Quotes, Tweets & Tidbits from the ACR 2013 Doctoral Consortium

Over the next few weeks, we will be rolling out full coverage of the ACR 2013 Doctoral Consortium which will will include full slides from presenters and topical summaries. However, we wanted to provide a few great lines either as direct quotes or paraphrases from the Doctoral Consortium. These are the ideas we found that most people were buzzing about.

The Short and Sweet Slides from the Kathleen Vohs Talk

Kathleen Vohs gave straightforward advice. Rather than give the “mile high” view (which she did a little bit) she got straight to business on what little specific things lead to success. Click here for the link to her slides. Lots of great information that will take you very little time to read.

Top Indecision Blog Tweets from Consortium

A few more that didn’t make twitter … 

@nomlogic – (paraphrased) There’s a difference between “taste” and “value” feedback. When you represent ideas to people you get “taste” feedback most often. “Taste” feedback is based on whether they like it or it fits with their preferences rather than “value” feedback which is about whether the idea is fundamentally flawed.

Amna Kirmani – “Is that a good idea, I don’t know but it will get published,” talking about how A) sometimes you don’t know whether something is good until down the line and B) some unimportant things get published.
Amna Kirmani – talked abut how important it is to make your audience guess to see what will happen and make them realize that the findings are not immediately obvious. Everything looks obvious in hindsight.
Kathleen Vohs – “I like to collect methods.” She does so by reading broadly and often.
Consumer Culture Theory Panel – Talked about getting videos into JCR and communicating through graphic novels, art, and poems.
N.B. Blogged and edited semi-live so mistakes and typos may have slipped in! 

4 ACR Sessions to Get Excited About

ImageThere’s a plethora of things to get excited about at this ACR, but here’s a few to prime your appetite for consumer science.

We asked the chairs to write about their session and explain not only the research but let us know why we should be excited and why it’s important.

If you would like to be featured as a “Session to Get Excited About” at a future conference, email us a description of your session following the examples below. (indecisionblogging@gmail.com )

 #1 Social Goals and Word of Mouth


Chair: Hillary Wiener

Details: 11am, Friday, Salon 12

Amazon reviews of everything, angry tweets seen by thousands of people, and viral ads. What do all of these things have in common?

They are all examples what marketers call “word-of-mouth,” or conversations that consumers have about products or experiences with companies.

Word-of-mouth has always been known as a powerful advertising method, but we know surprisingly little about what drives word-of-mouth and what consumers are trying to achieve by talking about products or experiences.

The first paper in this session introduces a framework for understanding word of mouth, after which three other papers show that consumers can fulfill important social goals–the need to make friends, the need to appear competent, and the need to be happy–by having conversations about products and experiences

#2 Beyond Reciprocity: Examining the Interplay Between Money & Relationships

Chairs: Avni Shah & Kathleen Vohs

Details: 3:30pm, Friday, Salon 3

If one could wish for two gifts that would substantially improve life, having money and strong close relationships would be ideal candidates.  Money and relationships, while being able to improve life’s outcomes, do so by dramatically different routes and mechanisms—and yet have significant overlap as well.  This session peers into the consequences that money and close relationships have for one another –and in doing so reveals some thought-provoking patterns for scientific understanding and consumer welfare.

This session features cutting-edge research in the psychology of money and relationships, and seeks to answer two important questions: 1) How can individuals’ close relationships influence their perceptions of and decision-making with money? 2) Conversely, how can decisions about money influence the behavior and perceptions within relationships?  This session explores two fundamental areas of research in consumer research and seeks to understand the theoretical and practical implications to aid consumer well-being.

#3 Consumers’ Prosocial Motives & Decision-Making

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Chairs: Leif  Nelson and Minah Jung

Details: 8am, Friday, Salon 3

Putting this session together, I learned about what matters to people psychologically in doing something good for society and unrelated people.

The first paper by Yoeli et al. shows that social forces can be more effective than a monetary incentive in stimulating energy-conservation behavior. The second paper featuring my research, looked at how people responded to an opportunity to be generous in a transaction setting in which customers can pay any price they want and a portion of their payment goes to charity. We found that people were much less likely to engage in a pay-what-you-want transaction when any portion, large or small, went to charity. Potential customers simply opted out of the transaction.

In the third paper, Inbar et al. found that people were nice and generous often because they prefer being fair and like to balance out what they did not earn by giving it back to the world at large. The fourth paper by Barasch et al. differs from the other papers in that it looks at how observers perceive the emotional intensity of a prosocial actor. They found that people gave credit to a person who felt good after being generous to others because they perceived the positive emotion as a signal of sincerity or authenticity in charitable giving.

All these findings come with their own little complications, which we’re excited to share with you at ACR this year or one day in print.

#4 From Encoding, to Protecting, to Retrieving: Understanding the Interplay between Social Identity & Consumer Memory 

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Chair: Amy Dalton

Details: 3:30pm, Saturday, Salon 12

I was excited to organize this session because I think that these papers, collectively, have something important to contribute to both the memory literature and the social identity literature.

Memory is an important topic to explore because consumer decisions are largely memory-based. But most work takes a ‘cold cognition’ approach to studying memory and, as a consequence, little is known about social factors that are important to marketers, like social identity. The work we’re presenting tries to fill this void.

From a social identity perspective, this session is interesting because most social identity research thinks about social-identity-related consumption in terms of product/brand preferences and choice, and doesn’t think about how memory factors in.

The papers in our session will show that memory affects product preference, product disposal, and product evaluation.  Also, this relationship is bidirectional: memory affects social-identity-related behaviors, and social identities affect memory.

The last thing I’d like to mention about this session (and why I’m excited about it) is that the papers flow well together. Of course they are all about consumer memory and social identity, but each paper looks at a different aspect of memory. The result is that the session will present a nice overview to the audience about the different ways that memory can be important from a social identity perspective (i.e., social identities affect encoding, memory protection, and memory retrieval).

Some content has been edited with permission by the Indecision Blog staff. For more on each session see the ACR program here.


ACR Film Festival – Overview and interview with the hosts

Editor’s note: this week we will be covering the annual conference of the Association for Consumer Research in Chicago. Our roving reporter Troy Campbell will be live blogging and tweeting to provide us updates from the conference. In the run-up to the conference, he speaks to the famed ACR Film Festival hosts.
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There is something inspiring and something really memorable about Association for Consumer Research conference selected films. I’ve long forgotten even seeing some talks (not your talk of course, I remember it in breathtaking detail), but I have never forgotten at least an image or two from each film I’ve seen.

For those unaccustomed with the film festival format at academic conferences, it features a few films, none longer than 30 minutes (with one exception this year) followed by questions. Accordingly the festival often feels like a normal session just with video instead of talks. The topics are usually very related to topics one would see in experimental journals like Journal of Consumer Research, with topics like health and identity. The film festival can be best described as watching the most high quality and thought provoking journalism imaginable. I hope that description does not sit wrong with those in the film festival community, because I mean as the utmost praise.

To give you a taste of what’s on offer, watch this quick trailer for one of the talks this year. Even if you are not at ACR this year, you can watch all the trailers here and get a sense of the main hypotheses and topics of the videos. You can also reach out to the film-makers with questions and click through on the videos to Vimeo to see the entire cuts of the films right now.

Recently, I had chance to interview Professors Marylouise Caldwell and Paul Henry, the hosts of this years ACR. They make a great case for why, even if you are a hardcore experimental researcher, the film festival is great place to stop by.

What is the goal of the film festival?

[Caldwell and Henry] To have a really great film festival experience.  We encourage folks to attend sessions that from their own perspective are likely to offer rich visual and/or tantalizing research realms.

What are the topics this year?

This year there is plenty on offer, our films ranging from explorations of conflicting consumption ideals in Cuba, how contemporary consumers are dealing with excessive boredom in the face of an interminably technologically stimulating world, what happens when aesthetically gifted consumers move from consumption to production and how their struggle with maintaining feelings of individuality and authenticity, how material objects enact amazingly forceful agency even in mundane settings to how various performances manifest and evolve in both marketplace and leisure-based settings.

What do you want students to get from your session?

We think the film festival facilitates looking at the world of consumption in a different way. Sometimes it transports us out of the halls of academe into places that we have never been, other times we suddenly have flashes of recognition and identification with other consumers that have eluded us up until now, often we experience emotions and sensations that allow us to appreciate consumer behaviour from a radically different perspective and finally we can sometimes sit back and appreciate just how the dynamic and stimulating our field of study can be.

Now for a personal question: What is one thing you love about the ACR conference?

The sheer intellectual stimulation, excitement of meeting and talking with like-minded others and the tremendous generosity of presenters and their audiences during post seminar discussions. 

One more personal question: Are you excited about anything specific for this ACR?

Chicago, Chicago, Chicago – what a wonder town! Plus catching up with many old friends and making new ones, especially film-makers new to our field.

Finally, here’s one more trailer, because the text in the trailer is just hilarious.

The Conference Survival Guide

Two of the biggest conferences of the season for InDecision readers are coming up soon: The Association for Consumer Research (ACR) and the Society for Judgment and Making’s (SJDM). We will be live blogging and live tweeting them, as well as providing pre and post coverage of the conferences, so keep an eye out for updates and exclusives with conference researchers and speakers. In preparation for these conferences we prepared a comprehensive “Conference Survival Guide.”

Speakers: Avoid The 4 Sins of Conference Presentations


  1. Saying too much
  2. Showing a long and useless literature review
  3. Failing to remind your audience of the designs and terms of your research
  4. Showing off your methods and analysis rather than the substance of your findings (we aren’t quantitative economists after all)

Full detailed article here.

Manage Your Worries

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Can’t figure out what talks to go to? Finding you are losing interest in your own topics but love that trendy talk on virtual reality or green psychology? Just generally feeling lost?

Don’t worry: our expert panel has you covered here.

Remember to Do the 4 Things We Vow to Do After Conferences (But Rarely Do)


  1. Read the full program
  2. Email that new contact
  3. Focus on your new inspirations
  4. Talk more with peers

Full article here.

How to (Not) Network


Students: remember conferences are as much about peers as they are about professors. Peers are important, as we explained a little while ago on the blog.

“Off the record” many professors have been said that they hate it when people blindly come up to them at conferences and just grill with them with questions. Of course, not everyone does this and if you come up with good questions it can certainly sometimes work, but there are many professors who hate “networking antics,” so be careful how and who you approach.

Many successful professors have also told us they spent conferences staying up late chatting research and partying with peers not professors and these academics turned out more than just fine, so if you’ve got mad networking game, then go for it. But if it’s not your style, don’t worry: it’s not the end of the world.

One additional strategy for networking is walking around with someone who actually knows people – maybe that assistant professor you get along with so well at your school could help you?

Pay Attention to Twitter

And not simply because we will be live tweeting and blogging the conferences we cover, but because other people will be too—some of which you may already know. Twitter has now reached a critical mass in Academia such that twitter has become a useful tool and a source of entertainment. Remember, you don’t need to tweet, just follow people on twitter or type in the conference hashtag to look at what’s up.

For reference check out the top tweets from the Association for Psychological Science 2013’s conference. For ACR 2013, the hashtag is:  #ACR2013 and the conference handle is @AConsRes

Go to the Big Talks

g3Why? Because sometimes they are always topical and good or bad, everyone will be talking about them. If you get lucky you might even get a repeat of ACR 2011 when a panelist literally turned to another panelists and said, “Maybe no cares about your type of research.”

Sometimes they can be truly fantastic and as energizing as a rock concert: we are all still tingling from Michelle Pham’s 2013 Society for Consumer Psychology lunch speech on the “7 Sins of Consumer Psychology”, which we’ve published in its entirety here. While it’s not quite the same magic as being in that electrified San Antonio room with the amazing Pham, it’s almost as good. If you don’t believe us, you can always watch this video of the speech instead:

Be A Positive Open Attendee  

According to Professor Mike Norton, a person should never respond to another’s talk by saying, “Isn’t that just cognitive dissonance?”. Instead, Norton suggests “always be trying to build on people’s ideas.” The mindset he believes you should be in is, “That’s really cool and you know what else you could do is X.” More from Mike in the video below:

Remember: Many People Want to Help You

Here, Professors Leif Nelson and Simona Botti speak about how you should just ask people and professors for help if you need it (and watch until end for funny bit).

People in the field are likely to help you because they are nice. Alessandro Peluso even has a 2013 ACR presentation that shows people enjoy giving advice, so ask away.

Remember, feel free to ask us anything at InDecision and we will hazard an answer or direct you to someone who can better answer the question. Remember, we are one big team of researchers and teamwork should be part of our daily lives.

APS 2013- Top Tweets, Moments, and Advice

flash mobThe Association for Psychological Science (APS) had its 25th birthday in Washington, DC this weekend. And to celebrate they pulled out all the stops including a flash mob, a fancy hotel across from the zoo, a concert, a huge line up of top notch invited speakers,  and APS branded merchandise.

APS also was the first conference this author has ever visited that successfully and widely  got attendees to use twitter. This allowed both science and general advice on research to go public immediately. At Indecision Blog, we love how the internet opens up scientific communication, so we were excited by how Internet-heavy APS was this year.

Below we have aggregated the top moments, pieces of advice, and general tweets from #APS2013DC. We recommend you go through the #APS2013DC on twitter itself but given the number of tweets we warn you that is quite an undertaking. So start off with our summary below.

Advice and Thoughts on Research Process

meeting people



Funny and Witty Tweets

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The Actual Science

The APS website did a fantastic job of summarizing many talks, moments, and even posting videos on their Daily Observation blog. Check out all the entries between May 23rd and May 26th. You can even watch the entire Molecules and Mind address.

Also make sure to just search #APS2013DC for the top tweets about the science.

Here are a few of our random favorites.



Did you hear a piece of advice at APS we missed? Was there a great talk people should make sure to check out either via the Daily Observation blog or a paper? Was there a new interesting perspective you gained from the conference? Do you want to share your poster or slides to promote your research? Tell us in the comments and be sure to include any applicable links.

Also amen to this tweet praising APS’s biggest live tweeter:

7Sins: #7 Research by convenience

Editor’s note: Today we publish the final post in our series on the seven sins of consumer psychology from the presidential address of professor Michel Tuan Pham at the recent conference of the Society for Consumer Psychology. Read the introduction here.

The final sin is certainly not a recent one, but it is still a major one. More than 35 years ago, in a JCR editorial titled “Research by Convenience,” Robert Ferber (1977) already complained about the over-reliance on student samples in studies purported to be about consumers in general. Ferber questioned whether students were really the right respondents for certain topics such as financial decision making or family purchases. He also questioned the degree to which, independent of the topic, results obtained from college students could be generalized to the broader population of consumers that our samples are meant to represent (see also Sears 1986).

A variant of the “Research by Convenience” criticism includes complaints that too much of our research is North-American-centric (Gorn 1997)—a criticism that has also been made about psychology in general (Arnet, 2008). Another variant includes the criticism that too much of our theorizing is based on the upper end of the knowledge-expertise continuum, whereas large segments of the consumer population are bound to be less educated and less “intelligent” than the student population that we typically sample in our studies (Alba 2000).

On the surface, it would appear that new sources of inexpensive experimental respondents such as Mechanical Turks, which has become very popular in our field, should help address this research-by-convenience problem. Indeed, from a demographic point of view, MTurk participants seem to be a little more like “real consumers” than the typical college undergrad (Berinsky, Huber, and Lenz, 2012). There is also some evidence that some well-known judgment biases can be replicated on MTurk participants (Goodman). However, before we declare the “sin of research by convenience” partially absolved by MTurks, we need to temper our optimism in three respects. First, regardless of what has been shown or claimed to date, it is not clear to me that a particular sample of individuals who self-selected to participate in this peculiar marketplace—that is, individuals who are willing to perform computer-mediated mindless tasks for a couple of dollars an hour—are necessarily that more representatives of “real-world” consumers than are typical college undergrads. Second, there is disturbing evidence of increased MTurk sophistication in seeing through and “gaming” our studies (Chandler, Mueller, and Paolacci ACR 2012). Finally, and most seriously, I see a real danger that the low data collection costs of Mechanical Turk is gradually shifting our research agendas toward studies than can be done on MTurks—i.e. short online, survey-type experiments—as opposed to studies that should be conducted to advance our field. This last point taps into another meaning to the phrase “Research by Convenience”—one that Ferber did not discuss, but is, in my opinion, perhaps even more serious.

Finally, I should be noted that the sin of research by convenience is not limited to the convenience of the sample of respondents that we study. It extends to the convenience of the instruments that we use to study them. Instead of studying actual consumption behavior, much of our research is based on vignette-like studies, in which respondents are asked to imagine a certain consumption situation and report how they would respond in such situations. The real question is whether the observed responses in these studies are good representations of the actual responses that we would observe had actual consumption behavior been analyzed.

Our colleagues in economics often criticize such studies because vignette-based responses entail no costs and no rewards. “Without some incentive compatibility,” they would say, “this is just cheap talk.” I am not sure that this is the main problem, however. My concerns are a bit different. First, scenario-based studies tend make the focal aspect of the treatment very prominent (e.g., “imagine buying insurance two years from now vs. next month”), thereby potentially exaggerating the strength of the effects. Second, I suspect that participants who are asked to project themselves into a certain consumption situation tend to adopt an overly analytical mindset that is not representative of how consumers would actually respond to the situation in real-life (see, e.g., Dunn & Ashton-James, 2008; Snell, Gibbs, & Varey, 1995, for relevant findings). Finally, I believe that scenarios are poorly-suited for the studying of the effects of “hot” variables such as emotional responses and motivational states (Pham, 2004), whose influence on our behavior is difficult to imagine with a genuine experience .

Conclusions: Increasing our Relevance and Impact


  1. Expand our research focus to non-purchase dimension of consumer behavior, especially need and want activation, nonpurchase modes of acquisition (sharing, borrowing, stealing), and every aspect of actual consumption.
  2. Embrace broader theoretical perspectives on consumer behavior beyond information processing and BTD, especially motivation, social aspects, and deep cultural aspects (as opposed to cross-cultural aspects). Less emphasis on unique and micro-level explanations.
  3. Expand our epistemology to encourage (a) further phenomenon-based research (provided that phenomenon is robust and really grounded in CB), (b) more descriptive research, and (c) tests of popular industry theories
  4. Greater attention to content aspects of CB with corresponding increase in domain specificity (and decrease in presumed generality). Key opportunity in area of motivational content.
  5. Lower tolerance of theories of studies.
  6. Greater emphasis on replication, robustness, and sensitivity testing.
  7. Greater reliance on studies with real consumers, as opposed to students or Mturks. Encouragement of field studies. Decreased reliance on scenarios, especially when studying hot processes of CB.


  1. CB syllabi need to be revamped (especially those structured in terms of information processing and JDM) to reflect broader theoretical perspectives
  2. Greater substantive grounding in how we teach CB to our graduate students
  3. Encourage PhD students to take or TA MBA-level course in CB and in basic marketing
  4. Encourage to a limited extent (rather than strongly discourage) activities that strengthen our grounding in and understanding of business issues (executive teaching, consulting, book writing).
  5. Pay more attention to citations and impact as opposed to mere number counting in promotions. (Simple new metric proposed: average citation percentile rank in given journal in given year)

Editor’s comments: We’d like to thank Michel Tuan Pham for kindly letting us publish his presidential address, and would welcome comments from readers. What do you think about these sins?

7Sins: #6 Overgeneralisation

Editor’s note: Today we continue our series on the seven sins of consumer psychology from the presidential address of professor Michel Tuan Pham at the recent conference of the Society for Consumer Psychology. Read the introduction here.

The next sin that I want to point out is a sin of overgeneralization. This is a sin that we commit both as authors and as reviewers and readers of the literature.

As authors, we tend to overgeneralize from our limited data. We all know that getting an experiment to work takes a lot of effort. We have to think very carefully about the consumption context we use, the product category, the precise stimuli, the exact procedure, the measures that are most likely to pick up the effect, etc. We often run pretest after pretest, and still may need to try different versions of the experiment to eventually get it to work. We all do that. And that’s fine. However, once a study eventually works as we intended, we quickly develop a supreme confidence in our own results and interpretation, forgetting how much effort it took us to get the effect in the first place. As a result, we tend to believe that our findings are more general and robust than they actually are. The psychology is akin to the fundamental attribution error: we quickly attribute significant data patterns to some trait-like pet theory, forgetting to account for the multitude of contextual factors that may have contributed to this data pattern.

A related issue, of course, is the issue of how transparent is our reporting of the fragility of the results that we produce. This in itself would require an entire address; so I prefer to leave it aside for now.

We also have similar tendency when we read the literature and, to a lesser extent, when we review papers.

Once an effect has been reported in a published paper (especially if it is by a famous author in a prestigious journal), we tend to treat it as gospel, again forgetting that this effect may be more context-specific than a quick reading of the paper may reveal. Moreover, we often generalize the result well beyond the researchers’ original interpretation. As a result, we walk around with oversimplified theories of the world that we use indiscriminately. This impedes scientific progress because, all too often, research ideas are rejected and findings are simply dismissed because we have an unwarranted feeling that “we already know that.”

A good example is the work on the “too-much-choice effect” by Sheena Iyengar: the famous-jam-in- supermarket study. This is a great study and the results are very important. However, if you read the paper carefully, you will see that the effect is very specific and that the authors were very particular in the way they conducted the study. For example, all the jams were from a single brand and only unfamiliar flavors were selected. Yet after the paper was published and received a lot of attention, the fine prints of the study—which the authors carefully disclosed in the paper—were quickly forgotten, and the field began to take it for granted that “consumers do not like when they have too much choice.” It turns out, however, that the effect is very fickle. In a meta-analysis by Scheibehenne and colleagues (2010), the basic effect was found in only a small number of studies; the reverse effect was found in an equal number of studies; and the majority of studies showed no significant effect.

The same issue arises when we review papers. Very often, we dismiss a particular finding based on a loose impression that “we already know that” and “this has already been shown,” without necessarily appreciating that there may be nontrivial distinctions between the new study and the ones that it reminds us of. We also exhibit the same fallacy when authors replicate their findings in a separate study and we ask them to drop the replication study because “we already know that from the other study.”

The answer to this pervasive problem of overgeneralization is very simple. We need more replications and more nuance. As authors, we need to be more willing to replicate our own results: across different samples of respondents, across different stimuli, across different operationalizations of the manipulations, etc. Ideally, these conceptual replications should be done in a way that alters only one variable at the time. When too many variables are changed at the same time across studies (which we often do), we defeat the primary purpose of replication which is to assess the robustness of a result to small differences in method that are theoretically-meaningless. As authors, we should also be more willing to increase the sample size of our studies. All too often, researchers seem to be unwilling to run more subjects, apparently out of fear that the effect might go away. My philosophy is that if we really believe in our effects, we should not be afraid of increasing our sample size.

We also need to be more careful and nuanced in our writing and discussion of our results.

As readers of the literature, we need to be more mindful of what studies actually show and how they were actually conducted. We also need to be more appreciative of studies that, on the surface, merely seem to replicate conceptually what previous studies had shown.

And as reviewers and editors, we need to be much more supportive of close replications within papers, and conceptual replications across papers—these are not wasted journal space.

Ready for the final sin?