Professor Shira Elqayam

Job: Professor of Cognitive Psychology & 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

E: selqayam@dmu.ac.uk

W: www.dmu.ac.uk/hls

 

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 et al., 2015; 2017) 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 

  • How and why we reason from is to ought
    How and why we reason from is to ought Evans, J. St. B. T.; Elqayam, Shira Originally identified by Hume, the validity of is-ought inference is much debated in the meta-ethics literature. Our work shows that inference from is to ought typically proceeds from contextualised, value-laden causal utility conditional, bridging into a deontic conclusion. Such conditional statements tell us what actions are needed to achieve or avoid consequences that are good or bad. Psychological research has established that people generally reason fluently and easily with utility conditionals. Our own research also has shown that people’s reasoning from is to ought (deontic introduction) is pragmatically sensitive and adapted to achieving the individual’s goals. But how do we acquire the necessary deontic rules? In this paper, we provide a rationale for this facility linked to Evans’s (2010) framework of dual mind rationality. People have an old mind (in evolutionary terms) which derives its rationality by repeating what has worked in the past, mostly by experiential learning. New mind rationality, in contrast, is evolutionarily recent, uniquely developed in humans, and draws on our ability to mentally simulate hypothetical events removed in time and place. We contend that the new mind achieves its goals by inducing and applying deontic rules and that a mechanism of deontic introduction evolved for this purpose. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • Rational decision-making in medicine: implications for overuse and underuse
    Rational decision-making in medicine: implications for overuse and underuse Djulbegovic, B.; Elqayam, Shira; Dale, W. In spite of substantial spending and resource utilization, today's health care remains characterized by poor outcomes, largely due to overuse (over-testing/treatment) or underuse (under-testing/treatment) of services. To a significant extent, this is a consequence of low-quality decision-making that appears to violate various rationality criteria. Such sub-optimal decision-making is considered a leading cause of death and is responsible for more than 80% of health expenses. In this paper, we address the issue of overuse or underuse of healthcare interventions from the perspective of rational choice theory. We show that what is considered rational under one decision theory may not be considered rational under a different theory. We posit that the questions and concerns regarding both underuse and overuse have to be addressed within a specific theoretical framework. The applicable rationality criterion, and thus the “appropriateness” of health care delivery choices, depends on theory selection that is appropriate to specific clinical situations. We provide a number of illustrations showing how the choice of theoretical framework influences both our policy and individual decision-making. We also highlight the practical implications of our analysis for the current efforts to measure the quality of care and link such measurements to the financing of healthcare services. open access article
  • Many faces of rationality: Implications of the great rationality debate for clinical decision-making
    Many faces of rationality: Implications of the great rationality debate for clinical decision-making Djulbegovic, B.; Elqayam, Shira Given that more than 30% of healthcare costs are wasted on inappropriate care, suboptimal care is increasingly connected to the quality of medical decisions. It has been argued that personal decisions are the leading cause of death, and 80% of healthcare expenditures result from physicians' decisions. Therefore, improving healthcare necessitates improving medical decisions, ie, making decisions (more) rational. Drawing on writings fromThe Great Rationality Debate from the fields of philosophy, economics, and psychology, we identify core ingredients of rationality commonly encountered across various theoretical models. Rationality is typically classified under umbrella of normative (addressing the question how people “should” or “ought to” make their decisions) and descriptive theories of decision‐ making (which portray how people actually make their decisions). Normative theories of rational thought of relevance to medicine include epistemic theories that direct practice of evidencebasedmedicine and expected utility theory, which provides the basis for widely used clinical decision analyses. Descriptive theories of rationality of direct relevance to medical decision‐making include bounded rationality, argumentative theory of reasoning, adaptive rationality, dual processing model of rationality, regret‐based rationality, pragmatic/substantive rationality, and meta‐rationality. For the first time, we provide a review of wide range of theories and models of rationality. We showed that what is “rational” behaviour under one rationality theory may be irrational under the other theory. We also showed that context is of paramount importance to rationality and that no one model of rationality can possibly fit all contexts. We suggest that in context‐poor situations, such as policy decision‐making, normative theories based on expected utility informed by best research evidence may provide the optimal approach to medical decision‐making, whereas in the context‐rich circumstances other types of rationality, informed by human cognitive architecture and driven by intuition and emotions such as the aim to minimize regret, may provide better solution to the problem at hand. The choice of theory under which we operate is important as it determines both policy and our individual decision‐making. open access article
  • Counterfactual conditionals and normative rules
    Counterfactual conditionals and normative rules Wilkinson, M. R.; Elqayam, Shira; Thompson, V. A.; Over, D. E. Counterfactual thinking is the consideration of how things could have turned out differently, usually taking the form of counterfactual conditionals. This experiment examined the psychological mechanisms that transform counterfactuals into deontic guidance rules for the future. We examined how counterfactual thinking translates into deontic guidance rules by asking participants to infer these deontic conclusions from the counterfactual premises. Participants were presented with a vignette and a counterfactual conditional, and assigned to either a control condition or a suppression condition in which they were additionally presented with conflicting normative rules. The presence of conflicting norms reduced the likelihood of positive deontic conclusions being endorsed and increased the likelihood of negative deontic conclusions being endorsed. Future intentionality and regret intensity ratings were reduced in the suppression condition. The same conditions that affect normative inference also affect regret and future planning, suggesting similar cognitive mechanisms underlie these processes. The funding was awarded to the second, third and fourth authors
  • Utilitarian Moral Judgment Exclusively Coheres with Inference from Is to Ought
    Utilitarian Moral Judgment Exclusively Coheres with Inference from Is to Ought Elqayam, Shira; Wilkinson, M. R.; Thompson, V. A.; Over, D. E.; Evans, J. St. B. T. Faced with moral choice, people either judge according to pre-existing obligations (deontological judgment), or by taking into account the consequences of their actions (utilitarian judgment). We propose that the latter coheres with a more general cognitive mechanism – deontic introduction, the tendency to infer normative (‘deontic’) conclusions from descriptive premises (is-ought inference). Participants were presented with vignettes that allowed either deontological or utilitarian choice, and asked to draw a range of deontic conclusions, as well as judge the overall moral rightness of each choice separately. We predicted and found a selective defeasibility pattern, in which manipulations that suppressed deontic introduction also suppressed utilitarian moral judgment, but had little effect on deontological moral judgment. Thus, deontic introduction coheres with utilitarian moral judgment almost exclusively. We suggest a family of norm-generating informal inferences, in which normative conclusions are drawn from descriptive (although value-laden) premises. This family includes deontic introduction and utilitarian moral judgment as well as other informal inferences. We conclude with a call for greater integration of research in moral judgment and research into deontic reasoning and informal inference. Open Access article
  • Conditionals and inferential connections: A hypothetical inferential theory
    Conditionals and inferential connections: A hypothetical inferential theory Douven, Igor; Elqayam, Shira; Singmann, Henrik; van Wijnbergen-Huitink, Janneke Intuition suggests that for a conditional to be evaluated as true, there must be some kind of connection between its component clauses. In this paper, we formulate and test a new psychological theory to account for this intuition. We combined previous semantic and psychological theorizing to propose that the key to the intuition is a relevance-driven, satisficing-bounded inferential connection between antecedent and consequent. To test our theory, we created a novel experimental paradigm in which participants were presented with a soritical series of objects, notably colored patches (Experiments 1 and 4) and spheres (Experiment 2), or both (Experiment 3), and were asked to evaluate related conditionals embodying non-causal inferential connections (such as “If patch number 5 is blue, then so is patch number 4”). All four experiments displayed a unique response pattern, in which (largely determinate) responses were sensitive to parameters determining inference strength, as well as to consequent position in the series, in a way analogous to belief bias. Experiment 3 showed that this guaranteed relevance can be suppressed, with participants reverting to the defective conditional. Experiment 4 showed that this pattern can be partly explained by a measure of inference strength. is pattern supports our theory’s “principle of relevant inference” and “principle of bounded inference,” highlighting the dual processing characteristics of the inferential connection. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link
  • Emotion and Reasoning: A Metacognitive Perspective
    Emotion and Reasoning: A Metacognitive Perspective Jeffries, A.; Elqayam, Shira; Scase, M. O. The talk will draw on the Thompson’s (2011) theory of metacognition in reasoning, which aims to identify the mechanisms that trigger effortful (type 2) processing. We will discuss the metacognitive perspective in relation to the role of emotional content, a topic not yet integrated into the theory. We suggest that emotion serves as a metacognitive cue to trigger effortful processing. We will present a conditional inference task using fear-related versus neutral materials, matched for believability. The task utilizes a simplified version of the two-response paradigm developed by Thompson et al (2011). Participants provide a fast first response and feeling of rightness (FOR) rating; this is then repeated with no time restriction. Changes between the first and second response provide a measure of effortful thinking. The findings suggest that emotion has a dual role. First, it moderates the effect of FOR: FOR and response change only correlated for fear-related materials, an effect that was replicated across items. Second, fear triggers low FOR, which then activates effortful processing: FOR was lower overall for fear-related materials. This effect was mediated by type of inference: for fear-related materials, participants changed their responses more for the denial inferences (MT, DA) relative to the affirmation inferences (MP, AC). The opposite was true for neutral materials. We discuss whether the effect is task-specific.
  • Editorial: From Is to Ought: The Place of Normative Models in the Study of Human Thought
    Editorial: From Is to Ought: The Place of Normative Models in the Study of Human Thought Elqayam, Shira; Over, D. E. Editorial for a Research Topic in Frontiers in Cognitive Science This Document is Protected by copyright and was first published by Frontiers. All rights reserved. it is reproduced with permission.
  • From is to ought: The place of normative models in the study of human thought
    From is to ought: The place of normative models in the study of human thought Elqayam, Shira; Over, D. E.
  • New paradigm psychology of reasoning: Basic and applied Perspectives
    New paradigm psychology of reasoning: Basic and applied Perspectives Elqayam, Shira; Bonnefon, Jean-François; Over, D. E.

 

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)
  • Research methods (Postgraduate)

Qualifications

PhD, MA, BA

Membership of professional associations and societies

Experimental Psychology Society

British Psychological Society

Psychonomic Society

Conference attendance

Recent (since 2014)

Organised international events

Elqayam, S. and Ackerman, R. (Organisers). Shedding metacognitive light on reasoning processes. International workshop, De Montfort University, 9-11 February, 2017.

 

Convened symposia & workshops

Elqayam, S. (convenor). Current Issues in Rationality: Deductive and Probabilistic Reasoning. Symposium convened for The second biennial International Convention of Psychological Science, the Austria Center Vienna in Vienna, Austria, 23-25 March 2017.

Elqayam, S., and Skovgaard Olsen, N. (convenors). Rationality and normativity. Symposium convened for the Eighth International Conference on Thinking, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA, 4-6 August, 2016.

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

 

Keynotes and Invited talks: International conferences and workshops

Grounded rationality: The case of is-to-ought inference. Keynote address, the Sixth Annual Meeting of the New Frameworks of Rationality Program, Schloss Etelsen, Germany, 5-8 March, 2017.

Attitudes, context, and rationality. Invited talk, to be delivered at the Regensburg Workshop on Attitudes in Context, Regensburg, Germany, 14-16 September, 2017

Grounded rationality: A descriptivist theory of rationality in context. Invited talk, to be delivered at the workshop “Theories of Rationality: Descriptive and Normative Aspects”, University of Bonn, Germany, 1-3 from September, 1-3 September, 2017.

The Equation meets Grounded Rationality. The Eighth International Conference on Thinking, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA, 4-6 August, 2016.

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.

 

Invited talks: Seminars

Rationality in context: Clinical medicine, satisficing, and grounded rationality. Presented at the Behavioral Science & Management seminar, the Technion, Israel, 14 December, 2016.

Moral judgement and the creation of novel norms. 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.

 

Refereed Conference Contributions

Elqayam, S., Douven, I., Singmann, H., & van Wijnbergen-Huitink, J. (2017). Inferential connections in conditionals: A hypothetical inferential theory (HIT). Paper presented at the second biennial International Convention of Psychological Science, the Austria Center Vienna in Vienna, Austria, 23-25 March 2017.

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.

 

Key research outputs

Recent outputs (Since 2014)

Books

Elqayam, S., & Over, D.E. (Eds.) (2016). From is to ought: The place of normative models in the study of human thought. Lausanne: Frontiers Media SA.

Elqayam, S., Bonnefon, J.F., & Over, D.E. (Eds.) (2016). New paradigm psychology of reasoning: Basic and applied Perspectives. Hove: Routledge Psychology.

 

Refereed journal articles

Djulbegovic, M., & Elqayam, S. (2017). Many faces of rationality: Implications of the great rationality debate for clinical decision-making. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 1-8.

Elqayam, S., Wilkinson, M.R., Thompson, V.A., Over, D.E., & Evans, J.St.B.T. (2017). Utilitarian moral judgment exclusively coheres with inference from is to ought. Frontiers in Psychology: Cognitive Science, 8, 1042.

Elqayam, S., & Over, D.E. (2016). Editorial: From is to ought: The place of normative models in the study of human thought. Frontiers in Psychology 7, 628.

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.

 

Refereed commentaries

Elqayam, S. (2015). Instrumental, bounded and grounded rationality: Comments on Lockie. Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4(11), 47-51.

 

Book chapters

Elqayam, S. (2017). New psychology of reasoning. In: Ball, L.J. & Thompson, V.A. (Eds.) International Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning. Hove, UK: Routledge Psychology.

Elqayam, S. (2016). 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. (2016). Grounded Rationality and the New Paradigm Psychology of Reasoning. In: L. Macchi, M. Bagassi, & R. Viale (eds.) Cognitive unconscious and human rationality. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

Current research students

Ashleigh Jeffries, De Montfort University.

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

Keynote address

Grounded rationality: The case of is-to-ought inference. Keynote address, the Sixth Annual Meeting of the New Frameworks of Rationality Program, Schloss Etelsen, Germany, 5-8 March, 2017.

Editing

Associate editor, Forntiers in Psychology: Cognitive Science.

Associate editor, Forntiers in Psyhcology: Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology

Editorial board: Thinking & Reasoning

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.

Reviewing

  • 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, Minds and Machines, Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, Synthese.
  • Grant reviewer 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).

 

Last edited

September 2017

Shira

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