UO prof and former 'imagineer' will discuss designing awesome

Troy Campbell

UO marketing professor Troy Campbell likes to say that he studies what people love, like and find most important. An expert in consumer behavior, marketing, social psychology and political psychology, he explores how identity and beliefs affect consumption, behavior and marketing.

Put another way, he calls upon psychology to explain what makes things awesome.

Campbell will lead an interactive Quack Chats pub talk on that topic titled “Designing Awesome — The Psychological Magic Behind Disney, Social Movements, & True Love” on Wednesday, June 14 at 6 p.m. in the Erb Memorial Union’s Falling Sky Pizzeria. The talk is free and open to the public.

Campbell earned his doctorate from Duke University under the mentorship of Dan Ariely, a well-known professor of psychology and behavioral economics who wrote the book “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.” His resume includes a stint as a Disney “imagineer,” in which he helped imagine Disney theme park attractions and used research to “make parks magical.”

Shortly after arriving at the UO in 2015, Campbell was named a Top 30 Thinker Under 30 by Pacific Standard magazine.

In advance of his pub talk, Campbell sat down and answered a few questions about his work, his students and the study of awesome.

Question: You say your pub talk will be more of a chat than a lecture. What do you mean?

Answer: The talk is going to be fun and interactive. You’re going to be able to choose your own table and that’s going to be your topic for the night. One of the tables is going to be called “Disney,” one is going to be called “social movements” (another will be) “sports.” We’ll be talking about what makes those things awesome. Throughout my talk your experience will be filtered through that (table conversation).

Question: I’ve heard you say there are three things that every Disney ride has. What are they?

Answer: Most Disney rides do three things, they thrill you, they take you somewhere and they connect to something you love. So Hyperspace Mountain is a thrilling roller coaster that takes you into space and connects you with the thing that you love, which is Star Wars. And if you’ve ever seen a ride fail, it’s probably because maybe it thrilled you or maybe it took you somewhere, but it didn’t do two or even three of those things. If you think of the “thrill,” “take,” and “connect” principles, those are things you can apply to anything — whether you’re designing a party, whether you’re designing a class or whether you’re designing a social movement.

Question: What do your students call you?

Answer: I have all my students call me Troy. I believe that my students are strong, professional, awesome thinkers who create amazing things every day in class. I want to develop the idea that this is a conversation that we’re having together. I really want to provide this idea of this flat world where we’re exchanging different ideas.

Question: You’ve described psychology as an undertaught science. What do you mean?

Answer: Psychology is usually treated as this elective that you don’t even have to take, when it’s potentially the most useful everyday science that people need to know. We’ve talked a lot about integrating critical thinking into classes; we need to integrate psychological thinking so people can be more familiar with their own biases that might lead them astray and also understand other people’s biases so they can know how to better communicate and actually achieve the results they want. No matter what science, business or art you do, psychology can help you do that better and communicate the qualities that you have forward.

Troy Campbell will be interviewed on the University of Oregon’s Facebook Live feed at noon on Monday, June 12.

Upcoming Quack Chats:

A pub talk next month will feature UO professors Leslie Leve, associate director of the Prevention Science Institute, and Tasia Smith, a member of the Health Promotion and Obesity Prevention Initiative. In a talk titled “Tackling the Childhood Obesity Epidemic,” they will discuss UO efforts on both the national and local levels to turn the tide on obesity, which affects 35 percent of adults and one-third of the children in the U.S. The event happens on Wednesday, July 12 at 6 p.m. in the Erb Memorial Union’s Falling Sky Pizzeria.

Run with a Researcher, the UO’s monthly opportunity to work up a sweat and engage in discussions with UO researchers, will go on hiatus in July. It returns Saturday, Aug. 5. Participants can run or walk with a researcher by meeting up at 9 a.m. at the Erb Memorial Union’s “O” Desk. No advance registration is required.

To keep upcoming events on your calendar, see the Quack Chats webpage.

By Lewis Taylor, University Communications