Alison Wood Brooks is an Assistant Professor of Business Administration in the Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit at the Harvard Business School. She holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and Finance from Princeton University and a PhD in Decision Processes from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Professor Brooks's research focuses on how emotions influence cognition and behavior. Much of her research examines the behavioral consequences of state anxiety. She finds that people feel anxious very frequently, which profoundly influences their interpersonal interactions. For example, experiencing state anxiety causes individuals to give low first offers and exit prematurely in negotiations. Separately, she finds that feeling anxious causes people to seek advice from others and rely heavily on the advice they receive, even when the advice is obviously bad.
In her dissertation work, Professor Brooks uncovers one way people can cope with state anxiety: by reframing their anxious arousal as excitement. She finds that engaging in minimal self-talk, such as saying “I am excited” out loud before high-anxiety performances, helps people reframe their anxiety as excitement, which dramatically improves subsequent performance in high-pressure domains like public speaking, singing, and math.
Her research has been published in leading academic journals, including the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and Psychological Science.
Her dissertation, "Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement" was awarded the Outstanding Dissertation Award from the International Association for Conflict Management in 2013. At Wharton, she received the Winkelman Fellowship, an award given to one doctoral student annually who has shown the greatest academic potential across all departments at Wharton. And her paper, "Can Nervous Nelly Negotiate? How Anxiety Causes Negotiators to Make Low First Offers, Exit Early, and Earn Less Profit" was awarded Best Paper with a Student as First Author by the International Association for Conflict Management in 2010.
At HBS, Professor Brooks teaches Negotiation in the MBA elective curriculum.