1. Study suggests emotional images sway people more than emotional words

    February 14, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Frontiers press release:

    Can your behavior be influenced by subtle, barely visible signals, such as an emotionally charged image briefly flashed on a TV screen or roadside billboard? It may sound like hysteria about covert advertising — but according to new research published in open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology, the answer is yes.

    Piotr Winkielman, of the University of California, San Diego, has been studying the effect for quite a while. In a previous study, Winkielman and colleagues reported that showing brief images of happy faces to thirsty people led them to drink more of a beverage immediately afterwards, whereas images of scowling faces led them to drink less. Remarkably, the participants were not aware of a change in their emotional state. In this new study, the researchers expanded the scope of their tests beyond faces to other images and words.

    “We wanted to compare two major kinds of emotional stimuli that people encounter in their life: words and pictures, including those of emotional faces and evocative images of objects,” says Winkielman. “We also tested if it matters whether these stimuli are presented very briefly or for a longer period of time.”

    The researchers asked undergraduates to classify objects, faces, or words on a computer screen. While showing a series of emotionally neutral images in quick succession, the researchers included brief flashes of faces, pictures or words that were either positive or negative. After the task, the researchers provided a soft drink and allowed the participants to drink as much as they liked.

    The first experiment compared the effect of emotive words, such as “panda” (positive) and “knife” (negative), with that of happy (positive) and angry (negative) facial expressions. The second compared the effect of emotive words with images of emotionally charged objects, such as a gun or a cute dog.

    As in previous studies, participants drank more after seeing happy faces than after seeing angry faces. Participants also drank more after seeing positive objects than after seeing negative objects. In contrast, positive words did not increase consumption.

    “We found that emotive images of objects altered the amount that participants drank, with ‘positive’ objects increasing consumption and ‘negative’ objects decreasing it,” says Winkielman. “But people were not swayed by emotional words, which were somehow powerless — even though the words were rated to be as emotive as the pictures.”

    Surprisingly, nearly invisible images — shown for only 10 milliseconds — had the same effect as clearly noticeable images shown for 200 milliseconds.

    “In our experiment, the duration of the emotional cue did not matter for its ability to influence consumption,” says Winkielman. “This echoes some previous studies, however we need stronger evidence to confidently claim that fleeting images work as well as more noticeable images in altering behavior.”

    Figuring out why emotive images are more powerful than emotive words is the researchers’ next task. They hypothesize that emotionally charged pictures may speak more directly to us than words, which can be nuanced and ambiguous, and may require more thought before they affect us.

    The results raise many questions: “We know from our other research that words in sentences are emotionally impactful, but why?” asks Winkielman. “Is it because they can conjure up images?”

    For now, at least, it appears that a single picture is worth more than a word. More than a thousand words? That’s yet to be discovered.


  2. Study suggests teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

    January 20, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Cancer Research UK press release:

    Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

    Being bombarded by TV ads for unhealthy, high calorie food could lead teens to eat more than 500 extra snacks like crisps, biscuits and fizzy drinks throughout the course of a single year compared to those who watch less TV.

    Energy and other fizzy drinks high in sugar, takeaways and chips were some of the foods which were more likely to be eaten by teens who watched a lot of TV with adverts.

    The report, based on a YouGov survey, questioned 3,348 young people in the UK between the ages of 11-19 on their TV viewing habits and diet.

    When teens watched TV without adverts researchers found no link between screen time and likelihood of eating more junk food. This suggests that the adverts on commercial TV may be driving youngsters to snack on more unhealthy food.

    The report is also the biggest ever UK study to assess the association of TV streaming on diet.

    It found that teens who said they regularly streamed TV shows with ads were more than twice as likely (139%) to drink fizzy drinks compared to someone with low advert exposure from streaming TV, and 65% more likely to eat more ready meals than those who streamed less TV.

    Regularly eating high calorie food and drink – which usually has higher levels of fat and sugar- increases the risk of becoming overweight or obese.

    Obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK after smoking, and is linked to 13 types of cancer including bowel, breast, and pancreatic.

    Dr Jyotsna Vohra, a lead author on the study from Cancer Research UK, said: “This is the strongest evidence yet that junk food adverts could increase how much teens choose to eat. We’re not claiming that every teenager who watches commercial TV will gorge on junk food but this research suggests there is a strong association between advertisements and eating habits.

    “It’s been 10 years since the first, and only, TV junk food marketing regulations were introduced by Ofcom and they’re seriously out of date. Ofcom must stop junk food adverts being shown during programmes that are popular with young people, such as talent shows and football matches, where there’s currently no regulation.

    “Our report suggests that reducing junk food TV marketing could help to halt the obesity crisis.”

    The Obesity Health Alliance recently published a report which found that almost 60% of food and drink adverts shown during programmes popular with adults and 4-16 year olds were for unhealthy foods which would be banned from children’s TV channels.

    Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: “Obese children are five times more likely to remain obese as adults which can increase their risk of cancer later in life.

    “The food industry will continue to push their products into the minds of teens if they’re allowed to do so. The Government needs to work with Ofcom to protect the health of the next generation.”


  3. Study suggests consumers less likely to go through with purchases when on mobile devices

    January 11, 2018 by Ashley

    From the University of East Anglia press release:

    Shoppers hoping to bag a bargain in the post-Christmas sales are much less likely to go through with their purchases if they are using phones and tablets to buy goods online.

    This is because consumers often worry they are not seeing the full picture on a mobile app or that they could be missing out on special offers or overlooking hidden costs, according to new research. Concerns about privacy and security can also motivate people to put items into their shopping baskets but then quit without paying.

    Although mobile apps are rapidly becoming among the most popular ways to shop online, the phenomenon of shopping cart abandonment is much higher than for desktop-based online shopping. According to Market Research firm Criteo , the share of e-commerce traffic from mobile devices increased to 46% of global e-commerce traffic in Q2 2016 however, only 27% of purchases initiated on this channel were finalized and conversion rates significantly lagged behind desktop initiated purchases.

    Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) investigating why this is so say it represents a huge challenge for online retailers, who are investing heavily in mobile shopping, but not reaping the rewards in successful sales.

    “Our study results revealed a paradox,” said Dr Nikolaos Korfiatis, of Norwich Business School at UEA. “Mobile shopping is supposed to make the process easier, and yet concerns about making the right choice, or about whether the site is secure enough leads to an ‘emotional ambivalence’  about the transaction – and that mean customers are much more likely to simply abandon their shopping carts without completing a purchase.”

    The researchers studied online shopping data from 2016-2017 from consumers in Taiwan and the US. They found that the reasons for hesitation at the checkout stage were broadly the same in both countries. In addition, shoppers are much more likely use mobile apps as a way of researching and organising goods, rather than as a purchasing tool, and this also contributes to checkout hesitation.

    “People think differently when they use their mobile phones to make purchases,” said Dr Korfiatis. “The smaller screen size and uncertainty about missing important details about the purchase make you much more ambivalent about completing the transaction than when you are looking at a big screen.”

    Flora Huang, the study’s lead author, added: “This is a phenomenon that has not been well researched, yet it represents a huge opportunity for retailers. Companies spend a lot of money on tactics such as pay-per-click advertising to bring consumers into online stores – but if those consumers come in via mobile apps and then are not finalising their purchases, a lot of that money will be wasted.”

    The team’s results, published in the Journal of Business Research, showed that consumers are much less likely to abandon their shopping baskets if they are satisfied with the choice process. App designers can help by minimising clutter to include only necessary elements on the device’s limited screen space and organising sites via effective product categorisation or filter options so consumers can find products more easily.

    Other strategies that might prompt a shopper to complete a purchase include adding special offers, or coupons for a nearby store at the checkout stage.

    “Retailers need to invest in technology, but they need to do it in the right way, so the investment pays off,” added Dr Korfiatis. “Customers are becoming more and more demanding and, with mobile shopping in particular, they don’t forgive failures so offering a streamlined, integrated service is really important.”

    The article ‘Mobile shopping cart abandonment: the roles of conflicts, ambivalence and hesitation’, by GH Huang, N Korfiatis, CT Chang, appears in the Journal of Business Research, published by Elsevier.

     


  4. Study suggests frequent payments can make consumers feel better about their purchase

    January 8, 2018 by Ashley

    From the University of Chicago Booth School of Business press release:

    Merchants and charities alike understand that advertising their product for “just pennies a day” is an effective way to convince consumers to make a purchase.

    New research from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business finds that frequent payments can also make consumers feel better about the benefits they are receiving from their purchase.

    In the study, “Periodic Pricing and Perceived Contract Benefits,” forthcoming in the Journal of Consumer Research, Chicago Booth Associate Professor Daniel Bartels and University of Rhode Island’s Stephen Atlas find that the payment frequency of a contract affects how consumers imagine the benefits they would receive over time. In sum, periodic prices — dividing the purchase price into daily payments instead of one yearly payment — can increase perceived benefits.

    “More frequent payments can help people appreciate recurring pleasures and increase the likelihood of purchasing,” the study said.

    The researchers also find evidence that consumers respond positively to per-day pricing even for costly goods, such as automobiles and meal delivery subscription services. The finding contrasts longstanding views that marketers should never subdivide an expensive product into a collection of payments.

    To examine how periodic pricing influences purchase decisions, the researchers conducted nine experiments. The studies asked participants to consider either a daily cost or a yearly cost of items including charitable donations, newspaper subscriptions, music streaming services, car leases, and meal deliveries.

    In one study, participants were given a scenario in which they could lease a luxury car for the periodic price of $20 a day or the aggregate price of $7,250 a year. The participants were not only more likely to agree to the lease when presented with the periodic price, but they also reported greater perceived benefits.

    In another study, the researchers found periodic pricing produced a 77 percent increase in sales for a meal delivery service.

    “Our framework and results suggest that periodic pricing can help people appreciate the benefits they accrue from a purchase,” the researchers said in the paper. “So, under the right conditions, marketers can encourage purchase with periodic pricing, even for significant sums of money.”


  5. Study suggests consumers wilfully “forget” when products have ethical issues

    January 5, 2018 by Ashley

    From the Ohio State University press release:

    Many consumers have found a way to cope with the knowledge that products they like have been made unethically: They simply forget they ever knew it.

    In a series of studies, researchers found that consumers conveniently “forgot” that brands of desks were made with wood from rainforests or that jeans may have been made with child labor.

    In fact, consumers not only forget the uncomfortable truth, but sometimes misremember the facts and believe that the offending product was made ethically.

    “It’s not necessarily a conscious decision by consumers to forget what they don’t want to know,” said Rebecca Reczek, co-author of the study and associate professor of marketing at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

    “It is a learned coping mechanism to tune out uncomfortable information because it makes their lives easier.”

    The study appears online in the Journal of Consumer Research and will be published in a future print edition.

    In one study, 236 college students were asked to read and memorize descriptions of six made-up brands of desks. The descriptions discussed quality, price and an ethical dimension — the source of the wood. Participants read that the wood either came from sustainable tree farms or endangered rainforests.

    When asked immediately after memorization, participants accurately recalled whether the wood came from rainforests or tree farms in 94 percent of the cases.

    But those memories faded quickly. After the participants completed 15 to 20 minutes of tasks meant to distract them, they were then given a sheet of paper with all six desk brand names and were asked to write down as much as they could remember about each desk.

    Participants were right 60 percent of the time about desks made from tree farms, but right only 45 percent of the time about desks made of rainforest wood.

    “It is not that the participants didn’t pay attention to where the wood came from. We know that they successfully memorized that information,” said study co-author Daniel Zane, a doctoral student in marketing at Ohio State.

    “But they forget it in this systematic pattern. They remembered the quality and price attributes of the desks. It is only the ethical attributes that cause people to be willfully ignorant.”

    A second study involved a national sample of 402 people who participated online. Here, participants were asked to put together an outfit that included a pair of jeans. About half of the participants saw a brand of jeans that was described as being made with child labor while the other half saw a brand of jeans made ethically, with no child labor.

    Results were similar to the first study: People who saw the jeans made with child labor were much less likely to remember this information than people who saw a brand of jeans made with adult labor.

    Why is forgetting ethical information so popular with consumers? Well, another study suggested that it makes people feel a little better about themselves.

    In this study, the researchers had participants consider a hypothetical person named Chris who bought a pair of jeans made with child labor. In some cases, participants were told Chris had earlier learned that the jeans were made with child labor, but forgot when making the purchase. In other cases, participants were told Chris remembered the information, but ignored it when buying the jeans.

    “What we found is that people judged the person who forgot the ethical information as more moral than the person who ignored the information,” Reczek said.

    “So, for most people, forgetting is seen as the more acceptable coping strategy.”

    If you really want to be an ethical consumer, there are steps you can take, Zane said.

    “You need to realize that this memory bias exists and eliminate memory from your buying process,” he said.

    “Don’t put something in your online shopping cart that you know was made unethically and say you’ll think about it. By the time you come back, there is a good chance you will have forgotten what troubled you in the first place.”

    There’s a lesson for ethical companies too, Reczek said.

    Don’t make your customers rely on memory. Make sure you have reminders at the point of purchase that you’re an ethical brand,” she said.


  6. How displaying real-time sales and stock levels online affects shoppers

    December 8, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Journal of Retailing at New York University press release:

    In “See How Much We’ve Sold Already! Effects of Displaying Sales and Stock Level Information on Consumers’ Online Product Choices,” Marketing Professors Yongfu He and Harmen Oppewal describe online studies designed to test consumers’ purchase decisions when presented with ostensibly real-time sales and stock data. The paper will be published in the December 2017 issue of the Journal of Retailing.

    In one study, 405 participants were asked to decide between two unfamiliar but identically priced statistics textbooks and explain their reasoning on an 11-point scale. The various scenarios showed different combinations of the sales levels (no sales information, equal sales, different sales levels) and stock levels (no stock information, equal stock, different stock levels). In the condition where only sales levels were shown, the book displayed as having sold more was chosen 89 percent of the time, versus 50 percent of the time when no information was provided. When the stock level was displayed, the book showing fewer copies left was chosen 74 percent of the time, versus 50 percent when no stock data was provided. When sales and stock information were both presented, the book with higher sales and also fewer copies remaining was chosen 84 percent of the time. Additional, similar studies were done using unfamiliar chocolate brands versus a well-known brand, which was perceived as more popular and of higher quality because of its familiarity.

    The authors found that across studies, sales level had a significant effect on choice, but that when brand was factored in, the effect of stock level data was often diminished. “In general, though,” they write, “our findings show that when participants become more familiar with a brand, sales and stock level information start to play a lesser role as cues in the decision process.”

    The managerial implications are especially significant for online retailers, as online shoppers face more uncertainty about the quality of products on offer. “Displaying sales and stock level information can be an effective tool to influence consumer choice of a brand,” the authors write. “Retailers should carefully consider when to display either type of information.”


  7. Study suggests major life events shared on social media revive dormant connections

    December 5, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Notre Dame press release:

    Online social networking has revolutionized the way people communicate and interact with one another, despite idiosyncrasies we all love to hate — think top-10 lists of the most annoying people and habits on social media.

    However, there are specific advantages to using social media, beyond the simple joys — and occasional annoyances — of reconnecting and gossiping with old friends about babies, birthdays and baptisms.

    New research from the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business examines the impact of major life events, such as getting married or graduating from college, on social network evolution, which, the study shows, has important implications for business practices, such as in marketing.

    “Who Cares About Your Big Day? Impact of Life Events on Dynamics of Social Networks,” forthcoming in Decision Sciences by Hong Guo, associate professor of business analytics, and Sarv Devaraj, professor of business, (along with Arati Srinivasan of Providence College), shows that major life events not only get more social media attention overall, but also bring long dormant connections back into social interaction.

    The researchers specifically focus on two key characteristics of individuals’ social networks: indegree of ties and relational embeddedness. Indegree is the number of ties directed to an individual. Those with high indegree centrality are assumed to be the most popular, prestigious and powerful people in a network due to the many connections that they have with others.

    “We find that the indegree of ties increases significantly following a major life event, and that this impact is stronger for more active users in the network,” Guo says. “Interestingly, we find that the broadcast of major life events helps to revive dormant ties as reflected by a decrease in embeddedness following a life event.”

    Relational embeddedness is the extent to which a user communicates with only a subset of partners. Social networking sites allow users to manage a larger network of weak ties and at the same time provide a mechanism for the very rapid dissemination of information pertaining to important life events such as engagements, weddings or births.

    “We show that major events provide an opportunity for users to revive communication with their dormant ties while simultaneously eliciting responses or communication from a user’s passive or weak ties,” Guo says. “Increased communication with weak ties thereby reduces the extent of embeddedness. We also find that one-time life events, such as weddings, have a greater impact than recurring life events like birthdays on the evolution of individuals’ social networks.”

    So why does this matter outside of our social media circles?

    “Knowing this, advertisers may better target their ads to major life events. For example, a travel agent marketing a honeymoon package can target a user who has shared that they just got married,” Guo says. “From the social networking sites’ perspective, various design features may be set up to enable and entice users to better share their life events, like how Facebook helps friends promote birthdays.”


  8. Study suggests food cues entice consumers to overeat

    December 2, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Michigan press release:

    The mouth-watering aroma of juicy burgers and crispy fries, and the eye-catching menu signs with delicious food pictures can tempt many hungry patrons to stop at fast-food restaurants.

    But these food cues, which stimulate brain activity, can nudge some customers to overeat due to increased cravings and hunger, a new University of Michigan study suggests.

    “Food-related cues can make people want or crave food more, but don’t have as much of an impact on their liking, or the pleasure they get from eating the food,” said Michelle Joyner, a U-M psychology graduate student and study’s lead author.

    The study involved 112 college participants, who disclosed their weight, race, gender and other demographics. All were randomly assigned to a fast-food laboratory — designed like an actual restaurant with tables/chairs, booths and low background music — or a neutral lab.

    Participants, who ate lunch one hour before the study’s trial, could receive tokens to acquire foods typically available at fast-food restaurants, such as a cheeseburger, French fries, milkshake and soft drink. Tokens could also buy time for an alternate activity, such as playing video games on a tablet. Both the food and game choices appeared on large TV screens.

    The study questions focused on wanting, liking and hunger. Wanting is a strong motivation while liking involves pleasure.

    When exposed to food-related cues, participants felt more hungry in the fast-food lab than the neutral environment. The cues, however, did not make a difference in participants liking the food’s taste in either environment.

    People consumed 220 more calories in fast-food environments that have food-related cues than those who ate in non-cue locations, the study indicated. Joyner said food cues did not impact wanting or liking for games, suggesting the effect is specific to food.

    Joyner and colleagues said it’s important for people to arm themselves with knowledge about how food cues can trick them into thinking they are hungry and increasing their desire for food.

    “It is hard it is to avoid food cues in our current environment, but people can try some strategies to minimize their exposure by not going into restaurants and using technology to skip food advertisements in TV shows,” Joyner said.


  9. Study looks at how value of products we encounter affects what we’ll pay for other items

    November 25, 2017 by Ashley

    From the New York University press release:

    The value of the products we encounter influences how much we’ll subsequently pay for other items, new neuroscience research has found. The results point to a previously undetected factor that affects consumer behavior.

    The study, which appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), shows that when we come across low-valued items, we’re willing to pay more for products we later face; by contrast, when we see high-valued items, we’ll pay less for products we view in the future.

    “How people value an item is not a simple function of that item alone,” explains Kenway Louie, a research assistant professor at New York University’s Center for Neural Science and one of the authors of the paper. “The valuation process is inherently relative, with people valuing the same exact item more or less depending on the environment they recently inhabited. Our study shows that rewards cannot be evaluated in isolation, but instead must be viewed through the lens of the recent past.”

    It’s been long established that our brains process information by relying on comparisons rather than on absolute judgments. This dynamic is fundamental in sensory processing, where our perception of sensory stimuli in the world depends on the context in which those stimuli appear. For example, a gray square will appear darker to someone coming in from bright sunlight than to someone who’s been in a dark room.

    Less clear is how sensory processing can influence decision-making — or, specifically, evaluations we make.

    In the PNAS work, the researchers, who also included NYU’s Paul Glimcher, a professor of neuroscience, and Mel Khaw, an NYU doctoral student at the time of the study and now a post-doctoral researcher at Columbia University, studied how different environments could affect how people valued food items.

    To do so, a set of experimental subjects viewed 30 different food items on a computer screen and reported how much they would pay for those items. The researchers then calculated these responses to establish a ranking of all the items — from lowest to highest price, based on the subjects’ answers.

    Following this, the study’s subjects underwent a series of trials in which they viewed only the 10 lowest-valued items — a “low-value” condition labeled “the adapt block.”

    The researchers then repeated the first part of the experiment, once again asking the subjects how much they would pay for each of the 30 items. Here, the study sought to determine if viewing the lowest-valued items would cause the subjects to say they’d pay more for these 30 items than they originally indicated. As predicted, after viewing the lower-priced items, the subjects did indeed say they’d pay more for these 30 items than first stated.

    Next, the researchers repeated the adapt block — but, this time, subjects were shown the 10 highest-value items (a high-value, or rich, environment). Conversely, and as hypothesized, after seeing the higher-priced items, the subjects said they’d pay less for all 30 items than previously indicated.

    “Collectively, these findings provide the first evidence that adaptation extends to the economic value we place on products,” explains Louie. “Moreover, they suggest that adaptation is a universal feature of cognitive information processing.”


  10. How emotions influence our internal clock

    November 23, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Freiburg press release:

    Just how it works is not known — but human beings have an internal clock which enables us to perceive and estimate periods of time subconsciously. A research team under Dr. Roland Thomaschke of the University of Freiburg’s Department of Psychology showed in experiments that this mental time-processing system is able to adapt quickly and flexibly to predictive time patterns. The study has been published in the specialist journal Emotion.

    The psychologists examined time periods between one and three seconds. Their test subjects were given the task of sorting nouns — which appeared one after another on a computer screen — according to gender (German nouns are grammatically masculine, feminine, or neuter). During the transition to the next word, a small cross was shown. What the test subjects did not know — they were looking at concepts which are seen as positive or negative, such as love and friendship on the one hand, torture and death on the other. With most of the “positive” nouns, the cross appeared before them for half a second; with most of the negative nouns it was for two seconds. “The pattern influenced the test subjects although they were not aware of it,” says Thomaschke. “If the combination was unusual, like a long interval before a positive concept, they had considerable difficulty sorting according to gender.” But this irritation was not manifested when no emotions were involved. With other test subjects, the psychologists used concrete and abstract concepts instead of positive and negative ones — and the effect was not observed in this case.

    This result helps to better understand human perception. In conversation, for instance, it can be observed that positive, agreeing answers are given faster than negative, rejecting ones. This experience leads to participants in online conferences — in which spoken contributions are preceded by a time delay due to the technology used — being regarded by the other participants as being negative; the experience of everyday conversation is subconsciously carried over into the conference situation. The results also suggest how it may be possible to get people’s attention. For example, if a website always shows advertising after the same period of time, users will be able to predict and better ignore it subconsciously. For advertisers it would therefore make sense to fade in advertising at irregular intervals — and to get attention by creating that irritation.