Jonah Berger

Jonah Berger
James G. Campbell Assistant Professor of Marketing
768 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
3730 Walnut Street
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA19104-6304
Phone: (215) 898-8249
Fax: (215) 898-2534

Book: Contagious

Contagious: Why Things Catch On
(Simon & Schuster),
is due out in the spring of 2013.

Pre-order it on Amazon here.

What makes ideas viral and products spread contagiously? Professor Jonah Berger studies social epidemics, or how products, ideas, and behaviors catch on and become popular. He examines how individual decision making and social dynamics (e.g., social influence) between people generate collective outcomes such as social contagion and trends. Most recently, Professor Berger has examined why certain products get more word-of-mouth than others and why certain online content goes viral.

Word-of-Mouth and Social Transmission

  Jonah Berger, Katy Milkman (2012)
What Makes Online Content Viral?
Journal of Marketing Research, Forthcoming
Online content that is more practically useful, surprising, interesting, or positive is more likely to become viral. But content that evokes certain specific negative emotion, such as anger or anxiety, is also more viral.
  Jonah Berger, Eric Schwartz (2011)
What Drives Immediate and Ongoing Word-of-Mouth?
Journal of Marketing Research, October, 869-880.
An analysis of over 300 word of mouth marketing campaigns as well a large field experiment across various US cities demonstrates why certain products get more word of moth than others.
  Jonah Berger (2011)
Arousal Increases Social Transmission of Information
Psychological Science, 22(7), 891-893.
Press Reactions: Wall Street Journal
  Jonah Berger, Raghuram Iyengar (2011)
The Medium and the Message: How Communication Modality Shapes Word of Mouth
  Eva Buechel, Jonah Berger (2011)
Facebook Therapy? Why Do People Share Self-Relevant Content Online?
  Zoey Chen, Jonah Berger (2012)
When, Why, and How Controversy Causes Conversation
  Jonah Berger (2012)
Word-of-Mouth and Interpersonal Communication: An Organizing Framework and Directions for Future Research
  Ezgi Akpinar, Jonah Berger (2012)
How Senses Shape Language: The Cultural Success of Sensory Metaphors

Identity and Divergence

  Blake McShane, Eric T. Bradlow, Jonah Berger (2012)
Visual Influence and Social Groups
Journal of Marketing Research, Conditionally Accepted
  Cindy Chan, Jonah Berger, Leaf Van Boven (2012)
Identifiable but not Identical: Combining Social Identity and Uniqueness Motives in Choice
Journal of Consumer Research, Forthcoming
People make choices that allow them to be both similar and different at the same time.
  Jonah Berger, Baba Shiv (2011)
Food, Sex, and the Hunger for Distinction
Journal of Consumer Psychology, 21, 464-472
Press Reactions: Wired
People who are hungry or sexually aroused prefer more unique consumer products. Activating desires for uniqueness increases people's desire for their favorite foods.
  Jonah Berger, Morgan Ward (2010)
Subtle Signals of Inconspicuous Consumption
Journal of Consumer Research, 37, 555-569. (Lead Article)
Press Reactions: New York Times, Psychology Today
If people buy expensive products, in part, to communicate wealth and status, why would people pay $6000 for a handbag with no logo? While using subtle signals (i.e., smaller brand logos or inconspicuous patterns) increases the likelihood of misidentification, people with more cultural capital in a particular domain prefer them because they provide differentiation from the mainstream
  Jonah Berger, Gael Le Mens (2009)
How Adoption Speed Affects the Abandonment of Cultural Tastes
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106, 8146-8150.
Analysis of over 100 years of data on first-name adoption in both France and the United States illustrates that cultural tastes that have been adopted quickly die out faster and are less successful overall (i.e., reduced cumulative adoption).
  Jonah Berger, Chip Heath (2008)
Who Drives Divergence? Identity-Signaling, Outgroup Dissimilarity, and the Abandonment of Cultural Tastes
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(3), 593-607
People abandon products and behaviors they liked previously to avoid signaling undesired identities. Undergraduates, for example, stopped wearing a particular wristband when members of the "geeky" academically focused dormitory next door started wearing them.
  Jonah Berger, Lindsay Rand (2008)
Shifting Signals to Help Health: Using Identity-Signaling to Reduce Risky Health Behaviors
Journal of Consumer Research, 35 (2), 509-518.
Associating risky health behaviors with social identities people do not want to signal can contaminate the behaviors and lead consumers to make healthier choices (i.e., consume less alcohol and eat less fatty food).
  Jonah Berger (2008)
Identity-Signaling, Social Influence, and Social Contagion
Peer Influence Processes Among Youth, Eds. Mitch Prinstein and Ken Dodge, Guilford Press.
  Jonah Berger, Chip Heath (2007)
Where Consumers Diverge from Others: Identity-Signaling and Product Domains
Journal of Consumer Research, 34(2), 121-134. (Lead Article)
Consumers are more likely to diverge from majorities, or members of other social groups, in product domains that are seen as symbolic of identity (e.g., music or hairstyles, rather than backpacks or stereos).
  Emily Pronin, Jonah Berger, Sarah Molouki (2007)
Alone in a Crowd of Sheep: Asymmetric Perceptions of Conformity and Their Roots in an Introspection Illusion,
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 92(4), 585-595. ****Editor's Choice Article (2007). Science, 316, 1814.
Press Reactions: Science
Everyone agree that people are affected by social influence, just not them.
  Jonah Berger, Ben Ho, Yogesh Joshi (2011)
Identity Signaling with Social Capital: A Model of Symbolic Consumption

Triggers and Cues

  Jonah Berger, Alan T. Sorensen, Scott J. Rasmussen (2010)
Positive Effects of Negative Publicity: When Negative Reviews Increase Sales
Marketing Science, 29(5), 815-827
Negative publicity can increase sales when it increases product awareness. While a negative review in the New York Times decreased sales of books by well-known authors by 15%, for example, it boosted sales of books by authors that were unknown previously by 45%.
  Jonah Berger, Marc Meredith, S. Christian Wheeler (2008)
Contextual Priming: Where People Vote Affects How They Vote
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105 (26), 8846-8849
The particular type of polling location where people are assigned to vote (e.g., a church or a school) impacts how they cast their ballot.
  Jonah Berger, Grainne M. Fitzsimons (2008)
Dogs on the Street, Pumas on Your Feet: How Cues in the Environment Influence Product Evaluation and Choice
Journal of Marketing Research, 45(1), 1-14. (Lead Article)
Products are more accessible, evaluated more favorably, and chosen more frequently when the surrounding environment contains more perceptually- or conceptually related cues. Giving people an orange pen to write with, for example, leads them to choose more products related to the color orange (e.g. orange soda).
  S. Christian Wheeler, Jonah Berger (2007)
When the Same Prime Leads to Different Effects
Journal of Consumer Research, 34(3) 357-368
The same primed construct can have different effects on the subsequent choices of different groups of people based on their varying associations with the primes. Thinking about what to wear to a formal event leads men (women) to make more conforming (unique) subsequent choices.
  Jonah Berger, Chip Heath (2005)
Idea Habitats: How the Prevalence of Environmental Cues Influences the Success of Ideas
Cognitive Science, 29(2), 195-221. (Lead Article)
Facts, rumors, catchphrases and proverbs are more successful in times when related environmental cues are more prevalent.

Decision Making and Decision Quicksand

  Aner Sela, Jonah Berger (2011)
How Attribute Quantity Influences Option Choice
Journal of Marketing Research, Forthcoming
Describing options by more attributes leads people to select options that were originally harder to justify (e.g., items for pleasure vs. those for work).
  Aner Sela, Jonah Berger (2012)
Decision Quicksand: When Trivial Choices Suck Us In
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming
Why do people get unnecessarily mired in trivial decisions? We provide one answer.
  Aner Sela, Jonah Berger, Wendy Liu (2009)
Variety, Vice, and Virtue: How Assortment Size Influences Option Choice
Journal of Consumer Research, 35(3), 941-951.
Presenting people with more options to choose from leads them to select options that are easier to justify (i.e., fruit over cookies and items for work over those for play).
  Jonah Berger, Michaela Draganska, Itamar Simonson (2007)
The Influence of Product Variety on Brand Perceptions and Choice
Marketing Science, 26, 460-472. (Lead Article)
Press Reactions: Boston Globe
Brands which offer increased compatible variety are more likely to be chosen because they are seen as higher quality.


  Jonah Berger, Eric T. Bradlow, Alex Braunstein, Yao Zhang
From Karen to Katie: Using Baby Names to Understand Cultural Evolution
Psychological Science, Forthcoming
Press Reactions: New York Times
  Jonah Berger, Devin Pope (2011)
Can Losing Lead to Winning?
Management Science, 57(5), 817-827.
Being behind can actually increase success by increasing motivation. NBA teams behind by a point at halftime, for example, actually win more often than teams ahead by one.

Working Papers

  Nathanael J. Fast, Jonah Berger (2010)
Message Splitting: Using Self-Relevant Material to Increase Prosocial Behavior
Using people's names in requests leads them to donate more time and resources
  Amit Bhattacharjee, Jonah Berger, Geeta Menon (2010)
Escaping the Crosshairs: Reactance to Identity Marketing
  Andrew Stephen, Jonah Berger (2010)
Creating Contagious: How Social Networks and Item Characteristics Combine to Spur Ongoing Consumption and Drive Social Epidemics
  Jonah Berger, Chip Heath, Ben Ho, Divergence in Cultural Practices: Tastes as Signals of Identity
  Jonah Berger, When Does Social Influence Attract versus Repel? Identity-Signaling, Conformity, and Divergence
  Yaniv Dover, Jonah Berger, Jacob Goldenberg, Daniel Shapira, Using the Internet to Spot Secrets
  Jonah Berger, Does Presentation Order Impact Choice After Delay?