WBS is ahead of the game with its Behavioural Science group

The Head of our new Behavioural Science group talks about why it's important

Archived Article • 07 April 2012 • Feature

Professor Nick Chater has spearheaded the new Behavioural Science group at WBS. He talks to us about the behavioural science network across the University and how WBS is leading the way with this innovative approach to business.
Behavioural Science is a new initiative at WBS; and builds on a very strong research profile in this area across the University. Indeed, Warwick has made Individual Behaviour one of its Global Priority Programmes, led by Prof Graham Loomes from our group.
Being a part of a university-based business school has huge advantages, particularly in a highly innovative and interdisciplinary field like behavioural science. The new WBS group is closely connected to many other departments across the University: Psychology; Economics; Warwick Medical School; Mathematics; and Statistics. We have regular joint seminars and lab meetings between Psychology, Economics, and WBS through DR@W (Decision Research @ Warwick).
In WBS we are a mixture of psychologists and economists: economists are drawing upon experimental methods and insights from psychology, and psychologists are making psychological knowledge relevant to economic phenomena, as well as learning from the methodological and theoretical rigour of economics.

Talking about the global context of behavioural science and WBS leading the way in Europe, Nick says,
There are some very successful groups in the US but still only a minority of top business schools in the US have substantive behavioural science groups. WBS is aiming to be the best university-based business school in Europe and part of that is becoming the leading European centre in behavioural science - we can lead research in this field.
We're going to infuse lots of WBS activities with behavioural science! We are already teaching a number of modules at MSc level and from next academic year we will be offering undergraduate courses and a number of new postgraduate courses: MSc in Finance with Behavioural Science and MSc in Business (Behavioural Science). On the research side, we were delighted with our recent success in being awarded an Advanced Grant worth '2million from the European Research Council.

How else is the new group feeding into the teaching curriculum?
Prof Daniel Read is contributing to the revision of the Warwick MBA programme so that behavioural science approach can contribute to giving it a real USP. For example, our MBA participants learn how individuals form judgments about the world and how they make decisions. Principles from this field are directly relevant to business decisions, whether in finance, strategy or marketing.
One of our academics, a joint appointment with the Marketing and Strategy group, Prof Gerard P Hodgkinson, has helped to found the field of cognitive strategy. From this standpoint, to understand what strategic decisions business make it is critical to understand the psychological processes driving senior management. Gerard uses what we know about human decision-making to understand how managers formulate and execute strategic decisions. We can no longer pretend that the Firm is a rational or perfectly optimised machine which will always make the decision in its best interest. This is just too drastic a simplification to be useful.

WBS has invested in great facilities for the new group. Nick tells us about the behavioural science laboratory.
We have a new purpose-built lab which has 26 experimental machines for running a wide variety of experiments. Students can use a computer independently for individual experiments, but the computers are also networked for 'game playing' experiments, in which individuals interact.
We also have a lab manager and an IT specialist who run the lab, implement experiments, and make the processes of experimental work run smoothly. It is a tremendously effective facility and we are very lucky. Indeed, I think we are unique in European business schools in having infrastructure of this quality.

Prof Nick Chater joined WBS in 2010, after holding chairs in psychology at Warwick and UCL. He has over 200 publications to his name, has won four national awards for psychological research, and has served as Associate Editor for the journals Cognitive Science, Psychological Review, Psychological Science, and is currently an Associate Editor of Management Science. He was elected a Fellow of the Cognitive Science Society in 2010.

The two new courses starting at WBS in 2012 are MSc in Finance with Behavioural Science and MSc in Business (Behavioural Science). Read more about the Warwick MBA here.

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