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December 27, 2014

SPSP 2015 Preconferences of interest to DSN readers

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diceHere at Decision Science News, we know precious little about SPSP. We’ve never been to the conference. We didn’t even know that SPSP stood for Society for Personality and Social Psychology before making the hyperlink in the last sentence. However, this year we will be going to an SPSP pre-conference!

Goodness gracious, do these people know pre-conferences! Look at the list here or pasted below for your convenience.

We still don’t get why precious little at this conference has to do with anything “social” or “personality” related, but we will be there at Long Beach pre-conferencing it up because they do have some appealing decision-making sessions.

Academic and Non-Academic Jobs for Social-Personality Psychologists (SPSP Training Committee and Graduate Student Committee): This preconference seeks to introduce attendees to a wide variety of academic and non-academic career paths available to social-personality psychologists.  Registration is limited to 50 attendees, to facilitate an individualized, active, and collaborative environment.  The morning will be devoted to six brief talks covering a range of different career paths (e.g., research university, undergraduate institution, private sector, non-profit).  The afternoon will be devoted to mentored lunch tables followed by smaller breakout sessions that focus on practical, career-relevant skills, resources, and knowledge.  Attendees register to eat lunch and attend breakout sessions with a choice of 10 different mentors. (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Advances in Cultural Psychology: The theme of the 2015 Advances in Cultural Psychology preconference is “Culture, Change, and their Dynamism.”  Speakers include Yoshi Kashima, Ying-Yi Hong, Shige Oishi, Jean Twenge, Steve Neuberg, Vinai Norasakkunkit and Takashi Hamamura. These invited speakers will discuss how cultures change, and the dynamic relations between individuals, cultures, and other factors, and present their ground-breaking new work in cultural psychology.  Additionally, a data blitz will allow advanced graduate students and post-docs to present current research. (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Attitudes Preconference: Evaluative processes are central to social psychology, and have been since the field’s earliest days. The Attitudes Preconference features speakers who are at the cutting-edge of research on evaluation. Their work addresses issues of basic cognitive and neurobiological processes in evaluation, motivational processes in evaluative processes, intersections of evaluative processes with other areas of social psychology, and interventions designed to change people’s evaluations and behavior. At the Attitudes Preconference, we value an intimate and interactive environment, and as such, have 30-minute talks with an additional 15 minute Q&A session after each talk. In addition, new to this year is a 45 minute data blitz session that gives graduate students and recent PhDs an opportunity to present their research in short format. (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Close Relationships: The Close Relationships preconference brings together cutting edge research and theory in relationship science from across social and personality psychology. We have a rich history of lively conversation, and the day is designed to provoke thought, and promote collaboration. This year’s lineup will feature a series of dynamic speakers (each with time for discussion), including a talk by the winner of the Caryl E. Rusbult Early Career Award. The data blitz will allow researchers at any stage to present their hottest new findings to the group in 3 short minutes (typically ~13 presenters; often young investigators). We will also present the graduate student research paper award, and we are planning an interactive special session on methodological & replication issues in relationships science. We expect another exciting meeting, and look forward to seeing you there! (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Common-Sense Beliefs and Lay Theories: One universal tool to make sense of the world surrounding us is the formation of common-sense beliefs and lay theories – various core assumptions about how social and non-social entities operate. This preconference covers the psychological underpinnings of a diverse range of such fundamental suppositions about the world. For example, invited speakers will cover lay theories about mind-body dualism, essentialism, justice, the cognitive prerequisites for the formation of such beliefs, and discuss the cognitive, affective, and behavioral consequences of holding them.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Communicating Psychological Science to Policy-Makers (SPSP Advocacy Training): Concerned about future funding for social psychological research? Many social and personality psychology researchers are worried about what the future holds in terms of federal support for fundamental research. Join hundreds of your SPSP peers who have participated in this advocacy training over the years, led by seasoned science lobbyist and psychologist Dr. Heather O’Beirne Kelly from the APA Science Government Relations Office.  Get the latest news from Capitol Hill and update your advocacy skills so that you can participate in the Stand for Science campaign and meet directly with your members of Congress back home to discuss issues vital to psychological science. This preconference is free to SPSP Members. (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Communicating Science to the Media: Tools for Psychologists (SPSP Media Training): Scientists who foster information-sharing and respect between science and the public are essential for the public communication of and engagement with science. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is facilitating a 3-hour communication-skills training program specifically designed for researchers. The workshop will include content such as message development, handing interactions or questions from the media or other audiences, identifying communication opportunities, and honing public presentation skills including on-camera practice. The workshop format allows for collaborative learning through small-group discussion, resource sharing, and participation in critique of other participants’ presentations. This preconference is free to SPSP Members. (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Dynamical Systems & Computational Modeling: Social Dynamics in a Changing World: The theme for this year’s preconference is Social Dynamics in a Changing World.  Modern technology (e.g., the internet, social media, texting) is transforming the nature of social life in the 21st century, as well as providing a range of new methods and tools for studying it.  We will showcase the relevance of this approach for understanding and investigating how modern technology is changing the dynamics of social life and how we study it—from social interaction, opinion formation, and social influence to ingroup – outgroup relations and the political process.  We will assemble a group of social psychologists with expertise in dynamical systems, computational modeling, social network analysis, and Big Data.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Embodiment: Spike W. S. Lee and Michael Robinson are pleased to organize the 5th annual SPSP embodiment preconference. Embodiment consists of the idea that our bodies, and how they interact with the environment, play a major, typically under-appreciated role in human psychology and behavior. Areas of study include perception, representation, experience, and action. The field is interdisciplinary and major developments have occurred in social psychology, cognitive psychology, and affective science. It is a young but vibrant field. Confirmed speakers for 2015 include Lera Boroditsky, George Lakoff, Dennis Proffitt, Anne Maass, and David Pizarro. There will also be two sessions for shorter 15-minute talks and a poster session. A call for submissions will be made in October. About 50 attendees are expected. Breakfast, afternoon snacks, and audio-visual equipment will be provided. Attendees will make their own lunch plans.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Emotion Preconference: The Emotion Preconference is for social psychologists with an interest in affect and emotion and has been held prior to the SPSP conference since 2006. Each emotion preconference over the last 5 years has registered 150-200 attendees. This year the preconference will include three symposia, a data blitz, a poster session, a hot buffet lunch, and a keynote speaker. Richard Davidson is the keynote speaker and symposia include sessions on “Positive Emotion,” “Stress,” and “Intergroup Emotion.”  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Evolutionary Psychology: The SPSP Evolutionary Psychology Preconference, now in its 12th year, provides a forum for discussing cutting-edge research examinging how social psychological processes have been shaped by the recurring social and reproductive challenges humans faced throughout their evolutionary past. Nationally and internationally known researchers as well as up-and-coming new investigators and graduate students present findings through talks and a recently added data blitz. The presented research covers a range of topics, including: romantic relationships, decision-making, mental health, aggression, prejudice, social cognition, and personality development. Thus, the Evolutionary Psychology Preconference brings together and fosters collaboration between researchers from various domains of social and personality psychology. Additionally, this preconference introduces students unfamiliar with an evolutionary framework to a meta-theoretical approach that may be useful for guiding their future studies.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)  

Group Processes & Intergroup Relations: Following years of GPIR preconference tradition, we will again focus on facilitating the sharing and discussion of groundbreaking research in the field of group processes and intergroup relations. All of our speakers will address topics related to the general theme of diversity (e.g., intergroup interactions, discrimination).  Their talks will shed light on both practical and theoretical implications. Confirmed speakers include: Glenn Adams, Kerry Kawakami, Cheryl Kaiser, Laurie O’Brien, Rob Sellers and Daryl Wout. Following the tradition of this preconference, two graduate students or recent PhDs will also give a talk. In addition, there will be a poster session for researchers to share ideas and get feedback about their ongoing projects. Participants can also mingle and exchange their ideas during breakfast, lunch, and coffee breaks.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top) 

Happiness & Well-being: What is happiness and should we pursue greater subjective well-being (SWB)? Although philosophers have pondered these questions for centuries, the scientific study of happiness has exploded over the past 30 years, offering insight into the conceptualization, measurement, causes, and consequences of SWB. This preconference will bring together young investigators and world experts to share recent theory and findings.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Judgment and Decision Making: We examine the psychology of judgment and decision making, broadly construed.  Topics include: intertemporal decisions, emotion, judgment and perception of risk, and consumer choice.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Justice and Morality: For 13 years, Justice and Morality has convened the top scholars in the field.  We have a compelling line up of speakers who study diverse topics.  They include Peter Ditto (politics), Kiley Hamlin (development), Peter Ubel (medical ethics), Adam Cohen (religion), Mario Gollwitzer (punishment), Sarah Brosnan (evolution) and Roy Baumeister (free will; keynote speaker). Graduate students are encouraged to submit posters, three of which will be selected as microtalks.  Breakfast, lunch and cocktail hour included.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Lifespan Social-Personality: The Lifespan Social-Personality Preconference acknowledges the demographic shifts of our modern society and hightlights the scientific importance of understanding and integrating lifespan developmental psychology in social-personality research. The fields of social-personality psychology and lifespan development are each growing rapidly. While both fields are independently growing in size and importance for modern psychological research, there is also an increased interest in the intersection of lifespan development research and social-personality psychology. A diverse set of symposia featuring top researchers in the field will foster lifespan social-personality psychology through examining Eriksonian development, self-regulation,  and methodological issues. In addition, this preconference will offer a poster session during an on-site lunch at which all registered attendees will be encouaged to present their most recent work in the area of lifespan social-personality development.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Mental Simulation: Mental simulation allows us to connect our thoughts about what could have been to our musings about what is yet to be, and enables flights of fantasy that provide a respite from reality. This session will feature discussions about visual imagery, perspective-taking, narrative transportation, and thought flow, as well as the impact that such mental activities have on our social lives. Daniel Schachter’s keynote will connect the themes echoed in each talk by describing the critical role of memory and how specific brain structures facilitate the generation of alternative realities.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Nonverbal: The fourth SPSP Nonverbal Preconference will continue in the tradition of previous years to celebrate the interdisciplinary nature of the study of nonverbal communication. This event will feature four invited talks from accomplished nonverbal scholars, in addition to competitively selected brief talks and posters. The 2015 speakers will be: Norah Dunbar (University of California, Santa Barbara), Derek Isaacowitz (Northeastern University), David Matsumoto (San Francisco State University) and Linda Tickle-Degnen (Tufts University). Junior researchers will be invited to contribute paper proposals in the data blitz format of SPSP, with talks ranging 8-10 minutes in length. We look forward to bringing together scholars from different backgrounds in order to facilitate communication and collaboration.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Political Psychology: Please join us for the 6th annual Political Psychology preconference. Leading social psychologists, political scientists, and sociologists in various stages of their careers will discuss current research on topics aimed toward furthering the understanding of political behavior. Topics will include political polarization, the role of genetics in politics, political persuasion, intergroup threat and prejudice, and political misinformation. In addition, we will host a graduate student talk, a data blitz, a poster session and a paper-swap. As in previous years, our objectives in organizing this event are to honor leaders in the field, to break down boundaries between social psychology and political science, and to promote the next generation of political psychologists.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Psychology of Religion & Spirituality: This preconference will highlight classic, contemporary, and emerging empirical research at the interface of social-personality psychology and the psychology of religion-spirituality. The program will consist of invited research presentations and a research poster discussion. Continental breakfast, drinks, and a buffet lunch will be provided for those who preregister.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Self & Identity Preconference: A preconference on self and identity has been a fixture of the SPSP conferences for many years.  This year’s preconference continues the tradtition by featuring and exciting and eclectic lineup of seasoned contributors to the study of self and identity as well as younger investigators at the forefront of the field. We are also honored to include scholars from outside the realm of self and identity who conduct cutting-edge research relevant for this audience. In addition, the preconference will feature invited addresses by the Early Career and Lifetime Career Award winners. With a diverse panel of speakers reflecting the depth and breadth of the field, the organizers hope to make this preconference a testament to the vitality of current self and identity research.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Sexuality: Sexuality is a vibrant and growing area of research in social-personality psychology, in no small part evidenced by the American Psychological Association’s recent publication of the first ever Handbook on Sexuality and Psychology; a two volume manual that prominently features the research of a number of leading social-personality psychologists. Our planned sexuality preconference for the 2015 SPSP meeting will draw together top scholars in this field, including Meredith Chivers, Gurit Birnbaum, Eli Finkel, Justin Garcia, Monique Ward, and Justin Lehmiller, to showcase some of the many exciting developments in human sexuality research. Our approach is to highlight the diverse and interdisciplinary nature of the study of sexuality, featuring work on changes in sexual desire across relationship development, female sexual arousal patterns, evolutionary perspectives on human sexuality, media influences on sexual behavior, and teaching considerations for college sexuality courses. Our goal is to educate social psychologists about the relevance of sexuality to their own work.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Social Cognition Preconference: The Social Cognition Preconference, sponsored by the International Social Cognition Network (ISCON), spotlights emerging research that exemplify the social cognition approach to addressing psychological phenomena.  This year, in addition to presenting and honoring the ISCON 2013 Best Paper Award and ISCON 2014 Early Career Award winners, we will also have two sessions highlighting recent advances in motivated social cognition.  The first session will focus on emerging research on self-regulation and goal pursuit; the second session will focus on recent work on social justice and social change.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Social Neuroendocrinology: Social neuroendocrinology is a rapidly-growing area within social psychology that examines the interface between hormones and social behavior. This preconference examines the role of neuroendocrinological systems in basic social and personality processes such as close relationships, emotion, aggression, and dominance. Social NeuroEndo includes both an invited speaker series and a short-form Data Blitz session for early-career scholars. This year, we have an exciting line-up of speakers that represent a diversity of research topics and neuroendocrinological methods.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Social Personality Health Preconference: The Social Personality Health Network is excited to present the 7th SPSP Preconference that is dedicated to examining the reciprocal relationship between social/personality psychology and health. The preconference, traditionally the largest of the SPSP preconferences, will present research at multiple levels of analysis, and topics this year will include socioeconomic and racial health disparities, stress, psychoneuroendocrinology, behavior change, meditation, body image, doctor-patient communication, sleep, and Big Data. Two graduate student awards will be presented, along with an Early Career Research award.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Social Psychology & Law: This preconference features presentations in the areas of discrimination, procedural justice/social justice, and immigration. Specifically the discrimination symposium examines explicit and implicit biases in the law. The procedural/social justice symposium looks at legitimacy and perceptions of justice in the legal system.  Finally the immigration symposium examines the role of social psychology in legislation and policy. The preconference will include 10-minute datablitz presentations as well as poster presentations from graduate students and new researchers.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Society for the Teaching of Psychology (STP) Preconference: One of the most practical of preconferences, the STP PreCon provides attendees with not only conceptual discussions but also directly useable teaching tips, activities, demonstrations, and suggsetions.  With both invited keynote speakers and open submissions for teaching talks and the popular teaching blitz, the STP PreCon is beneficial for everyone from graduate students to seasoned professors at a range of institution types.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Subjective Time and Mental Time Travel: Mental time travel and subjective time are important human capacities that influences many psychological processes at the individual, interpersonal, group and intergroup levels. One may focus on the past (e.g., nostalgia, regrets) or look at the future (e.g., goals, decision making, affective forecasting), but at the end time is subjective and social psychological factors influence the distance that one mentally travel into the past or the future and its impact on our judgment and self-identity.  (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

Sustainability Psychology:The 4th annual Sustainability Psychology preconference invites social psychologists of all stripes to think about how their work relates to issues of environmental conservation and sustainability. We’ll spend the day hearing about and sharing exciting new work at the intersection of sustainability and social psychology. The preconference also provides an opportunity for networking among researchers and practitioners in the field. We hope you’ll join us in Long Beach! (Website) (Register) (Back to Top)

December 15, 2014

Decide which frequent flyer program is best for your city

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Click to access the tool

We’ve posted in the past about which airline you should be loyal to, but we always felt guilty because we only showed results for the New York metro area and there are Decision Science News readers all over the USA. (Actually, there are DSN readers all over the World too, though in most countries it’s an easy decision: go with the national airline).

Since then, we’ve learned about data for every flight in the USA that makes it rather straightforward to generate for every US metro area and airline, the number of departures.

Try out the new tool here: Decide which frequent flyer program to be loyal to.

Just type in the name of your metro area in the search box and you’ll see the number of departures by airline for your metro area only. The data comprise every flight taken in the USA in 2013.

There will be airlines you don’t recognize (like ExpressJet, etc.). They are just regional carriers that fly for the big airlines. To find out who they’re flying for, just look them up in the Wikipedia. Add things together to get the totals for the big frequent flyer programs. We’d do it for you, but, well, we’ve spent long enough on this.

This tool was made with the DataTables plugin for jQuery, R, and Hadley Wickham’s dplyr powertool.

Here’s the code. You can use my pre-made 2013 flights data file.

Get the L_CARRIER_HISTORY file from the US government.

Get the L_CITY_MARKET_ID file from the US government, too.

H/T To the mighty Jake Hofman for thinking with me about how to think about this.


December 12, 2014

Behavioural science and policy conference, 2015, Nottingham

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For more information: Conference Webpage

The Network for Integrated Behavioural Science (NIBS) is hosting an international and interdisciplinary conference on behavioural science and policy with special emphasis on applied research. Behavioural science is a flourishing and growing field that is offering novel and important insights into individual and social decision making. This workshop will take place at the University of Nottingham, University Park Campus, Nottingham, UK from 21 to 23 April 2015.

The scientific program will consist of four keynote lectures and a number of contributed talks organised in parallel sessions.
Keynote Speakers

  • Colin Camerer – Robert Kirby Professor of Behavioural Economics at California Institute of Technology
  • Nick Chater – Professor of Behavioural Science at University of Warwick (Business School)
  • Paul Slovic – Professor of Psychology at University of Oregon
  • Catherine Eckel – Sara & John Lindsey Professor at Texas A&M University

Key Dates

Deadline for Submission of Papers: 16 January 2015

Announcement of Accepted Papers & Opening of Registration: end of February 2015

Conference dates: 21 to 23 April 2015

Contact: NIBS2015@nottingham.ac.uk

Poster session:

Posters can be used to present completed work, but also work at an early stage – based on pilot data, or even before any data is collected. Posters will be prominently displayed during the conference, and you will have a chance to interact with all attendees during a formal poster session. If you want to present a poster please submit a 1/2 page abstract to


by 16 January 2015 and include ‘poster’ in the subject title of your email. You will receive notification of acceptance by the end of February 2015. The registration fee for poster presentations will be £100.

December 8, 2014

Boulder Summer Conference on Consumer Financial Decision Making 2015

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Just a reminder that the abstract submission deadline is this coming Friday, Dec. 12th for 2015 Boulder Summer Conference on Consumer Financial Decision Making: May 31-June 2, 2015, St. Julien Hotel, Boulder, Colorado

Abstract Submission Deadline December 12, 2014

Submitting Abstracts

To submit an extended abstract (1 page single spaced pdf), please visit the conference website and click on the Submit Paper Abstract link:

Conference Overview

The Boulder Summer Conference in Consumer Financial Decision Making, now in its 6th year, is the world’s foremost conference for discussion of interdisciplinary research on consumer financial decision-making. Consumer welfare is strongly affected by household financial decisions large and small: choosing mortgages; saving to fund college education or retirement; using credit cards to fund current consumption; choosing how to “decumulate” savings in retirement; deciding how to pay for health care and insurance; and investing in the stock market, managing debt in the face of financial distress. This conference brings together outstanding scholars from around the world in a unique interdisciplinary conversation with regulators, business people in financial services, and consumer advocates working on problems of consumer financial decision-making.

Our goal is to stimulate cross-disciplinary conversation and improve basic and applied research in the emerging area of consumer financial decision-making. This research can inform our understanding of how consumers actually make such decisions and how consumers can be helped to make better decisions by innovations in public policy, business, and consumer education. Please see the 2014 program on the conference website to see abstracts of research by scholars in economics, psychology, sociology, behavioral finance, consumer research, decision sciences, behavioral economics, and law. Our format allows a very high level of opportunity for conversation and interaction around the ideas presented.

Conference Format

We begin with a keynote session late Sunday afternoon followed by reception and selective poster session. The keynote speaker will be David Laibson, the Robert I. Goldman Professor of Economics at Harvard University, speaking on the problem of retirement plan leakage. Employees raid their retirement funds for $0.40 on every $1.00 contributed, taking out hardship withdrawals or loans that are not paid back, or cashing out when they leave their employer. A panel of experts will discuss leakage issues after this talk.

Monday and Tuesday we have ten 75-minute sessions with two related papers from different disciplines, with discussion by an industry or government expert or a scholar from a third field. We begin with financial decision making of consumers in distress because of poor financial decision-making or situational stress. We then turn our focus to more basic processes that guide everyday consumer financial decision-making, both good and bad. Throughout the conference we schedule significant time for informal interaction outside of the sessions.

The conference co-chairs will select papers for presentation at the conference based on extended abstracts. Selected papers must not be published prior to the conference, but those researchers presenting their work at the conference must commit to have a paper that is complete and available for review by discussants one month prior to the conference. Selections will be based on quality, relevance to consumers’ financial decision-making, and contribution to breadth of topics and disciplinary approaches. We consider not just the individual merits of the papers, but how they pair with another submission from a scholar in a different field. The organizers will invite authors of the best papers not selected for presentation at a plenary session to present their work at the Sunday evening poster session.

Registering for the Conference and Booking a Room

There are links on the conference website for booking at the St. Julien Hotel and for registering for the conference.

The conference will be held in the St. Julien Hotel and Spa. We have negotiated very attractive room rates for conference attendees (and families). Please note that the Conference has not guaranteed any rooms, rather they are on a “first come” basis. We encourage you to book your rooms as soon as you can. Boulder is a popular summer destination and rooms go quickly at the St. Julien Hotel.

December 5, 2014

Visualize Prospect Theory

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Dan Wall from Columbia University’s Center for the Decision Sciences (*) writes in that he’s developed a new Web app using Shiny and RStudio. It allows users to edit Prospect Theory and Quasi-Hyperbolic Time Discounting Parameters and see the resulting changes to the graphs.

Try it out!


We find that it’s great for learning about the function and also great for generating Prospect Theory graphs to include in articles and chapters!

Dan used shinyapps to publish it to the website.

(*) Shout out to CDS, where Decision Science News was launched about a decade ago.

November 28, 2014

Jobs with the UK’s Behavioural Insights Team 2014-2105

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The UK’s Behavioural Insights Team is recruiting again and has vacancies at various different levels. See the official announcement at http://www.behaviouralinsights.co.uk/jobs

The Behavioural Insights Team is now seeking exceptional candidates for a range of opportunities:

Head of Energy and Sustainability (Principal Advisor) (closes 5 January 2015)
Principal Advisors (closes 5 January 2015)
Senior Advisors (closes 5 January 2015)
Advisors (closes 5 January 2015)
PhD Candidate (closes 19 December 2015)

Role specifications are outlined below, and for any queries please email info@behaviouralinsights.co.uk

Head of Energy and Sustainability

The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) is looking for an exceptional candidate to become our new Head of Energy and Sustainability. As Head of Energy and Sustainability, you will be a member of the Senior Management Team reporting directly to the Managing Director but with regular policy discussions with the Chief Executive. You will lead a team of 2-4 people, but will be expected to grow this team two or three fold over the next 2 years.

You will interact with senior government officials, Ministers and clients on a regular basis, and be responsible for winning new work relating to energy and sustainability. You will be expected to manage and deliver projects to tight deadlines and budgets.

To be successful you must have in-depth experience in one of these areas and be capable of managing a team of people who have an expertise in the other areas:

Experience working on energy and sustainability policy (having worked in government, academia, industry or for a consulting firm);
Deep understanding of the behavioural science literature and how it can be applied to help solve complex policy problems; or
Ability to design and conduct rigorous evaluations, including Randomised Controlled Trials, difference in differences, regression discontinuity, and propensity score matching.

All candidates must also be able to demonstrate:

Strong leadership and management experience, including supporting team members to develop their own skills and expertise.

For more information see the specification (click here). Applications to be received no later than 9am on 5th January 2014.

Principal Advisors

The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) is looking for exceptional candidates to become Principal Advisors. This is a senior level in the team, with successful candidates becoming responsible for one or two policy areas.

As a Principal Advisor, you will be a member of the Senior Management Team reporting directly to either the Managing Director or the Chief Executive. You will lead a team of 2-4 people, but will be expected to grow this team two or three fold over the next 2 years.

You will interact with senior government officials, Ministers and clients on a regular basis, and be responsible for winning new work and business development relating to your policy area. You will also take the lead in ensuring that quality is maintained across the business and will be expected to manage and deliver projects to tight deadlines and budgets.

For more information see the specification (click here). Applications to be received no later than 9am on 5th January 2014.

Senior Advisors

The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) is looking for exceptional candidates to become Senior Advisors. Senior Advisors will work directly to Principal Advisors or the Managing Director/Chief Executive.

As a Senior Advisor, you will interact with senior government officials, Ministers and clients on a regular basis, and be responsible for winning new work and business development relating to your policy area. You will also be responsible for ensuring that projects you are responsible for are managed and delivered to tight deadlines and budgets, and will likely line manage one or more Advisors or Assistant Advisors.

For more information see the specification (click here). Applications to be received no later than 9am on 5th January 2014.


The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) is looking for exceptional candidates to become Advisors. Advisors work on one or more projects, reporting to either a Senior Advisor or Principal Advisor. As an Advisor, you will likely work on two or three different projects across one or more policy area. You will be responsible for delivering pieces of work to tight deadlines. You will be part of a team, and will be managed by either a Senior Advisor or Principal Advisor.

For more information see the specification (click here). Applications to be received no later than 9am on 5th January 2014.

PhD candidate

The Behavioural Research Centre for Adult Skills and Knowledge (ASK) and the Institute of Education’s National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy (NRDC) are seeking a PhD candidate to work on a collaborative project.

The candidate will undertake the PhD with Integrated Research and Methods Training at the Institute of Education (IOE) full time over the course of three or four years.

They will be co-supervised by:

an academic from the IOE’s National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC), who will provide expert guidance on the elements of study related to numeracy and/ or literacy; and
the Head of Research at the Behavioural Insights Team, who will provide expert guidance on running randomised control trials in the field.

Course costs and a salary will be fully funded by the BIT.

For more information see the specification (click here). Applications to be received no later than 5pm on the 19th December 2014.

November 19, 2014

Do NYC cab drivers quit too early when it rains?

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Students of judgment and decision making (aka behavioral economics) are familiar with the idea that cab drivers work until they hit an income target and then quit, ignoring opportunities to make more money on especially profitable days, such as when it rains. They probably get the idea from hearing people talk about the paper Labor Supply of New York City Cabdrivers: One Day at a Time. We say “hearing people talk about the paper” because that paper does not say that cab drivers make more money when it rains and is otherwise quite cautious (e.g., it concludes “because evidence of negative labor supply responses to transitory wage changes is so much at odds with conventional economic wisdom, these results should be treated with caution.”)

A working paper and presentation by Princeton economist Henry Farber looked at recently released data on every cab ride taken in New York City from 2009-2013 (about 900 million trips, which he down-samples). Some of Farber’s conclusions are:

  • Increase in demand and reduction in supply make it difficult to find a taxi in the rain.
  • But wage is no higher when it rains.
  • Lower supply is not the result of drivers stopping after having reached their target.
  • Lower supply is result of less pleasant driving in the rain.


In a seminal paper, Camerer, Babcock, Loewenstein, and Thaler (1997) find that the wage elasticity of daily hours of work New York City (NYC) taxi drivers is negative and conclude that their labor supply behavior is consistent with target earning (having reference dependent preferences). I replicate and extend the CBLT analysis using data from all trips taken in all taxi cabs in NYC for the five years from 2009-2013. The overall pattern in my data is clear: drivers tend to respond positively to unanticipated as well as anticipated increases in earnings opportunities. This is consistent with the neoclassical optimizing model of labor supply and does not support the reference dependent preferences model.

I explore heterogeneity across drivers in their labor supply elasticities and consider whether new drivers differ from more experienced drivers in their behavior. I find substantial heterogeneity across drivers in their elasticities, but the estimated elasticities are generally positive and only rarely substantially negative. I also find that new drivers with smaller elasticities are more likely to exit the industry while drivers who remain learn quickly to be better optimizers (have positive labor supply elasticities that grow with experience).

Farber, Henry S. (2014). Why You Can’t Find a Taxi in the Rain and Other Labor Supply Lessons from Cab Drivers. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Series No. 20604 http://www.nber.org/papers/w20604

H/T Eric Jaffe http://www.citylab.com/weather/2014/10/why-new-yorkers-cant-find-a-taxi-when-it-rains/381652/
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisschoenbohm/6186211082/

November 14, 2014

What size will you be after you lose weight?

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Click to enlarge

How many pounds do you need to lose in order to reduce your waistline by one inch? How many kilos do you need to lose to reduce your waistline by one centimeter?

We wanted to find out. We were having trouble finding published data (though we are expecting some soon), so we turned to Reddit, where the progresspics subreddit contains people’s before-and-after weight change stories. Most posts contain only pictures, but if you do some web scraping, you can find cases in which people post their before-and-after waist measurements.

We found 46 such cases, typed them up, ran them through R, tidyr, dplyr, and ggplot and made the picture above.

Multiple regression tells us that on average, for every 8.5 pounds lost, people dropped an inch off their waist. (And for every 1.5 kilograms lost, people dropped a centimeter off their waist.)

Every 10 pounds lost was accompanied by 1.18 inches of waistline reduction. (Every 5 kg lost was accompanied by 3.33 cm of waistline reduction.)

The picture is a bit rosier for those who were losing smaller amounts (under 55 pounds or 25 kg): They only had to lose 6.1 pounds to lose an inch (or 1.1 kg to lose a centimeter).

Want to see the data split out by gender? Voila:


Click to enlarge

Want to make this graph yourself? OK.

Why am I doing this? Hal are following up our face morphing stuff with body morphing stuff.

November 6, 2014

When to fly to get there on time? Six million flights analyzed.

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(click to enlarge)

If you read Decision Science News, you are probably interested in decision making, you probably fly a lot, and you probably like making decisions about flying.

Data of the type the U.S. Government provides enable us to predict how delayed we will be when we fly at various hours of the day.

To make the plot above, we analyzed every single flight in the United States in 2013 for which there were Bureau of Transportation Statistics data. Filtering out flights between midnight and 6AM that leaves us with a little over six million flights (6,283,085 flights, to be precise). The BTS defines delay as the difference between the time the plane actually arrived and the time listed in the computerized reservation system. Many flights got in early, but because we’re just interested in delays (not speedups), we negative delays with zeroes.

What do we learn?

The later you leave, the greater the average delay you will face until around 6PM when things flatten out and 10PM when we see benefits in leaving later. It makes sense that delays increase as the day goes on because, we understand, the primary cause of delays is waiting for the plane to arrive from another city. The first flights out in the morning don’t have this problem.

About 60% of flights had no delay at all (3,726,061/6,283,085 or 59.3% to be precise). This has something to do with padding the expected arrival times in the computerized reservation system. Hence all the “negative” delays.

Leaving at 11PM gives you the same delay as leaving at 11AM. Miracle of miracles. Want a rule of thumb? Try not to leave between 11AM and 11PM.

The arrival and departure curves are quite similar. To save space, we’ll only look at departure delays from here on.

Now, you may be thinking “20 minutes delay if you depart at the worst possible time? That’s not such a big deal.” But remember, these are averages and 60% of the time there will be zero delay. To show you how bad things can get, here we plot the 95th and 75th percentiles of the delay distribution:

Flight_Delays_By_Hour_95thIf you leave at the worst time of day,  1 time in 4 you’ll be delayed more than 20 minutes, and 1 time in 20  you’ll be delayed more than an hour and a half!

Do different airports have differing delay patterns? One might expect them to due to weather, total number of flights, longitude and the like. We isolate the ten airports with the most passenger traffic below:



In an early analysis, we thought we’d discovered something pretty cool about day of the week effects. We had chosen two months at random and noticed certain days were predictably worse than others. But then, when we looked at two different months, different days emerged as the worst ones. Digging deeper, we found that the day-0f-week effects are attributable mostly to rather random events which change from month to month. Here we look at median (not mean) delays on every day of 2013. Each panel represents one month.


The big spike on April 18, 2013? Five inches of rain in Chicago. December 9th, 2013? Delays are mostly due to winter weather in Texas. These little bumps can really alter the day-of-week findings.

Bon voyage!

R-code, as usual, for those who want it. To get the flight data, just go to … aw heck, I’ll be nice and let you download my cleaned up copy (25 Mb)

This is our first use of Hadley Wickham’s tidyr package. We like it!


1. We just learned of some extensive analyses pre-2009 flight data you might find interesting. See the FlowingData blog post. The supplemental information in this paper has some interesting analysis of flight delays. For example, hub airports tend to have a lot of outbound delays because they hold planes when an incoming flight is late. This leads to a lot of arrival delays at non-hub airports. See wicklin-supplemental.pdf page 7.

2. Poking around at this link, we were above to find somewhat steady day of week patterns in this poster which draws on multi-year data.

October 29, 2014

Getting old in baseball

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With baseball’s World Series drawing to a close, we thought we’d get in one last 2014 post on the US national pastime.

Keeping up with our aging theme, we’ll look at what happens to players’ batting averages as they age. We use the Lahman package in R, which has data from 1871 to 2013. We take the set of players who played in the majors for at least two years and look at the mean batting average at every age.

The green line (above, with smoothed plots, below with raw results with standard error bars) shows this basic result. Pro baseball players have their highest averages just over age 30. The area of the circles is proportional to the number of observations in that point.

When you look at results like those in the green line, however, you must stop to consider that the players who show up in the graph only tell part of the story. At a given age, there were other players who are not plotted because they were cut from the team years before (often due to their poor batting performance).

To illustrate this, at each age, I plot in the blue line the batting average of players who are in their last year of major league play. As one would expect, batting averages are low the year before players disappear from the major leagues. In the red line, we see the performance at each age of players who are not in their last year. For this subset of the data, peak batting average occurs at age 36 and the maximum is a bit flatter.

What is up with the increase in the blue line? The increasing trend is present even if you exclude the first two unusually low points. We are no experts on baseball (or sports of any kind) and are open to suggestions.

One thing to keep in mind is that people whose last year was at age 20 probably only played 2 years (I only considered players who played at least 2 years), while people whose last year was age 40 probably played about 20 years.


As usual, those who want to reproduce this in R are welcome to do so.