Do Consumer Cues Bring Out the Worst in Us?




Stijn van Osselaer + Lunch

Do Consumer Cues Bring Out the Worst in Us?

In popular culture, advertising and shopping environments are often claimed to make us want the promoted products. This research goes one step further, looking at more general effects beyond the specific promoted products. In a series of experiments, we show that consumer cues such as advertisements and shopping environments make us greedy and rude, make us want to steal, make us feel it is normal to be paid more than others for the same work, and even impact men’s thoughts about deserving sex after paying for a date. We find that the effects are mediated by a generalized feeling of entitlement. 



Dipankar Chakravarti

A Moderating Smile:  Seller Concession Patterns and Buyer Price Expectations

Sellers often use vary the size and sequence of price concessions during the course of a negotiation in an effort to influence buyers' price expectations.  Two typical patterns (colloquially termed "hard/soft" or "soft/hard" tactics) create a concave (a small concession followed by a large one) or a convex (a large concession followed by a small one) price path.  As a consequence, buyers may develop different price expectations that may influence their counteroffers as well as the course and outcomes of the negotiation.

With face-to-face negotiations, "reads" of the seller's facial expressions may influence buyer interpretations of such negotiation tactics and moderate the relationship between the seller's concession pattern and the buyer's price expectations.  We report three experiments in this paper using the common scenario of a negotiation surrounding the  purchase of an used car.  We examine how the relationship between seller concession pattern and buyer price expectations is moderated when the seller offers are accompanied by (a) a static smiling face relative to a static impassive face and a control "no-face" condition; (b) changes in the seller's facial expression - from impassive to smile and smile to impassive, respectively. 

Our results show that the seller's facial expression indeed does moderate the relationship between seller concession patterns and buyers price expectations. A convex (relative to a concave) concession pattern ordinarily leads to higher price expectations. However, the difference is attenuated (selectively raising price expectations for the concave pattern) by the mere presence of a face with even a static expression, especially a smile.  Changes in the seller's facial expression also have a strong impact on the buyer's price expectations. The effects are contingent on the buyer's level of quality uncertainty and show that more uncertain buyers use facial expressions as a diagnostic cue when interpreting seller concession patterns. 

Follow up analyses show that our findings are consistent with the "inverse affect hypothesis" (Thompson et al. 1995) where a buyer interprets the seller's facial display of positive affect as signaling advantageous (favorable) outcomes.   Notably, the buyer's stated level of trust in the seller plays no mediating role in the setting price expectations, although the effects are mediated by the buyers' judgment of the car's quality.


13.30-14.00 Coffee Break

Bram van den Bergh

Avoiding Losses and Achieving Gains in Hard and Prosperous Times

This research suggests that business cycle fluctuations trigger distinct motivational orientations that selectively affect economic sentiments, decisions and purchases. We show that economic downturns induce avoidance motivation and affect negative economic sentiment, but leave approach motivation or positive economic sentiment unaffected. In contrast, prosperous times induce approach motivation and affect positive economic sentiment, while not altering avoidance motivation or negative economic sentiment. As a consequence, economic downturns induce risk aversion for negative outcomes, but not for positive outcomes, whereas prosperous times instigate risk seeking for positive outcomes, but not for negative outcomes. A time-series study mirrors the findings of the experimental studies: The consumption of products avoiding negative outcomes increases during downturns, but not during prosperous times. In contrast, the consumption of products associated with achieving positive outcomes increases in prosperous times, but is unaffected by economic downturns.



Hans Baumgartner

Misresponse to Reversed and Negated Items in Surveys: A Review

The authors report a comprehensive review of the literature on reversed and negated items and offer recommendations about their use in questionnaires.  Item reversal is clearly distinguished from item negation, and an extended conceptualization and integrative treatment of both concepts are provided.  Furthermore, a number of psychological mechanisms that may lead to misresponse are described and integrated in an overall explanatory framework.  Various consequences of misresponse to reversed and negated items are briefly discussed as well.  Finally, approaches are recommended on how to prevent each misresponse mechanism ex ante during questionnaire construction.  The theoretical discussion is illustrated with data on 1330 items from measurement scales that have appeared in the Journal of Consumer Research and the Journal of Marketing Research.


15.30-16.00 Coffee Break

Steven Sweldens

Evaluative Conditioning 3.0: Evidence for Unaware Associative Evaluative Learning

In a recent contribution Sweldens, van Osselaer, and Janiszewski (2010) claimed that evaluative conditioning –the repeated pairing of brands with positive affective stimuli– can infuse brands directly with positive feelings, that is without the need to establish memory associations between the brand and positive stimuli. Other recent work featuring methodological advances in contingency awareness measures has however cast serious doubt on the assertion that evaluative conditioning can establish attitudinal effects when people are not aware of the pairings of brands with affective stimuli (Stahl, Unkelbach, & Corneille, 2009). In this presentation, I outline the methodological pitfalls inherent in this long-standing research question, and argue why the recent ‘advances’ have, in fact, exacerbated the methodological problems. I will then propose a new methodology based on the process dissociation procedure, and present the results of five experiments which provide evidence that evaluative conditioning can indeed influence brand attitudes independent of people’s conscious awareness of the contingencies.

Contact information:
Bart de Langhe