Research in the lab looks at a variety of topics at the intersection of psychology, economics, and philosophy. Here are brief overviews of some of the main lines of work we are currently pursuing:

Task management

We often feel stuck in a hamster wheel of tasks. How do we remember and prioritize the many tasks we face? How can we craft environments, such as workplaces, that help people to minimize stress while getting the most out of life?

Imagination and decision-making

What we choose to do now is shaped by how we imagine the future to be, given different possible choices. What is the structure of the imagination? How do we forecast our future emotions and how do these forecasts affect our choices?

Representative publication:

Dawson, C., & Johnson, S.G.B. (working paper). Dread aversion and economic preferences - pdf

Moral judgment and behaviour

Moral intuitions are crucial to humans’ extensive cooperation. How does our moral sense generate intuitions about what is right or wrong, virtuous or vicious? How do these intuitions contribute to our reputations and guide behaviour?

Representative publication:

Johnson, S.G.B., & Park, S.Y.* (2021). Moral signaling through donations of money and time. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 165, 183–196. - pdf

Cognitive science of society

Social life is structured by social, political, and economic institutions, such as governments and markets. What are our mental models about how institutions work and our moral intuitions about how they ought to work? How might these beliefs and values shape those institutions themselves?

Representative publication:

Johnson, S.G.B., Zhang, J.*, & Keil, F.C. (2022). Win–win denial: The psychological underpinnings of zero-sum thinking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 151, 455–474. - pdf

Explanation and narratives

"Why" questions pervade mental life, including understanding what caused an event, what category an object belongs to, or what another person is thinking. What are the short-cuts and strategies we use for explaining the world? How do people create complex mental models or narratives that coordinate different kinds of structure (such as causal relationships and analogies) into a single mental representation? How do narratives guide individual decision-making and spread through society?

Representative publication: 

Johnson, S., Bilovich, A., & Tuckett, D. (2023). Conviction Narrative Theory: A theory of choice under radical uncertainty. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 46, E82. doi:10.1017/S0140525X22001157 - pdf