Spring 2019 Workshops
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
Assistant Professor Psychology
"How We Know What Not to Think" (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
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
Professor of Marketing
"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
Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology
"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
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
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
Assistant Professor of Psychology
"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.