22 Oct 2021

New Faculty Profiles: Julian De Freitas


HBS faculty comprises more than 300 scholars and practitioners who bring leading-edge research, extensive experience, and deep insights into the classroom, to organizations, and to managers. We asked new faculty at HBS about their background, their new roles, and their interests.

Julian De Freitas, assistant professor, Marketing

What is your educational background?
In high school, my classical guitar teacher put me in touch with an ex-student who had just graduated from HBS and wanted to help South African students apply to US colleges. With his help, I got into Yale, where I was bitten by the research bug and majored in cognitive science.

I was then awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to complete a degree in experimental psychology at Oxford. I returned to the US to complete my PhD in psychology at Harvard.

What’s your area of research and what led you to it?
During my PhD studies, I co-authored a paper about the ethics of autonomous vehicles. That paper opened up my world to stakeholders in business, law, and insurance, and spurred new collaborations. I realized that I wanted to continue researching the intersection of academia and business, with a focus on consumers.

Broadly, I conduct research on ethical intelligence, at the intersection of psychology, ethics, and artificial intelligence. I study how the ethical intelligence of consumers influences their attitudes toward firms, and how firms can market in ways that are sensitive to these moral buttons.

What will you be teaching here?
Marketing for the Required Curriculum year.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a professor?
I would be a scientific, engineering, or ethics officer at an autonomous vehicle company.

Where are you from?
I am originally Portuguese, but South African born, and raised in Witbank, a coal mining city in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province. My grandparents on both sides left poverty on Madeira Island to start new lives in South Africa, along with many other Portuguese people at the time.

What is something you like to do outside of your academic work?
It changes every couple of years. At Yale, I toured the world with an acapella group called the Whiffenpoofs, at Oxford I completed Ironman triathlons, during my PhD I did Brazilian jiu jitsu before quitting after my second knee surgery (on the same knee), and now I do Afro-Caribbean dance.

What’s your favorite book, movie, or piece of art?
My favorite book would have to be Robert Nozick’s Philosophical Explanations. It unabashedly tackles and makes progress on a platter of thorny philosophical problems, including the nature of ethics, personal identity, and meaning in life. I have awkward pandemic memories of being so engrossed in the book while riding my stationary bike that I was dripping sweat on the pages.

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