Stephen Garcia


Professor Garcia’s primary research program explores the psychology of competition through the lens of social comparison processes (Garcia, Tor, & Schiff, 2013; Garcia, Reese, & Tor, 2020). For example, his work has uncovered the N-Effect. This discovery reveals that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the motivation to compete for decreases as the number of competitors increases when controlling for the expected payoff (Garcia & Tor, 2009; Garcia, Tor, & Schiff, 2013; Tor & Garcia, 2010). Other papers explore the impact of rankings on rivalries and its implications for maximizing joint gains and entering joint ventures.

His other work on judgment and decision-making more broadly includes the discovery of the Status Signals Paradox (Garcia, Weaver, & Chen, 2019): People looking to make new friends think that status signals, such as fancy cars or brand-name watches, will help attract new friends but would-be friends actually shy away from status-signaling people, preferring to make friends with those who don’t signal status, such as those who drive cars or wear watches of neutral status.

Garcia has published in both leading basic and applied journals across psychology and beyond, including flagship journals of academic societies in psychology (Psychological Science, Perspectives on Psychological Science), social psychology (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Social Psychological and Personality Science), organizational behavior (Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Journal of Applied Psychology), marketing (Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Consumer Psychology), judgment and decision making (Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, Judgment and Decision Making) and the law (Journal of Empirical Legal Studies).

Prior to joining the Graduate School of Management, Garcia served on the faculty at the University of Michigan, where he held a joint appointment as Professor of Psychology and Professor of Organizational Studies. At Michigan, he was also previously a member of the faculty at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and teaching faculty at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

Much of his research has been featured in media outlets around the world including The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Washington Post, The Times (of London), The Globe and Mail and Der Spiegel.

His previous industry experience at Charles Schwab, Merrill Lynch and Wells Fargo was at the intersection of marketing, risk management and strategy.

Garcia is a graduate of Stanford, Harvard and Princeton universities.

Research Expertise: psychology of competition