Robert Meyer

Robert Meyer
  • Frederick H. Ecker/MetLife Insurance Professor
  • Professor of Marketing
  • Co-Director, Risk Management, Decision Processes Center

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    770 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
    3730 Walnut Street
    University of Pennsylvania
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: behavioral game theory, consumer decision analysis, decision making under uncertainty, dynamic decision making, text analysis

Links: CV


Robert Meyer is the Frederick H. Ecker/MetLife Insurance Professor and Co-Director of Wharton’s Risk Management and Decision Processes Center.  He is a noted scholar whose research focuses on consumer decision analysis, sales response modeling, and decision making under uncertainty. Professor Meyer’s work has appeared in a wide variety of professional journals and books, including the Journal of Consumer Research, the Journal of Marketing Research, the Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Marketing Science, Management Science, and Risk Analysis. He is currently Senior Editor for journals of the American Marketing Association, and was former editor  of the Journal of Marketing Research and Marketing Letters.  He also served as an associated editor for  the Journal of Consumer Research, the Journal of Marketing  and Marketing Science.  He has also served on the editorial review board of several major journals.

Professor Meyer’s recent research has focused on a range of topics in decision making and communication  in the domains of consumer research and natural hazards preparedness.   This work includes the use of natural-language processing tools to study how sensationalist news stories develop and spread on social media platforms, and how warnings messages are  perceived by residents faced with natural disaster threats.  For example, Professor Meyer and his colleagues have been able to show that failures of  preparation that often precede catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina, Sandy, and the 2008/09 housing and equities collapse are consistent with a number of hard-wired biases in how people respond to risk. This includes a tendency for people to fail to learn as much as they should from near-misses, and under-invest in instruments whose value can only be realized in the long run.  These ideas form the basis of his recent book, co-authored with Howard Kunreuther,  the Ostrich Paradox: Why we under-prepare for Disasters.

At Wharton Professor Meyer has served as chair of the Marketing Department and  Vice Dean of Wharton’s doctoral programs. His teaching interests include courses in New Product Management, Research Methods, and Marketing Strategy, which he has taught at the MBA, executive MBA, and doctoral levels. He is also an active participant in a number of Wharton’s executive education programs.

Professor Meyer joined the marketing faculty in 1990 after spending eight years on the faculty of the Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA, and two years at the Graduate School of Industrial Administration at Carnegie-Mellon University. He also held appointments as  visiting professor in the school of Business Administration at the University of Miami, the University of Sydney, and the University of Tokyo.

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  • Robert Meyer, Shengui Zhao, Jin Han (Working), The Enhancement Bias in Consumer Decisions to Adopt and Utilize Product Innovations.

    Abstract: The ability of consumers to anticipate the value they will draw from new product generations that expand the capabilities of incumbent goods is explored. Drawing on previous research in affective forecasting, the work explores a hypothesis that consumers will frequently overestimate the benefits they envision drawing from new added product features and underestimate the learning costs required to realize those benefits. This hypothesis is tested using a computer simulation in which subjects are trained to play a Pacman-like arcade game where icons are moved over a screen by different forms of tactile controls. Respondents are then given the option to play a series of games for money with an incumbent game platform or pay to play with an alternative version that offer either expanded (Experiments 1 and 2) or simplified (Experiment 3) sets of controls. As hypothesized, subjects displayed an upwardly-biased valuation of the new sets of controls as measured by actual versus forecasted usage rates and performance gains. Yet, when given the opportunity to be paid to trade down to a more efficient device in exchange, few accepted. We thus observe a paradox where the presence of forecasting mistakes in product adoptions does little to induce regret in ownership.

  • Robert Meyer, N. Janakiramanand, A. Morales (Under Review), The Mental Accounting of Price Shocks: The Effect of Unexpected Price Changes on Cross-Category Purchase Patterns.

    Abstract: A rarely challenged tenet of economic theory is that as long as consumers do not face liquidity constraints, goods satisfying different fundamental needs not should exhibit significant cross-price elasticities. Mental accounting, however, provides a theoretical mechanism by which this assumption may be violated when the posted prices of goods unexpectedly depart from historical or expected levels. Specifically, expected price shocks may alter the illusory liquidity of consumers, such that unanticipated price increases suppress consumers’ tendencies to purchase discretionary goods, while unanticipated price decreases enhance it. This hypothesis is tested using data from a computerized grocery-shopping simulation in which subjects are faced with the problem of minimizing the cost of keeping a home stocked with twelve different grocery items over a multi-period horizon. After an acclimation period where subjects are allowed to develop expectations for the usual prices of these goods, they are exposed to two extreme price-shock events: one where a required item is priced dramatically above its regular retail price, and another dramatically below. The data support the core spillover hypothesis, with high-price shocks suppressing average out-of-category buying and low-price shocks inflating it. The data also show, however, that the mechanism that induces these effects differs between positive and negative shocks. The primary driver of the suppression of average sales given unexpected price increases is dramatically increased small-deal sensitivity; subjects are loathe to buy goods sold at regular retail prices, but are more apt to buy goods offered for sale at small discounts. On the other hand, unexpected price decreases appear to induce a simpler illusory wealth effect, with buying increased but without any change in small-deal sensitivity. An additional surprising finding is that the spillover effect proves robust to several variables that are hypothesized to limit its boundaries. Specifically, the strength of the spillover effect was not modified by variation in whether or not consumers had a standing inventory of a good at home (a surrogate for whether its purchase is more likely to be seen as discretionary), the base price to which the price shock is applied, and previous exposures to price shocks. A discussion of the implications of the work for research in mental accounting and pricing is provided.

  • Narayan Janakiraman, Robert Meyer, Stephen Hoch (Working), The Psychology of Consumer Decisions to Continue or Abandon Waits from Invisible Service Queues.

    Abstract: We examine the process by which consumers make sequential decisions whether to continue or abandon waits for service. We focus on the case of invisible queues, where consumers cannot observe their location in a queue as it progresses, only the passage of time. Our hypothesis is that stay-or-renege decisions will frequently sub-optimal, marked by a tendency to prematurely abandon waits from distributions for which it is never optimal to renege (e.g., uniform waits) but excessively persist given distributions that have optimal early reneging windows. We propose a competing-hazards theory that models on-going stay-or-renege decisions as a blend of two opposing influences: the escalating displeasure of waiting and the opposing desire to complete a wait that has been initiated. Among the theoretical predictions that emerge from this theory is that reneging rates will display an inverted U-shape function over time, with consumers being most prone to renege near the mid-point of waits. Reneging is also hypothesized to be affected by a number of normatively-irrelevant moderators, such as the initial number of alternative queues and the amount of physical activity that is engaged in during a wait. Evidence supporting these hypotheses is provided by four experimental studies in which respondents have the goal to complete as many downloads as possible from a hypothetical website within a finite time window, where there is a continuous opportunity to abandon a wait to begin a new one.

  • Robert Meyer (Under Review), The Psychology of Dynamic Product Maintenance.

    Abstract: The processes that underlie consumer decisions to invest in the maintenance of a durable good over time are examined. The work centers on a hypotheses that consumers make decisions about whether to repair or replace a good that has suffered a decrease in performance through a process that assesses the value of repair actions relative to two points of reference: the normal rate at which the performance of goods declines as they age (age-indexing), and how the timing and cost of the repair compares to parallel norms for repair expenditures (expenditure indexing). We show how these heuristics can be represented by a cognitive algebra that models maintenance decisions as a series of myopic utility-maximization problems. This process yields outcomes that can approximate those that would emerge from an optimal dynamic maintenance policy in some cases, but significantly depart from optimality in others. The algebra is then used to generate a series of predictions about how maintenance decisions may depart from normative benchmarks that are tested in a dynamic computer-pet ownership simulation. Actual maintenance behavior is characterized by a number of biases that are consistent with theoretical predictions, including a seemingly contradictory tendency to under-maintain and prematurely replace goods of superior value when they were acquired, yet be overly reluctant to part with and over-maintain inferior goods. A discussion of the implications of the work for understanding real-world biases in product care and maintenance behavior is offered.

    Description: Under second review.

  • Robert Meyer and Shengui Zhao (Under Review), The Psychology of Intuitive Forecasts of New Product Utility.

    Abstract: When faced with the decision to adopt a product or service innovation consumers often need to forecast the long-run utility it will provide relative to incumbent goods. In this paper we review recent psychological research on the ability of people to forecast their own future preferences and discuss its implications for new product adoption decisions. We identify and review evidence for four distinct ways in which new product valuations may depart from those that would be prescribed by normative economic theory: projection biases, telescoping, emotional myopia, and loss framing. One of the implications of these biases is a predicted tendency for consumers to systematically overvalue and overbuy technology—at least under some conditions. We conclude with a discussion of the opportunities—and risks—these biases pose for managers seeking new ways to encourage consumer adoption of novel products and services.

  • Robert Meyer, Jin Han, Shengui Zhao (Under Review), A Tale of Two Judgments: Biases in Prior Valuations and Subsequent Utilization of Novel Technological Product Attributes.

    Abstract: We explore the degree to which consumers’ willingness-to-pay for next-generation products is rationally consistent with levels of utilization of novel features displayed after adoption. Using data from an experiment that requires subjects to buy and then utilize successive generations of an arcade game, we find support for an overvaluation bias: respondents place a high value on the ability to acquire an enhanced game form, but then make limited use of its novel controls after adoption. The effect is shown to be robust to incentives that provide a monetary reward to accurate valuations, priming of forecasts of downstream usage, and allowing subjects brief periods of trial ownership. The bias is explained in terms of myopic buying-and-utilization processes where a priori assessments of value do not anticipate future usage, and post-hoc decisions about utilization do not feel obligated to past valuations.

    Description: Under first review.

  • Robert Meyer (Under Review), The Psychology of Post-Purchase Product Maintenance Decisions: On the Care and Feeding of Virtual Pets.

  • Robert Meyer, R. Tyagi, J. Walsh (Under Review), An Experimental Analysis of Dynamic Pricing in Markets with Uncertain Demand.

    Description: Under first review.

  • Robert Meyer and J. Louviere (Working), Theory and Methods in the Behavioral Analysis of Migration Intentions: An Application to Post-Retirement, Housing Decision.

  • Robert Meyer and Howard Kunreuther (Under Review), An Experimental Analysis of Learning from Experience about Natural-Hazards.

    Abstract: The ability of individuals to learn optimal strategies for mitigation against infrequently-occurring natural hazards is explored. We report the results of two experiments in which participants are faced with the problem of learning the most cost-effective means of protecting against earthquake losses. The experiments utilize dynamic computer simulations in which participants are endowed with homes in virtual communities that are prone to periodic impacts by earthquakes. Participants can invest in measures that potentially mitigate losses from quakes but the effectiveness of these measures is initially uncertain. Over time participants have the opportunity to learn about true effectiveness both by direct experience with simulated earthquakes and by observing the decisions and experiences of other players. The data offer a pessimistic view of learning abilities; not only do participants persist in investing in mitigation instruments that, in fact, have no ability to lower damage, but they also fail to fully invest in instruments that are highly effective. Among the mechanisms that appeared to impede learning was a tendency to mimic local group norms in investment levels (which are suboptimal) and to prematurely terminate attempts to learn. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the work for both basic research on decision making in low-probability, high-consequence settings as well as prescriptive research in natural-hazard mitigation.


Past Courses


    Firms have access to detailed data of customers and past marketing actions. Such data may include in-store and online customer transactions, customer surveys as well as prices and advertising. Using real-world applications from various industries, the goal of the course is to familiarize students with several types of managerial problems as well as data sources and techniques, commonly employed in making effective marketing decisions. The course would involve formulating critical managerial problems, developing relevant hypotheses, analyzing data and, most importantly, drawing inferences and telling convincing narratives, with a view of yielding actionable results.


    Examination of the marketing aspects of products or services exclusive of their promotion, pricing or distribution. Focuses on decisions regarding product introduction, positioning, improvements, and deletion, and the tools available for making these decisions.


    This course addresses how to design and implement the best combination of marketing efforts to carry out a firm's strategy in its target markets. Specifically, this course seeks to develop the student's (1) understanding of how the firm can benefit by creating and delivering value to its customers, and stakeholders, and (2) skills in applying the analytical concepts and tools of marketing to such decisions as segmentation and targeting, branding, pricing, distribution, and promotion. The course uses lectures and case discussions, case write-ups, student presentations, and a comprehensive final examination to achieve these objectives.


    Building upon Marketing 611, the goal of this course is to develop skills in formulating and implementing marketing strategies for brands and businesses. The course will focus on issues such as the selection of which businesses and segments to compete in, how to allocate resources across businesses, segments, and elements of the marketing mix, as well as other significant strategic issues facing today's managers in a dynamic competitive environment. A central theme of the course is that the answer to these strategic problems varies over time depending on the stage of the product life cycle at which marketing decisions are being made. As such, the PLC serves as the central organizing vehicle of the course. We will explore such issues as how to design optimal strategies for the launch of new products and services that arise during the introductory phase, how to maximize the acceleration of revenue during the growth phase, how to sustain and extend profitability during the mature phase, and how to manage a business during the inevitable decline phase.


    Building upon Marketing 611, Marketing 613 is an intensive immersion course designed to develop skills in formulating and implementing marketing strategies for brands and businesses. The central activity will be participation in a realistic integrative product management simulation named SABRE. In SABRE, students will form management teams that oversee all critical aspects of modern product management: the design and marketing of new products, advertising budgeting and design, sales force sizing and allocation, and production planning. As in the real world, teams will compete for profitability, and the success that each team has in achieving this goal will be a major driver of the class assessment. The SABRE simulation is used to convey the two foci of learning in the course: the changing nature of strategic problems and their optimal solutions as industries progress through the product life cycle, and exposure to the latest analytic tools for solving these problems. Specifically, SABRE management teams will receive training in both how to make optimal use of marketing research information to reduce uncertainty in product design and positioning, as well as decision support models to guide resource allocation.


    This course provides a total immersion in the new product development process - from sourcing ideas and innovation, through new product sales forecasting. The focus is on collective learning, what works, what doesn't, and why. While the primary focus is the new product development process within a corporate structure, some coverage is given to key issues surrounding start-ups.


    This course views marketing as both a general management responsibility and an orientation of an organization that helps one to create, capture and sustain customer value. The focus is on the business unit and its network of channels, customer relationships, and alliances. Specifically, the course attempts to help develop knowledge and skills in the application of advanced marketing frameworks, concepts, and methods for making strategic choices at the business level.


    RETAIL ECOSYSTEM ACTION LEARNING PROJECTS: This course offers graduate students from Wharton and other Penn schools an opportunity to work on real-world projects for companies in the retail industry and in the wider retail ecosystem. It requires the exploration and analysis of actual business issues or opportunities identified by sponsoring/client companies, as well as the formulation of recommendations. It combines 1) academic principles, 2) application of prior business knowledge to the project at hand, and 3) a solutions-oriented mentality. In addition to supervised project work and regular updates to the corporate client/project sponsor, the course involves classroom meetings and discussions on topics pertaining to the projects. While this course focuses on "marketing" topics, projects might also incorporate topics from related disciplines such as operations, management of innovation & technology, data analytics, international management, design, and real estate. Indeed, the goal will be to constitute interdisciplinary teams from Wharton and other relevant Penn graduate schools. ADVANCED STUDY PROJECT (GENERAL): The principal objectives of this course are to provide opportunities for undertaking an in-depth study of a marketing problem and to develop the students' skills in evaluating research and designing marketing strategies for a variety of management situations. Selected projects can touch on any aspect of marketing as long as this entails the elements of problem structuring, data collection, data analysis, and report preparation. The course entails a considerable amount of independent work. (Strict library-type research is not appropriate) Class sessions are used to monitor progress on the project and provide suggestions for the research design and data analysis. The last portion of the course often includes an oral presentation by each group to the rest of the class and project sponsors. Along with marketing, the projects integrate other elements of management such as finance, production, research and development, and human resources.


    A student contemplating an independent study project must first find a faculty member who agrees to supervise and approve the student's written proposal as an independent study (MKTG 899). If a student wishes the proposed work to be used to meet the ASP requirement, he/she should then submit the approved proposal to the MBA adviser who will determine if it is an appropriate substitute. Such substitutions will only be approved prior to the beginning of the semester.


    This course provides an introduction to the fundamental methodological issues that arise in experimental and quasi-experimental research. Illustrative examples are drawn from the behavioral sciences with a focus on the behavior of consumers and managers. Topics that are covered include: the development of research ideas; data collection and reliable measurement procedures; threats to validity; control procedures and experimental designs; and data analysis. Emphasis is placed on attaining a working knowledge of the use of regression methods for non-experimental and quasi-experimental data and analysis of variance methods for experimental data. The primary deliverable for this course is a meta-analysis of a research problem of the students choosing that investigates the effects of research methods on empirical results.


    This course provides an introduction to the fundamental methodological issues that arise in experimental and quasi-experimental research. Illustrative examples are drawn from the behavioral sciences with a focus on the behavior of consumers and managers. Topics that are covered include: the development of research ideas; data collection and reliable measurement procedures; threats to validity; control procedures and experimental designs; and data analysis. Emphasis is placed on attaining a working knowledge of the use of regression methods for non-experimental and quasi-experimental data and analysis of variance methods for experimental data. The primary deliverable for this course is a meta-analysis of a research problem of the students choosing that investigates the effects of research methods on empirical results.


    Taught collectively by the faculty members from the Marketing Department, this course investigates advanced topics in marketing. It is organized in a way that allows students to 1) gain depth in important areas of research identified by faculty; 2) gain exposure to various faculty in marketing and their research values and styles; and 3) develop and advance their own research interests.



    Requires written permission of instructor and the department graduate adviser.


    This seminar takes place over two semesters and provides students with the skills to perform their own research under the guidance of a Wharton faculty member. At the conclusion of the fall semester, students will produce a thesis proposal including literature review, significance of the research, methodology, and exploratory data if relevant. Throughout the fall semester faculty guests from a range of disciplines will present on their research in class, highlighting aspects that are relevant to the work students are engaging in at that point. During the second semester, students will collect and analyze data and write up the results in close collaboration with their faculty mentor. At the end of the spring semester, each student will present their research in a video presentation. Throughout the course, students will work individually, in small groups, and under the mentorship of a Wharton faculty member. The goal is to becomes capable independent researchers who incorporate feedback and critical (self-) analysis to take their research to the next level.

Awards and Honors

  • Research Grants, 1992 Description

    Huntsman Center for Research on Technological Competition,
    1992 – 1994 (Total Funding: $15,000).

  • Principle investigator, 2002 Description

    SMU/Wharton Research Grants, 2002-4 (3 years).
    Funding: $33,000/year

  • 2001 John D.C. Little Award for best paper in an INFORMS Journal, 2000, 2000
  • 2001 Frank Bass Award for best article based on a doctoral dissertation, 2001
  • 1994 Frank Bass Award for best article based on a doctoral dissertation, 1999 Description

    Judged after five years

  • 1994 O’Dell Award for best article in Journal of Marketing Research, 1999 Description

    Judged after five years

  • Principle Investigator, 1989 Description

    “Experimental Analysis of Consumer Buying Dynamics,”
    National Science Foundation, 1989 (1 Year), Finding: $54,000

  • UCLA Chancellor’s Career Development Award, 1984
  • Eight UCLA Faculty Research Grants, 1982-1989, 1982
  • Associate Investigator (Principal Investigator: Dr. Irwin Levin), 1979 Description

    “Behavioral Processes Underlying Transportation Model Choice,” U.S.D.O.T, July to November, 1979

  • Associate Investigator (Principal Investigator: Dr. Gerard Rushton), 1979 Description

    “Elderly Migration,” Institute on Aging, August 1979 to present

  • Associate Investigator (Principal Investigators: Dr. L. Turner and Dr. J. Louviere), 1979 Description

    “Housing Decision by the Elderly,” Administration on Aging, 22 October 1979

  • Certificate in Urban Transportation Planning, 1979 Description

    Program administered by USDOT/UMTA)

  • USDOT/UMTA Fellowship 1978, 1978

In the News

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Latest Research

Robert Meyer, Shengui Zhao, Jin Han (Working), The Enhancement Bias in Consumer Decisions to Adopt and Utilize Product Innovations.
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In the News

The 737 Max Crash: What’s the Fallout for Boeing?

Last week’s fatal crash of a Boeing 737 Max aircraft -- the second in five months -- is impacting the company on multiple fronts. How quickly can it recover?

Knowledge @ Wharton - 2019/03/19
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Awards and Honors

Research Grants 2006
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