BSPA co-founder, Sim Sitkin, is attending The International Behavioural Insights Conference, BX2015, taking place in London this week.

Alongside Professor Sitkin, many of the best known names in behavioral science, including Daniel Kahneman, Dick Thaler, David Halpern, Robert Cialdini, and Dan Ariely will be featured on a number of panel discussions.

Now, meet the next generation of behavioral scientists by way of a session entitled Behavioural Scientists of the Future. This panel discussion will feature Jana Gallus, Hengchen Dai, Philip Newall, and Ashley Whillans to discuss their respective projects and research initiatives.

policyshop is pleased to share their dynamic profiles, and proud to serve as a platform for these rising stars to introduce themselves to the BSPA community.

Jana Gallus

Jana Gallus

Hi policyshop.

I’m Jana Gallus, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. I received a PhD in Economics from the University of Zurich, with the distinction summa cum laude, as well as two Master's degrees, from Sciences Po Paris (France) and the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland).

As a student, I was awarded a scholarship from the German National Merit Foundation; at present, the Swiss National Science Foundation supports my work. My interests lie in behavioral economics, strategy and political economics.

In my research, I analyze symbolic rewards and their effects on motivation and performance, both in the for-profit and non-profit sectors. As part of my PhD, I conducted a large-scale and long-run natural field experiment at Wikipedia to test whether symbolic awards can foster the retention of new editors, which is one of the most pressing challenges the online encyclopedia faces today. With this field experiment, I’ve shown that purely symbolic awards providing recognition and honour are powerful motivators, and that they can be used even in contexts where monetary incentives fail (e.g., due to a budget constraint or the risk of motivational crowding-out). I intend to extend this line of research and use field experiments to further explore policies that mobilize the individual human desire for social recognition and esteem for the benefit of the public good.

My work has been published in various journals, including the Strategic Management Journal, Labour Economics, and Applied Economics. Jana has co-taught courses in Arts and Economics and in the Economics of Happiness in Master's, PhD, and Executive Education programs at universities in Switzerland and Germany. She has also advised organizations in the private and non-profit sectors on the design of incentives and award schemes.

Hengchen Dai

Hengchen Dai

Hello policyshop.

I am an Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at Washington University in St. Louis. My main stream of research investigates how to motivate people to behave in line with their long-term best-interests (e.g., maintaining a healthy lifestyle, saving for retirement, complying with safety procedures in the workplace). My goals are two-fold. First, I seek to advance our understanding of factors that alter individuals’ motivation and self-control capacity. Second, I seek to help managers and policymakers design interventions that can steer individuals towards far-sighted decision making. In pursuit of these goals, my research has explored methods for improving a diverse set of organizational and social outcomes including worker productivity, workplace safety, as well as individual financial and physical well-being. In particular, I have used field experiments, archival data, and lab experiments to examine how fresh starts and breaks influence individuals’ motivation to engage in self-regulation, begin goal pursuit, and improve performance.

Philip Newall

Philip Newall

Hello policyshop!

My name is Philip Newall and I’ll soon be starting the third year of my PhD at the Stirling Behavioural Science Centre. At BX2015 I’ll be presenting the results of my research on UK gambling advertising. I think about my academic “career” similarly to the gamblers in Thaler and Johnson’s house money effect, who are happy to take big risks with money they’ve just won from the house (in the worst case scenario they’re just losing back some of the “house’s” money). Similarly, I never expected to be in academia, so to get to this point I feel very much like I’m gambling with the house’s money, and I’m unafraid of any potential losses from pursuing unconventional research topics.

Learning to take intelligent risks is one key lesson I learned from my previous career playing poker for a living. Potential losses loom large over our decisions, but if losses are relatively small and can be learned from, then there’s really nothing to be afraid of. Another lesson I learned is to always place more weight on the opinions of the smartest players than your own judgment. So although UK gambling advertising may seem dumb or annoying, it’s not so surprising that my research shows that the bookies may actually be the smartest behaviour change scientists out there. They are after all the biggest winners in town.

Ashley Whillans

Ashley Whillans

Hi policyshop.

I am a PhD student in Social Psychology at UBC. Throughout graduate studies, my passionate is rooted in putting science to work to solve real world problems. At UBC, a large research-focused university, I am using an RCT to develop a program to increase student engagement. My recently published MA thesis examines how thinking about the economic value of time impacts engagement in environmental behavior. I have also collaborated with several charitable organizations, including Peter Singer's charity The Life You Can Savewhere I am an advisory board member. As part of my dissertation, I am working with the White House Social Behavioral Sciences Team to explore how time incentives impact job performance and satisfaction. 

My dissertation research conducted in collaboration with Profs. Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton seeks to explore how people navigate trade-offs between time and money. In a typical day and across a lifetime, people face trade-offs related to time and money. These trade-offs play a role in major decisions such as whether to choose a higher paying career that demands longer hours (vs. making less money and having more free time) and in mundane decisions, such as whether to spend a Saturday afternoon cleaning gutters (or paying someone else to do it). Although we are often faced with these decisions, remarkably there is very little empirical research assessing the trade-offs that people make between time and money. As related to behavior and policy, I am working with two start-up companies and the government to develop strategies for companies to help employees use their time and money in happier ways.

So, how does this project engage communities and the public? We are engaging with the community and with social partners on numerous levels. Locally, we are collaborating with a start-up company from Vancouver, MyBestHelper, that is seeking to transform the sharing economy, and in doing so, to make Vancouver a more connected and friendlier place to live. We are also collaborating with a start-up company from Austin, Texas, YouEarnedIt, that is transforming workplaces into happier, more generous, and more relaxed environments. Finally, we are in discussions with the Social Behavioral Sciences Team at the White House to explore how time-saving incentives can impact employees’ job satisfaction. We hope that these partnerships will not only yield direct benefits for the collaborators that we are working with, but will also provide a wealth of useful scientific insights.