Nora Williams wins Responsible Research award

Olin’s Nora Williams, associate professor of marketing, has received the AMA-EBSCO Annual Award for Responsible Research in Marketing.

The award honors outstanding research that produces credible and useful knowledge that can be applied to benefit society. 

Williams’ award, which comes with a $1,200 grant, is for the paper “Ethically Deployed Defaults: Transparency and Consumer Protection through Disclosure and Preference Articulation,” published in the Journal of Marketing Research.

“The research examined perceptions of behavioral ‘nudges’ like defaults,” Williams said.

Many decisions come with one option chosen by default, she explained. Think about how many businesses automatically sign up employees to contribute to a retirement fund (versus having them actively opt in). Or when a website makes you uncheck a box if you don’t want to subscribe to emails from that business.

People are much more likely to choose the default option rather than move away from it, regardless of which option is the default. 

“But there has long been a debate among policymakers about whether the use of defaults should be disclosed, and, if it is, whether they will become less effective at encouraging good choices,” Williams said.

The research found that even when the intention behind a default is disclosed, the default is still influential.

“This suggests that policymakers and businesses can be transparent about their use of defaults without making them any less effective,” she said.

‘Better marketing for a better world’

The inaugural recipients of the AMA-EBSCO Annual Award for Responsible Research in Marketing were announced in February at the American Marketing Association’s Winter Academic Conference in San Diego, California.

Williams’ coauthors were Mary Steffel, of Northeastern University, and Ruth Pogacar, of Cincinnati University.

In all, the American Marketing Association recognized 14 research groups for outstanding contributions to the discipline and field of marketing. Their work exemplifies the Seven Principles of Responsible Research, which supports the general notion of “better marketing for a better world.”

In Business & Research

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