Colloquium dr. Ross Otto (McGill University)

Thursday 11 May 2023, 1 pm - 2 pm
Cognitive effort and decision-making: Integrating computational, behavioral, and physiological approaches

On Thursday, May 11, Dr. Ross Otto will give a Colloquium in the Maria Montessori Building.


As our ability to perform mental tasks is constrained by our limited mental resources, we tend to minimize our use of cognitively "effortful" processing whenever we can. Recent theories posit that decisions to expend effort involve a cost–benefit tradeoff, in which people weigh the potential benefits of effort (e.g., a reward that can be earned) against its perceived costs. I will present a series of computationally-informed experiments that aimed to gain new insights into when and why people allocate—or withhold—cognitive effort, both from an individual differences perspective, and at the level of the task. In these experiments, we used psychophysiological measures to examine how much effort people expend (pupillometry) and the how people experience the expenditure of effort (facial EMG). Highlighting the usefulness of these measures, I will describe new work examining how physiological markers of online effort expenditure can be used to understand cognitive demand avoidance in the context of risky decision-making, shedding new light on ‘how we decide how to decide.’ Taken together, these lines of work illustrate how our decisions to exert mental effort can be understood in a decision-theoretic framework.

 dr. Ross Otto

Information about the speaker

Ross Otto is an Associate Professor of Psychology at McGill University. He obtained his BS in Cognitive Science from UCLA, completed his PhD in Psychology from University of Texas at Austin, and did postdoctoral work at New York University. Ross studies the basic processes that underlie decisions regarding whether to expend cognitive effort. As such, his work is relevant to various lines of research within the BSI, e.g., related to social processes, education, and physical and mental health.  Ross’ research relies on a combination of computational, behavioral, and psychophysiological, and “urban big data” techniques to understand how people make decisions both in the laboratory and in the real world. His lab’s work has been supported by the National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), and the Fonds de recherche du Quebec – Nature et technologies (FRQ-NT).

Thursday 11 May 2023, 1 pm - 2 pm
dr. Ross Otto (McGill University), Location: MM 02.630
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