As fall turns to winter, Black Friday, time with relatives, New Year’s resolutions, layoffs and a very real energy crisis are the topics on our minds. UCLA has experts in the following subject areas.

New Year’s resolutions

Pamela Hieronymi
Hieronymi is professor of philosophy. Her research focuses on the intersection of ethics, philosophy of action and philosophy of mind, with an emphasis on the control we have over our own states of mind. She teaches and writes about the philosophical problem of free will and moral responsibility, as well as “moral psychology” topics like blame and forgiveness.


“New Year’s resolutions are tricky. We make resolutions only when changes are difficult, and many mistakenly approach their resolutions as though they only need to “try harder” — as though we each have, deep inside us, some limitless power that we should be able to conjure up with “willpower” or “focus.” Resolve doesn’t work that like. Resolve requires caring, skills and habits, none of which are generated simply by a decision to try harder, no matter how heartfelt. Sometimes “trying harder” works — it works when you were very nearly there, you just needed to try harder! When it doesn’t work, that doesn’t reflect any deep personal deficiency in your inner powers.”

Holidays and kindness

Daniel Fessler
Fessler is a professor of anthropology and director of the UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute. He investigates how universal features of the human mind influence altruism and social conflict. His research has demonstrated that when people witness kind and altruistic acts, the uplifting emotional experience motivates them to act similarly.


“In many religious traditions and in the secular cultures they influence, there is a norm to increase kindness around important holidays. Pausing to reflect on this can make it clear that the extent to which one practices kindness is both a choice and a habit. We can actively choose to be altruistic, forgiving and understanding. At the same time, the more we practice a pattern of behavior, the easier it is to act that way fairly automatically when the stakes are low — offering a kind word to a grocery clerk or help to a fellow traveler. It is when the stakes are raised and emotions run hot that habit fails and conscious choice becomes essential. Whether the issue is the last parking spot before the store closes, political differences over Thanksgiving dinner or some much more consequential concern, it behooves us all to remember that if we can decide to be especially kind at particular times of the year, then we can decide to be kind when our initial inclination is to do the opposite.”

Time = happiness

Cassie Mogilner Holmes
Holmes is a professor of marketing and behavioral decision making at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management and author of
“Happier Hour: How to Beat Distraction, Expand Your Time, and Focus on What Matters Most.” Holmes studies happiness and how a better use of time can lead to a more fulfilling life.


“Despite being in a constant hurry, with too little time, our research shows that happiness doesn’t come from having more time. Rather, it comes from investing the time we have with greater intention and attention, and through cultivating genuine connection. Simple, empirically based strategies can help guide us to make our holidays happier, give better gifts, find joy amid even the busiest of weeks and look back without regrets.”  

Disagreements with relatives

David Myers
Myers is a professor of Jewish history and director of the newly founded
UCLA Initiative to Study Hate. He also serves as the director of the Luskin Center for History and Policy at UCLA.


“As we move into the holiday season, it’s likely that we’ll encounter people around the table with whom we disagree. I always have to remind myself, especially in this age of hyper-vilification, that disagreement is not a mark of irredeemable difference or evil. Enshrining difference as a matter of permanence can lead very quickly to toxic hate. We should try to avoid it.”

Heat and the global energy crisis

William Boyd
Boyd is an environmental law professor at UCLA School of Law and the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. He is also faculty co-director of the law school’s Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.


“It’s going to be a rough winter in Europe and a rough winter for much of the U.S. There will be real issues with cooking and heating related to energy security, poverty and equity.”

Retail jobs and peak season

Chris Tilly
Tilly is professor and chair of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The co-author of “Where Bad Jobs Are Better,” he researches and writes about low-wage work and strategies to improve it. Tilly is undertaking a broad study of how technological change and the COVID-19 pandemic have affected and continue to affect retail jobs. He also has conducted research for years on informal workers such as domestic workers and day laborers.


“As we head into retail’s peak season, it is important to understand that while automation is eliminating jobs in retail and similar industries, that is only part of the story. E-commerce also adds jobs, including order-pickers who work in stores. Technology’s biggest effects are on the nature of retail jobs, not the number.”