Associate Professor of Economics Keith Chen grew up experiencing cycles of intellectual binging and restlessness, which, he says, made school difficult. This intellectual yearning, however, turned out to be a long-term blessing. “I think I was drawn to academia largely because it felt like a profession where habitual and obsessive restlessness wasn’t going to be debilitating,” he says.
In fact, that restlessness has led to research that blurs the lines between traditional disciplinary boundaries, “bringing unorthodox tools to bear on problems at the intersection of economics, psychology and biology,” as he says.
His most current research delves into how language, unexpectedly, influences economic choices. “For example, I’ve been studying a surprisingly strong relationship between how a person's language encodes future time, and how easily they invest in future-oriented behaviors like saving, (not) smoking and safe sex,” he says.
He says being at UCLA Anderson is a perfect fit for him because of the sweeping and inclusive mindset at the school. “The faculty at Anderson are an incredibly broad set of thinkers,” he says. “I think it’s more intellectually diverse than any other business school in the country.”
Professor Chen teaches core strategy and behavioral economics, fields, he says, that appeal to him because they are so accessible. “Economics falls into a kind of intellectual sweet spot,” he says. “Unlike a lot of fields, the fundamental problems aren’t esoteric minutia that take decades of study to even state. They’re understandable by almost anyone with even a little economics training. We have a lot to learn even about very basic economic questions; there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Head to Chen’s UCLA Anderson page for more on his research interests and publications.