Why have you chosen to spend so much time
engaging with the public?
I’ve always had the rule that if someone asks for my help, I’m
happy to give an hour or two if I think the topic is useful and
important. Even though I work at a private university, our
grants are funded with taxpayer money. It’s very hard to say my
sole obligation is to do research, and someone else can work on
the translation. I think that’s not taking my position seriously.
I have a few rules for the talks I give. There are some places
I never say no to. One is hospitals because as someone who was
in the hospital a long time, I want to help physicians do better.
Physicians often see patients who are suffering tremendous
cognitive stress. Because of that, there has to be a tendency
for patients to just accept whatever decision the physician has
made. I try to get physicians to think about their roles not just
as healers, but as decision aids.
I also never say no to giving talks in Muslim countries.
Because I am Jewish and Israeli, I don’t say no to an
opportunity to meet people from Muslim countries and
remind them we’re all the same (and tell some Jewish jokes).
The final one is government. Every time I am approached by
a government, I go. Governments create big changes for a lot
of people. If we can get them to make changes that are slightly
more informed by social science, that will be good news.
What are your goals for the Center for Advanced
Right now, we have two focus areas: financial decision-making
and health. We’re trying to hire a group of designers and
engineers to create blueprints for how people could think
better about how they spend their money. Housing is a big
decision, for example. Existing computer interfaces look at
the question of the maximum amount you can borrow [for a
mortgage]. But that’s not the right question because in reality
different housing options give people different happiness.
Some people like bedrooms, some like kitchens. Some want to
live near a park, some don’t. Buying a house is also making a
tradeoff with other things in life. We want to design things like
Web and smartphone interfaces to help people understand the
complexity of those big decisions. We’re doing similar things
to help people make better decisions about their health. We’re
trying to develop tools to help people create habits and rituals
for better health. Another project is looking at how to make
treatment side effects feel less negative.
In both of those areas, finances and health, so much of the
misery is manmade. Why can’t we help it? I can just see the
stupidity of what we’re doing to ourselves, and I want to stop it. n
• Ariely, D. (2010). Predictably irrational: The hidden forces
that shape our decisions. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
• Ariely, D. (2012). The (honest) truth about dishonesty:
How we lie to everyone — especially ourselves. New York, NY:
Get more out of each ABAS- 3 administration
with the WPS® Online Evaluation System™
ABAS®- 3 | Adaptive Behavior
Assessment System, Third Edition
The ABAS- 3 provides a complete assessment of adaptive skills across the life span—
evaluating what people actually do, or can
do, without assistance from others.
With the ABAS- 3 online, you can deliver
forms directly to raters, check the status
of an administration at any time, and score
forms instantly—allowing you to spend less
time testing and more time developing
targeted intervention plans.
Western Psychological Services 424.201.8800
Try the ABAS- 3 online now
for as little as $15