2015 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Daniel Oppenheimer, Anderson School

Daniel Oppenheimer

Professor of Marketing and Psychology

UCLA Anderson School of Management


David oppenheimer

There’s a ton of information to be gained in this world and, as Daniel Oppenheimer sees it, most of that information is utterly useless. He should know. How we decide what’s useful and what isn’t is where Oppenheimer spends his time researching. His studies focus on human decision making, with an emphasis on the information people choose to hone in on when faced with decisions. In 2006, he received the Ig Nobel Prize for research that makes you laugh, and then makes you think. This, for his paper “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with using long words needlessly” which showed that simple writing makes authors appear more intelligent than complex writing. At UCLA, he splits his time as a professor of both marketing and psychology.

Age: 36

At current institution since: 2013


BA, Psychology, Rice University, 2000; MA, Psychology, Stanford University, 2003; PhD, Psychology, Stanford University, 2004

Courses currently teaching: Introduction to Marketing Management, Introduction to Psychology

Professor you most admire: There are too many to list.

“I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when” A job opened up at UCLA.

“If I weren’t a b-school professor” I wouldn’t be able to afford to buy as much ice cream

Most memorable moment in the classroom or as a professor: My core marketing class involves a public speaking element – teams of students present cases and marketing plans to the rest of the class. Some of my more memorable moments come from students ‘livening up’ their presentations. Sometimes students come in costume (one student went so far as to get fake tattoos and grow a beard for a Harley Davidson case). Other times, students include humorous/ridiculous photoshopped pictures of me in their slides (me in wizard robes, me as a construction worker, me as a chicken farmer . . . their ingenuity knows no bounds). One group even brought in dry ice to get ‘fog machine’ style effects. While I wouldn’t recommend dry ice in most professional contexts, I always do enjoy being kept on my toes with the creative elements the students add to their talks.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? I have a standing annual bet with another scholar (who I’ll refrain from naming) about who can manage to sneak the strangest citation through peer-review each year. Two of my best are Count Chocula and the movie Chicken Run. Really, it’s always been important to me to keep research and teaching fun, and remember that high standards of rigor and a sense of humor are not mutually exclusive.  I’m currently winning the series 5-2.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? There are two things I most enjoy about teaching.  The first is when a student who has been struggling with some difficult material finally ‘gets it’.  There’s a moment of clarity and understanding – the ‘aha’ moment. Helping a student achieve that is unbelievably rewarding. I also really love getting to know my students. Having informal conversations over lunch, or in the hallways, or at various receptions, are one of the best teaching moments; only a fraction of the teaching and learning that happens in higher education happens in the classroom.

What do you enjoy least? Grading and paperwork. Nobody likes grading or paperwork.

Fun fact about yourself: I have been in zero-gravity. I don’t recommend it.

Favorite book: If it involves dragons, I probably like it.

Favorite movie: Princess Bride

Favorite type of music: Anything I can sing along to. Bonus points if other people are singing along as well.

Favorite television show: The Muppet Show

Favorite vacation spot: I prefer to avoid snow, urban areas, and leeches. Aside from that, if I have free time to read, I’m content.

What are your hobbies? Racquetball, riddle contests, gaming, reading, ice cream, and chocolate  chip cookies.

Twitter handle: I’m not on Twitter (yes, I’m a luddite – I also don’t have a smartphone).

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have” Better food at events. The number of events I’ve been to where the cookies have nuts, or worse, are oatmeal raisin… <shudder>

Students say…

Danny is one of the most engaging and approachable professors I have ever studied under. His psychology background provides a unique perspective into marketing strategy and consumer behavior, and his sense of humor (he won an Ig Nobel Prize!) makes his Marketing lecture everyone’s favorite core class.

– student survey

Danny Oppenheimer is a phenomenal professor, loved by nearly all who take his introductory marketing class. As a psychologist, Danny shines a unique light on marketing, underscoring just how interwoven the two fields are, and giving Anderson marketers a competitive advantage over those who are introduced to marketing in a more traditional way. Danny also goes above and beyond to make class exciting, interactive, and rigorous – and he goes out of his way to get to know his students inside and outside the classroom. I’m really grateful I had the opportunity to take my first marketing class from him!

– student survey

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