REU Summer and Fall 2017

We are looking for outstanding students interested in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) as part of an NSF-funded project entitled “The Impact of Dynamically Changing Information on Decision Processes”. This project uses behavioral experiments and cognitive modeling to understand how people make decisions when information changes over time. Students will be co-mentored by Dr. Jennifer Trueblood (Psychology) and Dr. William Holmes (Physics) and will have the opportunity to work on a range of aspects of this project ranging from the development of new experiments to the development and implementation of new models of decision-making. This REU is especially appropriate for students interested in applying to graduate programs in psychology, neuroscience, economics, math, statistics, or computer science.

Project Description

When we make decisions, we are often faced with complex, changing information. Any reasonable decision-making process should be able to adjust to and integrate new information, yet little is known about how this is done. This project takes a joint experimental and computational modeling approach to examine the impact of changing information on both binary and multi-alternative decisions. Three key questions are addressed: (1) How quickly do people adapt to new information? (2) How is new information integrated into the decision process? (3) Are there commonalities in how decision processes respond to changed information across different paradigms? Or, is adaptation and integration of new information domain specific?

Empirically, the proposal involves a series of new experiments that span a wide range of paradigms from simple perceptual tasks to high-level preferential choice tasks involving multiple alternatives. Theoretically, the cognitive models developed will provide a powerful framework for understanding how changing information affects latent decision processes.
REU Experience

There are several components of the ongoing research that an REU could be involved in. The empirical research requires developing computerized experiments for testing using Javascript and Python. It also requires analyzing behavioral data using customized programs in Matlab. The theoretical research includes the development of cognitive models for non-stationary decision tasks, which in turn requires the development of simulation codes in Matlab.

We are looking for conscientious and motivated students with strong interests in programming and computational modeling. A background in Javascript, Python, and/or Matlab is strongly desired.

The REU provides a weekly stipend. REUs are restricted to undergraduate students currently enrolled in a degree program and must be U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or permanent residents of the United States.

Application Procedure

Interested students should send the following information to Dr. Jennifer Trueblood at jennifer.s.trueblood@vanderbilt.edu

  • A brief cover letter describing your educational experience, research background, and your future goals; please also describe your computer programming experience
  • Resume
  • Transcripts
  • Names of two individuals who could comment on your educational background, experience, and potential for research