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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 (5)

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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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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'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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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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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


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


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


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


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


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


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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