Academically, my work is generally located at the intersection between evolutionary psychology and consumer neuroscience. The goods we desire, purchase and consume are products of our evolved minds and I am fascinated by the ways in which the environment of our ancestors still shapes the way we respond to objects such as cars, movies, clothing, pornography and even the humble cheesecake.

There are two distinct streams to my work. The first investigates how consumers respond – psychologically and physiologically – to the shopping environment and the ways in which those largely unconscious responses are shaped by the brain’s evolutionary heritage. There are three key elements at work here: the motivations which bring us to the shopping environment and make us amenable to a product in the first place; the emotional responses we experience, good or bad, that prime us to approach or avoid the product when we encounter it; and the largely unconscious heuristics and biases that finally ‘nudge’ us to choose one brand of that product rather than another.  Much of my work at present involves helping brands uncover that three-part code – motivation, emotion and decision – that lies at the heart of shopper marketing success.

The second and more controversial stream focuses on aberrant psychology, the so-called ‘dark side’ of consumer behaviour, exploring the origins of a range of potentially problematic consumption phenomena, such as counterfeiting, compulsive buying, shoplifting, and participation in deviant leisure activities. A recurrent theme throughout both streams of work, however, has been the specific issue of psychological sex differences and the biological bases of female and male consumer choice variations.

My approach to research is broadly a motivational one, albeit with a novel twist.  I combine traditional focus groups, touchpoint mapping and accompanied shopping with experimental work, media analyses and the latest ‘neuromarketing’ techniques. Brands which truly understand the evolutionary heritage of the objects we desire can gain a significant advantage over competitors and, from eye-tracking and EEG measures to projective testing and early-memory elicitation techniques, I’ve developed a behavioural science toolkit to help uncover the deep-rooted drivers underpinning consumer choice.

I work with a number of leading brands, applying this blend of methodologies in a targeted way and measuring purchase outcomes – do get in touch if you are interested in broadening that collaboration further or, alternatively, you have a ‘darker’ consumption practice you wish to explore further.  Consider that my ‘soft sell’, consultancy wise!

Selected Papers

Nicholson, M., Xiao, S.H., Iyer, G. & Obeidat, Z. (2017). Consumer revenge using the Internet and social media: Service failure types and cognitive appraisal processes. Psychology & Marketing, 34(4): 496-515.

Iyer, G.R., Xiao, S., Sharma, A. & Nicholson, M. (2015). Behavioral issues in price-setting in business-to-business marketing: a framework for analysis. Industrial Marketing Management. 47: 6-16.

Xiao, S. & Nicholson, M (2013). A multidisciplinary cognitive behavioural framework of impulse buying: A systematic review of the literature. International Journal of Management Reviews, 15(3): 333-356.

Alshurideh, M., Nicholson, M. & Xiao, S.H. (2012). The Effect of Previous Experience on Mobile Subscribers’ Repeat Purchase Behaviour. European Journal of Social Sciences, 30(3): 366-376.

Nicholson, M. & Xiao, S.H. (2011). Consumer behaviour analysis and social marketing practice.  Service Industries Journal, 31(15): 2529-2542.

Xiao, S.H. & Nicholson, M. (2011). Consumer consideration of non-deceptive counterfeit goods: a contingency matrix approach.  Service Industries Journal, 31(15): 2617-2631.

Xiao, S.H. & Nicholson, M. (2011). Mapping impulse buying: a behaviour analysis framework for services marketing and consumer research.  Service Industries Journal, 31(15): 2515-2528.

Nicholson, M. & Xiao, S.H. (2010). On the Evolutionary Bases of Consumer Reinforcement. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 30(2): 127-144.

Xiao, S.H. & Nicholson, M. (2010). Trick or Treat? An Examination of Marketing Relationships in a Non-deceptive Counterfeit Market. Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, 30(1): 247-279.

Gee, R., Coates, G. & Nicholson, M. (2008). Understanding and profitably managing customer loyalty. Marketing Intelligence and Planning, 26(4): 359-374.

Nicholson, M., Clarke, I. & Blakemore, M. (2002). One brand, three ways to shop: Situational variables and multichannel consumer behaviour. International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, 12(2): 131-148.

Book Chapters

Xiao, S.H. & Nicholson, M. (2015), The Role of Impulsivity in Impulse Purchase Decision-Making: A Cross-Cultural Comparison.  In Schmitt, B. & Lee, L. (Eds.), The Psychology of the Asian Consumer.  London: Routledge.

Nicholson, M. & Xiao, S.H. (2013), Darwin’s Ghost: Evolutionary Psychology and Consumer Behaviour.  In Hantula, D.A. & Wells, V.K. (Ed.), Consumer Behavior Analysis: A Rational Approach to Consumer Choice.  London: Taylor & Francis.

Conference Papers & Keynote Presentations

Xiao, S.H. & Nicholson, M. (2015), Context variation in opt-in choice of mobile advertising, EMAC 2015 Conference. KU Leuven and Vlerick Business School. Leuven, Belgium.

Nicholson, M. & Zirger, B.J. (2014), Integrating Technology into B-school Curricula, AACSB International Associate Deans Conference, San Antonio, Texas, USA.

Xiao, S.H., Iyer, G.R., & Nicholson, M. (2014), A Cross-National Examination of Impulsivity and Impulse Buying Behaviors, Second International Conference on Global Business, Economics, Finance and Social Sciences GB14 Conference. Teynampet, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.

Xiao, S.H., Iyer, G. & Nicholson, M. (2013), Impulsivity and Impulse Buying: A Cross-National Examination, EMAC 2013 Conference. ITU in Istanbul, Turkey.

Xiao, S. H. & Nicholson, M. (2012), The Role of Impulsivity in Impulse Purchasing Decision Making – A Cross-Culture Comparison, Advertising and Consumer Psychology (ACP) Conference 2012. NanYang Technological University, Singapore.

Xiao, S. H. & Nicholson, M (2010), Understanding the role of impulsivity in impulse buying: a Chinese adaptation of the UPPS impulse behavior scale, British Academy of Management Conference. Sheffield, UK.

Xiao, S.H., Newman, A.J. & Nicholson, M. (2009), A Critical Review of Impulse Purchasing and its Measurement, Spring Conference of the Marketing Management Association. Chicago, USA.

Xiao, S.H. & Nicholson, M. (2009), Consumer Behaviour Towards Counterfeit Goods – A Situational Perspective, British Academy of Management Conference. Brighton, UK.

Nicholson, M. & Xiao, S.H. (2008), Symposium: Old Wine in New Bottles? Social Marketing and Consumer Behaviour Analysis, British Academy of Management Conference. Harrogate, UK.

Nicholson, M. & Xiao, S.H. (2008), Social Marketing and Behaviour Analysis: Some thoughts on the management of obesity, International Symposium on the Management of Obesity. Salford Business School, UK.

Xiao, S.H. & Nicholson, M. (2007), Luxury for the Masses: An Exploratory Study on New Luxury Brands Consumption in China, 3rd Annual Colloquium of the Academy of Marketing’s Brand, Corporate Identity and Reputation Special Interest Group. London, UK.

Nicholson, M. & Xiao, S.H. (2007), Consumer Channel Choice as an Operant Process, 5th International Conference on Business, Economics, Management & Marketing. Athens, Greece.

Xiao, S.H. & Nicholson, M. (2007), Trick or Treat? An Examination of Marketing Relationships in a Non deceptive Counterfeit Marketplace, 5th International Conference on Business, Economics, Management & Marketing. Athens, Greece.

Xiao, S.H. & Nicholson, M. (2004), Faking It! Consumer Behaviour towards Counterfeit Goods in China, 2nd International Conference on Business, Economics, Management & Marketing. Athens, Greece.

Hindmarsh, S. & Nicholson, M. (2004),  Toys for Boys and the Girl Game Jinx: Sex differences in computer gaming, 2nd International Conference on Business, Economics, Management & Marketing. Athens, Greece.

Nicholson, M., Clarke, I. & Blakemore, M. (2001). Multichannel Consumer Behaviour in the Retail Fashion Sector, 11th International Conference on Research in the Distributive Trades. Tilburg, NL.


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