Where Decisionmaking Is Measured
December 12, 2008
“the split second in which a decision occurs gives rise to a thousand questions. Why did a person decide the way he did? Was the decision impulsive or deliberative? What was the person feeling when she made that decision? How much did the person’s immediate surroundings influence the decision?
The moment of decision has proven an elusive object of study, partly because it happens so quickly. Although researchers can ask subjects after the fact what was going through their minds, those results are vulnerable to bias (for instance, a study subject saying what she thinks the researcher wants to hear). But a new lab at the Harvard Kennedy School enables researchers to zoom in on that critical moment. Using state-of-the-art technology, the Decision Science Laboratory tracks measures of arousal that enable researchers to get at participants’ states of mind—in the seconds before, during, and after each decision, was a participant calm, angry, happy, or anxious?”