Getting Personal: Hayden Noel

Getting Personal: Hayden Noel

Getting Personal is a Q&A with a local personality. Here, a chat with Hayden Noel of Champaign, an assistant professor in the College of Business at the University of Illinois, a former track star and a student of consumer behavior.  

How did you become interested in consumer behavior?

I developed an interest in Consumer Behavior when I worked at an ad agency in New York City, Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon, Eckhart Inc. We developed the Milk Moustache ad campaign that, until recently, was one of the longest running consumer advertising campaigns in the USA. I became very intrigued by what made these campaigns work. Why was one campaign more successful than another and why would consumers react positively to certain executions. That was the genesis of my journey into the study of consumers and why they do what they do.

What shaped your interest in memory?

My specific interest in memory started during my first year of doctoral course work. I was in a Consumer Information Processing course taught by a well-known faculty member, Joe Alba. We were discussing an article on the reconstruction of memory. People view their memories as being a coherent and truthful account of events that have occurred. Most individuals believe that their perspective is error-free during recall. The articles we were discussing presented a different story. They concluded that we reconstruct events that occur and do not remember them exactly as they happened. These reconstructive processes of memory are subject to distortion and bias that can lead to numerous errors. So the average person's recall is never 100 percent accurate about past events.

I was intrigued by this and wanted to examine memory further. An aside, a great book to read about why we forget things is "The Seven Sins of Memory" by Daniel Schacter. It lists seven different ways that you forget information and how to combat these memory flaws.

What did you learn from your athletic career?

I learned what true grit was. When I was younger, I was the national age group champion in Trinidad & Tobago at 400 meters. I was the club champion and also the High School champion in my age group. I took a two-year break and when I came back, there were quite a few athletes who were performing at a higher level than I was at that time. But I persevered and still managed to place second in our national high school championships in my event.

Even though the results were not going my way when I returned to track and field, I didn't give up. This is the essence of grit: facing failure and persevering.

Teddy Roosevelt said (and I paraphrase), "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strived valiantly; who errs, who comes again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly." Running track has taught me this lessoneven if you aren't don't achieve your goals initially, persistence and courage pays off in the end. Don't give up, don't ever give up!

What was your favorite thing about growing upin the Caribbean?

Trinidad and Tobago is a very collective society. We look out for each other. When I was growing up, if your car broke down, you would have a hundred volunteer mechanics offering their assistance. In my neighborhood, one person's problem was everyone's problem. The downside was that it was tough to keep anything private. Your life was lived out in a very public fashion. But people in the neighborhood genuinely cared about you and your family and sought to find positive outcomes. So in the Caribbean we have a lot of "aunts" and "uncles" who are not related to you by blood, but by caring and involvement. While growing up in Trinidad, I had my untie Mikey, Aunt Madge, Aunt Bunny, Auntie Joyce and Uncle Desmond. All of them were not related to me, but yet all played the role of a close relative through the way they cared and provided advice and assistance.

Do you have a bad habit? What is it?

I usually operate on West Indian time. So I tend to be a bit tardy for some events. I have pledged to change this each of the past 30 years. But this year I definitely will.

What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?

I usually get up between 6 and 7 a.m.; previously I would spend the first hour catching up on politics on "Morning Joe" on MSNBC; now my preference for news (both general and political) is "The Morning Show" on CNN. Then I head straight to the gym.

What did you have for lunch today? Where? With whom?

I had a bowl of clam chowder and a half of a steak sandwich at Atlanta Bread Company — one of my favorite eateries, by the way. I had lunch with my mentor at the university, Professor Bill Qualls. He is someone whom I respect and I often seek his sage advice when making decisions.

Best high school memory?

This would be winning the National Age-Group Championships in the 400 meters during my second year of high school in Trinidad and Tobago. Since I did not have a coach at the time, my now-deceased father, Peter Noel, ran the entire race with me on the infield ... shouting out instructions as he did so. I won the event (which featured two future Olympians) and my father embraced me at the end. What made it even more memorable was the fact that my uncle, Dr. Jesse Noel, was the stadium announcer.

What does a perfect Sunday afternoon include?

Relaxing at home; chatting with my 9-year-old daughter, Annalise; reading; finally ending with "60 Minutes," then "Game of Thrones" or "True Blood" on HBO. It's must-see TV. (Game of Thrones reference: If you ever meet me, ask me to tell you the joke about the Pirate and his red shirt ...)

Was there one book you read as a child that you still cherish? Own? Read?

When I was a child, my grandmother, who was a schoolteacher, always gave me books as gifts. My favorite was actually a nonfiction book titled "365 Things to Know." This book was in calendar format and stated a fact for each day of the year. Examples, "How far is the moon from Earth?" "What's the origin of the word Thursday?" I still think this was where I developed and honed my intellectual curiosity.

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

Grenada. I have never been there even though I was born in the Caribbean and this island is very close to the land of my birth. My grandfather's relatives are from that island and, unlike other parts of the world, Noel is a very popular last name in Grenada. I met a music aficionado/producer in London who shared my name, Hayden Noel; his relatives were all from Grenada. He took me to meet his dad on the outskirts of London and it was like spending time with family. I loved that experience and want to do it again but in the Isle of Spice (as Grenada is known).

Tell me about your favorite pet.

I am not really a pet person, but my daughter has a cat named Francis. We adopted him from the humane society. Since he is her favorite pet, he has become my favorite pet. When he first arrived at our house, we would put Francis in the bathroom at night with his food and litter box. The bathroom door slides shut, but Francis would stand on top of the sink and push the door with his tiny paws and eventually get out. I am sure it took hours, but I loved his gumption.

The humane society is a great place to adopt pets, by the way.

Have you discovered as you matured that you are becoming like one of your parents? Which one and how?

I think I am becoming both like my mom and my dad. My dad was demanding and a bit of a perfectionist. I can be like that at times and I am a bit too demanding of myself in some respects. My mother, Mona, would tell me that I couldn't always be the best, but I should still do my best in all of my endeavors. I now follow that advice as a father, a researcher, a teacher and a youth-soccer coach. If my daughter, my students, my players give me their best ... that's all I could ask of them.

What can you NOT live without?

My daughter, my family, a few very close friends, faith, music.

Who do you have on your iPod?

I am a Trini and while growing up in the 1970s and '80s, we listened to everything including calypso (soca) and reggae. So I grew up listening to songs as varied as "Rock Lobster" (B-52s) to "For the Love of You" (Isley Brothers). Listening to all these different genres forged my musical tastes.

So here goes my very eclectic list:

Machel Montano, David Rudder, Bunji Garlin, Kerwyn DuBois, Jimmy Cliff, Popcaan, Pharell Williams, Cold Play, Train, John Legend, Calvin Harris, Dom Kennedy, Van Morrison, J Cole, Ingrid Michaelson and Curtis Mayfield ... to name a few.

What's the happiest memory of your life?

Being there for the birth of my daughter. The joy of witnessing that event was overwhelming. I could see why some fathers faint at that precise moment in time. The second happiest was being able to buy a house for my mother. She has done so much for me and I wanted to do something substantial for her. When I handed over the keys, we said a prayer of thanks and I was unable to remain stoic like I wanted. Both of these events were very emotional moments for me.

If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite?

Sorry, but I would have to invite four living people. My mother, my Aunt Joan Olivier and two surrogate aunts, Marjorie (Aunt Madge) Fritz and Ethelwyn (Auntie Mikey) Celestain. These four women have all impacted me in some way. My mother has always been there for me and has given me the foundation from which I could thrive. She has taught me how to look for the good in people and to trust my instincts. She has always encouraged me to believe that all things are possible. She has an unyielding faith in God and has encouraged me to rely on the power of prayer during difficult times.

The other three women all came into my life when I needed support in one form or another. They always lent a listening ear and provided sound advice. Whenever I encountered rough seas, they always charted my ship back on course ... so my life's journey could be successful. I owe my success in my career and in life to them all.

What's the best advice you've ever been given?

My mother always told me, "You don't have to be the best, just do your best!" She told me this repeatedly as a child and this would give me the determination and drive to press on. I knew that even though the outcome wasn't under my control, my effort was. Recent research has shown that encouraging children to focus on effort and not on achievement leads to them attempting more challenging tasks. Whereas, those who focus on the result, choose tasks in which they are more certain of success in order to earn praise for "being the best." I believe my mom knew this intuitively.

What's your best piece of advice?

I once heard Deepak Chopra speak and he said something that stuck with me. When you envision an event occurring you tell yourself you can do it, at that point there are chemical changes in the brain that impact both mood and drive. I always end my classes with the following quote. I tell my students, "Now, I want you to go out into the world, and be successful!"

I want them to envision that success; feel that drive to succeed; do their very best to achieve their goals. Once I stopped saying it a few years ago and some students noticed. When they asked me to continue, I realized how much this simple statement matters and how much of a difference it makes

What was your first job, and how much did you make an hour?

As a 14-year-old, I bagged groceries at a Trinidadian grocery chain named Hi-Lo during the Christmas break. I can't remember how much I made, but it was not much. I did deliver great customer service though, so I remember getting a lot of tips when I helped take customers' bags to their cars. Whenever, I am in Schnucks (where I do my grocery shopping), I try to talk to the employees who are bagging my groceries. I tell them that I once did that very job that they are now doing. Now I have a Ph.D. and I am a professor. I tell them they should not let their circumstances define them, and that they should not be judged by their current situation, but by their ambition.

How do you handle a stressful situation?

I accept that some things I can't change. If I have no control over the outcome, then it makes no sense stressing over it. If I can do something about it, I act. This tends to relieve the stress.

You've been honored as a teacher: MBA Professor of the Year 2014; List of Professors Ranked as Excellent, University of Illinois, 2007-2013; and nominated for Illinois Student Senate Teaching Excellence Award, 2012,

How did you arrive at your teaching style?

I believe that every student has a valuable contribution to make, so my classes tend to be highly interactive and engaging. I genuinely care about how my students perform, so I put a lot of effort into my classes. I usually don't seek external validation, but my MBA students recently recognized me as the Professor of the Year. This award illustrated to me that my efforts are appreciated.

Tell me about your recent publications.

My research focuses on memory and cognition. I have two manuscripts that I recently submitted for publication. The first is titled:

"The Devil is in the Details: When Holistic Thinkers React Negatively to Incongruent Information". Prior research shows that holistic thinkers tend to process incongruent product information better than analytic thinkers. In the article, along with a co-author, I examine the effects of thinking styles (holistic vs. analytic) and different levels of information congruity on product evaluations.

We argue that message presentation format affects how holistic and analytic thinkers evaluate a product. In two experimental studies, we show that presenting more details in a message matches the analytic thinking style. This leads to higher evaluations of extremely incongruent information for analytic thinkers and lower evaluations for holistic thinkers.

The second is titled "The Effect of Arousal on Memory: Time and Relevance Matter". This research project examines boundary conditions for the effect of emotionally arousing appeals on memory for the ad. I am working with a UI graduate, Hila Riemer. We suggest and show in three experiments that ad-arousal inhibits immediate memory but improves delayed memory. These effects, however, occur only when the arousing elements are relevant to the ad; when arousal is irrelevant, ad-arousal does not influence memory.

What's your favorite thing about the business school? About Champaign-Urbana in general?

My favorite thing about the business school is the way the senior faculty are open to mentoring and supporting junior faculty. There are several senior faculty to whom I could turn for career advice. You aren't just thrown into the deep end. This supportive environment makes it a great place to work.

As for Champaign-Urbana ... I like its location. I enjoy the small town feel, but still like the proximity to major cities like Chicago, Indy and St. Louis.

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gottalovemejoni wrote on August 18, 2014 at 9:08 am
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What an absolutely amazing man and mentor to his students and friends.  

I'm proud to say I'm a friend of Dr Noel's and always enjoy listening to him speak in public and one on one.   

Until we meet again, God Bless