Kirstin C. Appelt
Behavioral Scientist

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Changing Choice Architecture

We all make hundreds of decisions every day, from small decisions (like whether to wash or re-wear a t-shirt) to large decisions (like choosing a health insurance plan). My research explores how we can change the presentation of choices to make it easier to choose the best decisions for ourselves, society, and the planet.
Environmental Decision Making
For most of us, laundry is a regular task that we do on auto-pilot. We don't even realize we are making decisions, let alone that those decisions affect the planet. Small changes like re-wearing clothes, using cold water to wash, and hang drying add up to big impacts. My research suggests that timely reminders can help us all be a little more green when it comes to laundry.
Retirement Financial Decision Making
Many of us do not save enough for retirement and make suboptimal spending decisions during retirement -- we begin collecting retirement benefits too soon or we choose lump sums over annuities providing guaranteed lifetime income. My research suggests we can help retirees make better financial decisions by changing how these decisions are presented and training people to approach these decisions differently.
Healthcare Decision Making
Choosing a health insurance plan is a daunting task; many of us struggle to identify the plan that best fits our medical and financial needs. My research with the non-profit Pacific Business Group on Health suggests a small number of choice architecture interventions that make a large impact on our ability to quickly and easily find high-value plans that meet our needs ( This research helps the millions of people using online websites to purchase health insurance.
Individual Differences
Despite long-standing interest in how individual differences (e.g., analytical vs. intuitive style, attitude toward risk, cognitive ability) affect decision-making, our understanding is still limited. To promote a more systematic investigation and encourage wider, more extensive communication of results, my colleagues and I created the Decision Making Individual Differences Inventory (DMIDI), a free database of over 170 measures commonly used in judgment and decision-making research.

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