The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation recognizes Sheryl Ball, an associate department head and an associate professor of economics in the College of Science, for exploring behavioral economics and how psychology affects decision-making.
Her research falls into several major areas, including individual decision-making, experimental economics, and game theory.
She is pushing the boundaries of a field known as neuroeconomics, an interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand how people make decisions.
For example, in a recent study published in Nature Neuroscience, Ball and colleagues used fMRI data to show that observing others’ choices can influence people to make safer or riskier decisions than they would make on their own.
By using functional magnetic resonance imaging in association with the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, the scientists discovered that our inherent risk-taking preferences affect how we view and act on information from other people.
In that respect, birds of a feather really do flock together — people who like to take risks are more likely to follow the risky decisions of other people, and cautious people are more likely to follow the cautious decisions of others.
Ball has received funding from the National Science Foundation, Hewlett Packard, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the National Institute for Dispute Resolution, Hughes Telecommunications and Space, as well as university-level research grants, including a senior fellowship from the Institute for Society, Culture and Environment.
She has also participated in the development of intellectual property, including software programs to help individuals and companies prepare for and participate in auctions.
Formerly an associate dean for curriculum, instruction, and advising in the College of Science, Ball is a frequent presenter on active learning and research topics in STEM education at workshops and conferences regionally, nationally, and internationally, and she has published studies in numerous peer-reviewed journals.
She received her bachelor’s degree with honors in mathematical methods in social sciences, and her master’s and doctoral degrees in managerial economics and decision sciences from Northwestern University.