Risk Judgments

Our work in the area of risk concerns the cognitive processes the underlie how people form estimates of risk. Much like other judgments, we assume that judgments of risk are dependent on the basic-level cognitive processes of working memory and attentional control. We currently have two lines of work investigating the relationship between cognition and risk perception.

  1. White Male Effect. We're currently investigating a cognitive interpretation of the 'white-male effect'. The white male effect refers to the empirical observation that white males systematically underestimate judgments of risk compared to females and African Americans. Most interpretations of the white-male effect assume that the effect is due to socio-cultural variables. However, we believe that the originally observed effect was actually an artifact of biased sampling that resulted in monolithic differences in cognitive ability across racial groups. Accordingly, we view the effect as an artifact of biased sampling on the part of researchers, not a true bias. Our research shows that the co-called white male effect is completely mediated by individual differences in cognitive capacity.
  2. Response variability and attentional control. This research project is investigating the cognitive basis of judgments of risk and risky behavior. Specifically, we're examining the relationship between variability in judgment, impulsivity, and individual differences in response inhibition. We hypothesize that poor response inhibition leads both to an increase in response variability in judgments of risk, as well as a greater propensity to engage in risk.