Touching an item often compels consumer to buy it

January 8th, 2009 - 2:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 8 (IANS) Consumers are likely to buy items they hold in their hands even for a few seconds, according to a new study. Ohio State University and Illinois State University researchers tested how touching an item before buying affects how much they are willing to shell out for the it.

A simple experiment with an inexpensive coffee mug revealed that in many cases, simply touching the coffee mug for a few seconds created an attachment that led people to pay more for the item. The results were published recently in Judgment and Decision Making.

People who held the coffee mug longer than a few seconds seemed not only more compelled to outbid others in an auction setting, but they were also more willing to bid more than the retail price for that item.

“The amazing part of this study is that people can become almost immediately attached to something as insignificant as a mug,” said the study’s co-author James Wolf, who started the work while he was a doctoral student at Ohio State.

“By simply touching the mug and feeling it in their hands, many people begin to feel like the mug is, in fact, their mug. Once they begin to feel it is theirs, they are willing to go to greater lengths to keep it.”

Previous research had documented that many people begin to feel ownership of an item long before they actually acquire it. But this is the first study to demonstrate that strong feelings of ownership can begin in as little as 30 seconds after initial contact, said Wolf, who is now an assistant professor of information systems at Illinois State University.

To explain how touch can affect a person’s valuation of an object, the researchers tested 144 people at a large university. People were asked to bid on mugs in either an open or closed auction after inspecting a coffee mug firsthand for various lengths of time.

Participants were given the mug at the beginning of both experiments. People in the short-duration treatments were asked to inspect a coffee mug for 10 seconds, while those in the longer treatments were asked to inspect it for 30 seconds, said a Ohio release.

The results showed that people who held the item for 30 seconds bid significantly higher than people who touched the mug for 10 seconds.

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