Ed O'Brien
Associate Professor of Behavioral Science
University of Chicago Booth School of Business


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My research examines how people perceive and experience change.

View representative papers by
topic (or view all papers by year).


Change Detection (e.g., tipping points)

O'Brien, E. (in press). When small signs of change add up: The psychology of tipping points. Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Klein, N., & O'Brien, E. (2018). People use less information than they think to make up their minds. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(52), 13222-13227. [pdf here]

O'Brien, E., & Klein, N. (2017). The tipping point of perceived change: Asymmetric thresholds in diagnosing improvement versus decline.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 112(2), 161-185. [pdf here]

Klein, N., & O'Brien, E. (2016). The tipping point of moral change: When do good and bad acts make good and bad actors?
Social Cognition, 34(2), 149-166. [pdf here]


Change in Happiness (e.g., hedonic adaptation)

O'Brien, E. (2019). Enjoy it again: Repeat experiences are less repetitive than people think. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 116(4), 519-540. [pdf here]

O'Brien, E., & Kassirer, S. (2019). People are slow to adapt to the warm glow of giving. Psychological Science, 30(2), 193-204. [pdf here]

O'Brien, E., & Smith, R. W. (2019). Unconventional consumption methods and enjoying things consumed: Recapturing the "first time" experience.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 45(1), 67-80. [pdf here]

O'Brien, E., Kristal, A. C., Ellsworth, P. C., & Schwarz, N. (2018). (Mis)imagining the good life and the bad life: Envy and pity as a function of the focusing illusion.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 75(1), 41-53. [pdf here]

O'Brien, E., & Roney, E. (2017). Worth the wait? Leisure can be just as enjoyable with work left undone.
Psychological Science, 28(7), 1000-1015. [pdf here]

O'Brien, E., & Ellsworth, P. C. (2012). Saving the last for best: A positivity bias for end experiences.
Psychological Science, 23(2), 163-165. [pdf here]


Change in Self (e.g., predicting future traits and abilities)

Kardas, M., & O'Brien, E. (2018). Easier seen than done: Merely watching others perform can foster an illusion of skill acquisition. Psychological Science, 29(4), 521-536. [pdf here] [comic] [NPR Hidden Brain]
[BBC World]

Klein, N., & O'Brien, E. (2017). The power and limits of personal change: When a bad past does (and does not) inspire in the present.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 113(2), 210-229. [pdf here]

O'Brien, E., & Kardas, M. (2016). The implicit meaning of (my) change.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 111(6), 882-894. [pdf here]

O'Brien, E. (2015). Mapping out past and future minds: The perceived trajectory of emotionality versus rationality over time.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 144(3), 624-638. [pdf here]

O'Brien, E. (2013). Easy to retrieve but hard to believe: Metacognitive discounting of the unpleasantly possible.
Psychological Science, 24(6), 844-851. [pdf here]


Change in Empathy (e.g., barriers to empathic accuracy)

Chopik, W. J., O'Brien, E., & Konrath, S. (2017). Differences in empathic concern and perspective taking across 63 countries.
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 48(1), 23-38. [pdf here]

Campbell, T., O'Brien, E., Van Boven, L., Schwarz, N., & Ubel, P. A. (2014). Too much experience: A desensitization bias in emotional perspective taking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 106(2), 272-285. [pdf here] [comic]


O'Brien, E., Konrath, S., Gruhn, D., & Hagen, A. L. (2013). Empathic concern and perspective taking: Linear and quadratic effects of age across the adult lifespan.
Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 68(2), 168-175. [pdf here]

O'Brien, E., & Ellsworth, P. C. (2012). More than skin deep: Visceral states are not projected onto dissimilar others. Psychological Science, 23(4), 391-396. [pdf here]

Konrath, S., O'Brien, E., & Hsing, C. (2011). Changes in dispositional empathy in American college students over time: A meta-analysis.
Personality and Social Psychology Review, 15(2), 180-198. [pdf here]