[ View menu ]

November 29, 2017

Postdoc positions in Computational Social Science at Microsoft Research in New York City

Filed in Jobs
Subscribe to Decision Science News by Email (one email per week, easy unsubscribe)


Microsoft Research New York City investigates computational social science, algorithmic economics and prediction markets, machine learning, and information retrieval. We do cutting-edge, multidisciplinary research, both theoretical and applied, with access to an extraordinary diversity of big and small data sources, an open publications policy, and close links to top academic institutions around the world.

We are looking for postdoctoral researchers in the area of computational social science with strong quantitative and programming skills. Postdocs are typically hired for a two-year term appointment following the academic calendar, starting in July 2018. Applicants must have completed the requirements for a PhD, including final submission of their dissertation, prior to joining Microsoft Research. Applicants with tenure-track offers from other institutions will be considered, provided they are able to defer their start date to accept our position.

Basic qualifications:

  • PhD in computer science, statistics, math or a related quantitative social science field
  • Strong mathematical and programming skills

Preferred qualifications:

  • Awareness of the theoretical and experimental social science literature
  • Advanced knowledge of statistics, econometrics, and experimental design

If you meet the basic and preferably preferred qualifications above, please visit:


for information on applying.

November 22, 2017

29 groups analyzed the same data set, apparently in many different ways

Filed in Research News
Subscribe to Decision Science News by Email (one email per week, easy unsubscribe)


We have been meaning to post, for quite some time, about this very interesting report from Nature entitled Crowdsourced research: Many hands make tight work. In it, the authors describe how a finding of theirs didn’t hold up when re-analyzed by the Uri Simonsohn. Instead of digging in their heels, they admitted Uri was right and realized there’s wisdom in having other people take a run at analyzing a data set as they might discover better ways of doing things.

They wondered if, in a wisdom-of-the-crowds fashion, whether aggregating multiple, independent analyses might lead to better conclusions. (We at Decision Science News would expect such an effect would be enhanced when working with a selected crowd of analysts.)

The authors recruited 29 groups of researchers to analyze a single data set concerning soccer penalties and the race of players. The figure at the top of this post shows how the different groups arrived at many different estimates (with different confidences) but about 70% of teams found a significant, positive relationship.

It’s fascinating stuff. The comment is here and the paper by the 29 groups of researchers is here.

November 15, 2017

OBHDP Special Issue on Nudges and Choice Architecture in Organizations

Filed in Research News
Subscribe to Decision Science News by Email (one email per week, easy unsubscribe)


Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (OBHDP) is Announcing a Special Issue on Nudges and Choice Architecture in Organizations


Katherine L. Milkman, University of Pennsylvania (Managing Guest Editor)
Gretchen Chapman, Rutgers University
David Rand, Yale University
Todd Rogers, Harvard University
Richard H. Thaler, University of Chicago


The 2008 publication of the best-selling book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein sparked enormous interest in how choice architecture and nudges can be used to improve outcomes in organizations. Policymakers inside and outside of government are scrambling to master new nudging strategies to improve the decisions of citizens, employees and customers. At least 51 countries now boast “centrally directed policy initiatives” influenced by behavioral science, or so-called “nudge-units,” and many Fortune 500 companies are opening similar divisions. A recent review article highlighted the extraordinary cost-effectiveness of nudges relative to other levers of influence (e.g., incentives, rules, educational campaigns) that are typically used by policymakers inside and outside of organizations to influence behavior (Benartzi et al., 2017). However, in spite of the growing applied interest in using nudging as a policy too!
l, far more field research is needed on what nudges and choice architecture strategies work best to change behavior in organizations. This special issue is meant to (a) publish (future) seminal papers testing the efficacy of nudges and choice architecture through field experiments in organizations and (b) substantially accelerate and shape the direction of academic research in this area.


Appropriate papers should present field experiments (alone or in combination with laboratory experiments) that explore the efficacy of nudging and choice architecture in organizations. By “field experiment”, we mean a study with random assignment of participants to conditions and participants who engaged in the tasks under study in an environment where they naturally undertake these tasks. We are most interested in experiments (a) whose outcomes are measures of actual behavior (rather than self-report), (b) that include participants who are not MTurk workers, undergraduates in a laboratory, or survey panelists from services like Qualtrics and ClearVoice, and (c) that were conducted in real-world organizational settings. We adopt the following definition of a nudge: nudges “aim to change ‘people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, [an]…intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates’ (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008). Nudges do not impose material costs but instead alter the underlying ‘choice architecture,’ for example by changing the default option to take advantage of people’s tendency to accept defaults passively. Nudges stand in contrast to traditional policy tools, which change behavior with mandates or bans or through economic incentives (including significant subsidies or fines).” (Benartzi et al., 2017)

We particularly seek manuscripts that have several of the following features: introduce new tools of choice architecture, shed light on important ongoing debates in the literature, yield important new empirical or theoretical insights about previously-studied nudges, are of policy importance, or open up promising directions for future research.

An illustrative, but not exhaustive list of topics that fall within the scope of this special issue is provided below:

1. Field validation and testing of nudges or choice architecture techniques in organizations that have previously only been tested in the laboratory or in limited field contexts.
2. Field validation and testing of novel, untested nudges or choice architecture techniques in organizations.
3. Comparisons of effect sizes or cost effectiveness of multiple nudges and/or economic levers related to managerially relevant outcomes.
4. Field results that shed light on novel mechanisms underlying nudges or choice architecture

To learn more or submit a manuscript, visit http://tinyurl.com/obhdp-nudge

November 8, 2017

Prague Conference on Behavioral Sciences 2018

Filed in Conferences
Subscribe to Decision Science News by Email (one email per week, easy unsubscribe)


The 2nd edition of Prague Conference on Behavioral Sciences 2018 which takes place in Prague on May 4-5, 2018 and aims to discuss new developments and applications of current trends in behavioral sciences.

The keynote speaker is professor Cass R. Sunstein from Harvard Law School who will receive the Allais Memorial Prize in Behavioral Sciences 2018.

The call for abstracts is now open. Please visit the conference’s website http://www.pcbs.cz to find out more details.

Note that the super early-bird fee period (reduction up to 50%) ends December 31, 2017.

To register visit http://cebex.org/events/pcbs/

#PCBS2018 is organized under the auspices of the city of Prague.

November 1, 2017

The SJDM Newsletter is ready for download

Filed in SJDM ,SJDM-Conferences
Subscribe to Decision Science News by Email (one email per week, easy unsubscribe)


The quarterly Society For Judgment and Decision Making newsletter is ready for download:


This one has the 2017 Program in it, so you have that going for you, which is nice.

The journal Judgment and Decision Making preliminarily ranks 9 out of 104 journals in replicability

Filed in Encyclopedia ,Research News
Subscribe to Decision Science News by Email (one email per week, easy unsubscribe)


The R-Index blog was created by Ulrich Schimmack and aims to increase the replicability of published results in psychological science. Recently, the blog created rankings of 104 psychology journals in terms of replicability and published preliminary results. More detail can be found here.

We were pleased to see that the journal Judgment and Decision Making landed in the top 10 of these 104 journals where replicability is concerned.

Jon Baron does a great job with the journal. In other news, we previously reported that Judgment and Decision Making also leads in open data.

October 25, 2017

How long do you need to flip a coin to see a streak?

Filed in Encyclopedia ,Ideas ,R
Subscribe to Decision Science News by Email (one email per week, easy unsubscribe)


Click to enlarge

From research on the hot hand to the observation that people don’t create enough streaks when instructed to create pseudo random data, the decision science community is pretty interested in the perception of streaks.

One day we got to wonder, how long would you have to flip a coin for it to be more likely than not you would see a streak of length 10? And in this thought experiment, we mean a fair coin and that the streak could be one of heads or one of tails, and finally that more likely than not means greater than 50% likely.

We found a nice Markov chain solution to the problem and figured out the answer for streaks from length 2 to 16. The above graph has the first 10. The answer is that you need to flip 712 times to exceed a 50% chance of observing a streak of length 10.

Next we wanted to see how the number of flips would grow if we wanted to be highly likely of seeing a streak, where highly likely means greater than 99%.

Click to enlarge

Lastly, we took the results out to 16 flips and plotted the result on a log axis.

Click to enlarge

Here’s R code to mess around with. The Markov chain but could be sped up a lot by starting the search closer to the likely crossover point.

October 19, 2017


Filed in Gossip ,Ideas ,Research News
Subscribe to Decision Science News by Email (one email per week, easy unsubscribe)


The New York Times just came out with an article called “When the Revolution Came for Amy Cuddy” which is about the science behind an extremely popular TED Talk, and is also about the replication crisis more generally.

As Decision Science News readers, we are confident you will find much to agree within it and much to disagree within it.

You may know many of the people interviewed.

You will probably be talking about it at the upcoming Society for Judgment and Decision-Making conference.

It is compelling writing. Compelling as all get out. We could not put it down.


Andrew Gelman has written a reply

There is a lot of debate going on about this article over on this facebook group.

October 9, 2017

Richard Thaler wins Nobel Prize in Economics

Filed in Encyclopedia ,Gossip
Subscribe to Decision Science News by Email (one email per week, easy unsubscribe)


The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2017 has been awarded to Behavioral Economist Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business “for his contributions to behavioural economics“.

Dr. Thaler was born in 1945 and Received his Ph.D. in 1974 from the University of Rochester, New York. He is a Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of Behavioral Science and Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Illinois.

The amount of the prize is 9 million Swedish krona or 1,108,825 US dollars at the current exchange rate. Thaler says “I will try to spend it as irrationally as possible!”

Being behavioral economists, we at Decision Science News know a lot about Richard Thaler. As a reader of Decision Science News, you probably know a lot about Richard Thaler as well. If you don’t there are some useful links below. One thing we didn’t know, until we read the press release, is that he was born in East Orange, New Jersey, which is really close to New York City. See for yourself.


Scientific Background: Richard H. Thaler: Integrating Economics with Psychology (NobelPrize.org) – 37 page paper on Thaler’s contributions to behavioral economics.

Nobel in Economics Is Awarded to Richard Thaler (NY Times) – Announcement

Nobel Prize awarded to Richard Thaler (Marginal Revolution) – Provides a good overview of Thaler’s academic ideas

Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (With Cass Sunstein) – Thaler’s most popular book

Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics – Retrospective

September 27, 2017

Does cooperation in the prisoner’s dilemma unravel after ridiculously many repeated plays?

Filed in Articles ,Encyclopedia ,Ideas ,Research News
Subscribe to Decision Science News by Email (one email per week, easy unsubscribe)


Figure 1: All the games and random rematchings in one out of the twenty sessions we conducted. Each block of green/red shows a game where green represents cooperation and red represents defect. Curves between the games represent how players were randomly rematched.

DSN readers, you are in for a treat this week as Sid Suri, our many-time co-author and colleague at Microsoft Research, is writing a guest post on his repeated prisoner’s dilemma experiment. Many of you heard this experiment summarized in the 2016 Society for Judgment and Decision Making Presidential Address.

Long-run prisoner’s dilemma, a guest post by Sid Suri

Cooperation and more specifically, the Prisoner’s Dilemma, is one of the most studied topics in social science. Yet, despite over 50 years of research and thousands of studies, we still don’t have a good understanding of how people play PD in the long run. The standard theory predicts that, in a finitely repeated game, rational players will use backwards induction to converge on the Nash equilibrium of always defecting. That is, players will cooperate until the last round and defect, and then cooperate until the second to last round and defect and so on until cooperation “unravels” and everyone is defecting on every round. Experimentalists have tried to test this theory by conducting lab experiments where subjects play PD for a few hours. While they might find a little unraveling, these experiments are generally much too short in duration to see how far it goes.

To address this gap in the literature, Andrew Mao, Lili Dworkin, Duncan Watts and I [Sid Suri] conducted an experiment where approximately 100 players each played about 400 ten-round games of PD resulting in almost 400,000 cooperate or defect decisions overall. Subjects were randomly rematched between games and the games were conducted in one-hour sessions, every weekday for a month. (See Figure 1 for a representation of one session.) As these numbers suggest, conducting this experiment online, using a “virtual lab” environment allowed us to skirt some of the logistical limitations of prior lab studies.

Our results showed that cooperation unraveled for the first week and then cooperation levels stabilized after that at above 80%. Furthermore, the reason for this stabilization was due to the roughly 40% of our subject pool who behaved as “resilient cooperators”. These subjects would cooperate until someone else defected on them, and importantly, would not defect on others first, even if they got defected on in a previous game. These resilient cooperators effectively propped up the cooperation levels of the population (see Figure 2). It took us one week of experimentation to just get to the point where cooperation levels stabilized so these findings would have been extremely difficult to see in a lab experiment. We also showed, this time through simulation, that were it not for a sufficient fraction of resilient cooperators, cooperation levels would have unraveled.

Figure 2: Cooperation levels were high and sustained resulting in players earning 84% of the maximum social welfare.

Many prior studies have suggested mechanisms for boosting and sustaining cooperation like punishment, reward, ostracism, and partner selection. Our results suggest that these mechanisms may not be necessary and that a closed population can sustain cooperation on their own provided they have a sufficient fraction of resilient cooperators among them.



Link to article

Mao, A., Dworkin, L., Suri, S., & Watts, D. J. (2017). Resilient cooperators stabilize long-run cooperation in the finitely repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma. Nature communications, 8, 13800.