Ellen Peters is an academic expert in decision making and the science of science communication. Her primary research interests concern how people judge and decide, and how evidence-based communication can boost comprehension and improve decisions in health, financial, and environmental contexts. She is especially interested in the basic building blocks of human judgment and decision making—such as emotions and number abilities—and their links to effective communication techniques. These processes are also central to the effects of adult aging on decision making as well as to public policy issues, such as how to communicate about the health effects of smoking or about the pros and cons of cancer screenings and treatments. She is also interested in methods to increase number ability, a.k.a. numeracy, to improve decision making and, in turn, health and financial outcomes.
As the Philip H. Knight Chair and Director of the Center for Science Communication Research (SCR) in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, she explores how policy makers, physicians, and other experts can enhance public understanding of science and technology by advancing the science of science communication.
Her new book, Innumeracy in the Wild: Misunderstanding and Misusing Numbers, was published by Oxford University Press in May of 2020.
University of Oregon, Eugene, OR. Advisor: Paul Slovic, Ph.D.
Ph.D. Psychology, Judgment and Decision Making.
M.S. Psychology, Judgment and Decision Making.
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
B.S. Economics. The Wharton School of Business, Marketing.
B.S.E. Systems Engineering. Minor: Chemical Engineering.
Honors and Awards
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) “For contributions to basic research on affect, numeracy, and risky decision-making, and for translational research on communicating health risks and improving medical decisions and policies”
Fellow, American Psychological Association, Division 38, Health Psychology
Fellow, Society of Experimental Social Psychology
Fellow, Association for Psychological Science
NIH Merit Award “For exceptional advances in integrating cognitive, affective, and social processes into cancer control research” (group award to members of the “Cognitive, Affective, and Social Processes in Health Research (CASPHR) Working Group” (see http://cancercontrol.cancer.gov/brp/casphr/)
Jane Beattie Scientific Recognition Award. Awarded for innovative contributions to decision research, European Association for Decision Making
- Peters, E., Shoots-Reinhard, B., Shoben, A., Evans, A.T., Klein, E., Tompkins, M.K., Romer, D., & Tusler, M. (2019). Pictorial warning labels and memory for cigarette health-risk information over time. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 53, 358–371, https://doi.org/10.1093/abm/kay050
- Peters, E., Tompkins, M.K., Knoll, M., Ardoin, S.P., Shoots-Reinhard, B., & Meara, A.S. (2019). Despite high objective numeracy, lower numeric confidence relates to worse financial and medical outcomes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1903126116.
- Peters, E., Fennema, M.G., & Tiede, K.E. (2018). The loss-bet paradox: Actuaries, accountants, and other numerate people rate numerically inferior gambles as superior. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 32, 15–29. https://doi.org/10.1002/bdm.2085
- Cameron, L.D., Biesecker, B.B., Peters, E., Taber, J.M., & Klein, W.M.P. (2017). Self-regulation principles underlying risk perception and decision making within the context of genomic testing. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 11(5), e12315.
- Kahan, D.M., Peters, E., Dawson, E.C., & Slovic, P. (2017). Motivated numeracy and enlightened self-government. Behavioural Public Policy, 1(1), 54-86.
- Peters, E., Evans, A.T., Hemmerich, N., & Berman, M. (2016). Emotion in the law and the lab: The case of graphic cigarette warnings. Tobacco Regulatory Science, 2(4), 404-413. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18001/TRS.2.4.10.
- Evans, A.T., Peters, E., Strasser, A.A., Emery, L.F., Sheerin, K, & Romer, D. (2015). Graphic warning labels elicit affective and thoughtful responses from smokers. PLoS ONE, 10(12): e0142879. doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0142879.
- Sinayev, A. & Peters, E. (2015). The impact of cognitive reflection versus calculation in decision making. Frontiers in Psychology, 6:532. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00532.
- Peters, E. & Bjalkebring, P. (2015). Multiple numeric competencies: When a number is not just a number. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108(5), 802-822.
For a full list of Dr. Peters's publications and Google Scholar citations, please click here.