527.8 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
3730 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Research Interests: consumer behavior, judgment and decision making, risk perception
Rob Mislavsky is a fifth-year doctoral student in the Decision Processes group.
Before joining Wharton, Rob worked in the commercial advisory group at PwC. He also completed a bachelor’s degree in finance and operations management from the University of Maryland and an MBA in marketing and product development from Carnegie Mellon University.
His research primarily focuses on how consumers react to firms introducing risk and uncertainty into everyday transactions. For example, he has studied how the mechanism that introduces uncertainty to a transaction may have a larger impact on valuations than the uncertainty itself (Mislavsky & Simonsohn, in press, Management Science), whether consumers judge random assignment to policies (as is done in field experiments) differently than non-random assignment to the same policies (Mislavsky, Dietvorst, & Simonsohn, revise and resubmit, Marketing Science), and how consumers aggregate verbal probability forecasts differently than they do equivalent numeric probability forecasts (Mislavsky & Gaertig, work in progress).
Rob’s other stream of research examines what motivates people to engage in “should” behaviors, such as exercising (Beshears, Lee, Milkman, & Mislavsky, in prep) or donating to charity (Zwebner, Mislavsky, & Small, work in progress).
John Beshears, Hae Nim (Sunny) Lee, Katherine L. Milkman, Robert Mislavsky (Draft), Creating Exercise Habits: The Tradeoff between Flexibility and Routinization.
Abstract: How can the formation of beneficial, lasting habits be promoted? Previous research suggests that persistent habits often involve regular, cue-triggered routines. We conducted a field experiment with 2,508 employees of a Fortune 500 company to test whether incentives for exercise routines—paying participants each time they visit a company gym within a daily two-hour window— lead to more persistent exercise behavior than flexible exercise incentives—paying participants each time they visit a company gym, regardless of the time of day. We find that an incremental gym visit in the daily two-hour window, compared to an incremental gym visit outside the window, was actually less likely to generate gym visits during the weeks after incentives were removed. Thus, while routines may be a common and important component of many lasting habits, encouraging overly rigid routines can undermine habit formation.
Abstract: To make optimal decisions, consumers must make accurate predictions about the likelihood of uncertain events. As such, they may solicit opinions from multiple advisors, who can make their own predictions using verbal probabilities (“X is likely”) or numeric probabilities (“There is a 60% chance that X will happen”). Although existing research documents differences in how we process verbal and numeric probabilities in isolation, much less is known about how we integrate multiple probabilities of each type. We find that people primarily average advisors’ numeric probabilities, but when combining verbal probabilities, they make forecasts that are more extreme than each individual advisor’s forecast.
Abstract: We define transactions as weird when they include unexplained features, that is, features not implicitly, explicitly, or self-evidently justified, and propose that people are averse to weird transactions. In six experiments, we show that risky options used in previous research paradigms often attained uncertainty via adding an unexplained transaction feature (e.g., purchasing a coin flip or lottery), and behavior that appears to reflect risk aversion could instead reflect an aversion to weird transactions. Specifically, willingness to pay drops just as much when adding risk to a transaction as when adding unexplained features. Holding transaction features constant, adding additional risk does not further reduce willingness to pay. We interpret our work as generalizing ambiguity aversion to riskless choice.
Abstract: Why have companies faced a backlash for running experiments? Academics and pundits have argued that it is because the public finds corporate experimentation objectionable. In this paper we investigate “experiment aversion,” finding evidence that, if anything, experiments are rated more highly than the least acceptable policies that they contain. In six studies participants evaluated the acceptability of either corporate policy changes or of experiments testing those policy changes. When all policy changes were deemed acceptable, so was the experiment, even when it involved deception, unequal outcomes, and lack of consent. When a policy change was unacceptable, the experiment that included it was deemed less unacceptable. Experiments are not unpopular, unpopular policies are unpopular.
Brad Bitterly, Robert Mislavsky, Hengchen Dai, Katherine L. Milkman, “Want-Should Conflict: A Synthesis of Past Research”. In The Psychology of Desire, edited by Wilhelm Hofmann and Loran Nordgren, (2015), pp. 244-264