Neural Network Models of Social Reasoning and Behavior:

  • Personality and Social Behavior
  • Motivated Behavior
  • Social Evaluation
  • Legal and Everyday Decision-making
  • Coherence in Belief Systems, Belief Change attitude accessibility and the consistency of belief systems
  • Impression Formation and person Perception


Be sure to visit our Center for Computational Social Psychology


Neurobiology of Risky Decision-making

We are concluding work on a NIDA funded grant that will allow us to examine the neural circuitry underlying risky decision making in METH and non-METH using men who have sex with men (MSM).  We will be using a combination of fMRI, structural MRI, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), personality questionnaires, and computational modeling to attempt to capture the components and the neural circuit that underlies risky decision making.

We are currently working on an NIGMS funded grant on computational modeling of motivation, personality and risky decision-making.  This work is being done in collaboration with a group at the University of Colorado at Boulder, including Seth Herd, Randy O’Reilly, and Tom Hazy. The project is attempting to build a neurobiologically based model of the major components involved in risky decision-making.

Be sure to visit the SAND Lab (Social Affective Neuroscience of Decision-making)


Coherence-based Reasoning

Over the last 10 years we have been exploring the implications of considering legal and everyday decision making in terms of the role of parallel constraint satisfaction processes in a network of cognitive and emotional elements. With Dan Simon and Doug Stenstrom we are extending our earlier work to the role of hot cognition (motivation and emotion) in coherence-based reasoning.


The Structure of Motivation and Motivated Social Behavior

We are currently working on developing a hierarchical taxonomy of human motives.

We are also using this taxonomy to see if we can study decision making in a variety of domains in terms of people’s judgments of the impact of various decisions on important life goals (Goal Impact).


Personality in Intelligent Agents

With Lynn Miller and a number of students from the Annenberg School of Communication and the Psychology Department, we are working on developing a detailed computational model of personality so that we can create computer based intelligent agents that display realistic, human like personalities. These intelligent agents could play central roles in various virtual reality training systems (think the Holodeck on Star Trek) and in various other kinds of interactions with humans.


Interactive Media for Studying and Changing Risky sexual Behavior

Our current focus is on using interactive portrayals of sexual encounters in two ways: (1) to study how individuals make decisions in sexual encounters, particularly when intoxicated and/or sexually aroused, and (2) to use the interactive encounters as a semi-realistic environment in which individuals can be taught the cognitive and behavioral skills needed to successfully negotiate a risky sexual encounter.

We have developed an interactive DVD for this project.  An online version can be found at Virtual Sex Project.

We have also developed a video game for changing risky sexual behavior.  We are just finishing an evaluation of its effectiveness.