- interpersonal communication and politeness
- incivility / conflict management
- risk perception and risk communication