Principal Investigators

Peter M. Todd

Peter is a professor of Cognitive Science, Informatics, and Psychology 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 Cognitive Science webpage here, his Informatics webpage here, and his ABC-Berlin webpage here.

Graduate Students

Rob Bowers

Rob is a doctoral student of cognitive science at Indiana University. He is interested in the cognitive aspects of modal action, specifically, how sexual animals find and differentiate between potential mates. Rob tries to exploit the cross-species regularities of sex, and the intuition that wherever a manner of cognition becomes a part of the system, it will impact the course of the species’ evolution in regular, identifiable ways. This requires use of a combination of methods, from artificial life and empirical work with real animals. He has worked with sexual conditioning in Coturnix quail; facial attractiveness in humans; and models of the evolution of sexual dynamics in agent-oriented artificial systems.

Jared Lorince

Jared is a third-year PhD student at IU. His research focuses on how people search for information in Web environments, and he's especially interested in collaborative tagging systems and the decision-making strategies people use when deciding what and how to tag. He is also co-founder of the blog Motivate.Play.. Visit his webpage here.

Ke Sang

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

Samantha Cohen

Samantha Cohen is earning a joint Ph. D. in Psychology and Cognitive Science. Prior to joining the ABC lab, she studied Social Cognition as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois. Her research interests broadly cover decision-making and choice behavior in adaptive environments. She is especially interested in how individuals search for collaborative, cooperative, and reproductive partners in a number of settings using both experimental and third-party data, and how ecological and evolutionary forces impact human social and search behavior.

Undergraduate Students

Niyati Shah

Niyati is a senior at Indiana University and is studying Biology with minors in Spanish, Nutrition Science, and Chemistry. She has spent four years working in the ABC West lab assisting Kate Sanders and now working on her own experiment! She is interested in food psychology and seeks to learn more about the impact of taste on behavior cross-culturally. Niyati plans to attend dental school in the future.

Sarah Whaley

Sarah is originally from Columbus, Indiana. She is currently a sophomore at Indiana University double majoring in Journalism and Cognitive Science. Sarah is passionate about writing and understanding human cognition, and she is exploring ways in which she can use both interests in a future career. She is particularly interested in studying human empathy and its implications for modern society.

Alec Dennis

Alec Dennis is a junior majoring in Behavioral Economics and Political Science, pursuing the Liberal Arts and Management Program certificate, and minoring in mathematics. He is interested in learning the science behind what makes people decide to do the things they do. He is also interested in understanding how people can be predictably irrational. He wants to practically apply this knowledge in his work after graduation.

Lab Manager

Brianne Eby

Brianne is originally from Dayton, Ohio, and received her undergraduate degree in Psychology at IU in May 2013. She is interested in decision-making, particularly with respect to food and to climate change. In the spring of 2012, she spent the semester in Aix-en-Provence, France, where she began her senior Honors Thesis on moral balancing in food choices.

Research Assistants

Yingying Chen

Yingying Chen is a junior majoring in Psychology, and is mostly interested in behavioral and social psychology. After graduating from IU, she plans to pursue her masters degree either in Cognitive Psychology or Counseling Psychology.

Tadd Vangundy

Tadd Vangundy is originally from New Castle, Indiana. He is now a Senior at Indiana University working on a major in Psychology and minors in Biology, Human Sexuality, and Gender Studies. His primary interest is the science behind attraction, and he hopes to, one day, become a Psychology professor and to continue doing research on sexuality and attraction.

Sasha Zawadsky-Weist

A Senior at Indiana University, Sasha is originally from West Lafayette, Indiana. She is double-majoring in Psychology and Spanish and is pursuing a minor in Brazilian Portuguese. Sasha is exploring graduate programs and future careers, potentially in social work, that will allow her to integrate her passion for languages and her interest in cognitive science.

Kate Samson

Kate is in her third year of undergraduate work at IU. She studies Cognitive Science and Philosophy, with minors in music and ethnomusicology. Kate is interested linguistics, memory, and human creativity.

Lab Alumni

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.