School of Natural and Social Sciences
Department of Psychology


David J. Weiss
Professor Emeritus of Psychology


Introduction  | Teaching Interests  | List of Published Papers (with links)  | Research Interests  | Educational Background


Fresh out of graduate school, I joined the CSULA Psychology Department in 1970.  Early in my research career, I was interested in perceptual judgment.  I withdrew from psychophysics after publishing a paper that argued against the possibility of finding a general psychophysical law (Weiss, D. J. (1981).  The impossible dream of Fechner and Stevens. Perception, 10, 431-434). 

I have always maintained my interest in measurement, defending ordinal data (Weiss, D. J. (1986).  The discriminating power of ordinal data. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 1, 381-389) and insisting on a behavioral foundation for assessment of the effectiveness of programs designed to change health-related actions (Weiss, D. J., Walker, D. L., and Hill, D. (1988). The choice of a measure in a health-promotion study. Health Education Research: Theory and Practice, 3, 381-386). Several new statistical procedures stemmed from my interest in health psychology, including one for incomplete studies (Elder*, W. W., & Weiss, D. J. (1987). Snapshot: Analysis of variance with unequal numbers of scores per subject. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 47, 117-119) and another for coping with attrition (Weiss, D. J. (1991). A behavioral assumption for the analysis of missing data: The use of implanted zeroes.  Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 6, 955-964). A quantitative way to decide whether attrition can reasonably be attributed to chance was presented in Weiss, D. J. (1999). An analysis of variance test for random attrition. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 13, 433-438. With Ward Edwards, I tackled the question of how to average responses, a topic that is not as simple as it would seem on the surface because behavioral responses carry more baggage than mere numbers do (Weiss, D. J., & Edwards, W. (2005). A mean for all seasons. Behavior Research Methods, 37, 677-683.) Years after arguing for the value of ordinal data, I went even farther in a paper illustrating how an experimenter can apply factorial analyses to nominal data (Weiss, D. J. (2009). Nominal analysis of “variance”. Behavior Research Methods, 901-908.)

My empirical interests evolved toward matters of social judgment. Lisa Harris and I tested a model of the way jurors might regard evidence in a rape trial (Harris*, L. R., & Weiss, D. J. (1995). Judgments of consent in simulated rape cases. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 10, 79-90). One of the key issues in this kind of research is how to induce people to share feelings or personal histories that they might consider embarrassing. Laurie Linden and I tested the random response method (Linden*, L .E., & Weiss, D. J. (1991). An empirical assessment of the random response method of sensitive data collection. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 9, 823-836), and Anthony Ong and I explored the role of anonymity (Ong*, A. D., & Weiss, D. J. (2000). The impact of anonymity on responses to “sensitive” questions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 30, 1691-1708).  I have defended the use of deception as a valuable tool (Weiss, D. J. (2001). Deception by researchers is necessary and not necessarily evil. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24, 431-432), although certainly there is some risk that frivolous deception will undermine the credibility of the research community in the eyes of the people who participate in our studies. C. Linda Egu and I illustrated a rather arduous but effective way to circumvent politically correct responses in a study that looked at how teachers view possibly abused students (Egu*, C. L., & Weiss, D. J. (2003). The role of race and severity of abuse in teachers’ recognition or reporting of child abuse. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 12, 465-474.).

I got drawn into health psychology by the late Raymond Ulmer, the author of a great book on patient compliance, who at one time taught part-time in the department. Ray’s encouragement led directly to a speculative article on potential connections (Weiss, D. J. (1989). Potential methodological contributions of mathematical psychology to patient compliance research. Journal of Compliance in Health Care, 4, 95-100.), and indirectly to a project on smoking (Hill, D., Weiss, D. J., Walker, D. L., & Jolley, D. (1988). Long-term evaluation of controlled smoking as a treatment outcome. British Journal of Addiction, 83, 203-207) that I carried out during a sabbatical visit to Australia. I was fortunate to work with Christine Rundall, a student who had a background in nursing prior to her eventual attainment of a doctorate in psychology. I supervised her master’s (Rundall*, C. S., & Weiss, D. J. (1994). Nurses' fear of contagion: A functional measurement analysis. Medical Decision Making, 14, 40-46) and doctoral (Rundall, C. S., & Weiss, D. J. (1998). Patients' anticipated compliance: A functional measurement analysis. Psychology, Health, & Medicine, 3, 261-274) projects, both of which featured innovative applications of functional measurement.

In 1998, I began a long-term collaborative project with my office-mate from graduate school, James Shanteau of Kansas State UniversityShanteau is perhaps the world's leading expert on experts. Our goal is to derive performance-based measures of expertise. The critical issue is how to assess expert performance when there is no outcome that can be measured objectively. The methodology we use, called CWS, derives from analytic methods I first developed in an unpublished study of the growth of wine-tasting skill among students in my colleague David Fitzpatrick's course on sensory evaluation of wine (ah, the seventies!).

An important application of this work is expertise exhibited by air traffic controllers; these early efforts were supported by the Federal Aviation Administration. Shanteau and I have published several papers and chapters, with our magnum opus appearing in a journal that emphasizes the applied value of psychological inquiry (Weiss, D. J., & Shanteau, J. (2003). Empirical assessment of expertise. Human Factors, 45, 104-116). We later extended our work to assessing expertise exhibited by teams, and also to professionals in domains in which objective performance criteria are usually unavailable (Weiss, D. J., Shanteau, J., & Harries, P. (2006). People who judge people. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 19, 441-454. The CWS Web site contains a lot of information about our project.

I retired from full-time teaching in 2006. The links to my course websites, described below in the section on Teaching Interests, have been maintained in the hope that they still have value. Although I no longer take on students, I continue to do research. I began a new stream in collaboration with Jie Weiss, in which we developed a new version of the late Ward Edwards’s classic MAU model adapted for lifestyle decisions. Jie and I edited a book of Edwards’s body of work, which includes several recent papers on which I was a co-author. Another stream examined psychological responses to terrorism threat; that work was carried out in collaboration with Richard John of USC.

* = CSULA student at the time of our collaboration.

Teaching Interests

The class that I taught most often is Psychology 302, our intermediate course in statistics.  This course is required of all majors, and for good reason.  One cannot hope to describe behavior without a language that includes probabilistic constructs.  One of the special fascinations of our discipline is that the objects of study, people, exhibit tremendous variability in their actions. There is variation among different people, of course, but there is also variation within an individual's responses to the same situation.  This makes describing the regularities in behavior a challenge.

I taught Psychology 302 using a lecture format, in which I presented (lots of!) new information in each class. Following the class, there was a laboratory session. In the lab, students practiced the techniques. During the first half of the course, the emphasis was on probability. Statistical inference was the global topic of the second half. The course grade was based solely on performance on the two exams. I constructed a Web site to supplement the lecture and the textbook. 

I also taught the statistics courses Psychology 414 and Psychology 515 annually. These courses focused on Analysis of Variance, my favorite statistical technique. I presented lectures on experimental design as well as analytic techniques. In the classes, we used a set of statistical programs I have written, the CALSTAT series, that is very user-friendly and thereby allows students to focus on learning statistics rather than how to run a program.  I also wrote the text for these classes (the same book was used in both). The text and a CD containing the programs are available together in Weiss, D. J. (2006) Analysis of variance and functional measurement: A practical guide. New York: Oxford University Press. The course grade was based solely on performance on the two exams.

The graduate seminar, Psychology 504, that I taught annually was especially intended for students planning to do a thesis.  As listed in the catalog (Advanced Experimental Methods), the course is slightly mis-titled. I call the course Advanced Research Methods to emphasize that we discuss other methodologies as well. Course topics included issues in the use of human subjects, theories and model construction, and validity of measures. Questionnaire construction was a major focus. Statistics instruction was not a part of this course. Each student presented a proposed experiment in any domain (ungraded) to the class and subsequently submitted a written version (graded). This format allows students to experience a little of what happens in a scientific meeting. An important goal was for students to learn both to give and to absorb professional, constructive, criticism.  The class Web site has information of value to all graduate students.

Human Sexuality, Psychology 542, is another graduate seminar that I taught regularly. In addition to my personal fascination with the domain, sexual behavior presents interesting methodological challenges to the researcher. Obtaining honest reports from people about their sexual feelings and behaviors is problematic, especially from members of sub-cultures for whom sex is a taboo topic. As a researcher in judgment, I am interested in the decisions people make about what to do and about what they choose to share with the researcher. I am tremendously impressed with the courage demonstrated by Masters and Johnson, the pioneer empirical workers in the field, and by Kinsey, who first tried to survey people about these private behaviors. The format of the seminar is similar to the one I employed in Psychology 504. The class Web site has some interesting links...  

Occasionally I presented an idiosyncratic version of Psychology 501, the graduate seminar in perception. My slant was the perception of people, social perception. Topics included eyewitness identification, the study of faces, stereotyping and prejudice, and cultural variations. I view all of these as judgmental issues. The format of the seminar was similar to that of Psychology 504.

Computer programming is the subject of Psychology 409. The goal of the course was for each student to write a viable WINDOWS program of use to a psychologist. This might be a teaching program, one for presenting stimuli/gathering responses from subjects, or even a statistical program. Other applications as proposed by students were also considered. No programming background was presumed. We programmed in VISUAL BASIC 6.0. The grade was based on my subjective evaluation of the program. The class Web site has lots of programming hints.

My personal web site provides information about WORD add-ins I have written and offer for sale. One of the programs is particularly useful for people who write manuscripts in APA style. I also present information about books I have published.

Research Interests

Research interests are among the following domains:

(1) How do people process information in making decisions? Can these decisions be described by simple algebraic models? Many of these studies employ functional measurement methodology.
(2) How can researchers peer inside people's heads? Are there techniques that allow us to explore events in their personal histories? Can we quantify their opinions?
(3) How can we measure expertise? James Shanteau of Kansas State University and I have proposed that two necessary characteristics of expert judgment are: (1) discriminating the various stimuli in the domain and (2) consistent treatment of similar stimuli. Measures of these characteristics are combined in a ratio called the CWS (Cochran-Weiss-Shanteau) index.

Within these domains, my students carried out research projects covering a wide range of topics. Examples included judgments about rape and child abuse, compliance with medical recommendations, and the revelation of sensitive information.

Representative Recent Publications




Weiss, D. J., & Shanteau, J. Empirical assessment of expertiseHuman Factors, 45, 104-116.


Weiss, D. J., & Edwards, W. A mean for all seasons. Behavior Research Methods, 37, 677-683.


Weiss, D. J. Analysis of variance and functional measurement: A practical guide. NY: Oxford University Press. 


Weiss, D. J., Shanteau, J., & Harries, P. People who judge people. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 19, 441-454.


Weiss, D. J. Extracting individual contributions to a team’s performance. Teorie e Modelli, 12, 227-236.


Weiss, J. W., & Weiss, D. J. (Eds.) (2009). A science of decision making: The legacy of Ward Edwards. New York: Oxford University Press.


Weiss, J. W., Weiss, D. J., & Edwards, W. (2010). A descriptive multi-attribute utility model for everyday decisions. Theory and Decision, 68, 101-114.


Weiss, D. J. (2010). Using nominal data to examine information integration. Psicológica, 31, 441-459.


Witteman, C. L. M., Weiss, D. J., & Metzmacher, M. (2012). Assessing diagnostic expertise of counselors using the CWS index. Journal of Counseling and Development, 90, 30-34.

Educational Background

Ph.D. Psychology 1973

University of California, San Diego

San Diego, California

B.A. Psychology 1966

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


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