Faculty & Research

Christopher K. Hsee

Theodore O. Yntema Professor of Behavioral Science and Marketing

Phone :
1-773-702-7728
Address :
5807 South Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637

Christopher K. Hsee conducts research in areas including happiness, marketing, psychology, behavioral economics, and cross-cultural issues. His research has been published in a wide range of academic journals. His recent publications include “Over-earning” (Psychological Science), “Idleness aversion” (Psychological Science), “Fate or fight: On the hedonic costs of free competition” (Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes), “Wealth, warmth and well-being” (Journal of Marketing Research) and “Two recommendations on the pursuit of happiness” (Journal of Legal Studies).

Hsee has collaborated with many researchers (including students) from North America and Asia. He has received several prestigious teaching awards, including the McKinsey Award for excellence in teaching from Chicago Booth. Additionally, he has received research support from the John Templeton Foundation related to the New Paths to Purpose Project.

Hsee earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Hawaii in 1989 and a PhD from Yale University in 1993. He joined the Chicago Booth faculty the same year.

 

2013 - 2014 Course Schedule

Number Name Quarter
38002 Managerial Decision Making 2014 (Spring)
38802 Managerial Decision Making 2014 (Summer)
38902 Current Topics in Behavioral Science II 2014 (Spring)

Research Activities

Behavioral decision theory; consumer behavior; happiness; cross-cultural psychology.

Hsee, C. K., Zhang, J., Lu, Y, & Xu, F., Unit-asking: A method to boost donations and beyond. Psychological Science (2013).

Hsee, C. K., Zhang, J., Cai, C. F., & Zhang, S., Over-earning. Psychological Science (2013).

Dai, X. & Hsee, C. K., Wish versus worry: Ownership effects on motivated judgment. Journal of Marketing Research (2013).

Hsee, C. K., Zhang, J., Wang, L., & Zhang, S., Magnitude, time and risk differ similarly between joint and single evaluations. Journal of Consumer Research (2013).

Hsee, C. K., Rottenstreich, Y., & Stutzer, A., Suboptimal choices and the need for experienced individual well-being in economic analysis. International Journal of Happiness and Development (2012).

Hsee, C. K., Shen, L., Zhang, S., Chen, J., & Zhang, L., Fate or fight: Exploring the hedonic costs of competition. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (2012).

Shen, L., Hsee, C. K., Wu, Q., & Tsai, C., Overpredicting and underpricing in pricing decisions. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making (2012).

For more publications, please visit http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/christopher.hsee/vita/.

For a listing of research publications please visit ’s university library listing page.

REVISION: Hedonics in Consumer Behavior
Date Posted: Sep  03, 2010
To maximize happiness, one could either improve desired external outcomes (e.g., wealth) or optimize the relationship between desired external outcome and happiness without improving the outcome per se. Economics focuses on the first method. The present chapter advocates a science about the second method, which we term hedonomics. With its objective to help individuals, including consumers and policymakers, make decisions that maximize their happiness with external outcomes, hedonomics focuses o

REVISION: Wealth, Warmth and Wellbeing: Whether Happiness is Relative or Absolute Depends on Whether it is Abo
Date Posted: Nov  13, 2008
A central and still open question in consumer and happiness research is whether happiness depends on absolute or relative levels of wealth and consumption. To address this question the authors go to a finer level than overall happiness and distinguish three types of happiness: happiness from money (monetary experience), from acquiring an item (acquisition experience), and from consuming an item (consumption experience). They find that monetary and acquisition experiences are relative but consump

REVISION: Decision and Experience: Why Don't We Choose What Makes Us Happy?
Date Posted: Nov  10, 2008
Recent years have witnessed a growing interest among psychologists and other social scientists in subjective wellbeing and happiness. Here we review selected contributions to this development from the literature on behavioral decision theory. In particular, we examine many, somewhat surprising, findings that show people systematically fail to predict or choose what maximizes their happiness, and we look at reasons why they fail to do so. These findings challenge a fundamental assumption that und

REVISION: A Behavioral Account of Compensation Awarding Decisions
Date Posted: Nov  05, 2008
Suppose an individual loses an irreplaceable object and someone else is at fault. How much should he be compensated? Normatively, compensation should equal the value (utility) to the victim. Our experiments demonstrate that compensation decisions often ignore value and are instead based on cost (how much the victim originally paid for the item) except when cost is zero. For example, we found that people awarded $200 for a destroyed item worth $500 to the victim if the cost was $200; however, the

REVISION: Hedonomics: Bridging Decision Research with Happiness Research
Date Posted: Nov  03, 2008
One way to increase happiness is to increase the objective levels of external outcomes; another is to improve the presentation and choices among external outcomes without increasing their objective levels. Economists focus on the 1st method. We advocate the second, which we call hedonomics. Hedonomics studies (a) relationships between presentations (how a given set of mfoutcomes are arranged among themselves or relative to other outcomes) and happiness and (b) relationships between choice (which

New: Specification Seeking: How Product Specifications Influence Consumer Preference
Date Posted: Oct  28, 2008
We offer a framework about when and how specifications (e.g., megapixels of a camera and number of air bags in a massage chair) influence consumer preferences and report five studies that test the framework. Studies 1-3 show that even when consumers can directly experience the relevant products and the specifications carry little or no new information, their preference is still influenced by specifications, including specifications that are self-generated and by definition spurious and specifica

New: Culture and Individual Judgment and Decision Making
Date Posted: May  24, 2008
In the last two decades, much has been published on the topic of culture and cross-cultural psychology and much on the topic of judgment and decision making (J/DM). However, only a few researchers have examined the intersection of the two areas. In this article, we review this body of research. Our focus is on the four particular J/DM topics that have been studied cross-culturally: Probability judgment, risk perception, risk preference, and modes of decision making. Our review reveals an encoura

New: The Impact of Vocal Feedback on Emotional Experience and Expression
Date Posted: May  24, 2008
Darwin argued that emotional experience should be affected, in part, by feedback from the skeletal musculature. Since Darwin's time, researchers have documented that emotional experience is shaped by both facial and postural feedback. Two experiments were conducted to determine whether emotional experience and facial expression are influenced by vocal feedback as well. In experiment 1, subjects were asked to read a joyous, loving, sad, or angry script. The impact on emotional experience and expr

New: Sun and Water: On a Modulus-Based Measurement of Happiness
Date Posted: May  24, 2008
Most happiness researchers use semantic differential or Likert scales to assess happiness. Such conventionally used scales are susceptible to scale renorming (interpretation of scales differently in different contexts) and can produce a specious relativism effect (e.g., rating a low-income person happier than a high-income person in situations where the low-income person is not happier). Building on related psychophysical measurements, the authors propose a simple, survey-friendly, modulus-based

New: The Quasi-Acceleration Relation: Satisfaction as a Function of the Change of Velocity of Outcome Ove
Date Posted: May  23, 2008
Satisfaction with a dynamic outcome is positively related to its value, the change in the value, and the rate of change. Proposed in this article is another outcome-satisfaction relation: Satisfaction is positively related to the change in the rate, or quasi-acceleration (QA). We tested this proposition (a) in a direct comparison paradigm where Ss compared pairs of hypothetical academic or investment values of different QAs unfolding graphically on the computer (Experiment 1) and (b) in a betwee

New: Prominence Effect in Shanghai Apartment Prices
Date Posted: May  23, 2008
A field study conducted in Shanghai identified a robust inconsistency between real estate developers' desired sales pattern (selling all apartments in a building at similar rates) and the actual sales pattern (selling good apartments faster). The authors explained this inconsistency with Tversky, Sattath, and Slovic (1988)'s prominence principle, according to which buyers, who were in a choice mode, weighed the desirability of floors more heavily than developers, who were in a matching mode when

New: Value Seeking and Prediction-Decision Inconsistency: Why Don't People Take What They Predict They'll
Date Posted: May  23, 2008
In this research, it is proposed that, when making a choice between consumption goods, people do not just think about which option will deliver the highest consumption utility but also think about which choice is most consistent with rationales-beliefs about how they should make decisions. The present articles examines a specific rationale, value seeking. The value-seeking rational refers to the belief that one should choose the option in a choice set that has the highest monetary value. Studies

REVISION: Narrow Focusing: Why the Relative Position of a Good in its Category Matters More than it Should
Date Posted: May  19, 2008
This research examines whether a low-ranking member in a high-status category (e.g., a low-end model of a high-end brand) or a high-ranking member in a low-status category (e.g., a high-end model of a low-end brand) is favored, holding the objective qualities of the items constant. Brand equity research suggests that the quality of a brand is more important than the ranking of a product within a brand. Our research documents a robust ranking effect - whereby a high-ranking product in a low-statu

REVISION: Why are People so Prone to Steal Software? The Effect of Cost Structure on Consumer Purchase and Pay
Date Posted: May  16, 2008
Intellectual property piracy is a significant global problem and an enormous problem for U.S. companies and policymakers. This article examines why typically law-abiding people are more inclined to steal intellectual property products than more tangible, material products. The authors propose that the inclination to pay for certain types of goods and services is greater than for other types, and what distinguishes the two classes is their cost structure. They document how consumers are more or l

REVISION: Preference Reversals Between Joint and Separate Evaluations of Options: A Review and Theoretical Ana
Date Posted: Dec  07, 2006
Arguably, all judgments and decisions are made in 1 (or some combination) of 2 basic evaluation modes-joint evaluation mode (JE), in which multiple options are presented simultaneously and evaluated comparatively, or separate evaluation mode (SE), in which options are presented in isolation and evaluated separately. This article reviews recent literature showing that people evaluated options differently and exhibit reversals of preferences for options between JE and SE. The authors propose an ex

REVISION: Attribute Evaluability and Its Implications for Joint-Separate Evaluation Reversals and Beyond
Date Posted: Oct  17, 2006
The evaluability hypothesis posits that when two objects are evaluated separately, whether a given attribute of the objects can differentiate the evaluations of these objects depends on whether the attribute is easy or difficult to evaluate independently. The article discusses how the evaluability hypothesis explains joint-separate evaluation reversal, which is the phenomenon that the rank order of the evaluations of multiple objects changes depending on whether these objects are evaluated joint

REVISION: Will Products Look More Attractive When Presented Separately or Together?
Date Posted: Oct  16, 2006
This research examines whether each of two different options of comparable overall quality will be perceived more positively when presented in isolation and evaluated separately(separate evaluation) or when juxtaposed and evaluated side by side (joint evaluation).Six studies, involving either judgment or choive as the dependent variable, reveal a general principle: If the focal options are already attractive(relative to their natural reference)in separate evaluation, then subjecting these option

REVISION: What Folklore Tells Us About Risk and Risk Taking: Cross-Cultural Comparisons of American, German, a
Date Posted: Oct  16, 2006
Two studies attempted to discriminate between a situationaleconomic and a cultural explanation for the recently reported finding that Chinese from the People's Republic of China (PRC) are more risk-seeking than Americans. Both studies compared American and Chinese proverbs related to risk and risk-taking. The first study added Germany as a control group for its socioeconomic similarity to the United States but its closer resemblance to the PRC in its social safety-net and cultural collectivism.

REVISION: Risk as Feelings
Date Posted: Oct  16, 2006
Virtually all current theories of choice under risk or uncertainty are cognitive and consequentialist. They assume that people assess the desirability and likelihood of possible outcomes of choice alternatives and integrate this information through some type of expectation-based calculus to arrive at decision. The authors propose an alternative theoretical perspective, the risk-as-feelings hypothesis, that highlights the role of affect experienced at the moment of decision making. Drawing on res

REVISION: Stretching the Truth: Elastic Justification and Motivated Communication of Uncertain Information
Date Posted: Oct  16, 2006
Although both cognitive and motivational factors can influence the communication of uncertain information, most of the work investigating the communication of uncertainty has focused on cognitive factors. In this article, we demonstrate that motivational factors influence the communication of private, uncertain information and we describe the relationship between elasticity (i.e. uncertainty and vagueness) and motivated communication. We report results from four experiments that demonstrate that

REVISION: Money, Kisses, and Electric Shocks: On the Affective Psychology of Risk
Date Posted: Oct  16, 2006
Prospect theory's S-shaped weighting function is often said to reflect the psychophysics of chance. We propose an affective rather than psychophysical deconstruction of the weighting function resting on two assumptions. First, preferences depend on the affective reactions associated with potential outcomes of a risky choice. Second, even with monetary values controlled, some outcomes are relatively affect-rich and others relatively affect-poor. Although the psychophysical and affective approache

REVISION: Models and Mosaics: Investigating Cross-cultural Differences in Risk Perception and Risk Preference
Date Posted: Oct  16, 2006
In this article, we describe a multistudy project designed to explain observed cross-national differences in risk taking between respondents from the People's Republic of China and the United States. Using this example, we develop the following recommendations forcross-cultural investigations. First, like all psychological research, cross-cultural studies should be model based. Investigators should commit themselves to a model of the behavior under study that explicitly specifies possible causal

REVISION: Medium Maximization
Date Posted: Oct  16, 2006
A medium - for example, points or money - is a token people receive as the immediate reward of their effort.It has no value in and of itself, but it can be traded for a desired outcome. Experiments demonstrate that, when people are faced with options entailing different outcomes, the presence of a medium can alter what option they choose. This effect occurs because the medium presents an illusion of advantage to an otherwise not so advantageous option, an illusion of certainty to an otherwise un

REVISION: The Majority Rule in Individual Decision Making
Date Posted: Oct  16, 2006
This research investigates an understudied decision heuristic, the majority rule. By using the rule, decision makers choose the option superior on most of the available cues. Cues are broadly defined,including advisors and attributes. We propose that decision makers are more likely to use the majority rule when encouraged to employ intra-cue comparison as opposed to intra-option integration, and that their choices are influenced by factors that influence which option appears majority superior. W

REVISION: Narrow Focusing: Why the Relative Position of a Product Within Its Category Matters More Than It Sho
Date Posted: Oct  16, 2006
This research examines whether a low-ranking member in a high-status category (e.g., a low-end model of a high-end brand) or a high-ranking member in a low-status category (e.g., a high-end model of a low-end brand) is favored, holding the objective qualities of the items constant. Brand equity research suggests that the quality of a brand is more important than the ranking of a product within a brand. Our research documents a robust ranking effect - whereby a high-ranking product in a low-statu

REVISION: Distinction Bias: Misprediction and Mischoice Due to Joint Evaluation
Date Posted: Oct  15, 2006
This research identifies a new source of failure to make accurate affective predictions or to make experientially optimal choices. When people make predictions or choices, they are often in the joint evaluation (JE) mode; when people actually experience an event, they are often in the single evaluation (SE) mode. The "utility function" of an attribute can vary systematically between SE and JE. When people in JE make predictions or choices for events to be experienced in SE, they often resort to

New: Less Is Better: When Low-value Options Are Valued More Highly than High-value Options
Date Posted: Oct  11, 2006
This research demonstrates a less-is-better effect in three contexts: (1) a person giving a $45 scarf as a gift was perceived to be more generous than one giving a $55 coat; (2) an overfilled ice cream serving with 7 oz of ice cream was valued more than an underfilled serving with 8 oz of ice cream; (3) a dinnerware set with 24 intact pieces was judged more favourably than one with 31 intact pieces (including the same 24) plus a few broken ones. This less-is-better effect occurred only when the

New: Lay Rationalism and Inconsistency between Predicted Experience and Decision
Date Posted: Oct  11, 2006
Decision-makers are sometimes depicted as impulsive and overly influenced by hot,affective factors. The present research suggests that decision-makers may be too cold and overly focus on rationalistic attributes, such as economic values, quantitative specifications,and functions. In support of this proposition, we find a systematic inconsistency between predicted experience and decision. That is, people are more likely to favor a rationalistically-superior option when they make a decision than w

New: Elastic Justification: How Unjustifiable Factors Influence Judgments
Date Posted: Oct  11, 2006
When making judgments, one may encounter not only justifiable factors, i.e., attributes which the judge thinks that he/she should take into consideration, but also unjustifiable factors, i.e, attributes which the judge wants to take into consideration but knows he/she should not. It is proposed that the influence of an unjustifiable fact on one's judgment depends on the presence of elasticity (ambiguity) in justifiable factors; the influence will be greater if there is elasticity than if there i

New: Cross-cultural Differences in Risk Perception,but Cross-cultural Similarities in Attitudes Towards P
Date Posted: Oct  11, 2006
In this study, respondents from the P.R.C., U.S.A., Germany, and Poland were found to differ in risk preference, as measured by buying prices for risky financial options. Chinese repondents were significantly less risk-averse in their pricing than Americans when risk preference was assessed in the traditional expected-utility framework. However these apparent differences in risk preference were associated primarily with cultural differences in the perception of the risk of financial options rath

New: Cross-National Differences in Risk Preference and Lay Predictions
Date Posted: Oct  11, 2006
This research explores whether there are systematic cross-national differences in choice-inferred risk preferences between Americans and Chinese. Study 1 found(a) that the Chinese were signi®cantly more risk seeking than the Americans, yet(b) that both nationals predicted exactly the opposite Ð that the Americans wouldbe more risk seeking. Study 2 compared Americans' and Chinese risk preferences in investment, medical and academic decisions, and found that Chinese were more risk seeking than Ame

New: A Fundamental Prediction Error: Self-Others Discrepancies in Risk Preference
Date Posted: Oct  11, 2006
This research examined whether people can accurately predict the risk preferences of others.Three experiments featuring different designs revealed a systematic bias: that participants predicted others to be more risk seeking than themselves in risky choices, regardless of whether the choices were between options with negative outcomes or with positive outcomes. This self-others discrepancy persisted even if a monetary incentive was offered for accurate prediction. However, this discrepancy occur

New: Elastic Justification: How Tempting but Task-Irrelevant Factors Influence Decisions
Date Posted: Oct  11, 2006
This research is concerned with task-oriented decision situations where the decision maker faces two options, one superior on a factor directly related to the given task(called the A factor) and the other superior on a factor not central to the accomplishment of the task but tempting to the decision maker(called the B factor). According to the classic justification notion, the decision maker may find it unjustifiable to choose the B-superior option over the A-superior option if there is no uncer

New: When Is More Better? On the Relationship Between Magnitude and Subjective Value
Date Posted: Oct  11, 2006
We examine three determinants of the relationship between the magnitude of a stimulus and a person's subjective value of the stimulus: the process by which value is assessed (either by feeling or by calculation),the evaluability of the relevantmagnitude variable (whether the desirability of a given level of that variable can be evaluated independently), and the mode of evaluation(whether stimuli are encountered and evaluated jointly or separately). Reliance on feeling, lack of evaluability, and

New: Internal and Substantive Inconsistencies In Decision-Making
Date Posted: Oct  11, 2006
Most behavioral decision studies are about internal inconsistencies of decisions - that decisions (choices or judgments) made in one condition are different from decisions made in an apparently different but normatively equivalent condition. The present article reviews behavioral decision studies that suggest a more substantive inconsistency - that decisions apparently made to maximize happiness (experienced utility) do not maximize happiness.

New: Music, Pandas, and Muggers: On the Affective Psychology of Value
Date Posted: Oct  11, 2006
This research investigated the relationship between the magnitude or scope of a stimulus and its subjective value by contrasting 2 psychological processes that may be used to construct preferences: valuation by feeling and valuation by calculation. The results show that when people rely on feeling, they are sensitive to the presence or absence of a stimulus (i.e., the difference between 0 and some scope) but are largely insensitive to further variations of scope. In contrast, when people rely on

New: The Evaluability Hypothesis: An Explanation for Preference Reversals between Joint and Separate Eval
Date Posted: Oct  11, 2006
This research investigates a particular type of preference reversal (PR), existing between joint evaluation, where two stimulus options are evaluated side by side simultaneously, and separate evaluation,where these options are evaluated separately.I first examine how this PR differs from other types of PRs and review studies demonstrating this PR. I then propose and explanation,called the evaluability hypothesis, and report experiments that tested this hypothesis. According to this hypothesis,PR

New: The Affection Effect in Insurance Decisions
Date Posted: Oct  11, 2006
We use insurance behavior as a context to study affective influences in seemingly purely monetary decisions. We report two related findings. First, people are more willing to purchase insurance for an object at stake, the more affection they have for the object, holding the amount of compensation constant.Second, if the object is damaged, people are also more willing to go through the trouble of claiming a fixed amount of compensation, the more affection they have for the object. These effects a

New: A Behavioral Analysis of Shanghai Real Estate Prices
Date Posted: Aug  29, 2006
In a field study, we identified an intriguing inconsistency between real estate developers' desired sales pattern (selling all apartments at the same rate) and the actual sales pattern (selling good apartments faster). We explained this inconsistency with Tversky, Sattath and Slovic (1988)'s prominence principle, according to which buyers, who were in a choice mode, weighed the desirability of floors more heavily than developers, who were in a matching mode when setting prices. We corroborated o