Hajin Kim, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School, has won the 2022 Berkeley Center for Law and Business Best Paper Award. There were over 70 submissions for these two awards, one for junior scholars with less than eight years on the tenure track and the other for senior scholars. Kim, now in her third year of teaching, won the award for junior scholars.
Kim, who uses principles from social psychology and economics to study environmental regulation and firm behavior, set out and empirically examined a novel theory on how people’s expectations for corporations, whether as purely profit maximizers or socially responsible actors, could be self-fulfilling. Specifically, Kim hypothesized that an exclusive profit maximization view might reduce people’s willingness to protest antisocial firm behavior. If firms must maximize profits, protest might seem futile. In contrast, if people expect corporate prosociality, that could plausibly make it easier for firms to do so, and thus “do well by doing good.”
In two preregistered studies with nearly 1300 participants, Kim found support for this hypothesis. Workers for an online gig work platform (Amazon Mechanical Turk) were significantly less likely to sign a real petition against the platform’s parent company (Amazon) when taught about exclusive profit maximization than when taught that firms can and should consider their impacts on society.
“It is such an honor to receive this award—I’m thrilled!” Kim said. “We know that expectations can influence reality. The paper provides a hopeful account of how corporate stakeholder expectations can transform into firm reputational incentives. I’m excited to continue building on these areas in my research.”