About Me

I study the ways that system designs, particularly intelligent systems and socio-technical systems, influence users' decision making and behavior. I am currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan working with Dr. Brian Zikmund-Fisher studying and designing decision aids for health and medical decisions. I completed my PhD in 2015 at the Department of Media and Information at Michigan State University studying under Dr. Rick Wash.


Medical Test Result Visualization

I currently work on an AHRQ-funded grant to design meaningful presentations of medical test results to patients that can be displayed in online patient portals.

Colonoscopy Screening Decision Aid

Working with Dr. Sameer Saini at the Ann Arbor VA, I have designed and developed an online decision aid to help clinicians decide whether the benefits of a colonoscopy are worth the risks for a patient given some individual characteristics. This aid can help clinicians make more personalized decisions about screening and highlights some particular examples of patients whose risk and benefit from screening runs counterintuitively from established guidelines.

An alpha version of this tool can be seen at http://das.medu.umich.edu/screening/screening.html

Intelligent Decision Aids

My dissertation research looked at the ways that the design of intelligent decision aids (decision aids that use artificial intelligence or similarly sophisticated computation to make recommendations to decision makers) can create decision making biases. I found that the customizability of the system, the transparency, and users expectations of its efficacy can cause users to agree with system recommendations regardless of what recommendations are given.


I have worked with Rick Wash to study how the design of crowdfunding platforms influences users' ability to coordinate their collective efforts and successfully fund projects. Our research has mainly involved controlled lab experiments that simulate crowds on a crowdfunding site, where we have found that the style of crowdfunding (All-or-nothing vs. Keep-it-all) and the timing of donations have important consequences for project outcomes.

Online Communities

I have studied the design of Online Communities with my PhD advisor Rick Wash, where have found that early contributions to online communities set an expectation for newcomers about what is required, and that if new users do not see the existing content on a site they are likely to contribute more. We have also found that communities should be designed to attract members rather than content, as communities such as WikiProjects on Wikipedia will have more long-term growth if they attract many new people rather than getting a smaller number of people to contribute more content.

Other projects

Some other projects I have worked on have looked at the design of instant messaging and self-service kiosks, as well as some theoretical work about privacy concerns from targeted advertising and understanding how users determine the "source" of their interaction with a computer in an online environment.


You can download my cv here.


I can be reached at jacobbs at umich dot edu.