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Associate Professor Kirsten Robertson

BA, MSc, PhD (Otago)

kirsten robertson image 2022

Otago Business School 4.29
Tel +64 3 479 8451

It’s easier to communicate with people if you know how they think. So a background in social psychology gives Kirsten Robertson an edge when it comes to researching and teaching marketing behaviour.

Seeking to understand consumers has led Kirsten to investigate such diverse phenomena as student drinking and music piracy, with surprising results.

She’s found attitudes that suggest we need to reconsider how we try to curtail binge drinking and illegal music downloads.

Anti-piracy messages push the idea that people shouldn’t steal music from the internet because they wouldn’t steal CDs from a store — but Kirsten has found that many people would also steal from stores if they could be sure of getting away with it.

“Rather than appealing to honesty, it might be more effective to focus the message more on the likelihood of being caught.”

Her research also suggests that we need to look at alternative ways of addressing efforts to reduce excessive drinking and its associated ills.

“There’s not a lot to be gained by suggesting people should limit the number of standard drinks they have when few people can identify a standard drink, and when people tend to underestimate the amount they drink – particularly heavy drinkers.

“Few students take any notice of the standard drink message, and often shun responsible drinkers.

“We need to change people’s attitudes to make responsible drinkers feel more comfortable and under less pressure.”

Some of Kirsten’s other recent investigations include ‘fizzy drink’ consumption as a normal behaviour within the obesogenic environment, the influence of materialism on generosity, how ‘at-risk’ individuals’ respond to direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs, negative consequences of advertising to children, and violence in interpersonal partner relationships.

“Advanced study of human behaviour, attitudes and perceptions can have a great deal of influence on social marketing campaigns.”

Kirsten is currently a co-investigator on the 45th phase of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development study.

Kirsten has also taught clinical communication skills to health students, and has received three awards in her role as supervisor to postgraduate students.

Kirsten transferred from the Department of Psychology to the Department of Marketing in January 2008. Coming from a social psychology background she has a strong interest in human behaviour, attitudes, and perceptions.

Specifically, her research interests include:

  • Health and wellbeing
  • Influence of materialism and advertising on society
  • Obesogenic environment and consumption
  • How consumerism influences children and parenting practices
  • Attitudes towards binge drinking
  •  Knowledge and use of standard drink labels
  • Direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs
  • Violence in advertising
  • Advertising to children
  • Illegal downloading / music piracy
  • Real Estate advertising
  • Language and advertising
  • Social marketing (in particular, social norms campaigns)
  • Behaviour, attitudes, and perceptions
  • Conflict in interpersonal relationships

In addition to lecturing, Kirsten has also been involved in teaching clinical communication skills to medical and dental students and has spent five years working as a group facilitator.

Kirsten is also a member of Food Waste Innovation, a University of Otago Research Theme which measures food waste, develops reduction strategies, applies innovative technology, and works to modify producer and consumer behaviour.

Teaching responsibilities

Kirsten’s teaching responsibilities include:

Office Hours

Kirsten’s Office Hours are:

  • Thursday: 1:00pm to 2:00pm