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Department Faculty

Ellen Peters

Dr. Peters is Professor of Psychology, Director of the Decision Sciences Collaborative, and Professor of Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine (by courtesy) at The Ohio State University. She conducts basic and applied research in judgment and decision making. She has worked extensively with the U.S. National Cancer Institute and Food and Drug Administration to advance the science of human decision making as it applies to health and health policy. She is former President of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making, former Chair of FDA’s Risk Communication Advisory Committee, and is a current member of the National Academies committee on the Science of Science Communication. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science and the Society of Experimental Psychology. She was the first American to receive the Jane Beattie Scientific Recognition Award, and she has been awarded an NIH Merit Award. Her research has been funded extensively by the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.

Research Areas

In her research, Dr. Peters focuses on understanding the basic building blocks of human judgment and decision making. She is particularly interested in how affective, intuitive, and deliberative processes help people to make decisions in an increasingly complex world. She studies decision making as an interaction of characteristics of the decision situation and characteristics of the individual. She has three major strands of basic research. First, she studies how numbers are processed in judgment and decision making. In recent publications, Dr. Peters and colleagues have focused on how numbers critical to decisions are processed by individuals who differ in number ability (also called numeracy). A second central strand of research concerns how affect and emotion influence information processing and decisions. Affect appears to have multiple functions in judgment and decision processes (as information, as a common currency, as a spotlight on information, and as a direct motivator of behaviors). Third, she is interested in how information processing and decision making change in complex ways across the adult life span. In applied research, she is also generally interested in issues of risk perception and risk communication in health, financial, and environmental contexts, including how to present information to facilitate its comprehension and use. Recently, she has been quite interested in the psychological mechanisms underlying tobacco use and prevention and how to “nudge” people towards healthier behaviors.

Selected Publications

Peters, E. & Bjalkebring, P. (2015). Multiple numeric competencies: When a number is not just a number. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108(5), 802-822.

Evans, A.T., Peters, E., Strasser, A.A., Emery, L.F., Sheerin, K, & Romer, D. (2015). Graphic warning labels elicit affective and thoughtful responses from smokers. PLoS ONE, 10(12): e0142879. doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0142879.

Schley, D.R. & Peters, E. (2014). Assessing "economic value": Symbolic number mappings predict risky and riskless valuations. Psychological Science 25(3), 753-761.

Weller, J., Dieckmann, N.F., Tusler, M., Mertz, C.K., Burns, W., & Peters, E. (2013). Development and testing of an abbreviated numeracy scale: A Rasch Analysis approach. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 26(2), 198-212.

Kahan, D. M., Peters, E., Wittlin, M., Slovic, P., Ouellette, L. L., Braman, D., & Mandel, G. (2012). The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nature Climate Change, 2, 732-745.

Peters, E. (2012). Beyond comprehension: The role of numeracy in judgments and decisions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(1), 31 - 35.

Peters, E., Hess, T.M., Västfjäll, D., & Auman, C. (2007). Adult age differences in dual information processes: Implications for the role of affective and deliberative processes in older adults’ decision making. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2(1), 1-23.

Peters, E. (2006). The functions of affect in the construction of preferences. In S. Lichtenstein & P. Slovic (Eds.), The construction of preference. (pp. 454-463). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Peters, E., Västfjäll, D., Slovic, P., Mertz, C.K., Mazzocco, K., & Dickert, S. (2006). Numeracy and decision making. Psychological Science, 17(5), 408-414.

Slovic, P., & Peters, E. (2006). Risk perception and affect. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(6), 322-325.


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