Edward Cokely

 

principal investigators


Edward Cokely
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Cognitive Psychology
Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition
Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Germany

Edward Cokely (Team Leader & Principal Investigator) is a cognitive scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany, where he serves as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition. Dr. Cokely holds a Ph.D. in Psychology (Cognitive & Behavioral Sciences) from the Florida State University. His research primarily focuses on adaptive and superior cognition, with emphasis on cognitive regulation, judgment, and decision making. Dr. Cokely’s research has been published in a wide range of respected journals including Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Harvard Business Review, Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, Judgment and Decision Making, Journal of Research in Personality, Consciousness & Cognition, and Mind & Language. He has received awards for his research from professional societies (e.g., Society for Judgment and Decision Making; International Congress of Psychology) and is currently supported by grant funding from the Arete Initiative and the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago. Dr. Cokely is also an award winning educator and serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Organizational Moral Psychology.

Adam Feltz
Assistant Professor
Schreiner University

Adam Feltz (Co-Principal Investigator) is a philosopher and Assistant Professor at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas, where he serves as the Director of the Departments of Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Studies. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Florida State University specializing in action theory, free will, and experimental philosophy. Dr. Feltz has published in leading philosophy journals such as Midwest Studies in Philosophy and Philosophical Explorations. In addition, he has published in top interdisciplinary journals such as Neuroethics, Consciousness and Cognition, Philosophical Psychology, Mind and Language, The Journal of Mind and Behavior, and The Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology. Dr. Feltz has served as a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and participated in the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute in Experimental Philosophy. Dr. Feltz also supervises the Behavioral Philosophy Lab at Schreiner University where students and faculty engage in research at the intersection of philosophy, psychology, and cognitive science.

Julian Marewski
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Max Planck Institute for Human Development

Julian Marewski (Co-Principal Investigator) is a cognitive scientist (Ph.D. Free University Berlin) and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. His research focuses on the mathematical and computational modeling of mechanisms of heuristic decision making, with a special focus on modeling people’s behavior in real-world (as opposed to laboratory) settings. He has published journal articles on (i) basic research on heuristic decisions making, (ii) research on how the science of heuristic can aid solving applied problems, as well as (iii) on the methodological aspects of formally modeling heuristic and other mechanism of decision making. Dr. Marewski has received several awards for his research (e.g., Brunswik New Investigator Award), including the Raimar Lüst Fellowship of the Max Planck Society. He has served as editor for the journal Judgment and Decision Making.

Collaborators


Jeffrey R. Stevens
Research Scientist
Max Planck Institute for Human Development


Florian Artinger
Research Fellow
Max Planck Institute for Human Development


Nadine Fleischhut
Research Fellow
Max Planck Institute for Human Development


Mirta Galesic
Research Scientist
Max Planck Institute for Human Development


Monika Keller
Research Scientist
Max Planck Institute for Human Development


Gerd Gigerenzer
Director
Max Planck Institute for Human Development

The Heuristics of Virtue: Integrating Virtue Ethics and the Science of Heuristics
Since 1955, some 50,000 U.S. citizens have died waiting for an organ. Although most Americans say they approve of organ donation, only 28% have agreed to donate while nearly 99.9% of the French are donors. Rather than simply reflecting crosscultural differences in virtues and moral intuitions, the large difference in the availability of organs seems to result from the way that Americans and French alike rely on the same simple heuristic: if there is a default, do nothing about it (Johnson & Goldstein, 2003). United States law requires one to opt-in (i.e., take action) to donate organs while in France one must optout (i.e., take action not to donate). Indeed, research from the science of heuristics (Gigerenzer, 2007, 2008b) has demonstrated that many seemingly small changes in environmental context—such as the setting of defaults—can have profound effects (see also Thaler & Sunstein, 2008). This proposal details a test of a radical interdisciplinary vision of the nature of virtue and morality— one where moral behavior often involves heuristic processes. In real world situations, strict limits (e.g., time, uncertainty, cognitive capacities) constrain people’s ability to deliberately reason about what actions to perform. Elaborate ethical theories attempt to explain why an action may be right, wrong, or permissible. However, most ordinary folk’s moral experiences are not likely to be captured by complex decision procedures that value only consequences or weighing of duties. One branch of ethics is qualitatively different. Virtue ethics emphasizes the importance of deep-seated virtuous dispositions and intuitive practical wisdom (Aristotle, 1984; Anscombe, 1958; Foot, 1994; Nussbaum, 1988), and thus is theoretically compatible with key findings from the science of heuristics—e.g., that important decisions often involve and benefit from fast and frugal decision processes. Accordingly, the following objectives are proposed: (I) measure the extent to which people from around the world see virtues as essential and valuable parts of our moral experience, (II) demonstrate how a scientific understanding of the integration between virtue ethics and heuristics can have important social, economic, and public policy implications, and (III) provide a computationally precise foundation for the study of the heuristics of virtue.

Virtue and moral excellence require good decision making. But how can one make good decisions in a complex and fundamentally uncertain world? For thousands of years, elaborate theories of ethics have attempted to explain why an action may be right, wrong, or permissible. Since the enlightenment, related optimization processes have provided the foundations upon which decisions are evaluated in law, economics, and politics. Indeed, the calculus of expectation has become one of the most successful templates used for describing human nature. Nevertheless, it is wrong. Research from the Heuristics of Virtue project shows that people do not need to optimize to make good decisions and, even when possible, optimization is not always preferable. Instead, simple decision processes (i.e., heuristics) can naturally lead to superior decision making when they are used in connection with specific traits (e.g., virtues, beliefs, and skills). These research conclusions are based on nearly 100 studies conducted over the last two years in 15 countries with approximately 16,000 participants. Results show that most people’s moral experiences are not captured by complex decision procedures that only value consequences or weighing of duties. These findings tend to hold regardless of differences in cultures, ages, political affiliations, personality traits, or intellectual abilities. Broadly, key empirical findings of the project include:

1. Virtue ethics captures important aspects of human morality unaddressed by other ethical theories.

2. Virtues are widely believed to be beneficial to those who have them and are highly valued in medical, legal, and business endeavors.

3. Deep-seated character traits predict bias in fundamental philosophical judgments, even among verifiable experts.

4. Modern intellectual virtues (i.e., risk literacy) empower consumers and professionals, and are essential for informed and accurate decision making.

Findings from the Heuristics of Virtue project have garnered popular media attention (e.g., Scientific American, The New Scientist, RBB Kulturradio, Management Aktuell, Innovations report, de Volkskrant) and have been published in 24 peer-reviewed papers. A major theoretical integration of the science of heuristics and moral decision making has also been produced (Gigerenzer, 2010). Ongoing research has further shown that many traditional philosophical projects that rely on philosophers’ judgment must become substantially more empirically oriented—a finding that helps shape the New Science of Virtues (Feltz & Cokely, in press). Finally, research on the intellectual virtue of risk literacy has led to the development of the world’s best assessment of essential risky decision making skills for educated individuals from industrialized countries (Cokely et al., 2012). As part of our outreach efforts, www.RiskLiteracy.org was launched in January, 2012, offering educational and interactive content in multiple languages. In its first three months, about 10,000 unique visitors from 78 countries around the world took the test. Later this year, www.PhilosophicalCharacter.org will launch introducing researchers and the public to fundamental philosophical issues via interactive experiments, validated scientific instruments, and thought exercises. These and other efforts contribute to the development of a sustainable New Science of Virtues, providing tools and insights that help nurture personal excellence and virtuous decision making.

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