My primary research interest is process tracing and decision making.  This topic is fascinating both from a methodological and content perspective. On the methodological side I develop research tools to conduct online information search experiments, examples for such tools are WebDiP (Web DecisIon Processes) and Flashlight. On the content side my research currently focuses on process data for different domains like food choice, decision making from experience and gambles. In the following paragraphs I will explain more about these research interests.

Strategies in consumer choice

Food choice is a central aspect of our everyday life. This is not only evident by the basic human need of food uptake, but also but the sheer number of choices (over 200) related to food on a daily base (Wansink & Sobal, 2007). In this research we focus on consumers’ ability to make informed choices and to search for information. We are investigating which type of strategy (like Take the Best or Minimalist) can be best identified when looking at how participants looked for information (Schulte-Mecklenbeck et al., 2013).

Research Methods and Online Research

Through my curiosity for computers in general and computer based research methods in particular, conducting research online offered an interesting new opportunity. Together with a computer scientist I developed an open source software package called WebDiP. This package enables are searcher to conduct online information search experiments without having programming knowledge.The first paper (Schulte-Mecklenbeck & Huber, 2003) resulting from WebDiP demonstrated that data collected on the Internet are comparable in quality with data collected in the laboratory. In a follow up paper (Schulte-Mecklenbeck & Neun, 2005) we recently gave a more general introduction to the usage of WebDiP to bring the program to a greater public.Together with Ryan O. Murphy (ETH Zurich) I developed Flashlight and recently we published our first paper about a comparison between Flashlight and a regular eye-tracking study (Schulte-Mecklenbeck, Murphy, & Hutzler, 2011).

Process Tracing

Quite general there can be two groups of models identified within the decision making literature: structural- and process-models. Structural models have an input and an output. The main issue of such models is the analysis of the second part – the post-decisional choice. Using these models it is however difficult to gain insight into the processes going on during a task. Process models (methods) overcome this drawback by observing traces a decision maker leaves, actively or passively, while accomplishing a task. The order, the amount of acquired information, the timespent on certain information items as well as the causal representation of the decision task are of interest. In Switzerland I worked together with Oswald Huber on a computerized method for his Active Information Search (AIS) paradigm. And continued my work in this area together with Eric J. Johnson.

We published our “Handbook of Process Tracing Methods in Decision Research” including contributions from pioneers of this field like John W. Payne, Eric J. Johnson or Jay Russo.