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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Extraordinary Research and Travel Grant Report by Marieke de Vries

01.01.2017, by Sibylle Classen in grant report

Tilburg University (2015), Radboud University (2016); Attendance of US Conferences and Research visit at University of Missouri, US

Thanks to an EASP Extraordinary Research and Travel Grant received in 2015, I had the opportunity to visit two international laboratories and start a subsequent new joint research project, in conjunction with attending a conference in October 2015. I attended the annual conference of the Society for Medical Decision Making in St. Louis, USA (October 16-21, 2015) and visited the laboratories of Dr. Laura Scherer and Dr. Victoria Shaffer at the University of Missouri in Columbia, USA (about two hours away from St. Louis), after attending the SMDM conference (October 21-25, 2015). Dr. Scherer and Dr. Shaffer also invited me to present my research at their institute, so this visit also entailed an excellent opportunity for me to broaden my international network, meet the many excellent scholars in our field at the University of Missouri and discuss research with them.

Dr. Scherer is head of the Attitudes and Decision Making Lab at the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri. Her research is primarily concerned with when, how and to what advantage people use spontaneous associations and “gut feelings” in judgment. People often have spontaneous associations and feelings that color their judgments. Her work has examined how these automatic processes influence evaluations of people (e.g. racial bias), and how judgment contexts can alter the activation of such bias. More recently, her research has addressed how spontaneous feelings, versus deliberative reasoning, can influence life-altering medical decisions. This latter work aims to inform the development of patient decision support tools.

Thanks to an EASP Seedcorn grant I received in 2010 which enabled me to visit Dr. Fagerlin at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and set up a research collaboration with her, I also got to know Dr. Scherer, who at that time was affiliated to the University of Michigan and recently moved to the University of Missouri in Columbia. Dr. Scherer and I have had a successful previous research collaboration on intuition and deliberation in decision making which has resulted in larger scale funding for that research project, a joint symposium which we co- chaired at the EASP General Meeting in Amsterdam in 2014, and in two recent international peer- reviewed publications resulting from that project (De Vries et al., 2013; Scherer et al., 2015). Recently, we have both been on maternity leave and we now aim to continue our international collaboration and set up a new joint research project. Visiting Dr. Scherer in October 2015 in Colombia, Missouri, enabled us to set up a new joint research project and conduct preliminary research, which will hopefully facilitate our plans to apply for larger scale funding from other sources in the near future and help us to set the stage for a new and hopefully again successful research collaboration.

Dr. Shaffer is head of the Medical Decision Research Lab at the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri. Her research focuses on applying decision psychology and behavioral economics to inform practical problems in medical decision making. In particular, her work has applied research about judgment and decision making to the design of patient decision support tools. She is particularly interested in how the inclusion of different elements in patient decision aids either supports or biases patients’ decision making processes. Previous research has focused on the impact of patient narratives in decision aids, attitudes towards the use of clinical decision support systems in medicine, and the behavioral economics of noncash incentives. Visiting Dr. Shaffer at the University of Missouri in October 2015 provided me with an excellent opportunity for us to discuss our research interests, which are largely overlapping, and initiate a new, joint research project together.

Dr. Shaffer and Dr. Scherer both share research interests with me: All three of us combine an interest in understanding the basics of the social and cognitive processes of judgment and decision making and in applying these insights to the context of medical decision making. These overlapping research interests in both the fundamental and applied aspects of life-altering decision-making are really quite unique and I was therefore thrilled to have the opportunity to visit Dr. Scherer’s and Dr. Shaffer’s laboratories at the University of Missouri, present my research to the Department of Psychology and meet and discuss research with other excellent members of this research institute, set up new international collaborations, and design a new research project together. Our new joint research project’s focus is on testing the effects of Deliberation and Intuition Exercises on choices and feelings about those choices people make about life-altering issues such as medical decisions. Through these studies, we aim to obtain a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of deliberative as well as intuitive decision processes and of how intuition and deliberation can both best be supported and “debiased” in patient decision aids: tools which are becoming more and more available to patients and aim to help them clarify their personal values and preferences and play a more active role in the decision making process with their health-care providers about their medical screening and treatment options. In these studies, we work with large samples and use decision scenarios we also have been able to successfully use in previous research (e.g., Scherer el al., 2015).

EASP, thank you very much for the extraordinary opportunity to visit two international laboratories and set up a new joint research project with two highly esteemed international colleagues!


  • De Vries, M., Fagerlin, A, Witteman, H. & Scherer, L.D. (2013). Combining deliberation and intuition in patient decision support. Patient Education and Counseling, 91, 154-160, doi:10.1016/j.pec.2012.11.016.
  • Scherer, L.D., De Vries, M., Zikmund-Fisher, B.J. Witteman, H.O., & Fagerlin, A. (2015). Trust in deliberation: The consequences of deliberative decision strategies for medical decisions. Health Psychology, 34, 1090-1099, doi:10.1037/hea0000203.