There is great interest in decision-making, and no shortage of books detailing people’s shortcomings. Yet decisions do get made in the abstract, in the main environments: in conversations with friends and salespeople, by reading catalog pages, or increasingly, on websites and mobile devices that only present options but let us sort, search, and eliminate options. This course is based on a simple premise: how we are presented options helps determine what we choose, and that by improving these presentations we can improve choices. The forthcoming book used as the course text is a user's guide to the new field of choice architecture.
This is the science and art of presenting choices to deliver better outcomes for our friends, family, customers, citizens, and our present and future selves. This is relevant to everyone: we are all both choosers and choice architects. As choosers, we want to know how choice architecture affects us and when we are being manipulated. Does the website favor the most expensive option? Have we made it easy for people to pick the health insurance that is cheapest for them? Does the name given to a bill make it more likely to be passed in Congress?
Understanding how presenting options changes choice is an important element of decision-making self-defense. But we also present choices to customers ("which car would you like to purchase?"), family (asking a toddler "do you want to fly into bed or jump into bed"), and even ourselves ("when should I work out today?"). We want to avoid stupid mistakes, and design others' choices wisely. 2 The course will present a series of tools and a chance for students to participate in a “workshop” that applies these tools to problems that interest them.
Norman Eig Professor of Business
Eric Johnson is a faculty member at the Columbia Business School at Columbia University where he is the inaugural holder of the Norman Eig Chair of Business, and Director of the Center for Decision Sciences. His research examines the interface between Behavioral Decision Research, Economics and the decisions made by consumers, managers, and their implications for public policy, markets and marketing. Among other topics...