Six Questions with Tamar Kugler
"Human decision making is not only interesting, but also quite non-intuitive. I therefore spend less time talking in class, and more time engaging the student in decision tasks that demonstrate their own tendencies for decision biases."
What brought you to the Eller College?
The main attraction was research excellence in decision making, both within Eller, the Management and Organizations (then Management and Policy) department, and across many units on campus. On top of that, Eller had terrific infrastructure for the type of research I do, including two state-of-the-art laboratories for investigating human behavior.
How long have you been at Eller?
It’s hard to believe, but this coming July, it will be 13 years. We first arrived to Tucson in July 2004, and I remember stepping off the plane and thinking that I fell into a furnace.
What is your current research, and what most excites you about that area of focus?
My research focuses on interactive decisions. Interactive decisions are decisions whose outcomes depend not only on the choices of the focal decision maker, but also on decisions that are made by other agents within the same environment. Specifically, I focus on decisions made by groups, the interplay between emotions/perceptions and decision making (fear, anger, happiness, greed) and trust-related decisions.
What are you currently teaching, and what do you most enjoy about teaching?
I teach managerial decision making (undergraduates) as well as statistics and research methods (Ph.D.-level seminars). My undergraduate class is a particularly fun one. Human decision making is not only interesting, but also quite non-intuitive. I therefore spend less time talking in class, and more time engaging the student in decision tasks that demonstrate their own tendencies for decision biases, such as overconfidence, escalation of commitment, misperceptions of probabilities, and more. Teaching Ph.D. students is very different – here the emphasis is on giving them the skills and knowledge to become successful researchers. Watching them grow from curious individuals to competent and effective researchers over the course of our five-year program is one of the most satisfying aspects of my job as a teacher.
How do you bring your research into your teaching?
Like all faculty, I love to talk about what I do. I therefore use my own studies as examples for the material I teach. There is a big difference between teaching analytical techniques using abstract, hypothetical examples, and showing my students how I used the techniques to answer my own research questions.
Beyond research and teaching, what are your passions?
As a mother of four children, ages one to 11 years old, I have very little time for non-work passions. When I can, I enjoy cooking and baking, traveling with my family, and spending time outdoors. My husband (who is also on the Eller faculty) and I try to engage the family in as many activities as we can to create well-rounded children – we take them camping, hiking, skiing; we run races with them; and we try our best to bring up educated, independent, and compassionate human beings.
Photo of Tamar Kugler and management doctoral students by Eller College of Management.