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 and Service, Marketing Research, Marketing Consulting Lab (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








Persuading Children: A Framework for Understanding Long-Lasting Influences on Children�s Food Choices, with Paulo Albuquerque, Merrie Brucks, Margaret C. Campbell, Kara Chan, Anna R. McAlister, Sophie Nicklaus, 2017, Customer Needs and Solutions, forthcoming

In this paper, we present a framework for understanding long-lasting influences on children�s food purchase choices and consumption. The framework interacts the characteristics of agents (i.e., children and parents/caretakers) with marketing-related effects to explain how these agents make short- and long-term decisions in the food category. We develop each of the components of our framework with different theories and multiple empirical examples, focusing on how children develop their food preferences and how their understanding of and resistance to persuasion and marketing messages may influence choices. Overall, the presented approach suggests firms, consumers, and parents can benefit from taking these factors into account when making choices that affect children and when allowing children to make their own choices.


To Increase Engagement, Offer Less: The Effect of Assortment Size on Children�s Engagement , 2017, 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 tickets 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

Do People Think Attractive Women are Less Intelligent, and Why That Matters, with Aparna Labroo and Anastasiya Pocheptsova Ghosh, under review

Is a belief that attractive women are less intelligent learned through socialization and if so, do children and adults make choices for others and for themselves based on of such beliefs? We find that adults assign attractiveness-enhancing products to women they perceive as unintelligent, but to men they perceive as intelligent. Children do not discriminate in their assignments based on the recipients gender; they instead assign attractiveness-enhancing products to othersmen and womenthey consider intelligent. Childrens assignments, and adults assignments to males, thus reflect highlightingbeliefs that attractiveness and intelligence are positively associated. But adults assignments to women reflect compensationbeliefs that attractiveness and intelligence are negatively associated. This belief reversal emerges post-puberty, suggesting a role of learned objectification of women in creating this disparity. We also find downstream consequences of these beliefs on an individuals own choices: whereas children and men choose intelligence pursuits when they are feeling attractive, women instead do so when they are feeling unattractive. We discuss that the solution to encouraging intelligence pursuit among women is not to make them feel unattractive, but instead to adjust these socially-learned beliefs and be aware of the damage of objectification.


Leveraging MeansGoal Associations to Boost Childrens Water Consumption: A Four-School Three-Month Field Experiment , with Szu-Chi Huang, Daniella Kupor, and Andrea Weihrauch, under review

We collaborated with UNICEF and launched a field experiment in Panama to test the effectiveness of communicating different meansgoal associations in promoting childrens consumption of water. This research is the first to examine whether interventions that operate by highlighting strong meansgoal associations have real consequences outside the lab in the noisy real world. Also important, means-goal associations have previously been examined among adults. Because prior research reveals that children and adults often respond differently to persuasion attempts, important theoretical insight is gained by investigating whether childrens use of a means can be increased by interventions that highlight meansgoal associations. This research is also the first to explore whether highlighting meansgoal associations of different strengths can produce not only positive but also negative effects. Specifically, we find that interventions that employ weak means-goal associations can backfire. This research advances the extant understanding of the divergent impact of meansgoal associations on behavior, uncovers an intervention that increases childrens consumption of water, and provides valuable managerial implications as well as food-for-thought for future research.


Assortment Diversity as an Expertise Signal, with Aner Sela and Sian Morgan, under review

To portray themselves as experts, consumers often choose unique, rare, or sophisticated options. But might the mere level of assortment diversity chosen also serve as a signal of expertise, and if so, how? Three experiments show that the relationship between assortment diversity and perceived expertise depends on the perceivers own level of expertise. Category experts perceive less assortment diversity as an indication of greater expertise in that category, and consequently choose less varied assortments to portray themselves as experts. In contrast, novices perceive more assortment diversity as an indication of expertise, and choose accordingly when they wish to appear as experts.


When Limiting Can Improve Childrens Decision Making: The Effect of Scarcity Cues on Childrens Engagement, Consumption, and Choice Behavior, with Yuval Salant

In this research, we ask whether children as young as four years old learn to associate scarce products with increased desirability. We do so by using visual and verbal manipulations of scarcity in contexts children are typically not limited in, such as healthy food items and educational activities. Across five studies, we find that limiting the quantity of the food offered increases the amount they eat and the likelihood of them choosing this food, even if they like this food less, such as fruits and vegetables. We also find that limiting the time they can engage in playing activity increases the time they play. Our findings contribute to our understanding of how scarcity affects value, how children develop new associations in general, and what cues can increase childrens consumption of healthy food and engagement in healthy activities.