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Julie Irwin - The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business. Austin, TX, US

Julie Irwin Julie Irwin

Professor, Department of Business, Government and Society & Department of Marketing | The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business


Psychology of consumer behavior, decision-making, ethical consumption, green marketing, and corporate social responsibility


Areas of Expertise (12)

Marketing Communication Public Policy Environmental Studies Consumer Behavior Green Marketing Ethical Consumption Consumer Psychology Csr Corporate Social Responsibility Consumer Decision Making Sustainable Products Consumer Perception of Labor Practices Ethical Decisions


Julie R. Irwin is an educator and researcher examining how human psychology impacts consumer behavior and consumption, the marketing of green products, corporate social responsibility initiatives, and marketing strategy. Her discoveries are often surprising and counter-intuitive to prevailing wisdom, helping us better understand the hidden motivations that drive behavior within our organizations, society and marketplaces.

Irwin is a professor in the department of marketing and the department of business, government and society at the McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin. Her previous faculty appointments were at the Stern School of Business at New York University, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Irwin serves on the Editorial Boards of Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, and Journal of Economic Psychology. She served as a Guest Editor at Journal of Consumer Psychology in 1999 and recently served as an Associate Editor at Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

She has published over thirty refereed journal articles and book chapters and has served as a Principle Investigator on two National Science Foundation grants. Her primary research interest is in consumer decision making, especially about issues invoking emotion, ethics, and/or risk. She also has an ongoing research interest in methodology and scaling.





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Education (3)

University of Colorado: Ph.D., Cognitive Psychology

University of Colorado: M.A., Cognitive Psychology

College of William and Mary: B.A., Psychology/English

High honors.

Media Appearances (15)

Minimalism is overrated: How I learned to love a little clutter

Wall Street Journal  print


There had to be a happier way to live, a comfort zone somewhere between recherché reductivism and A&E’s “Hoarders.” For advice, I called Julie Irwin, a business professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies the relationship between buying things and happiness.

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Forgetting inconvenient facts

BizEd Magazine  print


Is it okay if those cute jeans were made by child labor? Most consumers would say no—but many forget about inconvenient facts when making purchases, according to four scholars who study consumer behavior.

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The Life-Changing Science of Photographing Your clutter

CNN  online


As consumer psychologists, we wanted to know why people have so much trouble parting with possessions they no longer use.

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Why #DeleteUber and Other Boycotts Matter

The Atlantic  online


Americans are willing to sacrifice their money for issues they care about—they gave $358 billion to charity in 2014. But there’s a difference between giving to charity and changing shopping behavior to support a cause, said Julie Irwin, a management professor at the University of Texas-Austin.

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Op-Ed: Super Bowl Ads Wade into Politics

Psychology Today  online


We are living in a strange time for the American economy. Marketers are as aware of this strangeness as anyone. The good news is that the messaging we get even from as traditionally a silly and forgettable venue as Super Bowl ads becomes more engaging and poignant when the motivation for the ad goes beyond simple sales.

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Uber versus Cities: Let’s Discuss Without Forcing into Political Silos

Huffington Post  online


Last Monday Uber and Lyft left Austin because they lost an election on a proposition that would have allowed them to use their own background checks instead of using the city’s fingerprint-based system.

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Experts: Whole Foods was right to counterattack on cake claims

Austin American Statesman  online


Whole Foods had formed a crisis team to go after attacks with a level of fervor and speed previously absent. Whole Foods “would have benefited from this sort of activist and straightforward response to earlier controversies,” said Julie Irwin, marketing professor. “People will think twice now before accusing the brand of something, especially when — as it appears in this case — the accusation is untrue.”

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Irwin: Ethical companies can get consumers to vote with their wallets

Austin American Statesman  online


Julie Irwin, professor of marketing at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin has conducted research showing products that make no ethical claims vastly outsell their more ethical cousins.

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Ethical Shoppers Don’t Inspire Us—They Bug Us

Harvard Business Review  online


Our pretests show that people do think ethical attributes are important. So it’s not that they don’t care about them. If they know that something has been made under terrible labor conditions, they probably won’t buy it. It’s just that they would rather not find out. Julie Irwin did groundbreaking work on this idea. She found that people will use ethical information if it’s right in front of them, but they won’t seek it out.

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Irwin: Nevermind the insults; Donald Trump is your friend

Austin American Statesman  online


Donald Trump is among the leaders for the Republican nomination for president. The majority of media reports about why this is happening have been about how a person could be so liked when his primary method of communication appears to be insulting people. On the other hand, if you understand the social psychology of insults, it becomes easier to explain the Trump phenomenon.

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Why Companies Are Blind to Child Labor

Harvard Business Review  online


Major companies such as Apple and Samsung claim to adhere to strict policies about child labor. A recent report by Amnesty International shows that suppliers linked to major technology chains utilize child labor in the mining of cobalt in the Dominican Republic of Congo. This suggests while companies do care about the ethics of their operations, they’re not actively investigating their supply chains to seek out this information.

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Irwin: Colleges favor men — but no one suggests they go to lower schools

Austin American Statesman  online


The University of Texas is at the center of an affirmative action case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. The details can be better found elsewhere, but basically they concern whether the university’s system of admissions — which sometimes includes race — is constitutional

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Ethical Consumerism Isn't Dead, It Just Needs Better Marketing

Harvard Business Review  online


Pessimism about ethical consumerism rests firmly on the assumption that consumers have one, stable utility structure and they express that utility in their purchasing. The problem is, human psychology does not work like that—people do not have only one value for things and they do not have a stable and consistent utility structure.

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Loyalty to a Leader is Overrated, Even Dangerous

Harvard Business Review  online


Unethical behavior in organizations almost always is caused by belief in and too much loyalty to a “great leader” who turns out to be morally compromised.

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The Psychology of Sweatshop Labor

Huffington Post Business  online


Julie Irwin and her colleagues from the University of Texas have found that people...prefer to remain willfully ignorant about the labor conditions behind their products.

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Sample Talks (1)

Willful Ignorance and Ethical Values

Julie Irwin and her colleagues from the University of Texas have found that people prefer to remain willfully ignorant about the labor conditions behind their products.



  • Keynote
  • Moderator
  • Panelist
  • Workshop Leader

Articles (10)

Julie R. Irwin Citations Google Scholar

Listing of top scholarly works by Julie R. Irwin.

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Keeping the Memory But Not the Possession: Memory Preservation Mitigates Identity Loss from Product Disposition Journal of Marketing


Nonprofit firms’ reliance on donations to build inventory distinguishes them from traditional retailers. This reliance on consumer donations means that these organizations face an inherently more volatile supply chain than retailers that source inventory from manufacturers. The authors propose that consumer reluctance to part with possessions with sentimental value causes a bottleneck in the donation process. The goal of this research is therefore to provide nonprofits with tools to increase donations of used goods and provide a theoretical link between the literature streams on prosocial behavior, disposition, memory, and identity.

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Do Less Ethical Consumers Denigrate More Ethical Consumers? The Effect of Willful Ignorance on Judgments of Others Journal of Consumer Psychology


This research shows that consumers who willfully ignore ethical product attributes denigrate other, more ethical consumers who seek out and use this information in making purchase decisions. Across three studies, willfully ignorant consumers negatively judge ethical others they have never met across various disparate personality traits (e.g., fashionable, boring). ...These results have implications for understanding ethical consumption behavior, perceptions of ethical consumerism in general, and marketing of ethical products.

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Happily Ever After: The Effect of Identity-Consistency on Product Satiation. Journal of the Association for Consumer Research


Repeated consumption of products and experiences leads to a reduction in enjoyment over time, a phenomenon that is commonly referred to as “satiation.” Three studies show that consumers satiate more slowly to products that are consistent with a currently active identity. Because satiation is a natural human response when consuming a product repeatedly, all consumers are likely to feel the pull downward on their product enjoyment over time.

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The Same Old Song: The Power of Familiarity in Music Choice Marketing Letters


We show that although consumers say they would prefer to listen to unfamiliar music, in actuality familiarity with music positively predicts preference for songs, play lists, and radio stations.

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The Sustainability Liability: Potential Negative Effects of Ethicality on Product Preference Journal of the American Marketing Association


In this research, the authors demonstrate that consumers associate higher product ethicality with gentleness-related attributes and lower product ethicality with strength-related attributes.

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Happiness for Sale: Do Experiential Purchases Make Consumers Happier than Material Purchases? Journal of Consumer Research


Previous theories have suggested that consumers will be happier if they spend their money on experiences such as travel as opposed to material possessions such as automobiles. We test this experience recommendation and show that it may be misleading in its general form.

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Negative Consequences of Dichotomizing Continuous Predictor Variables Journal of Marketing Research


The authors present historical results on the effects of dichotomization of normal predictor variables rederived in a regression context that may be more relevant to marketing researchers.

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Product Category Familiarity and Preference Construction Journal of Consumer Research


Marketers often base decisions about marketing strategies on the results of research designed to elicit information about consumers' preferences. We examine the effect of familiarity in two preference‐elicitation tasks, choice and matching judgments.

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That's Not How I Remember It: Willfully Ignorant Memory for Ethical Product Attribute Information Journal of Consumer Research


This research documents a systematic bias in memory for ethical attribute information: consumers have better memory for an ethical attribute when a product performs well on the attribute versus when a product performs poorly on the attribute. Because consumers want to avoid emotionally difficult ethical information (e.g., child labor) but believe they should remember it in order to do the right thing, the presence of negative ethical information in a choice or evaluation produces conflict between the want and should selves.

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