Hello and welcome to my website!

My name is Mikhail Spektor and I am a behavioral scientist based in Barcelona.

I hold a PhD in Psychology from the University of Basel and I'm currently Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics and Business at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra and Affiliated Professor at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.

My main line of research focuses on the cognitive processes underlying individual decision making, in particular when choices violate classical notions of economic rationality. I investigate how individuals learn about the properties of choice alternatives and how value is represented. In my research, I rely on a combination of experimental, computational, and physiological methods.

Mikhail Spektor


August 20, 2021 How exactly do contextual features affect human decisions? Things are complicated and many findings contradict each other. Our proposal for a solution out now in Trends in Cognitive Sciences. A summary: https://twitter.com/SpektorMikhail/status/1429813685342642181 Open access link until October 09, 2021: https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1dcIx4sIRvHkjR
January 30, 2021 How do individuals make decisions from experience when reckless behaviors are taxed? Reckless behaviors, such as texting while driving, are in most cases harmless but sometimes lead to catastrophic outcomes. We show that myopic individuals who disregard catastrophic outcomes soon after they have been experienced are particularly affected by over-taxation. A policy targeted at these individuals — for example, by using boosts — could be effective over and beyond omnibus taxation interventions. Out now in Judgment and Decision Making: https://sjdm.org/journal/20/200526a/jdm200526a.pdf (open access).
September 28, 2020 Our paper that compares single- and dual-process evidence accumulation models of memory-based decisions out now in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review: https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-020-01794-9 (open access). Also, check out the summary of the paper as a Twitter thread and conference talk.
September 23, 2020 New preprint (together with David Kellen and Karl Christoph Klauer) about the project I'll present at the ViProc available on PsyArXiv: https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/hmzsx
September 22, 2020 I will present my recent work about the repulsion effect in preferential and perceptual choice at the Virtual Process Tracing (ViProc) Conference 2020. Also, I will try to update the news section of this website more often.
April 16, 2020 Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 5th EADM summer school has been postponed to next year. More information: ldmss.org
January 31, 2020 Save the date for the 5th EADM summer school on the topic of learning and decision making! More information on our website: ldmss.org
July 04, 2019 I will present my recent work with the short title "Violations of economic rationality in reinforcement learning are driven by a saliency-dependent reward-prediction-error signal in the ventral striatum" at the Neuroeconomics in Dublin.
May 13, 2019 New website, still very much under construction.
January 10, 2019 I will be joining the Universitat Pompeu Fabra as an assistant professor in September 2019.


Humans face many different kinds of decisions in their everyday lives, such as what to eat for lunch or where to go on vacation. Attempts to understand the principles underlying such decisions traditionally involve an axiomatic system of preferences and are often used as the benchmark for economically "rational" human behavior. I am particularly interested in behavior that deviates from such notions of rationality as I believe that those situations provide an important window to human cognition.

In my main line of research, I investigate the cognitive processes underlying such "irrational behavior" with a particular focus on the role of attention in the formation of context-dependent preferences, so-called context effects. I rely on formal modeling of cognition and combine it with evidence from behavioral experiments and psychophysiological data to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of the cognitive processes underlying human decision making.

Research interests

Decisions under risk and uncertainty

Learning and decision making

Context-dependent preferences

Cognitive modeling

Publications (* = equal contribution)

Spektor, M. S., Bhatia, S., & Gluth, S. (2021). The elusiveness of context effects in decision making. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2021.07.011. Open-access full text (available until October 09, 2021): https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1dcIx4sIRvHkjR

Voormann, A., Spektor, M. S., & Klauer, K. C. (2021). The simultaneous recognition of multiple words: A process analysis. Memory & Cognition. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13421-020-01082-w. Open-access full text: http://rdcu.be/cilzc

Spektor, M. S., & Wulff, D. U. (2021). Myopia drives reckless behavior in response to over-taxation. Judgment and Decision Making, 16(1), 114–130. https://sjdm.org/journal/20/200526a/jdm200526a.pdf

Kraemer, P., Fontanesi, L., Spektor, M. S., & Gluth, S. (2020). Response time models separate single- and dual-process accounts of memory-based decisions. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-020-01794-9

Fontanesi, L., Gluth, S., Spektor, M. S., & Rieskamp, J. (2019). A reinforcement learning diffusion decision model for value-based decisions. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 26(4), 1099–1121. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-018-1554-2

Spektor, M. S., Gluth, S., Fontanesi, L., & Rieskamp, J. (2019). How similarity between choice options affects decisions from experience: The accentuation of differences model. Psychological Review, 126(1), 52–88. https://doi.org/10.1037/rev0000122

Gluth, S.*, Spektor, M. S.*, & Rieskamp, J. (2018). Value-based attentional capture affects multi-alternative decision making. eLife, 7, 1–36. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.39659

Spektor, M. S., & Kellen, D. (2018). The relative merit of empirical priors in non-identifiable and sloppy models: Applications to models of learning and decision-making. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 25(6), 2047–2068. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-018-1446-5. Open-access full text: http://rdcu.be/J18i

Spektor, M. S., Kellen, D., & Hotaling, J. M. (2018). When the good looks bad: An experimental exploration of the repulsion effect. Psychological Science, 29(8), 1309–1320. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618779041

Manuscripts in preparation or submitted for publication

Spektor, M. S., Kellen, D., & Klauer, K. C. (submitted). The repulsion effect in preferential choice and its relation to perceptual choice. Preprint available on PsyArXiv: https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/hmzsx

Spektor, M. S., & Seidler, H. (submitted). Irrelevant outcomes lead to violations of economic rationality.

Spektor, M. S.*, Gluth, S.*, & Rieskamp, J. (in preparation). Saliency distorts reward processing during reinforcement learning.

Spektor, M. S.*, & Wulff, D. U.* (in preparation). Strategic search in decisions from experience.

Kellen, D.*, Spektor, M. S.*, Rieskamp, J., & Klauer, K. C. (in preparation). Context dependency of loss aversion.

Other publications

Spektor, M. S., & Yuan, T. (2020). Digitalisierung in der Juristenausbildung. Neue Juristische Wochenschrift, 15, 52–88.


As a behavioral scientist, I am fascinated by all the different facets and the complexity of human cognition. Every new discovery not only uncovers part of that complex puzzle but also reveals more uncharted waters ahead of us. I believe that this curiosity of wanting to obtain a deeper understanding of the human nature is the main driving force behind both good research and learning success.

Thesis supervision

I offer supervision of theses. If you are interested in working on any of my research topics, feel free to contact me.

Current courses

I am currently teaching "Behavioural Decision Making I: Attention, Experience and Influence" (winter term; syllabus), "Psychology and Business" (winter term; syllabus), and "Microeconomics II" (spring term; syllabus).


Mikhail Spektor
Universitat Pompeu Fabra
Department of Economics and Business
Office in Jaume I building, 20.1E38
Ramon Trias Fargas 25-27
08005 Barcelona
Phone: +34 935 42 2741
Email: mikhail.spektor@upf.edu