Introducing: Yana Litovsky | PostDoc in the Project Part “Credence Goods in Finance” 


Yana Litovsky comes from a psychological and philosophical background and definitely has seen a fair bit of our planet. She was born in Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, but her family emigrated to the United States when she was 8, in 1991. This happened just as the Soviet Union was falling apart. They moved to Queens, New York, which — if the Guinness Book of World Records can be trusted — is the most “most ethnically diverse urban area on the planet,” with 138 languages spoken. In the US, she also lived in Boston (undergrad, at Brandeis University) and Pittsburgh (PhD, at Carnegie Mellon). In college, she spent a semester studying in Spain (Seville) and also spent a year and a half living in Paris for work in 2013-14.



Since I had a lot fun reading Yana’s responses to my questions, I don’t want to do any censoring and let her speak in her own words:


Yana, please tell us about your academic background.

My undergraduate degree is in psychology and philosophy. While these days my philosophizing is limited to cocktail hour, I’ve continued to study psychology — but since the beginning of my career I’ve been applying my academic training to business and financial behavior. My first job was at the Harvard Business School as a research assistant to Teresa Amabile, an organizational psychologist who studies creativity and well-being at work. My next job was at the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, where I coordinated an annual study of entrepreneurial behavior and decision making (and got to do a lot of very fun traveling, from Malaysia to Uganda to Argentina). While I was working, I completed a master’s in psychology. Then I started my Phd in behavioral decision research at Carnegie Mellon University.


Was there a particular experience that drove you into studying human decision-making?

I don’t think it’s random that I study how people make choices. I was born into a society where choice — from the food we could eat to the books we could read — was absurdly limited. In the Soviet Union, what resources people had were valued in direct proportion to their scarcity. When I moved to the United States, I saw the opposite reality: People had an embarrassment of choice but were not always happier for it. I think my desire to understand such (apparent) contradictions have inspired my interests. 


What are the major research questions you are interested in?

My research is broadly focused on understanding how we value and make decisions about two of our most precious resources: time and information. My interest in information extends to the study of curiosity and the psychology of news consumption. I have also done research on authenticity, charitable giving and moral decision making. I think all of these topics feed into the study of credence goods in ways that I look forward to discussing over the next four years!


What are your hobbies?

I like saunas and I like visiting cold places and I especially like combining these things, something that I hope to do in the Alps! I also love film, although between the pandemic and having a baby last year, it now takes me about a week to get through a single movie. :) 


Do you bring someone else with you to live in Innsbruck? Anything counts – from guinea pigs to husbands.

I am bringing my husband Steve and our 1-year-old son, Max, who I hope will learn German very quickly and become the official family translator.


When are you officially starting your contract in Innsbruck? Will you already be living here by that time?

The current plan is to start in June remotely and to arrive in Innsbruck in early July.


Anything else you would like to say?

My husband and I neither ski nor speak German so I feel we are in for a bit of culture shock but I think moving to Innsbruck is exactly the kind of adventure our family needs after a year of lockdown. I’m excited to meet everyone! 



Word rap

Innsbruck - I heard you have Strudel.

Experiments - Or, the art of asking funny questions with a straight face. 

Economics - A lot harder than psychology!

Biggest societal problem? - I’m tempted to say sweatpants. But it’s probably climate change.

Wiener Schnitzel or Couscous? - Don’t ask me to choose between two things I love.

Snowy mountains or sandy beaches? - Snow please.

Skiing, cycling, shopping or couch surfing? - Why not combine all these activities into a new Olympic event — the Consumathon! But really, probably just walking and drinking wine (ideally not at the same time).


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