The Psychology of Unethical and Biased Behavior
Our knee-jerk response to ethically dubious or outrageous behavior is to rely upon a bad apples explanation (i.e., bad people are to blame for bad things). In reality, there’s much more to it, as any compliance official knows. Drawing upon examples from business, sports, and other domains, this talk explores the ways in which unethical behaviors are often surprisingly context-dependent, incremental, unintentional, and contagious.
The Curse of Expertise: Why the Best Players Make the Worst Coaches
Across sports, there is no shortage of examples of elite players who have tried their hands at coaching and front office positions with less than impressive results. Explanations for this tendency abound, but an important and often overlooked factor is what behavioral scientists refer to as the curse of expertise: as people become more expert in performing a given task, we simultaneously tend to become worse at explaining this performance to others. This talk considers the curse of expertise in sports, as well as business and other endeavors in which transmitting knowledge from one entity to another is essential, and identifies strategies for overcoming it.
Lessons from Sports for Making Better Decisions
Why do fans fling themselves over upper-level railings to catch free t-shirts they wouldn’t spend a dollar of their own money on? Why do front offices pull the trigger and fire head coaches so frequently despite evidence that doing so hurts rather than helps teams in the long run? Why does rooting for a losing team cement identity in a way that rooting for a winner can’t duplicate? This talk explores these and other questions, as well as the lessons they offer for consumer psychology, brand loyalty, personnel decisions, and other domains related to improving decision-making in your professional and personal life.
Sam Sommers, Ph.D. is a professor of psychology at Tufts University, where he was named Professor the Year and has won multiple teaching awards. Sommers is an expert on the psychology of everyday life, having published dozens of research articles on how people think, communicate, and make decisions. His first book, Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World combined behavioral science findings with pop culture analysis, examples from politics and sports, and personal anecdotes to offer an accessible exploration of the invisible forces shaping our daily lives. In his new book, This is Your Brain on Sports, Sommers teams up with L. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated to explore what the world of sports has to teach us about business success, leadership, parenting, and human nature more generally. Sommers regularly speaks to audiences on topics such as organizational culture/climate, the psychology of unethical behavior and bias, judgment and decision-making, and the obstacles of translating personal expertise into effective leadership.