I. George Heyman University Professor of Psychology and Marketing
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.
She earned a Ph.D. in 1981 and an M.A. in 1978 in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.A. in 1974, also in psychology, from Berkeley.
About the Donor
Stephen J. Heyman, W'59, together with his wife, Barbara, created the Bess W. Heyman Professorship in 1989 to honor his mother and the I. George Heyman University Professorship in 2010 to honor his father.