Uma R. Karmarkar

Assistant Professor of Business Administration (Leave of Absence)

Uma R. Karmarkar is an Assistant Professor of Business Administration in the Marketing Unit and an affiliate of the Harvard Center for Brain Sciences. She holds a B.S. in Symbolic Systems from Stanford University, a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Ph.D. in Marketing from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Professor Karmarkar's research examines the neural and psychological factors that underlie consumer decision-making. Some of her recent research targets how factors such as timing, uncertainty and sleep influence perceptions of value. Her findings have been published in a number of academic journals across a range of disciplines, including the Journal of Consumer Research, Management Science, Neuron, and Learning and Memory. In addition, her work has been featured in media outlets including Newsweek, Scientific American,The Economist and The New York Times.

At HBS she teaches the first year MBA marketing course and FIELD.

  1. Research

    by Uma R. Karmarkar

    Professor Karmarkar's research in consumer behavior develops theory-driven frameworks “from the brain up”. In particular, using a combination of consumer psychology, behavioral economics, and insights from neuroscience, she investigates the factors that consciously and unconsciously influence decision-making in marketplace settings. Her approach is to treat decisions as an experiential process, rather than as an isolated instant. During this process, companies offer their customers a wealth of information via their prices, their product offerings, and the way they configure the choice environment. Additional information is also available through expert opinions, word-of-mouth and online resources. Professor Karmarkar examines how consumers receive this information, integrate it, and then translate it into estimates of value and purchase decisions.

    Overall, her work falls into two major streams:

    1. Context and the configuration of information. This research examines how companies’ decisions about which types of information to offer, and how and when to offer it, can frame consumers’ expectations and impact their purchase behavior.
    2. Using information under uncertainty. In many choice situations, people have incomplete knowledge, or face ambiguity about their options. This line of research examines the importance of felt certainty, and how consumers use the information they do have during uncertain decisions.