ACR 2013 – What to Look Forward To

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 3.35.00 PMCo-Chairs Simona Botti and Aparna Labroo along with their team will bring innovation to Chicago this year for ACR 2013.

Not only are they embracing technology, but they are bringing new types of sessions and pushing new themes, especially the overall “Making a Difference” theme. There’s a lot at this conference. But here’s some of the many things to look forward to.

For those not attending, don’t worry – we will be live tweeting and blogging the highlights as well as providing in-depth summaries of the biggest talks and surprises of the conference online following the end of the conference. So keep it locked at Indecision Blog. Follow our RSS feed or follow @Indecision_Blog if you don’t already to keep in the loop.

Working Paper Session +  Submit Yours for Online Publication

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 3.36.29 PM

The working paper session takes place at 6:30pm on Friday night and is co-chaired by Leonard Lee and Wendy Liu. It’s a great place to connect with the youngest researchers in our field. But the connection won’t stop at the conference this year.

Indecision Blog is letting you publish online.  Maybe “publish” is not the right world, but we want you to post a PDF copy of your poster here online. If you want to share your blossoming research with the world then send us a PDF copy of the file via email to or via twitter to @Indecision_Blog. (Also send us a full APA formatted citation for the poster.) Sometime after ACR check back to for a list of posters so you can connect with and learn from other young researchers.

 Film Festival

From Cuba, to electronic music, to running barefoot, the film festival explores consumption in artsy, fun, and direct ways. Bonus, right now you can check out the trailers and full cuts online through the links here. Even if you are hardcore experimental researcher, the film sessions are a great way to spend an hour or so of your time. See our full preview on the film festival here.

The film festival takes place through the conference and is co-chaired by Marylouise Caldwell and Paul Henry.

 An Amazing After Party

 house of bluesA special message from the entertainment committee…

“This year, a special highlight of the ACR conference will be the Grand Finale party at the House of Blues. In prior years, the ACR Grand Finale has entertained and delighted guests with works of Warhol (Pittsburgh, 2009), 5 story slides (St. Louis, 2011) and undersea creatures of all kinds (Vancouver, 2012). However, the ACR 2013 entertainment committee agreed we could do better.

To do so, we put together a magical evening of drinks (open bar!) and tomfoolery set the musical stylings of some of ACR’s own.  That’s right, people who have reviewed your papers will be performing live on stage at one of Chicago’s most celebrated venues. Wondering who will be on stage?  Show up and find out! 

Tickets are limited for this night-to-remember, so bring your camera phones, arrive early and stay late!”

The entertainment committee is: Kelly Goldsmith, Tom Meyvis, Leif Nelson, and Joachim Vosgerau.


Saturday, 7:30pm – midnight

329 N. Dearborn St., between Kinzie St. and Wacker Dr.

Food, Open Bar, Brand Inequity Live Concert, DJ Ash

Tickets limited.

The Forums


This year the forums expand to include Perspectives, Roundtables, and Workshops.

The Perspectives bring together leaders in specific research domains (e.g. motivation, identity, and social influence) to discuss the “greatest hits” of their own research. Come see people discuss some of the most important ideas to our field in greater depth than ever before at ACR.

The Roundtables – Though not new to ACR, but the topics are always fresh and varied. The roundtables feature a bunch (like around 14 sometimes) professors talking about a specific hot topic such as applied research or neuroscience. It’s a great place to see great minds express raw ideas and opinions.

The Workshops are the “how-to” on the nitty-gritties of the research process such as data collection, data analysis, the famous/infamous moderation-mediation analysis, reviewing, and even videography. The Forums take place throughout the conference and the Forums at large are co-chaired by Anirban Mukhopadhyay and David Wooten.

The Doctoral Consortium

g1Featuring the ever nerve-racking speed dating and other professor interactions, you are just guaranteed to have an amazing conversation with a professor. Plus, your likely to leave with a “you can’t believe where our conversation went” story to tell about another professor.

Here an Indecision Blog we love consortiums because they try to get at the same things we care about on this website: sharing a diversity of opinions and providing support and inspiration for young researchers.

The Doctoral Consortium occurs on Thursday before the actual conference begins and is intended for Ph.D students. This promises to be the most covered session by Indecision Blog this year. Check back online for interviews, summaries, and more. The Doctoral Consortium is chaired by Derek Rucker and Jaideep Sengupta.

Mid-Career Mentorship Program

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 3.43.18 PM

This year, ACR addresses the long forgotten middle child in our field. While much effort gets put into equipping young researchers, those in the middle often get very little guidance.  ACR changes that with a short workshop by Nidhi Agrawal and Jonathan Levav.

The new initiative is meant to enable pre-tenure and recently tenured faculty to discuss topics such as making an impact, mentoring students, and life after tenure with senior colleagues. The idea is that these people don’t need a lot of guidance, so they don’t need an entire day like the doctoral students get, but a couple hours might be useful.

The event takes place on Thursday from 2pm to 4:30pm.


In The Wild: Steve Tatham

15POG-UNCLASS-20121025-0125 Firmin Sword of Peace Presentaion at HMS PresidentThis week in In The Wild we’re featuring Commander Steve Tatham, a specialist in managing strategic communication and behavioural influence campaigns. He joined the Royal Navy in 1990 and has seen operational service in Sierra Leone (2000), Iraq (2003) and Afghanistan (2001-2013). His military appointments have included Command of 15 (UK) Psychological Operations Group, Military Liaison Officer to the Joint Intelligence Committee’s Strategic Horizons Unit, exchange to New Zealand and a specialist research secondment to the UK Defence Academy.  Afloat he has served in HMS Illustrious, HMS Invincible and HMS Plover.  He holds both a PhD and MPhil in International Relations, the latter from St John’s College Cambridge, and is the author of two books: Losing Arab Hearts & Minds (2006) and Behavioural Conflict (2011).  In 2013 he co-founded the Influence Advisory Panel (, a forum to bring together the best academics and global practitioners of strategic influence. He leaves the Royal Navy in Spring 2014 to pursue a career in business.

Tell me about your work: how does decision making psychology fit in it? In the military we change our postings about every two to three years. Up until February this year I was the Commanding Officer of 15 (UK) Psychological Operations Group. Our role was to try and understand behaviours, exhibited and latent, amongst audiences in Helmand in Afghanistan. So for example we would try to understand why people might grow poppies or support the Taliban. In each case we would try to positively influence that behaviour – encourage them not to grow poppy, not to support the Taliban. Despite the groups name it was a big surprise when I took command to find there were no psychologists on the team! We had to very quickly understand some quite complex social science and start applying it on military operations. However one of the first things I did in command was to bring in a trained psychologist to help us in our work – and I sent them to Afghanistan to understand the problems we faced on the ground. Armed with our research our job was to provide the commander of British forces in Afghanistan with alternative solution to his particular day-to-day operational problems. Sometimes he would like them, sometimes he did not but we had a pretty good success rate which is why my unit was awarded the Firmin Sword of Peace – a prestigious award presented to the military unit who has done the most to help and support local communities on operations.

How did you first become interested in decision making psychology? I have been involved almost continuously in military operations in either Iraq or Afghanistan since the terrible events of 9/11in 2001. I became convinced very quickly that our biggest single problem was that we did not understand the people we were working with, for and sometimes against .. Afghans and Iraqis. I became really interested in why people chose to behave in specific ways – which we often would label as being irrational. Of course it was only irrational to us; to them their behaviour was invariably completely rational. So I began a bit of a journey to try and find why people behaved as they did and why we were not very good at understanding. That journey ended in my writing a PhD on the subject and co-authoring a book (Behavioural Conflict – Why Understanding People and Their Motivations Will Prove Decisive in Future conflict). People tell me I am now an ‘expert ‘ which is a terrible title to have as the subject is too broad and too complex for anyone to become truly expert. Besides, I always say that in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king!

What type of research do you find most interesting, useful or exciting? I am absolutely fascinated by Target Audience Analysis.. The science of understanding people’s actions and motivations and then applying subtle influence interventions to make the bad good and the good better. I love the fact that the most obscure and counter intuitive interventions can often have profound effects. For example in South America the Colombian government wanted to increase the number of FARC rebels laying down their weapons and giving up violence. One of the ways they did it was by running trip wires on remote jungle paths that when triggered illuminated huge Christmas trees in the jungle with messages reminding the rebels that their loved ones missed them. The idea was that it would remind the rebels about the life they had left behind, their families, their religion and for what result – loneliness, fear and violence? And it worked.. Many rebels told government officials that the reason they had turned themselves in was because of the Christmas trees and feeling lonely at a very special time of year. People associate the armed forces with the application of controlled violence and of course ultimately that is what we are trained to do. But it is expensive and, of course, dangerous. I like the idea very much that we can use new and evolving science to achieve our objectives, perhaps even stop conflict happening in the first place, without resorting to conflict.

Do you see any challenges to the wider adoption of decision making psychology in your field? What we do is way outside conventional military operations and is often not understood by our seniors. I am always having to try and sell to them the benefits of targeted influence campaigns and it can be a bit frustrating at times. One of the reasons for this is that results often take a long time to become apparent where as with conventional military weaponry you know pretty quickly what happened! However I am proud to say that I have had a hand in changing the British and NATO armed forces doctrine from an attitudinal outlook (i.e. if we can make people like us they will behave in a positive manner) to one that recognises that attitudes are very temporal and not really very good indicators of future behaviour.

How do you see the relationship between academic researchers and practitioners? Well it’s tricky. We very much need that steady flow of new ideas and thinking but theory alone very often translates badly into actual practice on military operations so we need our researchers to have a very good understanding of what we actually do on the ground and the constraints that exist. Sometimes it can just be environmental issues – researchers may have no comprehension of what working in 50 degree temperatures in Helmand can be like and the effect it may have the programme that they have recommended. On other occasions it can be political or operational security constraints which will always trump theoretical research. That’s why when I was with 15(UK) PsyOps I made a point of sending one of our attached psychologists to Helmand to see what was going on. The rubber of theory often has a very bumpy ride on the Tarmac of reality! However it is absolutely vital that those ideas keep flowing through to us. We must remain upto date with the latest thinking, even if we cannot apply it immediately. We often say we are the best trained armed forces in the world and I think that is true – mind you I would say that wouldn’t I! – however training needs to be accompanied by good and continuous education. It’s a fast changing world out there; just look at what has happened in cyber space in the last ten years. We need people who understand the science and who are prepared to push its boundaries to help us keep abreast of it.

What advice would you give to young researchers who might be interested in a career in your field? That’s not such an easy question because research is not one of the armed forces key outputs – we are however consumers and there are a number of organisations that exist to support and help. So young researchers may want to look at careers in, for example, Defence Science Technology Laboratories (DSTL) who exist, as a government funded body across a range of departments and functions, to provide scientific support. We also work closely with the UK Defence Academy in Wiltshire and with Cranfield University – both of these organisations recruit researchers. Oh, and I can thoroughly recommend joining the Royal Navy too!

 Website | LinkedIn

All the profits from the book go to the charity Help For Heroes.

Research Heroes: Barbara Summers

barbara%20summersBarbara Summers is a Senior Lecturer in Decision Making at Leeds University Business School, UK, where she also serves as co-Director of the Centre for Decision Research. She has recently been elected to serve as President Elect of the European Association for Decision Making (EADM), and currently serves on the Society’s Board as Member at Large. Her research focuses on individual decision making from both cognitive and emotional perspectives, with application areas in health, marketing and pensions. Her work benefits from her previous commercial experience as Head of Systems Development at Equifax Europe UK.

I wish someone had told me at the beginning of my career…… the advantages of walking and patience. Sometimes projects take a while to get going; you have an idea, but investigating it leads into slightly unfamiliar territory so you feel there is a lot of literature to get through. Or you might feel you have lots of bits of the puzzle but can’t see how they fit together. It’s human nature to want results quickly and to feel disheartened in these situations, but don’t – this sort of project can be the most interesting in the long run, so it’s worth being patient and working through it. I find the best way to trigger the “eureka” moment when the bits click into place is to stop thinking. Walking while not focusing on your thoughts or sleeping are really good ways to do this. The idea of sleeping on a problem usually works for me (and recharges your batteries).

I most admire academically… because…There are a lot of people, but the work of Kahneman and Tversky on Prospect Theory had the biggest effect on me. I had been doing work in another field and realized that this theory gave a better explanation of some data I had than the traditional explanations in the literature. I was converted and decided to investigate the area further – well worth it! There are many others as I explore different aspects of decision making, but this was the first.

The best research project I have worked on during my career…/the project that I am most proud of/ that has inspired me most….There are so many different ways a project can be best – and I have been lucky enough to have quite a range of experiences. Some projects broaden your ideas of how the world works (I feel this about the work I’m doing now on emotion), while others can produce real world impacts that are satisfying to see (I did work on a project producing decision aids for patients, for example, and another project helped a company predict and respond to customer needs better). Some projects can just be a good experience in terms of getting to know others. I try to see the best in all of them.

The worst research project I have worked on during my career…/the one project that I should never had done…If you are doing research then some projects are not going to work. You might not get the results you want, you might even get results that prove you wrong. It’s frustrating, but most projects have some value in the longer term. The bad ones are ones you don’t enjoy working on.

The most amazing or memorable experience when I was doing research….… is always the bit where the predicted results happen – I get a real buzz every time, because you now understand the world a little better.

The one story I always wanted to tell but never had a chance…I used to be involved in organizing a professional conference (while an academic) and there was a project that needed real managers to take part in the research. I suggested we might use the future delegates for the conference, and we could give a talk on the results in my session in exchange for their participation. The project was trying to identify ways in which professional managers’ decisions in a particular field (to do with corporate failure/ creditworthiness) demonstrated expertise, and to make it more interesting we also got groups of lecturers who taught techniques for making similar decisions, and their students, along with a group of lay people to provide a comparison. The professional society helped us distribute the questionnaires and we put the talk in the program. Then the results came in. Lecturers and students generally performed better than the professional managers on the tasks, and in fact the managers were barely better than lay people (who really knew nothing about the subject area). Welcome to the conference talk from Hell – we had to stand up and tell people (who paid to be there) that they were hopeless at a job related task!

In the end things were not so bad. The obvious “How can this have happened?” response gave way to an investigation of how the task (which the managers thought was important) fitted into their role as a whole, and led to an understanding that their real expertise was not in getting the right answer in the first place, but in managing the relationship with the company they assessed for credit as it developed (so these skills made more difference). We even managed to get a laugh when we gave the talk! I probably have told this to some people, so apologies if you heard it before…

A research project I wish I had done… And why did I not do it…I’ve not given up yet on any project I wish I’d done yet. If I still wish I’d done it, I still hope to manage it. Sometimes things drop off the list because I realise they won’t do what I want, but that’s it.

If I wasn’t doing this, I would be……probably back (or still) in the commercial world. I spent a lot of time in Business Analyst type roles doing quite a lot of greenfield development projects, where the company was moving into new territory or the client wanted to do something but didn’t have anything in place. These have quite a lot in common with research, certainly in the thinking process, so are fun. Some of the ones I was involved in were international joint ventures, so I got some chance to travel and see other perspectives. Not quite as much fun as academia, but still fun.

The biggest challenge for our field in the next 10 years…Getting the real world more widely engaged. We’ve had a burst of interest in behavioral work in the UK, with the government setting up a Nudge unit. There are however a lot of fields where more behavioral aspects could give real benefits in solving real world problems (like helping people make informed decisions), and in benefitting business too. Students who’ve taken the Management Decision Making course run by our centre regularly report how useful it is in their careers from interview stage on, giving them a perspective on avoiding pitfalls in decision making (I wish I had done it before being a manager myself!). I see many opportunities, but we need to keep up momentum to get there.

My advice for young researchers at the start of their career is…Enjoy what you do – you do better on projects that catch your imagination. Make contacts and work with others – ideas develop faster with more than one person thinking about them. Establish what you need to get to where you want to be. When I got my first lecturing post the Dean of my School gave me a list of promotion criteria for the next grade up and told me to start ticking them off as soon as possible. I found this really helpful in getting established, as someone moving across from industry, but I think it would have helped anyway. If you’re in this position, I wish you all the success in the world and have great time – academia is a great job.

Departmental website