Kirstin C. Appelt
Behavioral Science Research Consultant

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Decisions about the Future

Consumers often struggle with important decisions about their future (Should I pay off my credit cards now or later? Which health insurance plan fits my needs? How much should I save for retirement?). My research explores why these decisions are difficult and how we can help consumers make the best decisions for themselves.
Retirement Financial Decision Making
Many consumers do not save enough for retirement and make suboptimal spending decisions during retirement -- they begin collecting retirement benefits too soon and they choose lump sums over annuities providing guaranteed lifetime income. My research suggests we can help the projected 31 million consumers retiring in the next 10 years make better decisions by changing how the decisions are presented and training consumers to approach the decisions differently.
Healthcare Decision Making
Choosing a health insurance plan is a daunting task; many consumers struggle to identify the plan that best fits their 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 consumers' ability to quickly and easily find high-value plans that meet their needs ( This research is targeted to the 13+ million consumers using online exchanges to purchase health insurance from October 2013 onward.
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, I created the Decision Making Individual Differences Inventory (DMIDI), a free database of over 170 measures commonly used in judgment and decision-making research.
Interpersonal Negotiations
In negotiations, different strategies fit different roles and different people. For example, in a negotiation about the price of a used car, a vigilant strategy emphasizing the walk-away price matches the buyer's goal of paying as little as possible, whereas an eager strategy emphasizing the ideal price matches the seller's goal of making as much money as possible. Negotiators who experience a fit between their strategy and role (or their strategy and their regulatory focus, or their role and their regulatory focus) feel better as they prepare for the negotiation and are more demanding.

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