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Kevin Lewis

May 24, 2020

The reactance decoy effect: How including an appeal before a target message increases persuasion
Birga Schumpe, Jocelyn Bélanger & Claudia Nisa
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


We propose and demonstrate in 11 studies, including more than 4,700 observations, that the persuasiveness of a target message can be increased by the inclusion of a reactance decoy. A reactance decoy is a persuasive message presented before the target message and includes an attitude measurement toward the decoy object. The effect can be explained with reactance theory: The decoy message is presented to create reactance and expressing their attitude toward the decoy object gives participants the opportunity to vent, that is, to reestablish their threatened freedom. This reduces reactance toward the subsequently presented target message, positively influences participants’ willingness to buy the target object (Studies 1, 4a and 4b, 7, and 8), their attitudes toward it (4a and 4b, 5, 7, and 8), their willingness to pay (Study 7), as well as behavioral measures such as time spent looking at the target object description (Study 7) and paying money to enter a raffle for the chance to win the target object (Studies 5 and 6). Moreover, forewarning participants of the persuasive intent of a subsequent message produced greater reactance, which was then vented on the decoy, and in turn increased the valuation of the target object (Study 1). By interchanging the products used as decoy or target objects, we also demonstrate experimentally that the reactance decoy effect occurs independently of the concrete stimuli being used (Study 3). In sum, the reactance decoy effect is a new theoretical framework that also bears important practical applications for many areas of social influence.

High-Status Affiliations and the Success of Entrants: New Bands and the Market for Live Music Performances, 2000–2012
Alessandro Piazza, Damon Phillips & Fabrizio Castellucci
Organization Science, forthcoming


Network affiliations have been extensively investigated as a way for new entrants to establish a foothold in markets. A commonly invoked mechanism is that of signaling, whereby affiliations provide exposure and improve a newcomer's odds of success. Our paper highlights a second mechanism that we argue is especially relevant in cultural markets: how a new entrant's perceived distinctiveness varies based on its affiliations. Leveraging data on music concerts, interviews of musicians, and biographical and genre information from archival sources, we investigate the effects of early affiliations for 1,385 bands formed between 2000 and 2005. In particular, we consider whether a new band benefits from appearing with a high-status act. If the main value is signaling, then a newcomer would be better off opening for high status bands, because doing so maximizes both legitimacy and exposure. However, in such conditions entrants run the risk of not being allocated enough attention, and thus not being seen as sufficiently distinctive. While the literature typically emphasizes the positive role of signaling, we find that our results more strongly support the notion of distinctiveness: new bands that frequently appeared with high-status artists made less money and were more likely to subsequently dissolve. This suggests that social network approaches to cultural markets need to better incorporate how network position affects a newcomer's opportunity to be recognized as distinctive.

The Small Predicts Large Effect in Crowdfunding
Tingting Fan, Leilei Gao & Yael Steinhart
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming


Entrepreneurs are increasingly relying on online crowdfunding — the use of online platforms to raise money from a large number of people — to finance their ventures. This research explores the proposition that the amounts contributed by the majority of funders in the early stages of a crowdfunding campaign may have a counterintuitive influence on follow-up contributions and on the campaign’s fundraising success. Findings from an analysis of real-world large-scale crowdfunding data and five experiments show that potential funders are more (vs. less) likely to contribute to a newly launched project when early contributions consist mainly of relatively small (vs. large) amounts. The results further show that this Small Predicts Large effect is driven by people’s relationship inferences: when contributions made at the early stages of a crowdfunding campaign mainly comprise relatively large amounts, consumers tend to infer that those large contributions were made by the entrepreneur’s friends or relatives. Because of this relationship inference, prospective funders perceive larger contributions as being less diagnostic of others’ true opinions of the project, and this perception negatively affects their willingness to contribute. However, if a crowdfunding campaign provides sufficient justification for the early-stage large contributions, this Small Predicts Large effect will be eliminated.

Why Unhappy Customers Are Unlikely to Share Their Opinions with Brands
Chris Hydock, Zoey Chen & Kurt Carlson
Journal of Marketing, forthcoming


For brands to thrive, they must understand consumer sentiment; if consumers’ likelihood of sharing their opinion is a function of their attitude toward a brand, then brands’ perception of consumer sentiment may be systematically biased. While research in consumer-to-consumer sharing (i.e., word of mouth) suggests that those with extreme attitude are more likely to share than those with neutral attitude (a U-shaped relationship), the relationship between consumers’ attitude toward a brand and their propensity to share with a brand is unknown. In contrast to the U-shaped pattern observed in word of mouth, the authors find a hockey stick–shaped relationship between attitude and sharing with brands (“__/”). Those with positive attitude (vs. neutral attitude) are more likely to share their opinion, but those with negative attitude do not show a similar increase in sharing. The authors show that this pattern emerges because, among consumers with positive (vs. neutral) attitude toward a brand, reciprocity norms drive increased sharing, but among consumers with negative (vs. neutral) attitude, competing mechanisms drive behavior: the desire to vent increases sharing, but at the same time an aversion to criticize others directly deters sharing. The authors test these ideas using a series of studies, including a field study.

Consumer Response to Corporate Political Statements: Evidence From Geolocation Data
Marcus Painter
Saint Louis University Working Paper, March 2020


I use Walmart's decision to discontinue sales of certain gun ammunition, ban open carry in stores, and encourage enactment of gun control policy as a setting to study how consumers respond when firms make political statements. Using smartphone-location data to measure foot traffic, I find store visits to Walmart decreased by 3.2% relative to competitors after Walmart’s statement. Store visits in highly Republican counties decreased by 10% but increased by 3.4% in highly Democratic counties. The effect is temporary when viewed in aggregate but persists in highly Republican counties. Further, remaining customers spent 3.5% more time in stores. The results highlight the challenges firms face when navigating an increasingly polarized political landscape.

Mean Reversion in Investment Decisions: The Case of Hollywood
Ryan Lampe & Romans Pancs
Journal of Industrial Economics, March 2020, Pages 156-190


One explanation for the comparatively lower quality of movie sequels is selection bias, known in personnel economics as the Peter principle. Only abnormally successful movies are selected for a sequel. Another explanation is a deterministic depreciation in quality due to the decline in the novelty of the sequel’s characters and storyline. Both explanations predict that, relative to the original, the sequel’s performance will revert towards the mean. We develop a structural model to decompose the two explanations, and estimate its parameters using detailed data on 306 franchise films and 2,823 non‐franchise films between 1995 and 2014. Parameter estimates provide evidence of selection bias for action & adventure and horror movies, and evidence of a deterministic decline in quality for comedies.

Should I Touch the Customer? Rethinking Interpersonal Touch Effects from the Perspective of the Touch Initiator
Andrea Webb Luangrath, Joann Peck & Anders Gustafsson
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming


Previous research has highlighted the effects of receiving interpersonal touch on persuasion. In contrast, we examine initiating touch. Individuals instructed to touch engage in egocentric projection in which they project their own affective reaction onto their expectations for how the recipient will feel (i.e., empathic forecast), how they appear to the recipient (i.e., metaperception), and the evaluation of the interaction itself (i.e., interaction awkwardness). Touch initiators expect that recipients will feel worse with touch, express concern for how they, themselves, will be perceived, and think interactions are more awkward. Interestingly, touch recipients do not evaluate these interactions more negatively and leave higher tips after having been touched; touch initiators do not expect this to be the case. As a result, instructed touch initiators (vs. volitional touch initiators) are less (more) likely to engage in subsequent interactions with customers, potentially undermining future service provided to customers. Across five studies, four of which involve actual dyadic interactions, we test the consequences of initiating touch with an inquiry into the effects of interpersonal touch on the initiator. We discuss theoretical and managerial implications.

Paradoxical effects of persuasive messages
Rahul Bhui & Samuel Gershman
Decision, forthcoming


The same persuasive message can be interpreted in a positive or negative way, challenging our ability to predict its effectiveness. Here, we analyze theoretically and experimentally how causal reasoning contributes to this process of interpretation and can produce attitude reversals due to the network structure of beliefs. We conduct two vignette experiments, one based on the famous slogan of the car rental agency Avis (“We're No. 2 — that means we try harder”), and the other based on online product reviews. When participants’ contextual beliefs about the economic environment are manipulated, message effectiveness changes as predicted by a Bayesian mechanism in which seemingly negative information is “explained away” in a more positive light, or vice versa. Thus, causal reasoning may help account for certain counterintuitive kinds of high-level attitude change.

Name Similarity Encourages Generosity: A Field Experiment in Email Personalization
Kurt Munz, Minah Jung & Adam Alter
Marketing Science, forthcoming


In a randomized field experiment with the education charitable giving platform (N = 30,297), we examined email personalization using a potential donor’s name. We measured the effectiveness of matching potential donors to specific teachers in need based on surname, surname initial letters, gender, ethnicity, and surname country of origin. Full surname matching was most effective, with potential donors being more likely to open an email, click on a link in the email, and donate to teachers who shared their own surname. They also donated more money overall. Our results suggest that uniting people with shared names is an effective individual-level approach to email personalization. Potential donors who shared a surname first letter but not an entire name with teachers also behaved more generously. We discuss how using a person’s name in marketing communications may capture attention and bridge social distance.

Hiding Gifts Behind the Veil of Vouchers: On the Effect of Gift Vouchers Versus Direct Gifts in Conditional Promotions
Yu Ding & Yan Zhang
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming


To boost sales, marketers often conduct promotions that offer gifts conditional on the purchase of a focal product. Such promotions can present gifts in different formats: customers could be informed that they will receive a gift directly or that they will receive a voucher entitling them to a gift. Normatively speaking, the two formats are equivalent, as a voucher’s value is identical to that of the gift it represents. Yet this article suggests that promotion format (voucher vs. direct gift) influences consumers’ intention to purchase the focal product. Five lab experiments and one field experiment reveal that, compared with presenting a gift directly, introducing a voucher attenuates the influence of gift value on purchase decisions, decreasing purchase intentions for promotions offering high-value gifts but increasing purchase intentions for promotions offering low-value gifts. This effect occurs because vouchers break the direct association between the focal product and the gift, reducing people’s tendency to compare the gift’s value with the focal product’s value. The effect observed can be attenuated by increasing the salience of gift value.


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