Behavioral Science Workshops - Center for Decision Research | Chicago Booth

Behavioral Science Workshops

Invited guests, faculty, and students present current research in decision-making and judgment in our workshop series. The emphasis of our workshop series is on behavioral implications of decision and judgment models.

Fall 2019 Workshop Schedule

Location: Chicago Booth Harper Center, Classroom C06
Time: Mondays, 10:10–11:30 a.m.

Monday, September 23

Katherine Coffman
Assistant Professor of Business Administration
Harvard Business School

"Stereotypes and Belief Updating"
We explore how self-assessments respond to feedback about own ability across a range of tasks, with a particular focus on how gender stereotypes impact belief updating. Participants in our experiments take tests of their ability across different domains. Absent feedback, beliefs of own ability are strongly influenced by gender stereotypes: holding own ability fixed, individuals are more confident in gender congruent domains. We then provide noisy feedback about own absolute performance to participants and elicit posterior beliefs. Gender stereotypes have significant predictive power for posterior beliefs, both through their influence on prior beliefs (as predicted by a Bayesian model) but also through their influence on updating (a non-Bayesian channel). Both men and women’s beliefs are more responsive to information in gender congruent domains than gender incongruent domains. This is primarily driven by differential reactions to exogenously-received good news about own ability: both men and women react more to good news when it arrives in a gender congruent domain than when it arrives in a gender incongruent domain. Our results have important implications for understanding how feedback shapes, and perpetuates, gender gaps in self-assessments.

Monday, September 30

Mary Steffel
Assistant Professor of Marketing
Northeastern University, D'Amore-McKim School of Business

"Overlooking the Gift that Always Fits: Givers Underestimate the Appeal of Unconstrained Gifts"
Gift givers underestimate the appeal of unconstrained gift cards and consequently tend to choose gift cards that are more constrained than recipients prefer to receive. Givers mistakenly believe that recipients will like unconstrained gift cards less and consider them to be less thoughtful than constrained but tailored gift cards, and they overestimate the extent to which giving constrained but tailored gift cards will make givers seem more thoughtful and enhance their closeness to recipients. This mismatch occurs even when gift cards are given anonymously, suggesting that signaling cannot alone explain givers’ reluctance to choose unconstrained gift cards. This tendency arises largely because givers and recipients focus on different things: givers seek out gifts that are representative of recipients and their characteristics whereas recipients gravitate toward gifts that can satisfy their wants and needs, representative or not. Prompting givers to focus on recipients’ wants and needs makes them less likely to overlook unconstrained gifts.

Monday, October 7

Keith Chen
Associate Professor of Economics
UCLA Anderson School of Management

"Using smartphone data to study both the causes and consequences of face-to-face interactions"
77% of adult Americans carry smartphones, and the data they produce represents a tremendous opportunity to learn about cognition and decision making. I’ll present a series of shorter studies that use anonymized data for 10 million smartphone users to study two broad sets of phenomena: how face-to-face contact is affected by fissures such as partisan antipathy, and how face-to-face affects the spread of beliefs, knowledge, and information.

Monday, October 14

Jesse Graham
Associate Professor
University of Utah, Management Department

"Moral Circles, Political Divides"
The idea of the moral circle pictures the self in the center, surrounded by concentric circles encompassing increasingly distant possible targets of moral concern, including family, local community, nation, all humans, all mammals, all living things including plants, and all things including inanimate objects. I present the idea of two opposing sets of forces in people’s moral circles, with centripetal forces pulling inward, urging greater concern for close others than for distant others, and centrifugal forces pushing outward, resisting “drawing the line” anywhere as a form of prejudice and urging egalitarian concern for all regardless of social distance. This centripetal/centrifugal forces view is applied to current moral debates about empathy (e.g., parochialism vs. universalism) and about politics (e.g., nationalism vs. globalism). I argue that this view helps us see how intercultural and interpersonal disagreements about morality and prejudice are based in intrapersonal conflicts shared by all people.

Monday, October 21

No workshop

Monday, October 28

Silvia Saccardo
Assistant Professor, Social and Decision Sciences
Carnegie Mellon University

"Motivated Beliefs and Unethical Behavior"
Unethical behavior such as corruption or biased professional advice is widespread. While some people have no psychological costs associated with such behaviors, for others the desire to pursue private gains conflicts with the desire to maintain their self-image as moral. This tension may be attenuated if individuals have scope for manipulating their beliefs, convincing themselves that choices that maximize their private gains are also ethical. In this talk, I will discuss the role of self-deception in expert advice, which is often plagued with conflicts of interest, and identify some of the factors that enable and constrain advisors’ ability to distort their recommendations. Data from laboratory experiments where advisors recommend investments to clients show that that the order in which advisors learn about their own incentives and privately judge the investments affects the ethicality of their behavior, their beliefs, and their subsequent choices when incentives are removed. I will further discuss the question of whether advisors anticipate this malleability of beliefs, and present evidence showing that a substantial proportion of advisor is willing to incur costs to make initial evaluations in a context that enables them to bias their advice.

Monday, November 4

Susan Fiske
Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology and Professor of Public Affairs
Princeton University

"Mapping Stereotypes: The Shape of Things to Come"
Demography is destiny, and with globalization and immigration, countries all over the world are reacting, from nativism to cosmopolitanism. This talk examines the psychology of such responses, mapping stereotype content as a function of social structure: inequality, conflict, and diversity.

Monday, November 11

Mike Luca
Lee J. Styslinger III Associate Professor of Business Administration
Harvard Business School

"Designing Online Reputation Systems"
Online reviews and ratings play an important role in shaping transactions, both online and offline. People often turn to TripAdvisor to plan a vacation, Zocdoc to find a doctor, and Yelp to choose a new restaurant. Ratings and reputation systems are also an important part of online marketplaces such as Amazon, Airbnb, and Uber. This talk will explore recent research on the challenges involved in designing review systems – such as identifying fake reviews, avoiding selection bias, and augmenting reviews with other types of information.


Spring 2019 Workshop Schedule

Location: Chicago Booth Harper Center, Classroom C06
Time: Mondays, 10:10–11:30 a.m.

Monday, April 8

Xuan Zhao, CDR Postdoctoral Fellow: "Why hold back that compliment? People underestimate the positive impact of compliments on recipients"
Samuel Hirshman, CDR PhD Student: "Ownership, Beliefs, and Expectations"
Jessica Lopez, CDR PhD Student: "A Preference for Preference: Lack of Subjective Preference Evokes Dehumanization"

Monday, April 15

Fiery Cushman
Assistant Professor Psychology
Harvard University

"How We Know What Not to Think" (Click here to view the PDF.)
A striking feature of the real world is that there is too much to think about. This feature is remarkably understudied in laboratory contexts, where the study of decision-making is typically limited to small “choice sets” defined by an experimenter. In such cases an individual may devote considerable attention to each item in the choice set. But in everyday life we are often not presented with defined choice sets; rather, we must construct a viable set of alternatives to consider. I will present several recent and ongoing research projects that each aim to understand how humans spontaneously decide what actions to consider—in other words, how we construct choice sets. A common theme among these studies is a key role for cached value representations. Additionally, I will present some evidence that moral norms play a surprisingly and uniquely large role in constraining choice sets and, more broadly, in modal cognition. This suggests a new avenue for understanding the specific manner in which morality influences human behavior.

Monday, April 22

Dov Cohen
Professor of Psychology
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"Attitudes, Institutions, and Behavior"
Most psychologists assume a harmonious relation between attitudes and behavior and a correspondence between the values of a culture and its institutions. However, institutions often act as intermediating forces between collective attitudes and behavior, and the value-expressive function of institutions may be at odds with the actual outcomes they produce. Following an earlier “culture and finance” research tradition, we illustrate this with the paradox of consumer debt. We contrast historically Protestant vs. Catholic places and show how cultural beliefs against debt may lead to the creation of institutions that facilitate – rather than inhibit -- the stigmatized behavior. Specifically, anti-debt attitudes in Protestant places led to the creation of pro-creditor/anti-debtor institutions that made lending safer and more profitable for creditors. This led creditors in Protestant (vs. Catholic) places to increase the supply of credit; and as a consequence, contemporary households in Protestant cultures now carry the highest debt loads. We discuss the importance of considering supply-side factors, attitude -> institutions -> behavior causal chains, and some of the blindspots and mechanisms producing unintended consequences.

Monday, April 29

Zakary Tormala
Professor of Marketing
Stanford University

"Perceiving Attitude Change"
Attitude change and persuasion are among the most studied topics in social and consumer psychology. Surprisingly, though, as a field we have little into perceived attitude change—that is, how people assess the magnitude of a shift in someone’s attitude or opinion. The current research provides an initial investigation of this issue. We find consistent support for a qualitative change hypothesis, whereby qualitative attitude change (change of valence; e.g., from negative to positive) is perceived as greater than otherwise equivalent non-qualitative attitude change (change within valence; e.g., from negative to less negative or from positive to more positive). This effect is driven at least partly by ease of processing, and it has numerous downstream consequences. For example, it affects people’s predictions of their own and others’ behaviors, it influences people’s perceptions of individuals (e.g., politicians) who change their opinions over time, and it drives people’s selection of persuasion targets.

Monday, May 6

Joe Henrich
Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology
Harvard University

"W.E.I.R.D. Minds: How Westerners Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous"
An accumulating body of evidence now reveals not only substantial global variation along several important psychological dimensions, but also that people from societies that are Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD) are particularly unusual, often anchoring the ends of global psychological distributions. In this talk, to explain these patterns, I’ll first show how the most fundamental of human institutions—those governing marriage and families—influence our motivations, perceptions, intuitions and emotions. Then, to explain the peculiar trajectory of European societies over the second millennium of the Common Era, I lay out how one particular branch of Christianity systematically dismantled the intensive kin-based institutions in much of Latin Christendom, thereby altering people’s psychology and opening the door to new forms of voluntary organizations (charter towns, universities and guilds), impersonal markets and eventually modern organizational competition. I close by arguing that the psychological and economic sciences must transform into historical-evolutionary sciences that explicitly theorize how institutions, technologies and languages shape our minds.

Monday, May 13

Joanna Schug
Associate Professor of Psychology
College of William and Mary

"Relational Mobility: A Socio-Ecological Framework to Understand Cultural Variation"
I will introduce the concept of relational mobility, defined as the amount of opportunities individuals have to enter into and exit from social relationships in a given social ecology, and discuss how variation in relational mobility may explain cross-cultural variability in behavioral and psychological processes. Social ecologies with different levels of relational mobility present individuals with different adaptive tasks to which they must orient their behaviors and cognition, and understanding the nature of these tasks and the strategies adapted to them can allow researchers to explain and predict variation in behavioral and cognitive tendencies across cultures and social contexts. I will present the results of previous and ongoing studies that use the framework of relational mobility to understand cultural differences in psychological processes, and discuss the utility and challenges associated with this approach.

Monday, May 20

Steve Heine
Professor of Psychology
University of British Columbia

"DNA Is Not Destiny: How Essences Distort How People Think About Genetics"
People the world over are essentialist thinkers—they are attracted to the idea that hidden essences make things as they are. And because genetic concepts remind people of essences, they tend to think of genes in ways similar to essences. That is, people tend to think about genetic causes as immutable, deterministic, homogenous, discrete, and natural. I will discuss how our essentialist biases lead people to think differently about sex, sexual orientation, race, ancestry, crime, eugenics, and disease whenever these are described in genetic terms. These essentialistic biases make people vulnerable to the sensationalist hype that has emerged with the genomic revolution and access to direct-to-consumer genotyping services. I’ll also discuss some efforts to reduce people’s essentialist reactions to genetic concepts.

Monday, June 3

Molly Crockett
Assistant Professor of Psychology
Yale University

"Modeling Morality in 3-D: Decision-Making, Judgment & Inference"
Humans face a fundamental challenge of how to balance selfish interests against moral considerations. Such trade‐offs are implicit in moral decisions about what to do; judgments of whether an action is morally right or wrong; and inferences about the moral character of others. To date, these three dimensions of moral cognition—decision‐making, judgment, and inference—have been studied largely independently, using very different experimental paradigms. However, important aspects of moral cognition occur at the intersection of multiple dimensions. This talk will demonstrate the advantages of investigating these three dimensions of moral cognition within a unified experimental framework. A core component of this framework is harm aversion, a moral sentiment defined as a distaste for harming others. The framework integrates economic utility models of harm aversion with Bayesian reinforcement learning models describing beliefs about others’ harm aversion. Examples from several studies will show how this framework can provide novel insights into the mechanisms of moral decision‐making, judgment, and inference.

Marketing Workshop

Many CDR members may also be interested in the schedule for the Marketing Workshop series.

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