Consumer beware: Rejecting an option may make you more likely to choose it later

Feb 14, 2011

People make purchasing decisions by choosing between alternatives or by rejecting certain options. But a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research finds that focusing on ruling out an option can lead consumers to reverse their preferences.

"Consider the to purchase an iPhone or a ," write authors Juliano Laran (University of Miami) and Keith Wilcox (Babson College). "If a consumer prefers a business phone, a choice task would lead her to purchase a Blackberry. In this research we demonstrate that rejecting alternatives makes more likely to select preference-inconsistent options. Thus, if a consumer prefers a business phone, a rejection task would lead her to purchase an iPhone."

Why does this happen? When consumers reject alternatives, they need to decide which alternative they do not want, so they focus on options that are less preferred in order to assess if they should reject those options. This shift of focus makes them more likely to notice appealing features.

"Such situations are very common in marketing. Consumers may want a nice apartment but still want to save money; they may want a fast car but still care about safety; they may want , but still desire tasty food," the authors write. Along that line, even though a consumer may prefer a business phone, she is more likely to purchase the iPhone when she "rejects" it because the process of rejecting increases her focus on the appealing nonbusiness features of the .

In one study, participants who said they would prefer an apartment closer to nightlife to a less-expensive one further from nightlife were told to select an apartment to "reject." "Simply instructing them to decide which one they would like to 'reject' makes them more likely to choose the less-expensive apartment," the authors write. And when they were primed to prefer the less-expensive apartment, participants selected the apartment closer to nightlife.

"Regardless of whether participants prefer the apartment closer to nightlife or the less-expensive apartment when they choose, having them reject reverses preference," the authors explain.

Explore further: Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

More information: Juliano Laran and Keith Wilcox. "Choice, Rejection, and Elaboration on Preference-Inconsistent Alternatives." Journal of Consumer Research: August 2011 (published online February 1, 2011). Further information: ejcr.org

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Clippers and coiners in 16th-century England

In 2017 a new £1 coin will appear in our pockets with a design extremely difficult to forge. In the mid-16th century, Elizabeth I's government came up with a series of measures to deter "divers evil persons" ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.