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National Cancer Institute
Ellen Peters, PhD

Ellen Peters, PhD

Research Interests
Dr. Peters is Professor of Psychology, Director of the Decision Sciences Collaborative, and Professor of Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine (by courtesy) at The Ohio State University.

Dr. Peters' research focuses on understanding the basic building blocks of human judgment and decision making from affective and intuitive processes to more deliberative ones. She studies decision making as an interaction of characteristics of the decision situation and characteristics of the individual.

She has three major strands of basic research. First, she studies how numbers are processed in judgment and decision making. In recent publications, Dr. Peters and colleagues have focused on how numbers critical to decisions are processed by individuals who differ in number ability (also called numeracy). 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. In applied research, 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. Recently, she has been quite interested in the psychological mechanisms underlying tobacco use and prevention and how to “nudge” people toward healthier behaviors.

Selected Publications
Peters, E. & Bjalkebring, P. (2015). Multiple numeric competencies: When a number is not just a number.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108(5), 802-822.

Evans, A.T., Peters, E., Strasser, A.A., Emery, L.F., Sheerin, K, & Romer, D. (2015). Graphic warning labels elicit affective and thoughtful responses from smokers. PLoS ONE, 10(12): e0142879. doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0142879.

Schley, D.R. & Peters, E. (2014). Assessing "economic value": Symbolic number mappings predict risky and riskless valuations. Psychological Science 25(3), 753-761.

Weller, J., Dieckmann, N.F., Tusler, M., Mertz, C.K., Burns, W., & Peters, E. (2013). Development and testing of an abbreviated numeracy scale: A Rasch Analysis approach. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 26(2), 198-212.

Kahan, D. M., Peters, E., Wittlin, M., Slovic, P., Ouellette, L. L., Braman, D., & Mandel, G. (2012). The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nature Climate Change, 2, 732-745.

Peters, E. (2012). Beyond comprehension: The role of numeracy in judgments and decisions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(1), 31 - 35.

Peters, E., Hess, T.M., Västfjäll, D., & Auman, C. (2007). Adult age differences in dual information processes: Implications for the role of affective and deliberative processes in older adults’ decision making. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2(1), 1-23.

Peters, E. (2006). The functions of affect in the construction of preferences. In S. Lichtenstein & P. Slovic (Eds.), The construction of preference. (pp. 454-463). New York: Cambridge University Press.

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

Slovic, P., & Peters, E. (2006). Risk perception and affect. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15(6), 322-325.

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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