Barbara Mellers has spent decades sifting through the complex dynamics of emotions and decision making, gleaning useful insights for individuals, business and political leaders, and organizations of all kinds. She recently applied her expertise in psychology and marketing research methods to transform a group of ordinary citizens into an elite group of super-forecasters whose predictions exceeded the accuracy of CIA analysts.
As co-leader of the team that won a political forecasting competition sponsored by the U.S. intelligence community's research organization, Mellers developed powerful techniques to tune intuition, quantify prediction probabilities, optimize teamwork, and hone computational analyses. Methods she developed for this four-year competition among five universities - known as The Good Judgment Project - are being adapted to enhance the accuracy, precision and timeliness of U.S. intelligence forecasts. She has also overturned assumptions about the wisdom of crowds, proving that well-structured and trained teams far outperform combined predictions from individuals. Fittingly, Mellers achieved these feats collaboratively with colleagues who are experts in statistics, computer science, economics, psychology, and political science, along with her spouse and co-leader Philip Tetlock.
Past president of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making, Mellers is a fellow of the American Psychological Society and serves an associate editor of Judgment and Decision Making. She publishes in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, the Journal of Consumer Research, Psychological Review, Psychological Bulletin and Psychological Science, and has received a Russell Sage Visiting Scholarship and a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award.
Mellers enjoys helping diverse organizations and individuals make better decisions to forecast and support success, applying her influential research and expertise in concepts such as choice, fairness, surprise, context and pleasure. She teaches a Wharton School course about ways to predict consumer behavior, assess customer preferences and shape global marketing strategies. Her undergraduate psychology course, Judgment and Decision Making, trains students to avoid flawed reasoning, and to help themselves and others make better choices.
- Behavioral decision theory
- Preference measurement
- Policy implications
Decision Science and Technology: Reflections on the Contributions of Ward Edwards, 2012 (with James Shanteau and David A. Schum)
Psychological Perspectives on Justice: Theory and Applications, 1993 (with Jonathan Baron)
Academic Writings (Selected)
Mellers, B. A., Ungar, L., Baron, J., Ramos, J., Gurcay, B., Fincher, K., Scott, S., Moore, D., Atanasov, P., Swift, S., Murray, T., & Tetlock, P. (2014). Psychological Strategies for Winning a Geopolitical Forecasting Tournament. Psychological Science, In press.
Mellers, B.A., Fincher, K. Drummond, C., & Bigony, M. (2013). Surprise: A belief or an emotion? In V. S. Chandrasekhar Pammi, editors: Decision making: neural and behavioural approaches, Vol 202, PBR, Chennai: Elsevier, 2013, pp. 1-20.
Tetlock, P.E., & Mellers, B.A. (2011). Intelligent management of intelligence agencies: Escaping the accountability blame game by signaling commitment to trans-ideological epistemic values. American Psychologist.
Mellers, B.A., & Ritov, I. (2010). How beliefs influence the relative magnitude of pleasure and pain, Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. 23, 369-382.
Mellers, B.A., Haselhuhn, M. Tetlock, P., Silva, J., Isen, A. (2010). Predicting behavior in economic games by looking through the eyes of the players. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 139, 743-755.
Valenzuela, A., Mellers, B.A., & Strebel, J. (2010). Pleasurable surprises: A cross-cultural study of consumer responses to unexpected incentives. Journal of Consumer Research, 36, 792-805.
Rieskamp, J., Busemeyer, J., & Mellers, B.A. (2006.) Extending the bounds of rationality: Evidence and theories of preferential choice. Journal of Economic Literature, 44, 631-661.
For more of Mellers' publications, visit her Penn SAS faculty profile.
Interviews & Editorials (Selected)
"So You Think You're Smarter Than A CIA Agent?" NPR, April 02, 2014 [podcast + transcript]
"Research Heroes: Barbara Mellers," :InDecision:, September 23, 2013
"Forcasting Fox," The New York Times, March 21, 2013
"U. Appoints Two New 'Path-Breaking' Professors," The Daily Pennsylvanian, December 9, 2010
"Are You a Superforecaster? What Good Decision-makers Have in Common," (with Michael Platt) Knowledge@Wharton, March 7, 2017
"A Better Crystal Ball: Improving the Science of Forecasting," Knowledge@Wharton, May 2015
"Guest Lecture with Professor Barbara Mellers," Decision Education Foundation, November 2013
"Engaging Minds with Philip Tetlock and Barbara Mellers," University of Pennsylvania Alumni Speaker Series, Feb 7, 2012
"Professor Barbara Mellers Discusses the Dynamics of Decision Making," Wharton Magazine, March 1, 2011
Stephen J. Heyman
“I have long believed that the greatness of Penn is a direct result of great faculty. With the strength of our students and the breadth of Penn’s academic vision, it’s inspiring to see what superb scholars and teachers can accomplish here. I’m thrilled to make this gift and help propel our faculty to the highest level.”
- Stephen J. Heyman
Stephen J. Heyman, W'59, together with his wife, Barbara, created the I. George Heyman University Professorship in 2010 to honor his father. Stephen Heyman is a University of Pennsylvania Trustee Emeritus and a member of the School of Nursing Board of Overseers. He is a 2000 recipient of the Alumni Award of Merit, the University’s highest alumni honor.
Barbara Mellers was named the I. Geoge Heyman University Professor in December 2010.
- Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Psychology)
- M.A., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Psychology)
- B.A., University of California, Berkeley (Psychology)
Professional Associations & Affiliations
Additional Penn Profiles
Huntsman Hall, Room 753
3730 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Penn Arts & Sciences
Solomon Lab, Room C1
3720 Walnut Street
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