Donahue Center Interdisciplinary Faculty Research Grants

Interdisciplinary Faculty Research Grants support diverse perspectives, contextual and conceptual expertise, and empirical approaches that align with the center’s mission of supporting faculty research in the broad domains of business ethics and social responsibility.

2022 - 2023

Developing and Testing a Mobile App to Improve Sleep Habits
Ann KronrodYuan Zhang
Sleep quality is an increasing concern in today’s fast-paced society. The grant recipients will develop and test the effectiveness of a digital app that promotes healthier sleep habits. The app will provide information about healthy sleep habits, dietary choices that improve sleep, and exercises aimed at improving sleep quality. The app will also provide concrete daily exercises and nutrition instructions for a day-to-day development of healthy choices towards better sleep. Finally, the app will involve a self-reported tracking system to record user’s dietary and exercise activity as well as perceived sleep quality on a daily basis, including optional diary entries. A special advantage of the app is that it will employ figurative language (rhyme, metaphor, idioms, etc.) within its interface, because figurative language makes things appear more enjoyable and fun and increases mental elaboration, creating more enduring behavioral habits. For example, instead of a notification saying, “it’s time to go to bed” the user receives a notification saying, “It’s time to hit the sack”. The grant recipients will test whether the app that uses figurative language creates higher engagement with the app, more frequent and longer use of its functions and recommendations for behavioral change, and consequently more persistent change in sleep habits. 
Virtual Reality Distorts a User’s Perceptions of the Real World: Presenting Experimental Evidence
Mark Yi-Cheon YimByung Guk KimSameed Khan
Much recent virtual reality (VR) research has been praising the positive sides of VR that help consumers experience and learn necessary product information prior to making a purchase decision. However, a less-talked-about side to VR is the negative consequences. The current study tests how consumers evaluate VR-generated products, compared to their evaluations about real products, assuming that the products generated through VR technologies are often exaggerated in favor of a company’s marketing intention.
Ethics and Artificial Intelligence in Business
Hongwei (Harry) ZhuBenyuan Liu
Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more powerful in many business applications. Concerns about intended and unintended consequences as well as potential dangers of AI are well grounded, while others are based to hyped expectations. There is an urgent need for students and business professionals to develop the ability to discern facts from myths of AI. Meanwhile, as AI researchers continue to advance the technology, they must understand ethical issues of the technology to proactively mitigate unintended adverse consequences. The project will address these needs by collecting business cases on ethics and AI in business, identifying ethics considerations in AI technology development and identifying factors that contribute to ethical applications of AI. These findings will be used to develop a framework for ethical AI development and applications.
Donahue Center Faculty Small Research Grants
This initiative supports faculty research aligned with the mission of the Center. Grants include supporting UMass Lowell (UML) undergraduate and graduate research assistants as well as global collaborations led by UML faculty.


The Signaling Effect of Color Saturation in Promoting Pro-social Behavior
Ann Kronrod, Yiping Li
This research explores the effect of color saturation and language in pro-social marketing on pro-social behavior. We find that low color saturation signals lacking and weakness, whereas high color saturation signals powerfulness and vigor. Therefore, high color saturation makes people feel more powerful and increases pro-social behaviors such as helping peers or populations in need, donation and volunteering.
Corporate Social Responsibility or Purpose-Driven Marketing? Re-aligning Company-Consumer Ethics
Spencer Ross, Meike Eilert
The goal of this research is to conceptualize how purpose-driven marketing is strategically distinct from marketing corporate social responsibility, insofar as ethics are embedded in an organization, rather than added onto it. An empirical study will look at how these ethical values align with consumer ethical values, especially between and across generations.
CEO Influence on Social Media
Julie Zhang, Cuibing Wu
CEOs influence the perceptions of consumers on products, companies, and financial market trends. We examine the impact of CEOs’ activities on social media platforms.


How Can the Language on Social Networks Enhance Well-Being Before, During, and After Covid-19
Ann Kronrod, Ivan Gordeliy
We employ text-analysis and computational linguistics techniques to analyze the language people use on social networks, such as Twitter. We compare a dataset of Tweets posted during the early stages of the pandemic, January-June 2020, with a dataset of Tweets that were posted during a similar period in 2019. We explore how the pandemic reflects on the language in these posts, and what this language can tell us about changes in people’s emotional states and mental health.
The Effects of Transparency on Negotiation Initiation for Women and Men
Karoline Evans​, Tamara Montag-Smit
Research suggests that ambiguity in negotiation situations may keep women from negotiating pay as often as men; the current study examines pay transparency as a factor that may help mitigate these differences. We find that transparency helps to align pay expectations with job performance, but it may not always lead to individuals to negotiate for higher pay.
The Effect of Suppliers’ Corporate Social Responsibility Concerns on Customers’ Stock Price Crash Risk
Khondkar Karim, Huimin (Amy) Chen, Anqi Tao
Published March 2021
Advances in Accounting, Volume 52, 2021,100516, ISSN 0882-6110
Our study focuses on CSR concerns of suppliers (negative information), which customers' managers may hoard until a tipping point.  Therefore, it reasonable to expect an impact of suppliers' CSR activities on customers' stock prices. We show that the release of bad news of suppliers' CSR concerns in fact has a bright side by reducing customers' stock price crash risk.  


An Examination of a Family Based Priming Intervention on the Reduction of Cheating
José-Mauricio Galli Geleilate
Studies of cheating have shown that when given the opportunity, people will cheat a little but not as much as they possibly could (Mazar, Amir, & Ariely, 2008). Among the findings that Mazar and colleagues realized was that reminding people of a moral code, in their case the 10 commandments, eliminated or reduced cheating behavior. Their assertion is that any general reminder of morality will have a similar effect. This study will specifically test if reminders of family norms and/or rules will have a similar effect. Our research is based on a two-study program designed to examine whether reminders of family can reduce corruption in organizations, and to contrast that with the effect of other interventions such as company codes of ethics. It is our suspicion that family-based interventions may still work in high corruption societies when the normal rules of business either encourage corruption or fail to discourage it. We are currently collecting data in Brazil after collecting data in the U.S.
Shareholder Litigation and Corporate Social Responsibility 
Steven Freund, Nam H. Nguyen, Hieu V. Phan
Published July 2021
Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, ISSN: 0022-1090 (Print), 1756-6916 (Online)
Firms invest in CSR partly to build and maintain their reputation, which helps reduce the risk of shareholder litigation. As shareholder litigation risk decreases, firms reduce their CSR spending.
Using Blockchain to Promote Sustainable Consumption
Spencer Ross, Kyle Cloutier
The goal of this research is to understand how consumers process raw supply chain information that is derived from blockchain databases, in contrast with marketer-oriented narratives that distill this information.


Familiarity Does Not Breed Contempt: Curbing Subsidiary Corruption Through a Legitimacy-Enhanced Ownership Structure
José Godinez Gonzalez, Rodrigo Bandeira de Mello, Luis Javier Sanchez-Barrios, Mahmoud Abdel Khalik
Published May 2021
Latin American Business Review, DOI: 10.1080/10978526.2021.1932518
In this research we propose that multinational companies that enter a location characterized by high corruption can send strong signals of operating ethically by maintaining full control of their foreign subsidiary. Also, the more presence they have in a geographic area, the more they can highlight their ethical behavior.
Imagine You are Retired… The Use of Questions to Encourage Financial Planning
Ann Kronrod
A raising concern is the lack of financial planning and especially the low rates of retirement investments, especially at a younger age. We suggest that one reason for the low success of financial communication to encourage financial planning is that it employs statements. We employ a series of experiments involving cognitive tasks and demonstrate that questions, as opposed to statements, increase cognitive processing effort of the communication, elicit perceptions that the retirement period is closer in time, and result in enhanced financial planning.
Pain of Donating: The Unintended Consequences of Mainstream Cashless Payment Dominance on Alternative Economy Giving
Spencer Ross
The goal of this research is to understand now digitized payment mechanisms affect consumers' willingness to make donations in alternative economy giving exchanges (i.e. buskers, beggars, etc.). We theorize a pain of donating using noncash mechanisms makes cash a more attractive means of giving in these contexts, whereas noncash mechanisms are still beneficial in mainstream economy exchanges such as retail and institutional giving, as the pain of payment is reversed in these contexts.