big data | June 01, 2016

Decision-Making, Revisited: Introducing New Speaker Katherine Milkman

Every day, we make decisions that impact our lives for the worse or better—decisions that shape our reality. But too often, we make the wrong one. We skip the treadmill. We pick fries over salad. We spend when we should save. If we know what’s good for us, why do we so often shirk the better choice? Wharton School behavioral economist Katherine Milkman studies exactly this—why human beings deviate from optimal decision-making, and what strategies we can implement to rework our behaviors. Operating at the crossroads of big data, behavioral economics, and social good, Milkman is changing the way we look at choice—in ourselves, our customers, and our employees.

For Milkman, the choices we make are largely reliant on context, and on a macro level, this observation has wide-ranging implications for employers, marketers, and policymakers. Every decision is directly influenced by its environment, and this “choice architecture” is what makes the first item in the cafeteria line more likely to end up on your plate. If we can integrate choice architecture into public policy, thinks Milkman, we can influence people to make better decisions, and ultimately, make the world a better place.

One of Milkman’s concepts is called “temptation bundling.” Pair a guilty pleasure (say, eating fast food) with something beneficial that you generally avoid (like spending time with your grandmother), and never do one without the other. You’ll bring both habits towards a happy medium—and feel less guilt about each. Temptation bundling has caught on: it’s been featured in Men’s Fitness, Lifehacker, Freakonomics Radio, and numerous other popular media.

Katherine Milkman is an associate professor at both UPenn’s Wharton School and the Perelman School of Medicine, and was named one of the world’s top 40 business school professors under 40 by Poets and Quants. She’s written more than two dozen articles in major social science journals, has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and has authored two of the most downloaded papers on the Social Science Research Network. Milkman is both firmly entrenched in the research world and a well-respected speaker—a behavioral scientist who’s rewriting the way we see our everyday decisions and their ramifications.

To hire Katherine Milkman as your next keynote speaker—or to book another behavioral economist like Shlomo BenartziAdam Alter or Nina Mažarcontact The Lavin Agency, her exclusive speakers bureau.

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