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Using human nature to improve human life

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Society for Judgment and Decision Making Preconference 2008: Using Human Nature to Improve Human Life. November 14, 2008. Gleacher Center, Chicago, IL.

The University of Chicago’s Center for Decision Research announces that it will host a preconference to this year’s SJDM Annual Meeting, featuring research on how basic knowledge about human nature (fundamental motives, habits, biases, limitations, etc.) can be used to improve individual and social welfare. The preconference will be held on November 14, 2008, and will take place at the Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago.


Research on human judgment and decision making has enriched our understanding of some of the basic features and limitations of human nature. People do not operate with perfect knowledge, unlimited mental capacity, complete self-control, or a perfect ability to appreciate the future as much as the present. These basic features of human nature do not make people inherently flawed, just inherently human. Attempts to improve human life require an understanding of these basic features of human nature in order to design policies and interventions that work within the people’s inherent constraints. Public policy has long been guided by a view of human nature provided by homo economicus, but public policy should also be informed by the psychological understanding of homo sapiens. Those designing organ donation policies, for instance, would do well to note that people are heavily influenced by the default option. Those designing savings programs would do well to note that people value future dollars much less than current dollars. And those designing weight loss programs would do well to note that people will eat whatever portion size is placed in front of them. Psychological research has a role to play in public policy debates and in designing social welfare interventions. This conference will provide a forum in which to present that research.


The Center for Decision Research invites 1-page abstracts for oral presentations of research, which address any systematic human tendency, bias, limitation, or cognitive capacity that can be used to inform interventions or policy to improve human life. Discussion of specific intervention or policy implications is not required, but is encouraged. Faculty members, postdocs and graduate students, and anyone with interesting research to present are all eligible to submit. Submissions must be received by September 1, 2008, and should submitted with your registration for the conference through our website: http://www.chicagocdr.org/sjdm_precon.html


Attendance for the preconference is limited. To reserve a space for yourself, please visit our conference website: http://www.chicagocdr.org/sjdm_precon.html


The preconference will last a full business day, organized in two sessions which will feature Cornell University’s Brian Wansink (discussing his work related to obesity and health) and Princeton’s Eldar Shafir (discussing his work on poverty) alongside the other presenters.

Photo Credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/esspea/288035510/