Buyer beware: Consumers in conflict may become victims to unwanted influence

Apr 20, 2010

When products don't easily fit into our goals, we experience conflict. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, conflicted consumers are easily swayed by unwanted influences.

"Because there is competition between in the marketplace, consumption decisions typically present conflict between means to achieve a goal," write authors Jonathan Levav, Ran Kivetz (both Columbia University), and Cecile K. Cho (University of California, Riverside). "One product might have a lengthy warranty but a clunky feel, while another might feel sleeker but have a shorter warranty. The relative weight that the different product attributes receive depends on their compatibility with a consumer's goals."

The authors' research focused on the basic goals that underlie people's to act, in particular the class of goals called "regulatory goals," which help us ensure gains and avoid losses.

"Consider two products that differ on their warranty and stylishness. For a consumer who worries about incurring future losses, the conflict is relatively easily resolved in favor of the product that has a better ," the authors write. "But what happens when the conflict is less easy to resolve, such as when both attributes are consistent with one's goals?"

In such cases, become conflicted and are more likely to rely on the context of the decision to make their choice, instead of focusing on the value they might extract from the products themselves.

"Such situations of conflict lead to a pronounced tendency to accept a compromise alternative, to be swayed by irrelevant choice alternatives, and to defer the decision altogether," the authors write.

In cases where none of the product's attributes fulfill a consumer's goals, people "pick their poison" and choose an option that is strong on one attribute and weak on another, the authors conclude.

Explore further: What I learned from debating science with trolls

More information: Jonathan Levav, Ran Kivetz, and Cecile K. Cho. "Motivational Compatibility and Choice Conflict." Journal of Consumer Research: October 2010.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

What I learned from debating science with trolls

23 hours ago

I often like to discuss science online and I'm also rather partial to topics that promote lively discussion, such as climate change, crime statistics and (perhaps surprisingly) the big bang. This inevitably ...

Activists urge EU to scrap science advisor job

Aug 19, 2014

Nine major charities urged the European Commission on Tuesday to scrap a science advisor position it says puts too much power over sensitive policy into the hands of one person.

More to a skilled ear in music

Aug 15, 2014

The first pilot study in Australia to give musicians the skills and training to critically assess music by what they hear rather than what they see begins this month at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.The study aims to ...

User comments : 0