Previous research has shown that expressing preference for two commercial products makes us more willing to purchase not only one of these products but also different products that we consider later on. The increased purchase intentions are due to a mind-set that is activated in the process of comparing those products. Once developed, the mind-set prevents consumers from thinking about the option of not making a purchase at all and increases their purchase intentions. Moreover, the mind-set may persist to influence decisions that consumers make in subsequent situations.
In one experiment, some participants reported their preference for two vacation packages whereas others indicated which they disliked most. In a second experiment, participants either reported their preference for pairs of wild animals or compared them with respect to physical attributes (e.g. "Which are heavier, elephants or hippos?"). In still another study, participants judged how similar one object is to another (e.g., "How similar is Korea to China?"). Other participants did not engage in these activities.
The effect of making comparisons on decision making was quite striking. Making comparisons, regardless of whether they were about vacations, animals or pairs of countries, increased participants' willingness to purchase one of two computers they considered later in the experiment. It also increased their willingness to go out with one of the potential dating partners based on descriptions of their attribute. Finally, participants who had made comparative judgments of animals actually bought more candy following the experiment.
The results, as reported in Psychological Science, indicate that when participants were asked to make comparisons, regardless of the type of comparison they were asked to make, they developed a comparative mind-set that increased their willingness to purchase one of two products they considered later rather than choosing neither. In addition, this study indicates that the processes that result in making comparisons can be activated by experiences that are unrelated to purchase decisions.
Association for Psychological Science (APS) (2008, November 12). The comparative mind-set: From animal comparisons to increased purchase intentions. APS Press Releases.
Xu, A.J. & Wyer, R.S. (2008, September). The comparative mind-set: From animal comparisons to increased purchase intentions. Psychological Science, 19(9). 859-864. The article can be purchased from Wiley Interscience for $29.95.