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Jerome Busemeyer
Department of Psychology

Richard Doty
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Wednesday, June 11, 2003

IUB psychologist studies decision-making by drug abusers, military leaders, consumers

Our judgment and decision-making processes -- especially in the context of substance abuse, military battlefields and consumer behavior -- are the subject of research by Jerome Busemeyer, professor of psychology at Indiana University Bloomington.

Busemeyer, a cognitive scientist who directs the Decision Research Laboratory at IU, has received nearly $4 million in research grants in recent years from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. He has studied decision-making for more than 20 years.

"Addictive substances such as cocaine, heroin and alcohol damage the dopamine system in the brain, which is important for learning and motivation," explained the IU psychologist. "Because their learning and motivational systems are damaged, abusers can seek out drugs or alcohol without thinking enough about the negative consequences."

Busemeyer's research is trying to connect the clinical behavior of drug abuse with the neuro-physiological damage caused by drug abuse. When the decision-making deficits are identified, he said, treatments can be designed to overcome them.

Busemeyer and his laboratory colleagues, IU psychology professors Julie Stout and Peter Finn, develop computer models that can be used to determine whether the cognitive problem with addicts is the learning process, the motivation process or the decision-making process.

Busemeyer said his research also has military implications. "In much the same way as doctors use X-rays as an aid in making decisions, the military uses radar images to detect incoming missiles. We want to know how time and stress factors influence making correct decisions, and we are developing computer models to evaluate these strategic choices," he said.

Another area of his decision-making research involves consumer behavior. Busemeyer is developing computer models that predict the effect on consumers when a new product is added to the marketplace. Collaborating on this research are Shailendra Mehta and Alok Chaturvedi, both professors in the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University.

Busemeyer said a practical application of his research involves developing models to address decision-making in the elderly and in those suffering from Parkinson's or Huntington disease.

For more information, contact Busemeyer at 812-855-4882 or