SJDM Preconference 2008:
Using Human Nature to Improve Human Life

November 14, 2008

Gleacher Center, Chicago, IL

Hosted by the Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago

The Center for Decision Research announces that it will host a preconference to this year's SJDM Annual Meeting, featuring research on how basic knowledge about human nature (fundamental motives, habits, biases, limitations, etc.) can be used to improve individual and social welfare. The preconference will be held on November 14, 2008, and will take place at the Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago.

Research on human judgment and decision making has enriched our understanding of some of the basic features and limitations of human nature. People do not operate with perfect knowledge, unlimited mental capacity, complete self-control, or a perfect ability to appreciate the future as much as the present. These basic features of human nature do not make people inherently flawed, just inherently human. Attempts to improve human life require an understanding of these basic features of human nature in order to design policies and interventions that work within the people's inherent constraints. Public policy has long been guided by a view of human nature provided by homo economicus, but public policy should also be informed by the psychological understanding of homo sapiens. Those designing organ donation policies, for instance, would do well to note that people are heavily influenced by the default option. Those designing savings programs would do well to note that people value future dollars much less than current dollars. And those designing weight loss programs would do well to note that people will eat whatever portion size is placed in front of them. Psychological research has a role to play in public policy debates and in designing social welfare interventions. This conference will provide a forum in which to present that research.

Attendance for the preconference is unfortunately full.

The preconference will last a full business day, organized in two sessions which will feature Cornell University's Brian Wansink (discussing his work related to obesity and health) and Princeton's Eldar Shafir (discussing his work on poverty) alongside the other presenters.

Please click the following link to view the conference program: Conference Program



If you have any trouble using this site, or have any questions regarding the conference, please contact Heather Caruso by email at