Miss Leslie Van Der Leer

Supervised by

  • Ryan McKay First/primary/lead supervisor


Educational background

MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience (Distinction) - University College London (UCL), London, United Kingdom.

BSc (Hons) in Physiology and Cognitive Neuroscience, with a minor in Psychology and a minor in Methods & Statistics (Summa cum Laude) - University College Utrecht (UCU), Utrecht, the Netherlands.


Personal profile

Continuing with interdisciplinary interests from my Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees, I did a PhD where I combined the fields of experimental economics and psychology in various fields where people have been argued to reason or decide irrationally. 



Research interests

Rational reasoning is often considered optimal, but sometimes it may pay to be irrational. In the optimism bias, people think that positive events are more likely than the evidence warrants. For example, law students, aware of high divorce rates, think their own marriage will last indefinitely. Furthermore, people tend to think that choosing their own numbers increases their chances of winning a lottery, despite the fact that the draw is not influenced by their choice of ticket numbers. Such positive illusions may be advantageous insofar as they maintain a positive self-view and prevent depression, which has been linked to a sense of a loss of control. Hence, in these situations, deviating from rational thinking could be beneficial.

However, sometimes deviating from rationality can lead to symptoms like delusions in schizophrenia, which are false beliefs held with strong conviction despite evidene on the contrary. A common finding is that delusional patients tend to jump to conclusions on the basis of too little evidence. If someone walks behind them, they might think that person is following them and plotting against them. A rationally reasoning person would consider the probability of this explanation versus the probabilities of other plausible explanations. In this case, deviating from rational reasoning does not seem beneficial as it can cause stress and discomfort to patients and people around them.

Overall, in my PhD I investigated various irrational beliefs combining methods from experimental economics and psychology. The various irrational beliefs I investigated are jumping-to-conclusions in delusion-proneness, sexual-overperception in evolutionary psychology, self-deception in unrealistic optimism, and betrayal aversion in trust games. 


Weekly workshops and lab classes for PS1010 (Research methods in psychology). 

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