Illusion of control: Why sports fans prefer 'lucky' products

May 14, 2013

Consumers engage in superstitious behavior when they want to achieve something but don't have the power to make it happen, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

"Preference for lucky products (those associated with positive outcomes) increases when a strong desire for control is combined with lower perceived ability to exert control. who make superstitious choices believe they will be effective in helping them achieve the desired outcome," write authors Eric J. Hamerman (Tulane University) and Gita V. Johar (Columbia University).

are well known for their superstitious behavior. A current Bud Light commercial with the tag line of "it's only weird if it doesn't work" shows the odd ways in which NFL fans root for their teams. Robert De Niro's character in Silver Linings Playbook engages in deeply superstitious behavior that will supposedly help the Philadelphia Eagles win.

In one study, right-handed consumers played rock-paper-scissors. Those who won more often using their left (vs. right) hand preferred to continue playing with their left hand. This was more likely to occur among consumers with a stronger desire for control, and those who preferred to play left-handed after associating this hand with victory tended to believe they were more likely to win in the future.

Consumers can become conditioned to associate certain products with success or failure. For example, a sports fan who was drinking a Dr. Pepper while watching his favorite team win a game might later drink Dr. Pepper—even if he would actually prefer a Coke—while watching future games in the hope that he's giving his team an extra edge.

"Conditioned superstitions are formed when consumers associate with success or failure. Depending on how much they wish to control their environment—and their perception of whether they can do so—consumers who make these associations may be more likely to act on them, thereby creating an illusion of control over future outcomes," the authors conclude.

Explore further: Local education politics 'far from dead'

More information: Eric J. Hamerman and Gita V. Johar. "Conditioned Superstition: Desire for Control and Consumer Brand Preferences." Journal of Consumer Research: October 2013.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Is the iPad Creative? It depends on who's buying it

Mar 05, 2013

Encouraging consumers to feel ownership of products they haven't yet purchased can backfire because consumers tend to see themselves in the products they own, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Value or attention: Why do consumers prefer familiar products?

Dec 11, 2012

Consumers are more likely to purchase a product if they have previously focused their attention on it but are less likely to purchase a product they have previously ignored, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Re ...

Recommended for you

Local education politics 'far from dead'

12 hours ago

Teach for America, known for recruiting teachers, is also setting its sights on capturing school board seats across the nation. Surprisingly, however, political candidates from the program aren't just pushing ...

First grade reading suffers in segregated schools

12 hours ago

A groundbreaking study from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) has found that African-American students in first grade experience smaller gains in reading when they attend segregated schools—but the ...

Why aren't consumers buying remanufactured products?

15 hours ago

Firms looking to increase market share of remanufactured consumer products will have to overcome a big barrier to do so, according to a recent study from the Penn State Smeal College of Business. Findings from faculty members ...

Expecting to teach enhances learning, recall

15 hours ago

People learn better and recall more when given the impression that they will soon have to teach newly acquired material to someone else, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

Understanding the economics of human trafficking

Jul 28, 2014

Although Europe is one of the strictest regions in the world when it comes to guaranteeing the respect of human rights, the number of people trafficked to or within the EU still amounts to several hundred ...

User comments : 0