Peter McGraw is not your typical professor. Though he possesses the pedigree of a serious academic, he has an adventurous side that is evident in his approach to scholarship and life.
Dr. McGraw, a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is an expert in the interdisciplinary fields of emotion and behavioral decision theory. His research examines the interrelationship of judgment, emotion, and choice, with a focus on consumer behavior and public policy — ranging from how the government is botching anti-terror policy to why couples overspend on their nuptials.
And now, with his attention directed towards the question of what makes things funny, he is becoming a leading force in moving the study of humor from the niche to the mainstream. The advantage that McGraw has over his predecessors is his ability to conduct state-of-the-art experiments with the help of the crack team he directs at the Humor Research Lab (HuRL), a laboratory dedicated to the experimental study of humor, its antecedents and consequences. His work prompted Wired magazine to dedicate its May 2011 issue to comedy.
McGraw, holds appointments in marketing at the Leeds School of Business and in social psychology in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. He received a B.A. in psychology and M.Ed. in educational psychology from Rutgers University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in quantitative psychology from The Ohio State University. His post-doctoral training was conducted at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. He also directs the Judgment, Emotion, and Choice Lab (JECL) and co-directs the Moral Research Lab (MoRL).
McGraw is willing to leave the ivory tower to delve more deeply into research questions – whether trying his hand at stand-up at a dive bar, attending a funeral director convention, posing as a shopper at a gun show, or singing hymns at a Fundamentalist Baptist church. He blogs regularly about the policy and consumer implications of research on judgment, emotion, and choice (http://PeterMcGraw.org), and his work has been covered by the BBC, MSNBC, Scientific American, the Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times — not to mention the popular humor website FAIL Blog, which featured a website created by McGraw and his HuRL team called FunnyPoliceReports.com.
Photo credit: Brandon Harper