Research Interests

Wishful Thinking

Wanting something to happen doesn't make it more likely to occur. However, we have found that people tend to inflate the likelihood of their desired outcomes happening and, therefore, prepare for the desired outcome. This can, of course, cause people to be underprepared for undesired outcomes. We have also looked at how desire influences how people search for information, and how factors like people’s current mood might influence their tendency to engage in wishful thinking.

Risk Taking

When deciding to ask someone out on a date, people must weigh the potential benefits (going on a date) with the potential costs (being rejected). People make these types of assessments quite often. When deciding to invest in a company, apply for a job, or go bungee jumping, people must decide whether to take the risk or play it safe. My research focuses on situational and personality factors that influence people's willingness to take risks. For example, we have investigated whether (and when) anxiety influences risk taking, and whether people become more or less risky when they are observed by other people.

Estimating Averages

People must often make judgments about the average or typical member of a group. For example, a teacher might estimate how well his students, on average, understood his lecture. Or, a coach might estimate the speed of the typical player on an opposing team. People are actually fairly good at making these types of average judgment. However, we have also found that people are predictably biased. People’s estimates tend to increase as the number of people in the group increase—that is, they exhibit a sample size bias.

Anchoring Effects

People often come across numeric values before they provide numeric estimates. For example, before indicating how much money a plaintiff should be awarded for pain and suffering, a juror will see how much money the plaintiff requested. Numerous studies have demonstrated that people's numeric estimates are influenced by exposure to numeric anchors. My research focuses on factors that might mitigate anchoring effects and on the consequences of providing biased estimates.


Smith, A. R., Rule, S., & Price, P. C. (in press). Sample size bias in retrospective estimates of average duration. Acta Psychologica. [PDF]

Windschitl, P. D., Smith, A. R., Scherer, A. M., & Suls, J. (in press). Risk it? Direct and collateral impacts of peers’ verbal expressions about hazard likelihoods. Thinking & Reasoning. [PDF]

Smith, A. R. & Marshall, L. D. (in press). Confidently biased: Comparisons with anchors bias estimates and increase confidence. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. [PDF]

Stuart, J. O., Windschitl, P. D., Smith, A. R., & Scherer, A. M. (2017). Behaving optimistically: How the (un)desirability of an outcome can bias people's preparations for it. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 30, 54-69. [PDF]

Smith, A. R., Ebert, E. E., & Broman-Fulks, J. J. (2016). The relationship between anxiety and risk taking is moderated by ambiguity. Personality and Individual Differences, 95, 40-44. [PDF]

Scherer, A. M., Bruchmann, K., Windschitl, P. D., Rose, J. P., Smith, A. R., Koestner, B., Snetselaar, L., & Suls, J. (2016). Sources of bias in peoples’ social-comparative estimates of food consumption. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 22, 173-183. [PDF]

Smith, A. R. & Windschitl, P. D. (2015). Resisting anchoring effects: The roles of metric and mapping knowledge. Memory & Cognition, 43, 1071-1084. [PDF]

Price, P. C. & Kimura, N. M., Smith, A. R., & Marshall, L. D. (2014). Sample size bias in judgments of perceptual averages. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40, 1321-1331. [PDF]

Suls, J., Rose, J. P., Windschitl, P. D., & Smith, A. R. (2013). Optimism following a tornado disaster. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 691-702. [PDF]

Smith, A. R., Windschitl, P. D., & Bruchmann, K. (2013). Knowledge matters: Anchoring effects are moderated by knowledge level. European Journal of Social Psychology, 43, 97-108. [PDF]

Windschitl, P. D., Scherer, A. M., Smith, A. R., & Rose, J. P. (2013). Why so confident? The influence of outcome desirability on selective exposure and likelihood judgment. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 120, 73-86. [PDF]

Scherer, A. M., Windschitl, P. D., & Smith, A. R. (2013). Hope to be right: Biased information seeking following arbitrary and informed predictions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 106-112. [PDF]

Rose, J. P., Windschitl, P. D., & Smith, A. R. (2012). Debiasing egocentrism and optimism biases in repeated competitions. Judgment & Decision Making, 7, 761-767. [PDF]

Scherer, A. M., Windschitl, P. D., O'Rourke, J., & Smith, A. R. (2012). Hoping for more: The influence of outcome desirability on information seeking and predictions about relative quantities. Cognition, 125, 113-117. [PDF]

Smith, A. R. & Windschitl, P. D. (2011). Biased calculations: Numeric anchors influence answers to math equations. Judgment and Decision Making, 6, 139-146. [PDF]

Smith, A. R. & Price, P. C. (2010). Sample size bias in the estimation of means. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17, 499-503. [PDF]

Windschitl, P. D., Smith, A. R., Rose, J. P., & Krizan, Z. (2010). The desirability bias in predictions: Going optimistic without leaving realism. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 111, 33-47. [PDF]

Windschitl, P. D., Rose, J. P., Stalkfleet, M. T., & Smith, A. R. (2008) Are people excessive or judicious in their egocentrism? A modeling approach to understanding bias and accuracy in people's optimism within competitive contexts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 253-273. [PDF]

Price, P. C., Smith, A. R., & Lench, H. C. (2006). The effect of target group size on risk judgments and comparative optimism: The more the riskier. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 382-398. [PDF]