Keisha M. Cutright

Keisha M. Cutright
  • Assistant Professor of Marketing

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    751 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
    3730 Walnut Street
    University of Pennsylvania
    Philadelphia, PA 19104-6304

Research Interests: branding, personal control and structure, psychology of consumption, religion

Links: CV


Keisha Cutright is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at The Wharton School.  Her research focuses on the psychological drivers of consumers’ behavior.  She is particularly interested in strategies that enhance consumers’ feelings of order and structure in an often chaotic, uncertain world.  For example, she uncovers how consumption and certain belief systems (related to religion, personal control, culture, etc.) provide interchangeable sources of order and structure.  Prior projects have also addressed branding issues and the role of emotion in consumer decision-making.  Current projects continue to explore a variety of issues related to individuals’ abilities to navigate their environments, addressing the influence of resource constraints, religion and consumers’ physical appearance on behavior.

Professor Cutright’s research has been published in top-tier academic journals, including Journal of Consumer ResearchJournal of Marketing Research, and Marketing Science. Popular accounts of her work have also appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

Professor Cutright teaches consumer behavior at The Wharton School. She earned her Ph.D. in marketing from Duke University and her B.S. from The Ohio State University. Prior to beginning her career in academia, Professor Cutright worked in brand management at Procter and Gamble.

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  • Keisha M. Cutright, Shalena Srna, Adriana Samper (Working), Suit Up and Shop: How Consumer Attire Influences Purchasing Decisions.

  • Keisha M. Cutright and Adriana Samper (2014), Doing it the Hard Way: How Low Control Drives Preferences for High Effort Products and Services, Journal of Consumer Research.

  • Linyun Yang, Keisha M. Cutright, Gavan J. Fitzsimons, Tanya I. Chartrand (2013), Distinctively Different: Exposure to Multiple Brands in Low Elaboration Settings.” (forthcoming), Journal of Consumer Research.

  • Keisha M. Cutright, James R. Bettman, Gavan J. Fitzsimons (2013), Putting Brands in their Place: How the Need for Structure Keeps Brands Contained, Journal of Marketing Research.

  • Keisha M. Cutright, Eugenia C. Wu, Jillian C. Banfield, Aaron C. Kay, Gavan Fitzsimons (2011), When Your World Must be Defended: Choosing Products to Justify the System, Journal of Consumer Research (2011).

    Abstract: Consumers are often strongly motivated to view themselves as part of a legitimate and fair external system. Our research focuses on how individuals adopt distinct ways of defending their system when it is threatened and, in particular, how this is revealed in their consumption choices. We find that although individuals differ in how confident they are in the legitimacy of their system, they do not differ in their motivation to defend the system when it is threatened. Instead, they simply adopt different methods of defense. Specifically, when an important system is (verbally) attacked, individuals who are the least confident in the legitimacy of the system seek and appreciate consumption choices that allow them to indirectly and subtly defend the system. Conversely, individuals who are highly confident in the system reject indirect opportunities of defense and seek consumption choices that allow them to defend the system in direct and explicit ways.

  • Keisha M. Cutright (2011), The Beauty of Boundaries: When and Why We Seek Structure in Consumption, Journal of Consumer Research (2011).

    Abstract: How do consumers cope when it seems that they have no control over their outcomes in life? This research posits that consumers will seek greater structure in consumption—or the sense that everything is in its designated place. Moreover, it suggests that very simple boundaries in the environment offer a means for attaining this sense of structure. Several experiments demonstrate that when personal control is threatened, consumers prefer logos, products and environments that are tangibly or intangibly bounded over those that are unbounded. This research also explores the functional and symbolic benefits that boundaries provide as representations of order and structure.

  • Ron Shachar, Tulin Erdem, Keisha M. Cutright, Gavan Fitzsimons (2011), Brands: The Opiate of the Non-Religious Masses?, Marketing Science (2011).

    Abstract: Are brands the “new religion”? Practitioners and scholars have been intrigued by the possibility, but strong theory and empirical evidence supporting the existence of a relationship between brands and religion is scarce. In what follows, we argue and demonstrate that religiosity is indeed related to “brand reliance,” i.e., the degree to which consumers prefer branded goods over unbranded goods or goods without a well-known national brand. We theorize that brands and religiosity may serve as substitutes for one another because both allow individuals to express their feelings of self-worth. We provide support for this substitution hypothesis with U.S. state-level data (field study) as well as individual-level data where religiosity is experimentally primed (study 1) or measured as a chronic individual difference (study 2). Importantly, studies 1 and 2 demonstrate that the relationship between religiosity and brand reliance only exists in product categories in which brands enable consumers to express themselves (e.g., clothes). Moreover, studies 3 and 4 demonstrate that the expression of self-worth is an important factor underlying the negative relationship.

  • Lisa A. Cavanaugh, Keisha M. Cutright, Mary Frances Luce, James R. Bettman (2011), Hope, Pride, and Processing During Optimal and Non-Optimal TImes of Day, Emotion (2011).

    Abstract: We examine the conditions under which the distinct positive emotions of hope versus pride facilitate more or less fluid cognitive processing. Using individuals’ naturally occurring time of day preferences (i.e., morning vs. evening hours), we show that specific positive emotions can differentially influence processing resources. We argue that specific positive emotions are more likely to influence processing and behavior during nonoptimal times of day, when association-based processing is more likely. We show in three experiments that hope, pride, and a neutral state differentially influence fluid processing on cognitive tasks. Incidental hope facilitates fluid processing during nonoptimal times of day (compared with pride and neutral), improving performance on tasks requiring fluid intelligence (Experiment 1) and increasing valuation estimates on tasks requiring that preferences be constructed on the spot (Experiments 2 and 3). We also provide evidence that these differences in preference and valuation occur through a process of increased imagination (Experiment 3). We contribute to emotion theory by showing that different positive emotions have different implications for processing during nonoptimal times of day.

  • Eugenia C. Wu, Keisha M. Cutright, Gavan Fitzsimons (2011), How Asking “Who Am I?” Affects What Consumers Buy: The Influence of Self-Discovery on Consumption, Journal of Marketing Research (2011).

    Abstract: Are you type A or type B? An optimist or a pessimist? Intuitive or analytical? Consumers are motivated to learn about the self, but they may not always accept what they learn. This article explores how the desire for self-discovery leads people to seek but not necessarily accept the feedback they receive and the implications this has for consumption behavior. Specifically, this article examines the case of consumers who value being unconstrained: people with independent self-construals and those who have high levels of reactance motivation. The authors argue that these people often view self-knowledge as a constraint on the self and subsequently reject it—even when the self-knowledge has neutral or positive implications for self-esteem. Results across five studies demonstrate that independents and high reactants feel constrained by self-knowledge, and this causes them to reject and make consumption choices inconsistent with it even as they actively seek to learn about themselves. In contrast, interdependents and low reactants do not feel constrained by self-knowledge, and consequently, they accept and incorporate it into their consumption decisions.


Professor Cutright teaches Consumer Behavior in the Wharton Undergraduate Program.

Past Courses


    This course is concerned with how and why people behave as consumers. Its goals are to: (1) provide conceptual understanding of consumer behavior, (2) provide experience in the application of buyer behavior concepts to marketing management decisions and social policy decision-making; and (3) to develop analytical capability in using behavioral research.

Awards and Honors

  • Poets & Quants Selection: “World’s Best 40 B-School Professors under the Age of 40, 2015
  • Marketing Science Institute Young Scholar, 2015
  • Dorinda and Mark Winkelman Distinguished Scholar, 2014
  • Wharton Excellence in Teaching Award, 2013
  • Wharton Excellence in Teaching Award, Undergraduate Division, 2011-2012
  • Society for Marketing Advances, Dissertation Proposal Winner, 2010

In the News

Knowledge @ Wharton


Latest Research

Keisha M. Cutright, Shalena Srna, Adriana Samper (Working), Suit Up and Shop: How Consumer Attire Influences Purchasing Decisions.
All Research

In the News

How Control Impacts What Consumers Expect from Brands

Consumers aren’t always looking for a “miracle product” to fix their problems — sometimes, they want to work hand-in-hand with a brand to succeed, Wharton research shows.

Knowledge @ Wharton - 2014/09/8
All News

Awards and Honors

Poets & Quants Selection: “World’s Best 40 B-School Professors under the Age of 40 2015
All Awards