Area of Expertise
- Consumer Behavior
- Sustainable Consumption
Nicole aims to uncover novel psychological insights that can be harnessed to improve personal, societal, and environmental well-being. She is the founder and director of the Well-Being Research Lab (WiRL). Her research has been published in Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Journal of Consumer Research, and Journal of Marketing.
Nicole received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology at Florida State University. Prior to joining Schulich, she held faculty appointments at Católica-Lisbon School of Business and Economics, Rotterdam School of Management (Erasmus University), and the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Melbourne. Nicole serves as Area Editor for the International Journal of Research in Marketing and ERB member for Journal of Consumer Research.
2023-2025 Schulich Research Excellence Fellowship
2023 Outstanding Area Editor, International Journal of Research in Marketing
2023 Invited Visiting Professor, Toulouse School of Management
2022 Doctoral Symposium Co-Chair, Association for Consumer Research Conference
2021 SCP Dissertation Proposal Competition (Honorable Mention; Advisor)
2020 ACR/Sheth Foundation Dissertation Award (Winner; Advisor)
2020 Outstanding Reviewer, Journal of Consumer Research
Madan, Shilpa, Gita Venkataramani Johar, Jonah Berger, Pierre Chandon, Rajesh Chandy, Rebecca Hamilton, Leslie John, Aparna Labroo, Peggy J. Liu, John G. Lynch Jr., Nina Mazar, Nicole L. Mead, Vikas Mittal, Christine Moorman, Michael I. Norton, John Roberts, Dilip Soman, Madhu Viswanathan, Katherine White (Forthcoming), "Reaching for Rigor and Relevance: Better Marketing Research for a Better World", Marketing Letters.
Over the past several decades, scholars have highlighted the obligations and opportunities for marketing as a discipline to play a role in creating a better world-or risk becoming irrelevant for the largest problems facing consumers and society. This paper provides a framework to enhance the relevance and rigor of research in marketing that not only contributes new knowledge to science, but also makes a positive difference in the world. To make such impact, we urge authors and reviewers to foster cross-fertilization from different theoretical and methodological silos, to bolster robustness through multiple methods, and to expand the domain of research to explore different populations and cultures. In doing so, we hope to encourage further consideration of the role of marketing scholarship in providing a novel lens into potential solutions for societal concerns.
Vohs, Kathleen D., Brandon J. Schmeichel, Sophie Lohmann, Quentin F. Gronau, Anna Finley,….E.J. Wagenmakers, and Dolores Albarracín (Forthcoming), "A Multi-Site Preregistered Paradigmatic Test of the Ego Depletion Effect", Psychological Science. A.
We conducted a preregistered, multi-laboratory project (k = 36; N = 3531) to assess the size and robustness of ego depletion effects using a novel replication method, termed the paradigmatic replication approach. Laboratories implemented one of two procedures that intended to manipulate self-control and tested performance on a subsequent measure of self-control. Confirmatory tests found a non-significant result, d = 0.06. Confirmatory Bayesian meta-analyses using an informed prior hypothesis (δ = 0.30; SD = 0.15) found the data were four times more likely under the null than the alternative hypothesis. Hence, preregistered analyses did not find evidence for a depletion effect. Exploratory analyses on the full sample (i.e., ignoring preregistered exclusion criteria; see supplemental online materials) found a statistically significant effect (d = 0.08), with data about equally likely under the null and informed prior hypotheses. Exploratory moderator tests suggested that the depletion effect was larger for participants reporting more fatigue but was not moderated by trait self-control, willpower beliefs, or action orientation.
Mead, Nicole L. and Lawrence E. Williams (2022), "The Pursuit of Meaning and the Preference for Less Expensive Options", Journal of Consumer Research.
Finding meaning in life is a fundamental human motivation. Along with pleasure, meaning is a pillar of happiness and well-being. Yet, despite the centrality of this motive, and despite firms’ attempts to appeal to this motive, scant research has investigated how the pursuit of meaning influences consumer choice, especially in comparison to the study of pleasure. While previous perspectives would suggest that the pursuit of meaning tilts consumers toward high-quality products, we predicted and found the opposite. As compared to a pleasure or (no goal) baseline condition, 6 studies demonstrate that the pursuit of meaning causes people to consider how they can otherwise use their money (opportunity costs) which in turn leads to a preference for less expensive goods. This effect is robust across multiple product categories and usage situations, including both experiential and material purchases, and is obtained even when the more expensive product is perceived to deliver greater meaning. For participants pursuing meaning, making opportunity costs salient has no effect on their choices, and encouraging opportunity cost neglect increases their willingness to pay for a more expensive item. This research thus provides an initial answer as to how the pursuit of meaning shapes consumer choice processes and preferences.
Mead, Nicole L. and Lawrence E. Williams (2022), "Can’t Buy Me Meaning? Lay Theories Impede People from Deriving Meaning and Well-Being from Consumption", Current Opinion in Psychology.
People seek meaning in the marketplace, but can meaning be bought? We review emerging evidence and suggest that the typical association between meaning and well-being is weakened in consumption contexts. We outline two lay beliefs that help explain this gap: the belief that purchases are extrinsic pursuits whereas meaning should come from intrinsic pursuits, and the belief that purchases are impure sources of meaning because companies profit at the expense of people. This conceptual model suggests three paths to enhance meaning and well-being through consumption: reframe purchases as intrinsically rewarding, change (erroneous) lay theories that profit necessarily comes at the expense of the social good, or highlight the future, enduring benefits of consumption.
Garbinsky, Emily, Nicole L. Mead, and Daniel Gregg (2021), "Popping the Positive Illusion of Financial Responsibility Can Increase Personal Savings: Applications in Emerging and Western Markets", Journal of Marketing (Special Issue: Better Marketing for a Better World), 85(3), 97-112.Keywords
People around the world are not saving enough money. The authors propose that one reason people undersave is because they hold the positive illusion of being financially responsible. If this conjecture is correct, then deflating this inflated self-view may increase saving, as people should become motivated to restore perceptions of financial responsibility. After establishing that people do hold the illusion of financial responsibility, the authors developed an intervention that combats this self-enhancing bias by triggering people to recognize their frequent engagement in superfluous spending. This superfluous-spender intervention increased saving by enhancing people’s motivation to restore their diminished perceptions of financial responsibility. Consistent with theorizing, the intervention increased saving only when superfluous spending was under one’s control and among those who were motivated to perceive themselves as financially responsible. In addition to increasing saving in Western countries, the superfluous-spender intervention increased saving of earned income and a financial windfall over time among chronically poor coffee growers in rural Uganda. Collectively, this work shows that people view their financial responsibility through rose-colored glasses, which can undermine their financial well-being. It also endows stakeholders with a simple, practical, and inexpensive intervention that offsets this bias to increase personal savings.
Mead, Nicole L. and Roy F. Baumeister (2021), "Do Objects Fuel Thyself? The Relationship Between Objects and Self-Regulation", Current Opinion in Psychology, 39, 16-19.
It has long been argued that people become attached to objects because objects help people to define, reflect, and communicate the self. In this article we consider whether objects not only help to ‘know thyself’ but also to ‘fuel thyself’. In other words, whether objects can contribute to self-regulation. We review past research to consider whether the functional and symbolic aspects of objects are found to promote self-regulation through enhanced recognition of and commitment to standards, monitoring, and capacity to change. We conclude by considering that people need to regulate their relationship with objects, in part because objects can successfully help people achieve basic needs. In this way, failure to regulate one’s relationship to objects can contribute to problematic outcomes such as neglect, obesity, hoarding, and addiction.
Stuppy, Anika, Nicole L. Mead, and Stijn M. J. van Osselaer (2020), "I am, Therefore I Buy: Low Self-esteem and the Pursuit of Self-Verifying Consumption", Journal of Consumer Research, 45 (5), 956-973.Keywords
The idea that consumers use products to feel good about themselves is a basic tenet of marketing. Yet, in addition to the motive to self-enhance, consumers also strive to confirm their self-views (i.e., self-verification). Although self-verification provides self-related benefits, its role in consumer behavior is poorly understood. To redress that gap, we examine a dispositional variable—trait self-esteem—that predicts whether consumers self-verify in the marketplace. We propose that low (vs. high) self-esteem consumers gravitate toward inferior products because those products confirm their pessimistic self-views. Five studies supported our theorizing: low (vs. high) self-esteem participants gravitated toward inferior products (study 1) because of the motivation to self-verify (study 2). Low self-esteem consumers preferred inferior products only when those products signaled pessimistic (vs. positive) self-views and could therefore be self-verifying (study 3). Even more telling, low self-esteem consumers’ propensity to choose inferior products disappeared after they were induced to view themselves as consumers of superior products (study 4), but remained in the wake of negative feedback (study 5). Our investigation thus highlights self-esteem as a boundary condition for compensatory consumption. By pinpointing factors that predict when self-verification guides consumer behavior, this work enriches the field’s understanding of how products serve self-motives.
Mead, Nicole L., Roy F. Baumeister, Anika Stuppy, and Kathleen D. Vohs (2018), "Power Increases the Socially Toxic Component of Narcissism Among Individuals with High Baseline Testosterone", Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147(4), 591-596.
The corrosive effects of power have been noted for centuries, but the self-related changes responsible for those effects have remained somewhat elusive. Narcissists tend to rise to—and abuse—positions of power, so we considered the possibility that positions of power may corrupt because they inflate narcissism. Two pathways were considered: Powerholders abuse their power because having power over others makes them feel superior (grandiosity pathway) or deserving of special treatment (entitlement pathway). Supporting the entitlement pathway, assigning participants to a position of power (vs. equal control) over a group task increased scores on the Exploitative/Entitlement component of narcissism among those with high baseline testosterone. What is more, heightened Exploitative/Entitlement scores among high-testosterone participants endowed with power (vs. equal control) statistically explained amplified self-reported willingness to misuse their power (e.g., taking fringe benefits as extra compensation). The grandiosity pathway was not well supported. The Superiority/Arrogance, Self-Absorption/Self-Admiration, and Leadership/Authority facets of narcissism did not change as a function of the power manipulation and testosterone levels. Taken together, these results suggest that people with high (but not low) testosterone may be inclined to misuse their power because having power over others makes them feel entitled to special treatment. This work identifies testosterone as a characteristic that contributes to the development of the socially toxic component of narcissism (Exploitative/Entitlement). It points to the possibility that structural positions of power and individual differences in narcissism may be mutually reinforcing, suggesting a vicious cycle with personal, relational, and societal implications.
Mead, Nicole L. and Vanessa M. Patrick (2016), "The Taming of Desire: Unspecific Postponement Reduces Desire for and Consumption of Postponed Pleasures", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 110(1), 20-35.
The present investigation began with the conjecture that people may do better by saying “some other time” instead of “no, not ever” in response to temptations. Drawing from learning theories, we hypothesized that people interpret unspecific postponement (“I can have it some other time”) as a signal that they do not strongly value the postponed temptation. In this way, unspecific postponement may reduce desire for and consumption of postponed temptations, both in the present moment and over time. Four experiments tested those hypotheses. A multiphase study using the free-choice paradigm supported the learning account for the effects of postponement: unspecific postponement reduced immediate desire for a self-selected temptation which in turn statistically accounted for diminished consumption during the week after the manipulation—but only when postponement was induced, not when it was imposed (Experiment 1). Supporting the hypothesis that unspecific but not specific postponement connotes weak valuation, only unspecific postponement reduced attention to (Experiment 2) and consumption of (Experiment 3) the postponed temptation. Additionally, unspecific postponement delayed consumption primarily among those who were highly motivated to forgo consumption of the temptation (Experiment 3). A final multiphase experiment compared the effectiveness of unspecific postponement to the classic self-control mechanism of restraint, finding that unspecific postponement (vs. restraint) reduced consumption of the temptation in the heat of the moment and across 1 week postmanipulation (Experiment 4). The current research provides novel insight into self-control facilitation, the modification of desire, and the differential effects of unspecific and specific intentions for reducing unwanted behavior. (APA PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)
Mead, Nicole L., Vanessa M. Patrick, Manissa P. Gunadi and Wilhelm Hofmann (2016), "Simple Pleasures, Small Annoyances, and Goal Progress in Daily Life", Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 1(4), 527-539.
Despite the explosion of research on goal pursuit, relatively little is known about the shaping of goal progress by the simple experiences that characterize everyday life. Two literatures furnish competing predictions about the relationship between pleasant daily experiences (simple pleasures), unpleasant daily experiences (small annoyances), and day-to-day goal progress. A 6-day experience-sampling study revealed support for the favored integrative account. On a given day, a relatively high number of simple pleasures offset the negative relationship between the number of small annoyances and goal progress through a restoration of daily happiness rather than a reduction of daily stress. This study highlights the bright side of pleasurable experiences, indicating that goal progress can flourish in a life punctuated with frequent simple pleasures because they help offset daily irritations. As natural precursors to positive and negative affect, simple pleasures and small annoyances could be powerful predictors of important consumer outcomes.
Savani, Krishna, Nicole L. Mead, Tyler F. Stillman, and Kathleen D. Vohs (2016), "No Match for Money: Even in Intimate Relationships and Collectivistic Cultures Reminders of Money Weaken Sociomoral Responses", Self and Identity, 15(3), 342-355.
The present research tested two competing hypotheses: (1) as money cues activate an exchange orientation to social relations, money cues harm prosocial responses in communal and collectivistic settings; (2) as money can be used to help close others, money cues increase helping in communal or collectivistic settings. In a culture, characterized by strong helping norms, money cues reduced the quality of help given (Experiment 1), and lowered perceived moral obligation to help (Experiment 2). In communal relationships, money reminders decreased willingness to help romantic partners (Experiment 3). This effect was attenuated among people high on communal strength, although money cues made them upset with help requests (Experiment 4). Thus, the harmful effects of money on prosocial responses appear robust.
Yang, Qing, Xiaochang Wu, Xinyue Zhou, Nicole L. Mead, Kathleen D. Vohs, and Roy F. Baumeister (2013), "Diverging Effects of Clean Versus Dirty Money on Attitudes, Values, and Interpersonal Behavior", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(3), 473-489.
Does the cue of money lead to selfish, greedy, exploitative behaviors or to fairness, exchange, and reciprocity? We found evidence for both, suggesting that people have both sets of meaningful associations, which can be differentially activated by exposure to clean versus dirty money. In a field experiment at a farmers’ market, vendors who handled dirty money subsequently cheated customers, whereas those who handled clean money gave fair value (Experiment 1). In laboratory studies with economic games, participants who had previously handled and counted dirty money tended toward selfish, unfair practices—unlike those who had counted clean money or dirty paper, both of which led to fairness and reciprocity. These patterns were found with the trust game (Experiment 2), the prisoner’s dilemma (Experiment 4), the ultimatum game (Experiment 5), and the dictator game (Experiment 6). Cognitive measures indicated that exposure to dirty money lowered moral standards (Experiment 3) and reduced positive attitudes toward fairness and reciprocity (Experiments 6–7), whereas exposure to clean money had the opposite effects. Thus, people apparently have 2 contradictory sets of associations (including behavioral tendencies) to money, which is a complex, powerful, and ubiquitous aspect of human social life and cultural organization. (APA PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)
Mead, Nicole L. and Jon K. Maner (2012), "On Keeping Your Enemies Close: Powerful Leaders Seek Proximity to Ingroup Power Threats", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(3), 576-591.
Throughout history, humans have had to detect and deflect myriad threats from their social and physical environment in order to survive and flourish. When people detect a threat, the most common response is avoidance. In the present research, the authors provide evidence that ingroup power threats elicit a very different response. Three experiments supported the hypothesis that dominant leaders seek proximity to ingroup members who pose a threat to their power, as a way to control and downregulate the threat that those members pose. In each experiment, leaders high (but not low) in dominance motivation sought proximity to an ingroup member who threatened their power. Consistent with the hypothesis that increased proximity was designed to help leaders protect their own power, the proximity effect was apparent only under conditions of unstable power (not stable power), only in the absence of intergroup competition (not when a rival outgroup was present), and only toward a threatening group member (not a neutral group member). Moreover, the effect was mediated by perceptions of threat (Experiment 1) and the desire to monitor the threatening group member (Experiment 3). These results shed new light on one key strategy through which dominant leaders try to maintain control over valuable yet potentially threatening group members. Findings have implications for theories of power, leadership, and group behavior.
Mead, Nicole L. and Jon K. Maner (2012), "When Me vs. You Becomes Us vs. Them: How Intergroup Competition Shapes Ingroup Psychology", Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6(8), 566-574.
Throughout evolutionary history, intergroup competition has been an influential part of social life. Although the topic has received substantial empirical attention among social psychologists, the majority of that work has focused on how ingroup and outgroup members regard one another. Only recently have researchers begun examining how intergroup rivalry changes that way that ingroup members perceive and relate to one another. New findings suggest that a variety of within‐group processes are influenced by the presence of a rival outgroup. In general, altruistic cooperation and prosocial motives increase among ingroup members when their group competes against another. The relationship between leaders and followers also shifts in response to intergroup rivalry: rather than wielding their power for selfish purposes, leaders prioritize the needs of their group. On the flip side, followers’ choice of leader changes, preferring males during times of intergroup competition but females in the absence of competition. Given the substantial impact of intergroup competition on ingroup processes, future research should continue to deepen the field’s knowledge of this topic. Additionally, the scope of research should be broadened to capture the effect of intergroup competition on ingroup dynamics, such as performance and group outcomes.
Project Title Role Award Amount Year Awarded Granting Agency Project TitleBelief in the Implicit Social Contract Governs Pro-Environmental Behaviour RoleSole Investigator Award Amount$72,230.00 Year Awarded2020-2024 Granting AgencySSHRC Insight Development Grant Project TitleCash Costs You: The Pain of Holding RoleCo-investigator Award Amount$15,000.00 Year Awarded2019 Granting AgencyING Think Forward Initiative Short-Term Research Grant Project TitleDoes a Broken Heart Lead to an Endangered Planet? RoleSole Investigator Award Amount$10,000.00 Year Awarded2018 Granting AgencyUniversity of Melbourne, Faculty Research Grant Project TitleI am, Therefore I Buy: Low Self-Esteem and the Pursuit of Self-Verifying Consumption RoleCo-investigator Award Amount$4,000.00 Year Awarded2017, 2018 Granting AgencyUniversity of Melbourne, Revise & Resubmit Research Grant Project TitleMental Resets RoleSole Investigator Award Amount$20,000.00 Year Awarded2017 Granting AgencyUniversity of Melbourne, Faculty Research Grant, 2017 Project TitlePower and Narcissism RoleSole Investigator Award Amount$60,000.00 Year Awarded2006-2009 Granting AgencySSHRC Doctoral fellowship