We explore how the motivation to protect oneself against social risks (e.g., disapproval from peers) can override peoples’ innate motivation to protect themselves against physical risks (e.g., COVID-19), and its implications for theory and policy.

THE PAPER: Schiro, Julie L.* and H. Lauren Min* (2020), “Social Protection Motivation: When Protecting Against Social Risks Supersedes Protecting Against Physical Ones,” data collection. *equal authorship

Across a natural experiment of over 100,000 Facebook posts and three lab experiments, we find that sad prosocial content can be more viral than other types of emotional content, including humorous content (positively valenced) and angering content (high arousal), in direct opposition to prior work.

THE PAPER: Schiro, Julie L.* and H. Lauren Min* (2020), “What Makes Content Viral in the Prosocial Domain? The Surprising Power of Sadness,” under review at the Journal of Marketing Research. *equal authorship

—Finalist, 2020 Society for Consumer Psychology Best Competitive Paper Award

We outline best practices in digital marketing, from going viral to targeting, for social marketers eager to make an impact online. We focus on a notoriously non-digital domain – food safety communications – as a template for breaking into the digital space.

THE PAPERS: Shan, Liran Christine*, Julie L. Schiro*, Kai Zhong, and Patrick Wall (2020), “The Benefits of Smartphone Games in Communicating Food Safety and Nutrition,” npj Science of Food, 4 (2), 1-4. *equal authorship  Download PDF

Shan, Liran Christine*, Julie L. Schiro*, Mimi Tatlow-Golden, Chenguang Li, Lucia De Luca, and Patrick Wall (2020), “Are our food safety and nutrition scientists digital-savvy enough? The benefits of a digital approach to communicating with the public”, under second round review at npj Science of Food*equal authorship

Instead of being scary or depressing, many social marketers are being funny.  Across two papers, we investigate whether humor can “sell” good behaviors as well as their scary and sad counterparts.

THE PAPERS: Schiro, Julie L. (2020), “Using Humor to ‘Sell’ Good Life Choices,” Manuscript in Progress.

McGraw, A. P., Julie L. Schiro, and Philip M. Fernbach (2015), “Not a Problem: A Downside of Humorous Appeals,” Journal of Marketing Behavior, 1 (2), 187-208. Download PDF

People are poor intuitive statisticians. We propose a reason. When people judge the correlation between two continuous variables, they mentally categorize it into a 2×2 contingency table: high X high Y, high X low Y, low X high Y, low X low Y. People pay more attention to some cells (high-high) than others (low-low), resulting in predictable interpretation errors. Specifically, people overweigh the importance of high-high evidence and underweigh the importance of low-low evidence. The result is that people judge datasets with identical correlations but different distributions of points differently. Visualizing data in scatterplots does not improve judgments. However, overlaying simple visual cues do. For instance, drawing a circle around the points of a scatterplot inhibits categorical thinking about the data, which improves people’s judgments by reducing their tendency to overweigh high-high evidence and underweigh low-low evidence.


de Langhe, Bart, Philip M. Fernbach, and Julie L. Schiro (2020), “Two-By-Two: Categorical Thinking in the Interpretation of Continuous Bivariate Data,” Manuscript in Preparation.