I came to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business having studied psychology first in undergrad and thought about doing a PhD program right away, but I wanted to take some time first to get better at managing my time, managing myself, so I started to work for a while but still stay close to psychology. I ended up working at a nonprofit, ideas42, that applies research and psychology to not just improve problems around the world on different areas, and that brought me back to wanting to start a PhD, to understand basically why people behave the way they do, why certain interventions work.
I applied to many psychology programs as well as Booth, and Booth sort of got on my radar because of basically the breadth of psychology professors here. It was described to me as a psychology department in disguise at a business school. And yeah, basically the sheer number of people here whose research I found interesting and who had different methodologies that I was curious about but didn’t know very much about was a big draw for me.
Most of my work right now is with Emma Levine and we examine decisions that people make when thinking about individual cases or when thinking about policies. For example, in thinking about who to accept for college, who to admit for college, you can think about that problem as “here are two individuals – who do I want to admit, or what type of policy do I want to set to admit individuals?” and those lead to different choices. So for example, when thinking about individuals, you can set up a dilemma or a decision where someone has to choose “Do I admit a very high-scoring applicant who also happens to come from a wealthy family, or a slightly lower scoring person who still qualify but comes from a poor family?” And we actually ask people that—we’ve asked college admissions officers—and the majority of them choose to admit the higher-scoring person.
When we asked them, “Okay, you make decisions about who to admit – what kind of admissions policy do you want to set to decide? One policy would admit higher scoring individuals who happen to come from affluent families. Another type of policy would admit lower scoring individuals who come from less affluent families.” Then the majority of people prefer the policy that admits the lower scoring type of person.
I think this research is practically relevant because it helps us understand why people’s policies or people’s individual actions violate the policies they espouse. So I think at that level, it’s interesting. I think it’s also interesting and important just in how we understand how other people are thinking. I think there’s intrinsic value in that, and better understanding that probably will have some impact and then how we design policies, how we interact with others.
The Center for Decision Research is I think access to a lot of knowledge levels, so whether that’s talking with different professors, getting their perspective on your own research, or working with the staff here to execute our own research—and that could be in the field, that could be in the lab—tapping into the expertise so that I can learn about these questions that I’m interested in.
My name is David Munguia Gomez. I’m a third-year PhD student at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.