Carnegie Mellon University

Julie Downs


Julie S. Downs, Ph.D. is a professor of Psychology and Decision Science and Associate Dean of Research.  She 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


Julie Downs headshot

Lab Manager

Mandy Lanyon headshotMandy B. Lanyon

Research Associate II
Social and Decision Sciences

Current Ph.D. Students

Trent Cash

Trent Cash headshot
Fourth-year Ph.D. student in Social and Decision Sciences.

Wenzhuo Xu

Wenzhuo Xu headshot
Fourth-year Ph.D. student in Social and Decision Sciences.

Ph.D. Alumni

Alison Butler

Alison Buter headshot

Samantha Horn

Samantha Horn headshot

Stephanie Permut

Stephanie Permut headshot

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Haley Hirokawa

Haley Hirokawa headshot
Class of 2027, Undeclared

Gavin Kelly

Class of 2027, Behavioral Economics

Hannah Park

Hannah Park headshot
Class of 2027, Undeclared

Isha Patel

Isha Patel headshot
Class of 2027, Data Science and Statistics

Shanon Wang

Shanon Wang headshot
Class of 2026, Decision Science

Nina Zhao

Nina Zhao headshot
Class of 2025, Decision Science

Bo Xie

Bo Xie headshot
Class of 2027, Undeclared