“HBS is a place for doctoral students who are self-driven, who can capitalize on the resources and access to companies that the school provides.”
— Michael I. Norton
Mike and Zoe have two publications together, People Are Experience Goods: Improving Online Dating with Virtual Dates, the recent winner of the Emerald Management Review Citation of Excellence, and I Read Playboy for the Articles: Justifying and Rationalizing Questionable Preferences. They are collaborating on three additional works (in progress) on: choice amnesia, the costs of self-deception, and fundraising backlash.
We are working to understand how people make life's difficult decisions, and how they come to terms with the results.
Findings & Implications
Zoe: Our findings show that people like to think of themselves as good, fair, moral, and unbiased, so when they make questionable decisions (for example, succumbing to the "naughty" choice, or cheating on a test), they justify these choices to themselves using any plausible criteria. Our studies on choice amnesia also show that, although people spend more time making difficult decisions, they're actually more likely to forget them. This motivated forgetting is probably adaptive, in order to relieve painful memories.
The Collaborative Process
Zoe: Being a doctoral student is less like being a master's or undergraduate student than it is like being an entrepreneur—with your advisor as the VC investor. Some advisors are heavily involved, some much less so. I feel extraordinarily fortunate to work with Mike, who was the 2008 Faculty Mentor of the Year. He's brilliant, funny, patient, and generous with time and credit. I find that I'm more productive when I have regular meetings scheduled with him, and I try to bring deliverables (new studies, analyses, ideas, etc) to our meetings, where we brainstorm together. Every couple of weeks we have a lab meeting with all the other students Mike collaborates with, and the group of us also runs studies together in the lab. I'm a people person, and when I was making the decision to return to academia, I was concerned I might be lonely. I've been pleasantly surprised that most research projects are collaborative, and since academics are an intellectually curious bunch, they enjoy discussing projects and trading ideas. It's heady in every sense.
Mike: HBS is a place for doctoral students who are self-driven, who can capitalize on the resources and access to companies that the school provides. There are of course many faculty who work closely with and mentor students, but relative to other schools HBS is a place where self-starters can really thrive. Zoe is exactly this kind of student - our meetings are always fun and generative, but she also excels in going from idea to implementation, such that she conducted more research in her first two years than many students do over their entire graduate career.