MLD-304: The Science of Behavior Change with Todd Rogers

Leverage insights about human decision making to develop interventions that improve societal well-being.

This is the primary learning goal of MLD-304 The Science of Behavior Change taught by Professor Todd Rogers.
The fast growing research field dubbed “behavioral economics” or “behavioral science” examines the mechanisms of, and influences on, human judgment and decision making, especially in the areas where our choices differ from the rational and the optimal.  Insights from this research has provided a new set of tools that complement standard economics and policy levers for influencing behavior (namely, incentives and information) and allowed us to improve implementation of interventions promoting the public good.  These new tools and ideas have relevance across fields ranging from healthcare, education, criminal justice, social welfare, electoral politics, personal finance, and beyond.
In addition to learning more about the science of how humans make judgments and decisions, students in MLD-304 will also be taught how to improve the quality of their own judgments and decisions by identifying areas of thinking prone to errors and cognitive biases. Some of these errors are particularly important for real world problems.  This course will also increase students’ familiarity with randomized experiments, enabling them to be smarter consumers of claims that interventions cause certain outcomes.

Watch Professor Rogers describe an example from his work on voter mobilization:

Read an example of Todd Rogers’s work implementing a simple and effective set of behavioral scientific interventions to tackle the problem of student absenteeism in urban school districts.

Join other students at HKS and across Harvard interested in behavioral science in the Behavioral Insights Group which brings together an outstanding group of decision research scholars, behavioral economists, and other behavioral scientists. BIG’s staff are always happy to talk with students. Please feel free to reach out to Program Manager, Maja Niksic (maja_niksic@hks.harvard.edu) or join BIG’s global mailing list, the mailing list for Harvard students, follow BIG on Twitter, or check out BIG’s LinkedIn Network where behavioral science-specific jobs are posted.

MLD-304 will be offered at Harvard Kennedy School in Fall of 2020. If you have any questions about this course, or any other in the MLD curriculum, email Greg Dorchak, MLD Area Administrator.

MLD-113M: Strategy and Decision with Peter Zimmerman

How can effective leaders learn from experience and decisions in the past to make more effective decisions that advance one’s strategic purpose?

Book Cover: Strategy: A History, by Lawrence Freedman, Copyright Oxford University Press, 2013

Strategy is expressed in the decisions we make every day. There are no choices or actions that are truly neutral with respect to one’s strategic purpose.  Yet few decisions come labelled as “strategic”; instead policy makers, analysts and managers face an unending stream of judgments and choices that arrive in varied frames from every imaginable direction.

No decision stands alone. Today’s decisions are linked undeniably to decisions in the past reflected in the experience of individuals, groups, teams and organizations, even nations.  Experience both enables and limits our perceptions, beliefs, values, predispositions and capabilities. We both learn from the past (it’s all we’ve got) yet our learning can be limited by the deceptive clarity and presumed certainty associated with explanations of past events.

MLD-113M Strategy and Decision with Peter Zimmerman will help students develop more robust explanations of past decisions, their strategic impact and will help students make better predictions of the effects of future decisions.  Taking as the course text cases and stories involving others, from different times and places, and even students’ own stories and experience, students will work on three parallel tracks. First, students have the chance to analyze and explain decisions large & small while experimenting in a tentative qualitative way with how things might come out differently. Next, they explore the science of behavior & decision-making (i.e., what are the sources of influence on decision and what’s going on in the black box?). Finally, they develop a framework to help improve our explanations & predictions and to integrate individual choices into a pattern of strategic decisions. Harvard students can view a course preview video with Peter Zimmerman.

This course is offered in the 2nd module of Fall 2020. If you have any questions about this course, or any other in the MLD curriculum, email Greg Dorchak, MLD Area Administrator.

Understanding Emotion in the Context of Intractable Intergroup Conflict

Special Presentation: Understanding Emotion in the Context of Intractable Intergroup Conflict
with Professor Eran Halperin of Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, IsraelPortrait of Eran Halperin

Bio:  Professor Eran Halperin is Dean of the School of Psychology and Professor at IDC – Herzliya. An award-winning pioneer in examining emotion processes using field experiments, Dr. Halperin’s research uses psychological and political theories to investigate causal factors driving intergroup conflicts. More specifically, his work develops new approaches for modifying the psychological roots of intolerance, exclusion and intergroup violence.  The unique case of Israeli society in general, and of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular, motivates much of his work and, hence, most of his studies are conducted within the context of that “natural laboratory.”  His laboratory currently spearheads a government sponsored project to standardize social inclusion in Israeli education.

Date: April 27, 2017    11:45 AM – 1:00 PM

Location: HKS, Belfer Building, Land Lecture Hall (Room 400)

Space is limited; RSVP by April 19 REQUIRED  (Light lunch will be provided)

Presentation sponsored by the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.  Additional support provided by the Herbert C. Kelman Seminar on International Conflict at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard, the Management, Leadership, and Decision Science Area at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the Middle East Initiative of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.