Do consumers always approach pleasure and avoid pain? New study suggests an alternative

Dec 14, 2009

Whether it's doing sit-ups or eating steamed veggies instead of fries, it's often difficult to get ourselves to do something we know is beneficial. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research says we can trick ourselves into more favorable evaluations of certain products and behaviors.

"Our natural inclination is to avoid -- or try to avoid -- anything immediately aversive even though it may be beneficial for us in the long term," write authors Aparna A. Labroo (University of Chicago) and Jesper Nielsen (University of Arizona). "But to what extent might our natural avoidance of such activities and outcomes be reinforcing our dislike of things that are good for us but difficult to stomach?"

Approaching pleasure and avoiding pain are fundamental human behaviors, but the authors argue that people also subconsciously reverse this relationship: "We tend to infer that something is good based on the bodily sensation of approaching it or bad based on the sensation of avoiding it."

The authors note that psychologists often attempt to cure phobic patients by asking them to mentally simulate approaching the objects they fear. Across three studies the authors demonstrated that it is possible to use this approach to reduce aversion to certain items.

In one study, for example, the researchers offered respondents a can of curried grasshopper (not a terribly popular product among the participants).One group of people was asked to simply evaluate it. A second group was asked to mentally simulate physical avoidance of the product, and a third set was asked to simulate physical approach toward the can. "What was surprising was that merely simulating physical approach resulted in a more favorable evaluation of the product," the authors write.

"One way for us to overcome aversions is to trick our minds," the authors write. "These results suggest our aversions are derived in part from our bodily sensations, and the influence of these sensations may be more far reaching than one might have presumed."

More information: Aparna A. Labroo and Jesper Nielsen. "Half the Thrill Is in the Chase: Twisted Inferences from Embodied Cognitions." : June 2010.

Source: University of Chicago (news : web)

Explore further: World population likely to peak by 2070

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Overdoing it? Simple techniques can help avoid overindulgence

Feb 23, 2009

Some people overindulge on junk foods or needless shopping sprees when they feel depressed. Others lose control the minute they feel happy. Is there a way to avoid such extreme actions? A new study in the Journal of Consumer Re ...

Remember that time? New study demystifies consumer memory

Jan 26, 2009

If a vacation starts out bad and gets better, you'll have a more positive memory than if it starts out good and gets worse—if you're asked about it right afterward, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Re ...

Put on a happy face: It helps you see the big picture

Nov 17, 2008

That photo of your smiling kids on the refrigerator door might do more than just make you feel good; you might make healthier food choices after looking at it. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that pos ...

Recommended for you

World population likely to peak by 2070

Oct 23, 2014

World population will likely peak at around 9.4 billion around 2070 and then decline to around 9 billion by 2100, according to new population projections from IIASA researchers, published in a new book, World Population and ...

Bullying in schools is still prevalent, national report says

Oct 23, 2014

Despite a dramatic increase in public awareness and anti-bullying legislation nationwide, the prevalence of bullying is still one of the most pressing issues facing our nation's youth, according to a report by researchers ...

Study examines effects of credentialing, personalization

Oct 23, 2014

Chris Gamrat, a doctoral student in learning, design and technology, recently had his study—completed alongside Heather Zimmerman, associate professor of education; Jaclyn Dudek, a doctoral student studying learning, design ...

User comments : 0