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edobrien.heic
Associate Professor of Behavioral Science

University of Chicago Booth School of Business

eob@chicagobooth.edu

RESEARCH INTERESTS: I'm an experimental social psychologist. I study social cognition with a focus on temporal contexts. My research uses the lens of time and change to understand conundrums like: Why don't people recognize obvious problems? Why do people celebrate self-improvement yet punish others for past misdeeds? Why is it easy to make a positive impression but hard to make it last? I study the psychological processes underlying such issues and their applications to resolving conflict and boosting well-being.

The core theoretical insight from my research is that people ought to think "in time" more than they typically do - that is, people tend to under-appreciate how things in the present will change and be judged differently upon looking back at them - which I find significantly contributes to such issues. As I test and find, interventions that target people's temporal thinking can therefore help resolve such issues.

For example, I've used this insight to develop broader frameworks that explain when and why people fail to see progress vs. decline (click here for a review) and that highlight how hedonic adaptation is not as pervasive as the field paints it (click here for a review).

Selected Papers: CHANGE PERCEPTION & CHANGE MANAGEMENT

Klein, N, & O'Brien, E. (in press). Threshold Violations in Social Judgment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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O'Brien, E. (2022). Losing Sight of Piecemeal Progress: People Lump and Dismiss Improvement Efforts That Fall Short of Categorical Change—Despite Improving. Psychological Science.

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Klein, N., & O'Brien, E. (2018). People Use Less Information Than They Think to Make Up Their Minds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Klein, N., & O'Brien, E. (2017). The Power and Limits of Personal Change: When a Bad Past Does (and Does Not) Inspire in the Present. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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O'Brien, E., & Klein, N. (2017). The Tipping Point of Perceived Change: Asymmetric Thresholds in Diagnosing Improvement Versus Decline. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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Selected Papers: REPEATED EXPOSURE & HEDONIC ADAPTATION

 

Winet, Y., & O'Brien, E. (in press). Ending on a Familiar Note: Perceived Endings Motivate Repeat Consumption. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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Kardas, M., Schroeder, J., & O'Brien, E. (in press). Keep Talking: (Mis)Understanding the Hedonic Trajectory of Conversation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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O'Brien, E. (2021). A Mind Stretched: The Psychology of Repeat Consumption. Consumer Psychology Review.

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Winner, ISSEP Best Paper Award (awarded 2023)

O'Brien, E. (2019). Enjoy It Again: Repeat Experiences are Less Repetitive Than People Think. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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O'Brien, E., & Kassirer, S. (2019). People are Slow to Adapt to the Warm Glow of Giving. Psychological Science.

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Selected Book Chapters

 

O'Brien, E. (in press). Things Change—But When? A Top-Down Approach to Understanding How People Judge Change Thresholds. In K. Taku & T. K. Shackelford (Eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Changes in Human Perceptions and Behaviors. London, UK: Taylor & Francis.

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O'Brien, E. (2022). Look Back, Not Ahead? Time Use and the Value of Revisiting Past Experiences. In C. Hoerl, T. McCormack, & A. Fernandes (Eds.), Temporal Asymmetries in Philosophy and Psychology. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

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