I have research interests in more areas than I probably should, partly stemming from my background as one of the earlier explorers of web-based research methodologies. This has meant I have collaborated with many individuals and organisations to collect web-based data to help with many different types of project, as diverse as personality and art preference, with the BBC, sex differences in cognition again with the BBC, and access to civil justice, with UCL Faculty of Laws.
My own areas of research are related to judgement and decision making (or behavioural science, behavioural economics, economic psychology, depending on what you like to call the field). I list my main areas of interest below:
My main interest is in the way people make decisions and the factors that affect their decision making. This draws on the heuristics and biases tradition – the idea that our mind uses a wide range of short-cuts and rules of thumb that allow it to make judgements and decisions that are quick and usually pretty good but sometimes go awry in ways that work against our best interests. As well as looking at some of the things that affect our decision making I am also interested in the ways in which we can stucture the decision environment to help people make decisions that they’re happier with long term – the idea of nudging people towards a beneficial option where they don’t have a strong inherent preference. This could be anything from choosing a lower-fee investment or pension option to getting people to take the stairs rather than the lift.
The paragraph above could probably describe the majority of people who do reseach in decision making, so I’ll tell you about my more specific interests. Much of my research focuses on time and the idea of delay discounting – the extent to which intervening delay makes an option less attractive: Would you rather have £45 in 3 days or £70 in 3 months? As well as looking at some of the factors that make people more willing to wait, I’m interested in the cognitive processes underlying the time-related choices people make, using response times and eye tracking to see how people evaluate and trade off money and delay under different circumstances. I am also interested in what people think about when they make decisions – the representations or building blocks of thought that people have in their heads when choosing whether to take what they can now or wait for something in the future.
Individuals’ or businesses’ ability to extrapolate trends into the future: weather, sales figures, or markets – is limited, and appears to be affected by several systematic biases. I investigate how people extrapolate trends on time series data, including the effects of recently experienced trends and the way in which time series are presented. I am currently looking at the best graph formats for minimising forecasting biases, and the effect of different emotions on the forecasting judgements that individuals make. Obviously these are more topical than I’d like at the moment given the many graphs of cases and hospitalisations that Covid is presenting, but it shows the importance of understanding the way in which people evaluate time series from a psychological perspective
The idea of randomness seems simple, but people are poor at differentiating between random and non-random sequences, and show systematic biases such as the gambler’s fallacy and the hot-hand fallacy. I have been looking at how people perceive and produce random sequences, and the heuristics they use to judge how likely a sequence is to occur through a random process (for example, most people think that repeatedly tossing a fair coin (Heads or Tails), the sequence H H T H T is more likely to come up that H H H H H). I am also interested in the visual nature of attempts to be random, and am currently using lottery data and controlled experiments to show the ways in which attempts to choose randomly are imperfect.
Psychology and public policy
Much as I like and support academic research for its own sake – anwering questions about how the mind works – I also put a lot of value on using psychological insights to public policy issues. I have done academic and commercial research on the psychology of taxation, how people represent taxes, and how framing affects people’s preference for their preferred progressiveness of a tax system. More generally, I am interested in the ways in which policy issues are represented among the population, and how those representations affect acceptance and support of policy decisions.
Web-based research methods
I was one of the first researchers to use the web to collect response-time data from cognitive tasks, back in 2003 when it was a real challenge to do so. Since then I have developed a strand of research on web-based research methods, particularly around the accuracy of response time measures in online studies, best practice for gaining useful response time data and limits to web-based research.
Editorial and reviewing
I had a three year stint as associate editor for the flagship methodological journal Behavior Research Methods, handling over 120 (often excellent) submissions over that time. I am also on the editorial board of the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. I have reviewed hundreds of papers in my career so far, primarily in the area of judgement and decision making, but also in areas like task switching, cognitive ageing, behavioural game theory, autism, and research methods.
Peer-reviewed journal articles
Connor Desai, S. & Reimers, S. (2019). Comparing the use of open and closed questions for web-based measures of the continued influence effect. Behavior Research Methods. 51, 1426-1440.
Hanssen, E., Fett, A. K., White, T. P., Caddy, C., Reimers, S., & Shergill, S. S. (2018). Cooperation and sensitivity to social feedback during group interactions in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Research, 202, 361-368.
Macchia L., Plagnol, A. & Reimers, S. (in press). Does experience with high inflation affect intertemporal decision making? Sensitivity to inflation rates in Argentine and British delay discounting choices. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, 75, 76-83.
Reimers, S., Donkin, C., & Le Pelley, M. E. (2018). Perceptions of randomness in binary sequences: Normative, heuristic, or both? Cognition, 172, 11-25.
Stewart, N., Reimers, S., & Harris, A. (2015) On the origin of utility, weighting, and discounting functions: How they get their shapes and how to change their shapes. Management Science, 61, 687-705.
Harvey, N., & Reimers, S. (2013). Trend damping: Under-adjustment, experimental artifact, or adaptation to features of the natural environment? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 39, 589-607.
Reimers, S., & Harvey, N. (2011). Sensitivity to autocorrelation in judgmental time series forecasting. International Journal of Forecasting, 27, 1196-1214.
Ungemach, C., Stewart, N., & Reimers, S. (2011). How incidental values from the environment affect decisions about money, risk, and delay. Psychological Science, 22, 253-260.
Pleasence, P., Balmer, N. J., & Reimers, S. (2011). What Really Drives Advice Seeking Behaviour? Looking Beyond the Subject of Legal Disputes. Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 1(6).
Manning, J. T., Reimers, S., Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., & Fink, B. (2010). Sexually dimorphic traits (digit ratio, body height, systemizing–empathizing scores) and gender segregation between occupations: Evidence from the BBC internet study. Personality and Individual Differences, 49, 511-515.
Le Pelley, M. E., Reimers, S. J., Calvini, G., Spears, R., Beesley, T., & Murphy, R. A. (2010). Stereotype formation: Biased by association. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 139, 138-161.
Le Pelley, M. E., Turnbull, M. N., Reimers, S. J., & Knipe, R. L. (2010). Learned predictiveness effects following single-cue training in humans. Learning and Behavior, 38, 126-144.
Reimers, S. (2009). A paycheck half-empty or half-full? Framing, fairness and progressive taxation. Judgment and Decision Making, 4, 461-466.
Reimers, S., Maylor, E. A., Stewart, N. & Chater, N. (2009). Associations between a one-shot delay discounting measure and age, income, education and real-world impulsive behaviour. Personality and Individual Differences, 47, 973-978.
Reimers, S., & Stewart, N. (2009). Using SMS text messaging for teaching and data collection in the behavioural sciences. Behavior Research Methods, 41, 675-681.
Chamorro-Premuzic, T., Reimers, S., Hsu, A., & Ahmetoglu, G. (2009). Who art thou? Personality predictors of artistic preferences in a large UK sample: The importance of openness. British Journal of Psychology, 100, 501-516.
Reimers, S., & Stewart, N. (2008). Using Adobe Flash Lite on mobile phones for psychological research: Reaction time measurement reliability and interdevice variability. Behavior Research Methods, 40, 1170-1176.
Reimers, S., & Stewart, N. (2007). Adobe Flash as a medium for online experimentation: A test of reaction time measurement capabilities. Behavior Research Methods, 39, 365-370.
Maylor, E. A., Reimers, S., Choi, J., Collaer, M. L., Peters, M., & Silverman, I. (2007). Gender and sexual orientation differences in cognition across adulthood: Age is kinder to women than to men regardless of sexual orientation. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 235-249.
Reimers, S. (2007). The BBC internet study: General methodology. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 147-161.
Collaer, M. L., Reimers, S., & Manning, J. T. (2007). Visuospatial performance on an internet line judgment task and potential hormonal markers: sex, sexual orientation, and 2D: 4D. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 177-192.
Peters, M., Manning, J. T., & Reimers, S. (2007). The effects of sex, sexual orientation, and digit ratio (2D: 4D) on mental rotation performance. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 251-260.
Peters, M., Reimers, S., & Manning, J. T. (2006). Hand preference for writing and associations with selected demographic and behavioral variables in 255,100 subjects: the BBC internet study. Brain and Cognition, 62, 177-189.
Reimers, S., & Maylor, E. A. (2006). Gender effects on reaction time variability and trial-to-trial performance: reply to Deary and Der (2005). Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition 13, 479-489.
Reimers, S., & Maylor, E. A. (2005). Task switching across the life span: effects of age on general and specific switch costs. Developmental Psychology, 41, 661-671.
Stewart, N., Chater, N., Stott, H. P., & Reimers, S. (2003). Prospect relativity: How choice options influence decision under risk. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 132, 23-46.
Wills, A. J., Reimers, S., Stewart, N., Suret, M., & McLaren, I. P. L. (2000). Tests of the ratio rule in categorization. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A, 53, 983-1011.
Peer-reviewed book chapters
Pleasence, P., Balmer, N.J. and Reimers, S. (2010) Horses for Courses? Advice Seeking and the Stratification of Legal Services, in The Future of Legal Services, Emerging Thinking, London: Legal Service Board
Reimers, S. (2009). The BBC Internet Study: General Methodology, in Hansen, A (Ed.), Mass Communication Research Methods (pp. 402-416), Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Maylor, E. A., & Reimers, S. (2007). Cognitive aging research using the Internet: Four case studies. In A. Garriga-Trillo (Ed.), Converging research on predictors of cognitive impairment and neurodegenerative diseases (pp. 29-41). Madrid: Publidisa.
Peer-reviewed conference proceedings
Desai, S. C., & Reimers, S. (2018). Some misinformation is more easily countered: An experiment on the continued influence effect. In Kalish, C., Rau, M., Zhu, J., and Rogers, T.T. (Eds.) Proceedings of the 40th Annual Conference of Cognitive Science Society (pp1542-1547). Madison, WI: Cognitive Science Society.
Reimers, S. (2017). Randomness in binary sequences: Visualizing and linking two recent developments. In G. Gunzelmann, A., Howes, T., Tenbrink, & E. J. Davelaar (Eds.), Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 2981-2985). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
Connor Desai, S. & Reimers, S. (2017). But where’s the evidence? The effect of explanatory corrections on inferences about false information. In G. Gunzelmann, A., Howes, T., Tenbrink, & E. J. Davelaar (Eds.), Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1824-1829). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
Connor Desai, S., Reimers, S. & Lagnado, D. (2016). Consistency and credibility in legal reasoning: A Bayesian network approach. In A. Papafragou, D. Grodner, D. Mirman, & J.C. Trueswell (Eds.), Proceedings of the 38th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 626-631). Austin TX: Cognitive Science Society.
Reimers, S., Stewart, N., & Chater, N. (2003). Choice set options affect the valuation of risky prospects. In R. Alterman, & D. Kirsh (Eds.), Proceedings of the 22nd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 988-993). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
Selected non peer-reviewed journal articles
Reimers, S. (2013). Developments in information technology and their implications for psychological research: Disruptive or diffusive change? Learning at City Journal.
Chamorro-Premuzic, T., Furnham, A., & Reimers, S. (2007). The ARTistic Personality. The Psychologist, 20, 84-87.
Reimers, S., & Reimers, S. (2003). Testosterone: men, biology and therapy. Context, 69.