I am an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the A.B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane University
I received my Ph.D. in social psychology from Cornell, and my work broadly falls within the judgment and decision making tradition, but is most heavily focused on judgment. Within that field, my work falls into three broad categories. My most active research area right now is work on moral judgment, including work on moral outrage following service failures, perceptions of virtue and vice, and perceptions of fairness. Second, I have several projects related to a specific type of judgments -- forecasts. This includes forecasting one’s own future performance (Critcher & Rosenzweig, 2014; Rosenzweig & Critcher, 2014), as well as forecasting other people’s consumption preferences. Finally, I have work that is related to judgments about the self. This includes research on self-knowledge and meta-knowledge: how we know what we know, and how aware we are of our own mental processes (Atir, Rosenzweig, & Dunning, 2015; Rosenzweig, 2016).
I came to Cornell’s social psychology program because of its strength in judgment and decision making. While here, my research interests have moved in the direction of understanding judgment and decision making in a consumer behavior context, which is the reason I have decided to pursue an academic career in marketing. That said, my range of research interests remains quite broad. My work currently includes a variety of projects focused on consumer satisfaction and consumer decision making more broadly, research on the classic judgment and decision making topic anchoring and adjustment, and a line of work on implicit social identity.Consumer Behavior
My consumer behavior research is focused on understanding the determinants of purchasing satisfaction. Previous research has established that experiential purchases tend to yield greater enduring satisfaction than material purchases. My research suggests that this difference in satisfaction is paralleled by a tendency for material and experiential purchases to differ in the types of regrets they generate. I find that people’s material purchase decisions are more likely to generate regrets of action (buyers’ remorse) and their experiential purchase decisions are more likely to lead to regrets of inaction (missed opportunities). These results were not attributable to differences in the desirability of or satisfaction provided by the two purchase types. Demonstrating the robustness of this effect, I found that focusing participants on the material versus experiential properties of the very same purchase was enough to shift its dominant type of regret. This pattern of regret is driven by the tendency for experiences to be seen as more singular—less interchangeable—than material purchases; interchangeable goods tend to yield regrets of action, whereas singular goods tend to yield regrets of inaction.
I am now extending this research in several ways. Existing literature has found a variety of factors that mediate the difference in satisfaction between experiential and material purchases. These include the interchangeability of the purchase (described above), its perceived closeness to the self, its likelihood of prompting comparison with other goods in its class, and the likelihood that the purchaser will tell other people about the purchase. Another hypothesized but untested mediator involves the sociality of the purchase, as experiential goods are often consumed in the company of others, while material goods are more often used alone. I am currently running studies designed to assess which of these factors explains the most variance in experiential / material purchase satisfaction.
In addition, I am interested in how we can both extract more pleasure from material purchases, and in understanding may diminish our enjoyment of experiential ones. Addressing the former, I am investigating whether framing a material good in experiential terms at the time of purchase can influence long term purchase satisfaction. With reference to the latter, research suggests that one reason experiential goods bring more satisfaction than material ones is that they prompt less comparison with alternative purchases. I am currently testing whether reading product reviews of experiential purchases – of the type that people might find on Yelp or TripAdvisor – may diminish enjoyment of an experience by inducing the type of comparative mindset typically associated with material goods.
Considering consumer decision making more broadly, I am at the beginning of a project looking at how construal level may influence willingness to participate in automatic savings plans. Research suggests that Construal Level Theory suggests that high-level construal –abstract thinking often prompted by temporal, spatial, or social distance – can lead individuals to focus on superordinate values rather than the more local features of a judgment or decision. My collaborators and I are testing whether high-level construal can prompt individuals to be more open to automatic savings plans, by leading them to focus on the long-term benefits of savings rather than the short-term costs. Preliminary results suggest that the effects of construal on attitudes towards automatic savings may differ by participant income level. Our hope is to ultimately partner with a local credit union to field test a construal intervention designed to increase savings rates.Anchoring and Adjustment
I have a longstanding interest in the heuristics and biases tradition within judgment and decision making, and have several projects related to anchoring and adjustment. The first, in collaboration with Clayton Critcher at the Haas School of Business, investigates how incidental numbers or values in the environment shape adjustment. While a great deal of research has considered the factors that influence anchoring, very little has investigated what prompts greater or lesser adjustment away from an anchor value. Our work suggests that incidental values in the environment at the time of judgment – such as axes on stock market graphs – can influence the amount that people adjust away from an anchor. We call these values ‘attractors’ and find that attractors appear to influence adjustment because they change one’s interpretation of the magnitude of adjustment.
Moving in a more applied direction, Nick Epley, Tom Gilovich and I demonstrate that anchoring and adjustment processes appear to be at work in situations where people make judgments, whether explicitly or implicity, based on best-case and worst-case scenarios. For example, our research suggests that the planning fallacy may in part be explained by the fact that people anchor on the best case scenario for project completion and insufficiently adjust from there. Manipulations shown to increase adjustment in other contexts – such as head shaking (contrasted with head nodding) and financial incentives – also reducing the planning fallacy for students predicting their future project completion times, and increase the accuracy of judgments related to the number of deaths due to catastrophic events.Social Identity
While social identity is a foundational topic in social psychology, almost all identity research has been based on self-reported measures – responses to statements such as “being a member of this group is an important part of who I am.” Melissa Ferguson and I are bringing social cognitive research methods typically used to study implicit attitudes to the study of implicit social identity – the rapid, automatic, and often unconscious associations people have between themselves and social groups they belong to. My first project in this line of research considers how people respond when confronted with the fact that a social group they belong to is culturally devalued or disadvantageous? Existing literature is equivocal; some research finds that group threat leads individuals to distance themselves from their threatened identity while other research suggests threat prompts increased commitment to the group. However all of this research has been conducted with explicit self-report measures of identification; we were confident that measuring social identification at an implicit rather than explicit level had the potential to shed new light on this question. In three studies we demonstrate that threats to the value of an ingroup prompt increases in implicit identification with that group, independent of any changes in explicit identification. Critically, these implicit shifts are threat-specific; participants only increased their implicit identification with the threatened group, not with another unthreatened social identity. We hypothesize that these automatic shifts in group identification are driven by potentially functional underlying processes; group membership provides vital social capital, and as a result people’s automatic implicit response to group threat is likely to be one which increases group affiliation in service of group defense.
We are currently running a study examining the behavioral effects of implicit political identity, testing whether implicit political identification will predict behaviors such as financial donations to the party and intention to volunteer for political campaigns. We also have some initial evidence from our lab suggesting that implicit identity may have implications for legal judgments. We presented female participants with legal scenarios in which a woman was the victim of sexual harassment or a man was the victim of sexual harassment. Implicit gender identity predicts judgments of guilt when women are the victim, and does so independent of the degree to which participants explicitly indicate they can relate to / identify with the victim.
While to date my social identity research has examined foundational identities such as gender and race, it has clear potential applications in a marketing context. Identity is clearly a powerful force in consumer behavior; we can see this reflected in the identity-driven “I’m a MAC” / “I’m a PC” ads, and in sports fans who purchase apparel to communicate their group affiliation. I feel confident that applying social cognitive methods to the study of consumer identity – and potentially even studying identity threat in a consumer context – will lead to new insights.
In addition to experience teaching Cornell undergraduates, I have had the opportunity to teach several unique populations: I taught a semester-long introduction to social psychology course to prison guards and staff, and another semester-long introduction to social psychology course to inmates at a maximum security prison. This fall I will be teaching marketing fundamentals to undergraduates at Tulane. As part of my career prior to graduate school, I offered seminars on research methodology to school principals pursuing their Ph.D.’s in educational administration. Thus I enjoy and have experience teaching a wide range of audiences, and take pride in tailoring both my presentation style and my material to meet the needs of my students. As part of teaching any class, I have several key objectives that guide my approach:Objective 1: Make it relevant and engaging
My first goal is to ensure that I communicate how the material I’m teaching is engaging and directly relevant to my students. This can take many forms, from carefully selecting the examples I use to illustrate concepts, to using in-class exercises to draw students in, to ensuring that assignments prompt students to apply what they learn to their own lives. For example, the freshman seminar I taught focused on the psychology of happiness and well being. I created an exercise in which students predicted, reported, and recalled their happiness during fall break. Examining the differences between their three reports was eye opening for students, and made the research we read on that topic much more meaningful to them. In addition, I try to maintain a learning environment in which we always return to the big picture. This means that when I present experimental data, I work to make sure students aren’t lost in the minutiae of a particular study, and instead encourage them to keep in mind why a particular series of experiments were run. Focusing on the ‘why’ goes a long way towards maintaining student engagement.Objective 2: Let students know where they’re going and how it relates to where they’ve been
While serving as a teaching assistant, I saw how big a difference it made when professors framed their lectures within the broader narrative of their course. As a result, I strive to scaffold both individual lessons and broader course sections for students, providing them with an understanding of how each piece fits with the whole. My lectures are introduced in relationship to the material we have already covered, and my courses are structured into broader units in order to further highlight these connections. I start each lesson by presenting learning objectives, so that students understand what we’ll cover and what they should be able to know and do by the end of the lecture. I then return to these learning objectives at the end of the lecture to recap what we’ve done and provide an opportunity for student self-assessment and additional questions.Objective 3: Ensure students are able to apply what they learn
One of the best markers of whether students understand the material I cover is whether they can apply the principles they have learned to new contexts. I recently taught a semester-long social psychology course to prison guards, which was full of opportunities to encourage this in my students. For example, during a lecture on compliance, students mentioned that there had recently been a contentious union vote, with different correctional facilities diverging in whether the majority had voted to approve a new contract. I used this as an opportunity to have students analyze how the factors that shape compliance may have differed across facilities; my students lit up with the recognition that how the vote was recorded – open roll-call in some facilities and secret ballot in others – had shaped its outcome. Their final paper assignment asked them to analyze a situation they had encountered at work using the social psychological principles we had learned in class. One student presented an analysis of the factors that sparked a prison riot at her facility. Another student analyzed how self-serving biases shaped the relationship between the academic and vocational teaching staff at the prison. A third talked about how benevolent and hostile sexism shaped her treatment as a female prison guard. Knowing my students are able to see their workplace through the lens of the material I taught them is deeply gratifying.Objective 4: Promote critical thinking
Finally, my goal is to encourage students to approach new material as active learners rather than passive consumers of knowledge. To this end, I try to communicate that the information presented in any course is not a static set of facts, but instead reflects an ongoing process of research and discovery. This includes presenting information in the broader context of what prompted lines of research, and communicating both what is contested in the academic literature and where open questions remain.Mentoring
While a graduate student, I have had the opportunity to recruit, train, and supervise more than a dozen undergraduate research assistants, and have acted as an informal advisor to a senior completing her thesis project. It has been a rewarding experience, and one that has taught me how to communicate the goals and intricacies of research at both basic and more advanced levels. In guiding a senior thesis project, I have been able to help a student generate their own research questions, combining her interest in the law with my own research on identity. This is a set of experiences I feel will translate well to engaging students in consumer behavior research.Teaching Interests
Naturally, given my interest in consumer behavior, I would enjoy teaching that class. In addition, I feel strongly that understanding research methods is essential to being both a critical consumer of research and a successful creator of it. As a result, I would love the opportunity to teach marketing research methods. However I’m open to teaching whatever the department needs, and feel confident that my basic comfort in front of a class will translate across a variety of subject areas.Teaching Evaluations
Please email me if you'd like copies of my teaching evaluations.