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Research on marketplace discrimination topic of upcoming EBC Lecture

The challenges that researchers who study marketplace discrimination encounter and the pros and cons for pursuing such a research agenda, regardless of age and experience, are topics that will be discussed in the Engineering, Business, and Computing (EBC) Division Research Interest Group lecture on Monday, October 8, 2012, at 1 p.m. in room 121 of the Gaige Technology and Business Innovation Building. This event is free and open to the public.

In his presentation titled “Marketplace Discrimination and Other Controversial Issues in Public Policy and Marketing,” Dr. Jerome Williams, Prudential Chair in Business, and Research Director of The Center of Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development (CUEED) in the Department of Management and Global Business at Rutgers Business School-Newark and New Brunswick, will highlight three marketplace discrimination studies, currently under review. Williams believes there are benefits to understanding the upside and downside of studying this particular topic—whether as a young scholar, just starting out, or as a more seasoned scholar who may now want to venture into this research domain.

Often referring to studying marketplace discrimination as “researching the tough stuff,” Williams says researchers who study this subject face a daunting and challenging task on several fronts. For example, the results of their work are sometimes viewed with skepticism—they are accused of looking at the phenomenon through a biased lens. In other words, they are frequently blamed for allowing their passion for eradicating social injustices in the marketplace to overshadow their scholarly judgment. However, such accusations in other social science fields seem to carry less weight. Williams explains that public health scholars studying issues related to obesity often take a strong advocacy position based on their passion.

Liberation psychology as a theoretical framework suggests that based on the construct of “historical memory,” consumers from oppressed groups are more likely to overestimate the amount of discrimination they have been subjected to in the marketplace, compared to underestimation by majority groups. Lastly, Williams reveals that marketplace discrimination researchers often have to deal with “the blind man and the elephant” metaphor, meaning discrimination really is mainly a perpetual phenomenon, and is “in the eye of the beholder.”

The EBC Research Interest Group features Penn State Berks faculty and visiting experts who conduct research on a wide variety of topics. Topics are of broad and general interest and are accessible to the non-expert.

For more information, contact either of the co-chairs for the EBC Research Interest Group: Dr. Jui-Chi Huang, Assistant Professor of Economics, at JXH74@psu.edu; or Dr. Ada Leung, Assistant Professor of Marketing, at CXL51@psu.edu

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