Research Overview

Here is some of my research on conversation and decision-making...

 

 
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2017 - The Novelty Penalty:

  • Gus Cooney, Daniel T. Gilbert, and Timothy D. Wilson (2017). The Novelty Penalty: Why Do People Like Talking About New Experiences but Hearing About Old Ones? Psychological Science

People often tell each other stories about their past experiences. But do they tell the right ones? Speakers and listeners predicted that listeners would enjoy hearing novel stories (i.e., stories about experiences the listener had never had) more than familiar stories (i.e., stories about experiences the listener had already had). In fact, listeners enjoyed hearing familiar stories much more than novel ones. This did not happen because familiar and novel stories differed in their content or delivery. Rather, it happened because human speech is riddled with informational gaps, and familiar stories allow listeners to use their own knowledge to fill them. We discuss reasons why novel stories are more difficult to tell, and why familiar stories are more enjoyable to hear, than either speakers or listeners seem to realize.

 
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2016 - The Allocator's Illusion:

  • Gus Cooney, Daniel T. Gilbert, and Timothy D. Wilson. (2016). When Fairness Matters Less Than We Expect. PNAS

Human beings care a great deal about the fairness of the procedures that are used to allocate resources, such as wealth, opportunity, and power. But in a series of experiments, we show that those to whom resources are allocated often care less about fairness than those who allocate the resources expect them to. This “allocator’s illusion” results from the fact that fairness seems more important before an allocation is made (when al- locators are choosing a procedure) than afterward (when receivers are reacting to the procedure that allocators chose). This illusion has important consequences for policy-makers, man- agers, health care providers, judges, teachers, parents, and others who are charged with choosing the procedures by which things of value will be allocated.

 
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2014 - Extraordinary Experiences:

  •  Gus Cooney, Daniel T. Gilbert, and Timothy D. Wilson. (2014). The Unforeseen Costs of Extraordinary Experience. Psychological Science

People seek extraordinary experiences—from drinking rare wines and taking exotic vacations to jumping from airplanes and shaking hands with celebrities. But are such experiences worth having? We found that participants thoroughly enjoyed having experiences that were superior to those had by their peers, but that having had such experiences spoiled their subsequent social interactions and ultimately left them feeling worse than they would have felt if they had had an ordinary experience instead. Participants were able to predict the benefits of having an extraordinary experience but were unable to predict the costs. These studies suggest that people may pay a surprising price for the experiences they covet most.