Charles Dorison PPOL PhD researches how emotions influence decision-making.
Name and HKS degree: Charles Dorison Public Policy PhD 2020
Home town: Longmeadow, Massachusetts
Education: BA Psychology and Economics, Washington University in St. Louis
Favorite spot in Harvard Square: Darwin’s Ltd.
Fun fact: I didn’t find out I was color blind until I was nineteen years old.
I came to Harvard Kennedy School because I wanted to help the common good by improving public policy. Working with inspiring individuals every day who hold that same goal—individuals who challenge and push me to do my best research—absolutely invigorates me.
I chose to pursue a doctoral degree at HKS because I believed it would be the best opportunity for me not only to conduct high-quality research on the role of emotion in judgment and decision making, but also to maximize its impact on policy. The HKS judgment and decision-making track in the Public Policy program allows students to pursue their own path while learning from thought leaders in psychology, economics, and public policy. Students have the ability to capitalize on the strengths of the University as a whole and take classes and do research with faculty anywhere on campus.
Professors Jennifer Lerner and Julia Minson encouraged me to be creative and push the limits of the field, while nonetheless being rigorous and thoughtful in doing so. Their mentorship has provided the direction for my research and I am extremely grateful for the time and effort they have put into developing both my research skills and career.
In July 2017 and 2018, I led a full-day seminar for 30 police chiefs in California. I taught them key concepts from emotion and behavioral science, and led discussions about how we could best apply these insights to improve their work and organizations. Just weeks after the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, it was so rewarding to hear how they could take our research and apply it to make the world a safer place. For example, the chiefs learned how to structure decision environments to make unbiased risk assessments and hiring decisions. I’ll return to lead the seminar again in 2019.
I receive fellowship funding from the Center for Public Leadership and the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative; this support has been crucial for a project I worked on with Professors Jennifer Lerner and Marshall Ganz on the empirical foundations of public narrative. In this project, we examine the psychometric underpinnings of a widely successful intervention that allows leaders to harness their own narrative. We hope to develop a scale to measure public narrative that will be useful for both impact evaluation and psychological study.
I love “The Book of Human Emotions” because it emphasizes the common humanity we all share, regardless of where we come from or our different experiences. My belief in a shared common good drives my research here at HKS and affirms my desire to improve public policy.
In the coming months and years, I hope to contribute to and advocate for the growing involvement of behavioral science and emotion research in public policy. I hope to pursue a career focused on using experimental research to improve decision-making outcomes for public leaders.