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Study from School’s Marketing Department Shows that Buying Good-Looking Products Makes People Feel Better about Themselves and More Open Minded

July 06, 2012
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Purchasing an attractive product makes consumers feel good about themselves and opens the mind. That is the key finding of a new study on self-affirmation and product choice by Claudia Townsend, an assistant professor of marketing at the School.

In the study, the results of which will be published in the August 2012 edition of the Journal of Consumer Research, participants were asked to select among different lamps and calculators, after which the researchers measured their self-esteem. The study found that when participants selected a more aesthetically-pleasing lamp, compared to a better-functioning but perhaps boring-looking lamp, they felt better about themselves and, in effect, became more open-minded to considering new points of view.

While people tend to go through life with a biased view of information, discrediting ideas that might suggest something negative about themselves or their values, by merely choosing a good looking product, consumers become more open-minded and open to ideas, even those that might suggest they have made a mistake.

“Behavioral economists and psychologists have long known that people tend to throw ‘good money after bad’ or ‘stay the course,’ meaning they continue to invest in something even after an initial investment doesn’t give them the effect they desire,” said Townsend, who conducted the research with Sanjay Sood of UCLA.

“What our research shows is that purchasing an attractive item causes a person to feel better about themself and this ‘affirmation effect’ frees them up, mentally, to admit to the error in their ways. The result is that they no longer need to justify their initial bad investment with additional funding and consequently make better decisions.”

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