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

April 20, 2010, University of Chicago

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: Slippery slope: 1 tiny truffle can trigger desire for more treats

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

Related Stories

Learning from our mistakes: Consumers won't be deceived twice

February 23, 2009

Sometimes a high price tag, a label, or an ingredient can lead us to believe that we're purchasing a high-quality item. But what happens if the attribute that attracted us to the product is false or meaningless? A new study ...

Recommended for you

Archaeologists discover Cornish barrow site

April 20, 2018

An Archaeologist at The Australian National University (ANU) has discovered a prehistoric Bronze-Age barrow, or burial mound, on a hill in Cornwall and is about to start excavating the untouched site which overlooks the English ...

New ancestor of modern sea turtles found in Alabama

April 18, 2018

A sea turtle discovered in Alabama is a new species from the Late Cretaceous epoch, according to a study published April 18, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Drew Gentry from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, ...

New study improves 'crowd wisdom' estimates

April 18, 2018

In 1907, a statistician named Francis Galton recorded the entries from a weight-judging competition as people guessed the weight of an ox. Galton analyzed hundreds of estimates and found that while individual guesses varied ...

0 comments

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.