Highlights: Jim Bettman’s SCP Career Talk

ImageJim Bettman brought his blend of insight and humor to his career talk this morning at the Society for Consumer Psychology Doctoral Consortium. Here’s what he advised students.

His guiding principles: “P.O.I.”

Passion – “Love it or leave it.” Only do things you believe in.

Ownership – Do your own ideas, not your advisors’. Or take your advisors ideas and make them your own as his former student Mary Frances Luce did by applying emotion to Bettman, Payne, and Johnson’s established decision research.

Impact – “Go for the gold.” Aim to change the field.

Reading advice: “Make generating study ideas a focus of whatever you’re reading.”

 If you ever get the pleasure of getting a manuscript of yours reviewed by Bettman, you will find that nearly every paragraph has a comment about a potential future direction or connection to another literature. This persistent focus on generating ideas is what has allowed Bettman to be so wildly impactful. Though Bettman often appears very programatic, this should not be taken as sign of him not thinking diversely.

On what to follow up on: “Be ready for lightning bolts.”

Bettman said be open to new ideas and when you find one you are passionate about embrace it and then follow up on it. Inspiration comes first and then the programmatic process begins.

Caveat: “Not a once size fits all.” 

Bettman indicated that even though be believed in his research style, there have been many people in the field who have succeeded in following a different style of research.

Funniest quote: Good research is like “ideas having sex.”

Bettman noted that good ideas come when ideas are pieced together with other ideas, when ideas are allowed to cross-fertilizer and different combinations of idea chromosomes come together.

Second funniest quote: “When talking about how Mary Frances Luce suggested emotion be brought into decision research, “We had never discussed emotion, or been emotional.”

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4 Things We Worry About At Conferences

ImageThe Society for Consumer Psychology Conference is this week. Here are four questions that we often worry about at conferences and four answers answered by quoting interviews from our Research Heroes series.

Which presentations should I go see? Should they be all in my topic of research or should I branch out? Hal Arkes recommends branching out and exploring many different topics in general, “Begin by sampling a wide cafeteria of courses, colloquia, readings, and professors.”

Should I emphasize theoretical contribution or practical application in my presentation? John Payne advises that, “As long as the criteria for tenure remain what they are at the top schools, young researchers will need to concentrate more on basic research.” This suggests you should focus on theory. However, it should be noted that nearly every Research Hero we interviewed emphasized how much they personally value practical contribution.

What if I find myself not enjoying research talks on my topic? Should I switch topics? Jonathan Baron suggests focusing on what you are passionate about. “Remember that research is a labor of love. If it doesn’t feel that way, do something else.”

When meeting with collaborators at conferences, should we decide to continue that weak project? Elke Weber suggests showing self-control and dropping it. “If something is not working out … give it a second chance, but then move on.”

Four Sins of Conference Presentations

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Worried about your upcoming conference presentation? Here’s some advice paraphrased from some of the greats in our field. Try to avoid these four sins and you should be on your way to success.  If you know of any other presentation sins that make you cringe add them to comments.

#4: Saying too much

As the common adage goes, “If you say three things you’ve said nothing.” A presenter is best off if they make one clear point, especially in a short 15 minute conference presentation format.

Jim Bettman advised at the 2012 Association for Consumer Research Doctoral Consortium that when communicating research presenters should tell a consistent straightforward story. He noted that it is a simple linear story, not a mystery story and not a story with many subplots. In sum he advised: tell the audience what you are going to tell them, then tell them it with data, and then remind them what you told them.

#3 The useless literature review

Conference presentations are about the presentation of new research, not old research. However, many presenters (especially young presenters) often are so excited by past findings they spend half their talk reciting papers from the 1980s.

Literature reviews should serve two main purposes: motivating the current research question (e.g. where are the gaps) and providing any necessary background info with which a diverse audience might not be familiar.

#2 Being too in love with methods and data analysis  

Research presentations for the most part should be presenting new theory, clarification of theory, or application of theory. However presenters are often so proud of their methodologies or data analysis that they focus more on their stimuli and statistical models than on the actual research. Remember, three-way interactions are only interesting when audiences understand their potential theoretical importance.

#1 Failing to remind audience of anything

Audience members often get distracted through thinking about an implication of the finding, zoning out from tiredness, or worrying about their own later sessions. This means audience members are not hanging onto a presenter’s every word. If a presenter explains a method, an acronym, or a hypothesis only once, the audience members may miss it.

Thus, for the important items presenters need to remind the audience a little bit. For instance, before presenting a data slide a presenter should say, “Recall that we predicted that because people high in X are more Y they should be especially vulnerable to W, however if they were remind of Z they should not be as vulnerable.”