MathPsych/ICCM 2018

The annual MathPsych conference (meeting of the Society for Mathematical Psychology and the International Conference on Cognitive Modelling) was held in June. This is a quick and late summary. It was my first time at MathPsych, having been at CogPsych in previous years. MathPsych felt more familiar but also more exclusive than CogPsych (which I will outline at the end). I was positively surprised about the diversity of models and frameworks presented there; though colleagues attending different sessions reported an overwhelming focus on the drift-diffusion/random-walk models. Here are some insights from MathPsych/ICCM 2018.

New Journal Computational Brain & Behavior (CB&B)

In April 2018 the new peer-reviewed journal Computational Brain & Behavior was launched, it is published by Springer, jointly with the Society for Mathematical Psychology, with Scott Brown the current editor-in-chief. Consider submitting your work there, and to cite the papers to help the journal get a good start. The profits of this journal will help the Society of Mathematical Psychology, which is not the case for the journal Mathematical Psychology, as far as I know. The CB&B journal

publishes research on the computational basis of the mind. The journal covers a wide range of topics using mathematical modeling, computer simulation, and empirical work. This journal places a strong emphasis on scientific rigor, and on the greater insights that quantitative modeling can provide.

Articles published in CB&B will be freely available during 2018 and 2019, since the journal was launched in 2018. The journal allows LaTeX submission format. It seems that registered reports — having your research question and methods peer reviewed prior to data collection — are not supported by CB&B, but their data requirements are strong

A submission to the journal implies that materials described in the manuscript, including all relevant raw data, will be freely available to any researcher wishing to use them for non-commercial purposes, without breaching participant confidentiality.

Insights from MathPsych 2018

If you missed MathPsych, you can check out some slides and posters presented this year here: MathPsych/ICCM Repository on OSF. However, unfortunately only a small selection of slides was uploaded there. Since one of my co-authors felt uncomfortable with me sharing the slides on our unpublished model comparison of preferential choices using similarity comparisons, my slides cannot be uploaded there as well. I suspect either the conference participants did not know about the repository, although I remember seeing this on Twitter at least twice; or they fear making their unpublished work and graphics publicly available can have repercussions.

Below, I’ll summarize three highly selective insights of MathPsych that I felt worth sharing.

Compensatory Choices about STDI risks

Laura Elizabeth Hatz presented results indicating that in risky choices involving attractiveness and risks for STDs people using more of a compensatory choice strategy, compared to when dealing with numerical risky choices about money. Although presenting pictures (attractiveness) compared to the risk of STDs (numerical) may introduce several confounds, it is interesting that the proportion of compensatory choices changes.  What I like about this work is the comparison of purely numerical monetary choice domain with a different domain like the risk to get ill. Andreas Wilke and myself explored the domain-specifity of risky choice in a recent article in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, and are currently following up with cognitive modeling of risk taking in life domains.

New Berlin Numeracy Component Test

Saima Ghazal presented a numeracy scale, the Berlin Numeracy Component Test (BNC-T). BNC-T measures people’s ability to deal with numbers. I like that the scale is test-theoretically grounded in item-response theory. There are numeracy scales out there, but what is new about BTC-T is that it specifies four components of numeracy: operations, probability, geometry, and algebra. Operations and probability together — which the authors call statistical numeracy — correlates with decision-making quality. Thus decision-making researchers should consider including the BNC-T as co-variate . Find a reference here, for more info see also www.riskliteracy.org.

Belief in low-variances of outcomes justified

Jerker Denrell presented a modelling account for the estimation of variances. He showed nicely that beliefs in low-variance of outcomes–which humans show–and beliefs in high correlations, which humans also show, are produced by a Bayesian updating model for free. Interesting. Though the model he showed is no process model, I think it is worthwhile for mathematical psychologists to consider benchmark models to make the ill-defined concept of rationality more tangible. This is the more important in tasks involving learning, uncertainties or any probabilistic outcomes. Another nice example of what happens if we drop the assumption that people act with statistical information in their minds is provided in this paper by Hintze and Colleages, showing that risk aversion can be a by-product of limited group sizes.


Besides excellent scientific content shared at MathPsych, the only caveat I felt considered inclusion of newbies. There was a luncheon for women in math psych, which was very well organized and featured a fantastic talk about when and how to decline tasks.  Throughout the conference, however, I felt not very well included. This is likely due to several reasons. Foremost, the MathPsych is usually held in the United States — this year it was Wisconsin — and every fourth year outside of the U.S., which brings a U.S. focus to the community. Secondly, my talk was not until the last day, which meant that people could not really judge me, being a junior scientist. Thirdly, obviously it was my first time there.

Therefore, maybe it would be worthwhile to consider for the next MathPsych to assign first-time or second-time presenters at MathPsych a relatively early presentation slot. That said, I am aware of the tremendous efforts it takes to organize such a meeting, having organized a the MPIB Summer Institute for Bounded Rationality and the annual Meeting of the European Group of Process Tracing researchers, and have to say the the MathPsych was very well organized.

  • Share

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *