Congratulations to Tilman Lesch on the submission of his dissertation, entitled Functional impulsivity and individual differences in decision-making under uncertainty.
Can you give us a short background into what you’ve been studying these last few years?
My PhD research investigated individual differences in cognition by studying decision-making under uncertainty. In particular I was interested if a form of rapid, rash (impulsive) decision-making may be advantageous in situations of high uncertainty. Following a previous preliminary study, we wanted to test whether entrepreneurs – individuals who repeatedly operate under great uncertainty – are particularly skilled in dealing with uncertainty and how this ability is related their level of impulsivity.
In situations of uncertainty and limited information, one strategy is to actively search and acquire more information about possible decision alternatives and their outcomes. I extended a classical formal learning model of learning-by-doing to analyse of the influence of choice, outcome and outcome of the selected alternative has on learning about the value of different alternatives.
What made you want to do a PhD?
After studying engineering and economics and first research experience in the field of behavioural economics, I wanted to learn more about how decision-making takes place in the human brain and how does the environment influence our choice behaviour on a fundamental level. I was convinced that a PhD was the best opportunity to “dig” in deep in one subject area and work on something I was interested in at that time.
What was your best day during your PhD?
There was not one best day during my PhD. The last three years passed in a rush. I will definitely remember meeting very interesting successful entrepreneurs – some of whom started more then 10 very successful companies and on even helped to save Apple – and senior civil servants including from the cabinet office who gave me interesting insights into the world of policy making. Not to mention to countless weekends and late nights, I spent working on my project. The best feeling is really that I was fully responsible for my own work.
What do you hope to do next?
For the next couple of months, I’m hoping to intensify my training as a data scientist and then hopefully can take on a position as postdoc analysing big data sets to identify e.g. behavioural makers of online gambling behaviour, or a position in the industry or government related to data and improving the health care and particularly mental healthcare.
Tilman Lesch was supervised by Professor Barbara Sahakian. Funding was provided by Friedrich-Naumann-Foundation, Santander Universities, and the University of Cambridge.