Tag Archives: psychology

Less is better for flower?

Less is often better. Chris Hsee demonstrated in his experiment that an overfilled ice cream serving with 7 oz of ice cream was valued more than an underfilled serving with 8 oz of ice cream. However, participants indicated greater willingness to pay for an underfilled ice cream than an overfilled one ($1.85 vs. $1.56). This is because, according to him, when participants determined the value of each option alone (i.e., separate evaluation), they focused on an easy-to-evaluate attribute (whether an ice cream is overfilled or underfilled) and failed to consider a hard-to-evaluate attribute (the amount of ice cream). However when indicating their willingness to pay together (i.e., joint evaluation), they considered the hard-to-evaluate attribute important. Note that a hard-to-evaluate attribute is an attribute that “people do not know whether a given value on that attribute is good or bad.”

I had a similar experience at the Nicolai Bergmann, a flower shop located in Seoul, Korea. A preserved, overfilled flower attracted my attention when I entered the store. However, I found another flower next to it and it was in a square box. Although the overfilled flower attracted me first, I chose the boxed one for several reasons. The primary reason was that when comparing these two flowers side-by-side, I considered their hard-to-evaluate attribute (the amount of flower) seriously. I expect many other visitors may reach the same conclusion.

Hsee, C. K. (1998). Less is better: When low‐value options are valued more highly than high‐value options. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making11(2), 107-121.

This research demonstrates a less-is-better effect in three contexts: (1) a person giving a $45 scarf as a gift was perceived to be more generous than one giving a $55 coat; (2) an overfilled ice cream serving with 7 oz of ice cream was valued more than an underfilled serving with 8 oz of ice cream; (3) a dinnerware set with 24 intact pieces was judged more favourably than one with 31 intact pieces (including the same 24) plus a few broken ones. This less-is-better effect occurred only when the options were evaluated separately, and reversed itself when the options were juxtaposed. These results are explained in terms of the evaluability hypothesis, which states that separate evaluations of objects are often infuenced by attributes which are easy to evaluate rather than by those which are important.

Why are we attracted by Starbucks toys?

Starbucks Coffee Korea recently launched a set of limited edition Playmobil toy figures. Customers get one of six tall-size beverages with an accompanying Playmobil figure for $12.

Today at a nearby Starbucks, I found several customers paid extra to have a barista figure. Another Starbucks was crowded even though customers have to leave store shortly due to social distancing regulations. It suggests this campaign increases offline store traffic.

Why do adults like Starbucks toys? Although brand power and scarcity play key roles, a more deeply rooted reason is that Playmobil figures are whimsically cute. “Cute products (e.g., an ice-cream scoop shaped like a miniature person or a dress with tropical colors and pink flamingos) can have whimsical nature, which is associated with capricious humor and playful disposition. Whimsical cuteness is … associated with fun and playfulness.” (Nenkov and Scott 2014, pg. 327).

Interestingly, whimsically cute products do not necessarily appeal when they are designed for kids. Contrary to our belief, whimsical cuteness attracts adults. This argument is supported by the experimental findings obtained from a marketing paper.

After viewing one of two cookies (neutral vs. whimsically cute), in an ostensibly unrelated study, participants were asked to imagine that they were attending a dinner with friends, and because they were watching their weight and were concerned about health-related issues, they were carefully evaluating their entree options. One option was rich and delicious but much more fattening, while the other option was more healthy but not quite as tasty as the richer option. They were then asked to indicate their preference for the rich versus healthy entree on a 7-point scale, ranging from 1 (will definitely have the rich entree) to 7 (will definitely have the healthy entree).

When two cookies were presented under “The Cookie Shop,” participants indicated significantly weaker preference for the healthy entree when they had earlier viewed the whimsically cute cookie than when they had viewed the neutral cookie. However, no such differences occurred when two cookies were presented under “The Kid’s Cookie Shop.”

Nenkov, G., & Scott, M. (2014). “So Cute I Could Eat It Up”: Priming Effects of Cute Products on Indulgent Consumption. Journal of Consumer Research,41(2), 326-341.

This article examines the extent to which consumers engage in more indulgent consumption when they are exposed to whimsically cute products and explores the process by which such products affect indulgence. Prior research on kindchenschema (baby schema) has found that exposure to cute babies or baby animals leads to more careful behavior (see the study by Sherman, Haidt, and Coan), suggesting restraint. The present research uncovers the opposite: consumers become more indulgent in their behavior after exposure to whimsically cute products. Drawing from research on cognitive priming, kindchenschema, anthropomorphization, indulgence, and regulatory focus, this research posits that exposure to whimsically cute products primes mental representations of fun, increasing consumers’ focus on approaching self-rewards and making consumers more likely to choose indulgent options. These effects do not emerge for kindchenschema cute stimuli, since they prime mental representations of vulnerability and caretaking. Four empirical studies provide evidence for the proposed effects and their underlying process.

Look and feel mismatch: Looking heavy but feeling light

We sometimes experience sensory disconfirmation, meaning we expect to feel A but actually feel B. For instance, iPhone looks like a product with light plastic but it is made by heavy metal. In particular, disconfirmation between visual and haptic information (or mismatch between look and feel) is critical for business.

Showroom (Curated by Sarah Robayo Sheridan, January 21 – March 5, 2016)

“How do Toronto artists perceive new social and visual orders brought about by a decade of rapid urban development?”

Commonly, a showroom is intended to present a generic ideal of living, devoid of the nuances of lives as they are lived. The artists in this exhibition, however, turn our attention to the influence of lifestyle marketing in constructing the form and texture of the cityscape. By turns, critical, comedic and formal, the works deepen given knowledge of architecture, place, and the social order.

Fitness equipment looks heavy and rough. However, some artists challenge our intuition: dumbbells are light and sandbags are soft in the exhibition. According to research, when negative sensory disconfirmation is introduced, the source of disconfirmation can sometimes be perceived positively. To go further, the more our intuitions are challenged by look-and-feel mismatch, the more we may become creative.

Sundar, A., & Noseworthy, T. J. (2016). Too Exciting to Fail, Too Sincere to Succeed: The Effects of Brand Personality on Sensory Disconfirmation. Journal of Consumer Research, 43(1), 44–67.

Across four studies, the authors demonstrate that consumers intuitively link disconfirmation, specifically sensory disconfirmation (when touch disconfirms expectations by sight), to a brand’s personality. Negative disconfirmation is often associated with negative posttrial evaluations. However, the authors find that when negative sensory disconfirmation is introduced by an exciting brand, the source of disconfirmation can sometimes be perceived positively. This occurs because consumers intuitively view disconfirmation as more authentic of an exciting personality. Similarly, despite the wealth of literature linking positive disconfirmation to positive posttrial evaluations, the authors find that sensory confirmation is more preferred for sincere brands because consumers intuitively view confirmation as more authentic of a sincere personality. The authors conclude by demonstrating the intuitive nature of this phenomenon by showing that the lay belief linking brand personality to disconfirmation does not activate in a context where sensory disconfirmation encourages a more deliberative assessment of the product.

How could we enjoy difficult modern art better?

Most people have some degree of difficulty in understanding art, especially modern art. In the following, someone at Quora tried to answer “why is modern art/painting very difficult to understand.”

Modern art paintings are the best way to portray the unseen on the canvas. It is about the expression of emotions and feelings on and is not what you see at the very first glance. It can have many interpretations when seen through different angles. If you want to know more about modern art, then you can also read “Why is the New Art So Hard to understand”. It is a book written by Theodor Adorno, a German social theorist who shed more highlight on this concept that why Modern art paintings are so hard to understand modern art. Although the book was written in 1931, it is still relevant in today’s era.

Since modern art is not easy to understand, visitors often keep quiet in the gallery. However, in the Tate Liverpool, UK, several British students gathered together and discussed something in front of the London subway map. They actively discussed several British celebrities to answer the questions in the map, which looked fresh to me. What made me surprised was the very last, underlined, sentence in a piece of paper under the map.

Simon Patterson born 1967 (Born and work UK) / The Great Bear 1992 (Lithograph on paper)

While this appears to be a standard map of the London Underground, the name of each station has been changed. Patterson has swapped the real station names for those of footballers, actors, and other celebrated figures. The image challenges our expectation that we can trust maps and diagrams. Sometimes Patterson seems to be making jokes with his choices. For example, Gary Lineker, who never received a yellow or red card as a football player, sits at the connection between footballers and saints.

What do you think about artists taking and changing existing images?

This sentence, probably written by a curator, relieved me a lot. It allowed me to fail to understand the artist’s intention. It allowed me not to agree with the artist’s opinions. Indeed, I was allowed not to consider it as art.

Interestingly, the curator added one to two sentences under the whole art pieces in the gallery. These additionally added sentences made the Tate Liverpool more friendly and approachable. Easy is better than difficult.

Shah, A. K., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2007). Easy does it: The role of fluency in cue weighting. Judgment and Decision Making, 2(6), 371–379.

We propose that people weight fluent, or easy to process, information more heavily than disfluent information when making judgments. Cue fluency was manipulated independent of objective cue validity in three studies, the findings from which support our hypothesis. In Experiment 1, participants weighted a consumer review more heavily when it was written in a clear font than in a less clear font. In Experiment 2, participants placed more weight on information when it was in focus than when it was blurry. In Experiment 3, participants placed more weight on financial information from brokerage firms with easy to pronounce names than those with hard to pronounce names. These studies demonstrate that fluency affects cue weighting independent of objective cue validity.

Mini-me, 3D printer, and handmade effect

I once believed mini-mes are expensive because they are produced by cutting edge 3D printers, which differ from my 3D printer or a mere 3D food printer. A news article elaborates that human miniatures are not cheap.

Pinla3D scans its customers in-store and then gives them a choice of 3D model sizes. A 25cm (9.8-inch) figure costs RMB 3,580 (US$580), according to the store’s site. Three generations of one family can be immortalized in plastic at 1:9 scale for RMB 8,997 (US$1,470). That’s cheaper than we’ve seen it done by a Japanese startup site – with the added bonus that going in-person to the store will make the mini-me more accurate than submitting a bunch of photos to a website.

However, my belief was corrected when I visited Tianzifang in Shanghai, China. A series of mini-mes displayed outside a store cost only RMB 480 (US$ 68). I wondered how and why they are inexpensive.

The mystery was solved when I entered the store. These mini-mes were not produced by 3D printers. Instead, two people made mini-mes out of clay.

We tend to assign greater value to a product when it is made by human than when made by machine. It is called as “handmade effect.” Then, why did I observe a reverse handmade effect, that it, hand-crafted mini-mes are cheaper than the ones printed by 3D printers? I suspect the handmade effect is observed only when the people who make a product is clearly associated with the final product. If the association is not established so that buyers do not know who produce their purchased products, handmade effect disappears and buyers are not willing to pay more. If I come back to Shanghai, I suggest two mini-me makers to give their own name cards and personal stories to buyers!

Fuchs, C., Schreier, M., & van Osselaer, S. M. J. (2015). The Handmade Effect: What’s Love Got to Do with It? Journal of Marketing, 79(2), 98–110.

Despite the popularity and high quality of machine-made products, handmade products have not disappeared, even in product categories in which machinal production is common. The authors present the first systematic set of studies exploring whether and how stated production mode (handmade vs. machine-made) affects product attractiveness. Four studies provide evidence for the existence of a positive handmade effect on product attractiveness. This effect is, to an important extent, driven by perceptions that handmade products symbolically “contain love.” The authors validate this love account by controlling for alternative value drivers of handmade production (effort, product quality, uniqueness, authenticity, and pride). The handmade effect is moderated by two factors that affect the value of love. Specifically, consumers indicate stronger purchase intentions for handmade than machine-made products when buying gifts for their loved ones but not for more distant gift recipients, and they pay more for handmade gifts when purchased to convey love than simply to acquire the best-performing product.

People need vocabulary to develop taste

Barry Schwartz argues in his book, the Paradox of Choice, that increasing choices does not make us happy. Instead, reducing choices boosts sales and giving more options lowers choices.

Autonomy and Freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don’t seem to be benefiting from it psychologically. —quoted from Ch.5, The Paradox of Choice, 2004

Then, does giving more choices enhance the enjoyment choosers experience? It may not be, either. I had a similar experience at the cheese section of the Annam Gourmet at Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam. It provided a wide variety of cheeses. Therefore, spent a significant amount of time in carefully comparing multiple cheeses and eventually choosing one. When I tasted the selected cheese, unfortunately, I was confused which one to choose because I spent too much time on thinking about several cheeses.

Then, what could marketers do to help people enjoy their experience? One suggestion is that when customers experience the option, they are reminded which one was chosen. For instance, if the option name is shown, customers will be able to keep focused on it.

Nekkid Wings is a chicken wing restaurant in Seoul, Korea. Customers select one out of twelve flavors for a bucket of five wings. Some flavors are safe (e.g., classic buffalo) and others are risky (e.g., parmesan garlic). Most customers order multiple buckets and try safe and risky flavors together. The flavor names printed on the paper help customers focus on which flavor they are testing.

West, P. M., Brown, C. L., & Hoch, S. J. (1996). Consumption Vocabulary and Preference Formation. Journal of Consumer Research, 23(2), 120–135.

Consumers’ understanding of their own preferences can be aided by a “consumption vocabulary”—a taxonomy or framework that facilitates identifying the relation between a product’s features and one’s evaluation of the product. In the absence of such a vocabulary, consumers’ understanding of their own preferences will require more extensive experience and may never fully develop. The effect of such a vocabulary is tested in two experiments in which subjects provided with a vocabulary (1) exhibit better-defined and more consistent preferences than control subjects, (2) show improved cue discovery, and (3) show learning (i.e., increases in consistency over time). All results hold regardless of the functional form of the model used to assess subjects’ preference formation.

Could electronic agents improve customer experience in a cafe?

Script is a stereotyped sequence of activities. A good example of the script is for restaurant dining. We are greeted by a server who guides to a table, we receive a menu from a server, and the server takes our orders. Drinks arrive first and then meals arrive later. When we finish meals, we pay the bill at the cashier and leave the restaurant.

Marketers and designers use scripts to improve customer experience. We often assume the fewer activities customers perform in the restaurant, the more they are satisfied. Therefore, we hire more part-time servers. Alternatively, we try to design an unmanned store by installing vending machines or robots to automatize in-store activities.

Different from our assumptions, however, restaurant customers could be happy about doing everything by themselves. I found this when I met a friend at one of the Rainmaking cafe in Copenhagen, Denmark. Rainmaking is a corporate innovation and venture development firm.

When I entered the cafe, a refrigerator greeted me. No one was inside. I soon realized I should do everything by myself in this cafe. I picked up a beverage, paid it using my mobile phone, grabbed a table with my friend, and then cleaned up the table when leaving.

The whole experience did not bother me much but was quite pleasant. Everyone else seemed to follow this rule. This self-service cafe could be an alternative to automatization. Although many owners want vending machines or robots to make their stores unmanned or intact, not few customers are willing to perform in-store activities themselves.

Patricia M. West, Dan Ariely, Steve Bellman, Eric Bradlow, Joel Huber, Eric Johnson, … David Schkade. (1999). Agents to the Rescue? Marketing Letters, 10(3), 285–300.

The advent of electronic environments is bound to have profound effects on consumer decision making. While the exact nature of these influences is only partially known it is clear that consumers could benefit from properly designed electronic agents that know individual users preferences and can act on their behalf. An examination of the variousroles agents perform is presented as a framework for thinking about the design of electronic agents. In addition, a set of goals is established that include both outcome-based measures, such as improving decision quality, as well as process measures like increasing satisfaction and developing trust.

If people avoid meeting with others, do marketers sell products online only?

Nowadays people avoid meeting others. We could buy products through mobile phones and order food at screens inside restaurants. A recent virus outbreak even encourages us to stop shaking hands with strangers.

Ironically, the more we avoid meeting others, I believe, the easier others sell their products to us. When I visited Prezzemolo & Vitale, a local grocery store in Notting Hill in London, an employee brought a lump of meat on a board, cut it into thin slices, and passed them over to passers by. Interestingly, most of those who tried samples bought several pieces of different types of meat. I was not exception.

When he looked at me with a slice of meat, I inferred, he made an effort to approach me. This inference is rarely made when I stand in front of machines such as mobile phones or kiosks. I conclude that when we meet people and machines, we may have different inference: people make effort to come close to us whereas machines do not. This inferred effort may play a critical role in determining our next behavior such as buying a product.

Morales, A. C. (2005). Giving Firms an “E” for Effort: Consumer Responses to High‐Effort Firms. Journal of Consumer Research, 31(4), 806–812.

This research shows that consumers reward firms for extra effort. More specifically, a series of three laboratory experiments shows that when firms exert extra effort in making or displaying their products, consumers reward them by increasing their willingness to pay, store choice, and overall evaluations, even if the actual quality of the products is not improved. This rewarding process is defined broadly as general reciprocity. Consistent with attribution theory, the rewarding of generally directed effort is mediated by feelings of gratitude. When consumers infer that effort is motivated by persuasion, however, they no longer feel gratitude and do not reward high-effort firms.

Effort not only dictates our behavior. It helps us enjoy what we do.

Norton, M. I., Mochon, D., & Ariely, D. (2012). The “IKEA Effect”: When Labor Leads to Love. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 22(3), 453–460.

In four studies in which consumers assembled IKEA boxes, folded origami, and built sets of Legos, we demonstrate and investigate boundary conditions for the IKEA effect-the increase in valuation of self-made products. Participants saw their amateurish creations as similar in value to experts’ creations, and expected others to share their opinions. We show that labor leads to love only when labor results in successful completion of tasks; when participants built and then destroyed their creations, or failed to complete them, the IKEA effect dissipated. Finally, we show that labor increases valuation for both “do-it-yourselfers” and novices.

Is survey a form of arts?

There are different forms of arts like painting, sculpture, architecture, and photography. However, survey could be a form of arts. I learned this from the exhibition of Korea Artist Prize 2019 at the MMCA (National Museum of Modern Contemporary Art, Korea).

Korea Artist Prize is a prestigious art award and exhibition of Korea. This award follows the path of MMCA’s Artist of the year exhibitions, which was held from 1995 to 2010 and hence it has been reestablished to discover and sponsor artists who have ardently persisted in paving their own way to artistic success, thus providing an avenue for the advancement of Korean contemporary art.

One of the four selected artists in 2019 is Hyesoo Park. Her artwork is to visualize our unconscious perception. She often observes surroundings, gathers data by doing meticulous research, and collaborates with experts in related fields. In other words, she conducts social science research as an artist.

Park’s new work made for this exhibition starts from the question, “who is your ‘we’?” This question invites one to examine individuals’ questions and categorizations of ‘we,’ namely, their understandings of groups. Prior to the production of the work, the artist conducted a survey on one’s perceptions of ‘we’ among a representative sample, and the output of the survey is analyzed by an expert and interpreted by the artist to be reflected in this work.

One piece of artworks surprised me. This artwork is a survey report. She hung survey responses and framed statistical findings.

According to academic research, we are more likely to include unconventional artworks into the category of arts when we think abstractly. This suggests when we think concretely, we are less likely to consider survey a form of arts.

Schimmel, K., & Förster, J. (2008). How Temporal Distance Changes Novices’ Attitudes Towards Unconventional Arts. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 2(1), 53–60.

The authors suggest that, just like other attitudes, attitudes toward art may be malleable, and may thus also depend on situational factors. In particular, the authors propose that thinking styles vary within the situation and that an abstract versus concrete thinking style has an influence on attitudes toward conventional (e.g., Mona Lisa by da Vinci) versus unconventional (e.g., Fat Corner by Beuys) artworks. Construal Level Theory predicts that when people think about the distant future they automatically start thinking in a more abstract way, relative to when people think about the near future, which is supposed to elicit a concrete thinking style. In an experiment, the authors asked participants to think about their lives a year from now or tomorrow. Afterward, in an allegedly unrelated task, participants were asked to evaluate conventional and unconventional artworks. Results showed that participants that had thought about distant events and presumably thought more abstractly were more likely to include unconventional artworks into the category of arts than participants that had thought about near events, and thus presumably thought in more concrete terms. Implications for applied settings are discussed.

How many items should be displayed in a store?

When we are curious about value of an unknown object, we often consider how many people surround it. If it is alone, we believe it is expensive. If it is surrounded by many others, we believe it is cheap. This is because, according to O’Guinn’s et al. (2015), as the social density of a given space increases, “inference of the subjective social class and income of people in that space” fall. Although we like different degrees of crowdedness (D&Department in Tokyo) and even view the same degree of crowdedness differently (Kronen Vanlose in Copenhagen), crowdedness decreases the value of a product.

O’Guinn, T. C., Tanner, R. J., & Maeng, A. (2015). Turning to space: Social density, social class, and the value of things in stores. Journal of Consumer Research, 42(2), 196-213.

This article is about social space and material objects for sale within that space. We draw primarily on Goffman’s (1971) concepts of use space and possession territories to predict that as the social density of a given space increases, inferences of the subjective social class and income of people in that space fall. Eight studies confirm that this is indeed the case, with the result holding even for stick figures, thus controlling for typical visual indicators of social class such as clothing or jewelry. Furthermore, these social class inferences mediate a relationship between social density and product valuation, with individuals assessing both higher prices and a greater willingness to pay for products presented in less crowded contexts. This effect of inferred class on product valuation is explained by status-motivated individuals’ desire to associate with higher-status people. To the best of our knowledge, this research is the first to reveal the link between social density, status inferences, and object valuations. As such, it makes a novel contribution to what has come to be known in sociology as the topological turn: a renewed focus on social space.

Then, could we apply the same logic to stores where products are surrounded by other products? In other words, does “product crowdedness” decrease product value as well? This is an important question as stores display items in different ways.

Some stores display various items with a lot of stocks. For instance, at Annam Gourmet, Ho Chi Minh, only a few cans of sea food are on the shelf space with multiple stocks.

Other stores display only few items with few stocks. For instance, Decium, a Canadian cosmetic company introduces a few items without showing their stocks.  

Two contrasting examples show that stocks determine the perceived value of products. Designers and marketers should decrease the number of products displayed in the store to increase their perceived value. There is a 8-minute video about an inside look at Decium to see how the company has managed to find success in the highly competitive, the multi-billion-dollar world of skin care.