Professor Sunita Sah is an award-winning, tenured professor and organizational psychologist who studies ethics, advice and influence. She has spent over a decade conducting ground-breaking research on advisor-advisee relationships, trust, conflicts-of-interest, disclosure and compliance.
Sunita is currently the Director of Cornell University’s Academic Leadership Institute and a professor of Management and Organizations at the Johnson Graduate School of Management as well as an Honorary Fellow at the University of Cambridge where she was formerly the KPMG Professor of Management Studies at the Cambridge Judge Business School.
Before entering academia, Sunita worked as a physician in the U.K.’s National Health Service. Later, while working as a management consultant for the pharmaceutical industry, she became intrigued with the relationships between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry and particularly the effects of these relationships on doctors’ decision-making and ultimately patients. Her insights and knowledge from both sides of the physician-industry relationship motivated her curiosity to study pervasive conflicts of interest (potential clashes between advisors’ professional responsibilities and personal self-interests) in medicine and other professions.
Sunita’s research integrates the theories and methods of organizational behavior, social psychology, behavioral economics, and judgment and decision making. Using a multi-method approach of randomized laboratory and field experiments, surveys, qualitative analysis, and large real-world archival data sets, Sunita has published over 40 articles in top academic journals in management, science, medicine, economics, and psychology.
Sunita has uncovered novel, often counterintuitive findings that affect our reactions to conflicts of interest and disclosure. For example, Sunita has shown that advisees may feel pressured to comply with advice they don’t trust to avoid appearing unhelpful (panhandler effect) or distrustful (insinuation anxiety), or that disclosure can increase perceptions of expertise in advisors, and that disclosure can serve as a reminder to advisors of professional norms to place clients, or profits, first. In addition to identifying pitfalls from such forces, Sunita also identifies ways to improve decision making for advisors and advisees. Sunita concludes that reactions to conflicts of interest and disclosure cannot be fully understood without a thorough consideration of both the advisors’ and advisees’ psychological experience of them.
Sunita’s research also sheds light on the interpersonal dynamics that lead to trust in and compliance with advisors, as well as (mis)perceptions employees, advisors, and advisees can have about each other. Sunita’s work has been featured in the New York Times, Scientific American, The New Yorker, Nature, BBC News, Financial Times, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Boston Globe, National Public Radio as well as BBC World Television and national radio stations.
Sunita recently served as a Commissioner on the National Commission on Forensic Science created to improve the scientific rigor of forensic science. She has also been invited to discuss her work with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Australian Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.
Sunita has won best paper awards from the Academy of Management, Society of Business Ethics, Society of Judgment and Decision-Making and Society of Personality and Social Psychology, and scholar awards from the Russell Sage Foundation, Harvard University, the Greenwall Foundation and the Medical Research Council.
Sunita has held academic positions at Cornell, Cambridge, Georgetown, Duke and Harvard Universities. Before entering academia, Sunita worked as a Medical Doctor for the UK’s National Health Service, before going on to be Senior Consultant and European Marketing Director at IMS Health Consulting, and then Managing Director [CEO] of Organisational Dynamics Ltd.
SELECTED AWARDS AND HONORS
- Mid-Career Achievement Award, Health Care Management, Academy of Management, 2022
- Honorary Fellow, University of Cambridge, 2021-present
- Wharton Center for Leadership and Change Management Diversity and Inclusion Initiative Award, 2021
- Elected Fellow, Society for Personality and Social Psychology, 2020
- Elected Fellow, Society of Experimental Social Psychology, 2020
- Russell Sage Foundation Visiting Researcher, 2020-2021
- Russell Sage Foundation Visiting Scholar, 2019-2020
- Showcase Symposium, Academy of Management Conference, 2019
- Best Paper Proceedings, Academy of Management Conference, 2011, 2017, 2018
- Institute of Social Sciences Fellowship, Cornell University, 2018-2019
- Half-Century Club Faculty Research Fellowship, Cornell University, 2017-2019
- Social Science Research Network Top Ten Paper Download List, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018
- Greenwall Foundation (for research on real-world disclosures of conflicts of interest), 2015
- Edmond J. Safra Center of Ethics Fellowship Award, Harvard University, 2011–2015
- Finalist, Best Paper Award in the Fields of Experimental Economics, Behavioral Economics and Decision Theory, Exeter Prize, 2014
- Georgetown Center for Financial Markets and Policy Research Award, 2013, 2014
- Winner, Best Paper Award, International Academy of Management and Business, 2013
- Dissertation Award Finalist, Academy of Management, Social Issues in Management, 2012
- National Institute of Mental Health (for research on the impact of conflict of interest policies on physicians’ prescribing behavior), 2010–2012
- Winner, Best Paper Award, Managerial and Organizational Cognition, Academy of Management, 2011
- Winner, Society for Judgment and Decision Making Poster Presentation Award, 2010
- Winner, Best Paper Award, Society for Business Ethics, 2010
- IACM-DRRC (International Association of Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution Research Center, Kellogg School of Management) Scholar Award, 2010
- Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Poster Presentation Award and Honorable Mention, 2010
- Winner, Best Paper Award in Organizational Behavior, Trans-Atlantic Doctoral Conference, London Business School, 2009
PhD Organizational Behavior
Tepper Business School, Carnegie Mellon University, USA
Dissertation: Essays on Conflicts of Interest in Medicine
Academy of Management Dissertation Award Finalist
Concentration: Behavioral Economics, Judgment and Decision Making
MS Organizational Behavior
Tepper Business School, Carnegie Mellon University, USA
MBA Executive MBA (with Distinction)
London Business School, UK
Elected Class Representative
Women’s Scholarship Award for Leadership Potential
MBChB (M.D.) Medicine and Surgery
University of Edinburgh, UK