Winter 2015

Seminar Series Schedule

1/15/15 Ajit Sharma, Ross School of Business
Abstract: Till recently, Information Technology (IT) has remained limited to execution of tasks with humans staying in control of decision making. However, there seems to be a gradual appropriation by IT of decision making functions heralding the dawn of the cognitive computing era. These applications are powered by prediction of future events such as equipment failure, fraud, sales trends, stock market movements, customer behavior, and venture capital deal attractiveness. It is not clear whether traditional measures of business value are sufficient to capture the value added by these cognitive technologies. In this work I make a first attempt in IS literature to build a theoretical framework of the cognitive computing era as well as develop a vocabulary to work with it. An Interpretive Model of IT is theorized to deconstruct the IT artifact and discern its constituent parts that are new in the cognitive computing era.

1/22/15 Kathrin Hanek, Psychology
Abstract: Our social identities are important motivators of our behaviors and decisions (Reed, Forehand, Puntoni, & Warlop, 2012; Oyserman, 2009). Yet, in an increasingly global world, being true to all of our different selves is challenging. As our different identities and social roles place competing demands on our time and prescribe different courses of action, many people are faced with a host of difficult decisions that come with balancing and fulfilling various roles. In my research, I aim to untangle some of the relationships between identity processes and decision-making, with a special interest in conflicting identities and contexts. I do this in three ways. First, I examine the effects of individual differences in identity management strategies on the decision-making process. Across adult and student samples, survey and experimental methods, I show that perceptions of one’s identities as conflicting drive identity-relevant indecisiveness. Second, I extend this work to investigating how social roles and stereotypes can motivate decisions in identity-conflicting contexts. Focusing on differences in preferences and choice based on gender within competitive contexts, I find that women, relative to men, prefer to compete in smaller rather than larger groups and that these differences appear to be motivated by seeking alternatives that demonstrate identity-congruence. Third, I focus on the question of how diverse social contexts shape identity patterns and the relationship of these to preferences and behavior. My research shows that people who are repeatedly exposed to new cultures, starting at an early age, are more likely to develop a marginalized cultural identity, where they do not strongly identify with any particular culture. This global identity is also associated with particular behavioral patterns such as lower consumption of local culture and overall lower cultural engagement. Implications and future directions are discussed.

1/29/15 John Tropman, Social Work
Abstract: The problem I am trying to explain and “manage” (I prefer “problem management” to “problem solving”) is how to achieve high-quality decisions within the millions of groups that meet daily to cope with organizational problems. The answer is in two parts. One part is to explain why meetings are so awful across a broad range of organizations and venues, and correlatively, why a relatively tiny subset of meetings seems to be so productive. Pursuing this question through the Meeting Masters Research Project led to a template that was surprisingly similar across the Master Group. The second question focused on an even smaller subset of groups that tend to consistently produce high-quality decisions. I was interested in what the leadership did in each of these cases. In the first case, the problem is simply the immense waste of time we spend in meetings. This waste impacts all organizations, but is of especial importance in the nonprofit sector, pressed always with high demand and low resources (no loans, no venture capital, and wicked problems). And improving the efficiency of meetings has pluses in its own right. But being efficient (doing things the right way) does not mean an organization is effective (doing the right things). The real goal is to have high-quality decisions as the meeting’s outcome.

Interviews with numerous meeting masters and decision maestros reveal some common structural elements that lead to efficient meetings and effective decision making within them. Common practices used by the meeting masters included a freeing meeting structure, including the uses of the agenda bell, the menu agenda, and the options presentation technique. Producing effective, high-quality decisions required the use of the initial structure, and additional techniques in terms of an understanding of the deep structure of group decision making, and concepts such as decision rules, decision culture, decision mosaic, Guttmann scaling, and the ability to listen deeply and conceptualize on the fly. Decision sculpting was also useful. This is the practice whereby the decision facilitator stands back, looking at the “decision menu,” and sees whether, overall, any changes or adjustments are needed.

2/5/15 Ming Hsu, University of California, Berkeley
Abstract: Communication is a ubiquitous feature of social interactions between organisms, but despite its clear importance for social behavior, we still know little about the underlying neurocognitive mechanisms. We address this question in a series of studies using an approach combining signaling games with functional neuroimaging and lesion studies. First, using the lesion method, we sought to characterize cognitive control mechanisms that enable honest and deceptive decisions. Contrary to existing theories positing the automaticity of honesty, we found a reduction in honesty tendencies in patients with damage to brain regions known to subserve cognitive control processes. Second, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we sought to characterize the underlying computational mechanisms. We found dissociable neural responses to the cost and benefit of deception. In particular, potential benefit from deception correlates with the neural activity in ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), whereas the potential cost of deception is associated with the neural signal in bilateral insula. Finally, we extend this approach to more general characteristics of social communication beyond honesty and deception, and provide a framework to organize and study cognitive processes underlying social signaling and communication.

2/12/15 Josh Ackerman, Psychology
Abstract: Controlling one’s impulses can be depleting, making individuals less resistant to persuasion attempts. But can the depleting consequences of control spread to other individuals, such as people who simply observe others engaging in self-control use? Four studies test whether taking the perspective of a self-control user produces a sense of vicarious depletion, impairing observers’ persuasion resistance. Perspective-taking, whether explicitly directed, incidentally cued, or naturally measured, led participants to exhibit more positive attitudes and behaviors toward persuasive messages and advertisements. Vicarious depletion increased susceptibility primarily to those arguments requiring sizable effort to resist, but was inhibited both when participants adopted a mentally distant mindset and when participants believed that self-control was an unlimited resource. This research identifies an important and commonly overlooked situational factor in self-control contexts and helps to advance our mechanistic understanding of self-control processes. Thus, in social settings marked by high mental closeness, as in many group meals or shopping trips, people may suffer the depleting consequences of others’ decisions.

2/19/15 Melanie Milovac, Psychology

2/26/15 Amy Nguyen-Chyung, Ross School of Business
Abstract: This study posits that prospective entrepreneurs face a spectrum of entrepreneurial choices rather than a binary employment-entrepreneurship decision and explores how talent and key cognitive biases may influence entrepreneurs’ divergent choices in unexpected ways. I construct a novel panel dataset across several sources in the real estate brokerage industry, an industry in which all the individuals are all self-employed but some own businesses whereas others are more employee-like. I show how talent, risk attitudes and overconfidence predict selection into a rich set of entrepreneurial choices that vary by risk, autonomy and returns to talent. My results also reveal differences in the effects between specialized and general talent, and distinctions between risk attitudes and overconfidence on entrepreneurs’ choices. These findings suggest that research over the last three decades that relies solely on a self-employment definition of entrepreneurship or on uni-dimensional drivers obscures complex choices and has incompletely measured the determinants of entrepreneurial choice

3/19/15 Phoebe Ellsworth, Stephanie Preston and Scott Rick
The Event: For ages, received wisdom held that decision making was best when insulated from emotion. (“Always keep your cool!”) Relatively recent research has questioned this assumption. This is just one of the insights about connections between emotion and decision making that have emerged over the last 20 years or so. Session 10 in the Decision Consortium Seminar, next Thursday, March 19, will be devoted to this topic. And hopefully, you will be a key participant in the event, along with three UM experts on emotions and decision making: Phoebe Ellsworth, Stephanie Preston, and Scott Rick.

This is what will happen in Session 10:
(a) Each of our panelists will describe, illustrate, and comment on a couple of his or her favorite findings in the emotions and decision making area, whether discovered personally or not.
(b) Each panelist will also describe, elaborate, and motivate a question concerning emotions and decision making that holds special interest for him or her.
(c) Everyone in the room (including you?) will then be invited to offer his or her own favorite emotions/decision making research questions and insights for discussion and comment.

3/26/15 Stephanie Chen, Psychology
Abstract: Cross-cultural psychological research has found that cultural differences often run “deeper” than mere differences in norms. One deeper, more basic difference that underlies cultural variation is cognitive style; East Asians tend to think more holistically and dialectically than North American Westerners, who tend to think more analytically (Nisbett, Peng, Choi, & Norenzayan, 2001). Most of the work examining the nature of this difference focuses on this East/West contrast to the relative neglect of other regions. The present body of work uses previously established paradigms to test whether Latin Americans, as both Westerners and collectivists, resemble other Westerners in North America or other collectivists in East Asia in their level of holistic thinking. These studies begin to answer the question of whether philosophical tradition or social orientation contributes more to cognitive style. Furthermore, examining Latin American society opens questions about which other previously unstudied social factors (beyond social orientation and Confucian tradition) influence cognitive style.

4/2/15 Julian Hsu, Economics
Abstract: In this paper, I examine trends in college course taking and the role of grades as ability signals. I construct a dynamic course-taking model that allows students to simultaneously make progress and learn about their abilities in multiple majors. I use administrative transcript data from an elite public institution and track students’ progress in multiple majors. I find reduced form evidence that students ability sort based on their course grades in different majors. Most learning occurs before students’ third year, usually before they declare a major. I also find evidence of correlated major abilities, with some majors pulling students away from other majors. Finally, I find evidence that learning plays a significant role in graduation time.