Research Projects

We are currently engaged in many fascinating projects and are always looking for new people interested in participating. If any of the projects below interest you, be sure to visit our contact us page to find out how to participate! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to send us an email.

Adaptive Learning Adaptive Learning

Lifespan developmental changes

The aim of this project is to study whether children and older adults differ from younger adults in how they update their beliefs in uncertain and changing environments. The goal is to develop mechanistic, neurobiologically plausible theories of lifespan age differences in adaptive learning. The project involves collaborations with Rasmus Bruckner (FU Berlin) and Dr. Matthew Nassar (Brown University) and is supported by the Canada Research Chair (CRC).

New Preprint: In this work a new theoretical account is used to explain the relationship between perseveration and greater environmental control in children and older adults.

Key publications:
Nassar, M. R., Bruckner, R., & Eppinger, B. (2016b). What do we GANE with age? Behavioral and Brain Sciences (commentary on Mather, M., Clewett, D., Sasaki M., & Harley C.W.).

Nassar, M. R., Bruckner, R., Gold, J. I., Li, S.-C., Heekeren, H. R., & Eppinger, B. (2016a). Age differences in learning emerge from an insufficient representation of uncertainty in older adults. Nature Communications, 7, 1-13.

Prevalence-Induced Concept Change

In this research we explore how changes in one’s environment affect concept formation and judgements across the human lifespan. We are particularly interested in a phenomenon called prevalence-induced concept change (PICC) which suggests that as the prevalence of instances of a concept in the environment changes, so do the boundaries of that concept. In this project we collaborate with Dr. David Levari (Harvard University), Dr. Robert Wilson (University of Arizona) and Dr. Stefan Ehrlich, (Technische Universität Dresden) and is funded by the Canada Research Chair (CRC).

New Preprint: In this work we show evidence for a greater rigidity of concept spaces in older adults which may make them less susceptible to biases in judgement.

Key publications:
Devine, S., Neumann, C., Wilson, R.C. Levari, D.E., & Eppinger, B. (2020) Prevalence-induced concept change in older adults. Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society.


Age differences in learning and decision strategies

In this part of the research program we study how the use of different learning strategies changes across development. We are interested in why children and older adults tend to converge on simpler learning strategies and which neural mechanisms underlie age differences in learning. The future goal of this research is to establish whether replay mechanisms might support the adaptive use of different learning strategies. Collaboration partners: Dr. Andrea Reiter (UC London), Dr. S. Kiebel (TU Dresden) and Dr. Ida Momennejad (Columbia University). The work is funded by the German Research Foundation (SFB 940).

New preprints showing that effort-based meta control continues to develop across adolescence and is not associated with the personality trait NFC (need for cognition).

Key publications:
Bolenz, F., Kool, W., Reiter, A.M.F., Eppinger, B. (2019) Meta-control of learning strategies in human aging. eLife, 8:e49154.

Eppinger B, Walter M, Heekeren HR, Li S-C (2013) Of goals and habits: Age-related and individual differences in goal-directed decision-making. Frontiers in Decision Neuroscience, 7:1-14.

Lifespan age differences in effort reward trade-offs

Everyday life requires that we balance the effort that we have to exert to reach a goal against the expected outcomes of the respective behavior. In this project, we are interested in how individuals of different ages balance the relative costs and benefits of engaging in effortful behavior. We propose that effort expenditure in children and older adults depends on developmental sweet spots at which the incentivization structure of the task and the task demands are tailored to the needs and cognitive abilities of the different age groups. This research involves collaborations with R. Otto (McGill University) and Dr. Andrea Reiter (UC London) and is funded through NSERC and German Research Foundation (SFB 940).

New preprint: Empirical evidence for the sweet spot account.

Key publications:
Ruel, A., Devine, S., & Eppinger, B. (2021). Resource-rational approach to meta-control problems across the lifespan. Wiley interdisciplinary reviews. Cognitive science, e1556. Advance online publication.

Social Learning Social Learning

Developmental changes in social learning

In this project we study how social information from others affects learning and decision behaviour in children and older adults. We are particularly interested in developmental changes in observational learning and in the effects of social advice on decision preferences and learning performance. This work involves collaborations with Dr. J. Rodriguez-Buritica (FU Berlin), Prof. E. Crone (Leiden University) and Dr. A. Diaconescu (ETH Zurich) and is partly funded by the CRC and the DFG.

New preprint on social belief updating in older adults.

Key publications:
Reiter, A. M. F., Suzuki, S., O'Doherty, J. P., Li, S.-C., & Eppinger, B. (2019). Risk contagion by peers affects learning and decision-making in adolescents. JEP; General, 148(9):1494-1504.

Rodriguez-Buritica, J. M., Heekeren, H. R., Li, S.-C., & Eppinger, B. (2018). Developmental differences in the neural dynamics of observational learning. Neuropsychologia, 119: 12-23.