Institutions: McGill University, Department of Psychology
Research Interests: behavioural neuroscience; cognition and cognitive neuroscience
On a given day, we make hundreds of choices, but not every decision comes about in the same way: sometimes we make deliberative decisions that demand our mental effort while at other times we make choices reflexively and quickly. Often, failures of deliberative decision-making have negative consequences, such as detrimental risk-taking. The proposed research examines when and why we make decisions that are mentally effortful, based on the relative costs (time) and benefits (rewards) of expending effort. A parallel and complementary line of research reveals how disadvantageous real-world gambling behaviour is quite malleable and varies considerable over time. This research utilizes cutting-edge behavioural experimentation, informed by mathematical models, in combination with physiological measurements (to capture mental effort expenditure, and emotional responses) to precisely understand the circumstances and individual-level traits that dictate our decision to expend mental effort. Additionally, this research program leverages “urban big data” approaches to probe the connection between outcomes in the environment and mood states, real-world gambling in large cities.