Research

Our faculty and students seek answers to the same simple questions: What decisions do people make, what mechanisms shape those decisions, why do different people make different decisions, and what are the implications of those decisions for policy? The D-CIDES community spans the Duke campus physically, administratively, and intellectually. Basic science research on decision making crosses traditional academic disciplines – from genomics to medical ethics, from neuroscience to behavioral economics – and applied research targets a similarly wide range of real-world challenges: dealing with addiction, shaping the legal system, effectively marketing, and implementing new policies. Our faculty are organized around four broad research themes:
 

Biological Mechanisms
 
The study of the biological processes underlying decision making has important implications for both basic science and clinical applications. D-CIDES researchers investigate a diversity of topics: neural circuitry of reward processing, genetic markers shaping key neurotransmitter systems, computational principles underlying information integration, and how goals and environmental factors shape brain systems for decision making. Discoveries in these domains are applied to a similarly diverse set of clinical problems, from addiction and impulse control disorders, to psychiatric conditions like schizophrenia and depression. Our investigators come from science departments within both arts & sciences and the medical school, with collaborations on applied topics reaching out to nearly all parts of campus.
 
Neuroeconomics
 
Programs in neuroeconomics have been formally supported at Duke since 2005, with the founding of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies (whose programs have now moved to D-CIDES). Duke is one of the leading institutions for research that applies the techniques of cognitive and systems neuroscience – along with computational modeling – to understand economic decision making and related behavior. Duke’s recent growth at this intersection has been catalyzed by new faculty within psychiatry,social psychology, systems and integrative neuroscience, and statistics. Neuroeconomic research at Duke is highly collaborative, with frequent cross-campus collaborations and joint mentoring of students.
 
Choice Behavior
 
Research on decision-making behavior permeates Duke’s campus. Core areas of strength include risky choice and behavioral economics (within the Fuqua School of Business), social and unconscious influences on judgment and decision making (business, social psychology), decision making across the lifespan (cognitive and developmental psychology, psychiatry), medical decision making (business, psychiatry), and ethological approaches using non-human primates (neurobiology, evolutionary anthropology). Experimental research by our investigators often links to theoretical models within economics and other social sciences, as well as to applications within public policy and medical practice.
 
Risk, Policy, and Markets
 
Many societal institutions – from how products are marketed to how financial markets are regulated – arise from the decisions of policy makers. Many D-CIDES faculty share an interest in how an understanding of basic decision making can shape policies within the public and private sectors. Much of this research occurs within Duke’s professional schools, notably Law, Medicine, and Business. There are also important links to interdisciplinary initiatives on environmental policy and ethics, as well as to programs in decision analysis within the Department of Statistical Science and Fuqua’s decision science group.

Learn more about DIBS

The Duke Institute for Brain Sciences is a scientific institute with a collaborative spirit and a commitment to education, service and knowledge across disciplines. We encourage creativity, taking risks, sharing ideas and working together.

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