Faking it: Can ads create false memories about products?

May 9, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- People who read vivid print advertisements for fictitious products actually come to believe they've tried those products, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"Exposing consumers to imagery-evoking increases the likelihood that a consumer mistakenly believes he/she has experienced the advertised product, and subsequently produces attitudes that are as strong as attitudes based on genuine product experience," write authors Priyali Rajagopal (Southern Methodist University) and Nicole Montgomery (College of William and Mary).

In one study, the researchers showed participants different types of ads for a fictitious product: Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Fresh microwave popcorn. Other participants ate what they believed to be Orville Redenbacher's Gourmet Fresh microwave popcorn, even though it was another Redenbacher product. One week after the study, all the participants were asked to report their attitudes toward the product and how confident they were in their attitudes.

"Students who saw the low imagery ad that described the attributes of the popcorn were unlikely to report having tried the popcorn, and they exhibited less favorable and less confident attitudes toward the popcorn than the other students," the authors write.

People who had seen the high imagery ads were just as likely as participants who actually ate the popcorn to report that they had tried the product. They were also as confident in their memories of trying the product as participants who actually sampled it. "This suggests that viewing the vivid advertisement created a of eating the popcorn, despite the fact that trying the fictitious product would have been impossible," the authors write.

The authors found that decreasing brand familiarity and shortening the time between viewing the ad and reporting evaluations reduced the false memories in participants. For example, when the fictitious brand was Pop Joy's Gourmet Fresh instead of the more familiar Orville Redenbacher's, participants were less likely to report false memories of trying it.

"Consumers need to be vigilant while processing high-imagery advertisements because vivid ads can create false memories of product experience," the authors conclude.

Explore further: Virtual experiences can cause embellished, false memories

More information: www.aps.org/policy/reports/popa-reports/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&PageID=244407

Related Stories

Virtual experiences can cause embellished, false memories

December 18, 2006

The next time you're in the market for a new camera, it might be best to read about the product's capabilities in a brochure rather than taking it for a test-run in an interactive, computer-generated virtual world. New research ...

Consumers have mixed reactions to puffery in advertising

January 19, 2010

According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, consumers don't always react positively to persuasion tactics that have nothing to do with the product (what the authors refer to as "puffery").

Recommended for you

Ancient genome from Africa sequenced for the first time

October 8, 2015

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected ...

Rare braincase provides insight into dinosaur brain

October 8, 2015

Experts have described one of the most complete sauropod dinosaur braincases ever found in Europe. The find could help scientists uncover some of the mysteries of how dinosaur brains operated, including their intellectual ...

How much for that Nobel prize in the window?

October 3, 2015

No need to make peace in the Middle East, resolve one of science's great mysteries or pen a masterpiece: the easiest way to get yourself a Nobel prize may be to buy one.

The dark side of Nobel prizewinning research

October 4, 2015

Think of the Nobel prizes and you think of groundbreaking research bettering mankind, but the awards have also honoured some quite unhumanitarian inventions such as chemical weapons, DDT and lobotomies.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) May 09, 2011
Typical students...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.