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Scientific Publications

Descriptions of and links to my academic publications on the psychology of denial, enjoyment, persuasion, empathy, choice, and morality


Many of these papers have influenced the most innovative companies and biggest government agencies, and some have received top academic awards, including the Frank Prize and multiple topical Altmetric #1s of the year

I was once a full-time academic, today I continue publishing with colleagues​

Selected Comic Summaries of Science 

by MR Trower


Click short titles to read write up

People are more likely to deny a problem when they don’t like the solution


This effect can be particularly important in understanding global issues like climate change denial, work gridlock, and individuals failing to address their personal problems. In all these cases, the fear of the “cure” may lead people to deny the “problem.”

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

A dual concern message firmly criticizes a target group, while also expressing concern for the group that is criticizing


This work introduces this novel type of messaging and shows the persuasive power it can have. Specific experiments examine how dual concern messaging can be particularly important in “polarized” political and business conflict situations.

Journal of Business Ethics

Gaining more experience can make some people worse advisors


Having lots of experience with something emotional or complex can create empathy gaps and memory biases that make some people with more experience worse at understanding and helping those with less experience. This work establishes the existence of this bias and explores ways to reduce it.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

If you love your job, people may be more willing to exploit you at work


This work scientifically establishes “passion exploitation,” finding that people are more willing to ask others to to do extra work that is unpaid (even if the work is demeaning and not part of the job description) if they view the other as passionate about their work.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

When facts threaten people’s beliefs, they will often take a “flight from facts” and state that the facts do not matter


People thereby make their cherished beliefs more unfalsifiable to defend them. Importantly, this means people don’t just deny facts; they change their opinion on whether facts are even relevant, making persuasion appeals and rational conversation more difficult.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

When people “feel competent" they enjoy what they are doing more


The subjective feeling of competence is uniquely important to our enjoyment and motivation. Experiments replicate the effect in work, art, entertainment, and consumer contexts.

Duke University Dissertation 

People associate masculinity with sleeping less, and this can lead to many negative consequences for all genders

This can be especially problematic in the workplace around hiring, work schedules, and well-being.

Journal of the Association for Consumer Research

Two different biases can come together in a confirmation bias process


This work is one of the first studies to examine how two biases, here “ego-centric bias” and “stereotype bias,” can come together with serious consequences in social and business contexts, and it explores different ways this bias process can be interrupted.

Journal of Public Policy & Marketing

People will eat more “virtuously” if given a healthy option that has a little bit of pure, delicious “vice”

In these experiments, many people were more likely to choose overall healthy (i.e., “virtuous”) options when there was a very small, purely indulgent (i.e., “vice”) quality added, such as a single Oreo cookie with mostly fruit or a few french fries with a salad, compared to simply choosing between the more typical offerings of virtuous only and vice only options.

Management Science

People may make different and even worse choices in the presence of another to avoid offending


This paper explores how “potentially offensive” situations can arise and how these situations can lead to very different and suboptimal behaviors, such as “matching.” These behaviors are often in contradiction to what would be predicted by more basic scientific theories.


Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes

Victim blaming can be irrational and unfounded in business contexts


These experiments revealed that people use extraneous information, such as a description of the personality of the victim, when assigning blame in random occurrences. This work also explores the process and interventions that can be used to reduce victim blaming.

Journal of Consumer Psychology

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