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Research Highlights: Mike Barone, Dereck Barr-Pulliam, & Elizabeth Munnich

February 21, 2024
Three Professors

In the ever-evolving landscape of business and consumer behavior, three distinguished UofL College of Business faculty members, Mike Barone, Dereck Barr-Pulliam, and Elizabeth Munnich, stand at the forefront of innovative research that bridges academic theory with practical application. Their work, driven by current challenges and opportunities in their respective fields of marketing, accounting and economics, offers novel insights and actionable strategies that are shaping the way professionals approach complex issues in dynamic environments.

Mike Barone

Mike Barone is the Brown-Forman Professor of Marketing and Marketing Department Chair at the University of Louisville. For over two decades, Mike’s research has been guided by the  belief that the best academic consumer research begins and ends in the marketplace.  His research starts by identifying new challenges faced by marketers and/or new strategies they employ in the marketplace.  He then examines these issues using diverse methodologies involving experimental and real-world data to derive new theoretical insights that also provide managers with actionable guidance in forming marketing strategies.  

As two recent examples, Mike and his colleagues have published several papers examining how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced consumer responses to marketers’ offerings.  In one article, findings showed that the increased isolation and loneliness associated with social distancing measures adopted during COVID-19 made consumers seek out a product that was available further from, rather than closer to, them.  Specifically, exposing consumers to an article about COVID-19 salient – which increased their sense of loneliness and need for social connection – increased intentions to purchase offerings that were “not near” the consumer.  This result runs counter to the typical notion that consumers are attracted to products advertised as “near them” in online searches due to the greater convenience they offer.  

A second article examined the impact of exposing consumers to governmental advocacies involving COVID-curbing behaviors (e.g., mask wearing) – in particular, on their evaluations of brand logos that were framed (that is, surrounded by a border or “box”) or unframed.  Mike and his colleagues found that a framed logo was preferred more by conservative- (vs. liberal-) minded consumers because it signaled safety and security – values typically sought after by conservatives. However, under conditions where COVID-19 was made salient (e.g., in the presence of a message advocating social distancing), framed logos signaled confinement and restriction, making them less attractive to conservative consumers.

Dereck Barr-Pulliam

Dereck Barr-Pulliam serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Louisville’s College of Business, specifically within the School of Accountancy. Before joining UofL, he was a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for five years, following the completion of his PhD at the University of Mississippi in 2014. With professional certifications as a public accountant and internal auditor, Dereck brings a wealth of practical experience to his role, stemming from six years of professional practice prior to his doctoral studies.
Dereck’s research delves into how individuals navigate complex problem-solving in dynamic business environments—with auditing serving as the primary context of investigation. Auditors assess a company’s financial records and operations to ensure both accurately convey the results of operations that align with financial reporting standards to external stakeholders. Their work helps foster trust among investors and other stakeholders. However, auditing has become increasingly more complex due to the inherent ambiguity and uncertainty of many accounting issues, necessitating substantial professional judgment. Moreover, auditors face mounting regulatory oversight and scrutiny. Dereck’s research leverages insights from psychology and economic theory to propose and test innovative solutions addressing these challenges. Presently, his work focuses on three main areas: the integration of emerging technologies such as AI and non-accounting experts into audit engagements to enhance auditor decision-making and the perception of auditor performance by key stakeholders such as investors and company management. His work on these themes has been published in the premier accounting journals.

Elizabeth Munnich

Hospital readmissions account for over $45 billion in spending in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and non-medical factors play a large role in preventable hospital readmissions—especially in vulnerable populations. However, most programs aimed at helping patients recover after a hospital stay are based on interventions from healthcare providers who are constrained by limited resources and high level of patient needs, and who also may not be best equipped to address non-medical challenges to recovery. These challenges include social isolation, lack of transportation, and insufficient supply of nutritious food.

In partnership with the Lab for Economic Opportunities at the University of Notre Dame, Associate Professor Beth Munnich has worked to evaluate and support programs to address these social determinants of health in an effort to reduce hospital readmissions. Her work began by evaluating a program in Chicago that utilized social workers to conduct home visits following a hospital stay, and connected patients with social services to support their recovery (Evans, Kroeger, Munnich, Otuzar, and Wagner, American Journal of Health Economics, 2021). Through a rigorous evaluation of Medicare claims data, her research showed that this unique program significantly reduced hospital readmissions and associated spending. Furthermore, the savings associated with reduced readmissions more than offset the cost of administering the program.

Her research has informed practices in other hospitals and regions, and has the potential to impact public policies related to payment for hospital transitions. Professor Munnich is currently collaborating with Catholic Charities West Virginia and three hospitals to design and conduct a randomized control trial to evaluate the effectiveness of a hospital transition program modeled after the successful Chicago program. Scaling this work to include more patients, in hospitals that that serve particularly vulnerable populations, provides a unique opportunity to use research to inform healthcare delivery and better understand the role of non-medical inputs on health and spending.