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Dr. Jennifer Lerner is Professor of Public Policy and Management at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Co-founder of the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory. Her research draws insights from psychology, economics, and neuroscience to examine human judgment and decision making. Together with colleagues, she has developed a theoretical framework that successfully predicts the effects of specific emotions on specific judgment and choice outcomes. Applied widely, the framework has been especially useful in predicting perceptions of risk, economic decisions, and attributions of responsibility. For example, she has shown that fear and anger – although both negative emotions – exert opposing effects on the perception of risk. She also actively pursues two other programs of research. Specifically, she studies: (a) the mechanisms through which accountability and other authority systems shape judgment and choice outcomes; and (b) the causes and consequences of stress. Her work has, for example, revealed pathways through which bio-behavioral factors (e.g., testosterone, cortisol, and anxiety) predict stress and leadership rank among government, military, and corporate professionals. Across all areas, her work aims to expand the evidentiary base for designing public policies that maximize human wellbeing.
Lerner is a recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, as well as the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to scientists and engineers in the early stages of their careers. Recently, Lerner was again honored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as one of the "Sensational 60," a group designated as prominent scientists whose first grants were graduate school fellowships from the NSF. Her work has been published in leading scientific journals, including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Psychological Bulletin, and Psychological Science, and has been covered by such media outlets as Good Morning, America; National Public Radio; NOVA; the Wall Street Journal; the Washington Post; and the New York Times.
Lerner has also received teaching awards, including the Harvard Kennedy School “Dinner on the Dean” for outstanding teacher evaluations. She is the founding faculty director of an executive education program at Harvard entitled “Leadership Decision Making.” In addition to giving academic talks, Lerner widely presents applications of research to private- and public-sector organizations, including NATO and the United Nations. She received her Ph.D. in 1998 from the University of California – Berkeley. Previously an assistant professor and Estella Loomis McCandless Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, Lerner joined the Harvard faculty and received tenure in 2007.
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