Carnegie Mellon University

Daniel Oppenheimer

Daniel Oppenheimer

Ph.D. in Psychology

  • Porter Hall 224D
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213


Some Facts about Danny Oppenheimer:

  1. In my lab meetings, I give out weekly honors not just for successes, but also for failure (if you’re not failing some of the time, you’re not taking on sufficiently difficult challenges) and for the person who told the best joke.
  2. I have been known to open meetings with graduate students by singing the Star Wars theme song.  Also show tunes.
  3. I keep a box of washable crayons in my shower.  All my best ideas come to me in the shower - now I write them down and don't forget them.
  4. When a new graduate student is accepted to the department, they are warned by the current students to never ever ever under any circumstances ever make a bet with me if ice cream is on the line, because when the stakes are ice cream, I never lose.  Despite this, there are people all around the country who owe me ice cream…
  5. I have been in zero gravity.  I don't recommend the experience.
  6. I did my undergraduate at Rice in Houston but can’t do a southern drawl, even to the phrase “howdy y’all”.  I got my Ph.D. at Stanford, but didn’t learn to skateboard.  I spent eight years in New Jersey at Princeton, but never grew to like Dunkin Donuts.  I spend 5 years at UCLA, and didn’t pick up “dude” or “like” as a filler.  I don’t have high hopes for “yinz”.
  7. I have an ongoing bet with a fellow academic over who can get the strangest citation through peer review.  My favorite success so far is Count Chocula, but I’ve always got several new ones going through the pipeline.
  8. Some people say I like corny puns. There’s a kernel of truth to that, I’ve got an ear for puns that pop… 


  • B.A. Psychology - Rice University
  • M.A. and Ph.D. Psychology - Stanford University


There is an awful lot of information in the world. Some of it is useful; most of it is not. How do people determine what information to use when making decisions, what is worth learning, how to search for the information they need, and what do people do when different pieces of information conflict and suggest different conclusions? Professor Oppenheimer’s research investigates these basic questions as well as how the answers impact real world outcomes in policy, business, and education.

He has also done research on psychometric assessment, charitable giving, people’s understanding of randomness/stochastic systems, the psychological underpinnings of democracy, helicopter parenting, metacognition, and the best local ice cream stores.


Professor Oppenheimer has over 50 peer reviewed publications, and a number of other book chapters and media contributions.

He is the co-author of “Democracy Despite Itself: Why a System that Shouldn’t Work at All Works So Well” and “Psychology: A Cartoon Introduction”.

He is also the co-editor of “The Science of Giving: Experimental Approaches to the Study of Charity”. 


Professor Oppenheimer has taught Introduction to Psychology over a dozen times, at several universities and to several thousand students.  He has given workshops teaching how to teach introductory psychology, and is the author of the forthcoming “Psychology: A Cartoon Introduction” which provides an accessible overview of the field for lay audiences entirely in the form of cartoons. In addition to introductory psychology, Professor Oppenheimer teaches a diverse array of courses including psychology for public policy, psychometrics and assessment, marketing strategy, higher education reform, the psychology of charity, the psychology of democracy, thinking and reasoning, and human intelligence and human stupidity.

Awards and Honors

Professor Oppenheimer’s research has garnered numerous awards, including The Einhorn Young Investigator award from the Society of Judgment and Decision Making, the Beattie Mid-Career award from the European Association for Decision Making and the Cognition and Student Learning award from the Cognitive Science Society and the Ig Nobel Science Humor award which recognizes “achievements that first make people LAUGH, then make them THINK” For his paper, “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly.”

He has also won a number of teaching awards, including the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, and the Phi Beta Kappa teaching award at Princeton University and the Citibank award for distinguished teaching at UCLA.  In 2015, Poet’s and Quants named him one of the “Top 40 under 40” Business School Professors, which was later inexplicably mistranslated as “Hottest Professors” by various news outlets, but he’s not complaining.