Jennifer Lerner, Ph.D

Professor of Public Policy, Management, and Decision Science

Learning skills in judgment and decision-making has improved my life in countless ways. I hope that all kids in K-12 schools will start to learn these extremely useful skills.

Employment and Affiliations

  • Thornton F. Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy, Management and Decision Science at the Harvard Kennedy School
  • Additional appointments in Harvard’s Department of Psychology and Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences
  • Founding faculty director of Harvard’s popular “Leadership Decision Making” executive education program
  • Formerly the first Chief Decision Scientist for the U.S. Navy, reporting to the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations


  • Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to scientists and engineers in early stages of their careers.
  • National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Award
  • National Science Foundation’s “Sensational 60” designation, a group of 60 members designated as the most prominent American scientists whose first grants were graduate school fellowships from the NSF.
  • Harvard Kennedy School’s “Dinner on the Dean” award for outstanding teaching (multiple times)
  • Harvard “Innovations in Learning and Teaching (HILT) Award” for curricular innovation
  • Harvard Graduate Student Government’s “Lectures That Last Award”
  • Harvard Kennedy School’s Raymond Vernon Commemorative Award for mentoring junior faculty
  • U.S. Department of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award

Selected Publications

  • Lerner J.S., Li Y., Valdesolo P., & Kassam K. (2015). Emotion and decision making. Annual Review of Psychology, 66, 799-823. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115043
  • Lerner, J.S. (2019). Decision science meets national security: A personal perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 14(1), 96-100. doi: 10.1177/1745691618815822
  • Lerner, J.S., Small, D.A., & Loewenstein, G. (2004). Heart strings and purse strings: Carryover effects of emotions on economic decisions. Psychological Science, 15(5), 337-341. doi: 10.1111/j.0956-7976.2004.00679.x
  • Lerner, J.S., & Keltner, D. (2001). Fear, anger, and risk. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(1), 146-159. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.81.1.146
  • Lerner, J.S., & Tetlock, P.E. (1999). Accounting for the effects of accountability. Psychological Bulletin, 125(2), 255-275. doi: 10.1037//0033-2909.125.2.255
  • Dorison, C.A, Wang, K., Rees, I., Kawachi, I., Ericson, K.M.M, & Lerner*, J.S. (2019). Sadness, but not all negative emotions, heightens addictive substance use. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1909888116
    • Widely published in scientific journals and cited over 34,000 times in scholarly publications alone (h index = 50).


  • University of California at Berkeley, Ph.D. and Master’s Degree
  • Honorary Master’s from Harvard University
  • National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA

Dr. Jennifer Lerner is the Thornton F. Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy, Management and Decision Science at the Harvard Kennedy School. She is the first psychologist in the history of the Harvard Kennedy School to receive tenure. Jennifer also holds appointments in Harvard’s Department of Psychology and Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences. In addition to her roles at Harvard, Jennifer has taken leave from Harvard to serve as the Navy’s first Chief Decision Scientist, reporting to the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations (2018-2019).

Drawing insights from psychology, economics, and neuroscience, her research examines human judgment and decision-making. Together with colleagues, she developed a theoretical framework that successfully predicts the effects of specific emotions on specific judgment and choice outcomes. Applied widely, the framework has been especially useful in predicting emotions effects on perceptions of risk, economic decisions, and attributions of responsibility.

Jennifer serves on a diverse set of boards, including the scientific advisory boards for two corporations in the machine learning and decision-making space, as well as the Faculty Steering Committee for Harvard’s Mind-Brain-Behavior Initiative. Previously, she served for two years on an expert panel within the National Institutes of Health, and for three years as the first behavioral scientist ever appointed to the United States Secretary of the Navy’s Advisory Panel. In this role, she provided input to the Secretary on critical matters faced by the Navy and the Marine Corps.

In 1998, Jennifer received her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California – Berkeley.  After a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA, Jennifer joined the Carnegie Mellon University faculty.  She served as Assistant Professor of Social and Decision Science, and later the Estella Loomis McCandless Associate Professor of Social and Decision Science. Jennifer joined the Harvard faculty and received tenure in 2007.