Research Projects

Motivation & Decision-Making

Through an evolutionary psychology lens, I study the motivation to drive individuals to make risky decisions, consume selected products, and how it could improve well-being or boost advertising and marketing campaign effectiveness.

Decisions can be motivated by intrinsic goals such as affiliation, signaling self-identity to others, pride, and self-reward, and by extrinsic goals such as wealth, social status and recognition, and fame.

The optimal decisions and judgment could help an individual or an organization to achieve personal well-being, improve talent assessment accuracy, and find the best-fit target.

The appropriate selection of target consumers, advertising phrases and images, and marketing platforms can have significant consequences on consumer behavior in persuasion and in improving advertising effectiveness.

Then, why choose evolutionary psychology?

In evolutionary psychology, we build connections between modern behaviors to our ancient ancestors and explain the existence and function of cognition, behaviors, and processes with ultimate rather than proximate explanations.

Using this brand new viewpoint, I look into a series of research questions:

  • Under what circumstances, for what aim, would an individual choose one decision over another (i.e., trust one brand over another)?
  • How does close relationship status affect decision-making (i.e. interpersonal interaction, consumption)?
  • How to explain gender differences that underlie the decision-making under various situations?
  • How can we improve advertising effectiveness and consumer experience through evolutionary consumer research?
  • What will be the best metric to evaluate and improve marketing campaign effectiveness?

Among all the motivations that facilitate decisions, I recently worked on mating motivation and motivation caused by cuteness:

Mating motivation, as one of the fundamental motivations that trigger people to act, has shed a unique light on diverse circumstances. We research how mating motivation selectively drives consumption, risky behaviors, and prosocial behaviors as social functional signals.

Babies possess distinct features, for example, large, rounded eyes and heads and smaller noses and limbs. Humans are thought to have evolved an adaptive perception of these features as cute and attractive, which motivates them to care for helpless altricial offspring. We research this powerful mechanism in understanding why individuals find neotenous adults and products are more attractive, rewarding, and deserving sympathy and help.

I also taught a course on this evolutionary consumer psychology. Check out my teaching on:

Attachment to Objects

Individual experiences emotional bonds to different items, products, or places all the time. Such emotional attachment could be extended to the affiliation of a brand and organization, a continuous bias in one’s judgment and selection.

Behavioral outcomes of this attachment could be as small as you never be aware of it or as extreme as it becomes a hoarding disorder. So is our research scope, it explores topics from the normal decision-making to the causes of hoarding.

For example, we explored this topic to figure out the neural basis of such attachment to objects and the possible drivers to selectively facilitate some people to hoard extremely.

We also designed a novel task discovered that when people put a tiny effort into their creation, it will result in a huge attachment to the item later. The implication could be addressed in workplace belonging and online websites or APPs UX design.

Other Economic Decision-Making

Among the broad decision-making topics, I am interested in trust, risky decision-making, and age difference.

Especially, I looked into:

  • dishonesty or cheating behaviors
  • the motivational mechanism of risky decisions and trust
  • facial cues lead to biases in judgments
  • age-related monetary trust

I used different economic paradigms and games, such as the dictator game, the trust game, the ultimatum game, etc.

I also used massive surveys in addition to experiments.