Peter McGraw

Professor, Author

1970 –


Who is Peter McGraw?

A. Peter McGraw is an associate professor of Marketing and Psychology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His research spans the fields of judgment and decision making, emotion, affect, and mood.

McGraw is known for his early research on expectations and emotions. In studying the emotional reactions of Olympic athletes, he finds that bronze medalists often appear happier with their accomplishment than silver medalists because silver medalists are more likely to have higher aspirations, whereas bronze medalists are more likely to be the dark horse and exceed their expectations.

McGraw and Jonathan Levav have published work based on their theory of Emotional Accounting, which is a complement to prior research on Mental Accounting. Emotional accounting posits that people use their feelings about money to guide how they spend it. For example, if people have negative feelings about a windfall of money, they tend to make utilitarian or virtuous expenditures in lieu of hedonic expenditures.

McGraw also investigates what makes things funny. His humor research was inspired in part by his research on moral violations with Philip Tetlock and mixed emotions with Jeff Larsen. McGraw, along with Caleb Warren, developed the Benign Violation Theory, a general theory of humor based on evolutionary accounts of laughter and amusement. The BVT predicts that humor occurs when a person simultaneously appraises a situation as wrong or unsettling some way and yet appraises the situation to be okay or acceptable in some way. His research is quickly moving the study of humor from the niche to mainstream psychology.

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on July 23, 2013


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