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Chia-Jung Tsay

What are the cues—visual, verbal, and other—which can sway our decision-making abilities?

Expert in Decision-Making and the Psychology of Negotiations | Associate Professor in the UCL School of Management

Chia-Jung Tsay | Expert in Decision-Making and the Psychology of Negotiations | Associate Professor in the UCL School of Management
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Are we ever really aware of why we choose the things we do? For example, do certain visual cues sway us disproportionately? Do we prefer natural talents to hard work? Chia-Jung Tsay studies judgment biases: the non-conscious beliefs influencing our decisions. Her insights help experts, educators, and leaders—novices and experts alike—make wiser choices for recruitment, investment, and negotiations.

Chia-Jung Tsay is an Associate Professor with tenure in the UCL School of Management. She examines the psychology behind decision-making, especially when it comes to selecting (and evaluating) candidates. One of her streams of research revealed a counterintuitive result: that while we think we prefer those who work hard to achieve success (“strivers”), we actually prefer people with in-born abilities (“naturals”). In another stream of work, Tsay revealed that test subjects are able to pick out winners of music competitions simply from watching silent video clips of the performers—which means that visual cues based on appearance and expectation are often prioritized over other, seemingly more germane information.


Tsay’s work has been featured in The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, The Economist, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Nature, Scientific American, TIME, The Wall Street Journal, WIRED, and on ABC, BBC, NPR, and many others. Tsay graduated Phi Beta Kappa with an A.B. in Psychology and an A.M. in History of Science from Harvard. As a classical pianist, Tsay has performed at venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the U.S. Embassy. She holds degrees from the Juilliard School and the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University, where she later served as faculty. Tsay received a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Psychology with a secondary Ph.D. field in Music from Harvard University, and has previously taught at Oxford, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.


“I attended the RI talk at which Chia spoke. I found her section by far the most interesting and original. My only regret was she didn't speak longer!”


“Chia delivered an outstanding half-day masterclass at our recent management conference in London, resulting in exceptionally positive ratings from our audience of business leaders. Chia talked about her ground-breaking research on the psychological influences on decision-making and interpersonal perception. It was a compelling mix of intellectual gravitas, thought-provocation and humour that kept our audience enthralled.”

Benchmark for Business

“I really enjoyed your talk! Your insights are analysis are fascinating.”

Enrollment Management Association

Speech Topics

Consumer Behavior
Visual Biases How to Harness Visual Cues for Evaluation and Performance

Could you guess the winner of a music competition by sight alone? In a series of experiments, Chia-Jung Tsay revealed a counter-intuitive finding: that we’re more likely to pick the winners of live competitions through solely visual cues—no music needed. Visual cues can dominate our decision-making processes, and this has a profound impact on how we evaluate both people and information. In this keynote, Tsay awakens audiences to our mostly unacknowledged visual bias. We want to make wise decisions and long-term investments. And we want to select, promote, and reward actual talent. But to do so, we need to be mindful of our inclination to favor certain forms of information over others. Conversely, we can also learn how to harness visual cues to create lasting value—in everything from hiring more diverse staff to encouraging more accountability. It’s all about harvesting the power of visuals, Tsay argues—for better relations, organizations, and so much more.

Strivers v. Naturals What Do We Look for in Teammates, Candidates, and Leaders?

What do you value more when hiring a new employee: natural talent or hard work? Most of us are quick to say that we value grit and perseverance over in-born ability—especially when it comes to hiring and admissions. But, according to Chia-Jung Tsay, we’re more likely to choose “naturals” over “strivers.”


But why? Where does this hidden bias come from? And how can we address this preference openly, to transform the way we evaluate, recruit, and reward? Drawing from examples in both corporate and university settings, Tsay explores our preconceptions and cultural biases, and offers eye-opening and emboldening frameworks for thinking past them.