Introducing Katie Mehr

Katie joins the Alberta School of Business this summer as an assistant professor in the Department of Marketing, Business Economics and Law.

Katie joins the Alberta School of Business this summer as an assistant professor in the Department of Marketing, Business Economics and Law. She comes to us from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned her PhD in Decision Processes. Her research focuses on understanding consumer behaviour, including how consumers rate products and experiences, and how they draw inferences from other consumers’ ratings. 


How did you first become interested in pursuing economics and business? What led you to specialize in the area of judgment and decision-making?

When I was in high school, I read a few books about judgment and decision-making research and found them fascinating. And so when I started my undergraduate degree, I wanted to figure out a way to learn more about these topics. I wasn’t quite sure where to start, but I knew I liked the math and economics classes I took in high school, so I became an economics major. 

I also started looking into undergraduate research opportunities on campus. I found a lab in the psychology department that studied judgment and decision-making and was looking for a research assistant. Intrigued, I applied to join their lab and was fortunate to be accepted; I spent the next two years working on research in that lab, which really solidified my interests in judgment and decision-making research.


Tell us a bit more about your current research interests.

One research area I’ve been exploring recently is investigating what factors affect people’s likelihood of providing a review. Nowadays, we have all these apps prompting us to rate our experiences. Uber and Lyft will send push notifications and ask you for a rating on the screen in the app after a ride, Airbnb will email you to ask for ratings after your stay, and even concert venues and airlines will send emails asking for your feedback. 

In doing this, companies have really reduced the amount of effort it takes to provide a rating and made it easy to do so. And yet, we still have these bimodal rating distributions, in which there are a lot of 5-star ratings, some 1-star ratings, and very few ratings in the middle. I’m interested in both why that is, and how we can make these rating distributions a better reflection of what the product or experience is actually like, so consumers can have better quality information about the products or experiences they want to buy.


What are you most looking forward to about joining the Alberta School of Business?

I’m most looking forward to the incredible people I’ll be around at the Alberta School of Business! I am joining a department with incredibly kind and smart colleagues, which is really the perfect environment to be in as an assistant professor. And although I haven’t taught students at the Alberta School of Business yet, I have heard that the students are engaged and hard-working, so I’m very excited to begin to interact with them as well.


What can your future students at the U of A expect from you as a teacher? What is your teaching style or philosophy?

When I teach, I aim to create a fair, respectful and inclusive classroom environment for students to gain skills that will help them succeed. Our society is ever-changing, and I know students may not stay in one career path, so I want to help them gain the ability to critically assess new information and challenges that will arise in their futures. I also am excited to cover class content in a variety of ways, like small-group discussions, group projects and lectures. I think doing so helps students feel more connected to the content they’re learning and further clarifies the material.


You’re not only moving to a new institution; you’re moving to a new country. (Welcome to Canada!) What are you most excited about? Nervous about?

Thank you! I’m really looking forward to taking advantage of all the outdoor recreation that is available in Edmonton and Canada more broadly. I enjoy kayaking, hiking and cross-country skiing, but I don’t have many opportunities to do these things in Philadelphia. With all the trails in the river valley, kayaking opportunities on the North Saskatchewan River and national parks like Jasper and Banff nearby, I’m excited to spend more time on these activities. 

As for what I’m nervous about, I would say the winters. Growing up in New Jersey, I’m used to some snow and cold in the winters, but of course my experiences in New Jersey were never nearly as snowy and cold as my experiences will be in Edmonton. Luckily, I have some cold-weather clothing from a winter trip I took to Alaska a few years ago, and my husband grew up in Minnesota, so he’s got all sorts of tricks for staying warm in the cold.


What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?

I really enjoy music and have played the alto saxophone since I was in the 5th grade. Before the pandemic, I was part of a community band in Philadelphia hosted by Temple University, and I enjoyed being a part of that group. When I move to Edmonton, I’m excited to join one of the community bands in town so I can play with a group again. I’m also excited to check out some of the live music in town at the various music venues and festivals.

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