Faculty & Research

Nicholas Epley

Nicholas Epley

John Templeton Keller Professor of Behavioral Science and Neubauer Family Faculty Fellow

Nicholas Epley conducts research on the experimental study of social cognition, perspective taking, and intuitive human judgment. "Most people are intuitive psychologists in their daily lives - wondering why people think or behave as they do. I just happened to find a profession that enables me to answer these questions for a living," explains Epley.

His research has appeared in more than two dozen journals, including the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Science, Psychological Review, and the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. His research also has been featured by the Wall Street Journal, CNN, Wired, and National Public Radio, among many others, has been funded by the National Science Foundation, and has earned the 2008 Theoretical Innovation Award from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology and the 2011 Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contributions from the American Psychological Association. He is the author of Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want.

Epley received a bachelor's degree in psychology and philosophy in 1996 from Saint Olaf College. In 2001, he graduated from Cornell University with a PhD in psychology, where he earned a Graduate Teaching Award from the Department of Psychology as well as a Cornell University Teaching Fellowship. Epley became an Assistant Professor at Harvard University, and then joined the Chicago Booth faculty in 2005. He hopes that his students gain an appreciation for the power of scientific methodologies to provide accurate knowledge about the determinants of human thought and behavior.


2019 - 2020 Course Schedule

Number Title Quarter
38119 Designing a Good Life 2020 (Winter)
38870 Designing a Good Life 2020 (Summer)

Other Interests

Family, hiking, fishing, gardening.


Research Activities

Experimental study of social cognition; perspective taking; and intuitive human judgment.

Epley, N., & Waytz, A. (2009).

Mind Perception. In S.T. Fiske, D.T. Gilbert, & G. Lindsay, (Eds.), The Handbook of Social Psychology (5th ed., Vol I., pp. 498-541).

New York: Wiley. Epley, N., Waytz, A., Akalis, S., & Cacioppo, J.T. (2008).

Creating social connection through inferential reproduction: Loneliness and perceived agency in gadgets, gods, and greyhounds. Psychological Science, 19, 114-120. Epley, N., Waytz, A., & Cacioppo, J.T. (2008).

On seeing human: A three-factor theory of anthropomorphism. Psychological Review, 114, 864-886. Epley, N., Caruso, E.M., & Bazerman, M.H. (2006).

When perspective taking increases taking: Reactive Egoism in social interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 872-889. Epley, N., Keysar, B., Van Boven, L., & Gilovich, T. (2004).

Perspective taking as egocentric anchoring and adjustment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

For a listing of research publications, please visit the university library listing page.

New: Worth Keeping but Not Exceeding: Asymmetric Consequences of Breaking versus Exceeding Promises
Date Posted: Mar  14, 2013
Promises are social contracts that can be broken, kept, or exceeded. Breaking one's promise is evaluated more negatively than keeping one's promise. Does expending more effort to exceed a promise lead to equivalently more positive evaluations? Although linear in their outcomes, we expected an asymmetry in evaluations of broken, kept, and exceeded promises. Whereas breaking one's promise is obviously negative compared to keeping a promise, we predicted that exceeding one's promise would not be ...

New: The Unpacking Effect in Evaluative Judgments: When the Whole is Less than the Sum of its Parts
Date Posted: May  31, 2012
Any category or event can be described in more or less detail. Although these different descriptions can reflect the same event objectively, they may not reflect the same event subjectively. Research on Support Theory led us to predict that more detailed descriptions would produce more extreme evaluations of categories or events than less detailed descriptions. Four experiments demonstrated this unpacking effect when people were presented with (Experiments 1 and 4), generated (Experiment 2), ...

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Perspective Taking in Groups
Date Posted: Apr  01, 2008
Group members often reason egocentrically, both when allocating responsibility for collective endeavors and when assessing the fairness of group outcomes. These self-centered judgments are reduced when participants consider their other group members individually or actively adopt their perspectives. However, reducing an egocentric focus through perspective taking may also invoke cynical theories about how others will behave, particularly in competitive contexts. Expecting more selfish behavior ...

New: The Framing of Financial Windfalls and Implications for Public Policy
Date Posted: Jan  27, 2008
Governments, employers, and companies provide financial windfalls to individuals with some regularity. Recent evidence suggests the framing (or description) of these windfalls can dramatically influence their consumption. In particular, objectively identical income described as a positive departure from the status quo (e.g., as a bonus) is more readily spent than income described as a return to the status quo (e.g., as a rebate). Such findings are consistent with psychological accounts of ...

When Perspective Taking Increases Taking: Reactive Egoism in Social Interaction
Date Posted: Aug  23, 2005
Group members often reason egocentrically, believing that they deserve more than their fair share of group resources. Leading people to consider others members' perspectives can reduce these egocentric (self-centered) judgments, such that people claim that it is fair for them to take less, but it actually increases egoistic (selfish) behavior, such that people actually take more of available resources. Four experiments demonstrate this pattern in competitive contexts where considering others' ...

The Costs and Benefits of Undoing Egocentric Responsibility Assessments in Groups
Date Posted: Jun  07, 2005
Individuals working in groups often egocentrically believe they have contributed more of the total work than is logically possible. Actively considering others' contributions effectively reduces these egocentric assessments, but this research suggests that undoing egocentric biases in groups may have some unexpected costs. Five experiments demonstrate that considering others' contributions effectively reduces egocentric responsibility allocations, but that it also reduces satisfaction and ...