Chair Professor of Marketing
School of Business and Management
With over two billion obese or overweight people globally, according to the World Health Organization, the associated healthcare costs add up to trillions of dollars. Although medical research has singled out the overconsumption of food as the dominant cause of obesity, people tend to focus on other reasons, such as a lack of exercise. This, says HKUST consumer psychology and marketing expert Professor Anirban Mukhopadhyay, leads to harmful attitudes toward the consumption of food.
A graduate of the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore and Columbia University, Professor Mukhopadhyay joined the HKUST Business School in 2004 and helped it become a global powerhouse of business education. He has since received the Early Career Award from the Society for Consumer Psychology and co-chaired the Annual Conference of the Society for Consumer Psychology. He is currently Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
Professor Mukhopadhyay’s research indicates that consumer beliefs about the causes of obesity stem from marketing campaigns aimed at diverting attention from the problem. He provides critical insights into how food overconsumption stems from what he calls “leanwashing.” By oversimplifying the role of calories and focusing on exercise or “balanced” ways of life, leanwashed messages guide consumers to avoid thinking about the contribution of poor diet to obesity, thereby shifting attention away from food products.
Building on this ground-breaking research, Professor Mukhopadhyay provides invaluable knowledge to food industry bodies, governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations and the public. A 2016 work assessed the efficacy of different tactics to combat leanwashing, such as government intervention, social activism, corporate social responsibility initiatives and industrial self-regulation.
Professor Mukhopadhyay’s work has been profiled by news outlets such as the South China Morning Post, Huffington Post and The Times of India. An award-winning Scholar of the Marketing Science Institute and a frequent commentator on consumer motivation, behavioral experimentation and self-regulation, Professor Mukhopadhyay has had a visible impact across a range of industries. His work has led to the development of projects that have helped reduce risky behaviors such as overeating and smoking, as well as improving the early detection of childhood diseases.
Professor Mukhopadhyay’s love of his work is demonstrated by his impact as an educator. He teaches courses at all levels, organizes and collaborates on projects with doctoral students and junior faculty members, and is active in teacher training at public schools. In short, he is dedicated to making a substantial difference at the personal, local and global levels.