Selected Research

WHEN YOU THINK MORE LEADS TO LESS: THE ERRONEOUS BELIEF THAT ADDING UNATTRACTIVE ITEMS WILL REDUCE CONSUMPTION (JOB MARKET PAPER)

Heeyoung Yoon and Tom Meyvis, Invited R&R at Journal of Consumer Research

When firms strategically add more options to an assortment to satisfy heterogeneous consumer preferences, consumers often encounter items in firms’ offerings that they personally find unappealing. In this research, we find that, although merely adding unattractive items to an assortment does not affect actual consumption, people erroneously believe that this addition will negatively affect their experience, reducing both their enjoyment and the amount they will consume. We propose that consumers’ expectation derives from two mechanisms. First, although actual consumption decisions tend to focus on the individual items being consumed, consumer predictions tend to be made more holistically, taking the entire assortment into account, including the unattractive options. Second, consumers believe that considering the unattractive items during consumption will reduce how much they will enjoy the attractive items (i.e., they intuit hedonic assimilation). Therefore, consumers expect they will enjoy the extended assortment less, will consume fewer items from it, are willing to pay less for it, and are more likely to trade it. We find that the negative effect of adding unattractive items also applies to store assortments and persists when the unattractive items are physically separated. However, the effect can be eliminated when predictions are made for individual items or when consumers are not allowed to consume the unattractive items, confirming the roles of, respectively, holistic processing and imagined hedonic assimilation.

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

Heeyoung Yoon and Tom Meyvis, Invited R&R at Journal of Consumer Research

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).

SPEAKING ILL OF OTHERS: WHEN GOSSIP FOSTERS SOCIAL CONNECTION
Heeyoung Yoon, Alixandra Barasch, and Jonathan Berman, Manuscript in preparation for submission to Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Gossip is ubiquitous—we have all heard it and have all done it. Past research has mostly shown that this behavior leads to negative perceptions of the gossiper, even though the gossip itself serves a functional role in society by transmitting reputational information and conveying social norms. However, relatively little work has examined whether gossip can also bring interpersonal benefits for the gossiper. Across five studies, we show that sharing non-obvious negative information about a third party makes the speaker appear ill-mannered but, at the same time, likable and trustworthy compared to when they share obvious positive information. Specifically, the recipient likes and trusts a gossiper because they perceive the speaker to be more discerning when they discuss a non-obvious negative trait about another person compared to those who politely speak about an obvious positive trait. Accordingly, gossipers cannot reap these interpersonal benefits when the discussed negative trait is obvious and when the gossip conflicts with the recipient’s perception of the target because the gossiper is no longer considered discerning. In addition, the interpersonal benefits can be conferred to the gossiper only when the information is shared with the recipient exclusively, but not when it is shared with another person or with a group. Together, our findings highlight the potential interpersonal benefits that gossip can provide to the gossiper, and we demonstrate that a gossiper can reap these benefits only when they reveal their observant judgment and when it was shared discriminately with the recipient.