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Michael Prietula - Emory University, Goizueta Business School. Atlanta, GA, US

Michael Prietula Michael Prietula

Professor of Information Systems & Operations Management | Emory University, Goizueta Business School




Michael Prietula Publication Michael Prietula Publication






Michael J. Prietula (PhD, MPH) is Professor in the Goizueta Business School and in the Rollins School of Public Health. Dr. Prietula holds a PhD in Information Systems (minors in Computer Science and Psychology) from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Public Health (MPH) from the University of Florida. He has worked as a research scientist at Honeywell's Aerospace Systems & Research Center, on the faculties of Dartmouth College, Carnegie Mellon University, and department chair at the Johns Hopkins University with an adjunct appointment in the JHU School of Medicine. He is also an External Research Scholar at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, that develops pioneering technologies aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities via Artificial Intelligence & Robotics.

He has published such journals as the Management Science, Information Systems Research, MIS Quarterly, Cognitive Science, Harvard Business Review, Organization Science, Biosecurity & Bioterrorism, Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence, ORSA Journal on Computing, Applied Artificial Intelligence, JMIR mHealth & uHealth, Human Factors, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, Computers in Human Behavior, PLoS One, Brain Connectivity, and the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. He has best paper awards from the Hawaii International Conference of Systems Sciences, the International Conference on Global Defense & Business Continuity, the International Conference of Information Systems, and the Academy of Management. His papers were in the top 5 downloaded from Organization Science (2014), the most downloaded paper from Brain Connectivity (2017), and in top 10 downloaded from JMIR mHealth & uHealth (2016-2019). He has edited two books, Computational Organization Theory (with K. Carley) and Simulating Organizations: Computational Models of Institutions and Groups (with K. Carley & L. Gasser). He has been funded by Emory's Global Health Institute, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Office of Naval Research, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Michael is a musician, a PADI diving instructor, and was also a stage manager and served on the board of directors for a community theatre in New Hampshire while teaching at Dartmouth.

Education (2)

University of Minnesota: PhD, Information Systems

University of Florida: MPH, Public Health

Areas of Expertise (7)

Public Health & Technology

Implementation Science

AI Ethics

AI-Human Collaboration

Agent-based Organizational Modeling

Theatre, Performance & Leadership

UX Design‎

Publications (15)

Using ADAPT-ITT to Modify a Telephone-Based HIV Prevention Intervention for SMS Delivery: Formative Study

JMIR Formative Research


African American adolescent females are disproportionately affected by sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV. Given the elevated risk of STIs and HIV in African American women, there is an urgent need to identify innovative strategies to enhance the adoption and maintenance of STI and HIV preventive behaviors. Even evidence-based interventions (workshops) lose their efficacy as time passes. Post-intervention phone calls by health educators extend the effectiveness, but the use of that technology is declining for that target population. Texting is now the promising technology for extending the efficacy of the original intervention. However, little guidance in the public health literature is available for developing this type of application. Collaborating with the Rollins School of Public Health, we demonstrated how to engage user-experience methods to design and adapt a post-intervention, SMS texting platform for health educator contact. Using a representative advisory board, iterations through design revealed critical insight into cultural components, language, and key emergent personas to help cue health educators on their responses. This research was supported by a grant from Emory University’s Global Health Institute and the Goizueta Business School’s Summer Research Fund.

Taking mHealth Forward: Examining the Core Characteristics

JMIR MHealth and UHealth


This is a review paper of the core characteristics of mobile health (mHealth). We assert that the relevance of these characteristics to mHealth will endure as the technology advances, so an understanding of these characteristics is essential to the design, implementation, and adoption of mHealth-based solutions. The core characteristics we discuss are (1) the penetration or adoption into populations, (2) the availability and form of apps, (3) the availability and form of wireless broadband access to the Internet, and (4) the tethering of the device to individuals. These collectively act to both enable and constrain the provision of population health in general, as well as personalized and precision individual health in particular. This work was funded in part by a grant from Emory University’s Global Health Institute. This paper remains in the top 20 viewed publications in JMIR mHealth uHealth.

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The price of your soul: neural evidence for the non-utilitarian representation of sacred values

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B


How sacred are your values? Sacred values, such as those associated with religious, political, or ethnic identity, underlie many important individual and group decisions in life, and individuals typically resist attempts to trade off their sacred values, even for material benefits. However, little is known about the neural representation and processing of sacred values. This is the first paper that provides empirical neurobiological evidence that sacred values affect behaviour through the retrieval and processing of deontic rules and not through a utilitarian evaluation of costs and benefits. This explains why argument often fails to alter belief. True sacred values “short circuit” subsequent choice assessment of conditions and engage regions associated with increased activity in the left temporoparietal junction and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, regions previously associated with semantic rule retrieval. Philosophical Transactions is the world's first and longest-running scientific journal. This research was supported by grants from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) through the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

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The Conforming Brain and Deontological Resolve



Are your personal identity and sacred values subject to forces of social influence? These include core religious beliefs and moral norms that constrain decision-making across a person’s lifetime. In many cultures, violating sacred values is tantamount to disavowing group membership, underscoring the importance of sacred values to group identity. But what is going on in our brain when we are faced with choices where our beliefs go against “the group”? Deontological resolve defines how strongly one relies on absolute rules of right and wrong in the representation of one’s personal values, and the willingness to modify/deny one’s values in the presence of social influence. This is the first paper to discover a neurobiological metric for deontological resolve. Using fMRI, we found that the relative activity in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) during the passive processing of sacred values predicted individual differences in conformity. Individuals with stronger deontological resolve, as measured by greater VLPFC activity, displayed lower levels of conformity. We conclude that unwillingness to conform to others' values is associated with a strong neurobiological representation of social rules. This research was supported by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

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Short-and long-term effects of a novel on connectivity in the brain

Brain Connectivity


How does reading a novel change your brain? Novels are stories, and stories are complicated objects of communication. Although several linguistic and literary theories describe what constitutes a story, neurobiological research has just begun to elucidate brain networks that are active when processing stories. To date, these studies have focused on the immediate response to short stories. Our paper reveals the first evidence of how reading a novel alters the resting state of the brain over time. We chose a novel over a short story because the length and depth of the novel would afford a set of repeated engagements with associated, unique stimuli (sections of the novel) set in a broader, controlled stimulus context that could be consumed between several fMRI scanning periods. We identified three independent networks that had significant increases in activity. Two of these networks involved brain regions previously associated with perspective taking and story comprehension. These hubs corresponded to regions previously associated with perspective taking and story comprehension, and the changes exhibited a time course that decayed rapidly after the completion of the novel. A third network exhibited long-term changes in connectivity, which persisted for several days after the reading. This was observed in the bilateral somatosensory cortex, suggesting a potential mechanism for “embodied semantics” suggesting reading a novel invokes neural activity that is associated with bodily sensations. This project was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

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Open collaboration for innovation: principles and performance

Organization Science


The principles of open collaboration for innovation (and production), once distinctive to open source software, are now found in many other ventures. Some of these ventures are Internet based: for example, Wikipedia and online communities. Others are off-line: they are found in medicine, science, and everyday life. Such ventures have been affecting traditional firms and may represent a new organizational form. Despite the impact of such ventures, their operating principles and performance are not well understood. Here we define open collaboration (OC), the underlying set of principles, and propose that it is a robust engine for innovation and production. In all instances, participants create goods and services of economic value, they exchange and reuse each other’s work, they labor purposefully with just loose coordination, and they permit anyone to contribute and consume. These principles distinguish OC from other organizational forms, such as firms or cooperatives. We identify and investigate three elements that affect performance: the cooperativeness of participants, the diversity of their needs, and the degree to which the goods are rival (subtractable). Through computational experiments, we find that OC performs well even in seemingly harsh environments: when cooperators are a minority, free riders are present, diversity is lacking, or goods are rival. We conclude that OC is viable and likely to expand into new domains. The findings also inform the discussion on new organizational forms, collaborative and communal. This project was supported by a summer Research grant from the Goizueta Business School, Emory University, and discussions at the Human Social, Culture and Behavior Modeling Program meetings of the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

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How knowledge transfer impacts performance: A multilevel model of benefits and liabilities

Organization Science


When does knowledge transfer benefit performance? Combining field data from a global consulting firm with an agent-based model, we examine how efforts to supplement one’s knowledge from coworkers interact with individual, organizational, and environmental characteristics to impact organizational performance. We find that once cost and interpersonal exchange are included in the analysis, the impact of knowledge transfer is highly contingent. Depending on specific characteristics and circumstances, knowledge transfer can better, matter little to, or even harm performance. Three illustrative studies clarify puzzling past results and offer specific boundary conditions: (1) At the individual level, better organizational support for employee learning diminishes the benefit of knowledge transfer for organizational performance. (2) At the organization level, broader access to organizational memory makes global knowledge transfer less beneficial to performance. (3) When the organizational environment becomes more turbulent, the organizational performance benefits of knowledge transfer decrease. The findings imply that organizations may forgo investments in both organizational memory and knowledge exchange, that wide-ranging knowledge exchange may be unimportant or even harmful for performance, and that organizations operating in turbulent environments may find that investment in knowledge exchange undermines performance rather than enhances it. At a time when practitioners are urged to make investments in facilitating knowledge transfer and collaboration, appreciation of the complex relationship between knowledge transfer and performance will help in reaping benefits while avoiding liabilities. This research was supported, in part, by a Summer Research grant from the Goizueta Business School, Emory University, discussions at the Human Social, Culture and Behavior Modeling Program meetings of the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

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Historical Roots of the A Behavioral Theory of the Firm Model at GSIA.

Organization Science

Mie Augier, Michael Prietula


Richard Cyert and James March’s (1963) A Behavioral Theory of the Firm (ABTOF) is one of the most influential works in organization science. An important element of that work was a computational model of a duopoly, which was arguably the first computational model that instantiated organizational constructs within a substantial theoretical framework. We suggest that the academic environment within which this theory and model grew was instrumental in its emergence. Furthermore, an examination of the model itself (by triangulating on the verbal descriptions, the flow charts, and the code) reveals innovative embodiments of organizational attention, organizational learning, organizational memory, routines, metaroutines, aspiration level adjustments, and computational experiments. In this paper, we examine the historical roots of the model—the concepts, culture, and characters at Carnegie Tech and the Graduate School of Industrial Administration (GSIA). Although causality is difficult to assess historically, we suggest the significance of a strong research-based, interdisciplinary culture at a time when innovative (and often computational) concepts and theories were emerging within the contexts of computer science, economics, and psychology. A shorter version of this paper won the John F. Mee Award for Management History from the Academy of Management. This project was funded in part by the Carnegie Bosch institute of Carnegie Mellon University.

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The Making of an Expert

Harvard Business Review


Popular lore tells us that genius is born, not made. Scientific research, on the other hand, reveals that true expertise is mainly the product of years of intense practice and dedicated coaching. We studied data on the behavior of experts gathered by more than 100 scientists. Ordinary practice is not enough: To reach elite levels of performance, you need to constantly push yourself beyond your abilities and comfort level. Such discipline is the key to becoming an expert in all domains, including management and leadership. What consistently distinguished elite surgeons, chess players, writers, athletes, pianists, and other experts was the habit of engaging in "deliberate" practice--a sustained focus on tasks that they couldn't do before. Experts continually analyzed what they did wrong, adjusted their techniques, and worked arduously to correct their errors. Even such traits as charisma can be developed using this technique. For example, the authors describe such an approach applying specific techniques of drama enhanced executives' powers of presence and persuasion. Through deliberate practice, leaders can improve their ability to win over their employees, their peers, or their board of directors. The journey to elite performance is not for the impatient or the faint of heart. For some types of eliteness, it takes at least a decade and requires the guidance of an expert teacher to provide tough, often painful feedback. It also demands would-be experts to develop their "inner coach" and eventually drive their own progress. However, such methods engaged to acquire expertise can (and should be) applied to skill improvement on most any level. This HBR paper has estimated views exceeding 400,000.

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The Experts in your Midst

Harvard Business Review


This is an early paper I did with Herb Simon based on AI models of expertise I was examining. One was a project I did in Mark Fox's robotic lab, where we analyzed how expert scheduler's performed their task and built an intelligent assistant based on their methods (ergo the "psychology of pscheduling" reference). Another was refining the concept of "intuition" that was based on a model expertise working with Allen Newell based on the Soar AI computational architecture applied to scheduling expertise.

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Studies of Expertise from Psychological Perspectives: Historical Foundations and Recurrent Themes

Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, 2nd Edition


This chapter emphasizes a period of research roughly from the mid-1950s into the 1980s when empirical laboratory studies of expert reasoning were first combined with theoretical models of human thought processes that could reproduce the observable performance. It characterizes some of the enduring insights about mechanisms and aspects of expertise that generalize across domains, reflecting on the original theoretical accounts. There were three main roots that play an important role in the field of expertise: artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive psychology, and education. During the early years, the first AI program, called the logic theorist, was written. Cognitive Psychology and Computer Science merged into a very close collaboration that was named Cognitive Science. Expert cognition was conceived as the "goal state" for education, the criterion for what the successful educational process should produce, as well as a measure by which to assess its progress, serving to inform pedagogical design and teacher evaluation. When knowledge is viewed as the primary source of difference associated with expertise, as was the primary focus in the expert-novice approach, it makes sense to study the structure of individuals' knowledge.

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Situational Uses of Syndromic Surveillance

Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science

James . Buehler, Ellen . hitney, Donna Smith, Michael . Prietula, Sarah H. Stanton, and Alexander P. Isakov


We conducted case studies of selected events with actual or potential public health impacts to determine whether and how health departments and hospitals used automatic systems to promptly identify public healthcare threats. We interviewed public health and hospital representatives and applied qualitative analysis methods to identify response themes. So-called ‘‘syndromic’’ surveillance methods were most useful in situations with widespread health effects, such as respiratory illness associated with seasonal influenza, exposures to smoke from wildfires, or potential pathogens in air samples. Typically, these data supplemented information from traditional sources to provide a timelier or fuller mosaic of community health status, and use was shaped by long-standing contacts between health department and hospital staffs. State or local epidemiologists generally preferred syndromic systems they had developed over the CDC BioSense system, citing lesser familiarity with BioSense and less engagement in its development. Instances when BioSense data were most useful to state officials occurred when analyses and reports were provided by CDC staff. Understanding the uses of surveillance information during such events can inform further investments in surveillance capacity in public health emergency preparedness programs. This project was supported by the National Center for Public Health Informatics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under the BioSense Utility cooperative agreement.

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CASA, WASA, and the Dimensions of US

Computers in Human Behavior


Do people treat websites as people? We replicate and extend the Computers are Social Actors (CASA) paradigm that repeatedly found evidence that humans treat computers with typical social norms as if they were humans. This is the first research that demonstrated that Websites are Social Actors (WASA) and that WASA dominates CASA. We performed a between-subjects 2 x 2 factorial experiment to test our hypotheses as well as exploratory factor analysis to further refine and validate a construct that measures politeness. We retest the CASA paradigm and find that our new hypothesis – Websites are Social Actors (WASA) reduces the CASA effect in contexts where individuals form a social attachment to websites instead of computers. We find evidence that suggests humans can exhibit politeness toward websites and literally (not virtually) treat them as social actors. Finally, we tease out the elements of politeness as a construct and identify the key items in the instrument for data reduction, and initiate efforts toward establishing reliability and construct validity. The results of exploratory factor analysis are consistent with research in social cognition and suggest that the politeness construct may be tapping similar and fundamental components of how humans engage with others in their social world – the two dimensions of warmth and competence.

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SimEOC: A Distributed Web-Based Virtual Emergency Operations Center Simulator for Training and Research

International Journal of Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management


Training is an integral part of disaster preparedness. Practice in dealing with crises improves one’s ability to manage emergency situations. As an emergency escalates, more and more agencies get involved, many of whom would not normally work together. These agencies require critical training to learn how to manage the crisis and to work together across jurisdictional boundaries. In many jurisdictions, training is conducted through discussion-based tabletop and paper-based scenario performance exercises or generic forms of computer-based exercises. In this paper, we describe a socio-technical computer-based training simulator and research tool for upper-level emergency managers. This tool is important because it enables emergency managers to configure the simulation to fit their emergency operations form. This allows training for crises more efficiently and effectively in a virtual environment. It also serves as a research tool for scientists to study emergency management decision-making, infrastructural design, and organizational learning. This research was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

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Design Principles for Crisis Information Systems

International Journal of Information Systems for Crisis Management


Since Hurricane Katrina, research has focused on improving disaster management through the use of specially designed crisis information systems (CIS). However, there are few design principles specific to these dynamic environments. Toward that end, we engaged in a 9-month project studying one of the most respected emergency response organizations in the world -- the Miami-Dade Emergency Operations Center in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Here we report key principles of design that apply to these critical information systems. This work was supported by the University of Notre Dame, Emory University, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

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Research Spotlight

In the News (6)

Acting workshop for business leaders to be offered at Goizueta

EmoryBusiness.com  online


The module is designed and offered by the developers of the original CMU seven-week course: Professor Geoffrey Hitch of CMU and Goizueta Business School’s Michael Prietula.

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Hurricane Matthew interesting case for preparedness, leadership

EmoryBusiness.com  online


Michael Prietula, a Professor of Information Systems and Operations Management at Goizueta Business School, is working in collaboration with Emory’s Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response, the University of Notre Dame and the Miami-Dade Office of Emergency Management. The study has produced a “virtual operations center” modeling tool to investigate how public and private agencies exchange information and make decisions during times of crisis.

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Professor receives funding to study disaster response

EmoryBusiness.com  online


Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, a Goizueta Business School professor is conducting research to understand how communities plan for, and respond to, emergency events. Michael Prietula, a Professor of Information Systems and Operations Management at Goizueta, is working in collaboration with Emory’s Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response, two professors from the University of Notre Dame and the Miami-Dade Office of Emergency Management.

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A novel look at how stories may change the brain

Emory News Center  


His co-authors included Kristina Blaine and Brandon Pye from the Center for Neuropolicy, and Michael Prietula, professor of information systems and operations management at Emory’s Goizueta Business School...

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The business, economics and psychology of organized violence and terrorism

Emory News Center  


Goizueta Professor of Information Systems and Operations Management Michael Prietula, who studies human decision making and computational modeling of social systems; Distinguished Professor of Neuroeconomics Gregory Berns, whose research focuses on using brain imaging to understand motivation...

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Biz students learn about terror fallout

CNN  online


Future executives learn how terrorism causes economic harm at an Atlanta university. CNN's Nick Valencia reports.

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