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David Sanbonmatsu, Ph.D.

David Sanbonmatsu, Ph.D.

Professor, Social Psychology

Curriculum Vitae

Program for Underrepresented and Disadvantaged Scholars

Contact Information

Office: 702 BEHS
Phone: 801-581-8505

Research Interests

I am fortunate to be collaborating with a number of colleagues who are leaders in their fields. Much of our work is concerned with the basic processes through which decisions are made. One line of research with Steve Posavac investigates the dynamics of serial decision making. These are decisions in which alternatives are assessed one at a time and where people often pass on good options in the hopes of later encountering better options. We are also beginning work on singular choice and are hoping to continues our studies of the role of the self in task decisions.

We have also been engaged in applied decision making research on driving safety and performance. David Strayer and I have conducted several studies investigating the causes and consequences of distracted driving. Our research has also examined more generally why people multi-task. Interestingly, our findings indicate that the people who multi-task the most tend to be the worst at it. More recently, we have begun investigating the important factors affecting the acceptance and adoption of technologies designed to improve driving safety. Our research shows that people are often resistant to automated driving systems because of ignorance or negative attitudes toward technology. We have also begun investigating how automated systems designed to increase driving safety are utilized and experienced by consumers.

Finally, we have broad interests in the science of science. We believe that our knowledge of basic inference processes provides us with a unique perspective on how science works. Some of this research examines the strategies used by scientists to test their hypotheses and theories. We are also writing a series of papers on disciplinary differences in theory development, methodology, and organization. This work should help people to understand how and why fields such as psychology and economics differ from the natural sciences.

Opportunities For Students

We are recruiting undergraduate students for research assistant positions. Interested students should email me directly.

I will not be recruiting a graduate student to begin our program next fall.


Ph.D., Indiana University (1987)
B.S., University of California-Davis (1979)

Selected Publications

Sanbonmatsu, D. M., & Johnston, W. A. (2019). Redefining science: The impact of complexity on theory development in social and behavioral research. Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Posavac, S. S., Ratchford, M., Bollena, N. P. B., & Sanbonmatsu, D. M. (2019).  Premature infatuation and commitment in individual investing decisions, Journal of Economic Psychology, 72, 245-259.

Moore, S. M., Behrends, A. A., Mazur, D., and Sanbonmatsu, D. M. (2016). When do people bet on their selves? The role of global vs. specific self-concepts in decision making. Self and Identity, 15(5), 548-560. DOI: 10.1080/15298868.2016.1175372 

Sanbonmatsu, D. M., Strayer, D. L., Behrends, A. A., Medeiros-Ward, N., and Watson, J. M. (2016). Why drivers use cell phones and why they support legislation to restrict this practice. Accident Analysis and Prevention. 92, 22-33.

Sanbonmatsu, D. M., Posavac, S. S., Behrends, A. A., Moore, S. M., & Uchino, B. N. (2015). Why a confirmation strategy dominates psychological science. PLoS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0138197.

Sanbonmatsu, D. M., Mazur, D., Behrends, A. A., & Moore, S. M. (2015). The role of the frequency of correspondent behavior and trait stereotypes in trait attribution: Building on Rothbart and Park (1986). Social Cognition, 33, 255-283.

Sanbonmatsu, D. M., Strayer, D. L., Biondi, F., Behrends, A. A., & Moore, S. M. (2015). Cell Phone Use Diminishes Self-Awareness of Impaired Driving. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. doi: 10.3758/s13423-015-0922-4.

Sanbonmatsu, D. M., Strayer, D. L., Medeiros-Ward, N., and Watson, J. M. (2013). Who multi-tasks and why? Multi-tasking ability, perceived multi-tasking ability, impulsivity, and sensation seeking. PLoS ONE, 8(1), e54402. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054402

Sanbonmatsu, D. M., Uchino, B. N., Wong, K. K., & Seo, J. Y. (2012). Getting along better: The role of attitude familiarity in relationship functioning. Social Cognition, 30, 350-361. 

My Current Graduate Students

Emily Cooley
Zhenghui Yu

Last Updated: 6/4/21