Michal Maimaran
Research Associate Professor of Marketing
Kellogg School of Management
Kellogg KSM


Research Interests

Children Judgment and Decision Making, Consumer Judgment and Decision Making,
Nonconscious Effects on Consumer Behavior, Perceptual Effects on Judgment and Behavior

Launching New Prodcuts, Marketing Research (Full-Time and Part-Time MBA)

Contact Information

Email: m-maimaran@kellogg.northwestern.edu
Phone: 1-847-491-7151
Mailing address:

Marketing Department
Kellogg School of Management
Northwestern University
2211 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208








To Increase Engagement, Offer Less: The Effect of Assortment Size on Children�s Engagement , Judgment and Decision Making, 12 (3), 198-207

In a world that offers children abundant activities from which to choose, understanding how to motivate children to engage longer in productive activities is crucial. This paper examines how the offered assortment size affects children�s engagement with their chosen options. In the first study, I show children prefer to choose from a larger set even though they think doing so is more difficult. Then, in studies 2 and 3, four- to five-year-old children choose from either a small set (two options) or a large set (six or seven options). In study 2, children choose a book to look at and I measure how long they look at it. In study 3, children choose a game to play with and I measure how long they play. Children spend more time looking at the book and playing with the game they choose from the small versus the large set. In contrast, the size of the choice set does not affect food consumption. Such findings contribute to our understanding of young children�s decision-making and have important implications for determining the optimal assortment size to offer children to increase engagement with desirable activities.


If It's Useful and You Know It, Do You Eat? Preschoolers Refrain From Instrumental Food, with Ayelet Fishbach, 2014, Journal of Consumer Research, 41 (3), 642-655

Marketers, educators, and caregivers often refer to instrumental benefits to convince preschoolers to eat (e.g., �this food will make you strong�). We propose that preschoolers infer that if food is instrumental to achieve a goal, it is less tasty, and therefore they consume less of it. Accordingly, we find that preschoolers (3-5.5 years old) rated crackers as less tasty and consumed fewer of them when the crackers were presented as instrumental to achieve a health goal (studies 1-2). In addition, preschoolers consumed fewer carrots and crackers when these were presented as instrumental to knowing how to read (study 3) and count (studies 4-5). This research supports an inference account for the negative impact of certain persuasive messages on consumption: preschoolers who are exposed to one association (e.g., between eating carrots and intellectual performance) infer another association (e.g., between carrots and taste) must be weaker.

Select media coverage: New York Times, American Council on Science and Health, Quartz, Advantage for Parents


Asymmetric Option Effects on Ease of Choice Criticism and Defense, with Thomas Kramer and Itamar Simonson, 2012, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 117 (1), 179-191

Individuals often criticize others� choices and seek to defend their own.� In theory, the ease of criticizing a particular choice should correspond to the ease of defending this choice.� However, we propose that differences in the types of arguments put forth in choice criticism and defense often result in a systematic discrepancy in the ease with which of these two tasks are performed. We argue that criticism arguments tend to be based on norms but defense arguments on idiosyncratic preferences, such that the nature of the chosen option has a large impact when criticizing, but little effect when defending choices. A series of studies of choices between conventional and unconventional options demonstrates that options that are relatively easier to criticize may not be more difficult to defend. Our final study supports an information asymmetry mechanism driving the observed discrepancy between choice criticism and defense.


Multiple Routes to Self versus Other-Expression in Consumer Choice, with Itamar Simonson, 2011, Journal of Marketing Research, 48 (4), 755-766

Many consumer decision making studies begin with the identification of a dimension on which options differ (e.g., compromise versus extreme, utilitarian versus hedonic, sure versus risky), followed by an analysis of the factors that influence preferences along that dimension. Building on a conceptual analysis of a diverse set of problems, we propose that they all can be classified based on their levels of self-expression and other-expression (or conventionality). Accordingly, as we show in four studies, these problem types respond similarly to manipulations that trigger or suppress self-expression. Specifically, priming self-expression systematically increases the share of the self-expressive options (e.g., extreme, risky, and hedonic) across choice problems. Conversely, expecting to be evaluated decreases the share of the self-expressive options across the various choice dilemmas. Our findings highlight the importance of seeking underlying shared features across different consumer choice problems, instead of treating each type in isolation.


To Trade or Not to Trade: The Moderating Role of Vividness when Exchanging Gambles, 2011, Judgment and Decision Making, 6 (2), 147-155

Individuals are generally reluctant to trade goods�a phenomenon identified as the endowment effect. This paper focuses on consumers� puzzling reluctance to exchange gambles, and in particular lottery tickets with identical distribution (i.e., same odds of winning), and identifies the ticket�s vividness as an important moderator. Three studies demonstrate that individuals are more willing to exchange less vivid lottery tickets (e.g., tickets concealed in envelopes, or tickets with an unknown number) compared to more vivid tickets (e.g., tickets not concealed in envelopes, or tickets with a known number)� when offered an incentive to exchange. Moreover, this effect is mediated by anticipated regret, such that less regret is anticipated when exchanging less vivid tickets, thus increasing individuals� willingness to exchange tickets.


Circles, Squares, and Choice: The Effect of Shape Arrays on Uniqueness and Variety Seeking, with Christian Wheeler, 2008, Journal of Marketing Research ,45 (6) 731-740

Winner, Best Student Paper Award, Society for Consumer Psychology, 2007

Five experiments demonstrate that exposure to novel visual stimulus arrays of geometric shapes affects consumers real choices among products. We first demonstrate that exposure to variety arrays (arrays of differing shapes) increases variety seeking (Study 1). We then show that exposure to uniqueness arrays (e.g., one circle among six squares) increases choice of unique over common objects (Studies 2 and 3) and interacts with chronic need for uniqueness (Study 3). In our last two studies, we show that variety and uniqueness arrays activate distinct constructs, as we find no effect of exposure to uniqueness arrays on variety seeking (Study 4a) and no effect of exposure to variety arrays on uniqueness seeking (Study 4b). Taken together, these studies build on the existing literature about nonconscious effects on consumer behavior, and choice behavior in particular, by showing that consumers real choices are affected by subtle exposure to novel stimuli that do not have any previous associations.

Working Papers and Work in Progress

Persuading Children: Long-Lasting Influences on Childrens Food Consideration Sets, Choices, and Consumption, with Paulo Albuquerque, Merrie Brucks, Margaret C. Campbell, Kara Chan, Anna R. McAlister, Sophie Nicklaus, under review

In this paper, we discuss and present different theories and multiple empirical examples of how children develop their food preferences, how their understanding of and resistance to persuasion and marketing messaging may develop, and how their consideration and choice sets change over time. Overall, the findings we present suggest that firms, consumers, and parents can benefit from taking these changes into account when making choices that affect children and when allowing children to make their own choices.


The Effect of Visual Minority on Childrens Choice Behavior, with Yuval Salant

We study how changing the relative frequencies of options in a choice set affects young childrens decision making. In food and non-food choice tasks, we asked four- to five-year-old children to choose from a set in which each option appeared multiple times. When options were visually different from each other, children were more likely to choose the minority option, that is, the option that appeared the fewest number of times in the choice set. In particular, children chose a fruit over crackers when the fruit became the minority option, even though they had a strong tendency to choose crackers when neither option was in minority. Adults did not tend to choose the minority option in similar tasks, suggesting this effect is due to developmental sources.


When Limiting Can Improve Childrens Decision Making, with Yuval Salant

Parents and caregivers often look for ways to increase their childrens engagement in non-digital activities and intake of healthy food. We propose that setting limits on these activities or food intake increases their desirability and, as a result, childrens engagement with the activity or the consumption of the food. Accordingly, we find that preschoolers play with Lego blocks 27% longer when the playing activity is presented as limited in time and consume 55% more vegetables when these are presented as limited in quantity.


Attractive but unintelligent: Children and adults differ in beliefs about trait-correlations and resulting choices, with Aparna Labroo and Anastasiya Pocheptsova Ghosh

A belief that attractive women are not intelligent and intelligent women are not attractive is common among adults. But among children, we instead find they perceive a positive correlation between these two characteristics for both genders. We also find these beliefs have important downstream consequences on motivation to perform cognitive tasks when feeling attractive (or unattractive) that are different for children versus adults. Adult females who believe the negative stereotype that intelligence and attractiveness is negatively correlated perform better when feeling unattractive, but children instead who associate attractiveness positively with intelligence perform better when feeling attractive. We discuss the implications of these differences in beliefs and performance on motivating childrens success, and the evolution of such stereotypic beliefs about young women.


Variety as a Preference Strength Signal, with Aner Sela and Sian Morgan

To portray themselves in a favorable light, people often strategically choose options with socially-desirable symbolic qualities. But when all the options in the choice-set have similar socially-desirable attributes, how might people choose? We propose that people choose different amounts of variety to convey information about the strength of their preferences for the selected options and the extent to which the qualities of the selected options reflect their personal traits. Specifically, whereas prior research has shown that people unidirectionally choose more variety when self-presentation concerns are present, a series of field and lab studies demonstrates that people choose less variety when they want to signal strong, self-related preferences for the selected options and to associate themselves with the symbolic qualities of those options. These findings have important implications for theories of variety-seeking and self-presentation, as well as for marketing practice.