Causes and Consequences of Decision-Making in Urban Contexts (Boston Area Research Initiative workshop)

December 2016

Our workshop aims to bring together sociologists, economists, psychologists, and others who believe that the decisions of individuals are consequential to urban phenomena such as segregation, inequality, and housing; who suspect that those decisions are shaped by the contexts in which people make them; and who believe that understanding decision-making as a process is important. The workshop is specifically motivated by two questions: (1) what factors affect how individuals make decisions in urban contexts, and (2) what are the consequences of those decisions for meso- and macro-level phenomena? We include both deliberative and intuitive or reactive decision-making in the purview of the workshop. There are many perspectives on how people make decisions in economics, marketing, psychology, and sociology. Only some of them focus on the process, as opposed to the outcome, of decision-making. And few of them have examined how the social and physical environment shapes what opportunities are salient or possible, and how people think about and enact their choices. Understanding the contextual precursors underlying people’s decisions requires multiple disciplinary perspectives and openness to alternative ways of theorizing choice and behavior. Similarly, there are several long-standing perspectives in sociology and economics on the large-scale consequences of the decisions of individuals. This work is known by several different names or approaches, including emergence, the micro-macro question, and agent-based modeling. Expanding the breadth and power of this work requires bringing perspectives concerned with the precursors, not just consequences, of those decisions.