Shenghua Luan (Beijing)

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Elizabeth Bowman

  • Seminar series

Bonn-Melbourne Seminar Series in Decision Making and Computational Psychiatry

Smart Heuristics: How to Make Good Decisions in a World of Uncertainty

Shenghua Luan

Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China


The word “heuristic” originates in ancient Greek, referring to simple methods, processes, and strategies that can help people solve problems. “Smart” heuristics are heuristics that are well-suited to a task, allowing us to make decisions quickly, frugally, as well as accurately. In this talk, I will present two studies of smart heuristics. Study 1 focuses on a heuristic called “∆-inference.” In a personnel selection task, where the goal is to choose the better job candidate of two, we show that ∆-inference makes more accurate selection decisions than logistic regression and three machine-learning algorithms. Study 2 introduces a class of heuristics called “fast- and-frugal trees.” In a task that classifies high- and low-risk companies applying for bank loans, we constructed a fast-and-frugal tree whose classification accuracy is on par with that of eight machine-learning algorithms. These two studies demonstrate that in the world of uncertainty and without the luxury of big data, smart heuristics can lead to good decisions, while being transparent, interpretable, and easy to learn.

Thursday, 30th March 2023, 9am (CEST) / 6:00 pm AEDT

About the series:
The Bonn-Melbourne Seminar Series in Decision Making and Computational Psychiatry is part of the joint doctoral training and research collaboration at the intersection of decision neuroscience and computational psychiatry between the University of Bonn (spokesperson: Ulrich Ettinger) and the University of Melbourne (spokesperson: Carsten Murawski).

The online seminars take place on Thursdays at 9:00 am (CEST)/6 pm (AEDT). Talks are 45 minutes long plus 15 minutes for questions and discussion. The target audience consists of students, PhD students, postdocs and researchers from both Bonn and Melbourne who have an interest in decision-making and computational psychiatry research.

More information about the seminar series is available here:

If you wish to take part, please feel free to contact us!