I am a Ph.D. student in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department at MIT, where I am co-advised by Drazen Prelec and Josh Tenenbaum. Outside of the BCS Department, I spend about half my time with the Sloan marketing group. Amongst other awards, I am a South African recipient of the International Fulbright Science and Technology Award.
I am interested in the processes underlying human judgment and decision making, and applying our knowledge of such processes to problems in marketing. I use a combination of behavioral experiments and formal modeling, drawing on ideas and techniques from psychology, economics, marketing, Bayesian statistics, and computer science.
Much of my current research focuses on the problem of aggregating judgments from many people, including in situations where the majority may be wrong and the truth may be unverifiable. I work on computational models for solving this problem, and psychological questions inspired by these models.
Crowds, and their wisdom
My collaborators and I have proposed a new solution to extracting wisdom from the crowd: select not the "most popular" answer, but rather the "surprisingly popular" answer. That is, elicit from each respondent both their own answer and their prediction about the answers of others and select the answer which is more popular than the crowd itself predicts. We justify this theoretically, and show that it delivers superior performance across a range of domains.
Prelec, D., Seung, H.S., and McCoy, J. “A solution to the single-question crowd wisdom problem” Nature, 2017, 541, 532-535.
In a new paper under submission, we draw on these ideas to develop a statistical model for belief aggregation that operates both on separate and multiple questions, and additionally infers respondent expertise.A selection of other ongoing projects in this space, with numerous collaborators, includes:
- Aggregating information to predict consumer's intent-to-purchase, both in the lab and field
- Aggregating information about continuous quantities, in the context of a large-scale expert economic and political forecasting task
- Aggregating information when the space of answers is unknown in advance
- Empirically testing and developing the psychological assumptions in our aggregation models
- Probabilistically detecting deception in the answers of respondents
Individuals, and their quirksOngoing projects on how people make judgments and decisions include:
- How people perform mind attribution, through having people engage in a Minimal Turing Test (with Tomer Ullman)
- How people imagine choices involving various kinds of transformative experiences, from the perspectives of metaphysics and cognitive science (with Laurie Paul and Tomer Ullman)
- How lay people and art professionals make aesthetic judgments, and aditionally how these can increase crowd wisdom (with Danielle Suh and Drazen Prelec)
- How people imagine possible worlds in the context of intuitive theories of physics (with Tomer Ullman)
- How people predict their future utility, and how utilities can be better elicited (with Carey Morewedge)
Graph theoryI have written some mathematics papers:
Henning, M.A., McCoy, J. and Southey, J. "Graphs with maximum size and given paired-domination number" Discrete Applied Mathematics, 2014, 170: 72-82.
Henning, M.A., and McCoy, J. "Which trees have a differentiating-paired dominating set?" Journal of combinatorial optimization, 2011, 22.1: 1-18.
Henning, M.A., and McCoy, J. "Total domination in planar graphs of diameter two" Discrete Mathematics, 2009, 309.21: 6181-6189.
McCoy, J., and Henning, M.A. "Locating and paired-dominating sets in graphs" Discrete Applied Mathematics, 2009, 157.15: 3268-3280.
Dorbec, P., Henning, M. A., & McCoy, J. "Upper total domination versus upper paired-domination" Quaestiones Mathematicae, 2007, 30(1), 1-12.