Advisor: Dr. Michael Young
Office: Bluemont Hall 5109
Description of Research
My research focuses on how humans respond in situations where difficulty invites risk. These situations are a part of our everyday lives (think of brushing your teeth), but can also occur in higher-stakes situations (the military commander in charge of a dangerous mission that could result in a high number of casualties). The more demanding a situation, the less time we have to make complicated decisions about how to spend our limited resources. Imagine if these decisions could be made as simple and straightforward as the decision to wear a seatbelt.
Through my research, I’m discovering the factors that impact when and how decision-makers reduce risks as the situations they’re involved in rapidly change. You might think of this in the context of our earlier example: oral hygiene. We can either prevent tooth decay by taking time to brush our teeth on a regular basis, or we can mitigate the negative consequences of decay by getting a filling later. Although this scenario isn’t particularly difficult or risky, it’s a simplified version of the types of decisions that happen when decision-makers face a challenge: should we reduce our risks by expending time and energy upfront, or should we wait and minimize our upfront costs by taking action only if a negative outcome occurs?
I use behavioral and neurological data to first determine how challenging tasks are and then to observe the risk mitigation decisions that people make. I also monitor how well people estimate the difficulty level of a task (judgments of difficulty). Some of these studies take place in a videogame environment that tracks and dynamically responds to player choices, similar to a real-world situation. You can watch a video of this paradigm here.
I am also interested in how effort and risk impact decisions made over a longer period of time, especially decisions that result in impulsive behavior or procrastination.
Vangsness, L. & Young, M.E. (2017). The role of difficulty in dynamic risk mitigation decisions. The Journal of Dynamic Decision Making, 3, 4. doi:10.11588/jddm.2017.1.41543.*
Young, M.E., Vangsness, L., & McCoy, A.M. (under review). Delay discounting vs. deferred gratification revisited: The effects of continuously increasing magnitudes.
Vangsness, L. & Young, M. E. (in preparation). Cues to difficulty and the calibration of JODs.
Vangsness, L. & Young, M. (2017, November). To prevent or alleviate negative outcomes? The role of difficulty in risk mitigation decisions. Poster presented at the 58th Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Vancouver, Canada.
Vangsness, L. (2017, April). Perceptions of effort and risk assessment. Talk presented at the Oklahoma/Kansas Judgment and Decision Making Conference, Norman, OK.