Consumer confidence: When our choices makes the most sense

May 18, 2010

Why do we feel confident about some choices while we question others? According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, it's a combination of how easy the choice seems and whether we're thinking concretely or abstractly.

"We found that subjective feelings of ease experienced during (e.g., choosing a digital camera, art, movie, or ) can increase or decrease consumers' confidence in their choice and the amount of donation depending on whether consumers are thinking, respectively, concretely or abstractly," write authors Claire I. Tsai (University of Toronto and Ann L. McGill (University of Chicago).

The researchers found that abstract thinking and concrete thinking determine the theory consumers adopt to interpret their subjective experiences. "Consider, for example, the feeling of difficulty one experiences when studying for an exam," the authors write. "The subjective experience of difficulty can lead to a feeling of high confidence, providing this difficulty is interpreted as effort put forth to ensure a good grade. On the other hand, the same subjective experience can lead to feeling very low confidence about the grade, if processing difficulty is interpreted as inability to process the study materials."

The authors conducted three experiments using a sample of 750 participants. They tested a variety of product categories: , art, movies, and charitable giving. They manipulated ease of processing by varying the clarity of print advertisements or the number of thoughts participants were asked to generate to explain their choices. In addition, they manipulated abstract and concrete thinking by asking participants to consider issues that weren't related to the product categories. "Specifically, we induced abstract thinking (or concrete thinking) by asking participants to focus on the why (or how) aspects of an event," the authors write.

"As predicted, we found that when consumers are thinking more concretely and focusing on details of product information, ease of processing—making a choice based on a clear ad or a few reasons—increases confidence," the authors write. "Difficulty of processing—making a choice based on a blurry ad or having to generate many reasons to explain one's choice—decreases ."

Explore further: Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

More information: Claire I. Tsai and Ann L. McGill. "The Effects of Fluency and Construal Level on Confidence Judgments." Journal of Consumer Research: December 2010.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

13 hours ago

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...