Alumni Spotlight|Lauren Murphy makes Emory's 40 Under Forty List

By Kia Lisby

Lauren Murphy

Laney Graduate School alumnus and Emory 40 Under Forty recipient, Lauren Murphy has taken her passion and training in psychology and behavior analysis to build a career that spans the species - from her research studying the social and emotional processing in rhesus macaques to now a career in consumer behavior and consulting for some of the world’s biggest brands.

After receiving her undergraduate degree in anthropology at Florida State, Murphy was interested in primate behavior and her professors recommended she further her education at Emory.

"I wanted to understand more about evolutionary biology and how all of it connects. My professors recommended that I go to Emory because it has a primate center."

Before pursuing her graduate degree, Murphy began working at the Emory National Primate Research Center.

"I started as an animal care technician for a couple of months, and then I joined a research lab working on studies to understand aging and memory in chimpanzees. That was like a dream job to me."

Throughout her five years with the Research Center, Murphy worked with monkeys of all ages. This experience made Murphy fall in love with the research process of primates and prompted her to go to graduate school.

"I wanted to go to graduate school because it would allow me to be in control of my research goals, my research direction and be able to get more satisfaction out of the work that I was doing."

Receiving her masters in 2015 and PhD in 2018, Murphy's degrees in psychology then led her to a career focused on behavioral science by applying the methodology from her education and research to understand consumer behavior. She applied similar research processes from her work with primates to understand the less conscious or unspoken drivers of consumer behavior.  Now, as associate vice president at Material, Murphy transitioned from working with primates to humans. While initially an adjustment, she was up for the challenge, now helping clients approach and solve specific problems by applying behavior analysis techniques and challenging strategies. 

"I do a lot of research and development where I bring techniques and methods popular in psychology, distill them, and apply them in consumer behavior."

Murphy worked with well-known brand Ulta Beauty to help the company understand how shopping and beauty behaviors changed because of the pandemic. When mask mandates were in effect and more people stayed home, beauty patterns and shopping habits changed. Their Habit IlluminationTM research framework explored the longevity of these behaviors and trends and helped Ulta Beauty pivot the company’s initiatives.

“By using a survey methodology and completing several waves, we were able to use some of the early predictions to help inform Ulta Beauty’s strategy.”

Murphy also does direct consulting on projects that are very focused on psychological needs, such as helping brands that may have suffered from a lack of consumer trust.

When not solving the complex problems of today's most popular brands, Murphy makes time to volunteer with NYC Plover Project. After graduate school, Murphy missed the study of animal behavior and the ability to build the bond between humans and animals. She joined NYC Plover Project in 2021 to protect shore birds that nest on the beaches in Queens, New York, in the summer.

Check out more of Murphy’s research and accolades:

GRIT Future List in 2021

Why Habit Formation Research Should Guide Your Brand Strategy

The Beauty Of Insights – Leveraging Habit Formation Research To Fuel Business Impact