Doctoral Student

Karen Huang

I am a PhD candidate in Organizational Behavior (Psychology Track), a joint program between the Harvard Business School and the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and a Master’s candidate in the Department of Psychology.

One stream of my research is on interpersonal affective processes. For example, in a paper on question-asking in dyads (forthcoming in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology), my co-authors and I combine methods from experimental psychology and natural language processing to study how conversational dynamics influence liking and partner selection.

In another stream of research, I study how impartial reasoning influences moral judgment. I am also increasingly interested in tech ethics, particularly with regard to the automation of labor. In the spring of 2017, I taught as a Teaching Fellow for the psychology course Evolving Morality, which applied moral psychology and philosophy to questions regarding emerging technologies.

I earned my B.A. in Ethics, Politics & Economics from Yale University, during which I also studied moral philosophy at the University of Cambridge and phenomenology at Bard College Berlin. I am a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, and my non-academic interests include music and contemporary dance.

Journal Articles

  1. It Doesn't Hurt to Ask: Question-asking Increases Liking

    K. Huang, M. Yeomans, A.W. Brooks, J. Minson and F. Gino

    Conversation is a fundamental human experience, one that is necessary to pursue intrapersonal and interpersonal goals across myriad contexts, relationships, and modes of communication. In the current research, we isolate the role of an understudied conversational behavior: question-asking. Across three studies of live dyadic conversations, we identify a robust and consistent relationship between question-asking and liking: people who ask more questions are better liked by their conversation partners. When people are instructed to ask more questions, they are perceived as higher in responsiveness, an interpersonal construct that captures listening, understanding, validation, and care. We measure responsiveness with an attitudinal measure from previous research as well as a novel behavioral measure: the number of follow-up questions one asks. In both cases, responsiveness explains the effect of question-asking on liking. In addition to analyzing live get-to-know-you conversations online, we also studied face-to-face speed-dating conversations. We find that speed daters who ask more questions during their dates are more likely to elicit agreement for second dates from their partners, a behavioral indicator of liking. We trained a natural language processing algorithm as a “follow-up question detector” that we applied to our speed-dating data (and can be applied to any text data to more deeply understand question-asking dynamics). The follow-up question rate established by the algorithm explained why question-asking led to speed-dating success. We also find that, despite the persistent and beneficial effects of asking questions, people do not anticipate that question-asking increases interpersonal liking.

    Keywords: question-asking; liking; responsiveness; Conversation; natural language processing; Interpersonal Communication;


    Huang, K., M. Yeomans, A.W. Brooks, J. Minson, and F. Gino. "It Doesn't Hurt to Ask: Question-asking Increases Liking."Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (in press). View Details