Meet the Editors: Neda

Neda Kerimi

Neda is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the department of Psychology, Harvard University after receiving her PhD from Stockholm University and a working at Uppsala University. Her research interests include decision-making, happiness, risk as well as human-computer interaction. She’s also the news editor for the European Association for Decision Making. Besides being a self-confessed technology geek, she loves useless facts and futurist science.

I’m working on InDecision because…Someone has to do it! Ever since my PhD studies I have been involved with different scientific societies, and I noticed that especially in JDM, a forum for early career researchers did not exist. In addition, there is just so much graduate programs or conferences can teach you. We wanted to create a forum where people can discuss the science itself and everything else that we all go through during our academic careers. We get so much satisfaction from running the blog that we have decided it’s well worth the time and energy.

I’m most passionate aboutKnowledge and people! I love learning, especially if it helps me to understand humans better. I have come to terms with the fact that I am a science geek in heart and soul (indeed, 90% of my conversations start “I read an article about a study…..”). In addition, I am passionate about understanding the core of human mind, whatever that may be. Don’t know if we will ever have a grand theory of the human mind but we are learning new things everyday. I am also passionate about how we can use knowledge and scientific progress for the greater good (more on that in upcoming future indecisionblog.com series).

At a conference, you’ll most likely find me in a session with key words like… Financial JDM, social JDM, and technology. More or less anything that can please my tech-geek and JDM-geek identities. For me conferences are not solely about the talks but also an opportunity to connect with new people and reconnect with those that I seldom see in person. So I might skip a few talks just to get the time to chat with an old friend or a new friend.

How I ended up doing research in this field… I started in IT and studied psychology alongside with my full-time job, but I soon realized I wanted to pursue my Phd in psychology. Being a bad decision maker (I couldn’t even decide where to eat lunch), it came naturally to me to immerse myself in the science of decision making. Fortunately, a PhD in the subject has actually made me a better decision maker. However, I can’t say how much of it should be credited to my PhD or to the fact that I have gained more experience in making decisions.

My personal research heroes are… so many that it is not worth mentioning names. For me, a research hero is more than someone who has come up with a ground-breaking theory – it’s also about the person. I have been incredibly lucky to meet so many people who, despite their fame and prominence, have taken the time to meet or chat with me, which I find hugely inspiring. I especially admire the many female researchers who lead the way for other women to progress in the field. The scientific community has traditionally been male-dominated, and I am pleased to see that is changing, and it is because of the excellent work than many female researchers do.

What I find most challenging is… not losing focus! I feel that research has become so much fiercer and competitive than before. The currency in our field is publications and citations and whether one get a job or a funding relies on the number of publications and citations (which I do not see as a good currency). I guess my challenge is to focus on what gets me going and not be affected by the stress and pressure that come with working in academia. Another challenge for me is to say no to projects. I get overly excited about everything that has to do with the human mind and science and want to run a project on it. It is a challenge, but I am getting better at it.

What I’d be doing if I wasn’t a researcher… I would most likely work with psychology or technology (maybe both?) in one way or another. I actually think more scientists should embark a career outside academia. We need to share the valuable knowledge and experience we have with also non-academics.

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Other things to read:

Meet the Editors: Elina

A couple of days ago we posted a letter from us, the editors, promising to subject ourselves to the same kind of scrutiny as our interviewees during these past seven months. This week we’re introducing Elina and Neda, but in the next couple of months you will also get to meet our contributors and sub-editors. 

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Elina is a part-time Marketing PhD student at University of Turku (Finland). Her research focuses on consumer decision making strategies in cross-cultural contexts. She also leads a double life as the founding partner of The Irrational Agency, a London-based market research agency that uses behavioural economics and consumer psychology to advise companies on pricing strategy. 

I’m working on InDecision because… I had previously set up a similar blog for cross-cultural psychology students earlier and it was positively received so I thought something like that should exist for early career researchers in decision making psychology as well. In general, I’m passionate about promoting younger researchers because good ideas can come from anywhere, yet without accolades and years of experience under our belt it’s hard to get your voice heard. Our thinking creates the future of the field, so why not start showcasing it sooner?

We deliberately wanted to keep the scope of the blog broad as so many fields contribute to our understanding of how humans make decisions. While some might argue we should focus solely on judgment and decision-making or behavioural economics, similar research issues are also being addressed other fields. Research on motivation, persuasion, values, attitudes and culture as well as economics are all important so we wanted to include these areas as well – besides, as Jim Bettman says, good research is like “ideas having sex” so hopefully featuring the full spectrum we can help in “cross-fertilising” ideas.

I’m most passionate about… Bringing academia and industry closer together. Having worked in market research for years while keeping one foot in academia, I’ve long despaired over practitioners’ ignorance of the diversity of knowledge available within the scientific literature. At the same time, I’ve been equally surprised at the lack of engagement from marketing scholars in the world of business, which sometimes leads to work that is irrelevant to practitioners. Both worlds have their strengths and weaknesses, but if they learned from each other and worked together at least a little bit more… we’d all be better off. For industry, not every wheel needs to be reinvented nor all lessons need to be learned the hard way – asking an expert may save you a lot of money. For academia, industry could offer an opportunity to ground our work in real life, access to funds most of us chronically lack and, most importantly, a chance to make a difference!

At a conference you’ll most likely find me in a session with key words like… self-concept, narratives, identity, individual differences, culture, consumer, brands, heuristics, choice. My academic tastes are perhaps somewhat eclectic and I love the knowledge festival aspect of conferences – it’s probably what go me hooked into academia! Over time, the “fount of knowledge” novelty has given way to the anxiety brought on by presenting your own work, but I still enjoy learning new things and meeting new people. My research interests lie in understanding how the way we see ourselves affects the choices we make in life, as well as how one’s cultural context factors into the process. We’re story-tellers by nature, so what stories we tell ourselves about our lives must also affect the way we make decisions – that also filters how we see the choice environment. Perhaps focusing on what feels like the messy end of decision making is a bit hippieish (“we’re all different yet equal”) but that’s also what makes it so fascinating.

How I ended up doing research in this field… For cross-cultural psychology, my life-long interest in languages and the cultures they live in has always been in the background. However, the experience of living in other countries and trying to make sense of other cultures has made me realise that there is no one truth, no one way to look at the world – instead, what we see hugely depends on where we grew up, what language we speak and what we see as valuable in life. As might be the case for many of us in psychology, a lot of it is about trying to understand yourself through studying others. What part of me is my own personality, what part is the cultural context I grew up in? For decision making psychology, it’s also always been in the background, but my deeper immersion was kick-started by meeting my friend and business partner Leigh Caldwell, who opened up my eyes to a whole new world of behavioural economics and JDM. It felt like finding a long-lost treasure – I don’t know if I would’ve discovered it on my own so I’m forever grateful to him for introducing me to this field.

My personal research heroes are… many, but some stand out more prominently than others. Coming across the work on adaptive decision making by Bettman, Payne and Luce a year ago was equivalent to an epiphany – it made a huge impact on me. Because of my interest in cross-cultural research decision making, I’ve also been impressed by the work of Elke Weber and Chris Hsee in this area. However, my big research heroes lie in cross-cultural psychology: Hazel Markus and Richard Nisbett. Their work has been influential to my thinking and interest in the field. Finally, the work by Henrich, Heine and Norenzayan on the WEIRDness of psychology research is probably the most fascinating article I’ve ever read. While not everything is influenced by culture, without validating our findings in multiple cultural contexts I don’t believe we can claim them to be universally human – if even colour perception isn’t safe from it, how can anything else be?

What I find most challenging is… Finding a balance.  As a self-diagnosed infoholic, I’m drowning in papers and books I want to read. Every time I look up a paper I end up downloading three others because they look interesting so my laptop is buckling under the hundreds of papers I’ve vowed to read one day yet never have time for. This condition is exacerbated by the dual nature of my work: one the one hand there are papers I want to read for my own research, on the other my commercial work requires me to look for answers everywhere from social cognition to sensory marketing via partitioned presentation of multicomponent bundles. Sometimes I feel like a Swiss army knife with a small, handy tool to tinker with everything while not having enough leverage for anything big! Still, I feel incredibly lucky to combine my passions this way even if I’m perpetually feeling guilty about not knowing enough about the world.

What I’d be doing if I wasn’t a researcher… I really don’t know. Sadly, understanding what makes people tick is the one thing that really makes me tick, so I’d struggle to think of an alternative career. I’ve always loved animals so maybe I’d like to work with them, even though that’s still trying to figure out what goes inside their head…

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Letter from the editors

On the 3rd of January, we published the first post on InDecision. We had modest hopes for the blog: we thought maybe a couple of hundred people would read it. Seven months and 46,000 views later, we’ve had over 22,000 visitors from 147 countries – far beyond what we could have imagined. From the US and Europe to Eritrea, via Singapore, Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Mongolia – decision making science is everywhere.

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In the past six months, we’ve featured 22 Research Heroes whose thoughts have been incredibly inspirational and encouraging to young researchers – we certainly feel privileged to always be the first ones to read the interviews. We’ve also brought in practitioners’ views on how the knowledge created in our field is being used in the sometimes obscure “Real World”, as well as looked at what life looks like when you leave academia after your PhD. 

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All three have spoken about the importance of academics and practitioners working together, whether in form of more field studies or thinking about the wider implications of our research. At the same time, it seems clear that the relationship is not without its problems – lack of a common language, different incentives and goals as well as practicalities all present challenges for deeper engagement between the two worlds. From our part, we’ll continue to highlight stories from both sides of the fence, in the hope that we can at least some way bring the sides closer together.

Our vision for the blog remains unchanged: to create a platform for young researchers to talk about their work and reach audiences beyond the realm of academic conferences and journals. Not everyone will have their work featured in the New York Times, yet many of us early career researchers do fantastically interesting work that deserves to be heard by as many people as possible.

valkotorniDespite the opportunity, it’s been challenging to persuade people to write in public – chronic lack of time means prioritising, and engaging with the world by writing for a blog is not yet hugely incentivised by the academic world, yet as researchers we’re increasingly faced with requests to demonstrate the relevance of our work. What better way to do that than by showing the world what we’re up to in our ivory towers?

The other challenge is that many young researchers don’t want to expose themselves in the run-up to entering the job market – writing in public is seen as a risky. “What if I don’t know everything and say the wrong thing? What if someone steals my research idea?” Writing about your work is also very personal, and it’s hard to put yourself out there. However, a couple of brave souls have stepped up, and in the next couple of months we’ll be seeing content curated by them on their area of expertise within decision making psychology. (If you’re reading this and want to get involved, drop us an email!)

At the same time, it wouldn’t be right for us to ask of others what we’re not willing to do ourselves, so in the next couple of posts you’ll get to meet us, the editors. We’ve been asking a lot of questions from everyone, yet not told you much about ourselves, so it’s time to subject ourselves to some scrutiny.

Even though we originally intended the blog for a purely academic audience, enthusiastic feedback from the outside world suggests there’s a lot of interest in our work. While we’ll try to balance content so that there is something for everyone, we want to remain true to our mission and serve the interests of young researchers in particular, so our latest interview series is focusing on the editors of different journals in the field of decision making science. (Practitioners – consider it a rare glimpse into our world and the laws that govern it!)

We hope that you continue to enjoy the blog and, as always, welcome your feedback on how we can make it even better.

Elina & Neda

New series: Opening the black box of academic publishing

Publish or perish is a phrase most scholars know well. Publications is the currency of academia: if you don’t publish, having an academic career is difficult.

However, publishing is hard so we  decided to ask editors of leading journals some questions that many of us have and which only editors can answer. The aim is to provide more insight into the process of scientific publishing.

For the upcoming series, we spoke to leading journals in general psychology, judgment and decision making as well as journals in marketing and economics that publish articles related to judgment and decision making. We’ll be publishing the individual interviews over the next couple of months and hope you find them useful in your work!

First up is Judgment and Decision Making

New series: Outside The Matrix

As if one new interview series wasn’t enough for March, we’re now kicking off a second one!

As much as you love research, you may feel like academia is not necessarily your place after all, or maybe you want to mix it with some applied work – but what else is out there? As we’ve seen from our first couple of In The Wild interviews, there are plenty of exciting opportunities for PhDs in the ‘real world’. 

But what does it really feel like to make the leap and go outside the parallel universe that is academia? What’s it like there? What skills does one need? And, most importantly, how does it compare to the academic world?

To answer some of those questions we’re speaking to people who changed gear after finishing their PhDs and moved into the commercial sector. First up we have Paul Litvak from Google – buckle up and read on!

Want to read more? Try these…

New series: In The Wild

This month we’re introducing a new interview series ‘In The Wild’ where we speak to practitioners who apply decision making science in their work in a range of industries.

Decision making science is becoming increasingly popular in both the commercial sector as well as influencing public policy. Well-known recent examples include the Obama campaign which employed behavioural scientists as a part of its strategy and of course the British Government’s Behavioural Insights Team (or the ‘Nudge Unit’ as they are also known) that has been so successful it has even been ‘exported’ to Australia.

While savvy marketers have probably always intuitively known some of the  quirks about human behaviour academics have now proved, decision making science has also attracted significant interest in the commercial sector in advertising, market research and user experience.

But how much do we really know about how our research is being used? What parts of our work do practitioners use most? What are the challenges that they face in taking our work and applying it in the ‘real world’? How do they the relationship between them and us, the scientists? And what advice would they give to young researchers?

Tune in to find out.

Flying start for InDecision

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been quite a month for InDecision.

Four weeks ago we published the first interview of Hal Arkes, followed by George Loewenstein, Richard Thaler and Chris Hsee. We were already thrilled with the hundreds of people who took an interest in the first two interviews (not to mention Wall Street Journal taking a shine to George Loewenstein’s interview!), but week three… things went a little bit crazy. 

10k coverage

In 48h, we had over 5000 views of the blog, after several popular tweeters such as Nudge Blog promoted it and it was picked up by the economics blog Marginal Revolution (sparking a lively debate) as well as the World Bank blog.  Some disagreed with Thaler, most notably Eric Falkenberg in Business Insider who felt he was giving bad advice – thankfully, not everyone felt the same

indecision blog stats 1st month

Well, it’s a good start for such a young blog – long may it continue! There’s also been some interest in republishing some of the interviews on various other blogs – such interest in our field is great news indeed. All in all, we’ve had over 9000 views of the blog and a bit over 5000 visitors in the first month which is absolutely fantastic. In February, we’ll have more great interviews from John Payne, Jon Baron, Elke Weber and a couple of surprise guests – watch this space.