Room 464, UNSW Business School, UNSW


May 14, 2018: Chew Soo Hong
Topic:  A Revolutionary Understanding of How People Make Decisions 

Chew Soo Hong is professor and provost’s chair at the National University of Singapore (NUS). He received his Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies from the University of British Columbia and has previously taught at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, University of California, Irvine, Johns Hopkins University and University of Arizona. Chew is co-director of NUS’ lab for Behavioral x Biological Economics and the Social Sciences which aims to bring together genomics, neuroscience, decision theory, and behavioural and experimental economics to seek a deeper understanding of decision making. He is among the pioneers in axiomatic non-expected utility models and is a fellow of the Econometric Society which awarded him the Leonard J. Savage thesis prize. Chew has published in well-regarded journals in economics such as Econometrica, Review of Economic Studies, Journal of Economic Theory as well as biology-oriented ones including PNAS, PRSB, Neuron, and Neuroimage.
Elements of economics, psychology, and biology are converging towards delivering a revolutionary understanding of how people make decisions. Many would credit prospect theory with bringing psychological considerations into the modeling of decision theory under risk in applying the Fechner-Weber law of diminishing sensitivity to both gains and losses. In addition, bringing neurogenetics involving dopamine and serotonin delivers a neurochemical foundation for this loss-gain differentiation in risk attitude. We next focus on a pleiotropic gene, the dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4), important in both individual and social decision making. Besides being linked to risk attitude, it has been hypothesized as a norm-sensitive gene inducing greater norm adherence, specifically cooperativeness for an Asian population. We discuss new evidence demonstrating a DRD4 x rice culture co-evolution of both traits over the millennia, pointing to a shared underlying trait of efficiency orientation. Finally, we discuss imaging genetics evidence linking the inhibitory neurotransmitter (GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), underpinning anxiety and fear regulation, to the phenomenon of familiarity bias in financial decision making.