Q+A with Wendy De La Rosa, Behavioral Researcher + Passionate Adventurer

We first met Ms. Wendy De La Rosa through our first Featured Muse, Abby Bouchon. These two women share something fascinating: they are both fearless in their pursuit of new experiences and ideas. As a behavioral researcher, Wendy is in a unique position to analyze and understand the way that humans make decisions. This analytical approach to the human experience combined with an enthusiasm for adventure sketch a picture of a uniquely reasoned risk-taker, a woman who takes smart chances and explores actively and intelligently. We’re so excited to introduce the creative and compelling Wendy De La Rosa!

The Basics

  • Age: 25
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Education: B.S. in Economics from Wharton, The University of Pennsylvania
  • Field of Interest?  I am a behavioral researcher with Irrational Labs.  Irrational Labs was founded by famed behavioral economist Dan Ariley to help companies and non-profits think about how they are influencing behavior.  I think about how and why people make decisions and then help companies like Google run and implement experiments rooted in academic research.  Typical questions can be anything from “How can we get someone to finish our sign up flow?” to “How do we best craft our message for a new product?”
  • What’s Your Favorite Thing About Yourself?  I love that I am not afraid of trying different things! I inherited the trait from my fearless mother.  She encouraged me to always try new things because “life is not meant to be boring endeavor.”  As a result, I went to Antartica to study the effects of global warming on marine wildlife, I swing dance regularly, I love country music, I quit a job in private equity to learn more about how we can influence human behavior, and I was in a shooting club!  The list goes on and on.  Not your average 5’1” Dominican girl from Bronx, NY – not that there is one.


Questions + Answers

What’s the current soundtrack to your life? These could be songs you listen to on your commute, in the office, at home, or wherever.

My playlist is such a hodge-podge. So let’s see… I’m just going to look at my recent activity on my Play Music from my morning routine today:

  1. From the Inside Out” by Hillsong UNITED
  2. I Want A Love I Can See” by The Temptations
  3. Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” by The Temptations
  4. Jealous” by Nick Jonas
  5. Blank Space” by Taylor Swift
  6. Dutty Love” by Don Omar
  7. Propuesta Indecente” by Romeo Santos
  8. Furthest Thing” by Drake
  9. Your Man” by Josh Turner

So in 30 minutes, I listened to gospel, Motown, pop, country, rap, bachata, and reggaeton.


You work in an industry that blends science, strategy and marketing. How did you get involved in behavioral research?

I was always interested in the field, even as a undergrad.  At Penn, I was a research assistant for Dr. Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take.  It was under his guidance that I fell in love with psychology and human decision making.

After graduation, I went on to join the private equity group at Goldman.  There, I was always interested in talking to management teams about how they were making their marketing decisions.  How did they decide on their pricing? How are they converting their users?  Unfortunately, many of the companies relied more on a manager’s gut instinct than on academic research.  I was that annoying person that asked “How do you know? Why are you making that assumption?”


After a while, I contacted Adam and told him I was ready to make a career switch.  I became a researcher at Penn. Then, I met Dr. Dan Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational, and have been working with him ever since.  I’ve come full circle, making my college interest my career.

Have you found that you apply behavioral theory to your life outside of work? Is there any advice you’d give to others based on your research?

Yes – as my boyfriend very well knows! A couple of interventions that I make for myself:

  • Dr. Michael Norton and others have proven that we increase our happiness when we buy experiences (not things).  Thus, most of my purchases are experiences (dinners, trips, etc.).  When I give a gift, I always opt to give an experience rather than a material gift.  My website of choice is cloud9living.com.
  • I have a lot of checking accounts to help me keep me budget.  When we have all of our money in one lump sum, it’s hard to properly budget.  UBERs and Lyfts are my weakness, so I have a specific checking account that is tied to my UBER / Lyfts account.  Each month there is a set amount and it helps me to limit my UBERs. (However, it’s still not perfect – I am writing this in an UBER from SF to Mountain  View, but it’s better than before.)  I essentially have a checking account for every major expense, rent, health insurance, donations, and shopping.  Because there is a pre-set amount each month, it helps me budget each time.
  • I also understand that doing anything, no matter how small, is a barrier. In a sign up flow, adding one more field is likely to decrease conversions.  So in my life, I try to reduce friction for the things that I want to do.  I work out at a barre studio where I don’t have to carry sneakers.  I can just pack shorts.


San Fransisco is a really vibrant and colorful city. Do you find that the energy of your physical environment influences your mental environment?

Since moving to San Francisco, I’ve become more attuned and open to spending time outside! When I was in NYC, I never sat outside and people-watched.  I never went hiking.  I never had a desire to go camping.  Now, spending time outside is something I crave.  Being outside helps me!


Disclaimer: As a researcher, it’s hard for me to attribute that to San Francisco, as there could have been other factors that led to my change in mindset (aging, my relationship, etc.), but my hypothesis is that the environment was responsible for a large part.


Who inspires you?

  • Caroline Klatt: Caroline is such an inspiring woman.  She is the founder of an awesome company that helps voters get connected with their elected representatives.
  • Roxana Moussavian: Roxi is such an influential powerhouse at the White House.  Her job is amazing.  Ask her about it!
  • Natalie Vernon: Natalie is getting her law degree.  Before that, she ran her mothers’ election campaign in Iowa and was a rockstar at Google.  I would not be surprised if 20 years from now, Natalie is president.
+ Loved hearing about Wendy and her approach to life? Know anyone who is also doing fantastic research? Tell us about them (or you)!

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