Robyn Dawes

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Robyn Mason Dawes (July 23, 1936 – December 14, 2010) was an American psychologist who specialized in the field of human judgment. His research interests included human irrationality, human cooperation, intuitive expertise, and the United States AIDS policy. He applied linear models to human decision making, including models with equal weights,[1][2] a method known as unit-weighted regression. He co-wrote an early textbook on mathematical psychology (see below).

In 1985, Dawes joined the Department of Social and Decision Sciences (SDS) at Carnegie Mellon University where he served as Department Head for six years eventually becoming the Charles J. Queenan, Jr. University Professor of Psychology. He was a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Research Council's Committee on AIDS Research. In 2006, Dawes was elected a Fellow of the American Statistical Association "for creative research on statistics and rational decision-making, contributions to the application of cognitive psychology to survey research, and promotion of careful statistical thinking in psychology and behavioral research."

In 1990, he was awarded the William James Award by the American Psychological Association for the book Rational Choice in an Uncertain World (now in its 2nd Edition, which he co-wrote with Reid Hastie, see citation below).


Dawes earned his B.A. in Philosophy at Harvard (1958) and his Master’s in Clinical Psychology (1960) at the University of Michigan before earning his Doctorate in Mathematical Psychology (1963) at the same institution. He held jobs at the University of Oregon, where he served as Department Head for five years, as well as the Oregon Research Institute.

He was a member of the American Psychological Association Ethics Committee[3]


  • Dawes, Robyn (2003). Everyday Irrationality: How Pseudoscientists, Lunatics, and the Rest of Us Fail to Think Rationally. Westview Press. 
  • Dawes, Robyn (1994). House of Cards: Psychology and Psychotherapy Built on Myth. Free Press. 
  • Dawes, Robyn (1974). The Fundamentals of Attitude Measurement. John Wiley & Sons. 


  1. ^ Dawes, R. M., & Corrigan, B. (1974). "Linear models in decision making." Psychological Bulletin, volume 81, pages 95-106. doi:10.1037/h0037613
  2. ^ Dawes, Robyn M. (1979). "The robust beauty of improper linear models in decision making". American Psychologist, volume 34, pages 571-582. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.34.7.571 archived pdf .
  3. ^ Rational Choice in an Uncertain World: The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making, ISBN 978-0-7619-2275-9, page 372

Further reading[edit]

  • Dana, J., & Dawes, R. M. (2004). The superiority of simple alternatives to regression for social science predictions. Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, volume 29(3), pages 317-331.
  • Dawes, R. M. (1962). A note on base rates and psychometric efficiency. Journal of Consulting Psychology, volume 26(5), pages 422-424.
  • Dawes, R. M. (1976). Shallow psychology. In J. S. Carroll & J. W. Payne (Eds.), Cognition and social behavior (pages 3–12). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Dawes, R. M. (1988). Proper and improper linear models. In R. M. Dawes (Ed.), Rational Choice in an Uncertain World (pages 201-227). Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
  • Howard, J. W., & Dawes, R. M. (1976). Linear prediction of marital happiness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, volume 2(4), pages 478-480.
  • Swets, J. A., Dawes, R. M., & Monahan, J. (2000, October). Better decisions through science. Scientific American, pages 82–87.

External links[edit]