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Haas names alumni business leaders as 2023 commencement speakers

Visa’s Chief Marketing Officer Frank Cooper III, BS 86, and Toast’s Chief Financial Officer Elena Gomez, BS 91, will serve as Berkeley Haas commencement speakers this May.

Commencement ceremonies will be held at the Greek Theatre, with the undergrads tossing caps on Tuesday, May 16, and the FTMBA and Evening & Weekend MBA students graduating together on Friday, May 19. 

Cooper will speak at the combined Full-time and Evening & Weekend MBA commencement, and Gomez will speak at undergraduate commencement. 

Frank Cooper III

A branding and advertising leader, Cooper leads Visa’s marketing across all regions and functions, including brand, data and insights, social and digital platforms, content, and sponsorships. Cooper, recognized by Fast Company as one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business,” describes himself as “a marketer in the broadest sense: I seek to change things—change ways of thinking but more important to change behaviors.”

Prior to working at Visa, Cooper served as chief marketing officer at BlackRock, shaping the firm’s global brand and marketing strategy. 

Cooper has also previously held C-suite positions as chief marketing and creative officer at Buzzfeed, and as PepsiCo’s chief marketing officer of global consumer engagement for more than 12 years. Cooper also served as former chairman of the American Advertising Federation and on the for-profit boards of Burlington Stores and Ogmento/Flyby Media. 

He began his career as an entertainment lawyer and was a senior executive at Motown and Def Jam. He is a four-time recipient of Billboard’s “Power 100” and AdColor’s “Legend” award. 

He began his career as an entertainment lawyer and was a senior executive at Motown and Def Jam. He is a four-time recipient of Billboard’s “Power 100” and AdColor’s “Legend” award. 

He earned an undergraduate degree in business administration at UC Berkeley, and a JD from Harvard Law School, where he served as the Supreme Court Editor of The Harvard Law Review.

Elena Gomez 

As chief financial officer at Boston-based Toast, Gomez oversees global finance, investor relations, and corporate development. Under her financial leadership, the cloud-based restaurant management software company launched its initial public offering in 2021

Prior to her position at Toast, Gomez served as the chief financial officer at Zendesk, where she grew the company’s market capitalization to more than $15 billion.

Throughout her 30-year career, Gomez has helped organizations scale through cycles of massive growth while leading in industries that have been transformed by digital transactions. 

She has held financial leadership roles at Fortune 500 companies including Salesforce, Visa, and Charles Schwab. 

Additionally, Gomez serves on the board of directors for Smartsheet and PagerDuty as audit committee chair.  She was also named to the San Francisco Business TImes’ 2017 list of “Most Influential Women in Business.”

An advocate for corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion, she serves on the Founding Advisory Council of the Center for Gender, Equity & Leadership (EGAL) at Haas, as well as the board of the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco.

New approach puts brain scans on the witness stand in trademark disputes

Research shows how neuroscience could reduce bias, revolutionize intellectual property law

Illustration showing scales of justice and a human brain with an orange and yellow background.
Credit: iStock

Imagine you’re browsing the toothpaste aisle and see next to Colgate a new brand called Colddate, packaged in a box with similar colors and designs. “You might think this is clearly a copycat brand,” said Ming Hsu, William Halford Jr. Family Chair in Marketing at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley.

Yet in a real-life trademark infringement case involving these two brands, Colgate-Palmolive lost the suit, with the judge saying they were “similar” but not “substantially indistinguishable.”

There are often different opinions between judges and juries in trademark cases about how similar the brands in question actually are, leading to large inconsistencies in the application of the law. In a paper published February 8 in the journal Science Advances, Hsu and colleagues propose a more scientific measure through the use of brain scans—employing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) along with a specialized technique called repetition suppression (RS).

“Asking the brain, not a person, could reduce—if not eliminate—these inconsistencies,” said lead author Zhihao Zhang, a former Berkeley Haas postdoctoral researcher now on the faculty of the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia. The study’s other authors include Dr. Andrew Kayser of UC San Francisco, Femke van Horen of Vrije University Amsterdam, and Mark Bartholomew of University at Buffalo Law School.

What is “similarity”?

The standard according to the law is whether a “reasonable person” would find two trademarks similar, but it doesn’t define what similar means.

“Similarity is an incredibly hard thing to measure in an objective way,” said Zhang. “Making things worse, in the adversarial legal system, two opposing parties each hire their own attorneys and expert witnesses who present their own evidence.”

Often that evidence takes the form of consumer surveys, which have been shown to be susceptible to manipulation—for example, through the use of leading questions. Not surprisingly, plaintiffs are known to present surveys finding that the two trademarks are similar, while defendants present competing surveys showing they are different.

“There is no gold standard in the law about what background information survey respondents receive, how the questions are phrased, and what criteria of ‘similarity’ should be followed— all factors that can change the results substantially,” Zhang said. “Judges have a lot of experience with these situations, and have developed some degree of cynicism.”

Oftentimes, Hsu added, judges just say, ‘I don’t believe any of you, I’m going to go with my own gut.’ It’s easy to sympathize with these judges, who just throw up their hands.”

Putting brains on the witness stand

In their paper, the researchers demonstrated how looking directly into the brain may help solve this conundrum. They put participants in fMRI scanners, and rapidly showed them pairs of images consisting of the main brand and a supposed copycat. Previous research has consistently shown that when presented with two similar images, the brain suppresses activity for the second image, perhaps out of efficiency, thinking it’s already seen the image. By measuring the amount of repetition suppression (RS) in brain activity for the second image, the researchers determined how similar a person found the two images.

The resulting approach provides an important benefit: Participants are blind to the goal of the study, which further reduces bias. “This is because we don’t have to ask them any questions at all or tell them what it means to be similar or not,” said Hsu.

“In fact, even the experimenter administering the study doesn’t need to know its purpose, which makes it a ‘double-blind’ study like the rigorous clinical studies in drug development,” added Kayser.

Indeed, when the research team checked the results of the neuroimaging against survey results that are intended to be pro-plaintiff, pro-defendant, or neutral, they found the brain-based measure can reliably pick out the more neutral survey results, supporting the idea that the brain scans can improve the quality of legal evidence in these cases.

This kind of evidence could be provided as a supplemental “spot check” to survey evidence, giving a judge or jury confidence the surveys are accurate, Hsu said. The cost of using neuroimaging is comparable to presenting survey data, the researchers said.

Scientists provide the ruler, courts draw the line

Importantly, the brain-based measures don’t take away the need for judgment by the court. “Our method still doesn’t say how similar is too similar,” said Kayser. “Our job as scientists is to provide a better ruler. It’s still up to the judge to decide where to draw the line.”

More broadly, introducing new techniques like this will require more discussion between disciplines and a better understanding by legal practitioners of what value these techniques deliver, said Bartholomew, who served as the legal expert on the research team. “Courts have an important role in deciding when new kinds of scientific insights should be allowed in to potentially influence the outcome of a case,” he said. “This gatekeeping role means that both judges and the lawyers appearing before them increasingly need to have a working knowledge of neuroscientific techniques.”

While this study only looked at visual trademark cases, the researchers say this kind of neural measure holds promise for a wide range of legal applications revolving around people’s mental reactions—for example, determining copyright infringement in music cases, or determining how a “reasonable person” would judge obscenity, negligence, or other legal issues.

“It’s striking how often people’s opinions matter in the courts, and how often this standard of a ‘reasonable person’ is applied in the law,” Hsu said. “While we are not there yet, one can imagine a future where we ask the brain to help us answer these difficult questions.”

Read the paper

From Scanner to Court: A Neuroscientifically Informed “Reasonable Person” Test of Trademark Infringement
By Zhihao Zhang, Maxwell Good, Vera Kulikov, Femke van Horen, Mark Bartholomew, Andrew Kayser, and Ming Hsu
Science AdvancesFebruary 2023

Media contact

Laura Counts, Media Relations, Haas School of Business
[email protected], (510) 643.9977

Researcher contacts

Ming Hsu, Associate Professor & William Halford Jr. Family Chair in Marketing, Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley
[email protected]

Zhihao Zhang, Assistant Professor, University of Virginia Darden School of Business
[email protected], (434) 243-1368

Michael Smith, MBA 86
Chief Marketing Officer, NPR

Headshot of Michael Smith.When Michael Smith earned his MBA in 1986, there were no podcasts or internet. The cable boom was still a few years away. Yet, throughout his career, he’s helped major media companies stay current, from selling the Disney Channel to cable distributors in the ’90s to bringing Food Network into the digital era. Now he’s jumped to public media.

As NPR’s chief marketing officer, he’s working to attract a younger and more diverse audience. “The average age of the NPR broadcast radio listener is 58 to 59 years old,” says Smith. “So that’s obviously not reflective of America, especially when you look at Gen Z and Millennials, who are 40% to 45% people of color.” 

The solution, says Smith, entails NPR building a diverse workforce in editorial and executive leadership, as well as adding more diverse content and voices. 

Another challenge is brand recognition. Only 30% of Americans—and 26% of people of color—know about NPR, says Smith, and the company hadn’t previously made significant investments in advertising or marketing. “I’ve been lucky that they’ve been willing to provide a budget to increase awareness,” he says. So far, Smith’s marketing campaigns are working. Awareness is up 9 percentage points since 2020 among the targeted Black and Hispanic audiences.

Smith himself deals with the evolving media landscape through constant education. And he gets others to embrace change by opting for a quietly inspiring leadership approach. “People talk about leading from the front. I’ve always been more about leading from behind,” says Smith. “Great servant leaders get satisfaction from amplifying and lifting up others.”

Prof. Emeritus John G. Myers

Marketing expert

Headshot of John G. Myers.

Professor Emeritus John G. Myers, 89, an expert in the science of consumer behavior, died on Oct. 14 in Oakland, Calif.

Myers, who joined Berkeley’s business school in 1964, was one of the early trained behavioral scientists in marketing studies. Among his areas of research were promotional incentives, e-commerce consumer behavior, and consumer indecision, as well as the management of brands and trademarks in Russia.

His fascination with the factors that affect people’s choices—and how to use evolving technologies to define, measure, and analyze those factors—drove his many scholarly pursuits and, ultimately, his leadership at Haas. In the 1980s, he served as associate dean of academic affairs, of curriculum, and of the graduate school. He chaired the Marketing and International Business Group from 1974 to 1977 and was director of the PhD program from 1982 to 1985.

Donations in his memory may be made to the John and Arlyn Myers Marketing Award. Visit and note “in honor of John Myers.” Read his full obituary.

Wendy Nguyen, BS 02
Co-Organizer, Stand with Asian Americans; CMO, Section4

Wendy Nguyen.Wendy Nguyen, a first-generation Vietnamese American, was raised to give back to society. So when presented an opportunity to speak up against assaults on Asian Americans, she didn’t hesitate.

It was March 2021 and eight people, including six Asian women, had been murdered by a gunman in Atlanta. “The killings were a breaking point for the community,” Nguyen says. 

Soon after, entrepreneurs Dave Lu and Justin Zhu sought her advice on how to promote a pledge they were writing to stop Asian American Pacific Islander hate crimes. Nguyen had been in marketing for some 14 years in the areas of social advocacy and health. How, they asked her, could they bring attention to protecting and supporting members of the AAPI community? 

“We have to publish it in the Wall Street Journal,” Nguyen told them. 

The pledge was published on March 31. “We thought if we could get 300 people to sign this letter, we would have done well,” Nguyen says.

More than 8,000 people signed, from Door Dash drivers to former President George W. Bush. It was the start of Stand with Asian Americans.

Since then, SwAA has raised over $1 million and made grants to more than eight nonprofits. One recipient held a contest to design the best AAPI hate-crime tracker. Another developed a youth program to register and drive voter turnout among the AAPI population.

“We are recruiting and inspiring the next generation of Asian American activists,” says Nguyen. “Activism can happen anywhere: home, workplace, streets. We want to be an outlet for anyone looking to contribute.”  

Why subscription services can yield the most profits for companies

Hands of senior woman choosing subscription or payment plan on tablet computer and paying with credit card

The market for online subscription services accounted for roughly $70 billion in 2021. A recent report suggests this figure will be $900 billion—more than ten times larger—by 2026. Though stories abound describing the consumer value of subscriptions, new Berkeley Haas research provides a novel insight into why businesses may also benefit from the model.

A recent article by J. Miguel Villas-Boas from Haas and Z. Eddie Ning from the University of British Columbia, published in the journal Marketing Science, reveals that subscription services often permit companies to reap the most profit from a given product or experience—a result that extends far beyond streaming platforms.

Villas-Boas offered the case of a luxury handbag company. “One option is to sell the bag and another option is to rent it,” he says. “We find that renting would be more profitable.” If a customer buys a bag and then realizes how much she likes it—realizes that she would, in fact, gladly have paid a higher price for it — then the company has left that money on the table. A subscription or rental program instead allows for a larger profit over time.

The article, which is rooted in a mathematical model of consumer decision-making, offers another key finding. When consumers are able to learn deeply about a product or service prior to purchase, then they are both slower to buy and more loyal; repeat purchases account for a larger share of their value. When most of the information about a product or service is instead gathered post-purchase, then the opposite is true: value is generated by the first purchase, which is less likely to be repeated.

For Villas-Boas, two important implications flow from this result. First, managers ought to consider where they focus their energies based on how customers learn about their products. If information is gained from owning a product or taking part in an experience, then managers should put their energy into generating that first purchase. If lots of information is available before purchase, then managers should invest instead in customer retention and repeat purchases. They should also do what they can to increase the availability of information through channels like online reviews. The research shows that online reviews are thus quite valuable to companies, in addition to their value to consumers.

Second, and more counterintuitively, companies that cannot offer a subscription can use high prices to defer consumer purchases. A high price, in essence, can be strategically used to force people to do more research before buying. This, in turn, makes it more likely that they will be satisfied with the purchase and become repeat customers.

“When the price is relatively high the consumer delays the purchase quite a bit until she finds really good information,” Villas-Boas says. “For products that last longer, you end up getting greater revenue by pricing higher.”

Marketing Professor John G. Myers, a longtime Haas leader, dies at 89

John G. Myers, right, teaching an executive education class (Haas file photo)

Professor Emeritus John G. Myers, a faculty leader whose warm personality, scholarship and mentoring, and expertise in the science of consumer behavior made him invaluable at the Haas School of Business for decades, passed away on October 14, 2022, in Oakland, Calif. He was 89.

John G. Myers (Haas file photo)

Myers, who first arrived in Berkeley and joined the business school in 1964, was one of the early trained behavioral scientists in marketing studies. His fascination with the factors that affect people’s choices—and how to use evolving technologies to define, measure, and analyze those factors—drove his many scholarly pursuits and advisory activities, and ultimately his leadership at Haas.

Myers personified the concept of belonging in the Haas School community and UC Berkeley, said former Haas Dean Rich Lyons, professor and chief innovation and entrepreneurship officer for UC Berkeley.

“John understood belonging so deeply and what it meant to belong to this place, to have an identity that was fundamentally connected to this place,” Lyons said.

Canadian heritage

John G. Myers on a visit back to his hometown of Penny, British Columbia (Photo courtesy of the Myers family)

Myers was born on July 22, 1933, in Vancouver, British Columbia, and began his education in a one-room schoolhouse in the town of Penny, where his father owned a lumber mill. At a young age, he went to boarding school in Victoria. Despite being two years younger than his classmates and the smallest boy on the teams, he was a versatile athlete who played rugby, cricket, and soccer. He graduated with a bachelor’s in forestry and commerce from the University of British Columbia, where he was involved in campus journalism and athletics. He went on to earn an MBA in 1958 from the University of Western Ontario, where he discovered his love of teaching. In 1966, he received his PhD in business administration and marketing as well as a master’s in sociology from Northwestern University.

Myers was unreserved in his dedication both to Haas students and administration. In the 1980s, he served as associate dean of academic affairs, associate dean of curriculum, and associate dean of the graduate school. He chaired the Marketing and International Business Group from 1974 to 1977 and was director of the PhD Program from 1982 to 1985. He also served as a member of the ASUC Store Operations Board.

His Haas colleagues remember him as a calming force. Despite his imposing frame and intellect, Myers put people at ease with his easygoing personality and sense of humor. “He was just like a big teddy bear. He was warm and safe and friendly. He got along with everybody,” said David Aaker, the E.T. Grether Professor Emeritus of Marketing and Public Policy.

Through his love of evolving technologies, Myers worked to establish the first Haas computer lab in the basement of Barrows Hall and designed and developed the school’s mainframe and PC-based computer information system.

Research on consumer behavior

Among Myers’ areas of research were promotional incentives, e-commerce consumer behavior, and consumer indecision, as well as the management of brands and trademarks in Russia. In an article published in the Journal of Consumer Research in March 1998, Myers and Michal Strahilevitz, PhD 93, examined how a company’s promise to donate to charity could drive consumers to purchase certain products.

A 1974 Haas newsletter featuring a profile of John G. Myers

Myers co-authored with Aaker, and later Rajeev Batra, “Advertising Management,” an influential textbook widely-used in graduate business schools internationally and now in its fifth edition. He also taught advertising management in Russia and France and served as vice president of the Education Division of the American Marketing Association and president of the Association of Directors of Doctoral Programs in Business.

Myers served as a consultant to a wide variety of public and private organizations on marketing and advertising issues, and as expert witness on numerous public policy cases. He was proud of his work on the board for the National Junior Tennis League of San Francisco and Oakland for under-resourced youth.

Dedicated mentor and community builder

Myers was passionate about creating a sense of community at Haas, hosting parties for PhD students and serving on numerous student thesis committees. His devotion to Haas marketing students continued after his retirement in 1994 with the report “Four Decades of Berkeley Marketing PhDs.”

Kay Lemon, PhD 94, recalled how welcoming Myers and his wife were in the early 1990s when Lemon and her husband first arrived at UC Berkeley. Her first teaching experience was as Myers’ graduate student instructor.

“John was a great mentor to me. He provided strong support, insights and encouragement throughout my career,” said Lemon, who now holds the Accenture Professorship at the Boston College School of Management “He was one of the kindest and most generous individuals I’ve known.”

In 2010, Myers spoke about his teaching career in an interview with St. Michaels University School in Canada, which he graduated from in 1947. “One of my teaching styles was to constantly challenge students to think. This was not very popular with some students. It was easier to spend time in lecture dreaming about other things or just automatically taking notes without much thinking,” he said.

While his classroom could prove rigorous, Myers had kind words for struggling students. “If any doctoral student was discouraged about their coursework, or dissertation, they knew John would be encouraging,” said Strahilevitz, now a professor of marketing at Saint Mary’s College of California.

While hitchhiking in Sweden, John Myers advertised his Canadian heritage on the chance it would improve his chance of a ride. He carried the same briefcase throughout his career. (Photo courtesy of the Myers family)

Always the consummate host, Myers and Arlyn, his wife of close to 60 years and a UC Berkeley College of Chemistry emeritus lecturer who also earned her PhD from Northwestern, hosted generations of Haas students, faculty, and their families. They started traditions of hosting PhD students in the early 1980s and Haas emeriti faculty in the late 1990s. Their house, with its view of the Bay, was “the go-to place,” said Prof. J. Miguel Villas-Boas, the J. Gary Shansby Professor of Marketing Strategy.

The late Haas Dean Raymond Miles, in comments prepared for Myers’ retirement, highlighted Myers’ love of bringing happiness to others by playing Santa at Haas holiday parties.

Myers’ son Shawn D. Myers earned his MBA at Haas in 1999. “My father was an immeasurable influence on all those who were lucky enough to spend time with him. As a father and grandfather, he was quick with a joke, able to captivate with a story, and always there to support us through difficult times. He helped to shape so many people in his personal and professional lives, and we will endeavor to carry his spirit of generosity and joy with us forever.”

Myers is survived by his wife, Arlyn; their children Karlyne M. Reilly (husband Jay G. Reilly) of Potomac, MD, Shawn D. Myers (wife Jennifer B. Myers) of Redwood City, Calif., and Amanda J. Myers of Coconut Grove, FL; and grandchildren Jordan A. Reilly, Megan B. Reilly, John (Jack) R. Myers, and Katherine C. Myers.

John and Arlyn Myers Marketing Award

The family suggests that those wishing to honor Myers may do so by donating to the John and Arlyn Myers Marketing Award at the Haas School of Business established by the family in his honor: To make a gift online, please note “In Memory of Professor John Myers” on the donation form (choose any fund). Donations may be made by check to “UC Berkeley,” with a note “Myers Fund/Haas,” and mailed to UC Berkeley Gift Services, 1995 University Ave, Suite 400, Berkeley, CA 94704-1070.

Ten-year impact award for seminal paper that questioned psychology research practices

A 2011 paper co-authored by Professor Leif Nelson, which helped trigger a movement that toppled famous psychology studies and fueled reforms to increase research transparency in the social sciences, has been recognized with a 10-Year Impact Award from academic publisher Sage Publishing.

The paper, False-Positive Psychology: Undisclosed Flexibility in Data Collection and Analysis Allows Presenting Anything as Significant,” was published in Psychological Science and co-authored by Joseph P. Simmons and Uri Simonson. 

The paper questioned several common research practices that the authors dubbed “P-hacking”—a reference to P-value, a calculation which researchers use to determine the statistical significance of a study’s findings. These practices were leading researchers to selective reporting of the results, in the pressure to publish, the authors contended. 

The paper led researchers to revisit the findings of many prior studies, many of which could not be replicated. 

The award from SAGE Publishing recognizes authors of the most cited papers in Sage Journals from 2011. “False Positive Psychology” has been cited more than 7,500 times by other academic researchers. Read more on the award

All Ears

The persuasive power of headphones

A guitarist being driven on a pedal cart followed by people on bikes wearing headphones.
A concert on wheels, where live music is transmitted from the musician to the headphones of cycling guests.

Americans spend an average of four hours per day listening to audio on either headphones or speakers—but there are major differences in the psychological effects between the two media. Headphones have a more powerful impact on listeners’ perceptions, judgments, and behaviors, a new study reveals.

“Managers might encourage employees to listen to safety trainings or webinars using headphones, which may more effectively change their attitudes and behaviors, compared to listening via speakers,” says Associate Professor Juliana Schroeder, a co-author.

The findings in the research from Berkeley Haas, UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management, and UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, which are published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, are replicated in five different studies that included both fieldwork and surveys with more than 4,000 participants.

“We find that headphones produce a phenomenon called in-head localization, which makes the speaker sound as if they’re inside your head,” says co-author On Amir, professor at the Rady School of Management. “Listeners perceive the communicator as closer—both physically and socially.” They also perceive the communicator as warmer. “They feel and behave more empathically toward them, and they are more easily persuaded by them,” he says.

Alicea Lieberman, an assistant professor at the Anderson School of Management, recommends choosing a content platform based on intended closeness. Public service announcements, for example, would be best on a program often consumed via headphones, like podcasts. “On the other hand, if a message does not require listeners to experience any feelings of closeness to the communicator, then where the message is placed (e.g., podcast vs. talk radio) would be less essential.”

Auditory media is an integral part of the workday—even more so with remote work. In 2018, $87.6 billion was spent on industry trainings, with 69% involving either virtual classroom/webcasting or video broadcasting.

Amir suggests that companies could send employees headphones to encourage their use in phone conversations, to potentially increase collaboration. “Our research proposes that it is not only what or whom people hear that influences their judgments, decisions, and behaviors but also how they hear the message,” he says.

Why Republicans and Democrats see their own parties’ lies as more acceptable

New research finds that voters view politicians’ lies about policies as justifiable because they signal partisan loyalty.

Editorial style illustration of a business man or politician taking an oath.
Photo illustration: P_Wei for iStock

Society recognizes that many politicians lie. In five new studies, researchers examined how conservative and liberal Americans responded to politicians’ statements that were called out as false by the media. The studies showed that Republicans and Democrats alike were more likely to rationalize the lies as unintentional or simply label the media reports as “fake news.” But even when they agreed that the politician intentionally told a lie, partisans still saw lies from their own parties’ politicians as relatively more acceptable—particularly when those falsehoods were designed to advance a party’s explicit agenda.

The researchers’ work—which also touches on issues of trustworthiness and morality more generally—has implications for understanding the current hyperpolarized U.S. political climate. The studies, by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, are forthcoming at the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

“Our study suggests that who tells a falsehood, what the falsehood is about, and who is listening all help predict how people explain and evaluate politicians who do not speak the truth,” explains Jeff Galak, Associate Professor of Marketing at the Tepper School, who led the study with Clayton Critcher, Professor of Marketing at Berkeley Haas. “In so doing, the study emphasizes that the moral acceptability of bearing false witness really depends on the extent to which such falsehoods are used in support of or against the explicit aims of one’s political group.”

Flagged falsehoods

In each of the five experiments, participants of varied political orientations learned about a Democratic or Republican politician whose public statements had been found to be untruthful by a fact-checking media source. The researchers called these statements “flagged falsehoods.” The studies examined whether, when, and why people offer partisan evaluations, judging some falsehoods as more acceptable when they came from politicians aligned with their own parties or values.

Galak and Critcher began by identifying two ways partisans arrive at different conclusions about flagged falsehoods. Listeners who share the lying politicians’ political orientation may decide the media report is fake news, or they may rationalize it, telling themselves that the politician did not realize they were lying. Such excuse-making helps them see the original lie as more acceptable. But most centrally, the researchers found that partisan voters continue to disagree about the acceptability of the lies, above and beyond differences in how much they offer up those two excuses.

Personal lies less acceptable

Yet even though Republicans and Democrats generally saw their own party’s lies as more acceptable than those espoused by politicians of the other party, this charitability did not extend to all types of lies. It was strongest for lies about policies, those falsehoods intended to advance a party’s explicit agenda as related to immigration reform, minimum wage laws, or gun control, among other issues. In contrast, opposing partisans more universally condemned personal lies about a politician’s own experience—such as a false claim to have been employed once on minimum wage—or electoral falsehoods that strayed from parties’ explicit goals by aiming to disenfranchise legally eligible voters.

A signal of partisan trustworthiness

Although falsehoods can undermine a politician’s general trustworthiness for members of both parties, the researchers found that policy-focused lies can serve as a signal of partisan trustworthiness, because they lead people to infer that the politician can be trusted by their own side and not by the other. For likeminded partisans, such trustworthiness predicted not only the perceived acceptability of flagged falsehoods, but also perceptions of the politician as a more prototypically moral actor, even outside the political sphere.

These findings begin to paint a more complete picture of why voters can adopt such sharply divergent views of politicians who are called out for making false statements, says Critcher, the Joe Shoong Chair of Business at Berkeley Haas. “When politicians show that they can be trusted by one party more than the other, this is a signal of moral character to fellow in-group members, but also a signal of moral deficiency to the other side. It is thus not simply disinformation, but differential comfort with disinformation, that explains partisan divides in the U.S.”

The research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.


Read the Carnegie Mellon University press release.

Read the full paper:

“Who Sees Which Political Falsehoods as More Acceptable and Why: A New Look at In-Group Loyalty and Trustworthiness”
By Jeff Galak (Carnegie Mellon University) and Clayton R Critcher (University of California, Berkeley)
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, June 2022

Media contacts:

Caitlin Kizielewicz, Tepper School of Business, 412.554.0074, [email protected]
Laura Counts, Haas School of Business, 510-643-9977, [email protected]

Berkeley Haas welcomes nine new professors

New Berkeley Haas faculty members 2022
From top row, left to right: New Berkeley Haas assistant professors Tanya Paul, Ali Kakhbod, Carolyn Stein; Sa-Kiera Hudson, Ambar La Forgia, Sytkse Wijnsma, Sarah Moshary, Matthew Backus, and Valerie Zhang.

Nine new assistant professors have joined the Haas School of Business faculty this year, with cutting-edge research interests that range from illicit supply chains to unequal social hierarchies; from financial crises to the incentives that shape innovation; and from health care management to decentralized finance to marketing and the demand for firearms.

The nine tenure-track hires are the result of a concerted effort by Dean Ann E. Harrison and other Haas leaders to expand and diversify the faculty.

“We are thrilled to welcome this wonderful, diverse new group of academic superstars to Berkeley Haas,” says Dean Ann E. Harrison. “We clearly are bringing the best to Haas, increasing the depth and breadth of our world-renowned faculty, and reinforcing our place among the world’s best business schools.”

The new faculty members have hometowns throughout the U.S. and around the world, including Texas, New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois; Iran, the Dominican Republic, China, and the Netherlands. Seven of them are women; one is Black, and one is Latinx.

“This is our most diverse cohort of new faculty ever, each one a rock star in their own right,” says Jennifer Chatman, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Paul J. Cortese Distinguished Professor of Management. “We are very proud that we were able to lure them to Berkeley Haas.”

The new faculty members start on July 1, with most beginning to teach in spring 2023. They bring the total size of the ladder faculty to 88, up from 78 in 2020-2021.

Meet the faculty

Matthew Backus
Matthew Backus

Assistant Professor Matthew Backus, Economic Analysis & Policy

Hometown: Chicago, Ill.

PhD, Economics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
MA, Economics, University of Toronto
BA, Economics and Philosophy, American University

Research focus: Industrial organization

Introduction: I’m an economist with broad interests. Most recently, I’m interested in how we can use the tools developed by the industrial organization community to understand inequality and the distributional effects of policy.

Teaching: Microeconomics and Antitrust Economics (MBA)

Most excited about: After spending a year visiting, I’m most excited about the economics community at Berkeley.

Fun fact: I have a border collie, who is in training as a herding dog.


Sa-Kiera Hudson
Sa-Kiera Hudson

Assistant Professor Sa-kiera (Kiera) Tiarra Jolynn Hudson, Management of Organizations 

Hometown: Albany, NY

PhD/MA, Social Psychology, Harvard University
BA, Psychology and Biology, Williams College

Research focus: I study the psychological processes involved in the formation, maintenance, and intersections of unequal social hierarchies, with a focus on empathic/spiteful emotions, stereotypes, and legitimizing myths.

Introduction: I am a social psychologist by training, focusing on the nature of intergroup relations as dominance and power hierarchies. I have studied several psychological processes, including the role of legitimizing myths in justifying unequal societal conditions, the role of group stereotypes in the experience and perception of prejudice, and the role of empathic and spiteful emotions in supporting intergroup harm. My work is multidisciplinary, incorporating quantitative as well as qualitative methods from various disciplines such as political science, sociology, and public policy.

I am a fierce advocate for building community, providing mentorship, and supporting authentic inclusion for everyone. I believe it is a moral imperative to be present as a vocal, queer-identified Black women in academe, given the lack of representation, and I’m excited to see how I can contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at Haas.

Teaching: Core Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (MBA)

Most excited about: I identify UC Berkeley as my intellectual birthplace. It was during a summer internship program through the psychology department in 2010 where I first became interested in studying power structures and intergroup relations simultaneously. My overall research interests haven’t changed since that fateful summer. Being a faculty member here is truly a dream come true!

Fun fact: I love organizing and planning, so much so I taught myself how to use Adobe InDesign to create my own planner. I am also an avid foodie and cannot wait to check out the Bay’s food and wine scenes.


Ali Kakhbod
Ali Kakhbod

Assistant Professor Ali Kakhbod, Finance

Hometown: Isfahan, Iran

PhD, Economics, MIT
PhD, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (EECS), University of Michigan

Research focus: Information frictions; liquidity; market microstructure; big data; and contracts

Introduction: I am a financial economist with research interests in financial intermediation, liquidity, contracts, big (alternative) data, banking and financial crises. A common theme of my research agenda is to study various informational settings and their financial and economic implications. For example: When does securitization lead to a financial crisis? Why is there heterogeneity in the means of providing advice in corporate governance? How does information disclosure in OTC (over-the-count) markets affect market efficiency? My research has both theory and empirical components with policy implications.

Teaching: Deep Learning in Finance (MFE)

Most excited about: Berkeley Haas is the heart of what’s next with world-class faculty working on exciting and innovative research. Given that my interdisciplinary research interests span finance, economics and big data issues, I could not ask for a better fit.

Fun fact: In my free time, I like to ski, sail, hike, and enjoy the outdoors.


Ambar La Forgia
Ambar La Forgia

Assistant Professor Ambar La Forgia, Management of Organizations

Hometown: I was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, but I grew up in Washington, DC and São Paulo, Brazil.

PhD, Applied Economics and Managerial Science, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
BA, Economics and Mathematics, Swarthmore College

Research focus: Health care management; mergers and acquisitions; firm performance

Introduction: My research studies the relationship between organizational and managerial strategies and performance outcomes in the health care sector. In particular, I use quantitative methods to study how the strategic decisions of corporations to merge, acquire, or partner with other organizations can change managerial processes in ways that impact both financial and clinical performance. A secondary research strand studies how health care organizations adapt their service delivery and prices following changes in state and federal legislation. 

Before joining UC Berkeley, I was an assistant professor of health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. I am excited to continue to explore issues of healthcare quality, equity, and cost, while digging deeper into the management practices and organizational structures that could influence these outcomes.

Teaching: Leading People (EWMBA)

Most excited about: It is an honor to join the world-class faculty at Haas, and I am so excited to learn from and collaborate with my MORs colleagues on both the macro and micro side. Since my research is interdisciplinary, I also look forward to connecting with scholars in the School of Public Health.

As a self-proclaimed “city girl,”  I am excited to get out of my comfort zone and explore the natural beauty of Northern California.

Fun fact: My hobbies include yoga, urban gardening, adopting animals and stand-up comedy.


Sarah Moshary
Sarah Moshary

Assistant Professor Sarah Moshary, Marketing

Hometown: New York City, NY

Phd, Economics, MIT
AB, Economics, Harvard College

Research focus: Marketing and industrial organization

Introduction: My research interests span quantitative marketing, industrial organization, and political economy. I am currently working on projects related to paid search advertising, the pink tax (price gap in products targeted to women), and the demand for firearms. Before joining Haas, I worked at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and at the University of Pennsylvania.

Teaching: Pricing (MBA)

Most excited about: I am excited to get to know my future colleagues!

Fun fact: My two hobbies are running and pottery—though I am more enthusiastic than talented at either :).


Tanya Paul
Tanya Paul

Assistant Professor Tanya Paul, Accounting

Hometown: Murphy, Texas

PhD, Accounting, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
BS, Economics, Statistics and Finance, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Research focus: Standard-setting and financial reporting; the determinants and consequences of voluntary disclosures

Introduction: After getting my PhD, I spent a year at the Financial Accounting Standards Board learning about contemporary accounting issues and understanding the types of questions that standard setters are grappling with. I hope to continue working on research that is helpful to standard setters in coming up with standards that ultimately improve financial reporting.

Teaching: Corporate Financial Reporting (MBA)

Most excited about: ​​I love how interconnected the area groups are within Haas. There are so many potential learning opportunities, especially for a newly minted researcher like me.

Fun fact: In my free time, I love to read and play the piano—I had learned it as a child and am trying to relearn it now as an adult.


Carolyn Stein
Carolyn Stein

Assistant Professor Carolyn Stein, Economic Analysis & Policy

Hometown: Lexington, Mass.

PhD, Economics, MIT
AB, Applied Mathematics and Economics, Harvard College

Research focus: Economics of science, innovation, and applied microeconomics

Introduction: I study the economics of science and innovation. My research combines data and economic theory to understand the incentives that scientists face and decisions that they make, and how this in turn shapes the production of new knowledge.

One thing I love about economics is that it’s less of a narrow subject area, and more a set of tools and principles that apply to a stunningly wide array of topics. I’m excited to work with Haas students to help them understand how economic principles can improve their decision-making, both in their careers and in other areas of their lives—maybe even in ways that surprise them!

Teaching: Microeconomics (EWMBA)

Most excited about: I’m excited to be part of a large and superb applied microeconomics community—at Haas, and more broadly at Berkeley as a whole.

Fun fact: I am an avid cyclist and skier, and I was on the cycling team at MIT. Since moving to the Bay Area, I’ve loved the hills and mountains in the area. I’m working on taking my riding off road (gravel and mountain biking) and skiing off-piste (backcountry).


Sytske Wijnsma
Sytske Wijnsma

Assistant Professor Sytkse Wijnsma, Operations and IT Management

Hometown: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

PhD, Management Science and Operations, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
MPhil, Management Science and Operations, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
BSc & MSc, Economics and Finance, VU University, Amsterdam

Research focus: My primary research interest is designing supply chain and policy interventions that help solve real-world challenges with social and environmental impact.

Introduction: I am very excited about my projects on illicit supply chains and how they undermine social and environmental goals. The context of these projects spans a wide range of areas, from illicit waste management to illegal deforestation. I am also excited to deepen and expand ongoing research collaborations with governments and industry to investigate these issues.

Teaching: Sustainability in Business (Undergraduate)

Most excited about: Many things! Berkeley Haas, being at the forefront of sustainability, has a unique position that combines the same ideals that drive my research with opportunities for collaborative research with serious impact. The amazing colleagues and close connections to industry make it even more exciting to join this community!

Fun fact: My first and last name originate from Fryslân, a northern province in the Netherlands, where it is still tradition to name your children after family members. So although my name is quite rare in the rest of the world, in our family it crops up in every generation!


Valerie Zhang
Valerie Zhang

Assistant Professor Valerie Zhang, Accounting

Hometown: Shanghai, China

PhD, Northwestern Kellogg School of Management
MA, Economics, University of Toronto
BCom, Finance and Economics, University of Toronto

Research focus: Information dissemination; information cascades on social media; retail investor behavior; decentralized finance

Introduction: I am passionate about doing research or working on personal projects that can express my creativity. I enjoy merging disjointed ideas and working on interdisciplinary research. My dissertation combines two literatures: one in computer science on information cascades on social media, and another in finance and accounting on the effects of disseminating financial news. I am also very curious about emerging technologies that are reshaping the financial industry. Since I work on areas that are new to the research community, I sometimes feel like a lone traveler exploring completely new territories. It is terrifying but also extremely rewarding!

Teaching: Financial Accounting (Undergraduate)

Most excited about: I look forward to inspiring my students to be entrepreneurial and to come up with creative business ideas or projects.

Fun fact/hobby: I write short stories. The one I am working on has an alien and a squirrel in it.