The economic psychology and decision research group has undertaken, and is currently engaged in, research projects on topics such as consumer credit and payment protection insurance decisions, perceptions of price changes and inflation, the decision to carry an organ donor card, and experimental studies of decisions involving risk and uncertainty. The group has established links with several national and international research centres, including the Centre for Decision Research, University of Leeds and the Department of Education and Cognitive Science, University of Trento. Currently the group comprises Rob Ranyard (Professor of Psychology), John Charlton (Research Fellow), Christine Hodson (Senior Lecturer), Sandie McHugh and Andrea Taylor (Honorary Researchers). The group manages the administration office for the International Association for Research into Economic Psychology and recently hosted an international Economic Psychology Workshop. The main current and recent projects are shown below. We welcome applications for MPhil/PhD research degree study or for study visits.
Personal and household financial decision making
(Rob Ranyard, Sandie McHugh)
In one line of research, conversation-based process tracing methods have been used to develop an understanding of consumers' decision processes and risk management strategies. Two studies investigated the way people deal with risks of product failure and of possible credit repayment difficulties at the time of initial purchase and another investigated credit decision processes. The next phase of this work will apply the process tracing approach to other aspects of everyday financial decision making, such as saving and long term financial planning. More recently we have carried out several questionnaire-based experiments of consumer credit and payment protection insurance decisions funded by the Co-operative Bank. A new study of credit decisions is in progress.
Decision, risk and uncertainty: Experimental Studies
(Rob Ranyard, Andrea Taylor, John Charlton)
This research is grounded within a cognitive process and bounded rationality framework, seeking to identify both the cognitive mechanisms that can explain decision behaviour and the contexts within which they operate. A range of data sources are considered admissible, including the decision maker's information search behaviour and verbal reports. One project aims to explain decision behaviour within the lottery paradigm that has traditionally been adopted as a context within which to test decision theories. Following up earlier work, recent studies have sought to understand the cognitive mechanisms underlying violations of some of the key principles of rational choice: dominance, transitivity and independence. Another recent project addresses the question: What are the key differences in decision processes in contexts characterised by risk and uncertainty? Current work is focusing on the roles of affect and numeracy in decisions involving risk.
Perceptions of price changes and inflation
Rob Ranyard (in collaboration with research groups in Leeds and Italy)
Following our work on adaptation to currency change, the main priority identified for further research was the need to better understand citizens' perceptions of price changes and inflation. This arose because of the discrepancy found in many studies between perceived and actual inflation after a currency change, the former being consistently higher than the latter. Continuing our international collaborations, studies of perceptions of price increases and decreases in Italy and the UK have been carried out and a systematic literature review published.
Post-higher education job-seeking behaviour and career decision making
(John Charlton, Rob Ranyard, Claire Hewson, Susan Taylor)
This completed project was jointly funded by Bolton University and the European Social Fund. The study investigated the job seeking behaviour and career decision making of men and women leaving higher education after successfully completing their degree programme. The roles of several psychological factors were investigated including ethnic and gender differences in perceptions of difficulty in the graduate job market. Several papers have been published in the university repository and others are in preparation.
Current issues in decision research
(Rob Ranyard, Andrea Taylor)
As well as the above specific empirical investigations the group aims to contribute to the more fundamental theoretical and methodological issues in decision research, including: (1) the evaluation of alternative fundamental approaches, e.g. critical realism (Ranyard, 2009); (2) the development of fruitful process tracing methodology for the study of decision making, especially the use of verbal protocols and active information search; and (3) the relation between cognitive appraisal and emotion in different domains of decision making.