Penn State investigator’s passion for research coincides with results of study

Anna Mattila, left, Marriott Professor of Lodging Management and professor-in-charge for the graduate program in the School of Hospitality Management, works with doctoral student Qing "Stephanie" Liu. Credit: Kevin Sliman / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Whether it is brainstorming a new study to better understand consumer behavior or poring over the results of a recent trial, research brings Anna Mattila joy.

Maybe it’s no surprise, then, that a group of peers recently recognized Mattila as one of the best researchers in her field.

“I live for research. I don’t see it as work. I get so excited when I think of new ideas for a study, or get the results or sit down and write about it,” Mattila said. “I really love it. It’s a great feeling when you finish that manuscript and send it out.”

Mattila, who joined Penn State in 1998, is Marriott Professor of Lodging Management and professor-in-charge for the graduate program in the School of Hospitality Management. She is also former associate editor of Cornell Hospitality Quarterly and former chief editor of the Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research.

During her career, Mattila has published hundreds of research articles and received dozens of awards for her work, which looks at a variety of issues, including corporate social responsibility and customer emotions.

“The two best things about my job are that I am able to conduct research and I’m able to help graduate students,” she said. “My heart is in graduate education because I feel like I can contribute to their knowledge level and make them successful, and that will raise the whole level of the discipline. It gives me tremendous amount of pleasure to be able to help young scholars.”

Mattila’s passion for research is more than a personal proclamation; it is also reflected in an article recently featured in the Journal of Teaching in Travel & Tourism. There, the self-proclaimed research fanatic is recognized as the top hospitality and tourism researcher in the world in a study on faculty productivity conducted by researchers at four different universities.

The study, led by Chekitan Dev, H.G. Parsa and Rahul Parsa at Cornell University, features a new research tool, the Dp2 (Dev Parsa Parsa) index, which evaluates researchers’ productivity based on quantity, quality, consistency and longevity. The tool showed that between 2000 and 2010 Mattila’s research was cited 3,884 times in 101 publications. Dev ranked second, with 1,357 citations appearing in 33 publications.

Mattila particularly enjoys studying consumer behavior in the areas of marketing and psychology in service settings, such as retail and hospitals.

“If you don’t understand what the consumers want you aren’t going to be able to have the services and products that people want,” she said.

One field experiment she particularly enjoyed was in a retail setting in Singapore, which looked at arousal and relaxation levels related to music and scent.

“We found that if you have high-arousing music, then you also need a high-arousing scent, and that if the two do not match, customers will not stay in the store or buy as much,” Mattila said.

Currently she is researching corporate social responsibility (CSR) and how customers react to CSR initiatives such as restaurants soliciting donations from customers and in turn making matching donations to charity.

Additionally, Cornell Hospitality Quarterly is slated to publish two of Mattila’s papers in 2016, both of which were co-authored by Penn State doctoral student Stephanie Liu. The articles will look at effective advertising of technology-based hospitality services and effective communication strategies for store remodeling.

Another article in the works, co-authored by Wan Yang of California State Polytechnic University, looks at measuring value perceptions of luxury hospitality services.

Despite her research schedule, Mattila is not all work and no play. She recognizes the importance of taking a break, and finds joy outside of the office as a dog show handler for her three cocker spaniels. Tilly and Tegan are American Kennel Club champions. Rilo is three points away from earning his champion title.

Anna Mattila, Marriott Professor of Lodging Management at Penn State, posed with her dog, Tilly, after the canine earned the title of American Kennel Club champion. Credit: Courtesy of Anna MattilaAll Rights Reserved.

Last Updated March 04, 2016