Carnegie Mellon University

Julie Downs


Julie S. Downs, Ph.D., is an associate professor of Psychology and Decision Science, and is director of the Center for Risk Perception and Communication. She has served on the editorial board of Psychological Science, as associate editor at Developmental Review, on numerous grant review panels for the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, and on the institutional review boards at CMU and at Disney Research.

Research Interests

Dr. Downs studies social influences on decisions, particularly the impact of social norms, with the goal of helping people improve their decisions and outcomes. She has created behavioral interventions that have been shown in scientific studies to change behavior and have gained wide use in real-world settings. Her research focuses on domains involving risky behavior, including adolescent sexual decision making, choices about food, behaviors relating to trust and privacy online, vaccination, and other settings. Her research has been published in psychological, economic, public policy and medical journals, and her interventions have won numerous awards including two Platinum Remi Awards at the Houston Worldfest International Film Festival, as well as multiple Aurora Awards, Telly Awards, and others.


  • Princeton University, Social Psychology, MS, PhD
  • University of California at Berkeley, Psychology, AB



Lab Manager

mandylanyon-800x800.jpgMandy B. Lanyon

Research Associate II
Social and Decision Sciences

Current PhD Students

Alison Butler


Third year PhD student in Social and Decision Sciences
Enrolled in Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Pittsburgh

Samantha Horn


Third year PhD student in Social and Decision Sciences

Stephanie Permut


Fifth year PhD student in Social and Decision Sciences and Psychology

Wenzhuo Xu


Second year PhD student in Social and Decision Sciences

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Kyra Musmanno


Class of 2022, Behavioral Economics, Policy and Organization

Sabine Jung


Class of 2023, BSA in Neurobiology and Cello Performance

Nicholas Murphy


Class of 2023, International Relations and Politics