What's not to like? Why fondness makes us poor judges, but dislike is spot-on

Apr 21, 2008

How good are we at guessing other people’s likes and dislikes? Ever bring a favorite dish to a potluck – only to watch it go uneaten? Or receive an unwelcome shock when a cherished product is discontinued for lack of sales? People have the tendency to assume the whole world likes what we like, reveals new research from the June 2008 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research. However, we don’t generalize the same way when it comes to things we hate.

“The degree of false consensus depends on whether a person likes or dislikes an item,” explain Andrew D. Gershoff (University of Michigan), Ashesh Mukherjee (McGill University), and Anirban Mukhopadhyay (University of Michigan).

Participants in one study were asked to choose a movie they like. They were then asked to guess what percentage of their peers liked the movie as well. On average, people estimated that 51.2 percent of other people also liked the movie, a significant overestimate. They also estimated that only 18.2 percent of people, on average, disliked it – a reflection of the belief that more people agree with us than disagree.

In contrast, when asked to choose a movie they dislike and make the same estimate, participants were less self-centered: they thought people would agree and disagree with their opinion in roughly the same numbers.

As the researchers explain, “This finding arises from a deeper truth about the human mind, namely that things we like are seen to contain primarily good characteristics, while things we dislike are seen to contain a mix of bad, neutral, or good characteristics.”

We might even like everything about an item – except for one unforgivable, deal-breaking trait.

“This difference leads us to make more exaggerated predictions that people like the same things we do, compared to predictions that people will dislike the same things that we dislike,” the researchers add.

Another study of ice cream sundaes found that those who liked a certain flavor combination – say, mint ice cream with walnuts and hot fudge – overestimated that people would share their fondness for the sundae by 9.9 percent. Those who disliked it only overestimated that people would share their repulsion by 0.8 percent.

They conclude: “Our research indicates that decision-makers in such situations need to be highly sensitive to the danger of over-projecting their own likes, more so than their own dislikes.”

Citation: Andrew D. Gershoff, Ashesh Mukherjee, and Anirban Mukhopadhyay, “What’s Not to Like" Preference Asymmetry in the False Consensus Effect.” Journal of Consumer Research: June 2008.

Source: University of Chicago

Explore further: Will rapprochement mean new research collaborations between Cuba and the U.S.?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Impoverished North Korea falls back on cyber weapons

12 hours ago

As one of the world's most impoverished powers, North Korea would struggle to match America's military or economic might, but appears to have settled on a relatively cheap method to torment its foe.

Five ways to make your email safer in case of a hack attack

12 hours ago

The Sony hack, the latest in a wave of company security breaches, exposed months of employee emails. Other hacks have given attackers access to sensitive information about a company and its customers, such as credit-card ...

Recommended for you

Study: Alcatraz inmates could have survived escape

Dec 17, 2014

The three prisoners who escaped from Alcatraz in one of the most famous and elaborate prison breaks in U.S. history could have survived and made it to land, scientists concluded in a recent study.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

AJW
1 / 5 (2) Apr 21, 2008
This is likely to be part of human domestication adaption that allows a human to tolerate large numbers of people when most are unknown to one's self.

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.