Faculty & Research

Nicholas Epley

Nicholas Epley

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

Nicholas Epley is the John Templeton Keller Professor of Behavior Science and Director of the Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He studies social cognition—how thinking people think about other thinking people—to understand why smart people so routinely misunderstand each other. He teaches an ethics and wellbeing course to MBA students called Designing a Good Life.

His research has appeared in more than two dozen empirical journals, been featured by
the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Wired, and National Public Radio, among many others, and has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Templeton Foundation. He has been awarded the 2008 Theoretical Innovation Award from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, the 2011 Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology from the American Psychological Association, the 2015 Book Prize for the Promotion of Social and Personality Science, and the 2018 Career Trajectory Award from the Society for Experimental Social Psychology. Epley was named a "professor to watch" by the Financial Times, one of the "World's Best 40 under 40 Business School Professors" by Poets and Quants, and one of the 100 Most Influential in Business Ethics in 2015 by Ethisphere. He is the author of Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want.


2020 - 2021 Course Schedule

Number Title Quarter
38119 Designing a Good Life 2021  (Winter)


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 ...