Decision Making and Human Behavior in Context

Submission Deadlines: See upcoming deadlines

The Russell Sage Foundation (RSF) is launching a new special initiative on Decision Making and Human Behavior in Context that will support innovative research on decision making across the social sciences that examines causes, consequences, processes, or context from a behavioral or alternative perspective. We seek to support a wide range of research on decision-making in context by scholars in psychology, political science, sociology, and other social science fields who are pursuing questions consistent with the aims of the Foundation. This initiative complements RSF’s long-standing Behavioral Economics (BE) Program which continues to encourage the submission of proposals.

This initiative will support research proposals from multiple methodological perspectives that will further our understanding of decision making processes and human behavior in the contexts of work, race, ethnicity, immigration, and social inequality, broadly conceived, in the U.S. Priority will be given to research related to our core programs and other special initiatives. Limited consideration will be given to projects that test well-established behavioral effects without examining the overarching context or the underlying mechanisms.

Research in this area is expanding rapidly. RSF is open to a range of questions consistent with its mission, and has a particular interest in the following research areas:

Biases and Misperceptions
An important contribution of behavioral science has been to uncover the role that biases play in decision making and behavior across multiple contexts. RSF is interested in studies examining implicit and explicit biases in employment, criminal, judicial, political, educational, and other important settings. To what extent and how do conscious and unconscious biases and misperceptions affect decisions and behaviors? What are the consequences of these actions?

Motivations and Incentives
Individuals respond to incentives, and to a broad array of social, political, psychological, and cultural motivations. RSF is interested in supporting research on motivated decision making and behavior that has consequences for social, economic and political inequalities. To what extent and how do motivations (e.g., sense belonging, group identity, self-improvement, etc.) affect behavior and decisions related to wellbeing, mobility, or political participation? What role can collective deliberation play? What kinds of motivations are subject to change or interventions?

Habits and Behavior Change
A great deal of human behavior is not openly motivated, in the sense that it is habitual, intuitive, taken-for-granted, or otherwise not reflective. This kind of behavior can be a challenge for those seeking changes related to social, economic and political inequalities. How are socio-economically consequential habits formed and changed? To what extent does group membership affect the process? What are the limits of nudges and similar interventions that seek to modify the choice architecture involved in important decisions?

Affect and Emotions
Emotions shape people’s decision making and behavior, both consciously and subconsciously. The role of affect or emotions can be especially important to understand among powerful decision-makers. What role do emotions play in social, economic, political and legal decisions and behaviors? To what extent are the consequences for human welfare and related policies beneficial or detrimental? To what extent and how can detrimental effects be countered?

Networks and Contexts
Many decisions are made not in isolation, but with the help of social networks, whose members may be turned to for information, advice, support, or other needs. Networks also influence the way many such decisions are made and have been shown to be important in the context of the job search, college enrollment, voting, other topics relevant to mobility, poverty, and inequality. To what extent and how do contexts and networks—their structure and composition—affect decisions and behavior? To what extent and how do neighborhoods, organizations, and other contexts in which people form and maintain networks shape these processes?

Application Information

RSF

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