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National Cancer Institute
Ellen Peters, PhD

Ellen Peters, PhD

Research Interests
Ellen Peters, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Ohio State University and a Senior Fellow in OSU’s Center for Personalized Health Care.

Dr. Peters’ research focuses on how affective, intuitive, and deliberative processes help people to make decisions in an increasingly complex world. She studies decision making as an interaction of characteristics of the decision situation and characteristics of the individual.

Dr. Peters has three major strands of research. First, her research interests in decision making include number processing and the study of individual differences in numeracy and an intuitive sense of numbers. In recent publications, Dr. Peters and her colleagues have focused on the roles of numeracy and intuitive number sense with respect to how individuals process and use numeric and non-numeric sources of information in decisions. A second central strand of research concerns how affect and emotion influence information processing and decisions. Affect appears to have multiple functions in judgment and decision processes (as information, as a common currency, as a spotlight on information, and as a direct motivator of behaviors). Third, she is interested in how information processing and decision making change in complex ways across the adult life span. She is also generally interested in issues of risk perception and risk communication in health, financial, and environmental contexts, including how to present information to facilitate its comprehension and use.

Selected Publications
Peters, E., Baker, D. P., Dieckmann, N. F., Leon, J., & Collins, J. (2010). Explaining the effect of education on health: A field study in Ghana. Psychological Science, 21(10), 1369–1376.

Epstein, R.M. & Peters, E. (2009). Beyond information: Exploring patients’ preferences. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 302(2), 195-197.

Peters, E. (in press). Beyond comprehension: The role of numeracy in judgments and decisions. Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Peters, E., Dieckmann, N.F., Västfjäll, D., Mertz, C.K., Slovic, P., & Hibbard, J. (2009). Bringing meaning to numbers: The impact of evaluative categories on decisions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 15, 3, 213–227.

Peters, E., Diefenbach, M., Hess, T.M., & Västfjäll, D. (2008). Age differences in dual information processing: Implications for cancer decision making. Cancer, 113(12), 3556-3567.

Peters, E., Romer, D., Slovic, P., Jamieson, K.H., Wharfield, L., Mertz, C.K., & Carpenter, S. (2007). The impact and acceptability of Canadian-style cigarette warning labels among U.S. smokers and nonsmokers. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 9(4), 473-481.

Peters, E., Lipkus, I., & Diefenbach, M. (2006). The functions of affect in health communication and in the construction of health preferences. Journal of Communication, 56, S140-S162.

Peters, E., Västfjäll, D., Slovic, P., Mertz, C.K., Mazzocco, K., & Dickert, S. (2006). Numeracy and decision making. Psychological Science, 17(5), 408-414.

Selected Grants

The psychology of number processing in decision making (NSF), PI, 2008-12..

Regret regulation and everyday decisions across the lifespan (NSF), Co-PI, 2009-11.

Cultural cognition of synthetic biology risks (NSF), Co-Investigator, 2009-11.

Financial crisis: A longitudinal study of public response (NSF), Co-PI, 2008-09.

Numeracy and affect in judgment and decision making (NSF), PI, 2005-08.

Selected Affiliations
Dr. Peters was a founding member and is now Chair of the Risk Communication Advisory Committee, U.S. Food and Drug Administration. She is also a consulting editor for Judgment and Decision Making and is on the editorial board for the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. She has been a guest editor on special issues of the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making as well as Health Psychology. She has also been an advisor to a number of other federal agencies, universities, and research centers.

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