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








Children's Variety Seeking in Food Choices, with with Margaret Echelbarger and Susan Gelman, 2020, Journal of Association of Consumer Research, 5 (3) 322-328

Across three studies, we examine the variety selections of 329 children (4-9 years of age) and 81 adults in the food domain. In studies 1 and 2, we find that, like adults, children prefer to diversify their selections given no established preference for one item over another. In study 3, we find that children (4-9 years) diversify their selections more and choose more healthy options when choosing items simultaneously (all on one day) versus sequentially (across several days). Together, our results provide novel insight into the potential for variety to serve as a tool to promote greater well-being in childhood.


Variety-Seeking and Perceived Expertise, with Aner Sela, Sian Morgan, Liat Hadar, 2019 Journal of Consumer Psychology

People often infer expertise from the choice of unique, rare, or sophisticated options. But might mere variety-seeking also serve as a signal of expertise, and if so, how? Six studies show that the relationship between variety-seeking and perceived expertise is not unidirectional and depends on the perceiver's own level of expertise. Category experts perceive lower variety seeking as indicative of discernment, which in turn increases perceived expertise in that category. Consequently, experts choose less variety to portray themselves as experts. In contrast, novices perceive high variety-seeking as indicative of category breadth knowledge, which in turn increases their perception of category expertise. Consequently, novices choose more variety to portray themselves as experts. The findings make novel theoretical contributions to research on variety-seeking, consumer expertise, and social perception, as well as practical contributions for marketers of product assortments and bundles.


The Effect of Limited Availability on Children's Consumption, Engagement, and Choice Behavior, with Yuval Salant, 2019, Judgment and Decision Making, 14 (1), 72-79

Three studies examine effect of limited availability on the engagement, consumption, and choice behavior of four- to five-year old children. It is shown that children engage longer in an activity when the activity is presented as limited in time and consume more of a particular food when the food is presented as limited in quantity. It is also shown that the consumption ratio of a less preferred food to a more preferred one increases when the less preferred food is presented as limited in quantity. Finally, children are more likely to choose a less preferred option over a more preferred one when the less preferred option becomes less available.


Leveraging Means-Goal Associations to Boost Children's Water Consumption: A Four-School Three-Month Field Experiment , with Szu-Chi Huang, Daniella Kupor, and Andrea Weihrauch, 2019, Journal of Association of Consumer Research, 4 (1) 77-86

We collaborated with UNICEF and launched a field experiment in Panama to test the effectiveness of communicating different means-goal associations in promoting children's consumption of water. This research is the first to examine whether interventions that operate by highlighting strong means-goal 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 children's use of a means can be increased by interventions that highlight means-goal associations. This research is also the first to explore whether highlighting means-goal 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 means-goal associations on behavior, uncovers an intervention that increases children's consumption of water, and provides valuable managerial implications as well as food-for-thought for future research.


The Unique Role of Anger among Negative Emotions in Goal-Directed Decision Making, with Uzma Khan and Alexander DePaoli, 2019, Journal of Association of Consumer Research, 4 (1) 65-76

While much of consumer choice is goal-driven, consumers may often fail to prioritize their goals when making decisions. Despite the relevance of goal pursuit to consumer behavior, relatively little work has examined the factors that facilitate goal-directed decision making. In the current research, we examine when and how different negative emotions may influence goal-directed decision making. In six studies, we show that anger leads to greater goal-directed decision making and more goal-consistent choices compared to sadness and fear. As a consequence, anger (but not sadness or fear) may result in both less susceptibility to contextual choice biases and greater post-choice satisfaction. We argue that the results arise because anger is characterized by appraisals of high certainty and high control, whereas both sadness and fear are characterized by appraisals of low certainty and low control.


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, 2018, Customer Needs and Solutions, 5 (1-2), 38-50

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 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

Children Are Price Sensitive Too: The Immediate and Long-Term Effects of Price Promotions on Children's Healthy Choices, with Szu-Chi Huang, Revise and Resubmit

We partnered with UNICEF to launch three field experiments at three elementary schools in Panam? among a total of 2,242 children to test the effectiveness of a classic marketing tool—price promotion—in encouraging children's choice of healthy options. While prior research suggested that children pay less attention to price compared to other marketing elements such as product (e.g., taste) and packaging, we found a short-term increase in children’s purchase of the promoted healthy options at all three schools; also important, these positive boosts did not last after the promotion ended. We further found that the processing ease of coupon messages led to divergent effects on children's redemption rates based on (1) their age and (2) repeated exposure to the promotion. This research critically extends prior literature that focused on the effect of price promotion on adults and adolescents, provides novel insight that children can be sensitive to changes in pricing, offers a potential remedy to combat childhood obesity, and isolates the types of messages that would be effective among children of different age groups.


Can Marketer Actions that Increase Consumers Attractiveness Reduce their Cognitive Choices?, with Aparna Labroo and Anastasiya Pocheptsova Ghosh, Revise and Resubmit

This research investigates downstream effects of marketer actions, such as the use of body-shaming ads, attractiveness-enhancing clothing, and body-focused social media posts, on cognitive pursuits among consumers. Such actions can evoke feelings of attractiveness (unattractiveness) among consumers, which can reduce (increase) cognitive pursuits among women, but not men or children. First, we find, adults, but not children, hold beliefs that attractive women are less intelligent. Second, we find, attractiveness feelings can cue these available beliefs among adults. Third, we find, women, but not men, perceive these beliefs as self-diagnostic, becoming less (more) motivated to pursue cognitive tasks when feeling attractive (unattractive). Similar effects are not observed among preschoolers who do not have such beliefs. We discuss implications for consumer welfare.