Creativity & Innovation in the Behavioral Sciences

My take on the 2nd-annual Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences Social Science Summit

By, Camille Gamboa, PR, SAGE US

CASBS Director Iris Lit, SAGE-CASBS Award Winner Daniel Kahneman, and SAGE Founder Sara Miller McCune

CASBS Director Iris Lit, SAGE-CASBS Award Winner Daniel Kahneman, and SAGE Founder Sara Miller McCune

It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to witness 19 engaging thought leaders (including Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman) devote an entire day to discussing creative and innovative advances in the behavioral sciences. This year, I got to do just that at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford University Social Science Summit. SAGE was a proud sponsor of 2nd-Annual Summit, this year themed “Creativity & Innovation.” The daylong event examined the state of behavioral science and its role in technology, the arts, business, and society as seen through the lens of creativity and innovation.

I was especially excited to hear Nobel Prize Winner (1992) and CASBS Fellow (1978) Daniel Kahneman give the opening keynote speech as I had been reading Kahneman’s award-winning book Thinking Fast and Slow. This book takes readers on a tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think – one that is fast, intuitive and emotional while the other is slower, deliberative, and logical. Kahneman discussed his research in the book after being presented with the inaugural SAGE-CASBS award for his lifetime of work advancing the understanding of the behavioral sciences as they are applied to pressing social issues.

In his presentation, Kahneman explained how he and friend/colleague Amos Tversky began their research with the goal of better understanding the motivations behind their own often-mistaken intuitions (shared widely by the entire human race) which often lead to poor decision making. For example, why is it that when people are asked how many murders are committed in Detroit each year, they give a higher number than when asked how many murders are committed in the entire state of Michigan? And why is it that seeing “SO _ P” sometime makes us think of soap and other time makes us think of soup? Kahneman and Tversky’s years of work together helps individuals determine when they can and cannot trust their intuition and how our two systems of thought both help and hinder us when making decisions.kahneman

While Kahneman is a world-renowned, award-winning scholar and Nobel Laureate whose ground-breaking achievements are nothing short of brilliant, I was extremely impressed by how well he was able to translate his work for public consumption, convey a real, personal care and attachment to his work, and even to entertain a room full of behavioral scholars. His presentation certainly warmed up the room and turned on our creative brains in preparation for the sessions to come.

The rest of the day included interactive presentations lead by 13 thought leaders who spoke on a wide range of topics, including eco-cities, music, supercomputers that use pulses of light instead of electrical signals, urban communities transformed, neuroimaging, intuition, complexity theory, and the effect of memory and emotion on the criminal justice system. Each of the highly-interactive sessions explained how innovative researchers in the behavioral sciences are an essential, yet often overlooked component of some important aspect of society. For me, the biggest difficulty of the day was deciding which of these presentations to attend (read about the presentations here to see what I mean).

The closing panel was made up of a group of business professionals who discussed how behavioral scientists’ findings can be used to solve important problems in business, specifically. This panel was moderated by Don Norman, author of The Design of Everyday Things, cofounder of the Nielsen Norman Group, and IDEO fellow. It also included Tim Brown, President & CEO of IDEO, Curtis Carlson, President & CEO of SRI International, James P. Hackett, President & CEO of Steelcase, Inc., and Ellen Levy, Managing Director of Silicon Valley Connect. Their remarks were followed by an enlightening question-and-answer session in which several of the behavioral scientists in the room got to ask questions about how behavioral scholarship interacts with real-life business issues.

In the end, I left the 2nd-annual CASBS Social Science Summit not only with a newfound appreciation for the inspiring Daniel Kahneman (who was gracious enough to sign my copy of the book!), but also with a new list of examples of how the work of creative and forward-thinking behavioral scientists have lead to practical and even life-saving results in the real world. Stay tuned to Social Science Space, where we will be posting blog posts, photos, and videos from the event.

To learn more about CASBS, which will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year, click here.

     
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