Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Interesting Insight into How People See Themselves

Sure, that may work for you, but will it work for me?

Consumers tend to see themselves in a positive light, yet we present evidence that they are pessimistic about whether they will receive a product’s benefits. In 15 studies (N = 6,547; including nine pre-registered), we found that consumers believe that product efficacy is higher for others than it is for themselves. For example, consumers believe that consuming an adult coloring book (to inspire creativity), a sports drink (to satisfy thirst), medicine (to relieve pain), or an online class (to learn something new) will have a greater effect on others than on themselves. We show that this bias holds across many kinds of products and judgment-targets, and inversely correlates with factors such as product familiarity, product usefulness, and relationship closeness with judgment-targets. Moreover, we find this bias stems from consumers’ beliefs they are more unique and less malleable than others, and that it alters the choices people make for others. We conclude by discussing implications for research on gift-giving, advice-giving, usership, and interpersonal social, health, and financial choices. 

This resonates with me because I have over and over heard the excuse that "I just can't change in that way." For example: Somebody says, "I am a terrible public speaker." Me: there are ways to learn to be better, courses you could take, exercises you can do, programs that have turned lots of people into good speakers. Response: "Oh, that would never work for me."

And maybe it wouldn't; I think talent is a real thing. But most people can still get better even at things they are bad at.

Obviously we could list the reasons why people do this, but I think these authors are right that one of them is believing "they are unique and less malleable than others."


Shadow said...

A couple of questions of a decidedly not scientific bent.

-- Why would drawing between the lines (coloring book) inspire creativity? Wouldn't doodling work better? But how do you market doodling?

-- Do people actually consume sports drinks because they quench thirst or do they drink them because they are told they are better for them than other kinds of drinks, including water? Besides, they have sodium in them, something almost guaranteed not to quench thirst. Not having ever consumed one, I'd like to know why other people do?

-- Given how poorly over the counter medication palliates pain, why is it surprising to think it must be you and only you it isn't working for?

As for public speaking, it's a task few enjoy. I know I don't. So the last thing I'm going to do is take classes to learn how to do better something I don't want to do. Besides, might public speaking be one of those activities you only get better at by doing it again and again?

John said...

On the particular case of public speaking, I am referring to people who present papers at conferences for professional reasons, not people who hate the thought so much they would never do it at all.

David said...

I can think of a lot of psychological reasons, both internal and social, why people would say something like, "oh, that won't work for me." For one thing, if a person says, "I'm not good at X," my experience is they are almost never looking for advice about how to get better. They're looking for fellow-feeling. What they want is for the other person to say, "I know, I hate it" or "So-and-so is so good at that; I'm so jealous," etc. etc. If the person they are talking to frustrates this goal by instead offering advice, politeness dictates that, instead of saying, "I wasn't actually asking for advice," you say something like, "I just don't think that will work for me," which is a politely self-effacing way of getting out of the obligation to take the advice.

Another psychological motive would be a sort of palliative pre-pessimism. One avoids disappointment by predicting a bad outcome. And of course, we've all experienced, say, taking medicine that didn't work ("I took three Tylenol but my headache is still there," etc.), taking courses where what was mostly revealed was our complete lack of aptitude, etc. My own experience is that pessimism is more rewarding than optimism: if things go badly, one has the satisfaction of having been right; if things go well, one can be pleasantly surprised.