By Sid Sastri, Class of 2019
Professor Geni Ustroll (pronounced jeeni-yus-troll), a renowned professor of Reverse Psychology at Chicago Booth received the Nobel Prize in March for his peerless research in the field of reverse psychology. This award represents the first Nobel prize in reverse psychology, and the 91st award to an individual associated with the University of Chicago. What makes this award especially surprising though is the past comments made by Professor Ustroll. Professor Ustroll has historically been disparaging about the field of reverse psychology, and in recent interviews claimed that no academic in the field would ever be worthy of a Nobel Prize. This therefore represents a coup that is unexpected, but Professor Ustroll’s humility must be commended.
A brief biography of Prof. Ustroll:
Professor Ustroll was an early prodigy, and earmarked for greatness from a young age. His first encounter with reverse psychology took place as a toddler in Chicago, when his tears over receiving sweet treats resulted in him getting a second dessert. During school, he stood out for both his intelligence and his humility – he was consistently at the top of the class, despite telling teachers that he believed he deserved to be flunking.
He joined Northwestern as an undergraduate student at the age of 15, two weeks after publishing an article stating that despite his intelligence, he lacked a certain maturity and would not be ready to leave high school until he turned 21. At Northwestern, he furthered his passion for Reverse Psychology and also discovered an affinity for education. However, his humility and self-doubt seemed to remain - his senior honors thesis was titled “The necessity of a PhD to be a good professor”. Despite his own misgivings, a number of close-to-top tier academic institutions actively wooed Professor Ustroll, and six months later he joined HBS as their inaugural professor of Reverse Psychology.
Professor Ustroll spent five years at HBS. He eventually realized, however, that the case-based method wasn’t ideal for the field of reverse psychology, and in 2016 accepted a tenured position at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business (he later confessed that the academic rigor at HBS was another key determinant for his return to Chicago). Amongst his initial actions at Booth were demands for funding cuts and a smaller office.
At Booth, he was also able to take his research to the next level and collaborate with Booth’s renowned faculty in other fields. The influence of classical economics left a lasting impression on him. The paper widely credited with his win is titled "The inherent uselessness of reverse psychology and mind games". The key message borrows heavily from the economic principles of revealed preferences and rational market participants: As rational beings, people know what they seek and are unlikely to be swayed by other people's opinions and ensuing mind games. As a result, reverse psychology as a field isn't rooted in any theory or science, and therefore no practitioner of reverse psychology could be a valid recipient of a Nobel prize. In his personal acknowledgment, he mentions that he is considering switching careers to something with more societal value, such as heading the Flat Earth movement, or being Rebecca Black’s backup singer.
We had the chance to interview Professor Ustroll after he received the news on March 15th. Humble as always, he spoke about how the Nobel Prize for Reverse Psychology was significantly less prestigious than in other fields, and that he did not deserve to share the same air as luminaries such as Professors Fama, Thaler, etc. As the ChiBus team was exiting his office, he received a phone call from the U.S. News journalist responsible for B-school rankings for 2018. We were able to hear a snippet of Professor Ustroll’s statement: “Booth’s amazing, but it doesn’t deserve to be #1 just yet.”. On March 20th, the new rankings were released…