Steven A. SlomanProfessor of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences
Steven Sloman received his B.Sc. from the University of Toronto in 1986 and his Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University in 1990. He is a computationally oriented cognitive scientist who studies how people think. He has been at Brown since 1992. He is currently Editor-in-Chief of the journal Cognition.
Saporta, K., Danziger, S., & Sloman, S. A. (in press). Causal models drive preference between drugs that treat a focral versus multiple symptoms. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making.
Zemla, J. C., Sloman, S. A., Bechlivanidis, C., & Lagnado, D. A. (in press). Evaluating everyday explanations. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.
Sloman, S. A. & Rabb, N. (in press). Your understanding is my understanding: evidence for a community of knowledge. Psychological Science.
Walters, D., Fernbach, D., Fox, C.R., & Sloman, S. A. (in press). Known unknowns: A critical determinant of confidence and calibration. Management Science.
Sloman, S. A. (2016). Editorial: Introducing a fund for open-access fees. Cognition.
Sloman, S. A. (2015). Opening editorial: The changing face of Cognition. Cognition, 135, 1-3.
Sloman, S. A. & Lagnado, D. (2015). Causality in thought. Annual Review of Psychology,66, 223-247.
Hadjichristidis, C, Sloman, S. A., & Over, D. (2014). Categorical Induction from Uncertain Premises: Jeffrey’s Doesn’t Completely Rule. Thinking & Reasoning.
Park, J. & Sloman, S. A. (in press). Causal explanation in the face of contradiction. Memory and Cognition.
Sloman, S. A. (2014). Comments on quantum probability theory. Topics in Cognitive Science, 6, 47-52.
Fernbach, P. M., Hagmayer, Y., & Sloman, S. A., (2014). Effort denial in self-deception. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 123, 1-8.
Park, J. & Sloman, S. A. (2013). Mechanistic beliefs determine adherence to the Markov property in causal reasoning. Cognitive Psychology, 67, 186-216.
Goldin, G., van’t Wout, M., Sloman, S. A., Evans, D. W., Greenberg, B. D., & Rasmussen, S. A. (2013). Risk judgment in obsessive-compulsive disorder: Testing a dual-systems account. Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, 2, 406-411.
Martin, J. W. & Sloman, S. A. (2013). Refining the dual-system theory of choice. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 23, 552-555.
Sloman, S. A. (2013). Counterfactuals and causal models: Introduction to the special issue. Cognitive Science, 37, 969-976.
Hattori, M., Sloman, S. A., & Orita, R. (2013). Effects of subliminal hints on insight problem solving. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 20, 790-797.
Fernbach, P. M., Rogers, T., Fox, C., & Sloman, S. A., (2013). Political extremism is supported by an illusion of understanding. Psychological Science, 24, 939-946.
Fernbach, P. M., Sloman, S. A., St. Louis, R. & Shube, J. N. (2013). Explanation fiends and foes: how mechanistic detail determines understanding and preference. Journal of Consumer Research, 39, 1115-1131.
Bonnefon, J. F. & Sloman, S. A. (2013). The causal structure of utility conditionals. Cognitive Science, 37, 193-209.
Sloman, S. A., & Fernbach, P. M. (2012). Human representation and reasoning about complex Causal Systems. In W.B. Rouse, K. R. Boff & P. Sanderson (Eds.). Information · Knowledge · Systems Management, 10, 85-99.
Bes, B., Sloman, S. A., Lucas, C. G., Raufaste, E. (2012). Non-Bayesian inference: Causal structure trumps correlation. Cognitive Science, 36, 1178-1203.
Swirsky, C. L., Fernbach, P. M., & Sloman, S. A. (2011). An illusion of control modulates the reluctance to tempt fate. Judgment and Decision Making, 688-696.
Fernbach, P. M., Darlow, A., & Sloman, S. A. (2011). When good evidence goes bad: The weak evidence effect in judgment and decision-making. Cognition, 119, 459-467.
Fernbach, P. M., Darlow, A., & Sloman, S. A. (2011). Asymmetries in causal and diagnostic reasoning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 140 (2), 168-185.
Walsh, C. R. & Sloman, S. A. (2011). The meaning of cause and prevent: The role of causal mechanism. Mind and Language, 26, 21-52.
Sloman, S. A., Fernbach, P. M., & Hagmayer, Y. (2010). Self deception requires vagueness. Cognition, 115, 268-281.
Robinson, A. E., Sloman, S. A., Hagmayer, Y., & Hertzog, C. K. (2010). Causality in solving economic problems. Journal of Problem Solving, 3, 106-130.
Fernbach, P. M., Darlow, A. & Sloman, S. A. (2010). Neglect of alternative causes in predictive but not diagnostic reasoning. Psychological Science, 21(3), 329-336..
Darlow, A. & Sloman, S. A. (2010). Two systems of reasoning: Architecture and relation to emotion. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews Cognitive Science, 1, 382-392.
Hagmayer, Y. & Sloman, S. A. (2009). Decision makers conceive of themselves as interveners, not observers. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 138, 22-38.
Fernbach, P. M. & Sloman, S. A. (2009). Causal learning with local computations. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 35, 678-693.
Sloman, S. A., Barbey, A. K. & Hotaling, J. (2009). A causal model theory of the meaning of cause, enable, and prevent. Cognitive Science, 33, 21-50.
Barbey, A. K. & Sloman, S. A. (2007). Base-rate respect: From ecological rationality to dual processes. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 30, 241-254.
Barbey, A. K. & Sloman, S. A. (2007). Base-rate respect: From statistical formats to cognitive structures. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 30, 287-298.
Hadjichristidis, C, Handley, S, Sloman, S. A., Evans, J., Over, D, & Stevenson, R. (2007). Iffy beliefs: Conditional thinking and belief change. Memory & Cognition, 35, 2052-2059.
Malt, B. C., & Sloman, S. A. (2007). Category essence or essentially pragmatic? Creator's intention in naming and what's really what. Cognition, 105, 615-648.
Malt, B. C., & Sloman, S. A. (2007). More than words, but still not categorization. Cognition, 105, 656-657.
Over, D., Hadjichristidis, C., Evans, J. St BT. Handley, S. J., & Sloman, S. A. (2007). The probability of causal conditionals. Cognitive Psychology, 54, 62-97.
Sloman, S. A. & Hagmayer, Y. (2006). The causal psycho-logic of choice. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10, 407-412.
Lagnado, D. & Sloman, S.A. (2006). Time as a guide to cause. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 32, 451-460.
Ameel, E., Storms, G., Malt, B. C., & Sloman, S. A. (2005). How bilinguals solve the naming problem. Journal of Memory and Language, 52, 309-329.
Sloman, S.A., & Lagnado, D. (2005). Do we “do”? Cognitive Science, 29. 5-39.
Mochon, D. & Sloman, S. A. (2004). Causal models frame interpretation of mathematical equations. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 11, 1099-1104.
Malt, B.C. & Sloman, S.A. (2004). Beyond conceptual pacts: Enduring influences on lexical choice in conversation. Memory & Cognition, 32,1346-1354.
Chaigneau, S. E., Barsalou, L. W., & Sloman, S.A. (2004). Assessing affordance and intention in the HIPE theory of function. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 133, 601-625.
Lagnado, D. & Sloman, S.A. (2004). The advantage of timely intervention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 30, 856-876.
Sloman, S.A., Rottenstreich, Y., Wisniewski, E., Hadjichristidis, C., & Fox, C. R. (2004). Typical versus atypical unpacking and superadditive probability judgment. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 30, 573-582.
Malt, B.C., Sloman, S.A., & Gennari, S. (2003). Universality and language specificity in object naming. Journal of Memory and Language, 49, 20-42.
Sloman, S. A. & Malt, B. C. (2003). Artifacts are not ascribed essences, nor are they treated as belonging to kinds. Language and Cognitive Processes, 18, 563-582.
Malt, B.C., & Sloman, S.A. (2003). Linguistic diversity and object naming by non-native speakers of English. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 6, 47-67.
Sloman, S. A., Over, D. Slovak, L., & Stibel, J. (2003). Frequency illusions and other fallacies. Organizational Behavior & Human Decision Processes, 91, 296-309.
Sloman, S. A., Harrison, M. & Malt, B. C. (2002). Recent exposure affects artifact naming. Memory & Cognition, 30, 687-695.
Poses, R. M., Krueger, J., Sloman, S. A., & Elstein, A. S. (2002). Physicians’ judgments of survival after medical management and mortality risk reduction due to revascularization procedures for patients with coronary artery disease. Chest, 122, 122-133.
Gennari, S. P., Sloman, S. A. Malt, B. C., & Fitch, W. T. (2002). Motion events in language and cognition. Cognition, 83, 49-79.
Almor, A. & Sloman, S. A. (2000). Reasoning versus memory in the Wason selection task - a non-deontic perspective on perspective effects. Memory & Cognition, 28, 1060-1070.
Staller, A., Sloman, A., & Ben-Zeev, T. (2000). Perspective effects in non-deontic versions of the Wason selection task. Memory & Cognition, 28, 396-405.
Sloman, S. A., & Ahn, W. (1999). Feature centrality: naming versus imagining. Memory & Cognition, 27, 526-537.
Malt, B. C., Sloman, S. A., Gennari, S., Shi, M., & Wang, Y. (1999). Knowing versus naming: similarity and the linguistic categorization of artifacts. Journal of Memory and Language, 40, 230-262.
Sloman, S. A., Love, B. C., & Ahn, W. (1998). Feature centrality and conceptual coherence. Cognitive Science, 22, 189-228.
Sloman, S. A. & Rips, L. J. (1998). Similarity as an explanatory construct. Cognition, 65, 87-101.
Sloman, S. A.. (1998). Categorical inference is not a tree: The myth of inheritance hierarchies. Cognitive Psychology, 35, 1-33.
Sloman, S. A. (1997). Explanatory coherence and the induction of properties. Thinking and Reasoning, 3, 81-110.
Almor, A. & Sloman, S. A. (1996). Is deontic reasoning special? Psychological Review, 103, 374-380.
Sloman, S. A. (1996). The probative value of simultaneous contradictory belief: Reply to Gigerenzer and Regier (1996). Psychological Bulletin, 119, 27-30.
Sloman, S. A. (1996). The empirical case for two systems of reasoning. Psychological Bulletin, 119, 3-22.
Sloman, S. A. (1994). When explanations compete: The role of explanatory coherence on judgments of likelihood. Cognition, 52, 1-21. Reprinted in Jonathan Adler & Lance Rips (Eds.). Reasoning: Studies of human inference and its foundations. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Smith, E. E. & Sloman, S. A. (1994). Similarity versus rule-based categorization. Memory & Cognition, 22, 377-386.
Sloman, S. A. (1993). Feature-based induction. Cognitive Psychology, 25, 231-280.
Sloman, S. A., Bower, G. H., & Rohrer, D. (1991). Congruency effects in part-list cuing inhibition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 17, 974-982.
Sloman, S. A., Hayman, C. A. G., Ohta, N., Law, J., & Tulving E. (1988). Forgetting in primed fragment completion. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 14, 223-239.
Sloman, S. A., & Sloman, L. (1988). Mate selection in the service of human evolution. Journal of Social and Biological Structures, 11, 457-468.
Steve has studied how people categorize the world and the relation between our names for things and our thoughts about things. He has also studied inductive inference, judgments of probability, decision making, and reasoning. Much of his work in recent years has focused on how people reason causally about the world. These interests are reflected in his book, Causal Models: How We Think About the World and Its Alternatives, published by Oxford University Press in 2005.
His current focus concerns ignorance and the community of knowledge. The illusion of explanatory depth is the finding that people think they understand how things work better than they in fact do. Steve believes this illusion of understanding emerges because people fail to distinguish what others know from what they themselves know. They think they understand more than they do because they confuse other people’s knowledge for their own. Such confusion arises because much of what we know doesn’t reside in heads. Rather, it resides in the community of knowledge that we participate in. These ideas are spelled out in a popular book written with Steve’s ex-student Phil Fernbach: The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone (Riverhead Press, 2017).
Steven Sloman's research focuses on the community of knowledge, causal reasoning, decision-making, and categorization. He is concerned with the cognitive processes underlying inductive inference. How are people able, despite limited knowledge and experience, to adapt and reason in a world that is constantly changing? His main approach is to experimentally test formal models of decision making, reasoning and judgment. His primary focus nowadays is in how people integrate their knowledge with other people's knowledge and how they get their sense of knowlng from their community.
Another set of issues Sloman studies concerns how people reason about cause. We draw causal inferences every time we make a decision because we have to reason about the consequences of the options available to us. Causation is special because all knowledge may be structured around our understanding of causal mechanism. Yet, causal relations cannot directly be observed and seem to require an assessment of counterfactuals, events that have not actually occurred. (Simplifying, if A causes B, then B wouldn't have occurred if A hadn't, even if A did occur.)
Ongoing research examines the viability of formal, probabilistic models of causal and counterfactual inference and induction. One focus concerns people's sensitivity to the distinction between observation and action. Through action, people can run mini-experiments that might afford causal inference.
Sloman also studies several issues of categorization. First, do people have fixed categories of things in their heads or are categories completely determined by specific categorization tasks? For example, how well do the categories we use to name things correspond to the categories we use to induce the properties of things? Second, what are the "core" or central properties of an object and what makes them so important? The answer may have something to do with the causal activities that we engage in with the object.
Sloman also studies judgments of confidence and probability. The goal in this research is to understand the principles of coherence that underlie our beliefs. What makes evidence seem consistent with an hypothesis? In what sense and to what degree do our judgments have a rational basis?
Minimal Causal Explanation. The Varieties of Understanding Project at Fordham University and The John Templeton Foundation. PI. 2014-2016. $216,000.
Effects of prisoner re-entry context on cognitive ability to manage mental health at reentry. National Institutes of Health R21. PI Jennifer Johnson. Co-PI. $108,781.
Opening minds by exposing the illusion of understanding. Fuller Theological Seminary, Thrive Center, and The John Templeton Foundation. PI. 2013-2014. $270,000.
Providing Causal Context in Resident Hand-offs to Optimize Situational Awareness and Reduce Errors. Department of Pediatrics, Hasbro Children’s Hospital. Co-PI. 2010-2011. $19,000.
Optimizing Resident Hand-Offs Using Cognitive Science and Industrial Design Principles. Rhode Island Hospital RISE Loss Prevention Grant, Senior Personnel. 2010-2012. $200,000.
Designing Consumer Products to Cue Causal Reasoning. Unilever Corporation, Sloman, S. A. (2010-2011). $202,000.
Causal models of decision making: Choice as intervention. National Science Foundation. Sloman, S. A. (2005-). $300,000.
Belief Revision. Templeton Foundation. Sloman, S. A. (2005). $1200.
Causal Reasoning. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Sloman, S. A. (PI) (2001-2004). $460,201.
Belief Revision and Uncertain Reasoning. Economic and Social Research Council (UK) (participating faculty). £118,810.
Learning and action in the face of uncertainty. National Science Foundation Interdisciplinary Graduate Education and Research Training grant (participating faculty). $2,658,195.
Project to evaluate practice patterns. Merck Pharmaceuticals. Poses, R. M., Chaput de Saintonge, M., Gatsonis, C., Sloman, S. A. (Consultant), Krueger, J., Smith, W. R., Tape, T. G., Wigton, R. S., Seymour, D. G., McClish, D. K., Kiefe, C., Derby, C., Barbour, M., Gifford, D. R., Leavitt, J., Canistra, A. J. & Carleton, R. A. Received 9/97.
Concept structure and category boundaries. National Institutes of Mental Health Grant (MH51271-01A3). Malt, B. & Sloman, S. A. (Co-PI). Received 9/1/96 (through 9/1/99). $420,000.
Elected Fellow of the Eastern Psychological Association, 2010
Robert J. Glushko Distinguished Visiting Scholar in Cognitive Science, University of California, Berkeley. 2009
Elected Fellow of the American Psychological Society, 2009
Cognitive Science Society
American Psychological Society
Eastern Psychological Association
Currently, I teach a general introduction to cognition that focuses on theories and experimental studies of cognition. I also teach a more advanced course on topics in higher-level cognition that reviews work on categorization, judgment, decision-making, and reasoning. I teach both an undergraduate- and a graduate-level version of this course. I teach an introductory course on decision-making that covers theories about normative decision-making (how people would decide if they were perfectly rational), as well as theories and studies of how people actually do make decisions. Finally, I teach special topics courses on such subjects as causal reasoning and metaphor and thought.
CLPS 0220 - Making Decisions. Spring 2015.
CLPS 1200 - Thinking. Spring 2016.
CLPS 1241 - Causal Reasoning (formerly COGS 1860C). Fall 2013.
CLPS 1290 - Laboratory in Cognitive Processes. Fall 2014.
CLPS 2000 - Graduate Proseminar. Fall 2015.
CLPS 2200 - Core Topics in Cognition (formerly COGS 2200A). Fall 2013.