Ariely wows Chautauqua donors during special morning seminar


Roxana Pop | Staff Photographer
Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University and the founder of the Center for Advanced Hindsight, lectures on decision-making processes during the three-day Chautauqua Seminar July 3 at Smith Wilkes Hall.

Dan Ariely, the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, wowed his audience during an exclusive three-day lecture seminar from July 1 to July 3.

Megan Sorenson, assistant director of the Chautauqua Fund, explained the unique nature of the seminar and its audience.

“This new seminar was a special recognition opportunity designed to honor those within the leadership community who have contributed $5,000 or more to the [Chautauqua] Foundation in the calendar year, including gifts to the Chautauqua Fund, endowments or planned gifts,” Sorenson said. “In holding with Week Two’s theme, ‘The Next Greatest Generation,’ an invitation was also extended to members of the NOW Generation.”

The NOW Generation is a group of young adults who work to promote the Chautauqua experience.

During the seminar, Ariely lectured on one of his primary areas of expertise: irrational behavior and the role that it plays in people’s decision-making processes. By revealing flaws in the processes of decision-making, Ariely hoped to unearth ways to improve the quality of people’s individual decisions.

The seminar was divided up into three subthemes over the course of the three days. On the first day, Ariely laid the groundwork on the foundations of behavioral economics. Day 2 focused on self-control methods and systems, and the final lesson was devoted to the psychology of labor and the labor market.

Al Goldman and his wife, Judy, sponsored the seminar. Al explained that they wished to give something special back to people who had been particularly charitable to Chautauqua Institution.

“Bestor Society members already get access to the Scholar in Residence program,” Al said. “We wanted to provide another opportunity to a larger range of givers, and we thought that if we took the initiative it would stimulate additional giving.”

Al said Ariely was “dynamite” and that there was a great turnout to the seminar.

Geof Follansbee, Institution vice president and CEO of the Chautauqua Foundation, praised the Goldmans for their support of the Institution.

“Judy and Al Goldman have tangibly added to the richness of Chautauqua’s program experiences while seeking to encourage greater philanthropy,” Follansbee said. “They initiated the idea for this seminar with us last summer, and once we were sure we could handle the logistics we embraced it immediately. Engagement and giving are at the very heart of what makes Chautauqua successful.”

Chautauquan Elizabeth Holder attended the seminar all three days. She lauded Ariely for being articulate and engaging and for integrating the audience into his lecture, calling the seminar “a unique and thrilling opportunity.”

“He articulated things that we see everyday, but he put a new framework on them,” Holder said. “He did experiments that made you think about your own behavior and motivations. And then he illuminated how you can do better and be better for yourself and for the people around you.”