HKS Authors

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Thornton Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy, Decision Science, and Management


Do emotions influence your decision-making? Should they? Do they mislead or convey important information and aid your decision-making? The answer to all these questions is yes. In January 2003, the space shuttle Columbia lifted off from Cape Kennedy with seven astronauts on board. Eighty-one seconds into flight, a piece of foam insulation fell away from the external tank that fueled the main engine. Cameras recorded the foam striking Columbia on its left wing. Foam had struck the spacecraft on prior flights but never caused much damage. Some engineers were alarmed by this latest incident, but senior NASA managers were reluctant to check for damage. To do so, they would have had to track down satellite imagery from other agencies or improvise a space walk. Neither approach was attractive. More troubling, officials seemed unwilling or unable to face the possibility of serious damage. "I don't think there is much we can do about it," said one senior manager.


Zimmerman, Peter, and Jennifer S. Lerner. "Decisions, Decisions." Government, September 29, 2010.