Joseph Kable discusses decision making amidst the pandemic

Why people do the things that they do, and what motivates that behavior, especially when dealing with the stress and challenges of a global pandemic? Research by Joseph Kable, Baird Term Professor of Psychology, seeks to understand how people make decisions by taking a multilevel approach: understanding the process at both the psychological and biological level.

A person in a black shirt and black blazer standing front of tall windows and a spindly plant.
Joseph Kable, Baird Term Professor of Psychology and director of MindCORE, Penn’s hub for the integrative study of the mind. (Image: Omnia)

“We’re analyzing individual differences in how people make decisions about the future,” Kable says. “For example, the degree to which they are impulsive and want everything now, versus persistent and plan for future rewards at the expense of immediate temptation.”

As the federal and state-level responses to the pandemic shift—some regions have eased recommendations and regulations when it comes to public behavior, while others have been more reticent—and more people begin to travel outside their homes and resume “normal” behavior, Kable says many will begin to encounter a complex web of choices they may or may not be conscious of, and much of this comes down to risk evaluation.

“People differ in the degree to which they tolerate risks—the degree to which they’re averse to it,” Kable says. “This is relevant to this question of how people are going to make decisions in the coming days as we come out of lockdown. And one of the ways in which we can measure those differences is by giving people decisions where we know the probability and magnitude of different outcomes.”          

This story is by Blake Cole. Read more at Omnia.