2019 Hindsight Awards

First Annual Hindsight Awards: 

The Best in Behavioral Science 

Announcing the first annual Hindsight Awards, a retrospective review of favorites in behavioral science from the perspective of researchers at the Center for Advanced Hindsight. We reflected on a great deal of books, articles, podcasts and videos from the past year, and voted for our favorites to create this final list of “bests.” 

Disclaimer: Even as researchers, we are biased humans. We suffer from in-group favoritism, and as a result you’ll find that we voted for ourselves in a few (but not all!) categories.

Best Newsletter: Behavioral Scientist

Behavioral Scientist is a non-profit online magazine that promises to deliver original, thought-provoking reports from the front lines of behavioral science. It covers a wide range of topics in behavioral science, from political science and organizational behavior to education and behavioral design. 

Best Podcast: Freakonomics

Freakonomics is a podcast hosted by economist Steven D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner, the duo known for their bestselling book by the same name. Levitt and Dubner claim to tell you things you always thought you knew (but didn’t) and things you never thought you wanted to know (but do) — from the economics of sleep to how to become great at just about anything. 

Best TED talk: Dan Ariely: How to Change your Behavior for the Better

What’s the best way to get people to change their behavior? In this funny, information-packed talk, psychologist Dan Ariely explores why we make bad decisions even when we know we shouldn’t — and discusses a couple tricks that could get us to do the right thing (even if it’s for the wrong reason).

Best Book: Good Habits Bad Habits by Wendy Wood

In Good Habits Bad Habits, Wendy Wood draws on three decades of original research to explain the fascinating science of how we form habits, and offers the key to unlocking our habitual mind in order to make the changes we seek. 

Best Popular Press Article: The Three Laws of Human Behavior by Aline Holzwarth in Behavioral Economics

In this article, Aline Holzwarth describes how the three laws of human behavior describe three fundamental truths of human behavior, just as Newton’s laws of motion distill three fundamental truths about the physical world. People tend to stick to the status quo unless the forces of friction or fuel push them off their path; behavior is a function of the person and their environment; and every decision includes tradeoffs and the potential for unintended consequences.

Best Academic Article: Robinson, C. D., Gallus, J., Lee, M. G., & Rogers, T. (2019). The demotivating effect (and unintended message) of awards. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes

In this paper, authors Robinson, Gallus, Lee and Rogers examine the demotivating effect (and unintended message) of attendance awards in schools. They found that prospective awards did not on average improve behavior (and hurt attendance once the award was removed), and the retrospective awards decreased subsequent school attendance. These results are explained by a social norms perspective: awards may signal the target behavior (perfect attendance) is neither the social norm nor institutionally expected, and receiving the retrospective award suggests to recipients that they have already outperformed the norm and what was expected of them, hence licensing them to miss school.


And that’s it for the first annual Hindsight Awards! We can only hope that these awards will not have the impact that Robinson, Gallus, Lee and Rogers found with their study of school attendance, and that our winners continue winning this year and beyond.

Until next time,

The Center for Advanced Hindsight