Meet UBC Sauder’s new faculty – Jen Park
At UBC Sauder, faculty members are more than just ‘professors.’ They conduct impactful research that is changing how society views the world while also inspiring students to pursue their academic passions and become the thoughtful, values-driven leaders the business world needs. This year, UBC Sauder welcomes eight new lecturers and tenure-track faculty to the school. In the seventh of this series, we introduce you to Jen Park, Assistant Professor in the Marketing and Behavioural Science Division.
Where are you from, and what brought you to UBC Sauder?
Before coming here, I was in the San Francisco Bay Area and received my PhD from Stanford. Before that, I lived in New York and Seoul, Korea (born and raised). The hustle and bustle of the city has always been part of my life, and Vancouver felt like the perfect place surrounded by mountains and stunning nature, yet still has the city life that I crave. I knew that living in such a vibrant city, while being part of a world-renowned business school such as UBC Sauder was an opportunity not to be missed.
What are your areas of research and how did you get into this field?
My research is on consumer judgment and choice, which sits at the intersection of psychology and technology. Specifically, I am interested in the contextual drivers—how products are presented or how the choice is framed in digital interfaces—of prosocial and pro-environmental behavior. I got into this topic after a personal realization that my own decisions are often shaped by how the choices are presented in my environments. For example, I found that I am more likely to purchase or make a commitment when I am given the option to explicitly reject alternatives (e.g., “swipe left to reject”) while evaluating products. Curious to test this idea in the field, I collaborated with a mobile app that matches rescued animals with potential adopters, and discovered that app users were indeed more likely to adopt a pet when the app interface allowed them to explicitly reject pets (i.e., like vs. dislike) while evaluating than when the interface only allowed choice of pets (i.e., like-only). It has been thrilling to observe first-hand how subtle changes in framing of choices can have such a consequential impact on everyday behavior.
What fuels your research – what prompted you to research this area?
I am fascinated by how the consumer landscape is always changing. Some of my best research ideas come from paying close attention to new technological trends. For example, digital alteration of images through mobile app filters has allowed social media influencers and even amateurs to easily smooth, slim, or skew their faces with just a few clicks. This increasing reliance on Photoshop and app filters has led me to explore how digitally altered images can affect consumers’ perception and choice. In my new project with my collaborators at Stanford and University of Amsterdam, I explore the possibility that the relationship between image alteration and consumer response is curvilinear, such that a moderate level of alteration can increase consumer liking and induce positive response, whereas more extreme alternations conversely reduce liking and lead to negative response. These findings shed light on what remains to be perceived as authentic and persuasive in the current media overtaken by digitally altered images.
What inspires you to teach?
As a woman of color and first-generation immigrant, I find it personally important that I build an inclusive and empowering learning environment for all gender, race, and cultural backgrounds. In my classes, I strive to create a safe space for every student, but especially for those from underrepresented backgrounds who often face unique challenges, but bring new perspectives to the classroom.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve discovered through your research?
Our everyday decisions are influenced by the most subtle changes in our environment—especially when you least expect them. For example, my new project examines how “click to read more” buttons that load product information such as customer reviews (a ubiquitous feature in interface design) can alter how those reviews are remembered and what consumers buy. With my collaborator at Stanford, I find that clicking to display reviews (vs. reviews directly displayed to consumers) biased the recall of reviews and preferences for impulsive choices such as unhealthy food, gaming apps, and impulsive investment choices. Leveraging the power of choice architecture, my goal is to better understand the role of contexts in decision-making to help consumers make decisions that are more closely aligned with their true preferences.
What do you believe is the future of your industry?
Where do I begin! We live in such an exciting time: social media influencers, short-form content, algorithms, NFTs, and cancel culture. But as an academic, what I find most important across these trends is that we understand the increasing complexity in consumer purchasing decisions. Consumers now rely on various social media and reviews to consider the sustainability of their product choices, and while technology such as TikTok algorithms and the metaverse will continue to grow, the focus will be on consumers, not technology.
Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself?
In my free time, I manage my dog Boba's Instagram account – a pastime that connects in its own way to my research. We have collaborated with small and large companies including Petco and West Elm. He is obviously more famous than me and has already been featured on the UBC and UBC Sauder Instagram accounts!
What are you most looking forward to in Vancouver?
Summer golf! My husband and I are avid golfers, and we have been gifted many Vancouver-themed golf gear (e.g., University Golf Course golf balls, maple leaf driver headcover) from friends as parting/welcoming gifts! I can’t wait to tee off in my new city.