Jonah Berger

Jonah Berger
  • Associate Professor of Marketing

Contact Information

Research Interests: Growth Strategy, Influence, Word of Mouth, Change, Natural Language Processing, Viral Marketing

Links: CV, Personal Website


For most recent news and research, see

The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind

Professor Jonah Berger is an internationally bestselling author, and a world-renowned expert on change, influence, word of mouth, natural language processing, consumer behavior, and how products, ideas, and behaviors catch on. He has published over 50 articles in top‐tier academic journals, teaches Wharton’s most popular online course, and popular accounts of his work often appear in places like The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Harvard Business Review. Over a million copies of his books, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior, and The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind are in print in over 35 countries around the world. Berger often keynotes major conferences and events like SXSW and Cannes Lions, advises various early stage companies, and consults for organizations like Apple, Google, Nike, Amazon, GE, 3M, and The Gates Foundation.

His most recent work uses automated textual analysis and natural language processing to pull behavioral insights from text data (e.g., predicting song success from lyrics, movie success from scripts, and customer satisfaction from service calls).  He co-founded the Technology and Behavioral Science Initiative and helps host an interdisciplinary conference on Behavioral Insights from Text.

Continue Reading


  • Olivier Toubia, Jonah Berger, Jehoshua Eliashberg (2021), How Quantifying The Shape of Stories Predicts Their Success, Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences, Vol 118, Issue 26, June 2021, pp. 1-5.

  • Jonah Berger, Yoonduk Kim, Robert Meyer (2021), What makes Content Engaging? How Emotional Dynamics Shape Success, Journal of Consumer Research.

    Abstract: Some cultural products (e.g., movies and books) catch on and become popular, but less is known about why certain succeed and others fail. While some have argued that success is unpredictable, we suggest that period-to-period shifts in emotional tone—what we term emotional volatility—plays an important role.  Automated sentiment analysis of thousands of movies demonstrates that more emotionally volatile movies are evaluated more positively.  This relationship holds controlling for a range of other factors, and, consistent with the notion that emotional volatility makes experiences more stimulating, is stronger in genres where evaluations are more likely to be driven stimulation (i.e., thrillers rather than romance). By manipulating emotional volatility in a follow up experiment, we underscore its causal impact on evaluations, and provide preliminary evidence for the role of stimulation and engagement in driving these effects. Taken together, these results shed light on why things become popular, the time dynamics of emotion, and the psychological foundations of culture more broadly.

  • Jonah Berger and Grant Packard (2021), Using Language to Understand People and Culture, American Psychologist.

  • Jonah Berger, Matt Rocklage, Grant Packard (Under Revision), Expression Modalities: How Speaking Versus Writing Shapes What Consumers Say, and Its Impact.

  • Grant Packard and Jonah Berger (2021), How Concrete Language Shapes Customer Satisfaction, Journal of Consumer Research.

    Abstract: Marketers and consumers alike wish that sales and service people were more attentive to customer needs.  But beyond broad strategies (e.g., being responsive) or using certain tactics (e.g., apologizing), might there be simpler ways to increase satisfaction and purchase?  We suggest that linguistic concreteness, or the words agents use when speaking to customers, can have an important impact.  Five studies, including text analysis from over 1,000 customer interactions across two companies, demonstrate that using more concrete language when addressing customers increases customer satisfaction, willingness to purchase, and actual expenditures.  This occurs because speaking concretely makes agents seem more involved with the customer’s specific, personal needs. These findings deepen understanding of how language shapes consumer behavior and have important implications for increasing customer satisfaction.

  • Jonah Berger (2021), Why Do Some Advertisements Get Shared More than Others? Quantifying Facial Expressions to Gain New Insights, Journal of Advertising Research.

  • Reihane Boghrati, Jonah Berger, Grant Packard, Style, Content, and the Success of Ideas.

  • Grant Packard and Jonah Berger, Conversational Dynamics: When Does Employee Language Matter?.

  • Jacqueline Rifkin, Kathreine Crain, Jonah Berger (2021), Penny for Your Preferences: Leveraging Self-Expression to Increase Prosocial Giving, Journal of Marketing.

  • Jonah Berger, Wendy Moe, David Schweidel (Under Review), Linguistic Drivers of Content Consumption.

    Abstract: More and more consumers read content online.  They scan Wall Street Journal articles, catch up on sports, and peruse blogs on tech and celebrity gossip. But what makes one article more engaging than another?  That is, what about certain articles encourage people to keep reading?  Combining natural language processing of a unique dataset of over 825,000 page-reading sessions from over 35,000 articles with an experiment, we examine how textual features (i.e., the words used) shape continued engagement. Results suggest that emotion shapes engagement.  Importantly, however, not all emotion increases reading.  Consistent with research on appraisal and action tendencies, content that evokes anger and anxiety encourage further reading while content which evokes sadness discourages it.  Textual features that should increase processing ease (e.g., concreteness and familiar words) also increase engagement.  Experimental evidence underscores the causal impact of emotion on reading and demonstrates that these effects are driven by emotions impact on uncertainty and arousal.  These findings shed light on psychological drivers of reading and how to design more engaging content


Past Courses


    This course is concerned with how and why people behave as consumers. Its goals are to: (1) provide conceptual understanding of consumer behavior, (2) provide experience in the application of buyer behavior concepts to marketing management decisions and social policy decision-making; and (3) to develop analytical capability in using behavioral research.



    This course addresses how to design and implement the best combination of marketing efforts to carry out a firm's strategy in its target markets. Specifically, this course seeks to develop the student's (1) understanding of how the firm can benefit by creating and delivering value to its customers, and stakeholders, and (2) skills in applying the analytical concepts and tools of marketing to such decisions as segmentation and targeting, branding, pricing, distribution, and promotion. The course uses lectures and case discussions, case write-ups, student presentations, and a comprehensive final examination to achieve these objectives.


    Why do some products catch on and achieve huge popularity while others fail? Why do some behaviors spread like wildfire while others languish? How do certain ideas seem to stick in memory while others disappear the minute you hear them? More broadly, what factors lead to trends, social contagion, and social epidemics? Interactive media, word of mouth, and viral marketing are important issues for companies, brands, and organizations. This course looks at these and other topics as it examines how products, ideas, and behaviors catch on and become popular. Marketers want their product to be popular, organizations want their social change initiative to catch on and entrepreneurs want their ideas to stick. This course will touch on four main aspects: (1) Characteristics of products, ideas, and behaviors that lead them to be successful. (2) Aspects of individual psychology that influence what things are successful. (3) Interpersonal processes, or how interactions between individuals drive success. (4) Social networks, or how patterns of social ties influence success.


    A student contemplating an independent study project must first find a faculty member who agrees to supervise and approve the student's written proposal as an independent study (MKTG 899). If a student wishes the proposed work to be used to meet the ASP requirement, he/she should then submit the approved proposal to the MBA adviser who will determine if it is an appropriate substitute. Such substitutions will only be approved prior to the beginning of the semester.


    The purpose of this seminar is to provide graduate students with a solid foundation for critical thinking and research in psychology and marketing on information processing related topics. Topics of discussion include consumer knowledge (learning, memory and categorization), attitude theory, persuasion, affect and social influence. The course draws from the literature in marketing, psychology and economics. The course will enable students to conceptualize, operationalize, and develop research ideas. Therefore, the focus is on understanding theoretical and methodological approaches to various aspects of consumer behavior, as well as advancing this knowledge by developing testable hypotheses and theoretical perspectives that build on the current knowledge base.


    This course is taught collectively by the faculty members from the Marketing Department. It is designed to expose Doctoral students to the cutting-edge research in marketing models in order to help them to define and advance their research interests. This course will offer: in-depth discussions on some important topics in marketing by experts in respective areas; tools, and methodologies required for conducting research in those areas; broad exposure to our faculty members and their proven research styles.


    Requires written permission of instructor and the department graduate adviser.

Awards and Honors

  • William F. O’Dell Award, Journal of Marketing Research,, 2019
  • Outstanding Reviewer Award, Journal of Consumer Research, 2016
  • Best 2012 Article Finalist, Journal of Consumer Research, 2015
  • Top 30 Leaders in Business, American Management Association, 2015
  • Berry-AMA Book Prize for Best Book in Marketing, 2014
  • Top 5 Most Productive Researchers in Marketing 2009-13, AMA DocSig, 2013
  • Paul Green Award, Journal of Marketing Research, Finalist, 2013
  • Most Creative People in Business, Fast Company, 2013
  • Early Career Award, Association for Consumer Research, 2012
  • Early Career Award, Society for Consumer Psychology, 2012
  • Outstanding Reviewer Award, Journal of Consumer Research, 2011
  • Winner, Iron Professor Competition, The Wharton School, 2011
  • MBA Teaching Commitment and Curricular Innovation Award, 2011
  • MSI – Young Scholars Program, 2011
  • Top 10 Reviewer Award, Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2011
  • JCR Best Paper in 2007 Award, Finalist, 2010

In the News

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Latest Research

Olivier Toubia, Jonah Berger, Jehoshua Eliashberg (2021), How Quantifying The Shape of Stories Predicts Their Success, Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences, Vol 118, Issue 26, June 2021, pp. 1-5.
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In the News

Changing Someone’s Mind: A Powerful New Approach

The more you allow people to participate in the process, the more effective you’ll be in convincing them to make certain choices, Wharton’s Jonah Berger says in this Nano Tool for Leaders®.

Knowledge @ Wharton - 6/22/2021
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Wharton Magazine - 04/17/2020

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Orientation in IrvineThe Story Behind Wharton Convocation and 7 Pieces of Advice to Begin Your Academic Journey

Think of Convocation as a bookend to Commencement — you walk together as a class for the first time through the doors of Irvine Auditorium and in two years, you’ll process out of the Palestra as Wharton graduates….

Wharton Stories - 08/06/2018
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