Psychology Influences Markets

Economists argue that the dominant players in a market almost always make well-informed and objective decisions. Psychologists, on the other hand, say that markets are not immune from human irrationality. Now, a new analysis shows that markets are indeed susceptible to psychological phenomena.

Caltech Senior Wins Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Catherine Bingchan Xie, a senior bioengineering major and English minor at Caltech, has been selected to receive a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, which will fund her graduate studies next year.

For Love or Money: Marriage and Economic Development in the Past

Getting married and moving out of your parents' house may be key to your personal economic development, but are marriage patterns key to an entire society's development as well? Professor of Social Science History Tracy Dennison tells us what love's got to do with it at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 30, 2013, in Caltech's Beckman Auditorium. Admission is free.

TEDxCaltech: If You Click a Cookie with a Mouse

When offered spinach or a cookie, how do you decide which to eat? Do you go for the healthy choice or the tasty one? To study the science of decision making, researchers in the lab of Caltech neuroeconomist Antonio Rangel analyze what happens inside people's brains as they choose between various kinds of food. The researchers typically use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure the changes in oxygen flow through the brain; these changes serve as proxies for spikes or dips in brain activity. Recently, however, investigators have started using a new technique that may better tease out how you choose between the spinach or the cookie—a decision that's often made in a fraction of a second.

Reducing 20/20 Hindsight Bias

In a new study, recently published online in the journal Psychological Science, a team led by Colin Camerer and Shinsuke Shimojo not only found a way to predict the severity of the bias, but also identified a technique that successfully reduces it—a strategy that could help produce fairer assessments in situations such as medical malpractice suits and reviewing police or military actions.

Snap Judgments During Speed Dating

For speed daters, first impressions are everything. But it's more than just being hot or not. Whether or not we like to admit it, we all may make snap judgments about a new face. Perhaps nowhere is this truer than in speed dating, during which people decide on someone's romantic potential in just a few seconds. How people make those decisions, however, is not well understood. But now, researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have found that people make such speed-dating decisions based on a combination of two different factors that are related to activity in two distinct parts of the brain.

Literature in the Middle Ages: An Interview with Jennifer Jahner

This fall, Jennifer Jahner joined Caltech as an assistant professor of English. As an undergraduate, she planned to study environmental science at Western Washington University. But as a lifelong reader, she couldn't elude the lure of literature, and she ended up majoring in English instead, receiving her BA in 1998. Afterward, she spent several years as a book editor before returning to academia as a graduate student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she took a seminar on medieval literature—a class that she says changed her life. Discovering a passion for the time period and for studying old, rare manuscripts, she got her MA in 2005 and then went to the University of Pennsylvania, where she received her PhD last spring. Jahner recently answered a few questions about her research and her thoughts on joining Caltech.

Technology Has Improved Voting Procedures

Thanks to better voting technology over the last decade, the country's election process has seen much improvement, according to a new report released today by researchers at Caltech and MIT. However, the report notes, despite this progress, some problems remain.

Handicapping the Election: An Interview with Erik Snowberg

Erik Snowberg, a Caltech professor of economics and political science, is an expert on the relationship between economics and politics, a very relevant topic in recent history. With the U.S. presidential election just about a month away, Snowberg recently answered a few questions about the presidential race and what we can expect on November 6.

Columbus to D'Ailly: Are We There Yet?

Christopher Columbus made a few mistakes in researching the route to Japan, his first intended destination on his famous 1492 voyage to the Indies. Among the worst: he ignored sound contemporary scholarship on the size of Earth, its continents, and its oceans in favor of estimates made by medieval theologian and cosmographer Pierre D'Ailly, who was born 101 years before Columbus. Why did Columbus put so much faith in D'Ailly? Perhaps because he stood to gain so much by it, claims Columbus expert and Caltech history professor Nicolás Wey-Gómez.

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