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What We Do

The Center for Decision Research is a dynamic community of behavioral scientists who examine the processes by which intuition, reasoning, and social interaction produce beliefs, judgments, and choices. As part of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the CDR is home to faculty whose accolades include the Nobel Prize and MacArthur Fellowship.

Kaushal Addanki helps a participant fill out a survey

Conduct World-Class Research

The CDR’s PIMCO Decision Research Laboratories enable behavioral scientists to conduct tightly-controlled experimental studies vital for establishing causal relationships. With facilities on campus, in downtown Chicago, pop-up labs in the field, and a virtual lab online, we reach a diverse participant pool to produce robust, replicable data that serve as the bedrock for our researchers' scientific findings, which are routinely published in leading academic journals and discussed in the popular media.

Xuan Zhou presenting a poster

Mentor the Next Generation of Scholars and Practitioners

CDR faculty offer ongoing guidance and support to our next generation of behavioral scientists. These mentorship resources are extended to principal researchers, doctoral students, those in the MBA and Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences, and to undergraduates who show significant promise as future researchers.

Meet our current PhD students and principal research professionals, and learn about our PhD program

Nicholas Epley teaching

Serve as an Intellectual Hub for Behavioral Science

The CDR sponsors a weekly workshop series, in which top behavioral scientists from around the globe present on human judgment, belief, choice, and behavior, fueling vigorous scientific debates and innovative research. This formal workshop is supplemented by a weekly “brown bag” session to showcase work in progress. 

Our quarterly Think Better Speaker Series, open to the public, welcomes leading scholars and practitioners to discuss how insights from behavioral science shape society, policy, business, and daily life.

Looking into Mindworks from the front door

Mindworks: The Science of Thinking

In July 2021, the CDR opened Mindworks, world’s first working lab & discovery center dedicated to behavioral science, in the heart of Chicago's cultural corridor

Free and open to the public, Mindworks welcomes visitors to participate in studies that examine the science of human behavior, particularly judgment and decision making, and to experience hands-on exhibits showcasing the powerful, real-world impact of behavioral science.

Mindworks was conceived by faculty at the CDR and was made possible by generous philanthropic support from PIMCO.

Learn more and plan your visit at mindworkschicago.org

What is "Behavioral Science"?

Behavioral science describes the study of human behavior through the use of systematic experimentation and observation. A behavioral scientist is interested in studying when and why individuals engage in specific behaviors, by experimentally examining the impact of factors like conscious thoughts, motivation, social influences, contextual effects, and habits.
 
Several disciplines fall under the broad label of behavioral science, including:

  • Social psychology
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Behavioral economics
  • Consumer behavior
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology

In order to understand the full complexity of human behavior, some behavioral scientists synthesize theories, concepts, and methodologies across some of these disciplines. For example, the field of behavioral economics emerges from bringing insights from psychology to bear on economic behavior, thereby predicting and explaining behavior that is not anticipated by standard economic theories.  
 
Behavioral science research is diverse and expansive. Behavioral scientists study why humans sometimes behave in a way that may not maximize their own wellbeing, such as making choices in the present that do not maximize a person’s happiness in the future; examine how seemingly arbitrary contextual factors influence our decisions, beliefs, and attitudes; test how different incentives affect people’s motivation and behavior; analyze how people judge others’ traits and characteristics based on features of a person’s face or voice; investigate how consumers can be encouraged to make, avoid, or change spending decisions; and design policy interventions that can help people make choices that they would personally recognize as optimal in the long run.

Watch: Behavioral science research with CDR Faculty Director Nicholas Epley

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