Prof. Dr. Caroline Goukens

Prof. dr. Caroline Goukens, Consumer Decision Making, works in the Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management. She holds a Master’s degree (2003) and a PhD (2007) in applied economics from the KU Leuven. She studies consumer behaviour and behavioral decision theory. She combines laboratory and field studies with fMRI research, to study the factors that influence people’s choices and decisions. She has published her work in top scientific marketing journals.

What is your connection with Maastricht?

It was not an obvious move to come to Maastricht University because there was not a lot of interest in my subject at that time. In that sense, I faced something of a challenge. But I chose Maastricht because the university offered a good balance between research and teaching. One more thing – and it’s not unimportant – Maastricht is a great city.

What motivated you to become a professor?

My aim is to learn and understand human behaviour in terms of the decisions we make. One of my goals in teaching the module is to help people understand themselves better by understanding their own choices. That can involve seemingly simple issues: why we choose to eat junk food when we know we ought to watch our diet, or why we might have difficulty investing our money because we feel we are losing control over it.


I have earned a PhD in Consumer Behaviour at KU Leuven. Perhaps one fortuitous aspect of my study programme was the fact that, although I was working on a degree in Economy, both of her PhD supervisors were psychologists. That suited me well and gave me the focus that I now employ in the classroom.

What is your role within the MaastrichtMBA programme?

I have been teaching in Maastricht for about ten years, now. One particular aspect that strikes me is the fact that the MaastrichtMBA programme is becoming increasingly international. At first, students came from the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium. Now they hail from all corners of the world.


The programme’s international growth really contributes to the general input. There are so many more and varied ideas and insights. I like that and I think it’s important. The more varied the audience is, the more interesting the discussions become. This year’s session was one of the most interactive that I’ve experienced.


I take part in the special MaastrichtMBA programme, teaching two sessions in Human Decision Making in the Sustainable Competitive Advantage module

How do you think the world will look in the next few years regarding your teaching focus area?

A long-standing question is how to teach people to eat more healthily. We now understand that it is more difficult to convince people to eat healthily simply because it is healthy. It is easier to teach basic, unconscious eating habits. We can do that by appealing to human emotions because we trust on them and we tend to rely on them whenever we can.


Consumer behaviour lies at the interface between economy and psychology. For me, the bottom line is to learn how to better understand the person across from you. That can be a consumer, it can be a colleague, or your child, or your partner. What I want to understand is why these people act as they do. Why do they eat junk food when they know they shouldn’t? Why do they prefer brand-name medicine to the exact same generic medicine? Ultimately, there is no difference between intuitive and emotional decision-making. They are one and the same.

Prof. Dr. Caroline Goukens
Consumer Behaviour
Download Brochure