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September 23, 2015

Obama issues executive order directing Federal agencies to apply behavioral insights

Filed in Research News
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President Obama has issued an executive order that will interest the readers of this blog. Read it below.


A growing body of evidence demonstrates that behavioral science insights — research findings from fields such as behavioral economics and psychology about how people make decisions and act on them — can be used to design government policies to better serve the American people.

Where Federal policies have been designed to reflect behavioral science insights, they have substantially improved outcomes for the individuals, families, communities, and businesses those policies serve. For example, automatic enrollment and automatic escalation in retirement savings plans have made it easier to save for the future, and have helped Americans accumulate billions of dollars in additional retirement savings. Similarly, streamlining the application process for Federal financial aid has made college more financially accessible for millions of students.

To more fully realize the benefits of behavioral insights and deliver better results at a lower cost for the American people, the Federal Government should design its policies and programs to reflect our best understanding of how people engage with, participate in, use, and respond to those policies and programs. By improving the effectiveness and efficiency of Government, behavioral science insights can support a range of national priorities, including helping workers to find better jobs; enabling Americans to lead longer, healthier lives; improving access to educational opportunities and support for success in school; and accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy.

NOW, THEREFORE, by the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, I hereby direct the following:

Section 1. Behavioral Science Insights Policy Directive.

(a) Executive departments and agencies (agencies) are encouraged to:

(i) identify policies, programs, and operations where applying behavioral science insights may yield substantial improvements in public welfare, program outcomes, and program cost effectiveness;

(ii) develop strategies for applying behavioral science insights to programs and, where possible, rigorously test and evaluate the impact of these insights;

(iii) recruit behavioral science experts to join the Federal Government as necessary to achieve the goals of this directive; and

(iv) strengthen agency relationships with the research community to better use empirical findings from the behavioral sciences.

(b) In implementing the policy directives in section (a), agencies shall:

(i) identify opportunities to help qualifying individuals, families, communities, and businesses access public programs and benefits by, as appropriate, streamlining processes that may otherwise limit or delay participation — for example, removing administrative hurdles, shortening wait times, and simplifying forms;

(ii) improve how information is presented to consumers, borrowers, program beneficiaries, and other individuals, whether as directly conveyed by the agency, or in setting standards for the presentation of information, by considering how the content, format, timing, and medium by which information is conveyed affects comprehension and action by individuals, as appropriate;

(iii) identify programs that offer choices and carefully consider how the presentation and structure of those choices, including the order, number, and arrangement of options, can most effectively promote public welfare, as appropriate, giving particular consideration to the selection and setting of default options; and

(iv) review elements of their policies and programs that are designed to encourage or make it easier for Americans to take specific actions, such as saving for retirement or completing education programs. In doing so, agencies shall consider how the timing, frequency, presentation, and labeling of benefits, taxes, subsidies, and other incentives can more effectively and efficiently promote those actions, as appropriate. Particular attention should be paid to opportunities to use nonfinancial incentives.

(c) For policies with a regulatory component, agencies are encouraged to combine this behavioral science insights policy directive with their ongoing review of existing significant regulations to identify and reduce regulatory burdens, as appropriate and consistent with Executive Order 13563 of January 18, 2011 (Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review), and Executive Order 13610 of May 10, 2012 (Identifying and Reducing Regulatory Burdens).

Sec. 2. Implementation of the Behavioral Science Insights Policy Directive. (a) The Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST), under the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) and chaired by the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, shall provide agencies with advice and policy guidance to help them execute the policy objectives outlined in section 1 of this order, as appropriate.

(b) The NSTC shall release a yearly report summarizing agency implementation of section 1 of this order each year until 2019. Member agencies of the SBST are expected to contribute to this report.

(c) To help execute the policy directive set forth in section 1 of this order, the Chair of the SBST shall, within 45 days of the date of this order and thereafter as necessary, issue guidance to assist agencies in implementing this order.

Sec. 3. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to a department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) Independent agencies are strongly encouraged to comply with the requirements of this order.

(d) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.


September 15, 2015.

September 15, 2015

The counterfactual GPS hits XKCD

Filed in Gossip ,Ideas
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Back in 2010 we published a post on an idea we had called the counterfactual GPS. Have a look.

As you can see above, today, XKCD had the same idea. Did XKCD author Randall Munroe steal it? Probably not. Does it make us feel good that such a clever and creative person as Randall Munroe had the same idea? Oh yes, yes it does.

September 9, 2015

The Foundations of Utility and Risk (FUR) Conference, June 27-30, 2016

Filed in Conferences
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The Foundations of Utility and Risk Conference 2016 (FUR 2016) invites extended abstracts (of about 500 words excluding references) for presentations and posters on any interesting topic related to behavioral / decision science, experimental economics, social psychology, judgment and decision making, neuroscience as well as behavioral research using Big Data. Completed manuscripts are not required.

Location, Conference Dates & Programme: The FUR 2016 conference will be held in Coventry, UK, June 27-30, 2016. The conference will take place at Warwick Manufacturing Group of the University of Warwick. More information about the conference can be found at http://furconference.org

Apart from keynote addresses, we will organize a number of interactive plenary roundtables on important and stimulating topics such as “Ambiguity and Learning”, “Behavioral Game Theory”, “Imprecision and Noise”, and “Neuroscience”.

Preliminary list of keynote and plenary speakers can be accessed via the FUR 2016 website: http://furconference.org/speakers/

Submissions: Submissions will be open from October 15, 2015. The deadline for submissions is December 15, 2015, end of the day (23:59 UTC/London Time). All submissions for presentations, and posters should be made through the FUR conference website at http://furconference.org/. Questions can be addressed to the Conference Committee at fur2016@furconference.org. For more information on submissions, please, see http://furconference.org/submissions/.

Decisions: Decisions on all submissions will be communicated on or before February 1, 2016.

Registration: The conference registration deadline will be Friday, March 25, 2016, end of the day (23:59 London Time). Late registrations (after March 25, 2016) will have a higher fee. Therefore, you are encouraged to register early. Registration will open on October 26, 2015 via http://furconference.org. Further details on the registration fees as well as the information on local accommodation will be available on this website shortly.

Special Issue of “Theory and Decision”: Traditionally, papers accepted to the FUR conference qualify for submission to the Special Issue of “Theory and Decision”. Further information about how to submit to the Special Issue will be available through this website shortly.

Important dates:

  • October 15, 2015: Submissions open
  • October 26, 2015: Registrations open
  • December 15, 2015: Submissions close
  • February 1, 2016: Decisions communicated
  • March 25, 2016: Registration deadline
  • June 27-30, 2016: FUR 2016 Conference dates

Social Media

  • Like our page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FURConference
  • Connect with us via Twitter: https://twitter.com/FUR2016 hashtags: #FUR2016 and #FURWarwick
  • Share your pictures via Instagram: https://instagram.com/fur_conference/

September 4, 2015

JDM Pre-Conference at SPSP, January 28, 2016

Filed in Conferences
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The 11th annual Judgment and Decision Making Pre-Conference at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) annual meeting will be held from 8:30am to 4:30 pm on January 28th, 2016 in San Diego. The pre-conference highlights the emerging nexus of social, personality, judgment, and decision making research.

The scheduled speakers include:

  • Devin Pope (University of Chicago)
  • Melissa Ferguson (Cornell)
  • Clayton Critcher (UC Berkeley)
  • Rebecca Ratner (University of Maryland)
  • Elanor Williams (UC San Diego)
  • Alex Imas (Carnegie Mellon University)
  • Barbara Mellers (University of Pennsylvania)

The pre-conference will also feature a poster session, and we will offer a limited number of $200 travel reimbursements to undergraduate or graduate students who are first authors on accepted posters. Selected travel award winners will also be given the opportunity to present a 10-minute “data blitz” talk during the preconference. The deadline for poster submissions is December 1st, 2015.

To register for the conference, or for more information, please visit the pre-conference website at: http://www.jdmpreconference.org

August 27, 2015

Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science

Filed in Articles ,Research News
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Science Magazine has just published the article Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science/ (PDF).  We’ll let the abstract speak for itself.


Reproducibility is a defining feature of science, but the extent to which it characterizes current research is unknown. We conducted replications of 100 experimental and correlational studies published in three psychology journals using high-powered designs and original materials when available. Replication effects were half the magnitude of original effects, representing a substantial decline. Ninety-seven percent of original studies had statistically significant results. Thirty-six percent of replications had statistically significant results; 47% of original effect sizes were in the 95% confidence interval of the replication effect size; 39% of effects were subjectively rated to have replicated the original result; and if no bias in original results is assumed, combining original and replication results left 68% with statistically significant effects. Correlational tests suggest that replication success was better predicted by the strength of original evidence than by characteristics of the original and replication teams.

The work was done by the Open Science Collaboration, a group of 270 authors, led by Brian Nosek.

Now, the question on everyone’s mind. What do you think about this, Decision Science News?

  • When we review papers, we see a lot of quibbling about theoretical contributions, which editors readily embrace and push back on authors. These debates are almost entirely subjective. Rarely do reviewers say “given the sample sizes here, and researcher degrees of freedom (i.e., the countless ways that authors can deceive themselves by massaging the data until desired results emerge), I don’t believe there’s anything here. I want to see this replicate on a larger sample.” And when they do, editors rarely push the authors to replicate as if it’s impolite, like it’s accusing the authors of cheating. Let’s change that. The first order concern is establishing the effect or its absence. Worry about the theory next. To do otherwise is a waste of time.
  • People think this is bad news for psychology.  For psychology past, sure. But for psychology future, it’s a good thing. Decision Science News has met many psych researchers in recent years who are embracing replication, favoring larger samples, and being skeptical of what they read in Psychological Science. They’ve also started researching topics like: false positive psychology, p-hacking, and researcher degrees of freedom. People seem eager to break with the past.
  • Non-replication doesn’t imply shenanigans in the original study. Non-replications can happen for a lot of reasons. However, when a lot of findings don’t replicate, it’s a sign that something’s wrong. We suspect that a lot of what doesn’t replicate is the result of file-drawer effects and p-hacking.
  • We probably would have seen better replication results if the original studies were larger. Large samples make it much more difficult for researchers to deceive themselves during data analysis because small adjustments (i.e., exercising “researcher degrees of freedom”) don’t change things much when samples are large.
  • Fields that haven’t run their own massive replication projects shouldn’t throw stones.

Alexander A. Aarts, Joanna E. Anderson, Christopher J. Anderson, Peter R. Attridge,, Angela Attwood, Jordan Axt, Molly Babel, Štepán Bahník, Erica Baranski, Michael Barnett-Cowan, Elizabeth Bartmess, Jennifer Beer, Raoul Bell, Heather Bentley, Leah Beyan, Grace Binion, Denny Borsboom, Annick Bosch, Frank A. Bosco, Sara D. Bowman, Mark J. Brandt, Erin Braswell, Hilmar Brohmer, Benjamin T. Brown, Kristina Brown, Jovita Brüning,, Ann Calhoun-Sauls, Shannon P. Callahan, Elizabeth Chagnon, Jesse Chandler,, Christopher R. Chartier, Felix Cheung,, Cody D. Christopherson, Linda Cillessen, Russ Clay, Hayley Cleary, Mark D. Cloud, Michael Cohn, Johanna Cohoon, Simon Columbus, Andreas Cordes, Giulio Costantini, Leslie D. Cramblet Alvarez, Ed Cremata, Jan Crusius, Jamie DeCoster, Michelle A. DeGaetano, Nicolás Della Penna, Bobby den Bezemer, Marie K. Deserno, Olivia Devitt, Laura Dewitte, David G. Dobolyi, Geneva T. Dodson, M. Brent Donnellan, Ryan Donohue, Rebecca A. Dore, Angela Dorrough,, Anna Dreber, Michelle Dugas, Elizabeth W. Dunn, Kayleigh Easey, Sylvia Eboigbe, Casey Eggleston, Jo Embley, Sacha Epskamp, Timothy M. Errington, Vivien Estel, Frank J. Farach,, Jenelle Feather, Anna Fedor, Belén Fernández-Castilla, Susann Fiedler, James G. Field, Stanka A. Fitneva, Taru Flagan, Amanda L. Forest, Eskil Forsell, Joshua D. Foster, Michael C. Frank, Rebecca S. Frazier, Heather Fuchs, Philip Gable, Jeff Galak, Elisa Maria Galliani, Anup Gampa, Sara Garcia, Douglas Gazarian, Elizabeth Gilbert, Roger Giner-Sorolla, Andreas Glöckner,, Lars Goellner, Jin X. Goh, Rebecca Goldberg, Patrick T. Goodbourn, Shauna Gordon-McKeon, Bryan Gorges, Jessie Gorges, Justin Goss, Jesse Graham, James A. Grange, Jeremy Gray, Chris Hartgerink, Joshua Hartshorne, Fred Hasselman,, Timothy Hayes, Emma Heikensten, Felix Henninger,, John Hodsoll,, Taylor Holubar, Gea Hoogendoorn, Denise J. Humphries, Cathy O.-Y. Hung, Nathali Immelman, Vanessa C. Irsik, Georg Jahn, Frank Jäkel, Marc Jekel, Magnus Johannesson, Larissa G. Johnson, David J. Johnson, Kate M. Johnson, William J. Johnston, Kai Jonas, Jennifer A. Joy-Gaba, Heather Barry Kappes, Kim Kelso, Mallory C. Kidwell, Seung Kyung Kim, Matthew Kirkhart, Bennett Kleinberg,, Goran Kneževic, Franziska Maria Kolorz, Jolanda J. Kossakowski, Robert Wilhelm Krause, Job Krijnen, Tim Kuhlmann, Yoram K. Kunkels, Megan M. Kyc, Calvin K. Lai, Aamir Laique, Daniël Lakens, Kristin A. Lane, Bethany Lassetter, Ljiljana B. Lazarevic, Etienne P. LeBel, Key Jung Lee, Minha Lee, Kristi Lemm, Carmel A. Levitan, Melissa Lewis, Lin Lin, Stephanie Lin, Matthias Lippold, Darren Loureiro, Ilse Luteijn, Sean Mackinnon, Heather N. Mainard, Denise C. Marigold, Daniel P. Martin, Tylar Martinez, E.J. Masicampo, Josh Matacotta, Maya Mathur, Michael May,, Nicole Mechin, Pranjal Mehta, Johannes Meixner,, Alissa Melinger, Jeremy K. Miller, Mallorie Miller, Katherine Moore,, Marcus Möschl, Matt Motyl, Stephanie M. Müller, Marcus Munafo, Koen I. Neijenhuijs, Taylor Nervi, Gandalf Nicolas, Gustav Nilsonne,, Brian A. Nosek,, Michèle B. Nuijten, Catherine Olsson,, Colleen Osborne, Lutz Ostkamp, Misha Pavel, Ian S. Penton-Voak, Olivia Perna, Cyril Pernet, Marco Perugini, R. Nathan Pipitone, Michael Pitts, Franziska Plessow,, Jason M. Prenoveau, Rima-Maria Rahal,, Kate A. Ratliff, David Reinhard, Frank Renkewitz, Ashley A. Ricker, Anastasia Rigney, Andrew M. Rivers, Mark Roebke, Abraham M. Rutchick, Robert S. Ryan, Onur Sahin, Anondah Saide, Gillian M. Sandstrom, David Santos,, Rebecca Saxe, René Schlegelmilch,, Kathleen Schmidt, Sabine Scholz, Larissa Seibel, Dylan Faulkner Selterman, Samuel Shaki, William B. Simpson, H. Colleen Sinclair, Jeanine L. M. Skorinko, Agnieszka Slowik, Joel S. Snyder, Courtney Soderberg, Carina Sonnleitner, Nick Spencer, Jeffrey R. Spies, Sara Steegen, Stefan Stieger, Nina Strohminger, Gavin B. Sullivan, Thomas Talhelm, Megan Tapia, Anniek te Dorsthorst, Manuela Thomae,, Sarah L. Thomas, Pia Tio, Frits Traets, Steve Tsang, Francis Tuerlinckx, Paul Turchan, Milan Valášek, Anna E. van ‘t Veer,, Robbie Van Aert, Marcel van Assen, Riet van Bork, Mathijs van de Ven, Don van den Bergh, Marije van der Hulst, Roel van Dooren, Johnny van Doorn, Daan R. van Renswoude, Hedderik van Rijn, Wolf Vanpaemel, Alejandro Vásquez Echeverría, Melissa Vazquez, Natalia Velez, Marieke Vermue, Mark Verschoor, Michelangelo Vianello, Martin Voracek, Gina Vuu, Eric-Jan Wagenmakers, Joanneke Weerdmeester, Ashlee Welsh, Erin C. Westgate, Joeri Wissink, Michael Wood, Andy Woods,, Emily Wright, Sining Wu, Marcel Zeelenberg, Kellylynn Zuni

August 21, 2015

The 2015 SJDM preliminary conference program is now available online

Filed in SJDM ,SJDM-Conferences
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The preliminary program for the 2015 conference of the Society for Judgment and Decision Making, which takes place November 20-23, 2015 at the Chicago Hilton, is now available online. Get it.

Some key times / dates:

  • Friday November 20th, 5PM – Opening reception & registration
  • Saturday, November 23rd, 1:30PM – Interview with Danny Kahneman
  • Saturday, November 23rd, 6PM – Einhorn award presentation
  • Sunday, November 22nd, 1:30PM – Keynote by Max Bazerman
  • Sunday, November 22nd, 4:45PM – Presidential address by Ellen Peters
  • Sunday, November 22nd, 9PM – Social event
  • Monday, November 23rd, 12:45PM – Conference ends

August 12, 2015

BDRM 2016 Toronto

Filed in Conferences
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WHAT: Behavioral Decision Research in Management (BDRM) 2016
WHEN: June 9-11, 2016
WHERE: Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, 105 St. George Street, Toronto, ON, Canada M5S 3E6, Desautels Hall, 2nd floor in south (new) building.
HOTEL: Park Hyatt Yorkville. Conference rate booking info. Maps (One map, Two map)
WHO: bdrm2016 at rotman.utoronto.ca

The 15th biennial conference on Behavioral Decision Research in Management (BDRM) will be held at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, on June 9-11, 2016. Please save the date!

Information and the call for papers will be available at the BDRM 2016 website

BDRM is the leading conference for behavioural research conducted in business schools. It brings together the best of behavioral research within, but not limited to, the areas of consumer behavior, organizational behavior, negotiation, managerial decision making, behavioral finance, experimental and behavioral economics, decision analysis, behavioral strategy, behavioral operations research, behavioral accounting, and medical and legal decision making. Previous meetings have been held at Cornell (1986), Texas (1988), Wharton (1990), Berkeley (1992), MIT (1994), Miami (1998), Arizona (2000), Chicago (2002), Duke (2004), UCLA (2006), UC San Diego (2008), Carnegie Mellon (2010), Boulder (2012), and LBS (2014).

We look forward to seeing you in Toronto in June 2016!

August 3, 2015

Visualizing population density

Filed in Ideas ,R
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Slinging numbers around all day, one adage we believe is that most surprising statistics are wrong.

But here’s one that’s not: When you look at the 100 most populous counties in the USA, Manhattan (aka New York County) has about twice the population density of the next densest county (Brooklyn, aka Kings County), four times the density of the 5th densest county (San Francisco), and 13 times the density of the 10th densest county (Cook County, IL, home of Chicago).

Population density drops off sharply as you look at highly populated US counties, and New York City has 4 of the top 5 densest. We color code by state in this graph:


The graph at the top of this post represents a square kilometer and draws a dot for every person in various counties. This representation is deceptive at high densities. It would look like a black square long before it got to 1,000,000 people (1,000 people by 1,000 people, each taking up a square meter). We just can’t show 1,000 by 1,000 dots on a graph that size.

We can be more faithful, and make things easier to imagine, if we talk about people per hectare.

But what’s a hectare? Glad you asked. It’s 100 meters by 100 meters. As we see below, it’s roughly one (US) football field by one football field:


Now the differences in densities are still dramatic, but it doesn’t look like people in Manhattan are packed in like sardines.



July 29, 2015

Do things when other people aren’t doing them

Filed in Gossip ,Ideas ,Programs
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For a few years now, there has been a sticky note at our desk that says “UNCROWDEDR” to remind us (DSN and Jake Hofman) to build an app that tells us when other people are doing things (like going to the movies or coffee shops or grocery stores) so that we can do these things when nobody else is doing them. We liked to call this idea:

  • Uncrowdedr
  • The anti-social app
  • The app that gets less useful as more people use it
  • The Andy Warhol

The last one comes from something Jeff Nickerson told us about Mr. Warhol, who apparently liked to do certain things at the least popular times, such as going to movies on Monday. (If anyone knows the reference, let us know).

Good news. Now we don’t have to build it, as our friends at Google have built it into location search results on Android phones.

See the TIME magazine article Google Fixed the Worst Part About Grocery Shopping.

Here’s a screenshot. To see for yourself, search for “blue bottle williamsburg” from the Google search bar in Android (it doesn’t seem to be in map result data yet).


What’s cooler is that data quality/production work on this product was done by one Quang Duong, who was an intern when we were all at Yahoo Research.

July 24, 2015

How much damage did Carrie Underwood do to that guy’s truck in that song?

Filed in Gossip ,Ideas
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We travel a lot, rent a lot of cars, drive around in far flung corners of the USA, and correspondingly, hear a lot of country music.

One song we’ve heard quite a few times goes:

I dug my key into the side
Of his pretty little souped-up 4 wheel drive,
Carved my name into his leather seats.
I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights,
Slashed a hole in all four tires.
Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats.

It’s a Carrie Underwood song called “Before He Cheats” and is also featured in the movie Pitch Perfect 2.

Anyway, the last time we heard this song, we couldn’t help but think, “Darn, that’s a lot of damage she does to his truck. But how much?”

Then we thought, “Estimation is a vital skill in decision science. We should really estimate this.”

Then we thought, “blog post.”

Let’s break it down

Lyric: “I dug my key into the side of his pretty little souped-up 4 wheel drive”
Corresponding repair: Fixed a “keyed” truck door
Estimate: $650

Lyric: “Carved my name into his leather seats”
Corresponding repair: Two front seats professionally reupholstered
Estimate: $750

Lyric: “I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights”
Corresponding repair: Replacing two headlight assemblies
Cost: $950

Lyric: “Slashed a hole in all four tires”
Corresponding repair: Replacing four truck tires
Cost: $800

What’s the total damage? $3,150.

Is that a big crime? Is is! It’s a felony offense with a potentially lengthy prison sentence in Carrie Underwood’s native Oklahoma.

So, when you hear that song, maybe imagine it’s being sung from prison.

(Yes, we’re assuming she got caught, but come on, she carved her name into the leather seats).