Kentaro Fujita received his A.B. summa cum laude in psychology from Harvard College in 2000, and his Ph.D. in psychology from New York University in 2006. His research interests lie in the interface between motivation, social cognition and judgment & decision-making. Much of his work attempts to understand why people so frequently fail to do what they want to do, despite having the necessary knowledge, skills, and opportunities. People frequently set goals for themselves (e.g., diet, quit smoking, save more money), yet commonly find themselves making decisions and acting in a manner contrary to these objectives. Why are people, despite great intelligence and reasoning capacity, so prone to such self-control failures?
Much of Dr. Fujita's research draws from decades of research in psychology suggesting that people do not process information veridically, but rather subjective construe events from their unique perspective (e.g., Griffin & Ross, 1991). For example, actors and observers ascribe very difference causes for the same behavior (e.g., actor-observer effect; Nisbett et al., 1973; Storms, 1977). Dr. Fujita's research focuses not on social roles, but on how the same person can subjectively construe the same event differently. People can subjectively construe the same event ("viewing a website") more abstractly (e.g., "learning about psychology") or more concretely (e.g., "reading words on a computer screen"). His research suggests that more abstract (or high-level) construals of events allow people to see better the proverbial "forest beyond the trees" and promotes greater self-control than more concrete (or low-level) construals (Fujita et al., 2006). Self-control failures may therefore reflect a failure to "see the big picture" when making decisions about how to act.
His research at present can be summarized as addressing the following questions: (1) What causes people to subjectively construe events differently? (2) What are the consequences of these subjective construals, particularly with respect to self-control decision-making and action? (3) What is it about subjective construals that lead to changes in decision-making and action? (4) What exactly is different about making decisions from high- vs. low-level construals? (5) Can people use subjective construals strategically? (6) Beyond subjective construals, what are other ways people can promote and improve their self-control?