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School News

December 12, 2006

"Ingenious": Insights into Diplomats' Bad Behavior and Do-Gooders' Regret

In two recent studies by Professors Ray Fisman and Ran Kivetz — touted in the New York Times Magazine as “ingenious” — the common thread is a sense of guilt, or the lack thereof.


The New York Times Magazine selected studies by Professors Ray Fisman and Ran Kivetz for its 6th annual “Year in Ideas.” The 74 inventions and ideas arranged from A to Z — spanning art, science, popular culture and even beer and wine — represent “the peaks and valleys of human ingenuity.”

Fisman was named to the list for his “ingenious” diplomat-parking-violation corruption index. He and coauthor Edward Miguel of the University of California, Berkeley, correlated the quantity of UN diplomats’ unpaid parking tickets with corruption levels in their home country and concluded that a certain amount of “bad behavior” is grounded in cultural norms.

Kivetz and coauthor Anat Kienan, a doctoral candidate in the Marketing Division, were selected for their paper on hyperopia, or excessive farsightedness, that reveals provocative information about the nature of guilt in day-to-day self-control dilemmas. In a series of studies, Kivetz and Kienan interviewed subjects about past decisions and found that guilt after an “indulgent” decision quickly subsides, while the sense of “missing out” that follows “virtuous” choices increases over time.

Both studies have received widespread media coverage in such publications as the Chicago Tribune, the Economist and Forbes.com.

Fisman, an associate professor in the Finance and Economics Division and research director of the School’s Social Enterprise Program, received a Rising Star Award earlier this year from the Aspen Institute Business and Society Program. Kivetz, a professor in the Marketing Division, has won several awards for his research, which examines consumer and managerial decision making, the psychology of effort and reward (and its application to loyalty programs and other incentive systems) and marketing high technology, as well as hyperopia.