B.A., Williams College; Ph.D., Harvard University
Jeremy B. WilmerAssociate Professor of Psychology
My research probes the individual human mind and establishes and disseminates best-practices in visual data communication.
A longstanding aim of my lab has been to further the science of the individual human mind. Much of this work has involved a Citizen Science website called TestMyBrain.org. At TestMyBrain.org, we share high-quality tests to enable self-discovery and use the resulting data to further science. By studying thousands of individuals, we gain the context needed to more deeply appreciate each individual. Among other questions, we ask: (1) How do nature and nurture combine to shape individual minds? (2) Which aspects of our minds work independently versus jointly? (3) How do various cognitive skills or abilities contribute to everyday life?
A more recent thread of our research aims to establish best-practices for the visual communication of data. Check out our 2022 interview on NPR's Science Friday. A central thesis of this work is that well-meaning efforts to simplify graphs of human data by presenting only abstract statistics (averages, medians, standard deviations) frequently backfire. Indeed, we observe that such graphs cause a wide array of fallacies, misunderstandings, and disagreements. A key reason these graphs backfire, we believe, is because the human mind is not particularly built to think in abstract terms; it thinks better about concrete, tangible things like other humans. Consistent with this notion, we find that taking a graph of abstract statistics and simply adding data points from individual humans often dramatically improves thinking. Complementing our research in this domain is our website ShowMyData.org, which makes the creation of publication-quality graphs with individual datapoints as simple, accessible, and rapid as a 2-second copy-paste of data from a spreadsheet.
My recent teaching has included a 200-level course entitled Sensation and Perception, a seminar entitled Genes, Brains, and Human Variation, and an introductory data analysis course called Introduction to Data Analysis in the Psychological Sciences. I involve students at a high level in the ongoing research in my lab. An underlying belief in all of my teaching and research mentoring is that the skills students learn - to think critically about the source of information, to write elegantly and persuasively, to marshal and evaluate evidence, to apply knowledge to real-world problems, and to imagine what does not yet exist or what is not yet known - will be applicable to their future lives whatever directions they take personally, professionally, and as citizens.
When I am not teaching and researching, I enjoy playing traditional fiddle music and spending time outdoors with my family.