Faculty Fellow

Boaz Keysar, Professor of Psychology


In contemporary society, population growth combined with global warming concerns has made the adoption of innovative, sustainable products a crucial global issue, leading groups such as the World Health Organization to list health and sustainable development as a key issue to tackle in upcoming years. However, while sustainability can be beneficial both for the environment and society at large, many people find some of the most promising sustainable products such as recycled wastewater and insect-based food disgusting. This hinders the adoption of these products that could otherwise have a beneficial impact on reducing global water shortages as well as our ecological footprint. Therefore, we will use our CISSR grant is to explore ways to nudge individuals into consuming sustainable but aversive products, specifically by examining the impact of presenting these products in a native versus non-native language. Prior research suggests that using a non-native language influences judgments and decisions by attenuating emotions; as such, it may also reduce the feelings of disgust aversive products elicit and thereby increase their consumption. To examine this hypothesis, we will describe to participants from China, Italy, and Israel sustainable but aversive products in their native or a foreign language, and then offer them the opportunity to consume the products. We will also collect ratings of disgust as well as physiological indicators of visceral reactions. We expect that bilinguals using a foreign language to experience less disgust and consequently to consume more of these products. Positive findings could be used to build concrete interventions to increase sustainable practices worldwide.


Boaz Keysar photoBoaz Keysar is a Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Cognition program at the University of Chicago. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1989 and was a visiting scholar at Stanford University before joining the faculty at the University of Chicago in 1991. He studies the relationship between decision making, language and communication and has published extensively in scientific journals such as Psychological Review, Psychological Science, Cognition, and Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. His work has been featured in media outlets such as Science Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, National Post-Canada, Der Spiegel – Germany, China Daily – China, Smart Money – Russia, Science daily, LiveScience.com, MSNBC, National Public Radio, and Freakonomics Radio.

He has been awarded major research grants from federal agencies and private foundations such as the National Institute of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the John Templeton Foundation.  Professor Keysar’s honors and awards include a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and a Fulbright Scholarship.

Together with his wife, Linda Ginzel, he is the co-founder of Kids In Danger, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving children’s product safety. For his advocacy work he has been named Chicagoan of The Year, was awarded the Community Advocate Hope and Courage Award by Lurie Children’s Hospital, the Distinguished Service to the Community Award by the Princeton Club of Chicago, and the President’s Service award from President Clinton, the nation’s highest honor for volunteer service.