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Why Republicans and Democrats see their own parties’ lies as more acceptable

New research finds that voters view politicians’ lies about policies as justifiable because they signal partisan loyalty.

Editorial style illustration of a business man or politician taking an oath.
Photo illustration: P_Wei for iStock

Society recognizes that many politicians lie. In five new studies, researchers examined how conservative and liberal Americans responded to politicians’ statements that were called out as false by the media. The studies showed that Republicans and Democrats alike were more likely to rationalize the lies as unintentional or simply label the media reports as “fake news.” But even when they agreed that the politician intentionally told a lie, partisans still saw lies from their own parties’ politicians as relatively more acceptable—particularly when those falsehoods were designed to advance a party’s explicit agenda.

The researchers’ work—which also touches on issues of trustworthiness and morality more generally—has implications for understanding the current hyperpolarized U.S. political climate. The studies, by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, are forthcoming at the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“Our study suggests that who tells a falsehood, what the falsehood is about, and who is listening all help predict how people explain and evaluate politicians who do not speak the truth,” explains Jeff Galak, Associate Professor of Marketing at the Tepper School, who led the study with Clayton Critcher, Professor of Marketing at Berkeley Haas. “In so doing, the study emphasizes that the moral acceptability of bearing false witness really depends on the extent to which such falsehoods are used in support of or against the explicit aims of one’s political group.”

Flagged falsehoods

In each of the five experiments, participants of varied political orientations learned about a Democratic or Republican politician whose public statements had been found to be untruthful by a fact-checking media source. The researchers called these statements “flagged falsehoods.” The studies examined whether, when, and why people offer partisan evaluations, judging some falsehoods as more acceptable when they came from politicians aligned with their own parties or values.

Galak and Critcher began by identifying two ways partisans arrive at different conclusions about flagged falsehoods. Listeners who share the lying politicians’ political orientation may decide the media report is fake news, or they may rationalize it, telling themselves that the politician did not realize they were lying. Such excuse-making helps them see the original lie as more acceptable. But most centrally, the researchers found that partisan voters continue to disagree about the acceptability of the lies, above and beyond differences in how much they offer up those two excuses.

Personal lies less acceptable

Yet even though Republicans and Democrats generally saw their own party’s lies as more acceptable than those espoused by politicians of the other party, this charitability did not extend to all types of lies. It was strongest for lies about policies, those falsehoods intended to advance a party’s explicit agenda as related to immigration reform, minimum wage laws, or gun control, among other issues. In contrast, opposing partisans more universally condemned personal lies about a politician’s own experience—such as a false claim to have been employed once on minimum wage—or electoral falsehoods that strayed from parties’ explicit goals by aiming to disenfranchise legally eligible voters.

A signal of partisan trustworthiness

Although falsehoods can undermine a politician’s general trustworthiness for members of both parties, the researchers found that policy-focused lies can serve as a signal of partisan trustworthiness, because they lead people to infer that the politician can be trusted by their own side and not by the other. For likeminded partisans, such trustworthiness predicted not only the perceived acceptability of flagged falsehoods, but also perceptions of the politician as a more prototypically moral actor, even outside the political sphere.

These findings begin to paint a more complete picture of why voters can adopt such sharply divergent views of politicians who are called out for making false statements, says Critcher, the Joe Shoong Chair of Business at Berkeley Haas. “When politicians show that they can be trusted by one party more than the other, this is a signal of moral character to fellow in-group members, but also a signal of moral deficiency to the other side. It is thus not simply disinformation, but differential comfort with disinformation, that explains partisan divides in the U.S.”

The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.

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Read the Carnegie Mellon University press release.

Read the full paper:

“Who Sees Which Political Falsehoods as More Acceptable and Why: A New Look at In-Group Loyalty and Trustworthiness”
By Jeff Galak (Carnegie Mellon University) and Clayton R Critcher (University of California, Berkeley)
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, June 2022

Media contacts:

Caitlin Kizielewicz, Tepper School of Business, 412.554.0074, ckiz@andrew.cmu.edu
Laura Counts, Haas School of Business, 510-643-9977, lcounts@haas.berkeley.edu

Berkeley Haas welcomes nine new professors

New Berkeley Haas faculty members 2022
From top row, left to right: New Berkeley Haas assistant professors Tanya Paul, Ali Kakhbod, Carolyn Stein; Sa-Kiera Hudson, Ambar La Forgia, Sytkse Wijnsma, Sarah Moshary, Matthew Backus, and Valerie Zhang.

Nine new assistant professors have joined the Haas School of Business faculty this year, with cutting-edge research interests that range from illicit supply chains to unequal social hierarchies; from financial crises to the incentives that shape innovation; and from health care management to decentralized finance to marketing and the demand for firearms.

The nine tenure-track hires are the result of a concerted effort by Dean Ann E. Harrison and other Haas leaders to expand and diversify the faculty.

“We are thrilled to welcome this wonderful, diverse new group of academic superstars to Berkeley Haas,” says Dean Ann E. Harrison. “We clearly are bringing the best to Haas, increasing the depth and breadth of our world-renowned faculty, and reinforcing our place among the world’s best business schools.”

The new faculty members have hometowns throughout the U.S. and around the world, including Texas, New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois; Iran, the Dominican Republic, China, and the Netherlands. Seven of them are women; one is Black, and one is Latinx.

“This is our most diverse cohort of new faculty ever, each one a rock star in their own right,” says Jennifer Chatman, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management. “We are very proud that we were able to lure them to Berkeley Haas.”

The new faculty members start on July 1, with most beginning to teach in spring 2023. They bring the total size of the ladder faculty to 88, up from 78 in 2020-2021.

Meet the faculty

Matthew Backus
Matthew Backus

Assistant Professor Matthew Backus, Economic Analysis & Policy
(he/him)

Hometown: Chicago, Ill.

Education: 
PhD, Economics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
MA, Economics, University of Toronto
BA, Economics and Philosophy, American University

Research focus: Industrial organization

Introduction: I’m an economist with broad interests. Most recently, I’m interested in how we can use the tools developed by the industrial organization community to understand inequality and the distributional effects of policy.

Teaching: Microeconomics and Antitrust Economics (MBA)

Most excited about: After spending a year visiting, I’m most excited about the economics community at Berkeley.

Fun fact: I have a border collie, who is in training as a herding dog.

 

Sa-Kiera Hudson
Sa-Kiera Hudson

Assistant Professor Sa-kiera (Kiera) Tiarra Jolynn Hudson, Management of Organizations 
(she/her)

Hometown: Albany, NY

Education: 
PhD/MA, Social Psychology, Harvard University
BA, Psychology and Biology, Williams College

Research focus: I study the psychological processes involved in the formation, maintenance, and intersections of unequal social hierarchies, with a focus on empathic/spiteful emotions, stereotypes, and legitimizing myths.

Introduction: I am a social psychologist by training, focusing on the nature of intergroup relations as dominance and power hierarchies. I have studied several psychological processes, including the role of legitimizing myths in justifying unequal societal conditions, the role of group stereotypes in the experience and perception of prejudice, and the role of empathic and spiteful emotions in supporting intergroup harm. My work is multidisciplinary, incorporating quantitative as well as qualitative methods from various disciplines such as political science, sociology, and public policy.

I am a fierce advocate for building community, providing mentorship, and supporting authentic inclusion for everyone. I believe it is a moral imperative to be present as a vocal, queer-identified Black women in academe, given the lack of representation, and I’m excited to see how I can contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at Haas.

Teaching: Core Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (MBA)

Most excited about: I identify UC Berkeley as my intellectual birthplace. It was during a summer internship program through the psychology department in 2010 where I first became interested in studying power structures and intergroup relations simultaneously. My overall research interests haven’t changed since that fateful summer. Being a faculty member here is truly a dream come true!

Fun fact: I love organizing and planning, so much so I taught myself how to use Adobe InDesign to create my own planner. I am also an avid foodie and cannot wait to check out the Bay’s food and wine scenes.

 

Ali Kakhbod
Ali Kakhbod

Assistant Professor Ali Kakhbod, Finance
(he/him)

Hometown: Isfahan, Iran

Education:
PhD, Economics, MIT
PhD, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (EECS), University of Michigan

Research focus: Information frictions; liquidity; market microstructure; big data; and contracts

Introduction: I am a financial economist with research interests in financial intermediation, liquidity, contracts, big (alternative) data, banking and financial crises. A common theme of my research agenda is to study various informational settings and their financial and economic implications. For example: When does securitization lead to a financial crisis? Why is there heterogeneity in the means of providing advice in corporate governance? How does information disclosure in OTC (over-the-count) markets affect market efficiency? My research has both theory and empirical components with policy implications.

Teaching: Deep Learning in Finance (MFE)

Most excited about: Berkeley Haas is the heart of what’s next with world-class faculty working on exciting and innovative research. Given that my interdisciplinary research interests span finance, economics and big data issues, I could not ask for a better fit.

Fun fact: In my free time, I like to ski, sail, hike, and enjoy the outdoors.

 

Ambar La Forgia
Ambar La Forgia

Assistant Professor Ambar La Forgia, Management of Organizations
(she/her)

Hometown: I was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, but I grew up in Washington, DC and São Paulo, Brazil.

Education:
PhD, Applied Economics and Managerial Science, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
BA, Economics and Mathematics, Swarthmore College

Research focus: Health care management; mergers and acquisitions; firm performance

Introduction: My research studies the relationship between organizational and managerial strategies and performance outcomes in the health care sector. In particular, I use quantitative methods to study how the strategic decisions of corporations to merge, acquire, or partner with other organizations can change managerial processes in ways that impact both financial and clinical performance. A secondary research strand studies how health care organizations adapt their service delivery and prices following changes in state and federal legislation. 

Before joining UC Berkeley, I was an assistant professor of health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. I am excited to continue to explore issues of healthcare quality, equity, and cost, while digging deeper into the management practices and organizational structures that could influence these outcomes.

Teaching: Leading People (EWMBA)

Most excited about: It is an honor to join the world-class faculty at Haas, and I am so excited to learn from and collaborate with my MORs colleagues on both the macro and micro side. Since my research is interdisciplinary, I also look forward to connecting with scholars in the School of Public Health.

As a self-proclaimed “city girl,”  I am excited to get out of my comfort zone and explore the natural beauty of Northern California.

Fun fact: My hobbies include yoga, urban gardening, adopting animals and stand-up comedy.

 

Sarah Moshary
Sarah Moshary

Assistant Professor Sarah Moshary, Marketing
(she/her)

Hometown: New York City, NY

Education:
Phd, Economics, MIT
AB, Economics, Harvard College

Research focus: Marketing and industrial organization

Introduction: My research interests span quantitative marketing, industrial organization, and political economy. I am currently working on projects related to paid search advertising, the pink tax (price gap in products targeted to women), and the demand for firearms. Before joining Haas, I worked at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and at the University of Pennsylvania.

Teaching: Pricing (MBA)

Most excited about: I am excited to get to know my future colleagues!

Fun fact: My two hobbies are running and pottery—though I am more enthusiastic than talented at either 🙂

 

Tanya Paul
Tanya Paul

Assistant Professor Tanya Paul, Accounting
(she/her)

Hometown: Murphy, Texas

Education:
PhD, Accounting, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
BS, Economics, Statistics and Finance, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Research focus: Standard-setting and financial reporting; the determinants and consequences of voluntary disclosures

Introduction: After getting my PhD, I spent a year at the Financial Accounting Standards Board learning about contemporary accounting issues and understanding the types of questions that standard setters are grappling with. I hope to continue working on research that is helpful to standard setters in coming up with standards that ultimately improve financial reporting.

Teaching: Corporate Financial Reporting (MBA)

Most excited about: ​​I love how interconnected the area groups are within Haas. There are so many potential learning opportunities, especially for a newly minted researcher like me.

Fun fact: In my free time, I love to read and play the piano—I had learned it as a child and am trying to relearn it now as an adult.

 

Carolyn Stein
Carolyn Stein

Assistant Professor Carolyn Stein, Economic Analysis & Policy
(she/her)

Hometown: Lexington, Mass.

Education:
PhD, Economics, MIT
AB, Applied Mathematics and Economics, Harvard College

Research focus: Economics of science, innovation, and applied microeconomics

Introduction: I study the economics of science and innovation. My research combines data and economic theory to understand the incentives that scientists face and decisions that they make, and how this in turn shapes the production of new knowledge.

One thing I love about economics is that it’s less of a narrow subject area, and more a set of tools and principles that apply to a stunningly wide array of topics. I’m excited to work with Haas students to help them understand how economic principles can improve their decision-making, both in their careers and in other areas of their lives—maybe even in ways that surprise them!

Teaching: Microeconomics (EWMBA)

Most excited about: I’m excited to be part of a large and superb applied microeconomics community—at Haas, and more broadly at Berkeley as a whole.

Fun fact: I am an avid cyclist and skier, and I was on the cycling team at MIT. Since moving to the Bay Area, I’ve loved the hills and mountains in the area. I’m working on taking my riding off road (gravel and mountain biking) and skiing off-piste (backcountry).

 

Sytske Wijnsma
Sytske Wijnsma

Assistant Professor Sytkse Wijnsma, Operations and IT Management
(she/her)

Hometown: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Education:
PhD, Management Science and Operations, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
MPhil, Management Science and Operations, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
BSc & MSc, Economics and Finance, VU University, Amsterdam

Research focus: My primary research interest is designing supply chain and policy interventions that help solve real-world challenges with social and environmental impact.

Introduction: I am very excited about my projects on illicit supply chains and how they undermine social and environmental goals. The context of these projects spans a wide range of areas, from illicit waste management to illegal deforestation. I am also excited to deepen and expand ongoing research collaborations with governments and industry to investigate these issues.

Teaching: Sustainability in Business (Undergraduate)

Most excited about: Many things! Berkeley Haas, being at the forefront of sustainability, has a unique position that combines the same ideals that drive my research with opportunities for collaborative research with serious impact. The amazing colleagues and close connections to industry make it even more exciting to join this community!

Fun fact: My first and last name originate from Fryslân, a northern province in the Netherlands, where it is still tradition to name your children after family members. So although my name is quite rare in the rest of the world, in our family it crops up in every generation!

 

Valerie Zhang
Valerie Zhang

Assistant Professor Valerie Zhang, Accounting
(she/her)

Hometown: Shanghai, China

Education:
PhD, Northwestern Kellogg School of Management
MA, Economics, University of Toronto
BCom, Finance and Economics, University of Toronto

Research focus: Information dissemination; information cascades on social media; retail investor behavior; decentralized finance

Introduction: I am passionate about doing research or working on personal projects that can express my creativity. I enjoy merging disjointed ideas and working on interdisciplinary research. My dissertation combines two literatures: one in computer science on information cascades on social media, and another in finance and accounting on the effects of disseminating financial news. I am also very curious about emerging technologies that are reshaping the financial industry. Since I work on areas that are new to the research community, I sometimes feel like a lone traveler exploring completely new territories. It is terrifying but also extremely rewarding!

Teaching: Financial Accounting (Undergraduate)

Most excited about: I look forward to inspiring my students to be entrepreneurial and to come up with creative business ideas or projects.

Fun fact/hobby: I write short stories. The one I am working on has an alien and a squirrel in it.

ImagiCal club students head to national advertising competition finals

Undergraduate presenter for the imagiCal club presented clockwise in photo
imagiCal club members who will present at the finals: Jasmine Zheng, BS 24 (business), BA 24 (art practice); Claire Shao, BS 24 (business) BA 24 (media studies); Sydney Fessenden, BA 25 (global studies); and Anika Srivastava, BS 24 (business) BA (psychology)

Extensive research, creative storytelling, and purposeful design helped a team of undergraduate students make it to the American Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition this month. 

The students, presenters for the 30-member Haas-sponsored imagiCal club, will compete against eight other teams in the finals June 3-4 in Nashville, Tenn. They will pitch a marketing campaign to promote the Meta Quest 2, a headset by virtual reality systems maker Meta Quest. 

The presenters include Jasmine Zheng, BS 24 (business), BA 24 (art practice); Claire Shao, BS 24 (business) BA 24 (media studies); Sydney Fessenden, BA 25 (global studies); and Anika Srivastava, BS 24 (business) BA (psychology). ImagiCal is UC Berkeley’s official American Advertising Federation chapter.

This year’s team heads to the finals for the first time since 2016. According to Continuing Lecturer Judy Hopelain, imagiCal’s faculty adviser since 2013, “the team recommendations were based on a solid strategy, keen user insights, and creativity. The Meta Quest clients said their beautiful design and clever execution were key to the team’s success in this year’s competition.”

The students competed against teams from over 200 universities at the district and regional levels to make it to the finals. In Nashville, they’ll pitch to a panel of judges including brand and marketing leaders from Meta, and advertising, marketing, and communications professionals. 

Members of the imagiCal club at Haas
Members of the imagiCal club at Haas, which made it to the national finals for the first time since 2016.

Asked what sets the team apart, Zheng said it was about putting together a group of “the most eccentric, worldly, empathetic, creative individuals in a room together” and asking them to create a marketing campaign.” 

“We’re telling a story,” she said. “We’re connecting with our audience. And we’re seeking to expand the capacity to be empathetic and creative at every step of the journey.”

This year’s competition will be the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic that teams will be presenting in front of a live audience, rather than a computer screen on Zoom. While nerves are understandably high, imagiCal’s philosophy is to “go big or go home,” Zheng said.

Fringe Benefits

Who wields influence on social media?

Photo illustrating social media by showing the hands of multiple people tapping on cellphones amid a cloud of emojis and thought bubbles denoting likes, shares, messages, etc.

Want to spread gossip? Seek out a social media celebrity. Want to go viral with a cutting- edge new product or unique idea? You may need to look elsewhere.

A new study by Assistant Professor Douglas Guilbeault found that popular influencers aren’t the most influential people to spread anything more complex than a new flavor of hard seltzer or a meme. Rather, the most innovative or provocative new technologies, social movements, and behaviors spread wider and faster from those on the fringes—what Guilbeault and co-author Damon Centola of the University of Pennsylvania term “complex contagions.”

“For unfamiliar ideas, the people on the edges of a network suddenly have the greatest influence across an entire community.”

Instagram posts of actor Mindy Kaling and Instagram celebrity Ezra J. William wearing face masks and encouraging mask wearing.

“With ideas or behaviors that require a lot of peer reinforcement to catch on—for example, wearing masks—the most influential people in a network are often those who don’t have the most connections and who are not the most central in traditional terms,” says Guilbeault. “For unfamiliar ideas, the people on the edges of a network suddenly have the greatest influence across an entire community.”

That’s because in order for a new idea or behavior to take off, people need to be exposed to it from multiple sources that they trust and can relate to. Eyeballs don’t equal influence: Asking Kim Kardashian or a celebrity on TikTok to persuade people to get COVID vaccines may be more polarizing than persuasive. But when our friends and neighbors all think something is a good idea, we tend to start to think so, too.

Brain Freeze

Why brands should care about our imperfect memory

Small, confused cartoon person standing atop an empty shopping cart.

Quick: List your three favorite fast-food restaurants.

If you’re like many people, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King may come to mind—even if you much prefer In-N-Out or Chick-fil-A.

A new Haas study combining decision-making experiments with brain scans found that when it comes to making choices, we frequently and predictably forget about the things we like best and are instead swayed by what we remember—a finding that explains the importance of brands for consumers and has implications for crafting public policy and managing neurodegenerative diseases.

The findings challenge the fundamental tenets of traditional economic models that assume people make rational decisions from all available options. Because most decisions don’t come with multiple-choice answers, we instead conjure options from our imperfect memories.

“Everyone knows that human memory is limited, but scientists know surprisingly little about how this limit impacts our decisions,” says lead author Zhihao Zhang, a Haas postdoctoral scholar, who conducted the research with Assoc. Prof. Ming Hsu and UCSF neurologist Andrew Kayser.

To measure the influence of memory on decisions, the researchers examined people’s choices for different types of branded and nonbranded consumer goods, such as fast food, fruit, and sneakers. In one open-ended study, 30% of people said McDonald’s was their preferred fast food; yet for those given a list of restaurants, only half that many chose the golden arches, while the other half chose restaurants like In-N-Out or Chick-fil-A.

The researchers also scanned the brains of a group of participants using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging). When people were asked to make open-ended choices, the memory retrieval regions of their brains lit up. That didn’t happen when people chose from a list.

All told, the findings show that our memories limit our choices. “What we observed for McDonald’s is true for every product category we investigated and really speaks to the power of brands,” says Hsu.

How imperfect memory causes poor choices

McDonald's and Burger King signs
Photo: Peter Kneffel/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Quick: Pick your three favorite fast-food restaurants.

If you’re like many people, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King may come to mind—even if you much prefer In-N-Out or Chick-fil-A.

A new study from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and UC San Francisco’s Department of Neurology found that when it comes to making choices, we surprisingly often forget about the things we like best and are swayed by what we remember. The paper, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, combines insights from economics and psychology with decision-making experiments and fMRI brain scans to examine how our imperfect memories affect our decision making.

“Life is not a multiple-choice test,” says Berkeley Haas Assoc. Prof. Ming Hsu, director of UC Berkeley’s Neuroeconomics Laboratory, who co-wrote the paper with Dr. Andrew Kayser, associate professor of neurology at UCSF, and lead author Zhihao Zhang, a Haas postdoctoral scholar. “Yet researchers traditionally give people a menu of options and ask them to choose.”

The findings break away from traditional economic models that assume people make rational decisions from all available options. In most situations, rather than choosing from a ready-made list, we conjure choices from our memory.

“While everyone knows that human memory is limited—and there’s a thriving market for reminder apps and Post-it Notes—scientists know surprisingly little about how this limit impacts our decisions,” says Zhang. Answering this question could hold implications for everything from conducting consumer research and crafting public policy to managing neurodegenerative diseases.

Forgetting favorites

To measure the influence of memory on decisions, the researchers examined people’s choices for different types of consumer goods, such as fast food, fruit, sneakers, and salad dressing. For each, they asked one group of participants to name as many favorite brands or items in the category as they could. They asked a second group to choose their preferences from a menu of options. Based on those results, they created a mathematical method to predict which items people would choose in an open-ended situation.

The most surprising takeaway was just how often people seemed to forget to mention items they liked best, choosing less-preferred, but more easily remembered items. “A lot of people name McDonald’s as their favorite, but many of those people don’t actually like McDonald’s as much as other brands,” says Kayser. In an open-ended situation, 30% of people said McDonald’s is their preferred fast food; yet for those given a list of restaurants, only half that many (15%) chose the Golden Arches, with the other half instead choosing restaurants such as In-N-Out or Chick-fil-A.

The researchers found similarly large differences between people’s preferences in open ended versus list-based choices in all the other types of consumer goods tested, both branded and nonbranded, such as fruit. “The magnitude of these changes was very surprising,” says Hsu. “The fact that so many people don’t mention their favorites really argues against the notion that we usually act in our own best interest, as standard economic models might have us believe.”

Surprisingly accurate predictions

To gain a deeper scientific understanding of how memory impacts decisions, the researchers next constructed a new mathematical model that combines economic models of decision-making with psychological models of memory recall. “Very little attention has been paid to connecting these two areas,” says Zhang. “By taking the best features of each, we found that we could make amazingly accurate predictions of how often people fail to choose their more preferred options due to their imperfect memories.”

In fact, the predictions were so accurate that the researchers thought they had made a mistake. “We only came to trust the findings after checking and repeating the experiments multiple times,” he said.

Brain scans show memory systems working

Understanding the role memory plays in decision making has implications for millions of people managing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, says Kayser, who researches behavioral neurology.

“We know that memory declines as Alzheimer’s disease progresses. We also see that decision-making capacity diminishes in areas such as financial management. But we don’t yet have good models of how they might be linked, or even good ways to measure changes in decision-making capacity,” he says. “For neurologists, these are urgent questions.”

To nail down the role of memory retrieval in decision making, the researchers scanned the brains of a group of participants using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging). Past neuroscientific research has shown that decision-making—which involves valuation—and memory are served by different brain systems.

“When people made open-ended choices in our experiments, we saw increased activity in memory retrieval regions of the brain and enhanced communication with valuation regions,” says Zhang. That didn’t happen when participants simply picked choices from a list: The valuation part lit up, but memory systems showed much less activity.

This provides neural evidence for the direct involvement of memory systems in open-ended decisions, and sheds light on the nature of suboptimal decisions in these situations.

“Based on these findings, it’s possible that Alzheimer’s patients are particularly vulnerable when decisions are open-ended,” says Kayser, “If so, this could motivate development of decision support systems that can alleviate these vulnerabilities.”

The research could also provide a more targeted way of designing “nudges” that help people expand their options without mandating specific choices. For example, “If we want consumers to switch to more sustainable species of fish, it might help to find a way to get people to consider other types of seafood they may have overlooked otherwise,” says Hsu.

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Retrieval-Constrained Valuation: Toward Prediction of Open-Ended Decisions
By Zhihao Zhang, Shichun Wang, Maxwell Good, Siyana Hristova, Andrew Kayser & Ming Hsu
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), May 18, 2021

Media contact
Laura Counts
lcounts@haas.berkeley.edu
(510) 643-9977

Berkeley Haas hosts 2021 Clorox Case Competition

Haas MBA students participated in the 2021 Clorox Case Competition. From left to right, top to bottom: Brandon Elhert, Emily Orr, Shaan Arora, Almas Sharif, and Sachi Holla, all MBA 22.

Twelve MBA student teams convened online last week to pitch marketing plans to sell smart Brita water filter products to a specific group of The Clorox Company consumers in the 2021 Clorox Case Competition.

The competition, hosted by the Berkeley Haas Marketing Club, was held virtually April 15-16. Wharton took first place, Berkeley Haas took second, and Cornell placed third.

The Berkeley Haas team included Brandon Ehlert, Emily Orr, Sachi Holla, Almas Sharif, and Shaan Arora, all MBA 22.

The competition grew out of a long-standing relationship between Berkeley Haas and The Clorox Company.

Mathilde De La Calle and Vaibhav Anand, both MBA 22, organized the competition. “We’re giving students the chance to really get to know The Clorox Company, its brand, and get access to information that you don’t get unless you work at the company,” Anand said.

Emily Orr, MBA 22, who’s pursuing brand management at Haas, said the competition pushed her to approach this challenge from both a marketing and consulting perspective. Her team pitched Brita+, water bottles that utilizes smart technology centered around hydration and sustainability.

Of the dozen teams that competed in round one, five teams moved on to the final round Friday for the chance to win $5,000 in prize money and interviews for full-time positions at Clorox. Second and third place winners received $3,000 and $1,000 respectively.