The University of Chicago Booth School of Business

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Kaitlin Woolley

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Kaitlin Woolley

PhD in Behavioral Science

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business


Research Interests: Goals and Motivation, Consumer Behavior, Incentives, Decision Making

Kaitlin studies motivation using decision-making paradigms. Her primary focus is on intrinsic motivation and self-control in the context of consumer behavior. In her dissertation, she focuses on understanding what consumers value when pursuing their goals and identifies strategies for motivating consumers’ goal persistence. In her other research projects, she studies consumer choice in the context of intuitive-deliberative conflicts as well as the role of food consumption in social connection.

Journal Publications

Woolley, Kaitlin and Ayelet Fishbach, "A Recipe for Friendship: Similar Food Consumption Promotes Trust and Cooperation," Journal of Consumer Psychology, forthcoming. [View PDF]

This research examines the consequences of incidental food consumption for trust and cooperation. We find that strangers who are assigned to eat similar (vs. dissimilar) foods are more trusting of each other in a trust game (Study 1). Food consumption further influences conflict resolution, with strangers who are assigned to eat similar foods cooperating more in a labor negotiation, and therefore earning more money (Study 2). The role of incidental food similarity on increased trust extends to the product domain. Consumers are more trusting of information about non-food products (e.g., a software product) when the advertiser in the product testimonial eats similar food to them (Study 3). Lastly, we find evidence that food serves as a particularly strong cue of trust compared with other incidental similarity. People perceive that pairs eating similar foods, but not pairs wearing similar colored shirts, are more trusting of one another (Study 4). We discuss theoretical and practical implications of this work for improving interactions between strangers, and for marketing products.

Woolley, Kaitlin and Ayelet Fishbach (2016), "For the Fun of It: Harnessing Immediate Rewards to Increase Persistence in Long-Term Goals," Journal of Consumer Research, 42 (6), 952-66. [View PDF]

Pursuing personal goals for delayed rewards (e.g., exercising to improve health) often provides consumers with immediate rewards (e.g., a fun workout) in addition to the delayed rewards they receive. With regard to health and academic goals, we find that attending to the immediate rewards of health and academic activities increases persistence in these activities to a greater extent than attending to delayed rewards, even though these activities are selected for the delayed rewards they provide. Specifically, bringing immediate rewards into activity choice-for example, having participants choose the most enjoyable rather than the most useful exercise or the tastier rather than healthier bag of carrots-increases persistence and consumption. Similarly, adding external immediate rewards to activity pursuit-for example, playing music in a high school classroom-increases persistence. Across these studies, immediate rewards are stronger predictors of activity persistence than delayed rewards. This research suggests that marketers and consumers can harness immediate rewards to increase persistence in long-term goals.

Woolley, Kaitlin and Ayelet Fishbach (2015), "The Experience Matters More Than You Think: People Value Intrinsic Incentives More Inside Than Outside an Activity," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 109 (6), 968-82. [View PDF]

We document a shift in the value assigned to intrinsic incentives: people value these incentives more inside an activity than outside the activity (i.e., during vs. before or after pursuit). For example, people care more about the level of interest of their present work task than of past or future work tasks. We document this shift across a variety of activities (exercising, visiting a museum, and lab tasks) and using various measures, including rated importance of intrinsic incentives inside and outside pursuit, actual and planned persistence on activities that offer these incentives, and regret when choosers outside pursuit forgo intrinsic incentives that pursuers later seek. This shift in valuation occurs because intrinsic incentives improve the experience during action pursuit, and therefore, this shift is unique to intrinsic incentives. Extrinsic incentives, by contrast, are valued similarly inside and outside pursuit.

Fishbach, Ayelet and Kaitlin Woolley (2015), "Avoiding Ethical Temptations," Current Opinion in Psychology, 6, 36-40. [View PDF]

This article offers a self-control framework for understanding when people resist ethical temptations. We propose that two factors contribute to a person's ability to overcome the temptation to engage in unethical behavior: first, the identification of an ethical dilemma and second, the exercise of self-control to overcome temptation. We review factors involved in identifying ethical dilemmas - broad decision frame (bracket), psychological connectedness, and high self-diagnosticity - and factors that facilitate responding with self-control - advanced warning of temptation and the employment of self-control strategies. We discuss implications for increasing ethical decisions.


Woolley, Kaitlin and Ayelet Fishbach (2016), “When Intrinsic Motivation and Immediate Rewards Overlap,” in The Motivation-Cognition Interface; From the Lab to the Real World, ed. Catalina Kopetz and Ayelet Fishbach, Psychology Press, Taylor & Francis. [View PDF]

Kruglanski et al. (2002) proposed that an activity (i.e., a means) is intrinsically motivated when it coincides with its goal (i.e., the reward for pursuing it). Based on this observation, we provide a framework for understanding intrinsic motivation using insights from research on immediate and delayed rewards. We explore the parallels between intrinsic (vs. extrinsic) motivation and immediate (vs. delayed) rewards and present support for three propositions. First, intrinsic (but not extrinsic) rewards are valued more in the present than with a temporal delay. For example, people value learning new things more in their present job than in previous and future jobs. Second, immediate rewards render the experience of an activity as more intrinsic. For example, receiving an immediate (vs. delayed) bonus payment increases the motivation to engage in a task during a free choice phase. Third, by increasing intrinsic motivation, immediate rewards increase persistence. For example, focusing on the positive taste of healthy food increases consumption compared with focusing on the delayed health benefits.

Fishbach, Ayelet and Kaitlin Woolley (2016), "Combatting Temptation to Promote Health and Well-Being," in The Handbook of Self-Control in Health and Well-Being, ed. de Ridder, Denise T. D., Marieke A. Adriaanse, and Kentaro Fujita, London: Routledge Press. [View PDF]

This chapter explores when pursuing good health and well-being requires combatting temptation, and the self-control process that enables success. We start by highlighting situations in which people consider the immediate rewards received during goal pursuit and are thereby able to adhere to their health goals without using self-control. We then move to situations in which people rely on self-control. We analyze the self-control response as a two-step process that requires first the identification and then the resolution of a self-control conflict. We discuss strategies that help facilitate conflict identification and the resolution of the self-control conflict.