Principal Investigators

Peter M. Todd

Peter is Provost Professor of Cognitive Science, Psychology, and Informatics at Indiana University, Bloomington. He grew up in Silicon Valley, studied mathematics and electronic music at Oberlin College, received an MPhil in computer speech and language processing from Cambridge University, and developed neural network models of the evolution of learning for his 1992 PhD in psychology at Stanford University with advisor David Rumelhart. In 1995 he moved to Germany to help found the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition (ABC) with director Gerd Gigerenzer; the Center has been at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin since 1997. Peter's research interests while assistant director there focused on modeling the interactions between decision making and decision environments, including how the two co-evolve over time. The Center's work culminated in the book Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart (Gigerenzer, Todd, and the ABC Research Group; Oxford, 1999); the sequel, Ecological Rationality: Intelligence in the World (Oxford), focusing on environment structures and their impact, is being finalized. In addition, Peter has coedited three books on neural network and artificial life models in music and has written papers on topics ranging from social decision processes in rats to modeling patterns of age at first marriage. At IU, his research interests focus on ecological rationality, search behavior in humans (including mate search, foraging, and memory search), and food choice mechanisms.

Visit Peter's Google Scholar webpage here, his Cognitive Science webpage here, his Psychology webpage here, his Informatics webpage here, and his ABC-Berlin webpage here.

Graduate Students

Samuel Nordli

Sam is a PhD student at IU. He is generally interested in behavioral ecology, and particularly in the evolution of the neural systems in vertebrate brains that support the formation and execution of stereotyped patterns of contextualized behavior (i.e, habits/heuristics). This broad topic intersects and contrasts with a number of interesting areas of study, including ecological rationality, the acquisition of skill and expertise, mindfulness (as juxtaposed with the mindlessness of habits), and the evolution of language and human uniqueness.

Mahi Luthra

Mahi is pursuing a joint PhD in Cognitive Science and Psychology. Prior to starting her PhD career at IU, she attained an MA in applied psychology from University of Mumbai. Mahi is broadly interested in two topics: (1) How do humans process information to make decisions (especially given processing bottlenecks--e.g., limited working memory)? (2) How do agents collectively search for resources they need and influence their environment? To find out more, access her webpage.

Research Assistants

Jenny Yang

Jenny is a freshman from Muncie, Indiana pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She is interested in a wide variety of psychological sciences and is particularly interested in decision making and psychological disorders. After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans on attending graduate school with the intent of continuing research or working in clinical psychology.

Calvin Isch

Calvin is a junior Cox Research Scholar pursuing a degree in Cognitive Science and a certificate in the Liberal Arts and Management program. His research interests include habit formation, motivation and decision making.

Lab Alumni

Samantha Cohen, Graduate Student

Samantha Cohen earned a joint Ph. D. in Psychology and Cognitive Science from 2013 to 2019. Sam is broadly cover decision-making and choice behavior in adaptive environments. With an original focus on how humans choose romantic partners, she expanded this focus to social search in general, seeing whether similar decision-making mechanisms are used in different domains--like choosing a dog! Want to read any of her paper pre-prints for free? Visit her webpage and access her CV here. To read her dissertation (for free!), head here:

Ke Sang, Graduate Student

After graduating from the Medical School of Fudan University, Ke realized that he is more interested in a human's mental state than their physical state and chose to study psychology instead. Currently Ke is a third-year graduate student double majoring in cognitive psychology and cognitive science. Human's search behavior (also known as exploration and exploitation) is his main research interest at present. He is using a mathematical modeling method, network analysis, and some machine learning methods to create a fully understandable picture of searching behavior. If you have any interest or want to learn more about his research, you can e-mail Ke at

Jared Lorince, Graduate Student

Jared was a joint PhD candidate in cognitive science and psychology, and is now a postdoctoral fellow at NICO (the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems), working with Brian Uzzi. His work explores human behavior in social information environments on the Web, with a focus on music listening and tagging behavior, and integrates knowledge of human search and decision making capacities with large scale data mining and analysis methods.

Robert Ian Bowers, Graduate Student and Post Doc

Robert's interests concern the cognition of animals, with focus on aspects of cognition that are amenable to ethological approaches. This has led primarily to analysis of behavior patterns in specific ecological contexts involved in the most crucial and predictable feats of life, notably feeding and mating, and use of a combination of methods. He has worked with food conditioning in rats, social learning in humans, and sexual conditioning in Coturnix quail, as well as sexual selection among artificial agents in software environments. He counts himself a 'behavior systems' person. Robert earned his PhD under William Timberlake. His dissertation concerned theories of causal reasoning applied to rats in food conditioning preparations. In our laboratory he studies how people learn from available social information regarding the mate choices of others.

Brianne Eby, Lab Manager

Brianne received her Bachelor of Science with Honors in Psychology in 2013. Her thesis, 'Moral balancing in food choices across cultures', compared individuals' food habits and attitudes in the U.S. and France. Brianne worked as the lab manager for ABC West for a year before beginning a Master of Science in Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where her research focused on the normative dimensions of pro-environmental behaviors and behavioral spillover.

Kate Sanders

While at IU, Kate studied Cognitive Science and English. Her research focused on the food environment and food memory, and she worked most with an online food diary service to determine patterns in the types of foods people eat and how well they remember what they’ve eaten; for example, in one project, subjects filled out food diaries for a week and afterwards were asked to try to recall their foods.

Thomas Hills, Post Doc and Research Scientist

Thomas's research focuses on the evolution of goal-directed behavior, its underlying biological basis, and the consequences for human search in spatial, mental, and social environments. Thomas is now at the Center for Cognitive and Decision Sciences at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

Skyler Place, Graduate Student

Skyler graduated from IU in 2010 with PhDs in Psychology and Cognitive Science. His research focused on the cues that drive social influence in human decision making. After leaving IU, Skyler did a post-doc for 18 months at Harvard and Northeastern, before leaving academia to join a start up. He is now a Senior Research Scientist at Cogito Health.


Benjamin Scheibehenne, Post Doc

Details on Ben can be found on his webpage. He is now at the Center for Cognitive and Decision Sciences at the University of Basel in Switzerland.

Andreas Wilke, Research Scientist

Andreas research focuses on the cognitive adaptations underlying decision making under uncertainty in foraging. He investigates whether the same mechanisms animals use in foraging for patchy resources are also shared by humans and used in novel tasks such as searching for physical resources or information on the Internet. Currently, he is looking at whether people’s assumptions about the patchiness of resources underlie well-known phenomena of human judgment, such as the “hot hand” fallacy. For this purpose, he studies people in controlled laboratory settings as well as conducts field studies in a traditional foraging society in Amazonian Ecuador. He received interdisciplinary training in cognitive psychology, behavioral ecology and biological anthropology. He is now at the Department of Psychology at Clarkson University.