Michal Maimaran
Research Assistant 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

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
2001 Sheridan Rd
Evanston, IL 60208-2001








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.

Select Work in Progress

The Effect of Visual Minority on Children’s Choice Behavior, with Yuval Salant, under review

We study how changing the relative frequencies of options in a choice set affects young children’s 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 preference for 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.


Preschoolers’ Perception of Gender Roles, with Aparna Labroo

We study how three to five years old children perceive the correlation between competence and appearance. We find that children reward the more capable female model (e.g., a model who knows her ABCs) with the prettier dress item. We do not find such correlation for male models. We contrast this against adults who tend to perceive negative correlation between competence and appearance.


Choice Complexity and Task Engagement among Children

We study how changing the size of the choice set affects young children’s engagement with the option they choose. In the first study we let children choose a book to look at and we measure how long they look at the book. In the second study we let children play with a game and we measure how long they play. In both studies the four-to-five year old children choose either from a small set (e.g., 2 options) or from a large set (e.g., 7 options). We find that children spend more time looking at the book or playing with the game when they choose from the small versus the large set.


Variety as a Preference Strength Signal, with Aner Sela and Sian Morgan, Revising for 2nd round at Journal of Consumer Research

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.