Hoori Raefien posing for a photo
Photo courtesy of Hoori Rafieian

Hoori Rafieian, PH.D.
Assistant Professor of Marketing

Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution, perhaps to start a diet or exercise plan, only to fall off track the very first week? Hoori Rafieian, Ph.D., studies the ritual of setting goals and what keeps us motivated in achieving them.

Rafieian seeks to help companies—including health, budgeting,and productivity apps—to better understand their customers. In “The Effect of Pursuing Self-Regulatory Goals on Variety Seeking in Vice Consumption,” a paper she coauthored, which was published in the Journal of Consumer Research this year, she studied consumers’ attitudes toward unhealthy foods after they set health goals. The findings showed that people tend to seek variety in healthy foods, but restrict themselves to only one type of unhealthy snack.

“[People] will eat three brownies, but they are not going from cheesecake to brownies to something else,” Rafieian noted. “This [knowledge] can help companies cater their offerings based upon what appeals to health-conscious customers.” In this case, a health app could offer a greater variety of healthy choices in its meal plans and less variety in snacks.

In another study published in 2022 in the Journal of Marketing Research, Rafieian and her coauthor found that reminding customers of their self-control effort or simply asking them to reflect upon it can increase their odds for perseverance and success. “For example, after completing the first day of a workout challenge, one group of participants received a notification that asked them to think about all the fun things they could have done instead of exercising,” she explained. “This simple notification made them think they made more progress in completing the workout challenge and led them to find the app more helpful in reaching their fitness goal.”

Studying consumer behavior wasn’t Rafieian’s original plan. She had initially intended to pursue a career in math— in fact, she holds a bachelor’s degree in the subject from Iran’s Isfahan University of Technology. It was when she took a behavioral finance course at the Tehran School of Economic Sciences while working toward her M.B.A. that she was inspired to explore the psychology behind the facts and figures.

“I still love mathematics. It’s really shaped the way I look at things,” she said. “The questions that I’m trying to answer are not mathematical, but I’m comfortable analyzing data or using statistical tools because of my background.”

After earning her doctorate in marketing at Drexel University, Rafieian served as a post-doctoral scholar at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Since joining the Gabelli School faculty in 2020, she has taught courses in marketing research and new product development. Although she didn’t meet her colleagues and students in person for a full year due to the pandemic, she said she felt warmly welcomed.

“I have met people who are so supportive,” she said. “I really love Fordham! I immediately felt that I belonged.” Clearly, she does: Rafieian was recently recognized for her contributions to the Gabelli School with the Marketing Area Teaching Excellence Award.

Although moving away from her family in Iran was difficult, two of her three siblings now live in the U.S., and one is also a marketing professor. Likewise, Rafieian’s husband, Anubhav Aggarwal, who she met at Drexel, is a marketing professor at Loyola University. “It’s cool to have a spouse who is in the same field,” she said. “We can talk about research and teaching, and we have the same passions.”

In her free time, Rafieian enjoys baking, watching sports, and taking walks at the park with her husband and their dog Celine, an Italian Greyhound.

— Claire Curry