Lecturer in Psychology
School of Psychology (Faculty of Health & Human Sciences)
2004 - Present Lecturer, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, U.K.
2003-2004 Postdoctoral Research Associate, Brown University, Providence, RI,
2002-2003 Postdoctoral Fellow, Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJ
2001-2002 Lecturer, University of Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland
1998-2001 Ph.D. in Cognitive Science, University of Dublin, Ireland
1998-1999 Postgraduate Diploma in Statistics, University of Dublin, Ireland
1994-1998 B.A. in Psychology, University of Dublin, Ireland
1989-1992 Diploma in Advanced Computer Programming, University of Dublin, Ireland
My interest is in the cognitive science of human thinking, reasoning and imagination. My objective is to understand how people mentally construct new possibilities in various domains of thinking. My current work focuses on the areas of belief revision, causal reasoning and counterfactual thinking.
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Causation and Prevention
I am carrying out studies with Steven Sloman to examine how people understand causation and prevention. Our studies aim to distinguish theoretical accounts based on counterfactuals and those based on mechanisms or causal processes. We have shown that people are more likely to make attributions of causation when there is a mechanism but attributions of prevention when the mechanism is or could be interrupted.
My aim is to examine the mental representations and cognitive processes underlying counterfactual thinking, that is, the imagination of alternatives to reality. Together with Ruth Byrne, I have examined factors that influence the ease with which people mentally undo events. We have shown that this depends on the reasons that are given and on the way that the context is framed. We have developed a computational model to simulate our theory of the temporal order effect. Steven Sloman and I are currently studying how different linguistic cues, such as mood or reference to intervention, can lead people to simulate different counterfactual possibilities. We are also carrying out a project to examine the role of counterfactual simulation in judgments of cause and prevention.
Deductive and Inductive Reasoning
I am interested in understanding how people’s mental representation of a problem can influence the process of reasoning. One current project that I am carrying out with Uri Hasson and Phil Johnson-Laird shows examines the role of alternative causes in judgments of causal conditionals. Another current project that I am working on with Uri Hasson shows that people judge category-based inductions to be stronger when they must keep multiple possibilities in mind. My goal is to understand how the way people flesh out, integrate and revise their mental representations can influence the inferences that they draw.
Reasoning with Inconsistency and Belief Revision
I am interested in understanding how people revise their beliefs when they encounter inconsistent information. My current projects are designed to examine a number of questions. First, how do people revise their beliefs and what factors influence this process? Second, how well do formal theories (e.g., those based on logical or Bayesian models) capture the way that people revise their beliefs? The work that I am carrying out with Ruth Byrne shows that the process of belief revision is influenced by people’s experience with the topic and by the way that the information is framed. My studies with Phil Johnson-Laird show that, contrary to formal theories, people do not always make minimal changes to their beliefs. This process can be modified when people generate explanations for their revisions. More recently, together with Steven Sloman, I have shown that people make unnecessary changes to their causal judgments after resolving a contradiction. My goal is to develop a model of human belief revision based on empirical findings of how people reason with inconsistency.
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