A. Peter McGraw (born 1970) is an associate professor of Marketing and Psychology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His research spans the fields of judgment and decision making, emotion, affect, and mood.
McGraw is known for his early research on expectations and emotions. In studying the emotional reactions of Olympic athletes, he finds that bronze medalists often appear happier with their accomplishment than silver medalists because silver medalists are more likely to have higher (gold medal) aspirations, whereas bronze medalists are more likely to be the dark horse and exceed their expectations.
McGraw and Jonathan Levav have published work based on their theory of Emotional Accounting, which is a complement to prior research on Mental Accounting. Emotional accounting posits that people use their feelings about money to guide how they spend it. For example, if people have negative feelings about a windfall of money, they tend to make utilitarian or virtuous expenditures in lieu of hedonic expenditures.
McGraw also investigates what makes things funny. His humor research was inspired in part by his research on moral violations with Philip Tetlock and mixed emotions with Jeff Larsen. McGraw, along with Caleb Warren, developed the Benign Violation Theory (BVT), a general theory of humor based on evolutionary accounts of laughter and amusement. The BVT predicts that humor occurs when a person simultaneously appraises a situation as wrong or unsettling some way (i.e., a violation) and yet appraises the situation to be okay or acceptable in some way (i.e., benign). His research is quickly moving the study of humor from the niche to mainstream psychology.
In 2014, McGraw co-authored The Humor Code, a book about the science of humor and his travels around the world with journalist Joel Warner.
McGraw received his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University in 2002, at which time he pursued a post-doc at Princeton University with Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman. In 2004, he joined the faculty at the Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado at Boulder. In 2008, he received an appointment (courtesy) in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.
At the University of Colorado, McGraw teaches courses in consumer behavior and decision making. He directs the Humor Research Lab (HuRL) and co-directs a virtual research lab, the Moral Research Lab (MoRL) with Daniel Bartels. His research has been published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and Psychological Science. McGraw was named a Marketing Science Institute Young Scholar in 2007.
Outside academic pursuits, McGraw, from 2004 to 2010, served as academic coordinator, assistant coach, and associate head coach of the men's lacrosse team at the University of Colorado. He was the head coach of the men's lacrosse club at Princeton University from 2002 to 2004.
The Humor Code:
In 2010, McGraw met journalist Joel Warner, who was fascinated by McGraw's humor research and unified theory of humor. Starting in 2011, the two created "The Humor Code Project," a two-year, 91,000-mile global search for what makes things funny. Their travels took them to Tanzania, Scandinavia, Japan, Israel, Peru, and several other destinations in North America. McGraw and Warner authored The Humor Code, a book about their travels and the experiments they conducted along the way. The two maintained multiple blogs about their adventures on Wired, Huffington Post, and Psychology Today.McGraw's research and the book have been widely covered by the media, including the Wall Street Journal, NPR, MSNBC, The Boston Globe, Scientific American, The Atlantic, Denver Post, and others.
Humor Research Laboratory (HuRL),
HuRL is dedicated to the scientific study of humor and its antecedents and consequences. The lab's theoretical and methodological base is in the interdisciplinary fields of consumer behavior, emotion, and judgment and decision making, with an emphasis in social and cognitive psychology.
Moral Research Laboratory (MoRL),
MoRL is a (virtual) research laboratory that investigates the mental processes underlying morally-motivated judgment and choice, with a focus on consumer behavior and implications for public policy. The lab's theoretical base is in the interdisciplinary field of judgment and decision making, with an emphasis in social and cognitive psychology.
McGraw, A.P., Warren, C., Williams, L., & Leonard, B., (2012). Too close for comfort, or too far to care? Finding humor in distant tragedies and close mishaps. Psychological Science, 25, 1215 - 1223.,
McGraw, A.P., Schwartz, J. & Tetlock, P. (2012). From the commercial to the communal: Reframing taboo trade-offs in religious and pharmaceutical marketing. Journal of Consumer Research, 39, 157-173.,
Larsen, J.T. & McGraw, A.P. (2011). Further evidence for mixed emotions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 1095-1110.,
McGraw, A.P., Todorov, A., & Kunreuther, H. (2011). A policy maker's dilemma: Preventing blame or preventing terrorism. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 115, 25-34.,
McGraw, A.P., Larsen, J.T., Kahneman, D., & Schkade, D. (2010). Comparing gains and losses. Psychological Science, 21, 1438-1445.,
McGraw, A.P., Shafir, E., & Todorov, A. (2010). Valuing money and things: Why a $20 item can be worth more and less than $20. Management Science, 56, 816-830.,
McGraw, A.P. & Warren, C. (2010). Benign violations: Making immoral behavior funny. Psychological Science, 21, 1141-1149.,
Levav, J., & McGraw, A.P. (2009). Emotional accounting: How feelings about money influence consumer choice. Journal of Marketing Research, 46, 66-80.,
McGraw, A.P., Mellers, B.A, & Tetlock, P.E. (2005). Expectations and emotions of Olympic athletes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 41, 438-446.,
McGraw, A.P., & Tetlock, P.E. (2005). Taboo trade-offs, relational framing and the acceptability of exchanges. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 15, 2-15.,
Larsen, J.T., McGraw, A.P., Mellers, B.A. & Cacioppo, J. (2004). The agony of victory and thrill of defeat: Mixed emotional reactions to disappointing wins and relieving losses. Psychological Science, 15, 325-330.,
McGraw, A.P., Tetlock, P.E., & Kristel, O.V. (2003). The limits of fungibility: Relational schemata and the value of things. Journal of Consumer Research, 30, 219-229.,
Larsen, J.T., McGraw, A.P., & Cacioppo, J. (2001). Can people feel happy and sad at the same time? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 684-696.