Travis J. Carter


address: University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Center for Decision Research
C74 Harper Center
5807 S. Woodlawn Ave
Chicago, IL 60637


My research exists at the intersection of judgment and decision-making, social cognition, and motivation. I examine the mental processes that produce judgments and behavior, and especially how these processes can be influenced by factors outside of people's awareness, such as their internal motivations or the external environment.

One of my areas of interest is in the realm of well-being and satisfaction. We make purchase decisions every day, each with the overarching goal of making ourselves happier. And yet, many of these purchases do not achieve this purpose. My work examines where people go wrong when they pursue happiness through consumer purchases. I am greatly interested in the cognitive, motivational, and affective mechanisms involved in consumer decisions, with the hope that understanding how they function can improve satisfaction with those decisions.

Another central area of interest is in the arena of nonconscious cognition. Nonconscious processes, the cognitions operating behind the curtain of consciousness, play a much larger role in our judgments, decisions and behaviors than we typically assume. My research systematically investigates how the interactions between internal and external forces shape these nonconscious operations. How do internal forces, such as our personal desires and other motivational states, operate outside of consciousness? How and when does the external environment-the mere presence of certain meaningful stimuli-influence our behavior without our awareness? What sorts of effects do these forces have on matters of great social consequence, such as political beliefs and behavior? It is hoped that a greater understanding of how these invisible forces and processes operate might alleviate some of their negative consequences, such as failures of self-control or the introduction of an undesirable bias.


Selected Publications

Published or In Press
  • Carter, T. J., & Gilovich, T. (2012). I am what I do, not what I have: The centrality of experiential purchases to the self-concept. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(6), 1304-1317. (pdf)
  • Carter, T. J., Ferguson, M. J., & Hassin, R. R. (2011). A single exposure to the American flag shifts support toward Republicanism up to 8 months later. Psychological Science, 22(8), 1011-1018. (pdf)
  • Carter, T. J., Ferguson, M. J., & Hassin, R. R. (2011). Implicit nationalism as system justification: The case of the United States of America. Social Cognition, 29(3), 341-359. (pdf)
  • Carter, T. J., & Gilovich, T. (2010). The relative relativity of material and experiential purchases. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(1), 146-159. (pdf)
  • Ferguson, M., Carter, T. J., & Hassin, R. (2009). On the automaticity of nationalist ideology: The case of the USA. In J. T. Jost, A. C. Kay, and H. Thorisdottir's (Eds.), Social and Psychological Bases of Ideology and System Justification. New York: Oxford University Press. (pdf)
  • Carter, T. J., & Dunning, D. (2008). Faulty self-assessment: Why evaluating one's own competence is an intrinsically difficult task. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2, 346-360. (pdf)
Under Review or In Preparation
  • Carter, T. J., Ferguson, M. J., & Hassin, R. R. (under review). The nation as motivation: America implicitly activates the power goal. Manuscript under review at the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.(pdf)