behavioural economics | October 19, 2016

What Do We Look for in Teammates, Candidates, and Leaders? Chia-Jung Tsay Reveals Our Non-Conscious Biases

Are the decisions we make truly grounded in logic, or is there some other factor at work? New speaker Chia-Jung Tsay studies the non-conscious beliefs that guide our everyday actions—in short, judgment biases. Why, for example, do recruiters prefer those with natural talent to those who grind it out with hard work? And why are visual cues so effective at swaying decisions? If we can better understand the choices we make (as investors, recruiters, negotiators, even as human beings) and why we make them, we can improve going forward—personally, professionally, and financially. 

At UCL’s School of Management, Tsay’s work focuses on the psychological underpinnings of decision-making. And in her studies, she’s unearthed a pair of counterintuitive findings, the first of which comes from the realm of recruiting: While we tend to say that we value grit and perseverance in our employees, we’re actually biased toward “naturals”—those with inherent ability or talent. But by identifying our biases, and recognizing them when they occur, we can more easily zero in on the best person for the job.


In another experiment, Tsay found that subjects are more likely to correctly choose the winner of a music competition by watching silent video than film with sound. What does this signify? Visual biases, like gauging the performer’s enthusiasm, passion, or uniqueness, are a major influencer, and should not be ignored. This “vision heuristic” crosses over into the corporate world, too. Video interviews are on the rise, open kitchens are catching on in restaurants, and blind auditions have begun in major orchestras. Once we’re mindful of our prejudices, we can begin to leverage visual cues for the better.

Can you guess who won a music competition? (psychology experiment)


The world is taking note of Tsay’s groundbreaking work. She’s been featured in a slew of major publications, including The Atlantic, The Economist, Forbes, TIME, Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, and Scientific American. Not only is she a decorated academic, with an A.B. in Psychology, an A.M. in History of Science, and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Psychology (secondary field: Music), all from Harvard University, but she’s also an accomplished classical pianist, and has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and the U.S. Embassy.


Our biases—the ones we’re aware of and the ones that go unnoticed—are holding us back. Tsay’s insights bring them to the surface, and point us toward clear-eyed, wiser decisions. 


To hire decision-making and bias expert Chia-Jung Tsay as your next conference speaker, contact The Lavin Agency, her exclusive speakers bureau.