This last Friday I took the train from New York’s Central Station to New Haven, Connecticut. I was traveling for a story I’m working on for PRI’s The World. I interviewed Dr. Keith Chen, a behavioral economist at Yale. Dr. Chen focuses on uncovering the underlying psychological aspects of our sometimes puzzling economic behavior. My story concerns a curious correlation between our language and our savings habits.
I’ll save the details of his study for the upcoming radio story, but another interesting topic we covered was his past research in Capuchin monkeys. He conditioned the monkeys to save coins and trade them in for food treats. He was amazed by how similarly the monkeys spending and saving habits reflected those of humans, especially when it came to irrational financial behaviors. For example, researchers have found that most people care about losses about two and half times as much as they care about gains — most people won’t take a risk until the possible gain is at least two and half times greater than the possible loss. Monkey behavior showed the exact same imbalance in care for losses versus gains.
I stayed with my friend Becca, an MBA student at Yale. She gave me a lovely tour of the campus, which contains an incredible number of historic buildings. I’m always amazed by the hundreds of years of history present in East Coast architecture, the building are so much older than I’m used to seeing back on the west coast. Unfortunately I forgot to photograph those. Upon arriving home I realized the only photographic history of Yale’s grandeur I’d collected was the details of Dr. Chen’s lecture hall bathroom. See below.
My story should air on The World some time in the next month, but for this week my time will be occupied by a trip up to Baltimore. I’ll be representing AIR through their New Voices scholarship at the PRPD conference this Tuesday through Friday. I’m excited to spend the week attending lectures and getting to know more of my fellow producers!