Human behaviour and experiences of judgement and decision-making: a Q&A with Atrina Oraee

The science of decision-making

Atrina Oraee is a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science 

Sustainability cannot be defined, let alone achieved, without considering human behaviour within the environmental context in which it occurs.
Atrina Oraee 747 x 560
Atrina Oraee

What are you currently researching?

My research is primarily based on the use of digital ethnography techniques to study how humans behave and experience judgement and decision-making, in naturally occurring contexts.

To this end, I use miniature cameras worn at eye level (subcams) to collect audio and video material and investigate decision-making processes using contextualised data gathered directly from the field.

Essentially, my research is an attempt to contribute to the science of decision-making by providing empirical evidence from observable behaviour and real decisions.

Why did you choose this area of study?

We have spent many years undertaking research in the field of judgement and decision-making that has had little impact when it comes to pressing matters such as climate change.

I cannot help but attribute such failure to the use of methodologies that emphasise testing and fitting models rather than comparing observable behaviour.

Governments, and other institutions, need to utilise more realistic depictions of human behaviour to design and implement more effective behaviour change interventions.

If not addressed, widespread environmentally harmful behaviour could potentially result in socio-ecological collapse. I have therefore chosen this field of research to provide various institutions and interventions with detailed and realistic accounts of human behaviour, judgement, and decision-making. 

How will your research improve or have a wider impact on society? 

Sustainability cannot be defined, let alone achieved, without considering human behaviour within the environmental context in which it occurs.

Many environmentally harmful behaviours are deeply embedded in our daily activities. Designing successful, and viable, behaviour change interventions thus requires a more realistic approach.

In addition to feeding into policy-making, my research attempts to create a viable path to more sustainable policy-making while enabling businesses to stay afloat and keeping consumers satisfied. 

What have been the highlights of your research so far? 

It is extremely rewarding to witness the impact of my research, especially when working on pressing real-world challenges.

My work has empowered me to implement change through constructing novel pathways for societies to operate through more sustainable behaviours.

What has been your biggest challenge so far? 

Human societies are becoming increasingly complex. As a researcher, I am driven by an ever-growing urge to change societies for the better. This is a daunting task which requires patience and resilience. It is very easy to remain in the comfort zone provided by the vast world of literature and previous research.  

The challenge is to push myself beyond books into the real world. To this end, I often remind myself of a quote by James Audubon, who said “When the bird and the book disagree, always believe the bird!”. It’s not easy to make sense of humans and their behaviour, let alone change it sustainably!

Every researcher is faced with an endurance run on a unique track. Thus, I cannot compare my progress with others, and yet I need to prevent myself from becoming discouraged when the journey becomes lonely and relatively unrewarding from time to time.

What advice would you give to prospective students on the most effective way to approach research and keep stress levels down?

No matter how strong your urge is, you can neither change the entire world in one night, nor throughout your dissertation. You need to be patient and strategic, and you need all the help you can possibly get!

As humans, we are social creatures and, much like the environmental crises we currently face, academia is also in desperate need of collaboration and co-operation.

We have been taught to believe the road to prosperity is through competition, self-interest, and unlimited personal growth. This is not necessarily the case, especially when it comes to collective dilemmas such as climate change.

Tackling such a challenge requires a reconstruction of the relationship between economy and ecology as mutually interdependent dimensions. In this vein, you might recall that Gilles Deleuze once said: “To resist, is to construct”, and I cannot think of a better approach to embark with on your journey as a researcher!

In a few words, what is the best thing about studying at LSE?

Studying at LSE you will receive the support and liberation to question all matters to first understand, and ultimately change them. You are trained to think critically and inspired to move beyond the boundaries of not just your knowledge, but also academia in general. LSE will empower you to change the world for the better.