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Michael Norton (Harvard), at ESADE: ‘Rituals also help us feel better at work’

Leading international experts, such as Michael Norton (Harvard) or the expert in judicial decision-making Jeffrey J. Rachlinski (Cornell), joined ESADE researchers for a new edition of ESADE Research Day

‘We tend to feel better after performing a ritual, even when we don’t believe in it’, said Michael Norton, the Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration and director of research at Harvard Business School and co-author of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending. He was speaking at the most recent edition of ESADE Research Day, which was devoted to the psychology of decision-making.

According to Norton, ‘The mere fact of performing a ritual with our peers can help change our perception of them and create bonds.’ Citing the example of a group of students, he said, ‘We have shown that performing a short ritual before completing a task improves teamwork.’ Norton also noted the potential of rituals for coping with routine processes. ‘Having rituals at work or in sentimental relationships is a good indication; they help us feel better.’

Norton warned that rituals can sometimes give us a certain illusion of control, but they can also instil us with calm or reinforce a sense of belonging. ‘We are trying to see whether designing rituals can influence the creation of good habits,’ he continued, ‘but it is not yet clear that they do.’

Intuitive or rational decisions

Jeffrey J. Rachlinski, the Henry Allen Mark Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, has studied the influence of intuition and deliberation in judicial decision-making processes. ‘Judges tend to make decisions based on intuition’, he explained. ‘Intuition is surprisingly effective, but it can also lead to flawed decisions.’ In this regard, he noted, ‘We have studied more than 4000 judges and lawyers, trying to determine what kind of intuitive approach might be bad for decision-making.’ He emphasised the benefits of combining intuitive thinking with deliberation and of encouraging ‘slow thinking’ in the legal field as well.

Eugenia Bieto highlighted ESADE’s commitment to research ‘to change society’. To this end, she noted, ‘ESADE has recently hired 13 new faculty members, who bring international talent. Many of them specialise in decision-making processes, an area we consider to be extremely important today.’

Also participating in ESADE Research Day were Pedro Rey Biel and Anna Bayona, assistant professors in the Department of Economics, Finance and Accounting at ESADE; Bart de Langhe, associate professor in the Department of Marketing at ESADE; Lluís Comellas, Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at Ramon Llull University (URL); Vicenta Sierra, director of the PhD in Management Sciences at ESADE; Sergio Llebaría, director of the Department of Law at ESADE; and Jonathan Wareham, Dean of Faculty and Research at ESADE.