We study fundamental behavior processes such as learning, choice, impulsiveness, risk taking, and decision making, as they relate to physical and psychological wellbeing.
We aim to understand how people make decisions about the future. For most people $100 now is better than $100 in five days. And, in general, immediate goods are more valuable than delayed goods. That is, we discount the value of future goods and events in favor of the more immediate ones. Because this has major implications for our general wellbeing, at the HBRL we are interested in learning how the fundamental psychological process known as delay discounting affects the choices we make regarding our future safety and health.
Most human activities involve some level of risk. We learn to accept some risk as “normal” such as when we drive a car or go out on a hike. However, some of us are prone to take risks that most other people would not, for example, gambling all your savings or taking an unknown drug. At the HBRL we study what situations make people more likely to take risks, and what personal characteristics differentiate risk takers from non-risk takers.
Normal behaviors that impact our present and future health include what and how we eat, how much we exercise, whether we smoke, drink, or take other drugs, whether we take our medications as prescribed, use seatbelts, drive under the influence, and many others. At the same time, large groups of people have difficulty providing and understanding health-related information, and following their doctors’ advice. At the HBRL we are learning how to bring health behavior information to the people in a way that is clear and effective, despite limitations in educational attainment, and language comprehension.