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Faculty: Jennifer Lerner
|Meet Day||M/W||1:15 PM - 2:30 PM||L280|
Professionals who work in government, business, the legal system, medicine, and many other settings make critically important decisions every day. Whom should our organization hire? How much financial risk can we tolerate? How should we structure accountability systems? Taking this course will help you to make such decisions in a less biased and more systematic way. It will also help you understand the underlying psychology of the mind. More specifically, it will help you understand when and why humans depart from standards of accuracy and rationality in judgment and decision making. Course topics will include (a) basic mental processes in perception, memory and context dependence; (b) how questions affect answers; (c) models of decision making; (d) heuristics and biases; (e) social and group influences; (f) common traps; and (g) debiasing techniques. We will also discuss emotion. The lectures and discussions will be coordinated to complement weekly readings, which draw from psychology (primarily), behavioral economics, and neuroscience. Throughout the course, the overarching goals are to: (1) Learn about the academic field of judgment and decision making, its major theories, results, and debates. (2) Become a critical consumer of research findings, learning: (a) how to identify behavioral science studies on a given topic and (b) the methodological standards for evaluating the soundness of such studies. (3) Develop the ability to effectively write and speak about behavioral science theories, results, and debates. (4) Acquire practical skills for improving your own judgments and decisions.(5) Acquire knowledge of which biases individuals can fix with training/knowledge and which biases individuals cannot fix unless managers engage in institutional design (e.g., nudges). (6) Develop a capstone project in which you apply the material in a way that will improve professional decision making processes. Possible selections include legal process, government institutions, medical settings, and other areas where high stakes decisions are made regarding policy.
Enrollment is open to any Harvard University student with graduate student standing. Undergraduates may enroll only by permission of the instructor. No specific prerequisites but prior coursework in psychology and economics will be a significant help. No space for auditors.