Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania
Home page: http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~baron
Dr. Jonathan Baron’s work has occurred primarily within the field of judgment and decision making, a multi-disciplinary area that applies psychology to problems in economics, law, business, and public policy. Among the concepts associated with his work are omission bias (the tendency for people to excuse acts of omission more easily than acts of commission) and protected values (principles on which people are unwilling to accept tradeoffs). He has written and edited 10 books and more than 100 scholarly papers in journals of international reputation. He has served in the editorial boards of journals like Judgment and Decision Making, Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, Journal of Legal Analysis, Medical Decision Making, Journal of Economic Psychology, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, Behavior and Philosophy, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied,Psychological Bulletin, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes and Journal of Economic Psychology. Professor Baron has been awarded many awards like John Castellan Service Award (Society for Judgment and Decision Making), 2011 and the Provost’s commendation for graduate teaching, 1998. He holds fellowships from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Association for Psychological Science, Eastern Psychological Association and Society of Experimental Psychologists.
Q> Please discuss the interesting findings from your research
Dr. Baron > To me the most interesting are those that help to explain why many citizens fail to support policies that are best overall for all people now and in the future, such as policies concerning climate, or those that help to balance the human population with the earth’s capacity. Examples are: opposition to policies that harm some people but help many others, such as free trade, mass vaccination or a carbon tax; a perceived moral duty to support policies that help a citizen’s “group”, or even just herself, even when the same policies produce much greater harm to outsiders; adherence to absolute rules even when these go against the greater good; and failure to think about policies in a way that is actively open-minded.
Q> What do you think are important issues in Judgment and Decision Making?
Dr Baron > There are many important issues. One that I think is under-studied is the development, through childhood and adolescence, of ways of thinking that yield the biases just described: heuristics, naive theories, protected values, etc. I think that developmental approaches in the tradition of Jean Piaget (broadly conceived) will be more enlightening than (for example) functional explanations such as those provided by stories about adaptation to some imagined environment.
Q> What would be your message to invite the younger minds to decision sciences?
This is the place to be if you are interested in what it means to be rational, why some (other) people are so Irrational, and what can be done about it. The field brings together psychology, philosophy, and some mathematics, and it is relevant to economics, law, government and medicine, among other areas.
(As interviewed by Sumitava Mukherjee in October 2013)