I am a behavioral scientist, a Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Director of the Student Social Support R&D Lab.
My research generates novel insights about human behavior and harnesses these and existing behavioral science insights to address critical issues of public policy. It is part of the emerging field of behavioral policy, in which the design of policy is tightly linked with behavioral science insights and methods.
There are two core features to my research. First, I ask and answer novel questions at the heart of behavioral decision research, judgment and decision making, and social psychology. And second, I use these insights to generate interventions for improving social welfare using the methods of behavioral science, and implement them at scale.
My research falls into three categories.
1. How to make democracy work better. My work in this area develops strategies for better predicting citizens’ political behaviors, more effectively mobilizing them to take action, and decreasing their partisanship – as well as identifying and countering techniques used by politicians to deceive constituents. Much of this research has been widely adopted by political campaigns in the United States over the last decade.
2. Understanding behavior over time. Rather than focusing on a specific problem, this work is more conceptually-defined, exploring when and why behavioral interventions change behavior beyond the present, and when and why delays in implementation affect behavior.
3. Understanding and mobilizing social support networks. This research examines how to mobilize and empower people in students’ social networks to help students succeed in K-12 schools and colleges. This third theme comprises the majority of my current work, and is where I expect to focus most of my attention in the coming years.
As an overarching goal, I am committed to ensuring that behavioral policy research (my own and that of others) is implemented widely and with fidelity. This has led to my co-founding two social enterprises: the Analyst Institute (focused on citizen engagement) and In Class Today (focused on student engagement). Prior to joining the faculty at HKS, I was founding Executive Director of the Analyst Institute, LLC, which uses randomized field experiments and behavioral science insights to understand and improve voter communication program (click here for a story in The New York Times Magazine profiling the work of the Analyst Institute, and the book Victory Lab: the secret science of winning campaigns, which is based on that article). I am a Senior Researcher with the think tank ideas42. I received my Ph.D. jointly from Harvard's department of Psychology and Harvard Business School, and received my B.A. from Williams College where I majored in Religion and Psychology.