Angela Duckworth, Ph.D.
Character LabAngela Duckworth is the Founder and CEO of Character Lab, a nonprofit whose mission is to advance the science and practice of character development. She is also the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, faculty co-director of the Penn-Wharton Behavior Change For Good Initiative, and faculty co-director of Wharton People Analytics. Previously, Angela founded a summer school for low-income children that was profiled as a Harvard Kennedy School case study and, in 2018, celebrated its twenty-fifth. She has also been a McKinsey management consultant and a math and science teacher. Angela completed her undergraduate degree in Advanced Studies Neurobiology at Harvard, an MSc in Neuroscience from Oxford University, and a PhD in Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her first book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, is a #1 New York Times best seller.
Katherine L. Milkman, Ph.D.
The Wharton School at University of PennsylvaniaKatherine Milkman is an award-winning behavioral economist and an Associate Professor of Operations, Information and Decisions at the Wharton School with a secondary appointment at the Perelman School of Medicine. She co-directs the Behavior Change for Good Initiative. Katherine has advised the Department of Defense, Google, and the American Red Cross. She writes about behavioral science regularly for the Washington Post, and is an expert on health behavior change. She received her undergraduate degree from Princeton University (summa cum laude) in Operations Research and Financial Engineering and her Ph.D. from Harvard University’s joint program in Computer Science and Business.
Solving the problem of enduring behavior change is our single greatest opportunity to improve lives. Why? Countless daily acts—whether we show up for class, how we spend our money, and even what we eat for breakfast—cumulatively shape our destinies. Recently, scientists have isolated the situational and psychological factors that hold sway over what we repeatedly do, leading to successful and scalable interventions to change short-term behavior. Unfortunately, behavior change rarely endures, and when it doesn’t, the least advantaged pay the greatest price. Our project unites an interdisciplinary team of scientists with leading practitioners in education, healthcare, and consumer financial services to address the question: How can we make behavior change stick? We will present early insights from massive field experiments testing methods for building lasting (1) study habits among high school students and (2) workout routines among gym members.
Catharine Winstanley, Ph.D.
University of British Columbia
Dr. Catharine Winstanley is a behavioural neuroscientist at the University of British Columbia. She is a Professor in the Department of Psychology, and an Associate Member of the Division of Neurology. Her research is focused on understanding the neurobiological regulation of cognitive traits such as impulsivity and decision making, with the goal of using this knowledge to improve treatments for psychiatric disorders such as problem gambling and drug addiction. Dr. Catharine Winstanley obtained a first class honours degree in Psychology and Physiology from the University of Oxford, and subsequently completed a PhD at the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Prof. Trevor Robbins. She has received various awards for her research, including salary support through the Michael Smith Early Career Scholar and CIHR New Investigator programs, the Wyeth Preclinical Psychopharmacology award, a Killam Research Prize, and NCRG’s award for Scientific Achievement.
Insights into the neurobiological regulation of cost/benefit decision making using rodent models
Understanding the mechanism by which the brain makes decisions is perhaps one of the most fundamental questions for neuroscientists, psychologists and economists alike. Decision-making deficits are also increasingly recognised to play a significant role in numerous psychiatric disorders, such that therapeutics capable of ameliorating core impairments in judgement may be beneficial in a range of patient populations. In addition to the advances in neuroimaging and computational neuroscience that contribute enormously to this area, an increase in the complexity and sophistication of behavioral paradigms designed for non-human laboratory animals has also had a significant impact on researchers’ ability to test the causal nature of hypotheses pertaining to the neural circuitry underlying the choice process. In particular, the demonstration that the humble laboratory rat (and even mouse!) can show evidence of complex cost-benefit decision-making, integrating numerous factors in order to maximize reward, and also exhibits similar choice preferences and biases as those which hallmark human cognition, has opened up numerous exciting possibilities. However, in order to make meaningful sense of the burgeoning literature using such tasks, it is important to appreciate the considerable diversity in the structure of such behavioural paradigms. Although they may look superficially similar, different behavioural assays may actually tap into quite distinct cognitive processes, and therefore depend on dissociable neural circuitries. Rather than a weakness in the field, this diversity may instead be a strength, in that comparison of findings across different paradigms can provide critical insight into the contribution made by different neural circuits and neurotransmitter systems to core cognitive elements involved in different decision-making processes.
This workshop will start by reviewing the core features of some of the different decision-making tasks that have been designed to measure choice under uncertainty, and assess their face validity in terms of modelling choice processes relevant for human cognition. We will also contrast these behavioural assays with paradigms designed to measure other facets of cost/benefit decision making. Experimental manipulations targeting distinct neural regions, including lesions and pharmacological manipulations, suggest that these paradigms differentially recruit the orbitofrontal cortex, amygdala, and striatal regions. Furthermore, the degree to which neurotransmitter systems, such as dopamine and serotonin, play a central role in modulating choice varies depending on factors such as the degree to which loss is explicitly signalled, and the utilization of conditioned stimuli to guide choice. These discussions have important ramifications for our understanding of how cognition is altered in both drug and behavioural addictions.