Research Interests



Media Coverage





Research Interests


General research statement

Human thinking often relies on prior knowledge and intuitive beliefs. These intuitions can provide us with valid problem solutions but sometimes also bias our judgment. For example, stereotypical beliefs about Africans or Muslims can severely affect an employer’s evaluation of an applicant’s job performance. Likewise, when asked whether taking the plane is safer than taking the car many people overestimate the risks of flying because of the dreadful images of crashing planes and terrorist attacks they intuitively think of. My research tries to pinpoint how such stereotypical beliefs and “gut feelings” are precisely affecting peoples’ reasoning and why some people, sometimes, manage to refrain from using them. This work is rooted in research on working memory, conflict monitoring, inhibition and dual process theories of thinking.
Some specific points

… Dual process theories of the mind …
Should human thinking be described as an interplay of an intuitive and a logical reasoning process? How does the intuitive system work? How do people retrieve prior beliefs during reasoning? How does the logical system work? Are we aware that intuitive and logical problem solutions conflict? How do we detect the conflict? How do we resolve it? Which one of these components is responsible for individual differences in reasoning ability?
… Neural basis of reasoning and decision making …
Together with a number of collaborators I'm exploring the brain regions that mediate conflict monitoring, response inhibition, and intuitive vs. logical thinking during decision making.
… Development of reasoning and decision making …
With the help of some talented students I’m also running developmental studies that explore the impact of children’s growing knowledge base on their reasoning and decision making. Since children lack many of the stereotypes that bias adults’ reasoning it has been shown that children are sometimes more logical than adults. Our studies try to clarify what happens when very young children are tested with stereotypes they are familiar with. Special interest goes to the development of the conflict detection and resolution process.
… Power of unconscious thinking …
In the scientific literature we are typically quite negative about intuitive thinking. We tend to focus on the fact that intuitive responses and snap judgments are quite frequently biasing sound reasoning. Of course, following your “gut feeling” is not always wrong. In the more popular literature there are numerous examples of the benefits of making unconscious decisions. Malcolm Gladwell’s best-seller “Blink” is probably one of the most famous examples. I know that phrases like “learning to use your unconscious power” can sound a bit tacky at times but the basic idea behind it is nevertheless intriguing. I’m interested in the empirical exploration of the characteristics of intuitive reasoning. In the end this should also allow us to define what intuitive or unconscious thinking really is and under which circumstances it is useful. Who knows, maybe it will allow me to write my own million dollar selling book one day … I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
… Miscellaneous …
Other side projects I’m working on are the measurement of peoples’ cognitive capacities (more specifically the development of working memory tests), and the role and nature of implicit assumptions (so-called implicatures) in human communication.
… Research funding …
My research is funded by the French national research agency (CNRS). I started working as a tenured CNRS research scientist at the University of Toulouse in 2010 and moved to Paris Descartes University in 2012. Before I joined CNRS I worked at the University of Leuven (Belgium), York University (Toronto, Canada), and the University of California Santa Barbara (USA).

… Editorial activities …

In the past I served as Associate Editor for Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. I'm currently a Consulting Editor for the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General and Thinking & Reasoning.