TAI Assistant Professor Sidharth Muralidharan has been published in various academic journals, with five more publications forthcoming. His main research focuses are cross-cultural studies and advertising’s impact on mitigating social and environmental issues.
His most recent accepted publication is titled “‘Green’ with guilt: Assessing gender differences in ownership messaging efforts in support of England’s plastic bag charge.” The paper will be published in the Journal of Advertising Research, one of the major academic journals in the advertising field.
“There have been plastic bag ordinances where shoppers have the option of either buying plastic bags or avoiding the charge by bringing reusable bags,” Professor Muralidharan said. “One such law came into effect in England, UK. My co-author and I were interested to test the effectiveness of the law by exploring the interplay of guilt appeals in ads and gender on shoppers’ green attitudes and behavior.”
Professor Muralidharan and his co-author did a two-part study exploring gender differences in consumers’ feelings of guilt relating to reusable grocery bags in Study-1 and how each gender responded to guilt appeals in Study-2.
“Survey findings from Study-1 showed that guilt was more impactful on women and helped generate favorable green attitudes and behavior,” Professor Muralidharan said. “Based on these findings, Study-2 was designed to examine how men and women would respond to guilt appeals for green messages framed by egoistic (focus is on the self) and biospheric (focus is on the environment) concerns. Two ads were designed that elicited a moderate level of guilt related to egoistic (personal savings from bringing reusable bags) and biospheric (saving the environment by bringing reusable bags) concerns. Findings showed that egoistic concerns were more effective and that this effect was stronger for women than men.”
Professor Muralidharan believes that this research has managerial implications, saying that the UK government and green advertisers could change their messaging to appeal to egoistic values instead of emphasizing on the more typical environmental benefits.
“Guilt elicited by ads seems to motivate shoppers, especially women, to engage in pro-environmental behavior,” Professor Muralidharan said. “Using gender as a segmentation strategy, advertisers could elicit guilt by incorporating ownership messages in egoistic ads that credit shoppers for behaviors they have yet to begin (e.g., contributing to their personal savings by carrying reusable bags). For pro-environment attitudes and behavior to follow, advertisers should highlight egoistic solutions to the problem: benefits such as personal savings and positive emotions such as happiness. By doing so, advertisers will initiate coping mechanisms that allow consumers to mitigate emotional dissonance and encourage them to pursue pro-environment choices.”
Along with his research, Professor Muralidharan teaches four courses at SMU, including undergraduate (Survey of Advertising and Advertising, Society & Ethics), and graduate (Advertising as a Cultural Force and Responsibility and Social Entrepreneurship) courses.
“Ethics lacks importance in both college curriculum and the advertising industry,” Professor Muralidharan said. “On reading past student evaluations, I can say that my greatest accomplishment is when our students at the end of the semester realize the value of ethics and social responsibility in advertising.”
Research is a passion of Professor Muralidharan’s. Although it can be very time consuming to be both a professor and a researcher, he uses his love for research as motivation to balance the two.
“I’ve been teaching at SMU since 2012 and will complete five years by end of this semester,” Professor Muralidharan said. “I try to give equal importance to both teaching and research and being organized and strategic can help maintain a healthy balance. For my balancing act, I begin with teaching first since it is more structured and has a schedule in place, while trying to weave in my research endeavors whenever there are no teaching periods in between. Though research is more malleable, I still organize my research projects for the year, including deadlines and target journals. This is imperative in order to achieve my annual research goals.”
Professor Muralidharan has three other publications forthcoming in both the Asian Journal of Communication and the Journal of Promotion Management. Working on so many research projects has taught him the proper equation for doing research as well as improving his patience.
“I always try to work on research projects that explore advertising’s ability to help mitigate social and environmental issues,” Professor Muralidharan said. “During my tenure as a researcher, I have been fortunate enough to work with accomplished researchers and through collaborations I was able to learn new research methods and statistical analyses while at the same time improved my skills as a storyteller. A strong narrative and appropriate method/analysis go hand-in-hand and both are equally important to a study’s publication success. The multiple research projects I have worked on over the years have taught me a major lesson, which is patience. It can take months for a study to transform from an idea to having it published in a journal but the key is to view the journey as a marathon and not a 100-meter dash.”