Hi Reddit, Jeff Galak here and I’m excited to share with you what life is like as a Professor at a top research institution…especially during the pandemic. I’ve studied human behavior for over 15 years and happy to talk about anything related to that as well. If you want to see what I’ve been working on, have a look here:

List of Research Papers

Some research topics include:

*Consumer happiness

*Habituation / Hedonic Adaptation / Satiation / Hedonic Decline

*Psychology of gift giving

*Decision Making

*Political Psychology

I’m also really passionate about teaching people to work with data. I’ve been teaching a methods course for years and have found that what everyone needs is a deep INTUITION for thinking about statistics, data analytics, whatever you want to call it. To that end, I started a new YouTube channel where I put out weekly videos that try to build data intuition by using interesting and important topics as ways to get people excited and then I sneak in some statistical concepts (without any jargon or math…just understanding!). Happy to talk about why I’m doing this and why. Here’s the channel for those curious:

Data Demystified

Finally, I’m a husband and father of two kids (3yo boy and 6yo girl). If you want to know what THAT’S like…again, especially during a pandemic, AMA.

Looking forward to answering all your questions.

Comments: 349 • Responses: 88  • Date: 

michalemabelle139 karma

Hey Jeff!

I'm a minimalist & find that I'm happier with less stuff & when I give/receive experiences rather than items.

Do you find consumer happiness reflects this shift towards minimalism since that is a (small, but seemingly growing) trend, especially among Millennials?

buktotruth259 karma

Great question! There is some relatively new research looking at happiness from experiences vs. material possessions. Most of it shows that happiness from equally valued (e.g. price) experiences is higher than for possessions. HOWEVER, and this is a big however, all that work tends to ignore long run happiness with highly prized possessions. For instance, if you have a sentimentally valued object, happiness that stems from that object lasts for a long time. What most possessions don't do is provide long lasting happiness. You buy a new shiny toy and it DOES make you happy...but that happiness goes away quickly. My collaborators and I have termed this idea "Hedonic Decline."

So as for minimalism, there is not evidence that I know of that shows that less possessions make you happier. There's plenty showing that more possessions don't make you happier, but that's not the same thing.

One more layer of complexity: there are two routes to happiness: hedonic and eudaimonic. The former is what we usually think of when we think of happiness: how much joy does XYZ bring me. The latter, however, is closer to self-actualization. It's the happiness the comes from a accomplishing something....even if there was pain involved in getting there. I wonder if minimalism can increase eudaimonic happiness.

michalemabelle35 karma

That's interesting. Thank you for responding.

In the minimalism community, self-actualization is reflected in endeavors such as achieving certain goals (like, paying off debt) that usually involves some amount of self-discipline &/or self-sacrifice.

buktotruth94 karma

I'd say that the vast majority of research in happiness excludes eudaimonic happiness, largely because it's so hard to measure. My personal, non-data supported, take is that eudaimonic happiness is far more important than hedonic happiness. The latter is fleeting, whereas the former can be life changing.

austinwolf9 karma

Beautifully said.

buktotruth10 karma

Thank you.

Kholzie9 karma

I really like this response. While i can jive with basic premise of experiences over possessions...i’m find it used a lot by people who actually just want to shirk obligation. I run HR/Hiring and there is a persistent trend of people not wanting to act like their job is important..just because it’s easier to justify bailing on work/shifts to go do things when you can say you’re doing it for the experience, not focusing on the money you make at a job.

I’m trying to figure out the best way to respond to people who think i’m some big bad money grubbing boss for wanting people to do their jobs.

Meanwhile, in my personal life...i feel like i’m getting a lot of push back socially from people who think i should only work where i can just make my own schedule and dip put for an “experience” whenever.

At the end of the say, it feels like people will just wax philosophic reasons for demanding leisure with all the material perks of having jobs and working.

buktotruth21 karma

Great point. This relates to intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation. The former is the desire to do something because it's inherently interesting/rewarding. The latter is doing something for compensation. This is more in the realm of organizational behavior, and you'll have to wait for my wife who is also a professor, but of organizational behavior and theory, to do an AMA for more on that :)

buktotruth51 karma

Hi everyone,

I've had a great time answering your questions, but my kids get up early and it's time for me to head to bed. Thank you for the great questions and keep them coming. I'll do my best to answer what I can tomorrow.

Be safe,


El_Pizz40 karma

Hello, thanks for doing this.

Are you familiar with "loot boxes" in video games? I feel like the topics of a lot of your papers would fit right into why consumers/businesses use loot boxes. How does a loot box mechanic differ from gambling and should it be treated the same? (Regulation, age restriction, etc)

If they are the same, how do you feel about video games including a loot box mechanic?

Sticking with gambling parallels, what are your thoughts on video game companies targeting "whales" given that gamers can be any age nowadays?

buktotruth96 karma

I'm not a gamer myself (though I do love TTPRGs and run a D&D 5e campaign), but I'm pretty familiar with loot boxes. Mobile games and social media platforms in general have become very good at continuous reinforcement. It can be the allure of getting a new outfit in a loot box or just an upvote on Reddit...the point is that we are wired to love small rewards, even if those rewards are meaningless. Casinos have mastered this art and loot boxes are an capitalizing of the same basic psychological mechanisms: need for positive reinforcements. So are loot boxes the same as gambling? Probably not the SAME, but damn close. As for regulation, I am strongly in favor of making gambling of all forms only accessible to adults and even then providing access to counseling for those who suffer from gambling addiction.

I have a lot less sympathy towards wealthy adults who choose to gamble as a form of entertainment. The problem is that it's not always obvious who's a whale and who's just pretending to be one for the attention. The latter is highly susceptible to financial ruin and I'd want them protected just the same as they are with standard gambling.

duppy13 karma

Do you find the researcher in you observing and asking questions about the players' decision making processes in your D&D campaign? My old DM minored in psychology, and I often felt like a rat in his experiments. I enjoyed it, though. It kind of added an extra facet to the game.

buktotruth25 karma

More than my research, teaching has made a huge difference in being a DM. When I lecture, I am forced to be quick on my feet to understand student questions, reply accordingly, and make sure that I'm moving the lecture along. That is the same with DMing. I need to be able to understand the motives of my players, respond appropriately with NPCs, and keep the story going.

I'm sure that my knowledge of psychology helps, but I wouldn't think it influences the way I DM (or play) that much.

dieyoufool32 karma

Could I join your 5e campaign?

buktotruth6 karma

Ha! Sorry, no. It's just close friends and we're months into it. I'm running Waterdeep, if you're curious.

Pillarsofcreation9930 karma

Hi Jeff ! I have a question regarding involvement in a purchase, is there an increasing trend to become highly involved in the purchase of even low value object ? I find myself doing this during the pandemic doing comparison searches for a bulb which costs 10 dollars. Is this an exception ? Or is there some underlying psychological reason isolated to me ?

buktotruth45 karma

Absolutely. Two reasons this could be happening. 1) With more free time, the threshold for what merits deep research drops a lot. 2) Many people are facing financial hardships, and so making sure every dollar is well spent becomes really important.

n00b0000027 karma

Hi Jeff!

Since I'm a 14 yrs old and knew nothing about what you study, I have very limited questions I can ask.

But as I have observed, people are often sheepish and will consume as the trend goes.

What is the most unexpected trend, worldwide?

P.S. will defo check out your channel

buktotruth45 karma

I don't expect most people to know my work (I like to think my ego isn't THAT big!), so no worries!

You're right. Trends will drive a lot of human behavior. We are social creatures and follow what others do much more than we care to admit. As for the most unexpected trend, that's really hard to say. Maybe this is too broad, but I'm surprised by how short people's attention span is when it comes to current events. News cycles used to last for weeks, now they last for hours. I suppose I know that people don't have long attention spans, but I'm still surprised.

TKDbeast25 karma

Tell me about your paper "Sentimental value and gift giving: Givers’ fears of getting it wrong prevents them from getting it right". From what I read of the abstract, it seems that gift-givers undervalue sentimental value, seeing it as riskier. Why is that, and how can we give better gifts?

buktotruth52 karma

Sure, this is a paper with my former doctoral student, Julian Givi. Basically, people are risk averse in gift giving when they shouldn't be. If I know you like coffee and I have a choice to give you some nice coffee beans or a framed photo of the two of us (presumably since we're friends), I give the former b/c it's a sure bet. But as the recipient, overwhelmingly, people prefer the latter. So givers should take the risk and give the sentimentally valuable gift over one that is more a sure bet.

TKDbeast28 karma

Interesting. When giving presents, givers focus too much on the recipient's known wants, which gets in the way of giving a meaningful present.

Thank you! I'll be sure to keep that in-mind next Christmas.

buktotruth17 karma

That's exactly it.

sdrawkcab_srettel23 karma

Hi Jeff! What is your favorite heuristic or logical fallacy when it comes to decision making? Can you teach us about one that people might not know about?

buktotruth81 karma

Easy: Diversification Bias. That's where I started my career 15 years ago. I didn't discover this bias, but have built on it. Anyway, it's the idea that people choose more variety than they should. For example, if you are going to pick some snacks for the next few days, you might pick: chips, pretzels and an apple. Those are fine, but really chips are your favorite and you picked the other two because you thought you'd get tired of chips every day. Well, turns out you'd be wrong. A day is enough to reset satiation/hedonic-decline in most cases, so you'd be better off always picking your favorite option! Doing otherwise means easting snacks that are less preferred.

A new one that my doctoral student, Julian Givi, and I recently published: The Future Is Now (FIN) Heuristic. It's the idea that people believe that future events will be like present events, even when evidence points to the contrary. An example: if it's sunny today, you're more likely to think it'll be sunny tomorrow, even if the forecast clearly predict rain. What happens is you treat information about the present as having evidentiary value for future events, even when that's just not true.

Janezo37 karma

I really like that you give your student credit.

buktotruth61 karma

PhD students do all the hard work. Professors just bask in the glory :)

emdragon20 karma

I think diversification bias is how I ended up with 5 shades of blue nail polish that are virtually undistinguishable from each other! Interesting to consider.

buktotruth6 karma

Ha! Just might be...

tyguy567922 karma

I am a former CMU student. How do you feel about CMU's decision to appoint the Richard Grenell as a senior fellow? And how can we do something to fight against it because it seems they are not listening the current student body?

Recently, the fence was vandalized against BLM (they wrote "all lives matter" over the previously written "black lives matter"). How are you working to build a more inclusive community at CMU and to fight for those who need it? How can former students help?

buktotruth65 karma

I signed the petition to revoke his appointment and stand by that completely. I do understand why the university is upholding it, but I am embarrassed to have him associated with CMU.

As for the fence, the CMU Provost sent a really great letter immediately after it all happened condemning the vandalism and supporting BLM. Personally, I try VERY hard to do things like call on students of all races and genders and not let white men (of which I am one, btw) dominate conversations. I try to make sure that examples I use to highlight ideas include more than just typically white and/or male oriented products. I have been trained in Green Dot deescalation for sexual assault and violence. I am on the university academic disciplinary committee and have direct say over infractions like harassment or discrimination. And I sit on my college's Faculty Diversity Equity and Inclusion committee with the hope of including representation and inclusion of URM and female faculty. I care about this topic a LOT and do what I can...still probably not enough.

As for alums, if you see behavior at CMU that you think is antithetical to inclusiveness, let the administration know. Get your fellow alums to weigh in. The university wants your sweet sweet alumni donations. If you are all pissed off, they'll reply.

warmremy16 karma

If a program was built to help us make better decisions, do you think we would use it? Do you think we can listen to a program’s advice better than we do from experts?

buktotruth53 karma

We already do. Weather forecasts tell us how to dress. Facebook tells us what to think. Tinder tells us who to date. Etc... etc...

A program that EXPLICITLY tells you what to do won't work too well. People like to feel like they have free will. They don't, though. We are greatly influenced by our environment (not just technology) whether we know it or not. As one example: I can guess your weight reasonably well just by knowing your zip code (please don't make me actually do this as I'm not in the business of public shaming!). If we had true free will and agency, that should be impossible. Instead, we are the products of our environment.

standover_man14 karma

Have you done(or can you point to) any research relating to the decision making/not making around getting rid of possessions? I have a relative who keeps anything that has a perceived value as in could be sold on ebay/garage sale which they never sell. They are otherwise rational, clean, don't over consume..def not hoarder territory.. but I struggle to convince them that the old digital camera that's been sitting for 3 years could just be disposed of.

buktotruth41 karma

Hoarding is definitely a thing. There isn't much in the study of item disposition in the empirical world of research (lots of interesting qualitative work that I'm less familiar with). The big exception to this is the Endowment Effect. The short version is that you value items you own more than if you don't own it. So a mug sitting on a store shelf is worth, say $10 to you, but as soon as you own it is worth, say, $20 to you. Nothing changed except your ownership of it. That explains some of hoarding behavior, but not all of it.

For a qualitative research paper on the topic, see here: https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/mcb/216/2010/00000013/00000001/art00001

maybeex12 karma

Hi Jeff,

Thank you for the great AMA.

Where do you see the future of insights departments in consumer companies? Most companies looks like giving up on ethnographic and in person research and focus on data analytics. I speculate management is under great pressure and in the meantime aspire to Google, Amazon etc. What is your take of insights departments future in large companies?

buktotruth26 karma

Thank you! Exploratory research like ethnographies, interviews, and focus groups is really useful for brainstorming. But they are a poor substitute for quantitative data. Now, that doesn't mean "big data"...just data that has larger samples and is better representative of populations. Surveys are still amazing. When we want to forecast an election, we don't use big data, we conduct a political poll. They work.

But yes, right now, AI and machine learning are the hot new ideas on the block and everyone wants in on them. There is plenty of amazing applications of AI/ML, but what they can't do is tell you "why". As in, why did someone choose this option over that one? Or why are people motivated by this goal or that goal? Those types of answers allow you to apply knowledge in completely novel contexts. AI/ML needs to be trained on a specific type of data for a specific type of task. It is AMAZING at that. But as soon as you introduce a new context or new set of experiences, it fails. That's where good old fashioned surveys and behavioral experiments come in.

lesly9111 karma

Hey Professor! I absolutely love to give. But I feel so awkward being thanked. And I dont really like receiving gifts.

What would the psychology behind that be?

buktotruth16 karma

Great question. It's hard to know without more detail, but I'd guess that some of that anxiety is about attention...as in, your lack of desire for it. As for not liking receiving gifts, maybe you have just not received that many good gifts? Again, it's really hard to say without knowing a bit more about you and the gift giving contexts you're involved in. If you want to share more, I can try to answer better, but totally understandable if you don't!

lesly917 karma

Well, if I think more deeply....whenever I need something, I feel like it's up to me to make me happy. I usually don't really ask anyone else. Whether I need a massage, have a getaway, or get my dream dog, I just do it myself.

buktotruth14 karma

As an aside, self-gifts are great! You get what you need, and nothing else. No issues there.

To your question, though, I do wonder if you just haven't receive that many great gifts. Yes, gifts can fall flat and the recipient might not love them, but when they hit, they not only provide the value from the gift itself (e.g. a great bottle of wine) but ALSO the sentimental value from the associations that the gift brings up (e.g. who gave it to you and under what circumstances...like for a birthday or graduation).

pants67899 karma

Which US dollar bill is your favorite?

buktotruth21 karma

Cash? You still use cash?

pants678924 karma

For coke yeah

buktotruth63 karma

Oh, in that case.... Nope, not replying and losing my tenure :)

duppy8 karma

Did you ever get to meet Herbert Simon? Wasn't he interested in similar things?

buktotruth13 karma

I wish! I've been at CMU for 11 years. Simon passed away in 2001, so I missed him by a few years.

And yes, Simon was one of the original researchers into what's known as Bounded Rationality, it's the idea that humans don't act like computers and process all information simultaneously, but rather use heuristics and shortcuts to accomplish most tasks.

ElCidTx8 karma

How influential was the work of Daniel Kahnemann to your current teaching?

buktotruth7 karma

VERY! I don't know Danny personally, but my advisor got his PhD at Princeton when Danny was there, so lots of indirect influence that way. More generally, the field of decision making was build on his (and others) work, so hard not to be influenced.

The_quad44446 karma

Do you find that there are significant differences between particular groups? Does age influence gift giving habits more then sex, or some other factor? Just curious about the general trends of gift giving between groups.

Super general question I know, so feel free to just call me out on it

buktotruth10 karma

Definitely difference across genders as you would expect. More jewelry given by men to women. More gadgets given by women to men. Not so much in terms of age, though I've never really directly looked at that. The reality is that most gifts aren't that exciting. They tend to be things that are popular in a given year or old standbys like gift cards and ties. There certainly are amazing gifts and gift givers out there, but the vast majority of actual gifts given are pretty mundane. But that's not a bad thing if the recipient still likes what they get!

The_quad44443 karma

Yeah, sounds about right. And yeah if everyone is chipper it's all good :)

Is there a sort of gift quality vs quantity data? Like is it better to get more frequent smaller gifts or larger/more.expensive gifts less frequently?

buktotruth20 karma

Smaller more frequent gifts every time. I have some new work on obligatory vs. non-obligatory gifts. Basically, you can make someone very happy by giving a small gift on a random Tuesday compared to a much nicer gift on their Birthday. More random-tuesday gifts every time!

The_quad44443 karma

Thank you! :) will the results of that be on ur channel?

buktotruth3 karma

Probably not. The channel isn't about my research, but rather about how to understand data more broadly. But the results will hopefully be published soon!

maiqthetrue6 karma

How does education on finance and economics affect consumer behavior? Does knowing the way our brains make consumer decisions or how businesses try to get you to buy change how you shop?

buktotruth9 karma

If you understand better how firms are trying to entice you to buy their products, you can absolutely counteract that better. For instance, $1.99 is really just $2...we all get that. But it turns out, having a 9-ending price really drives demand. That's nuts, but it does. IF you understand that, you stand a shot and not being duped by something so trivial. So educating yourself can be a big help. On finance and econ eduction, also really helpful, but in other ways. When you go to get a 30-year mortgage for your home, understanding how interest rates work, how inflation might affect home prices, how amortization tables work, etc... will help you make a much more informed decision about what is right for you.


How extensive are the consumer psychology divisions in companies like apple?

buktotruth13 karma

Lots of variation. Places like apple, google, amazon will have a lot of depth in terms of psychologist and consumer behavior researchers. But those are the gold standard. Most will rely on consultants to help out

survivalsnake6 karma

Hi Jeff, I have a job application at a place where they do conjoint analysis, something I have never done before. Got any tips? Do you have any thoughts on the technique in general? Personally as someone who takes surveys I find it very abstract (e.g. "Would you rather buy a $5 toaster with two slots vs. a $20 toaster that takes bagels?" I don't know!).

buktotruth21 karma

First, good luck with the job application! Conjoint is a really useful tool when used correctly (like any tool, I suppose). The short version is that it lets you extract utility weights for different dimensions (e.g. price, product size, product speed, etc...) without directly asking people to answer questions about those dimensions. So instead of saying "how important is price to you?" you would come up with product profiles that have varying price (among other things) and then have people choose between those profiles. You can then extract, using nothing more than regression analysis (though, practically, no one does it that way...they use software like Sawtooth or SPSS Conjoint), how important those dimensions are for any given person.

the technique is tedious in that respondents have to make LOTS of pair-wise comparisons, but the end product can teach you a lot about what people actually value.

One key is to make the task as simple and realistic as possible. So the example you gave is confusing and wouldn't work too well. But I asked you to choose between a $20 toaster with 2 slots vs. a $30 toaster with 3 slots" that would work (in reality it would be more complex than that). You'd be forced to tell me if you prefer a cheaper toaster with fewer slots or a more expensive one with more slots. There's not right answer, but I would learn about those two dimensions for you. I'd need a lot more pair-wise tradeoffs to do this right, but that's the general idea.

Haul-Of-Frames5 karma

hi! how do you predict consumer happiness/decision making etc during unprecedented times like this, when such a scenario may not have taken place before and you do not have much data to go on?

also since the research you do and the data you collect are relevant to sales, do you see advertisements being affected by the pandemic in the long run from any changes in consumer mindset?

buktotruth15 karma

It's really hard to predict much of anything right now. There are some basic behaviors and experiences that we can expect during a pandemic (e.g. increased anxiety, defaulting to familiar experiences, increased online shopping), but the reality is you're right...we just don't know. There's virtually no data on pandemic psychology/behavior, and all the pop-science stuff you read is just guessing at what will happen.

As for advertising, I think that once the pandemic is over, life will be back to what it was beforehand in almost every respect. People are amazing to adapting to changing circumstances. We are all doing that now with the pandemic and will all do that again when it's over. I don't think that advertising will be any different. Give it a year after we're all vaccinated (or whatever winds up being the solution) and most people will largely forget that we even had a pandemic. Yes, some will have big changes like lost loved ones or lost jobs, but for most people, life will return to what it was before Covid hit.

Haul-Of-Frames5 karma

thank you for answering, that is very interesting! the data you collect seems to be applicable to so many different fields. i asked about advertising as a student interested in media, but i can see it being useful in various types of companies be it internet security, food, travel etc. your job sounds really cool and i will definitely check out your YouTube channel :)

buktotruth2 karma


SignedUpWhilePooping5 karma

Hey Professor, appreciate the AMA. A couple of questions:


1) Just from my own thoughts banging around in my head and observations I've made during the pandemic, do you see the pause our society went through and the economic downturn effecting the psychology behind materialism? It seems the American "push for more no matter what" mind state took a eating and I think I'm seeing some consequences of that.


2) I'm a current medical student and we get inundated with so many studies that it's overwhelming. Trying to practice evidence based medicine is really hard in an atmosphere that prioritizes publishing with little regard to quality. Do you ha e ways of navigating that I could apply to my day to day?


Thanks again.

buktotruth14 karma

1) It's possible, but my pretty strong prediction is that within 1-2 years of the pandemic ending, we will be back to where we were beforehand in terms of materialism and general behavior. Extreme events like a pandemic seem like they are life changers. For some, that's true (e.g. someone loses a loved one), but for most it's not. We are inherently myopic and think that the thing in front of our noses is the only thing that exists.

2) I can't speak to medical research, but that problem exists in all academic fields. The best thing to do is to let science happen. There will always be flashy new findings, but the ones that really matter will get replicated over and over again...and will get built on. The BS ones tend to just die out. That's not a full proof approach to vetting research, but it's better than just assuming everything you see published is true and/or important.

Aesthete184 karma

Might be a little late but worth a try.

Someone asked about loot boxes in video games, I'm fascinated by the psychology and marketing ploys that manages to constantly get people to buy the product despite the lack of positive reinforcement in the end result (as you know the items that are mostly desired tend to have a 1% or less chance).

Right now a game I frequent has discovered through their research that losing increases more playing. They've used this information to artificially alter a player's matches to increase the likelihood of defeat. Despite the amount of frustration this causes a player, when presented with this information and proof (the official patent practically verbatim says this in the abstract itself), it doesn't seem to change their desire to play. Are habitual behaviors that much stronger than removing frustration? This is not something like having a messy room where the mess may not bother the self, thus the cleaning doesn't really remove any undesired feelings.

My real question though is what are some concepts, theories, etc. that are employed by this gaming companies to play on the psychology of their players especially with monetization? I know of concepts like anchoring, conditioning, sunk cost fallacy, loss aversion to name a few but have no idea where I could find more.

Another thing that's pretty fascinating, games these days are designed where at least 5 years worth of basic content is stripped from the base game and drip fed for years to come at a price. Even with evidence from predecessor games that had these features in their base game, players rejoice at a company releasing it two years later in the new game for a price. That's fascinating!

buktotruth2 karma

The idea of forcing a loss is really intersting. Would you mind posting which game that is and where the patent filing is? I'm quite curious. The idea does make sense though...if the game can get people hooked on the mechanics and winning is the ultimate goal, then by increasing the odds of losing, they keep you hooked for longer. As in, if you win, you're done and more on to something else. But if you keep loosing, there's reason to stick around.

And I think you've covered the bulk of the "tricks" they use. The biggest one, by far, is the constant reinforcement in the form of points, awards, achievements, etc... all that have no real value. People like getting positive reinforcement and it motivates them to stick around. Imagine the alternative: a game where you never get feedback on your progress...that's a hard game to stay engaged with.

Radiant-monk3 karma

Hello sir. Hope you and your family is doing well in this pandemic.


I have a couple of questions. How does it feel to be a long term professor at a prestigious institution as Carnegie Mellon? How do you think this has prepared you for being an optimal source of knowledge in your field?


According to you how would companies which are currently surviving this crisis be able to focus on making a sustainable income as well as providing it's workers a pension to work? A purely subjective opinion.


How would this crisis as whole impact students from around the globe i.e. Students(domestic and international) who are both in the process of applying as well as those who are going to apply in the next year or two?


What according to you is the key to happiness and Do you consider gift-giving for moral relief(giving gifts to atone for guilt) as not counting as much as giving for the sake of giving?

Thank you so much. Have a great day!!

buktotruth9 karma

Thanks for your questions!

How does it feel to be a long term professor at a prestigious institution as Carnegie Mellon? How do you think this has prepared you for being an optimal source of knowledge in your field?

Like with any job, there are ups and downs. I LOVE academia. I have the freedom to ask questions of the world that interest me and the tools and resources to answer those questions. That's truly amazing. CMU has provided many opportunities in the form of research support and access to resources. I also have amazing colleagues in the Center for Behavioral and Decision Research who motivate me to do great work. But like anything, there are cons. There is a lot of politics within academia and I can't stand any of it. It's impossible to avoid and makes some days unenjoyable. On the whole, I love my job.

According to you how would companies which are currently surviving this crisis be able to focus on making a sustainable income as well as providing it's workers a pension to work? A purely subjective opinion.

Wow, that's a big question and the answer greatly depends on the company. If you're Apple, I'm sure the employees will be fine. If you're a small business like a restaurant, that's a whole other issue. I hope that governments around the world will provide aid to businesses that are struggling, but with the current administration in the US, I'm skeptical much will happen.

What according to you is the key to happiness and Do you consider gift-giving for moral relief(giving gifts to atone for guilt) as not counting as much as giving for the sake of giving?

All research points to relationships being the key to happiness. Strong and close relationships are the number one predictor of overall happiness and well being. Cultivate them.

Gift giving has MANY motives. Sometimes it's just to make someone else happy, sometimes it's to fulfill an obligation. Sometimes it's to make yourself feel good about yourself. Those motives influence the types of gifts you give and the utility they provide the recipient (and giver). They are all, however, gifts.

Kpenney3 karma

Do you have any opinions on investors behavior during covid 19? More specifically how certain financial firms may have targeted people who have or would dabble in market that have recently lost work due to the pandemic?

buktotruth7 karma

Caveat: I am not a finance professor. That said, my read is that fear of missing out (FOMO) is driving a lot of unexpected behaviors. The market has rallied like crazy since the March low and everyone wants in on that. It's hard to sit by and watch others make a killing while you don't.

As for practices like getting people who don't typically to invest to do so, there's two sides to this. On the one hand, getting more people involved with investing is a great thing. It used to be only that the very wealthy could invest and reap the benefits of the market, but now with places like Robinhood and fee-free trading on Schwab and the like, everyone can participate. On the other hand, MANY people don't understand risk well at all. They just see the possible upside and ignore the possibility of losing a lot (see that guy that committed suicide b/c of a terrible options trade...that's horrible). So firms and gov't have a responsibility to both educate investors and provide safeguards against uninformed behaviors.

RSchaeffer3 karma

I have a question re: dating sites / apps. Is there a way to structure incentives so that the company is motivated to find good pairings between users? It feels like Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, etc. don't have such an incentive currently

buktotruth15 karma

I think they do have an incentive to make good pairings. Word of mouth is their strongest asset so having good matches is key. The challenge is that good matches are hard to come by and not everyone agrees on what good is. Is good marriage? Is it a fun night? Not clear.

balek3 karma

Hello Professor and thank you for taking this time. As a professional that works in marketing and a person who suffers from mental illnesses, it is often disheartening for me to see so much valuable research and findings be easily made available for use by companies for marketing and consumer exploitation while it is so difficult for those who are struggling to find information that could be beneficial to living their lives more freely. What are your thoughts on this, and do you think there are ways we could change the system to better benefit individuals needs directly?

buktotruth16 karma

The connection between marketing academia, marketing industry, and consumers just sucks. No one outside of academia reads marketing academic journals. Few in academia care if their work has applications (even in an applied field like marketing). And consumers can't be bothered (rightfully) to read through academic work to learn.

Some solutions that I've seen that work: - Marketing Science Institute: this is an organization whose entire goal is link academia and practice. They have conferences where they invite folks from both sides to collaborate. More of this please! - Pop-science social science books like Freakonomics, Blink, Predictably Irrational, etc...: They all have plenty of shortcomings, but the authors all do an amazing job of conveying the ideas of academia to the public. I think that's fantastic. More of this too please! - Consulting for non-profits. I do this and many others do as well. We use our knowledge to help non-profits do their amazing work. This is a way to avoid that "exploitation" you mentioned and instead use what we know to help others. There's not much money in this kind of consulting, which is why few do it, but it's really important. Maybe some kind of granting agency could earmark money for non-profits to hire academic consultants to help them use what we know to help the world. That would be awesome

Welland943 karma

Hi Jeff,

I have always geared my life towards maxing out the benefits and deducting the losses for example leaving my family in order to search for better life oportunities, ditching jobs where I felt safe in favor of new and more promising ones. And by this logic I have reached quIte far in my life. But at the end achieving all this goals don't yields the expected satisfaction. However I'm pretty sure that don't doing this would be even worse. Why does it seems that no matter if the desitions taken are the best at my point of view it still seems like I need more than the goals I have achieved. Why is disatisfaction the expected result?

buktotruth6 karma

Wow, that's a lot to give up for goals! People are inherently likely to make what are known as upward comparisons. We don't look at the people who we have done better than, but instead focus on the few who done better than us. The classic example is Silver Olympic medalists. They should be elated, but instead they just covet the Gold medalist.

Beyond that, in your specific case, it's hard to say for sure, but we know that close relationships are the number one driver of life satisfaction. If you've given those all up in pursuit of some other goal, that might explain things a bit. Take that with a grain of salt as all I know about you is summed up in 100 words or so!

victormaker3 karma

Hello Jeff, glad to see this AMA here!

I'm a statistics student in Brazil (one of my professors got his doctorate degree at Carnegie Mellon University, in fact!). Much of what we learn nowadays is related to careers pertaining the finance fields.

Other stuff includes academic research mixed with other fields. I see myself as a data analyst for a big bank someday, but I always think: is there any career for a data scientist thats underrated by modern standards but still awesome and rewarding, in your opinion?

buktotruth7 karma

Go work for a non-profit! It's now where the money is, but many need help from data scientists. You can actually change the world that way!

auralgasm3 karma

Is there a reason you pay your research subjects an average of $4.49 an hour? Would you work for that amount of money? Do you believe that paying people below minimum wage to answer personality questions online produces usable data?

buktotruth3 karma

If I had all the budget in the world, I'd pay more. Let's start with that. But I don't, and I still want to advance science, so I pay what people are willing to complete surveys/studies for. To be VERY clear, I do not believe that completing research surveys is a job. In fact, if I could somehow eliminate from the mTurk worker pool all "professional research subjects" I would do it in a heartbeat. I want data from people who want to complete my studies for the posted compensation because it's just something interesting to do. I always disclose the nature and duration of a study and the pay is known to mTurkers. They then choose to complete the studies. If they didn't want to, they could just move on. Unlike regular employment where there is a legal and societal contract between employer and employee to provide some kind of fair living wage (and yes, min wage should be much higher), when someone decides to willingly complete one of my studies for the compensation that I make known in advance, I don't have any issue with paying less than minimum wage because it is not a job. It's just a fun extra thing for people to do. If people choose to complete surveys as a serious means of compensation, first I'm sorry for their financial circumstances that it has come to that, and second, they are missing the point. Behavioral researchers like myself who use mTurk want data from participants who are giving honest answers, not from those who want to earn some money just by completing studies. The money is just there to entice participation, not to provide a living wage of any kind.

And is the data any good? It is. There have been dozens of studies looking at the quality of mTurk data. Some of that research has looked at quality as a function of compensation. The short answer is that mTurk data, regardless of compensation, is generally high quality (there are exceptions, but we're getting too far into the weeds).

So yes, I have no issue with paying $4.49/hour...which, btw, is the first time I've actually seen that calculation. I'm not questioning it's accuracy, just had no idea that was something that could be easily known.

auralgasm2 karma

I'm not questioning it's accuracy, just had no idea that was something that could be easily known.

It's from here: https://turkerview.com/requesters/A3VPD9AS82KSIZ-jeff-galak

A resource that a turker put together to allow other turkers to discuss who to avoid. Because everyone's time is valuable, even people who are doing it "for fun."

I pay what people are willing to complete surveys/studies for.

Yes, people like this, this and this, who are doing it because it is their ONLY choice. These people aren't professionals at all, they're desperate. That's why they're willing to work for your spare change. Not for fun or some noble goal of advancing science, but because they will be literally homeless if they don't.

Unlike regular employment where there is a legal and societal contract between employer and employee to provide some kind of fair living wage (and yes, min wage should be much higher), when someone decides to willingly complete one of my studies for the compensation that I make known in advance, I don't have any issue with paying less than minimum wage

There is also a contract between researcher and researchee. Your university, like many/all in the United States, has an Institutional Review Board for the ethical design of research trials. I have no doubt they approved your studies, so I'm not saying you're doing something technically illegal, but I am categorically challenging your idea that there's no contract between you and the people you're studying.

buktotruth2 karma

Again, I really do feel for the people who are struggling, but it's not like I can magically make more money appear in my research budget and pay everyone $15/hour. I pay a rate that I can afford and that people are willing to work for.

And yes, my IRB has approved every one of my studies. However, as of now, our IRB (and most others) has no requirement for a minimum payment scheme.

Finally, there is a contract between researcher and participants: that I as the research am fully transparent with everything that I do and that a participant participates willingly. I can't coerce people to participate and I can't lie to them about what they'll be doing (okay, I can lie under some circumstances, but then I'd be required to debrief them after they participated...that's a different issue). The moment that participants become employees, it changes everything....because I don't want to understand the psychology of JUST people who are earn their living by completing research studies (regardless of whether they are paid $1/hour or $100/hour). I want to understand the psychology of all people. If the only people I ever study are those who treat research participation as a job, nothing I learn can ever be generalized to the population, which is the goal of social science research.

And now I really am going to bed.

Doriuz2-ImBackBaby2 karma

hey, I'm a recent advertisement graduate, it's good to see someone from such a familiar field here

anyways, when I do groceries, I always follow the list to a T, and I take no time at all getting the items, basically, I go against every little trick supermarkets have to "seduce" the customer, so my question is: what makes someone a "good customer"? is it someone highly susceptible to the marketing tricks at the market or someone who spends both their money and time more efficiently?

buktotruth22 karma

Good can mean different things here. You sound like you're probably super loyal to products. That's pretty great for most companies. The fact that you don't succumb to unintended purchases definitely makes you less attractive in one capacity, but your predictability makes you very attractive in other ways. If I could run a company where every customer always bought the same thing every week, I would LOVE that. I would know how to schedule raw material purchases, delivery schedules, etc... I would have a steady and dependable income. If, however, I relied just on getting lucky and catching the eye of customers as they passed my products on store shelves, that would be a whole lot more difficult a business plan to execute.

Cruxito11112 karma

Where do you think the culture is heading to?
And, as the amount of people with depression increases and the majority of jobs get automated, would this have an impact on the economy? people without jobs become unhappy.

buktotruth2 karma

Wow, that is WAY outside my expertise. Culture is highly fluid and we basically have no idea what will come next. (as an aside, if you can predict the next cultural change, let me know and we'll make billions!). So I have no clue where culture is going.

As for depression, that's a big issue and could be on the rise due to pandemic loneliness. Clinical psychologists will have their hands full for a while. I just hope people seek the help they need.

And as for automation, yes, that will change the economy as it has for decades now. How will gov'ts respond? I don't know. I hope we consider things like a universal basic income to help people avoid poverty. After that, it's anyone's guess.

pokesmagotes2 karma

Why don't you use your powers for good?

buktotruth4 karma

I try to! I sit on the board of a large local non-profit and give them as much advice on this stuff as I can. I also do some pro bono consulting for non-profits. It's not enough, but I try.

Throwaway97123452 karma

Hi Jeff! I’ve always been interested in data analysis as a career but always feel lost whenever trying to path out an appropriate direction to become something like a data scientist or a researcher. I have 2 questions around data that I was hoping you could provide some insight on.

1) I would imagine that research papers require an extensive amount of data (at least I hope they do) to make inferences. My question is what is involved in gathering all of this data to test a theory/hypothesis?

2) I see that your YouTube Channel is about the intuition of data but will you also have videos regarding those fundamentals behind the analysis (regression analysis, etc.)? If not do you have any helpful resources where one could develop these analytical fundamentals?

buktotruth3 karma

  1. Highly varied. Almost all the work I do involves primary data collection. As in, I conduct experiments with human subjects. Other research uses archival data like sales of products or behavior on a website. Depending on what you want to answer, you will follow different approaches.

  2. I will, but the goal is intuition first. Other resources: coursera has fantastic data science courses. I recommend them quite a bit!

where_is_carmen2 karma

What are your thoughts on the field of behavioral economics and how it relates to decision making?

buktotruth2 karma

Are you looking to get me in trouble, b/c that's what's gonna happen here. Behavioral economics has its place, for sure. Let's decompose that a bit, though. There's behavioral and there's experimental.

Experimental I will admit, I am not a huge fan of. The experiments they run tend to be incredibly artificial, making their insights less than a great reflection of reality. The concepts are often just rehashes of social psychology for decades past, but with econ'y terms tagged on. And there is very much a holier-than-thou attitude about the discipline.

Behavioral, on the other hand, uses concepts in economics to explain behavioral phenomena more generally. Sometimes that's with experiments, but more often it's with real world data. I'm a big fan of when this is done well. Plenty of synergies between what they do and what decision making researchers and psychological researchers like me do.

Customer_Advocate2 karma

if your so smart why didn't you buy tsla at $200 per share?

buktotruth5 karma

Who said I was smart?

NefariousSerendipity1 karma

Are you a cat person or a dog person? Why?

buktotruth1 karma

I have a cat, but I want a dog. my cat doesn't do anything and just takes up space. A dog would be fun to play with and bond with, but I have two young children, a career, and a pandemic to deal with. I just don't have capacity for a dog.

NefariousSerendipity1 karma

I see. Thanks for answering.

Can you give out your top 10 TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE books?
It can be a mix of fiction, non fiction, self-help, depressing, life changing books. :D

buktotruth1 karma

I appreciate the spirit of the question, but books are so individualized. What I find amazing won't be what others do. That said, just off the top of my head:

  1. How to lie with statistics.
  2. Ender's game
  3. Predictably Irrational
  4. Night

NefariousSerendipity1 karma

Thank you for the answer again! Last but not the least.

I'm failing community college. During the summer break, I got help with a therapist as well as my girlfriend supporting my focusin on mental health.

Anyway, do you think it's still a wise decision to go to a UC when I transfer?

Because right now, I could prolly go to SJSU after some time mending my failures but I want to achieve more. Do you think I can go to like say...UC B?

If so, what is one advice you'll give to a student who's failing but wants to succeed? The process for getting a psych eval for adhd/clinical depression is in the works. I might get medicine after some months.

buktotruth1 karma

i wish I could give you a direct answer, but I really can't. I strongly suggest speaking to an advisor or counselor at your CC or at SJSU to find out what your best course of action is.

As for advice, consider if higher education is the right path for you. It well might be! but for some, it's just not the way to go. People have amazing lives working in trades or working for themselves. If you love learning and want to use the knowledge you gain for a career, go for it. If you're just doing it because "that's what people do," maybe consider what other options you have.

Good luck with whatever you do!

Rfisk0641 karma

What kind of melon is your favorite?

buktotruth2 karma

Watermelon, easily.

Awanderinglolplayer1 karma

What’s going on with Tesla?

buktotruth1 karma

What do you mean?

Awanderinglolplayer1 karma

What’s the decision making influences that are causing a stock like that to go unreasonably high without the car production/ market share to back it up?

buktotruth1 karma

Definitely out of my depth here. Values of stocks are determined by market forces. That's about all I got for you on this one (aka, I'm definitely not a finance professor). Whether Tesla stock is fairly valued or not is far from what I am expert at answering. Sorry!

Awanderinglolplayer1 karma

Sure, I guess I was just thinking that stocks and impressions of stocks fall more under sociology than economics now given the huge social factor of media and human impressions of them.

buktotruth2 karma

That's totally possible. After all, humans are the ones making the trades (except when they're not like in HFT), so yes, there is some work in psychology looking at things like stock trading, but it is not work I know very well. Beyond that, there is a whole field called Behavioral Finance that, in part, looks at questions like that. If you're interested, I'd do a quick google/wikipedia search on the area.

snowbabiez1 karma


buktotruth11 karma

Oh god, if you want to have impact, DO NOT go into academia. Go be a social worker. Or a teacher. Or work for a non-profit. Academics, with very few exceptions, actually change the world in any way. Most just sit in their offices thinking highly of themselves. The way to actually have impact is to apply your research somehow. That could be consulting, educating others, or writing for a wide audience (i.e. not academic journals).

More generally, you are right to be worried. The academic job market is going to be a disaster for the next few years. There is almost nothing to be done about that. Even the start PhD students are going to struggle. It sucks.

So what can you do? If you really want to do research (which, to be clear, is awesome and can be really rewarding), look for companies like Google that have "People analytics" (that's their version of HR) and do research internally. Or find a boutique consulting firm that focuses on behavioral science (BEESY is one, Ipsos has a Behavioral Science dept, etc...)

Paletadecaca1 karma

Hello, and thanks for doing this. I just have one question: ¿What would you say is the best way to make a costumer profile on young internet users? Like for a company that sells educational textbooks transforming into a company that has an educational streaming plataform where students receive the information true a videogame format.

Sorry if I'm not clear enough, english is not my first language.

buktotruth5 karma

I teach Marketing Research and get this type of question a lot. The truth is that without resources (e.g. money), doing something like this is hard. If you have a budget, I would hire a reputable consulting firm that specializes in online marketing and they will guide you with your specific application. Good luck!

zargkb1 karma

I work in the tourism marketing field - do you have any insights on how to convince people to visit other places in their own country rather than travelling abroad? Obviously COVID has made this aspect fairly important as most of us can’t travel internationally.

buktotruth1 karma

Until people feel safe, they won't travel anywhere. Once some level of safety is reached, perhaps focusing on the fact that some local tourism doesn't require air travel, which may still be perceived as a risk. Once we have a vaccine and it is well distributed, you'll be back to the normal operations of tourism. Some will go domestic and some will go abroad. I suspect that in the initial recovery there will be much more int'l travel. People will want to get as far from the home they've been cooped up in as possible. Good luck!

dhmt1 karma

I've been reading that decision-making depends critically on the emotional parts of the brain. For example, a truly Spock-like person would be indecisive to the point of paralysis. Unfortunately, emotion also pushes us toward confirmation bias and in-group vs out-group bias, which is not optimal.

Are there tricks/brainhacks for preventing emotion-based bias? For example, in the case of a yes/no decision, could we flip a coin and inhabit the "yes" emotional world for a day, then switch to the "no" side and inhabit it for a day? After that, an emotion-based decision might be less biased?

buktotruth4 karma

Great question with a lot to unpack. First, biases don't require emotionality. Most biases are purely cognitive in nature...meaning you they don't involve emotions at all. Things like confirmation bias, in-out group bias etc all don't involve emotions (they can certainly be emotional, but they don't need emotions to operate). So I think what you're thinking of is what is known as System 1 vs 2 processes. System 1 are the automatic behaviors that happen quickly and often result in biases. System 2 is the more deliberative way of thinking that can have other biases, but not the kind you're thinking of.

Now to emotions, yes, they matter a lot and emotional decision making is its own sub-field in psychology. Strong emotions CAN push people to act quickly (system 1), but that's not always the case.

So how do you prevent some of these errors in judgments? First, pre-defining how you plan to make a decision is important. Come up with rules that you plan to follow and stick to those. Don't let emotions or circumstances change that. Second, if you find yourself highly emotional for whatever reason, DON'T MAKE IMPORTANT DECISIONS! It's less about bias and more about tunnel vision...you just can't focus on all the things that matter. Finally, sometimes, emotions HELP decision making. Fight-or-flight responses are a real thing and they are typically triggered by extreme fear. You don't want a slow deliberation if someone is about to punch you. You need to react. Right away. So in those cases, emotions can actually be very beneficial.

abstlouis961 karma

How do you feel about the way research papers are published?

How has your school accommodated international students during the pandemic?

buktotruth2 karma

Papers: lots of ways to answer this. I'll focus on open-access. I can't stand that papers that I work on, which are reviewed by referrees who don't get paid, edited by editors who don't get paid, are then profitted off of by private publishers who keep science from the public. That is insane. I strongly support open-access journals like PLOS ONE (where I am an editor). That said, the "private" journals are still the most prestigious in my field and if I want to advance in my career and make sure that my PhD students advance as well, I'm stuck submitting papers to them. It sucks.

Intl Students: I believe all classes must be accessible via remote learning. Even if they are held in person (few are), they need to stream the class to students who can't physically attend.

Dr_Cog_Science1 karma

Do you fit your theories into ACT-R? If so, how do you reconcile its decay model with real life?

buktotruth2 karma

I am much more a social psychologist than a cognitive psychologists, so I honestly don't ever think about ACT-R or other cognitive models like it.

lawslogo1 karma

As a food service employee I am trying to figure out what’s next in the business post COVID-19. Do you have any thoughts on creative ways to grow business right now beyond offering curbside and delivery?

buktotruth1 karma

Ditch the restaurant entirely. It's not a new model, but it should be bigger than it is. If I'm going to order deliver, why do I care what your restaurant looks like. Go rent some space in a commercial kitchen and make me a yummy meal that arrives at my door. There's definitely more of this these days, but I'm still amazed at the persistence of physical restaurants in so many cases. There's an amazing Chinese food place near me that doesn't even have seating, just a counter. The issue is that they are paying top dollar for rent on that space (it's in a high cost area) when all their business is takeout/delivery. Why not ditch the high rent and keep most of the business? Anyway, that's where I see this going.

abonitor1 karma

Hey Professor Galak! Thank you so much for doing this. I have always been fascinated by every topic that you just mentioned and in fact I have just recently presented my master thesis entitled "The Hedonic Stigma: How the consumer’s memory seeks shelter from hedonism in utilitarianism". Since I am still curious about a lot of things regarding the research I did and consumer behavior in general... Do you recommend any book that really made an impact in you or changed the way you see these complex topics? Thank you so much in advance.

P.S. : By the way I just subscribed to your channel, best of luck!

buktotruth2 karma

First, thank you! There is one book I have in mind and I can't think of the title at all. It's in my office on campus which I can't currently access thanks to Covid. It's a short book with a blue cover (not helpful, I know). It's about social psychology and had a lengthy discussion on pluralistic ignorance (one of my all time favorite topics in psychology). I remember that was the first book my advisor in grad school had me read and it changed the way I looked at people. Maybe someone on here knows what I'm talking about. The book was profound to me because it made me realize the interconnection between people and how others influence our decisions and preferences.

I don't actually plan to set foot on campus this semester so I can't even promise to get the book and tell you anytime soon. But if you can remember, ping me in like 3 months and I'll get it for you!

abonitor1 karma

Thank you so much for your time! Hope I remember to talk to you again so that I can find that misterious book! Stay safe!

buktotruth2 karma

If I think of it, I promise to send you a PM!

andymorphic1 karma

Is it really correct to have two ands in your title?

buktotruth2 karma

Sadly, it is. "Marketing" is one area and "Social and Decision Science" is another area. So I'm both "Marketing" and "Social and Decision Science". It's ugly, I know.

coffeekat6521 karma

Professer Galak, thank you for doing this. I don't know much about Marketing, so I got some perhaps basic questions that I have been curious about for you: As we are still in the middle of the pandamic, many of us are doing more (even more than before) online shopping. What do you think are some of the major consumer decision making difference when it comes to online shopping vs inperson shopping. Do you think different factors can affect consumer happiness for the same product purchased through different channel?

buktotruth2 karma

Definitely not a basic question! There's a lot here, but I'll focus on one thing: transaction friction. With inperson shopping, to buy something, you have to actually get off your butt, go to a store, and find what you want. With online shopping, you can just click "buy now". That means you'll have way more impulse purchases and way more wasted spending. We already saw that before the pandemic as Amazon and the like took over retail. Now we'll see more of it. It doesn't help that pandemics bring anxiety and fear...two things that are known to increase desire to shop (think "retail therapy")

WitnessSimple1 karma

Hi Jeff, thanks for doing this AMA!

  1. As you said, studies have shown that relationships show the strongest correlation to happiness. Do you think people can be happy from “one” good relationship, maybe one with a loved one - or do we need multiple relationships to be happy? Or does this depend on the person?
  2. I’m a lawyer - how do you think data can benefit the legal profession, and how can it benefit me (as an individual)?
  3. What’s the one thing we should consider when making decisions, that we don’t consider too much?

buktotruth6 karma

  1. Yes. The evidence is clear here. Few amazing relationship are far more beneficial than many shallow ones.

  2. An understanding of statistics and probability has a huge role in the legal profession. I don't know what type of law you practice, but plenty of civil litigation between firms relies on data to support expert testimony. Lawyers, juries and judges largely lack the intuition and knowledge they need to interpret results of such expert testimony. You personally...think of every time you ever see a data point (political polls, stock prices, product prices/attributes, weather forecasts, etc...). Those all have some form of data and/or statistics in them whether you realize or not. Understanding data very broadly would help you engage with all of that more richly.

  3. Most decisions don't matter all that much. We spend a lot of time worrying about mundane decisions and shouldn't!

WitnessSimple2 karma

Haha I love the answer to Q3. :) It’s honestly refreshing to know that, thank you. Are there any decisions that do matter?

buktotruth2 karma

Thanks! And, of course. Who you date/marry matters a LOT. Where you live matters a lot. Whether to have children or not matters a lot. I think you get the idea. What doesn't matter is which smartphone you buy, whether you get Italian or Chinese for dinner, or whether you watch this terrible Netflix movie or that one :)

loveoverAllelse1 karma

If you had a grand messege to the world In The interest of happiness, young and old poor or rich what would you relay?

buktotruth5 karma

Wow...way to be me on the spot! JK

I'd probably say that we should spend more time focusing on developing strong relationship than we do right now. We're all very caught up in getting better at something or getting more stuff, but research tells us time and time again that enduring happiness comes from the people we care about.

HumperdinkTesticule1 karma

We all tend towards anthropocentrism and exceptionalism, and rationalise our own behaviour. In your experience, is human behaviour more complex or less complex than we often imagine? Is free will often an illusion and are we more predictable than we imagine?

I remember watching a tongue-in-cheek BBC documentary from back in the day, where people suffering relationship difficulties were offered advice from a relationship therapist, who was actually a dog trainer. It was quite interesting how much a few biscuits and cups of tea seemingly improved troubled relationships, as they taught partners to use what amounted to classical conditioning instead of berating each other.

buktotruth2 karma

Both. We are easily manipulated and influenced by our environment. Much more so than most people realize. On the other hand, humans have the capacity to really surprise even themselves. Just look at what humanity has accomplished despite all our shortcomings. It's kind of amazing when you really reflect on this.

maeiow1 karma

Do you think of Big Data as a natural and/or renewable resource? Would you support regulating Big Data as a public utility or public good alongside air/land/water?

buktotruth1 karma

Honestly, I have never considered big data as a resource that way. I'd love to learn more about that idea...is there something you can recommend as a resource/reading?

prankmonky1 karma

What are your thoughts around qualitative research? Where would you say qual makes the biggest "hay"? Would love to hear any thoughts you have around the pros/cons and best uses of qualitative research. Thanks so much for doing this AMA!

buktotruth1 karma

Qualitative research is an amazing way to explore an idea. You can have amazing new ideas emerge from interviews and focus groups. The problem is that qualitative research almost always suffers from small sample sizes, making any conclusions dubious. So I see qual as an amazing brainstorming tool, but it has major limitations when it comes to drawing actual generalizable conclusions.

greeegsays1 karma

Hi Jeff!

Have you ever found in your research, results that were opposite to your initial hypothesis? If so, what was the most interesting time?


buktotruth3 karma

Not quite opposite, but we'll go with it. A while back a very famous psychologist published a paper "proving" ESP existed. I don't believe in ESP, but I thought it would be awesome if this psychologist were right. As in, it would be pretty cool if ESP were real. So I bet a colleague that we could replicate that original results. About a year later that colleague and I (and two other colleagues) published a paper that basically shut down all belief that the original finding of ESP was true. I happily lost that bet.

koreamax1 karma

Hi Professor,

Thanks for doing this Ama! I'm currently getting an MBA in marketing and have been working on a few research papers focusing on the change of buying habits and the permanence of covid related purchasing behavior. Do you think consumers will continue to buy as they have over the past 6 months or is the uptick in online and delivery services temperary, particularly grocery delivery?

buktotruth3 karma

95% temporary. People like to go out and do things. Once the pandemic ends we'll be back to business as usual.

bladeofcrimson1 karma

Have you done any research on consumer profiles based on political leanings? Do conservatives or liberals have different buying habits? In general, what are some of the best insights you’ve found in your research?

buktotruth5 karma

I haven't looked at purchasing behavior based on political ideology. One that that I have looked at is how political partisans respond to political lies. In short, Republicans and Democrats are fast to excuse lies from politicians within their own political party...but mostly if those lies are policy oriented. If they are personal lies (e.g. I'm awesome because I can bench press 10000lbs), most people tend to find those lies unacceptable. And I'm sure people will be quick to say that Republicans are more willing to excuse lies than Democrats and that's MOSTLY not true based on the data I have.

bladeofcrimson1 karma

That seems to contradict the most prominent Republican: Donald Trump who famously started his presidency by lying about his inauguration attendance. Not trying to pick a political fight mind you, but the whole “personal lies” thing doesn’t seem to apply there.

buktotruth2 karma

Of course, you're right. Trump is the exception to everything, this research likely as well. Our work tries hard to avoid anything to do with Trump b/c he really is an exception in many ways. But even for Trump, our work suggests that Republican voters are more likely to excuse lies of his that support policy position than just prop him up somehow. Ultimately, though, yes, Trump break a lot of research...and a lot of other things too!

dotabob2625-7 karma

Big ego much?

buktotruth3 karma

I try very hard to not have a big ego. I'm proud of what I've accomplished, but I'd say the VAST majority of where I am today has to do with luck. I was born a white, male, heterosexual. That wasn't my doing, but I sure did benefit. I had parents who valued education and sacrificed a lot to provide opportunities for me. I could could dozens of other ways I was just lucky. Sure, I worked hard, but I had a hell of a tailwind. So no, I try not to have an ego.