Consumers do not always buy what they really want

January 27th, 2009 - 5:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 27 (IANS) Consumers do not end up always buying the product they really want, especially when their minds are preoccupied with other tasks, according to a new study.The research, conducted by Aimee Drolet of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Mary Frances Luce (Duke University) and Itamar Simonson (Stanford University) identified two factors that can lead consumers to use shortcuts (heuristics) when they make product choices.

One is people’s level of desire to think analytically about choices or NFC (need for cognition) and the other is the cognitive load (whether the person is attending to other mental tasks at the same time).

Researchers asked participants to choose among different options of portable grills, stereo speakers, and tires. Those who had previously scored high in NFC tended to focus more on their own goals and preferences, while those low in NFC were more likely to make compromise choices.

But the effect reversed when people with high NFC scores were asked to memorise 20 words for later recall.

“We investigated heuristic use within the context of choices that offer a so-called ‘compromise option’ that can be identified based on a ‘choose-the-middle’ heuristic (choice) that does not necessarily require that consumers consider options in view of their self-goals,” wrote the authors.

“The present research provides new insights into the conditions under which consumers’ choices will be reflective of their self-goals and hence the degree to which choices might be expected to reveal preferences,” wrote the study authors.

By remaining aware of their goals and their tendencies to juggle multiple tasks, consumers might end up making choices that more closely reflect their true preferences, said an UCLA release.

These findings were published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

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