Study: Consumers distort information to support their preferences

Feb 14, 2006

A new report co-authored by Margaret Meloy, assistant professor of marketing at Penn State's Smeal College of Business, finds that the order in which people receive information about two similar products has a strong influence on their evaluation of those products.

According to the report, which will appear in the March 2006 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, consumers are very likely to positively support a product brand that first appears to show superiority in its category. Consumers may even choose an inferior product if the earliest information they receive about it is positive.

The research shows how information order can be used to create a tentative preference for one product over another. Once a leading option emerges, consumers build support for it by biasing their interpretation of new information to favor it. The consequence of this process is that it is possible to dictate which brand consumers ultimately select by merely changing the order of the information.

The researchers examined what they termed leader-driven primacy in three separate studies, using backpacks, winter coats, and restaurants as test products. In one study, two options were intentionally made to be equivalent overall. In another, one choice was markedly superior. In both of these studies, the researchers were able to influence which brand was favored by changing the order in which the information was presented.

This is the first paper to show that information order can be used to influence choice in such a way.

In the third study, the researchers explored a method to reduce this effect. They had subjects focus more on the whole brand than on the individual features of each brand. They found that these particular subjects were more objective and influenced less by early positive information about a particular brand.

Joining Meloy as co-authors on the study, Leader-Driven Primacy: Using Attribute Order to Affect Consumer Choice, are Kurt A. Carlson of Duke University and J. Edward Russo of Cornell University.

Source: Penn State University

Explore further: Super Bowl athletes are scientists at work

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Google wireless service could disrupt carriers

Jan 27, 2015

Internet users from San Jose to Kansas City have been clamoring for Google to lay down its long-awaited fiber-optic network to compete with Comcast and AT&T in speeding up Web and television access. Now the Silicon Valley ...

IBM study details the future of automotive industry

Jan 16, 2015

During the Automotive News World Congress this week, IBM revealed results of its new Automotive 2025 Global Study, outlining an industry ripe for disruptive changes that are breaking down borders of the automotive ecosystem. ...

At CES, 'Internet of Things' showcases the connected life

Jan 07, 2015

Everywhere you look at CES, it seems there's nothing that can't be connected to the Internet: Tennis rackets, coffee makers, watches, jewelry, baby clothing, pet accessories, oven ranges and infinitely more appliances and ...

Recommended for you

Super Bowl athletes are scientists at work

Jan 30, 2015

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman gets called a lot of things. He calls himself the greatest cornerback in the NFL (and Seattle fans tend to agree). Sportswriters and some other players call him ...

Reintegrating extremist into society

Jan 30, 2015

The UK government's increasingly punitive response to those involved in terrorism risks undermining efforts to successfully reintegrate former extremists, according to research by the University of St Andrews.

Strategies to enhance intelligence analysis

Jan 30, 2015

If you've ever watched a thriller about undercover agents, you probably have the impression that intelligence officers are models of objectivity, pragmatism and sharp, unbiased thinking. However, in reality ...

User comments : 0

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.