About Peter McGraw

Behavioral Economist

McGraw is an expert in the interdisciplinary fields of judgment, emotion, and choice. His research has answered questions, such as “How do feelings affect the ways people spend money?,” “Can people feel happy and sad at the same time?,” and, “Why does the TSA suck?”

His work has appeared in Management Science, Psychological Science, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

McGraw received a B.A. in psychology and M.Ed. in educational psychology from Rutgers University and an M.S. and Ph.D. in quantitative psychology from The Ohio State University. His post-doctoral training was conducted at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, where he was mentored by Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman.

Global Humor Expert

McGraw has spent more than a decade examining the antecedents and consequences of humor—work that has moved the study of humor from the niche to the mainstream. One advantage that he has over his predecessors is his ability to conduct state-of-the-art experiments with the help of the team he directs at the Humor Research Lab (aka HuRL), a laboratory dedicated to the experimental study of humor.

He is the co-creator of the Benign Violation Theory, and more than a 800,000 people have watched his TEDx talk, “What makes things funny?”.

In 2014, McGraw co-authored The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny. He has written for Slate, Wired, Fortune, and Huffington Post. His work has been covered by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, BBC, TIME, Wired, CNN, The Atlantic, and Harvard Business Review.

McGraw hosts I’M NOT JOKING, a podcast called that looks at the lives of funny people from entertainment, business, science, and the arts.

Business School Professor

McGraw is a marketing and psychology professor at the Leeds School of Business and the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at University of Colorado Boulder.

He teaches a PhD seminar in behavioral economics and courses in marketing management, consumer behavior, and advertising for the University of Colorado Boulder. He also teaches MBA courses at the University of Colorado Boulder, University of California San Diego’s Rady School, and London Business School.

Entertaining Keynote Speaker

McGraw helps organizations struggling to delight customers and failing to stand out in a cluttered marketplace. As a behavioral economist who teaches MBAs by day and decodes comedy by night, his keynotes present cutting-edge business insights gleaned from the practices and perspectives of the masters of comedy—and most creative rule breakers.

The entertaining and inspiring lessons help organizations uniquely solve problems, craft messages that are impossible to ignore, and create ground-breaking products and captivating brands.

He gives talks at prestigious universities (e.g., Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge University) and Fortune 500 companies (e.g., Google, Viacom, Xerox) around the world.

Part-time Adventurer

Dr. Peter McGraw is not your typical business school professor. Though he possesses the pedigree of a serious academic, he has an adventurous side that is evident in his approach to scholarship and life. McGraw is willing to leave the ivory tower to delve more deeply into research questions – whether trying his hand at stand-up at a dive bar, attending a funeral director convention, posing as a shopper at a gun show, or singing hymns at a Fundamentalist Baptist church. And for fun, he created a comedy game show—Funny or True?—which pits scientists against comedians to see who has the best blend of brains and funny bone.

Media Downloads

Courses Taught

Marketing Management (MBA)

Behavioral Economics/Consumer and Managerial Decision Research in Marketing (PhD)

Consumer Behavior (Undergraduate)

Advertising and Promotion Management (Undergraduate)  

Other fun things Peter does

Funny or True?

McGraw is the creator and host of Funny or True?—a live comedy gameshow that pits comedians against scientists to see who has the best blend of brains and funny bone.

Funny or True? takes a well-known quiz show format and add hefty doses of comedy – and deception. A panel of scientists and comedians answer knowledge questions (e.g., What is dark matter?) with two seemingly competing goals in mind: be funny and seem smart. Answers (without attribution) are shown on the “Big Board,” whereupon the audience votes for: 1) the funniest answer, and 2) the answer that seems true.

The authors’ identity – and profession – are revealed, and points are awarded using a handicapping procedure. Though contestants bring their own strengths to the game, they can win big by playing to their weakness: comedians receive double points for appearing correct and scientists receive double points for being funny.

Sample Episode of Funny or True?

Dilemma Day (and Dilemma Dinner)

Created and hosted by McGraw, Dilemma Day is a day of fun, food, and creative problem-solving for the world’s most creative people. A small, intimate group comes together to take turns tackling a problem each person is puzzling over. The Dilemma Dinner is an extension in which McGraw hosts a monthly dinner in his Hollywood apartment.

Big Day Theory

“Every day is a big day.” The Big Day Theory is a reminder to make the most of every day. Life can be short and living with a bit of positive urgency is a good thing.

As seen on The Today Show

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