Research Initiative

Behavioral Decision Science

The ways that people understand their world have been radically changed by the evolution and expansion of media. These changes have made questions of who and what to trust, and how to pull important information from the firehose of content people are exposed to every day, more complicated thane ever. Understanding what makes people trust information they are exposed to, and take actions based on it. is the realm of behavioral decision science research. 

How do people make decisions? How do we understand the world through the information we take in from media and other sources? Why do people come to different conclusions based on the same information? How can we learn to have civil, constructive conversations across wide ideological differences?

The Behavioral Decision Scientists at the Shorenstein Center work to better understand these core questions about how people make decisions, communicate, and process messages about a wide range of public concerns. They also work to translate this research to help journalists and policy makers better communicate and transmit information that is essential for a healthy, functioning society. 


Dr. Jennifer Lerner is the Thornton F. Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy, Management, and Decision Science at Harvard Kennedy School. Working at the intersection of psychology and economics, her research improves understanding of judgment and decision processes, yielding practical applications for reducing error and bias. The first psychologist in the history of the Harvard Kennedy School to receive tenure, Professor Lerner directs a Decision Science Lab, as well as the Leadership Decision Making executive education program. She also holds a variety appointments across campus, including within the Mind, Brain, & Behavior steering committee, the Committee on the Use of Human Subjects, the Psychology Department, and the hearing panel for matters brought forth under the University’s Interim Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy. Professor Lerner applies decision science on a variety of boards; she also took leave from Harvard in order to serve in the federal government (2018-2019) as the Navy’s first Chief Decision Scientist, reporting to U.S. Chief of Naval Operations. Learn more about her here.

Dr. Todd Rogers is Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. He is a behavioral scientist whose work supports student success and attendance, strengthens democracy, and improves communication. At Harvard, Todd is the faculty director of the Behavioral Insights Group, faculty chair of the executive education program Behavioral Insights and Public Policy, and director of the Student Social Support R&D Lab. He is also Senior Scientist at ideas42 and Academic Advisor at the Behavioural Insights Team. Learn more about him here.

Dr. Julia Minson is an Associate Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. She is a decision scientist with research interests in conflict, negotiations and judgment and decision making. Her primary line of research addresses the “psychology of disagreement” – How do people engage with opinions, judgments and decisions that are different from their own? Much of Julia’s research is conducted in collaboration with the graduate and post-doctoral members of MC² – the Minson Conflict and Collaboration Lab. Learn more about her here.

Related Shorenstein Center Projects

The Journalist’s Resource is a news publication aimed at bridging the gap between journalism and academia, with the goal of getting more high-quality research into the media stream.

The Public Interest Tech Lab

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The Behavioral Insights Group

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Behavioral Decision Science, Faculty Research, Publications,
Experimental studies of conflict: Challenges, solutions, and advice to junior scholars
The views expressed in Shorenstein Center Discussion Papers are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Harvard Kennedy School or...
Behavioral Decision Science, In the News, News,
Shorenstein Center Researchers Lead Global Study on COVID-19 Messaging
By James F. Smith, Harvard Kennedy School Article originally published at Harvard researchers lead vast experiment in 84 countries to...

To learn more about the Behavioral Decision Science faculty and their research and publications, visit:

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