CONSUMING REGARDLESS OF PREFERENCE:
CONSUMERS OVERESTIMATE THE IMPACT OF LIKING ON CONSUMPTION

Given that the central objective of hedonic consumption is to derive enjoyment, it is reasonable to assume that how much people consume a hedonic product will primarily be driven by how much they like it. Yet, the current research finds that, although consumers indeed predict that they will consume more of options they like more, their actual consumption can be surprisingly insensitive to their preference. Across ten experiments, we find that consumers systematically overestimate the extent to which their consumption amount is determined by their preference. We propose that how much people actually consume is determined by a variety of factors, including transient motivational states (e.g., hunger or boredom), consumption opportunities, and habits. Yet, compared to these factors, people’s liking of the product tends to be more salient, better known, and perceived as a more normatively appropriate driver of consumption—leading consumers to focus overly on their preference when predicting their consumption. We further propose that this prediction error has important implications for consumer welfare, as it can lead to suboptimal inventory decisions (e.g., over-purchasing of favorite products) as well as ineffective self-control strategies (e.g., restricting oneself to mediocre options to reduce consumption).

 

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