Professor of Public Policy and Management, Harvard Kennedy School
Dr. Jennifer Lerner is Professor of Public Policy and Management at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Co-founder of the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory. She is the first psychologist in the history of the Harvard Kennedy School to receive tenure. Drawing insights from psychology, economics, and neuroscience, her research examines human judgment and decision making. Together with colleagues, she has developed a theoretical framework that successfully predicts the effects of specific emotions on specific judgment and choice outcomes. Applied widely, the framework has been especially useful in predicting emotion effects on perceptions of risk, economic decisions, and attributions of responsibility. For example, she has shown that fear and anger – although both negative emotions – exert opposing effects on the perception of risk. She also actively pursues two other programs of research, examining (a) mechanisms through which accountability and other authority systems shape judgment and choice outcomes; and (b) causes and consequences of stress. Her work has, for example, revealed pathways through which bio-behavioral factors (e.g., testosterone, cortisol, and anxiety) predict stress and leadership rank among government, military, and corporate professionals. Across all areas, her work aims to expand the evidentiary base for designing public policies that maximize human wellbeing.