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James Roberts, Ph.D. - Baylor University . Waco, TX, US

James Roberts, Ph.D. James Roberts, Ph.D.

Director, Centre for Nonprofit Leadership and Service, Professor - Marketing | Baylor University


Expert on consumer behavior, human-computer interaction, compulsive buying, and effects of consumerism & technology on individual happiness.




James Roberts, Ph.D. Publication James Roberts, Ph.D. Publication



loading image James Roberts, Ph.D., marketing, Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business loading image




James A. Roberts is the Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing at Baylor University (Ph.D., University of Nebraska-Lincoln) and has been a member of the marketing faculty since 1991. He has had approximately 80 articles published in numerous journals including Computers in Human Behavior, the Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Journal of Consumer Affairs, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, Business Horizons, Psychology & Marketing, and many others. He is also the author of two books, “Shiny Objects” (Harper Collins) and “Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to your Smartphone?”

Dr. Roberts is a nationally recognized expert on consumer behavior and has been quoted extensively in the media and has appeared on the CBS Early Show, ABC World News Tonight, ABC Good Morning America, NBC The Today Show, Yahoo.com’s “The Daily Ticker”, and has been quoted and/or featured on The O’Reilly Factor, The Doctors on CBS, , Time.com, US News & World Report, New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Glamour, and many other newspapers, magazines, websites, and television appearances.

Current research interests include investigating the antecedents and consequences of smartphone addiction and its impact on personal happiness and professional productivity.

Industry Expertise (4)


Consumer Goods

Social Media


Areas of Expertise (11)

Consumer Psychology

Consumer Behavior


Consumer Culture



Smartphone Addiction

Smartphone Use

Cellphone Use


Compulsive Buying

Education (2)

University of Nebraska - Lincoln: Ph.D., Philosophy

University of St. Thomas: B.A., Marketing

Media Appearances (32)

Baylor Consumerism Expert Shares Five Tips to Make the Most of Your Stimulus Check

Baylor Media and Public Relations  online


Baylor consumerism expert Dr. James Roberts shares tips to get the best value for stimulus dollars.

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Baylor study: What motivates people to prevent COVID-19?

Baptist Standard  online


Baylor University researchers James Roberts, Ph.D., professor of marketing, and Meredith David, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing, have found that the fear of COVID-19 has been the driving factor that motivates people to take preventive measures against it.

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Baylor Study: What Motivates People to Mask Up, Social Distance, Vaccinate?

Baylor Media and Public Relations  online


Researchers James Roberts, Ph.D., professor of marketing, and Meredith David, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing, teamed up for their latest study, “The Pandemic within a Pandemic: Testing a Sequential Mediation Model to Better Understand Racial/Ethnic Disparities in COVID-19 Preventive Behavior,” which is published in the journal Healthcare.

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2020 iPhone Survey – 36% of Americans Plan to Reduce Cell Phone Cost Due to COVID-19

WalletHub  online


Baylor marketing professor James A. Roberts, Ph.D., shares research conducted with Meredith David, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing, that found smartphone use during the pandemic boosted people’s sense of well-being and connectedness. Roberts also shares his opinion on the cost of an iPhone in lieu of the pandemic.

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What changes will survive COVID-19?

FOX44 News  online


VIDEO: Marketing professor and consumerism expert James Roberts, Ph.D., discusses the changes in our daily lives since COVD-19 and which changes might outlast the virus.

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4 Tips to Keep Smartphones From Ruining Your Relationships

Money Talks News  online


VIDEO: Money Talks News is a nationally syndicated consumer news program features a story on Baylor research by marketing professors James A. Roberts, Ph.D., and Meredith David, Ph.D., who found that “phubbing” – or phone snubbing – can damage romantic relationships and even lead to depression.

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Phones are making us more disconnected than ever. These UMD students want to change that

KNOW-FM  radio


Baylor marketing professor James Roberts, Ph.D., is interviewed about his research on smartphone addiction for this story about how students at the University of Minnesota Duluth have organized Connection Day — a way to encourage their peers to disconnect from their phones and connect with each other. (Eric Eckert with Media & Public Relations helped arrange this interview on Baylor research.)

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Baylor Study: Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) Plus Social Media Connections Can Equal Happiness

Baylor Media and Public Relations  online


FOMO – aka the “fear of missing out” – can have a positive impact on well-being when it leads to social media use that increases social connections, according to a new Baylor University study.

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Followers, “Likes,” Attractiveness Increase Social Media Likability. Selfies? Not So Much, Baylor Study Says

Baylor Media and Public Relations  online


Maybe you think your Facebook posts are hilarious. Or you might think that Instagram selfie of you at the beach is picture-perfect. And that clever Tweet? You nailed it! But what do other people – your “friends,” “followers” and anyone else who might stumble across your profile – think of you based on your social media presence? Do they really like you?

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Considering a New Year’s Resolution for 2019? Baylor Experts Can Help

Baylor Media and Public Relations  online


Whether it’s personal, like losing weight or clearing clutter, or it’s professional, such as being a better manager or breaking away from smartphones, the options are wide-ranging. Here is a listing of Baylor University research that might help advise those seeking positive change in the coming year.

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If Toys R Us Returns, Should It Change Its Model?

Texas Standard  radio


AUDIO: Consumer behavior expert James Roberts, Ph.D., The Ben H. Williams Professor of Marketing in the Hankamer School of Business, is the featured guest in this dialogue about the future of Toys R Us. Roberts discussed how other retailers like Amazon and Target are moving to fill the void left when Toys R Us shut its doors earlier this year and the strength of the Toys R Us brand. “That’s a recognizable brand; there’s a lot of goodwill in that brand and I can see it as a viable option in the future,” he said.

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When ‘Religiosity’ Competes with Materialism, Charitable Giving Takes a Hit, Baylor Study Shows

Baylor Media and Public Relations  online


Religious people tend to be more charitable than their nonreligious counterparts, but they’ll think twice about opening their wallets if it prolongs their next big purchase, according to new research from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.

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Considering a New Year’s Resolution for 2018? Baylor Experts Can Help

Media and Public Relations  online


As 2018 approaches, many Americans are considering ways to improve themselves via New Year’s resolutions. Whether it’s personal, like losing weight or clearing clutter, or it’s professional, such as being a better manager or breaking away from smartphones, the options are wide-ranging. Here is a listing of Baylor University research that might help advise those seeking positive change in the coming year.

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Bosses Who “Phone Snub” Their Employees Risk Losing Trust and Engagement, Baylor Researchers Say

Media and Public Relations  online


Supervisors who cannot tear themselves away from their smartphones while meeting with employees risk losing their employees’ trust and, ultimately, their engagement, according to new research from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.

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Is Trump Addicted to Twitter? A Baylor Social Media and Smartphone Addiction Expert Has the Answer

Media and Public Relations  online


Nearly every morning, the Western world wakes to find a series of tweets from President Donald Trump. Mostly coming in the predawn hours, they range in topic and tone – often responding to, or creating, headlines of the day.

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People Who Are “Phone Snubbed” By Others Often Turn To Their Own Phones, Social Media For Acceptance, Baylor Study Finds

Media and Public Relations  online


People who are phone snubbed – or “phubbed” – by others are, themselves, often turning to their smartphones and social media to find acceptance, according to new research from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.

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Chipotle in Waco to stay open while chain polishes image in wake of E. coli outbreak

Waco Tribune  print


James Roberts, who teaches marketing at Baylor, applauded Chipotle’s efforts to reconnect with consumers. “I like their food and I like what they represent, but they are in trouble right now,” Roberts said by phone. “I think the additional training is a good idea, as is making that training public knowledge. Offering free samples is always a good way to promote a product and get people back in the store.” He said those who enjoy the food and the experience will tell their friends, and they likely will mention that they did not become ill. Roberts said the Chipotle situation is comparable to that of Blue Bell, which stopped production and distribution of ice cream to 25 states in April after the discovery of listeria. It recalled all products after 10 reported cases of listeria in four states were linked to Blue Bell frozen treats ..

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Viewpoints: Are we, like Trump, too dependent on our phones?

The Daily Herald  online


While filming the documentary “Cellular Aftershocks,” I’ve witnessed firsthand how young and old alike are becoming so reliant on cellphones that it borders on addiction. The studies by James Roberts of Baylor University find that college-aged individuals check their cellphone 50 times each day. His research estimates that female college students are on their phones 10 hours a day and males eight. Despite these hours spent staring at the screen, most are not reading full news articles. Most don’t even take the time to read a blog posting. And adults tell me they no longer have the attention span to finish novels ...

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U.N. Day of Happiness (March 20): Is There a Smile on Your Horizon?

Media and Public Relations  online


Feeling less than ecstatic as the United Nations-decreed “Day of Happiness” approaches? Should you just plaster a smile on your face on March 20 (Sunday), or can your grin be more genuine — and longer-lasting?

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Consumer Behavior Expert Shares Four Savings Goals, Financial Tips for the New Year

Media and Public Relations  online


With 2016 nearly in the rearview mirror, Americans are making resolutions for the New Year. A Baylor University consumer behavior expert suggests that Americans resolve to get in good financial shape in the coming year.

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Are You Addicted To Social Media? Expert Offers Six Questions to Ask Yourself

Media and Public Relations  online


Yes, you spend a lot of time on social media. You might even check your phone every few minutes to see how many people have liked your latest Facebook post. But are you addicted?

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'Phubbing' phenomenon propels Baylor research into national conversation

Waco Tribune  print


Much of the attention on the study can be attributed to the word “phubbing,” said co-author and marketing professor James Roberts. The word describes phone snubbing, or ignoring someone in person in favor of a phone. “I don’t think the research would have gotten the kind of attention it has without that word,” Roberts said. “The word itself is just a funny word. It’s a little bit salacious . . . even though it makes the research no more or less important.” Add insight into smartphone use — a topic with broad appeal — under the attention-grabbing word, and the coverage makes sense, Roberts said ...

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Baylor Study: Cellphones Can Damage Romantic Relationships, Lead to Depression

Baylor Media and Public Relations  online


Research from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business confirms that cellphones are damaging romantic relationships and leading to higher levels of depression.

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Expert: Nine Tips To Help You Break Away From Your Smartphone

Baylor Media and Public Relations  online


You’ve tried to escape it. You really have. But, the constant stream of dings and buzzes from incoming texts and emails are just too much to take. And, before you know it, you’re scanning your smartphone. Again. Can the cycle be broken? Can people really put down their smartphones?

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Study: Hey, Advertising and Marketing Pros! Before You ‘Go Thin,’ Think Again

Baylor Media and Public Relations  online


Here’s the skinny: Not all women will buy products because the models in the advertisements are thin, according to a new study of a diverse group of 239 women by a Baylor University marketing professor.

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Gratitude, Not ‘Gimme,’ Makes for More Satisfaction, Baylor University Study Finds

Baylor Media and Public Relations  online


People who are materialistic are more likely to be depressed and unsatisfied, in part because they find it harder to be grateful for what they have, according to a study by Baylor University researchers.

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Cellphone Addiction Is ‘an Increasingly Realistic Possibility,’ Baylor Study of College Students Reveals

Baylor Media and Public Relations  online


Women college students spend an average of 10 hours a day on their cellphones and men college students spend nearly eight, with excessive use posing potential risks for academic performance, according to a Baylor University study on cellphone activity published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions.

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Reminders of Money Make Adolescents Less Charitable, Baylor University Study Finds

Baylor Media and Public Relations  online


- Reminders of money play an important role in charitable giving and attitudes toward giving even among adolescents, according to a Baylor University study.

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Cell Phone Addiction Similar to Compulsive Buying and Credit Card Misuse, According to Baylor Study

Baylor Media and Public Relations  online


Cell phone and instant messaging addictions are driven by materialism and impulsiveness and can be compared to consumption pathologies like compulsive buying and credit card misuse, according to a Baylor University study in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions.

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Why do we spend money on happiness we can't afford?

USA TOday  print


James A. Roberts was watching an ABC News Nightline episode on basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal recently when he heard about the size of the retired player's Florida home: 70,000 square feet. Even for a man who spends his time studying consumer behavior as a marketing professor at Baylor University, Roberts was stunned. His latest book, Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don't Have in Search of Happiness We Can't Buy, tells the story of the American Dream gone awry by profligate materialism. The size of O'Neal's home offered further proof ...

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New Book by Baylor Professor Looks at Consumerism and Happiness

Baylor Media and Public Relations  online


A new book by Baylor University's James A. Roberts, Ph.D., "Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don't Have in Search of Happiness We Can't Buy" (HarperOne; November 2011; $25.99; ISBN 9780062093608), is available for presale at Amazon.Com and Barnes & Noble. The book will be published Nov. 8, 2011.

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Financial New Years' Resolutions Should Include Four Savings Goals, Says Baylor Professor

Baylor Media and Public Relations  online


With 2009 in the rearview mirror, Americans are making resolutions for the New Year. Getting physically fit may top the list, but a Baylor University consumer behavior expert suggests that Americans resolve to get in good financial shape in the coming year.

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Articles (6)

My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone: Partner phubbing and relationship satisfaction among romantic partners

Computers in Human Behaviour

2016 Partner phubbing (Pphubbing) can be best understood as the extent to which an individual uses or is distracted by his/her cell phone while in the company of his/her relationship partner. The present study is the first to investigate the oft-occurring behavior of Pphubbing and its impact on relationship satisfaction and personal well-being. In Study 1, a nine-item scale was developed to measure Pphubbing. The scale was found to be highly reliable and valid. Study 2 assessed the study's proposed relationships among a sample of 145 adults. Results suggest that Pphubbing's impact on relationship satisfaction is mediated by conflict over cell phone use. One's attachment style was found to moderate the Pphubbing – cell phone conflict relationship. Those with anxious attachment styles reported higher levels of cell phone conflict than those with less anxious attachment styles. Importantly, Pphubbing was found to indirectly impact depression through relationship satisfaction and ultimately life satisfaction. Given the ever-increasing use of cell phones to communicate between romantic partners, the present research offers insight into the process by which such use may impact relationship satisfaction and personal well-being. Directions for future research are discussed.

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Does Thin Always Sell? The Moderating Role of Thin Ideal Internalization on Advertising Effectiveness

Atlantic Marketing Journal

2015 Much of the current focus on the use of ultra-thin models in fashion magazines can be attributed to Madison Avenue which still operates under a “Thin Sells” ethos. Research to date, however, has provided equivocal evidence of the efficacy of thin models in advertising (Yu 2014). The present study’s two related objectives include: (1) determining whether model size has an impact on advertising effectiveness, and (2) if internalization of the thin ideal moderates this relationship. Study results suggest model size in fashion advertisements has no main effect on advertising effectiveness. Additionally, thin ideal internalization moderates the model size – advertising effectiveness relationship. Women who internalized the thin ideal were more receptive to thin models compared to average-size models. For low internalizers, model size has no significant impact on advertising effectiveness. These findings suggest that the current “thin sells” fixation is a gross oversimplification of how women respond to advertising. Directions for future research and study limitations are discussed.

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I need my smartphone: A hierarchical model of personality and cell-phone addiction

Personality and Individual Differences

2015 Using a comprehensive personality model, this study is the first to examine the relationship between a full range of personality traits and cell phone addiction. 346 college students completed an online survey that asked respondents to complete measures of the Big-Five personality traits and measures of materialism and need for arousal, Barratt’s (1959) impulsiveness scale, and a four-item measure of cell phone addiction. Data were analyzed using structural equation modeling. Couched in Mowen’s (2000) 3M Hierarchical Model of Personality, the elemental traits of emotional instability and materialism were positively associated while introversion was negatively associated with cell phone addiction. The central trait of attention impulsiveness exhibited a direct and positive association with cell phone addiction. A significant negative relationship between conscientiousness and all three dimensions of Barratt’s impulsiveness scale (central trait) was found. Several additional relationships between the elemental traits of Mowen’s personality hierarchy and the three dimensions of impulsiveness (central trait) also were uncovered. Study implications and future research directions are discussed.

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The invisible addiction: Cell-phone activities and addiction among male and female college students

Journal of Behavioral Addictions

2014 The primary objective of the present study was to investigate which cell-phone activities are associated with cell-phone addiction. No research to date has studied the full-range of cell-phone activities, and their relationship to cell-phone addiction, across male and female cell-phone users. Methods: College undergraduates (N =164) participated in an online survey. Participants completed the questionnaire as part of their class requirements. The questionnaire took 10 and 15 minutes to complete and contained a measure of cell-phone addiction and questions that asked how much time participants spent daily on 24 cell-phone activities. Results: Findings revealed cell-phone activities that are associated significantly with cell-phone addiction (e.g., Instagram, Pinterest), as well as activities that one might logically assume would be associated with this form of addiction but are not (e.g., Internet use and Gaming). Cell-phone activities that drive cell-phone addiction (CPA) were found to vary considerably across male and female cell-phone users. Although a strong social component drove CPA for both males and females, the specific activities associated with CPA differed markedly. Conclusions: CPA amongst the total sample is largely driven by a desire to connect socially. The activities found to be associated with CPA, however, differed across the sexes. As the functionality of cell-phones continues to expand, addiction to this seemingly indispensable piece of technology becomes an increasingly realistic possibility. Future research must identify the activities that push cell-phone use beyond its “tipping point” where it crosses the line from a helpful tool to one that undermines our personal well-being and that of others.

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Why are materialists less happy? The role of gratitude and need satisfaction in the relationship between materialism and life satisfaction

Personality and Individual Differences

2014 Materialism has been consistently related to lower levels of life satisfaction. We suggest that one reason for this negative relationship may be that high materialists find it harder to be grateful, and lower levels of trait gratitude may be related to unmet psychological needs. 246 undergraduate marketing students (129 female) completed self-report dispositional measures of materialism, gratitude, need satisfaction, and life satisfaction via online questionnaire. Statistical mediation analyses were performed using conditional process modeling. Consistent with predictions, gratitude and need satisfaction mediated the relationship between materialism and decreased life satisfaction in-sequence. Gratitude was also a direct mediator, whereas need satisfaction played an indirect role through its relationship with gratitude. Results may shed light on why those high in materialism are less happy than those low in materialism, and suggest possibilities for interventions to increase life satisfaction.

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Contingent self‐esteem, self‐presentational concerns, and compulsive buying

Psychology & Marketing

2014 The present study investigates the influence of contingent self-esteem (CSE) on compulsive buying tendencies. It is argued that this influence is mediated by the self-presentational concerns of fear of negative evaluation (FNE) and the importance of social identity (SI). These core propositions are tested using a multimethod approach that includes a survey of 402 US adults and two experiments with 160 and 243 subjects, respectively. Survey results find that CSE's impact on compulsive buying is fully mediated by FNE and SI. The two experiments deepen understanding of this effect. Only under high levels of anxiety do those high in CSE exhibit compulsive buying. High CSE leads to higher FNE and SI regardless of anxiety levels, but only at high anxiety levels do FNE and SI lead to compulsive buying. The study's results increase understanding of the role and process by which CSE impacts compulsive buying in adults of all ages.

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