Szymon Wichaary

Wichary Szymon, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Postal Address:
SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities
Chodakowska 19/31
03-815 Warsaw, Poland

Phone: (+ 48) 22 517 98 05

  • Decision strategies
  • Elementary cognitive processes
  • Bounded rationality
  • Emotions

My main research interests are the influence of emotions on cognitive processes, both elementary (e.g.working memory) and complex (decision making), and the adaptive role of emotions. The following are the research projects I am involved in:

The influence of emotional arousal on the selection of decision strategies
The problem investigated in the project was the function of emotions as modulators of information processing during decision making. The main aim of this project was to determine whether people under high emotional arousal have a greater tendency to use simple decision heuristics compared to people under low emotional arousal. A computerized multi-attribute choice task was used to see how much information people search before making a decision, whether they integrate this information, and whether these processes differ under different levels of emotional arousal.

Epistemic motivation, emotions and decision making
The problem analyzed in this project is how the motivation to avoid cognitive closure moderates the influence of emotional arousal on pre-decisional information processing. Motivation to reach cognitive closure is the motivation to have a clear understanding of the situation and have a clear knowledge what to do in a given situation. It is hypothesized that it influences the amount of information acquired and processes before making a decision and thus can moderate the negative effect of high emotional arousal on information search. In studies designed to explore this relationship, participants who were highly emotionally aroused were given either an instruction to reach cognitive closure or to avoid it and their predecisional information search was observed in a computer based decision task.

A simple bottom-up model of strategy selection
This project is aimed at understanding the process by which people select decision strategies in order to solve particular decision tasks. To this end, a computational model has been developed, which includes parameters important for complex cognitive functioning (e.g. working memory capacity and selective attention). The motivation behind this project is to understand the influence of various factors (e.g. emotions, task complexity, time pressure or individual differences) on human decision making. The model will be tested ex post on the data coming from several projects.

Individual differences in decisiveness and elementary cognitive processes
Decisiveness is defined as a tendency to make decisions fast and is associated with the use of simple decision strategies. This project investigates the possible determinants of Decisiveness – namely, basic cognitive processes, such as selective attention and working memory, as well as temperamental correlates of Decisiveness. Studies have been conducted to explore these relationships, e.g. to see whether low working memory capacity is associated with high Decisiveness.

Roles and emotions in social contract violations
The primary focus of the project was to investigate children’s understanding of specific emotions (guilt and anger) associated with violation of social contracts. The main question was whether children’s emotional responses to imagined social contract violations are moderated by the type of the relationship within which the violation took place. Specifically, children were asked whether violating a social contract with a biologically related person (sibling or parent) would result in lower guilt and anticipated anger relative to violating a contract with an unrelated person (friend or neighbour).

Health at birth, family structure and temperament
The problem analyzed in this project is the function of negative emotionality as a behavioral strategy for obtaining parental resources by children. The study focuses on children’s temperamental traits (especially negative emotionality – distress, frequent crying, fusing) and conditions which may influence the development of these traits in early infancy – namely, health at birth (birth weight, Apgar score) and the structure of family environment (sibship size, birth order and birth intervals). These variables are treated as determinants of parental investment, and children’s developing temperamental traits are understood as generalized behavior strategies for manipulating the investments.

Selected publications:
  1. Wichary, S., Mata, R., Rieskamp, J. (2015). Probabilistic inferences under emotional stress: How arousal affects decision processesJournal of Behavioral Decision Making. DOI: 10.1002/bdm.1896
  2. Wichary, S., Pachur, T., Li, M. (2015). Risk-taking tendencies in prisoners and non-prisoners: Does gender matter? Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. DOI: 10.1002/bdm.1866
  3. Kuniecki, M., Pilarczyk, J., Wichary, S. (2015). The color red attracts attention in an emotional context. An ERP study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00212
  4. Ziomkiewicz, A., Wichary, S., Gomuła, A., Pawłowski, B. (2015). Trait anxiety moderates the association between estradiol and dominance in women. Physiology & Behavior, 143,97-103.
  5. Ziomkiewicz, A., Wichary, S., Bochenek, D., Pawłowski, B., Jasieńska, G. (2012). Temperament and ovarian reproductive hormones in women: evidence from a study during entire menstrual cycle. Hormones and Behavior, 61, 535-540.[35]
  6. Wichary, S. & Rieskamp, J. (2011). Probabilistic inferences under emotional stress. In L. Carlson, C. Hoelscher, & T.F. Shipley (Eds.), Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1872-1877). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
  7. Wichary, S., Domaradzka, E., Sedek, G. (2011). The impact of aging on information integration in reasoning and decision making. In M. W. Eysenck, M. Fajkowska & T. Maruszewski (Eds.) Personality, Cognition and Emotion. Clinton Corners, NY US: Eliot Werner Publications.
  8. Wichary, S. & Kossowska, M. (2009). Working memory and decision making strategies (in Polish). In: J. Orzechowski, R. Balas, K. Piotrowski, Z. Stettner Working memory. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Academica, pp. 166-180.
  9. Wichary, S., Kossowska, M., Orzechowski, J., Ślifierz, S, Marković, J. (2008). Individual differences in decisiveness: pre-decisional information search and decision strategy use. Polish Psychological Bulletin, 39, 47-53. DOI - 10.2478/v10059-008-0007-6.
  10. Smoleń, T. & Wichary, S. (2008). Bottom-up model of strategy selection. In B. C. Love, K. McRae, & V. M. Sloutsky (Eds.), Proceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp.1517-1522). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
  11. Barrett, H.C., Keller, M., Takezawa, M., Wichary, S. (2007). Relationships and emotions in children’s understanding of social contract violations. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 5, 213-234.
  12. Wichary, S. & Nęcka, E. (2007) Decisions and elementary cognitive processes (in Polish). Kolokwia Psychologiczne, 15, 233-249.
  13. Kossowska, M., Wichary, S. (2006). Epistemic motivation, negative emotional arousal and information processing. Polish Psychological Bulletin, 38, 88-98.
  14. Wichary, S., Orzechowski, J, Kossowska, M., Ślifierz, S, Marković, J., Bukowski, M. (2005) Decision strategies and working memory functioning (in Polish). Studia Psychologiczne, vol. 43, 97-102.
  15. Wichary, S. Balas, R. (2002). Are simple heuristics automatic? (in Polish). In: R.K. Ohme & M. Jarymowicz The nature of automatic processes II. Polish Academy of Sciences Press.
Selected Grants
  • 2010-2013 Wichary, S., Sędek, G., Kossowska, M., Kuniecki, M., Sędek, M.
    "The role of cognitive limitations in predecisional information processing", principal investigator, Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education grant, 110 000 PLN.
  • 2010-2013 Kuniecki, M., Wichary, S., Jaśkowski, P., Binder, M. “The role of formal characteristics in processing emotional stimuli” Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education grant, 177 350 PLN.
  • 2010-2012 Kossowska, M., Bar-Tal, Y., Bukowski, M., Wichary, S., Piber-Dąbrowska, K. "Motivational and cognitive determinants of judgment formation and decision making", 105 500 PLN, Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education grant, investigator.
  • 2008-2011 Sędek, G., Kossowska, M., Śpiewak, S., Niedźwieńska, A., Wichary, S., Piber-Dąbrowska, K., Maylor, E, Hess, T., Verhaeghen, P. “Cognitive and motivational mechanisms compensating the limitations in performance on complex cognitive tasks across adult life-span”, Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education grant, 200 000 PLN.
  • 2008-2009 Wichary, S. “The influence of emotional arousal on decision strategy selection”, Warsaw School of Social Psychology internal grant, 4800 PLN.
  • 2007-2010 Ziomkiewicz-Wichary, A., Wichary, S., Jasieńska, G., Pawłowski, B. “Psychological stress and women’s reproductive functions. The influence of psychological stress on the levels of progesterone and 17-b oestradiol in the menstrual cycle”, Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education grant, 221 000 PLN.
  • 2007-2009 Kuniecki, M., Wichary, S., Jaśkowski, P. “The degree of attentional processing of emotional stimuli”, Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education grant, 44 325 PLN.
  • 2005-2007 Wichary, S., Kossowska, M. Orzechowski, Ślifierz, S., Marković, J., Bukowski, M. “Individual differences in decisiveness and elementary cognitive processes”, principal investigator, State Committee of Scientific Research grant, 34 000 PLN.