Consumers: Why do you like what I like, but I don't like what you like?

Apr 19, 2010

When we like a product, do we think others will like it, too? And when we believe others like a product, do we like it as well? A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research says these two questions are fundamentally different.

"The answer to the first question (Will others like it?) requires people to start with their own product preferences, which we call projection," write authors Caglar Irmak (University of South Carolina), Beth Vallen (Loyola University), and Sankar Sen (Baruch College). The second question (If others like it, do I?) makes people think first about others' preferences and then decide whether they like the product or not, which is called "introjection."

"We show that different psychological processes underlie projection and introjection," the authors write. "In particular, we demonstrate that providing our own opinion about a product before thinking about others' preferences, as in projection, affirms one's unique concept." This, in turn, weakens uniqueness motivations and leads to predict others will like what they themselves like.

On the other hand, thinking about others' preferences before our own (introjection) threatens our sense of uniqueness. "As a result, those who are in high need for uniqueness don't like what other people like," the authors explain.

In their studies, the authors showed participants advertisements for one of two novel technology products that had not yet been introduced to the market. One group of participants, assigned to the projection condition, stated their own preferences for the product and then estimated those of others. Another group, which was assigned the introjection condition, estimated the preferences of others and then reported their own preferences. Then they measured the participants' need for uniqueness.

"If we learn others' preferences before forming our own, we tend to preserve our uniqueness by altering our product preferences accordingly," the authors write. "If, however, we already have an opinion about a product, we are okay with others following us."

Explore further: Can science eliminate extreme poverty?

More information: Caglar Irmak, Beth Vallen, and Sankar Sen. "You Like What I Like but I Don't Like What You Like: Uniqueness Motivations and Product Preferences." Journal of Consumer Research: October 2010.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Advil or Excedrin? New model helps predict product choices

May 30, 2008

In today's world, consumers face a dizzying array of product choices. Most often, there's not just one ideal product; it depends on the individual and the context. A beer might be perfect for relaxing after work; a sports ...

Recommended for you

Can science eliminate extreme poverty?

9 hours ago

Science has often come to the rescue when it comes to the world's big problems, be it the Green Revolution that helped avoid mass starvation or the small pox vaccine that eradicated the disease. There is ...

Japan stem cell body splashes cash on luxury furniture

Apr 14, 2014

A publicly-funded research institute in Japan, already embattled after accusing one of its own stem cell scientists of faking data, has spent tens of thousands of dollars on designer Italian furniture, reportedly to use up ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

Researchers see hospitalization records as additional tool

Comparing hospitalization records with data reported to local boards of health presents a more accurate way to monitor how well communities track disease outbreaks, according to a paper published April 16 in the journal PLOS ON ...

Ebola virus in Africa outbreak is a new strain

The Ebola virus that has killed scores of people in Guinea this year is a new strain—evidence that the disease did not spread there from outbreaks in some other African nations, scientists report.