Kevin Lewis

January 27, 2019

When numbers make you feel: Impact of round versus precise numbers on preventive health behaviors
Monica Wadhwa & Kuangjie Zhang
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, January 2019, Pages 101-111


Six experiments found that people are more likely to engage in preventive behaviors when they are exposed to preventive messages which present health-related numerical cues as round numbers (e.g., 15.00%) versus precise numbers (e.g., 15.29%). When participants were exposed to round numbers in preventive messages, they indicated a higher intention to get vaccinated against flu, spent longer time flossing their teeth and were more likely to reduce their consumption of unhealthy food, compared with when they were exposed to precise numbers. Providing evidence for an affect-based mechanism, the current research shows that round numbers intensify people's negative affective reactions toward the health risk, which, in turn, increase their likelihood to engage in preventive behaviors. These findings indicate that presenting health-related numerical cues as round versus precise numbers in preventive messages can have a powerful impact on preventive behaviors.

Ex-ante commitments to "give if you win" exceed donations after a win
Christian Kellner, David Reinstein & Gerhard Riener
Journal of Public Economics, January 2019, Pages 109-127


Should fundraisers ask a banker to donate "if he earns a bonus" or wait and ask after the bonus is known? Standard EU theory predicts that these approaches are equivalent; loss-aversion and signaling models predict a larger commitment before the bonus is known; theories of affect predict the reverse. In five experiments incorporating lab and field elements (N=1363), we solicited charitable donations from small lottery winnings, varying the conditionality of donations between participants. Pooling across experiments, participants are 23% more likely to commit to donate from the winning income and commit 25% more when asked before the lottery's outcome is determined - relative to those asked to donate after they learn they have won. These differences are strongly statistically significant. This represents the first evidence on how pro-social behavior extends to conditional commitments over uncertain income, with implications for charitable fundraising, giving pledges, and experimental methodology.

The Influence of Health Motivation and Calorie-Ending on Preferences for Indulgent Foods
Jungsil Choi, Yexin Jessica Li & Adriana Samper
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming


Food and beverage manufacturers now regularly display "just-below" calorie amounts (e.g., 99, 199, 299) in advertisements, presumably to appeal to health-motivated consumers. "Just-below" values are those that fall one or more digits below a round number, most commonly seen as nine-ending numbers. However, although nine-ending prices are known to stimulate purchase intent, it is unclear whether or when nine-ending calorie labeling shapes food preferences. The present research shows that when consumers view indulgent foods with just-below (vs. round-ending) calorie amounts, they exhibit higher consumption intentions, purchase intent and consumption behavior, yet only if they are high in health motivation. This is due to a tendency for health-motivated consumers to overweigh the leftmost digit in multidigit numbers - a cognitive bias known as the "level effect." This bias results in the perception that just-below (vs. round) -ending indulgent foods have relatively fewer calories, decreasing anticipated guilt and increasing consumption intentions and behavior. The superiority of just-below calorie presentation under health motivation is attenuated with the addition of reference intake labeling (i.e., % daily calorie intake values), which equalizes the magnitude of nine- and round-ending calorie indulgent foods.

Inspiration from the "Biggest Loser": Social Interactions in a Weight Loss Program
Kosuke Uetake & Nathan Yang
Marketing Science, forthcoming


We investigate the role of heterogeneous peer effects in encouraging healthy lifestyles. Our analysis revolves around one of the largest and most extensive databases about weight loss that track individual participants' meeting attendance and progress in a large national weight loss program. The main finding is that, although weight loss among average-performing peers has a negative effect on an individual's weight loss, the corresponding effect for the top performer among peers is positive. Furthermore, we show that our results are robust to potential issues related to selection into meetings, endogenous peer outcomes, individual unobserved heterogeneity, lagged dependent variables, and contextual effects. Ultimately, these results provide guidance about how the weight loss program should identify role models.

Autonomous Goal Striving Promotes a Nonlimited Theory About Willpower
Vanda Sieber et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


People who believe that willpower is not limited exhibit higher self-regulation and well-being than people who believe that willpower is a limited resource. So far, only little is known about the antecedents of people's beliefs about willpower. Three studies examine whether autonomous goal striving promotes the endorsement of a nonlimited belief and whether this relationship is mediated by vitality, the feeling of being awake and energetic. Study 1 (n = 208) showed that autonomous goal striving predicts a change in willpower beliefs over 4 months and that this change is mediated by vitality. Study 2 (n = 92) replicated this finding using experience sampling assessments of vitality. Experimental Study 3 (n = 243) showed that inducing an autonomous mind-set enhances people's endorsement of a nonlimited belief by fostering vitality. The studies support the idea that what people believe about willpower depends, at least in part, on recent experiences with tasks as being energizing or draining.

It's the End of the Competition: When Social Comparison Is Not Always Motivating for Goal Achievement
Elaine Chan & Barbara Briers
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming


Nowadays consumers can easily connect with others who are pursuing similar goals via smart devices and mobile apps. This technology also enables them to compare how well they are doing relative to others in a variety of contexts, ranging from online gaming to losing weight and loyalty programs. This research investigates consumers' motivation to achieve a goal when they compare themselves with a superior other who has already attained the goal. Building on the literature on social comparison, and on competition in particular, we find that consumers are less motivated when the superior other has attained the goal compared to when the superior other is just ahead, keeping the relative distance equal. This negative effect on motivation is evident even in situations in which consumers can still attain the same goal as the superior other. We argue and demonstrate that this effect occurs because the other's goal attainment limits consumers' prospect to compete and overtake the superior other. Six experimental studies show evidence for this effect in hypothetical loyalty programs and behavioral task completion. These findings provide a deeper understanding of the motivational effect of social comparison, which have implications for marketing managers and public policy-makers.

When individual goal pursuit turns competitive: How we sabotage and coast
Szu-chi Huang, Stephanie Lin & Ying Zhang
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


People working toward individual goals often find themselves surrounded by others who are pursuing similar goals, such as at school, in fitness classes, and through goal-oriented network devices like Fitbit. This research explores when these individual goal pursuits can turn into competitions, why it happens, and the downstream consequences of this pseudocompetition on goal pursuers. We found that people were more likely to treat their goal pursuit as a competition when they were near the end (vs. at the beginning) of their individual goal and, thus, prioritized relative positional gain (i.e., performing better than others sharing similar pursuits) over making objective progress on their own goal, sabotaging others when they had the opportunity to do so (Studies 1-3B). Further, we provided evidence that certainty of goal attainment at a high (vs. low) level of progress drove this shift in focus, leading to such sabotage behaviors (Studies 3A and 3B). Ironically, success in gaining an upper hand against others in these pseudocompetitions led individuals to subsequently reduce their effort in their own pursuits (Studies 1-5). Six experiments captured a variety of competitive behaviors across different goal domains (e.g., selecting games that diminished others' prospects, selecting difficult questions for fellow students).

The Devil You Know: Self-Esteem and Switching Responses to Poor Service
Irene Consiglio & Stijn Van Osselaer
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming


We investigate a psychological factor regulating consumers' switching in response to poor service quality: chronic global self-esteem. Whereas high self-esteem consumers tend to switch to other providers in response to poor service quality, low self-esteem consumers often do not. This happens because low self-esteem consumers who experience poor service become risk-averse, and therefore reluctant to engage in new committed service relationships. Indeed, low self-esteem consumers' likelihood to switch to an alternative provider in response to poor service quality increases when this provider offers a less risky, low commitment (vs. more risky, high commitment) contract. Moreover, experimentally reducing low self-esteem consumers' risk aversion increases their likelihood to switch to alternative providers in response to poor service quality. Finally, low self-esteem consumers' risk aversion mediates their reluctance to switch in response to poor service. We rule out failure severity perceptions, power, autonomy, affect, and action-orientation as alternative explanations. The implication of this research for public policy makers is that promoting competition (by offering consumers options and by reducing switching costs) may not be enough to protect the welfare of low self-esteem consumers. We also suggest ways in which firms can untie vulnerable consumers from negative service relationships.

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