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Dr Shira Elqayam

Job: Reader in Cognitive Science

Faculty: Health and Life Sciences

School/department: School of Applied Social Sciences

Address: De Montfort, University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH.

T: +44 (0)116 257 7850




Personal profile

Shira's research focuses on reasoning, decision making, and rationality. A major theme in her research is the study of normativity in rationality and in human inference. This is a two-pronged approach, encompassing both conceptual analysis and experimental research. The conceptual strand of this work is a critique of normativist conceptions of rationality, i.e. the idea that rationality should be judged by normative benchmarks (Elqayam & Evans, 2011; Evans & Elqayam, 2011).

The critique argues that normativism has led psychology of reasoning and decision making to dubious inference from ‘is’ to ‘ought’, as well as to a host of research biases, and that a descriptivist research agenda would benefit psychology.

The empirical strand of this theme (Elqayam, Thompson, Wilkinson, Evans, & Over, 2015) examines the way that people infer normative conclusions from descriptive premises. Findings indicate that such inference is driven by the causal link between action and outcome and the psychological value of the outcome, but it can be suppressed when reasoners are presented with competing outcomes or competing normative values.

Research group affiliations

Psychology Research Group 

Publications and outputs 


Click here for a full listing of Shira Elqayam's publications and outputs.

Key research outputs


Research interests/expertise

Shira's research interests are in higher mental processes and primarily in reasoning, decision making, and their linguistic aspects. The main themes in her work are normative rationality and thinking, disjunctive thinking, dual process theories, and iterative and interactive processes in analytic thinking.

Areas of teaching

  • Conceptual Issues and Critical Debates in Psychology (Module leader)
  • Introductory Research methods in Psychology
  • Cores Areas of Psychology (Cognitive block)
  • Empirical Psychology



Membership of professional associations and societies

Experimental Psychology Society

British Psychological Society

Conference attendance

Recent (since 2011)

Invited talks: International conferences:

  • Dutch book arguments are not all they are cracked out to be. Conference in honour of Ken Manktelow’s retirement, Wolverhampton University, 15 May, 2014.

  • Is-to-ought: Inferring deontic conclusions from utility conditionals. Workshop on Conditionals and pragmatic aspects of belief. University of Groningen, The Netherlands, 9-11 November, 2012.
  • Grounded rationality and weakness of will. 30th International Congress of Psychology, Cape Town, South Africa, 22-27 July 2012.
  • The descriptively rational decision maker. Subjective probability, utility, and decision making conference (SPUDM23), Kingston, UK, 21-25 August 2011.

Invited talks: Seminars:

  • Moral judgement and the creation of novel norms. To be presented at the research seminar of the School of Psychology, Queen’s University Belfast. Belfast, 3 March, 2016.

    Normative rationality and the generative capacity of norms. The Center for the Study of Rationality, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 16 April, 2015.

    On ‘is’ and ‘ought’: Rationality and normative inference. Rutgers, RuCCS Colloquium, 24 September 2013.
  • The role of causal link in is-ought inference. Research seminar, University of Salzburg, Department of Psychology, 12 June 2013.
  • Grounded rationality: A descriptivist alternative to normativism. LJDM seminar, UCL, London, 2 November 2011.

Convened Symposia:

  • Elqayam, S., and Douven, I.E. (convenors). A Festschrift symposium for David Over. Symposium to be convened for the Eighth International Conference on Thinking, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA, 4-6 August, 2016.

    Elqayam, s. (convenor). Thinking about norms: Epistemic, rational, and moral norms in human thinking. Symposium convened for the 35th annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, Berlin, 31 July – 4 August, 2013.

    Elqayam, S, and Over, D E (convenors). New paradigm psychology of reasoning. Invited symposium, to be convened for the Seventh International Conference on Thinking, London, 4-6 July 2012.

Refereed Conference Contributions:

  • Elqayam, S., Thompson, Wilkinson, M.R. V.A., Over, D.E., Evans, and J.St.B.T. (2015). inference from is to ought mediates moral judgement. Paper presented at the Eighth London Reasoning Workshop. 4-6 August, 2015, Birkbeck College, London, UK.

  • Elqayam, S., Thompson, V.A., Over, D.E., Evans, J.St.B.T., and Wilkinson, M.R. (2014). Models of is-ought inference. Paper presented at the Seventh London Reasoning Workshop. 9-10 July, 2014, Birkbeck College, London, UK.

  • Elqayam, S., Thompson, V.A., Over, D.E., Evans, J.St.B.T., and Wilkinson, M.R. (2013). Is-ought inference is pragmatic, utilitarian, and defeasible. Paper presented at the Sixth London Reasoning Workshop. 25-26 July, 2013, Birkbeck College, London, UK.
  • Elqayam, S. (2012). Grounded rationality. Paper presented at the International Conference on Thinking. 3-6 July, 2012, London, UK.
  • Elqayam,S, & Over,D E (2011). New paradigm in psychology of reasoning: Probabilities, beliefs, and dual processing. Paper presented at the Sixth Reasoning Workshop. 3-4 August, Birkbeck College, London.

Key research outputs

Recent outputs (Since 2011)


Elqayam, S., Bonnefon, J.F., & Over, D.E. (Eds.) (in press). New paradigm psychology of reasoning: Basic and applied Perspectives. Hove: Routledge Psychology.

Manktelow,K I, Over,D E, & Elqayam,S (Eds) (2011a). The Science of Reason: A Festschrift in Honour of Jonathan St.BT Evans. Hove: Psychology Press.

Refereed journal articles

Elqayam, S., Thompson, V.A., Wilkinson, M.R., Evans, J.St.B.T., & Over, D.E. (2015). Deontic Introduction: A Theory of Inference from Is to Ought. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 41(5), 1516-1532.

Djulbegovic, M., Beckstead, J., Elqayam, S., Reljic, T., Kumar, A., Paidas, C., & Djulbegovic, B. (2015). Thinking styles and regret in physicians. PLoS ONE, 10(8) doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0134038

van Wijnbergen-Huitink, J., Elqayam, S., & Over, D.E. (2015). The probability of iterated conditionals. Cognitive Science. 39(4), 788-803.

Djulbegovic, B., Beckstead, J.W., Elqayam, S., Reljic, T., et al. (2014). Evaluation of physicians’ cognitive styles. Medical Decision Making, 34, 627-637.

Djulbegovic, B., Elqayam, S., Rejic, T., Hozo, I., Tsalatsanis, A., Kumar, A., Beckstead, J., Chen, R., Taylor, S., & Cannon-Browers, J. (2014). How do physicians decide to treat: an empirical evaluation of the threshold model. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 14, 47-57.

Elqayam, S., & Over, D.E. (2013). New paradigm psychology of reasoning: An introduction to the special issue edited by Elqayam, Bonnefon, and Over. Thinking & Reasoning, 19, 249-265.

Elqayam, S., & Evans, J.St.B.T. (2013). Rationality in the new paradigm: Strict versus soft Bayesian approaches. Thinking & Reasoning, 19, 453-470.

Elqayam, S.(2012). Grounded rationality: Descriptivism in epistemic context. Synthese, 189, 39-49.

Elqayam,S, & Over,D E (2012). New paradigm in psychology of reasoning: Probabilities, beliefs, and dual processing. Mind & Society, 11, 27-40.

Elqayam,S & Evans,J St B T (2011). Subtracting 'ought' from 'is': Descriptivism versus normativism in the study of the human thinking. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34(5),233-248 . (Target article).

Evans,J St B T, & Elqayam,S (2011). Towards a descriptivist psychology of reasoning and decision making. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34(5), 275-290. (Response article).


Refereed commentaries

Elqayam, S. (2015). Instrumental Bounded and Grounded Rationality: Comments on Lockie. Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4(11), 47-51.

Marchiori, D., & Elqayam, S. (2012). Physiological plausibility and boundary conditions of theories of risk sensitivity: Commentary on Yechiam & Telpaz. Frontiers in Cognitive Science.


Book chapters

Elqayam, S. (in press). Scams and rationality: Dutch book arguments are not all they’re cracked up to be. In N. Galbraith, D. E. Over, & E. J. Lucas (Eds.), The thinking mind: A Festschrift for Ken Manktelow. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

Elqayam, S. (in press). Grounded Rationality and the New Paradigm Psychology of Reasoning. In: L. Macchi, M. Bagassi, & R. Viale (eds.) Human Rationality: Thinking Thanks to Constraints. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

Elqayam, S. (2012). Classical logic and logicism in human thought. In S. Kreitler, G. Fleck, L. Ropolyi, & D. Eigner (eds.) Systems of logic and the construction of order. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Elqayam, S. (2011). Grounded rationality: A relativist framework for normative rationality. In: Manktelow, K.I., Over, D.E., & Elqayam, S. (Eds.) The Science of Reason: A Festschrift in Honour of Jonathan St.B.T. Evans. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

Manktelow, K.I., Over, D.E., & Elqayam, S. (2011b). Paradigms Shift: Jonathan Evans and the Science of Reason. In: Manktelow, K.I., Over, D.E., & Elqayam, S. (Eds.) The Science of Reason: A Festschrift in Honour of Jonathan St.B.T. Evans. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.


Current research students

Ashleigh Jeffries, De Montfort University.

External advisor, Erika Shilling, University of Leeds.

Externally funded research grants information

Elqayam, S., Thompson, V.A., Over, D.E. & Evans, J.St.B.T. (2012). Generative capacity of norms: A theory of inference from 'is' to 'ought'. Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant, £75,450. The grant was featured in the Leverhulme Trust’s newsletter and mentioned in Times Higher Education.

Deontic introduction: How to infer the ‘ought’ from the ‘is’. Experimental Psychology Society small grant. July 2009-2011
Collaborators: Valerie Thompson, University of Saskatchewan, Canada; Jonathan Evans, University of Plymouth, UK; David Over, Durham University, UK

Iterated conditionals. As ordinary as can be?  EURO-XPRAG (funded by European Science Foundation), research travel grant March 2010-March 2012.
Collaborators: Janneke Huitink, Goethe-University Frankfurt, Germany; David Over, Durham University, UK

Professional esteem indicators


Associate editor, Forntiers in Cognitive Science.

Guest editor (with Jean Francois Bonnefon and David Over), special issue of 'Thinking and Reasoning on 'New Paradigm Psychology of Reasoning', forthcoming.

Host Associate Editor (with David Over), Research Topic of Frontiers in Cognitive Science on the topic From is to ought: The place of normative models in the study of human thought.


Regular reviewer for Thinking and Reasoning. Ad hoc reviewer for Acta Psychologica, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Cognition, Cognitive Science, European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, Frontiers in Cognitive Science, International Journal of Psychology, Memory & Cognition, Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, and Synthese. Reviewed book proposals for Elsevier, Routledge / Psychology Press, and Cambridge University Press. Reviewed grants for the Economic and Social Research Council, Israel Science Foundation, Mofet Institute Israel, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Research Foundation Flanders (Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek - Vlaanderen, FWO). Conference reviewer for CogSci, 2007; 2006; 2005.



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