While Shopping Mind What You Do
“Simply asking participants to decide if they would buy (vs. reject) each of a set of products disposed them to search for favorable attributes before unfavorable ones in an unrelated product evaluation situation,” explain Hao Shen and Robert S. Wyer, Jr. (both of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology). “As a result, they evaluated the product they considered in the second situation more favorably than they otherwise would.”
The study expands our understanding of “memory priming.” As the researchers explain, our knowledge about a product or service usually involves norms — such as typical prices, typical amenities, and brand reputation associated with, say, a hotel. However, the researchers also reveal that this prior knowledge can be influenced by “procedural knowledge priming,” or, by introducing consumers to an activity that affects what they evaluate.
In another experiment, the researchers had participants in Hong Kong rank the prices of hotel rooms in three cities either from high-to-low or low-to-high. They were then asked to indicate how much they would pay for a hotel room, among other questions. When a lot of information was presented, those who ranked the prices from most expensive to least expensive were willing to pay an average of $19 more than those who had been asked to rank the hotels from lowest to highest priced.
In addition, “participants estimated the average price of hotel rooms in a city to be higher if they had rank[ed] prices from highest to lowest in a prior task than if they had ranked them from lowest to highest,” the researchers explain.
They continue: “Unrelated experiences can activate a search process that governs the order in which favorable and unfavorable product descriptions are identified and the evaluations that are made on the basis of them.”
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Electronically published October 5, 2007
*Hao Shen (email@example.com) is a doctoral student, and Robert S. Wyer Jr. (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a visiting professor, in the Department of Marketing, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The authors thank the editor, associate editor, and reviewers, as well as Jaideep Sengupta and Rami Zwick for their comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. This research was supported in part by grants HKUST6053/01H, HKUST6194/04H, and HKUST6192/04H from the Research Grants Council, Hong Kong. Correspondence on the manuscript should be sent to Hao Shen.
The cognitive procedure that people use to search for information about a product is influenced by the ease with which it comes to mind. Unrelated experiences can activate a search process that governs the order in which favorable and unfavorable product descriptions are identified and the evaluations that are made on the basis of them. Five experiments examined the conditions in which these effects occur. The effects of priming a search strategy on the attention to positively or negatively valenced information are diametrically opposite to the effects of the semantic (e.g., attribute) concepts that are called to mind in the course of activating this strategy.