Archives for decision-making



How to Talk to Doctors: Groopman and Hartzband Answer Your Questions

Last week, we solicited questions for Harvard physicians Jerome Groopman and Pamela Hartzband, the authors of Your Medical Mind: How to Decide What Is Right For You. They’ve come back to us with some answers. As always, thanks for your questions, and thanks to Jerry and Pam for taking the time to answer them. Read More »



What to Do After a Dining Disaster?

Here’s the scene: a woman on New York’s Upper West Side walks into Le Pain Quotidien, a high-end café chain. She sits down, orders a salad. The salad arrives. The contents: a) leafy greens and b) an entire dead mouse. Two nearby customers, one of whom happened to be Stephen Dubner, saw the scene unfold. Read More »



Why Do We Fail to Do What’s Right? Authors of Blind Spots Answer Your Questions

Earlier this month, we published a guest post on the ethics of the decision-making that led to the 1986 Challenger shuttle disaster. That post was adapted from a new book called Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It. The authors are Max Bazerman, a professor at Harvard Business School, and Ann Tenbrunsel, a professor of business ethics at Notre Dame.

We then solicited your questions for Brazerman and Tenbrunsel, who now return with their answers. Read More »



A Kid Who Can Handle His Putter — and, More Important, Hyperbolic Discounting

It’s always good to see someone willing to pass up a certain short-term gain in favor of a potential long-term gain that’s much more significant. In this case it’s a teenage golfer — with a big assist from his father. From the Washington Post:

How much is your high school athletic career worth?

That is the question an Anne Arundel County teenager had to decide last month after winning $5,000 in a putting contest at a charity golf outing.

However, before 15-year-old Garrett Sauls, a freshman at South River High School, could think about a spending spree — perhaps a new putter, some wedges and new tennis shoes — his father realized that accepting the money might present a problem.

Read More »



Government Safety Regulation: Kind Mother or Big Brother?

Jeff Mosenkis, a freelance producer with Freakonomics Radio, holds a Ph.D. in psychology and comparative human development.

Government Safety Regulation: Kind Mother or Big Brother?
By Jeff Mosenkis

On the same day last week, news stories broke about two different parts of government demonstrating two different ideological approaches to regulating consumer safety. In the first, the FDA came out with rules standardizing the labeling of sunscreen, after 33 years of deliberation.

Presumably, the reasoning behind making sure the claims on sunscreens are clear and uniform across different products (like the standardized nutrition information on food packaging) is to allow consumers to make better decisions for themselves. Let’s call this the Kind Mother approach.We are given information that strongly hints at which is the right choice, but ultimately are still able to decide for ourselves.

At the same time, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has directed its staff to draft regulations governing the safety of table saws. An estimated 40,000 people are injured every year when hands, fingers or other body parts find their way into the path of a table saw blade. Read More »



FREAK-est Links

This week: Does having a full bladder help you make more rational decisions? A survey of the best Civil War facial hair; why wheat beer is good for marathoners; and whether the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is the largest field study ever in behavioral economics. Read More »



Launching Into Unethical Behavior: Lessons from the Challenger Disaster

Ann E. Tenbrunsel is a professor of business ethics at the University of Notre Dame. Max Bazerman is a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. The guest post below is adapted from their new book Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do About It.
 

Launching into Unethical Behavior
By Ann E. Tenbrunsel
and Max H. Bazerman

The 25th and last flight of the shuttle Endeavour has come and gone. Which means there’s just one shuttle flight left: July 8′s Atlantis launch will be the 135th and final mission for the program, 30 years after the first shuttle test flights occurred.

For anyone who was around on Tuesday, January 28, 1986, it’s difficult to watch a shuttle launch without remembering the Challenger disaster, when the space shuttle disintegrated 73 seconds after launch, killing all seven crew members. While the most commonly referenced explanation for what went wrong focuses on the technological failures associated with the O-rings, an examination of the decision process that led to the launch through a modern day “behavioral ethics” lens illuminates a much more complicated, and troubling, picture. One that can help us avoid future ethical disasters. Read More »



The Economic Part of Our Brains

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have conclusively identified a part of the brain that’s necessary for making everyday decisions about value. Previous magnetic imaging studies suggested that the ventromedial frontal cortex, or VMF, plays an evaluative role during decision-making. New research led by Joseph Kable, an assistant professor of psychology in Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences, shows that people with damaged VMF’s (victims of strokes, aneurysms, or brain tumors) are less able to choose things that are most valuable, and are also less consistent in their choices. The results were published in The Journal of Neuroscience. Read More »