2024 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Rahul Bhui, MIT Sloan School of Management

Rahul Bhui
MIT Sloan School of Management

“Prof. Bhui’s teaching combines cognitive science, computational neuroscience, and behavioral economics to help students understand the deep unifying principles that capture both human rationality and irrationality, and its impact on various economic sectors and societal issues. He is affiliated with the MIT Sloan Marketing Group, which is engaged in award-winning research projects that cross disciplinary lines and explore new concepts, ideas, and methods.”MIT Sloan nomination

Rahul Bhui, 34, is an Assistant Professor of Marketing and the Class of 1958 Career Development Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. He is faculty affiliate of the MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society.

His research combines cognitive science, computational neuroscience, and behavioral economics to reveal the deep unifying principles that capture both rationality and irrationality. His work has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Management Science, Nature Communications, Psychological Review, and Psychological Science, and featured in media outlets such as USA Today, the LA Times, and Scientific American.

He was named a Rising Star by the Association for Psychological Science (APS) in 2022, and he is a recipient of a $450,000 research grant from the Office of Naval Research.

Prior to joining the faculty at MIT, Rahul was Mind Brain Behavior Postdoctoral Fellow in the Departments of Psychology and Economics at Harvard University. He holds a BA (Honours) in economics from the University of British Columbia, as well as an MS in behavioral and social neuroscience and a PhD in computation and neural systems from Caltech.


At current institution since what year? 2020

Postdoc, Psychology and Economics, Harvard University
PhD, Computation and Neural Systems, Caltech
MS, Behavioral and Social Neuroscience, Caltech
BA Honors, Economics, University of British Columbia

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Marketing Innovation


I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… While spending the early to mid-2010s in California for grad school, the excitement of the startup atmosphere was impossible to miss. I spent a little time working in data science, and helped to create Caltech’s first course in business analytics while serving as a teaching assistant. I had been interested in the world of business since childhood, but I didn’t properly hope to join a business school until there was a specific prospect in sight.

What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My goal is to unravel a paradox of human nature: how can we be so smart and so stupid at the same time? Yes, this is a serious question.

There are two views of human nature. One focuses on the mistakes we make, the flaws in our judgment, our countless imperfections; another focuses on the complex problems that, nevertheless, we manage to successfully solve every day. How can we reconcile these perspectives, and what does that unified understanding mean for business and policy? I take a computational cognitive approach, which means investigating the mental algorithms we use to make decisions. This can be quite widely applicable, and my research to date has touched on marketing, psychology, economics, computer science, neuroscience, anthropology, biology, finance, and political science.

My colleagues and I have researched topics like why we feel disappointed when things fall short of our expectations (it’s a result of our brains processing information as cost-effectively as possible) or how consumers pick from hundreds of restaurants when ordering food online (they rely on efficient strategies for exploration similar to machine learning algorithms). Most recently, we’ve been studying why people are so susceptible to misinformation (our seemingly naïve intuitions may actually be well-adapted to our media environment).

If I weren’t a business school professor… sometimes I used to daydream about leading a simple, worry-free life by becoming a Buddhist monk. But I’m sure it wouldn’t be nearly that easy!

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? The breadth of my background lets me draw on many different perspectives. I’m at home with both the firmer, quantitative, computational side and the fuzzier, qualitative, psychological side. I try hard to get my students to be both Poet and Quant at the same time.

One word that describes my first time teaching: Isolated. Because of the pandemic, teaching was virtual. I wasn’t even allowed in any buildings for my entire first year.

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: It’s a fantastic job, where you can mix and match all kinds of ideas and consider what they mean in tangible scenarios that people care about. With open-minded colleagues, it is delightful!

Professor I most admire and why: I’ve been fortunate to have several amazing mentors through my academic life – in particular, Joe Henrich, Colin Camerer, Sam Gershman, and Andrei Shleifer. What I admire about all of them is their willingness to challenge the traditional boundaries between ways of looking at the world. They are uniquely interdisciplinary.


What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? The most fun I have in class is when hearing about students’ experiences. Every year I get to tell students about their predecessors’ stories, and to add new ones for the next time around. It’s a special treat when we get a “behind-the-scenes” look at a product we’ve all used or a show we’ve all watched.

It’s also satisfying to see their effort, research, and inspiration throughout the term culminate in their class projects.

What is most challenging? The feeling that I need to have the answer to every possible question that could be asked. But really, the students make the class. If there are 50 students, each with a few years of experience, that means the class as a whole has hundreds of years to draw from. No one person will beat that.

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Fun-loving

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Grumpy

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as…Considerate. In general, I tend to interpret what people do in a positive light!


What are your hobbies? I enjoy reading both fiction and non-fiction. I’ve embraced hiking, at least in the summer (I’m definitely solar-powered)!

My lapsed hobbies include playing the drums, ultimate frisbee, and juggling (at my peak, I could juggle five pins).

How will you spend your summer? I’ll spend much of it around Europe, largely for research visits, followed by some time visiting my family in Canada.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Most recently, I loved visiting South Tyrol, a province in Italy where most people speak German. It was beautiful, with scenic hikes, apple orchards, and mountains rising up on all sides.

Favorite book(s): Exhalation by Ted Chiang. It’s a compilation of scifi short stories, all incredible. Imagine the world with one fundamental difference – how might that single change percolate into every aspect of life? Repeat this masterfully a handful of times, staple it together, and you get Exhalation.

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? Interstellar, for its poignancy and its hope.

Also, Iron Man and the Avengers movies – they’re just fun!

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? When I’m in an energetic mood, I like listening to Jungle, Vulfpeck, and Greta Van Fleet. In more reflective times, I’m a fan of Boards of Canada, Zero 7, and Air. They’ve created ethereal songs that can make me feel nostalgic about experiences I’ve never had.


If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… opportunities to practice making big decisions with incomplete information.

In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… acknowledging and accounting for their impact on the short-term and long-term social good. It can be too easy to focus on profit at all costs.

I’m grateful for… my life and all those who give it meaning.


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