Welcome to my first post, I hope to nudge you to stick around!

Hello and thank you for visiting my web page. This is my first post!

I first wanted to introduce myself. My name is Gavin Levinson. I am a senior at Durham Academy and I’m thrilled to be participating in DA’s Independent Study Program!

In this post, I wanted to offer some information about my project as a whole, my goals, and plans, and also talk about some of the cool things I learned in my first week of research.

As a guitarist as well as someone who has always loved music in general I have always felt like music is a universal language. Music can connect us with people who look different, speak a different language, or live in a distant location. Music also evokes our senses and has the ability to affect one’s behavior subconsciously; this is the area I am interested in studying. This year, I have had the incredible opportunity to intern with Duke professor Gavan Fitzsimons who works at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and specializes in Business psychology (also known as Behavioral Economics). The study of Behavioral Economics is so groundbreaking and intriguing to me because it bridges economics with psychology and statistics and studies humans’ irrational decision making which is oftentimes overlooked in regular Economics classes. Behavioral Economists, like Dr. Fitzsimons, try to find relationships between diverse variables and their effect on the habits of consumers through experiments and correlational studies. With my research, I want to specialize in Music. My goal is to uncover the ways that music can prompt consumers to make certain decisions like buying a product, attending an event, or even getting vaccinated. At Duke, I have had the opportunity to attend weekly meetings with Dr. Fitzsimons’ Ph.D. students and learn how to outline a real experiment, collect data, and analyze that data into information that companies can use to benefit themselves. Through my internship, enrollment in classes like AP Psychology and AP Statistics at DA, and advisory team in Mrs. Frasher, Mr. Biersach, Mrs. Bessias, and Dr. Fitzsimons, I feel confident that I will be able to effectively research the field of Behavioral Economics and conduct my own studies on the ways music can be utilized to nudge people to behave a desired way. I hope to conduct a wide variety of experiments and, with the help of my advisors, analyze my findings and format them into something that a company could hypothetically use. I also plan on teaching my peers about the ways that companies use Behavioral Economics to influence human subconscious behavior in an effort to make my community more informed consumers.

For my first week of research, I began by listening to an NPR podcast that talked with Richard Thaler, who is considered the father of Behavioral Economics. In the podcast, Thaler talks about something he calls a “nudge”, which is where economists try to “influence people’s behavior without requiring anybody to do it.” Thaler gives the example of an experiment involving a urinal that he conducted. In the experiment, Thaler put a sticker of a fly on a urinal and noticed that the amount of urine on the floor decreased significantly when people had something to aim for. This got me thinking about the ways I could attempt to nudge someone with music in other areas of life. To continue to learn more I have begun reading Richard Thaler’s most famous work and what is oftentimes considered to be the introduction to learning Behavioral Economics which is his book called Misbehaving. I plan on continuing to read this book for the next 2 or so weeks to get a better understanding of the discipline in general and after finishing I hope to dive deeper into the specifics of music and hopefully conduct some small experiments along the way.

Thank you for reading my first blog post. I look forward to going on this adventure to learn more about something I find fascinating and hopefully contributing to the field in a small way as well. I hope you’ll join me!

Professor Gavan Fitzsimons