Why we overrate future choices

July 17th, 2008 - 1:42 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, July 17 (ANI): Most people tend to diversify their choices more for future than for present consumption. Now a new study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, explores the reasons behind such a behavior.

Consumers tendency to diversify their choices more for future than for present consumption has been demonstrated to be a robust phenomenon and to occur in a variety of situations, write authors Linda Court Salisbury (Boston College) and Fred M. Feinberg (University of Michigan).

The study proposes that stochastic noise (unpredictability or randomness) is the reason behind the over-diversification phenomenon.

To reach the results, researchers performed computer simulations of decision-making processes involving snacks. They then compared the simulations to real data collected from undergraduates.

We isolate and quantify three main potential drivers of diversification: relative brand attractiveness (how strongly some brands are preferred to others), brand attractiveness uncertainty (how uncertain consumers are of how much they like each available brand), and degree of stochastic inflation (how much more uncertain consumers are about how much theyll like each brand in the future, versus in immediate consumptive experiences), the researchers said.

From the consumers perspective, future preferences are harder to anticipate than those in the immediate momentthat is, they are intrinsically fuzzier. Marketers sometimes highlight this tendency explicitly, as in the classic advertising jingle, Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you dont.

At the same time, the predictive models broadly utilized by marketers and consumer researchers today literally assume this has no important consequences, they added.

According to the authors, diversification effects of around 20 percent can be generated even when there are no shifts in underlying preference. In other words, no matter what they prefer, consumers will tend to overestimate at approximately the same rate. (ANI)

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