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Laurence T. Maloney

New York University
When to decide not to decide: metacognition and uncertainty
01 September 2019 -
31 January 2020

Laurence T. Maloney is currently Professor of Psychology and Neural Science at New York University. He received his PhD in Psychology from Stanford University in 1985, an MS in Mathematical Statistics – also from Stanford – in 1982 and a BA in Mathematics from Yale University in 1973. In 1987, he shared the Troland Award of the National Academy of Sciences and, in 2008, he received the Humboldt Research Prize. In 2014 he was selected as a Fulbright Scholar and during 2015-2016, was appointed a Guggenheim Fellow. He is also a fellow in several societies.

Research Interests

Applications of statistical decision theory to decision-making, perceptual judgments and the planning of movement. Game theory, coordination and cooperation, bluffing.

When to decide not to decide: metacognition and uncertainty

In many tasks organisms choose actions based on an assessment of the value to them of possible outcomes (food, safety, etc.) and the probability associated with each possible outcome. Exactly how actions are chosen and how probability affects choices are  central questions in many disciplines: biological foraging theory, systems neuroscience, economic decision-making, perceptual psychology, and the planning of movement. We will focus on tasks in these disciplines where the organism has only imperfect knowledge of probability. Contrast, for example, betting on a fair coin where the probability of each outcome is known with betting on the occurrence of rain next Tuesday. There is a probability of rain next Tuesday but it is unlikely to be known exactly to you or anyone else. We examine, first of all, how well the organism knows its own uncertainty about probability (metacognition) and, second, how it assesses the value of information that could reduce uncertainty about probability: how much would you pay for a weather report for next Tuesday?

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