Portrait of Paul Zak
  • Email
  • Degrees
    PhD, Economics, University of Pennsylvania
    BA, Math and Economics, San Diego State University
  • Research Interests
    Neuroeconomics, Neuroscience of Narratives, Neuromanagement

Paul J. Zak is a professor at Claremont Graduate University and is ranked in the top 0.3% of most cited scientists with over 180 published papers and more than 19,000 citations to his research. Zak’s two decades of research have taken him from the Pentagon to Fortune 50 boardrooms to the rainforest of Papua New Guinea.  Along the way he helped start a number of interdisciplinary fields including neuroeconomics, neuromanagement, and neuromarketing.  He has written three general audience books and is a regular TED speaker.

His latest book, Immersion: The Science of the Extraordinary and Source of Happiness (2022), identifies the neurologic basis for extraordinary experiences and uses 50,000 brain measurements to show readers how to create high-impact marketing, entertainment, training, customer experiences, and employee experiences.  The book shows that extraordinary experiences drive up customer lifetime value and provide the neurologic foundation for increased individual happiness.

Zak’s other books are Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High Performance Companies (2017) and The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity (2012).  Trust Factor applies neuroscience to efficiently build high-performance organizations by creating a culture of trust. The Moral Molecule received much attention for Zak’s discovery of the key role played by the neurochemical oxytocin to explain virtuous behaviors and happiness.

Zak delivered a TED Talk titled “Trust, Morality—and Oxytocin?” in 2011 that has been viewed two million times. He also co-founded the first neuroscience-as-a-service (NaaS) company, Immersion Neuroscience.

After receiving his BA in mathematics and economics from San Diego State University, Zak completed his doctorate in economics at the University of Pennsylvania and completed post-doctoral training in neuroimaging at Harvard University. Zak has taught at Caltech, Arizona State University, UC Riverside, and USC Law. At CGU, Zak directs the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies.

Co-authored with Bashir, S., Alexander, V., Jiao, P., Johnson, C., & Nadler, A. (2022). Supraphysiologic testosterone increases proactive aggression in the power-to-take game. Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics.

Co-authored with Merritt, S. H., Krouse, M., & Alogaily, R. S. (2022). Continuous Neurophysiologic Data Accurately Predict Mood and Energy in the Elderly. Brain Sciences. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci12091240

The Neuroscience of Customer Experience (2022). MIT Sloan Management Review, 63(4).

Co-authored with Curry, B., Owen, T., & Barraza, J.A. (2022). Oxytocin Release Increases with Age and is Associated with Life Satisfaction and Prosocial Behaviors. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 119. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2022.846234

Co-authored with Barraza, J. A., Hu, X., Zahedzadeh, G., & Murray, J. (2022). Predicting Dishonesty When the Stakes Are High: Physiologic Responses During Face-to-Face Interactions Identifies Who Reneges on Promises to CooperateFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 15. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2021.787905

Co-authored with Johannsen, R. (2021). The Neuroscience of Organizational Trust and Business Performance: Findings from US Working Adults and an Intervention at an Online RetailerFrontiers in Psychology: Organizational Psychology, 11, 3858.

Neurological Correlates Allow Us to Predict Human BehaviorThe Scientist. Oct. 1. (2020)

How our brains decide when to trust. Harvard Business Review, July 18. (2019)

The neuroscience of trust. Harvard Business Review, January. (2017)

Why your brain loves good storytelling. Harvard Business Review. October (2015)

The neurobiology of trust (2008). Scientific American, June: 88-95.

Co-authored with Stanton, A. A. & Ahmadi, S. (2007). Oxytocin increases generosity in humans. Public Library of Science ONE 2(11): e1128.

Co-authored with Kosfeld, M., Heinrichs, M., Fischbacher, U. & Fehr, E. (2005). Oxytocin increases trust in humans. Nature, 435(2): 673-676.

Co-authored with Kurzban, R. & Matzner, W. T. (2005). Oxytocin is associated with human trustworthiness. Hormones and Behavior, (48): 522-527.

Neuroeconomics (2004). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (Biology), 359(1451), 1737-1748.

Co-authored with Kurzban, R. & Matzner, W. T. (2004). The neurobiology of trust. Annals of the New York. Academy of Sciences, 1032: 224-227.

Co-authored with Knack, S. (2001). Trust and Growth.  The Economic Journal. 111: 295-321.

The Behavioral Neuroscience of Decision Making
Designing High-Performance Organizations Using Neuroscience