Researchers from, Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, Harvard University’s Harvard Business School, and University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, published a new paper in the Journal of Consumer Psychology that provides novel insights about how consumers make trade-offs between experience quality and togetherness.
The paper offers sheds new light on the choices people make when presented with the option of improving an activity separately (with first-class airline tickets, for example) or sharing that experience in nearby physical proximity with a “close other” such as a romantic partner, dear friend, or family member.
The article, “A desire to create shared memories increases consumers’ willingness to sacrifice experience quality for togetherness,” recently published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, is authored by Ximena Garcia-Rada, Michael I. Norton, and Rebecca K. Ratner.
The research team found that consumers prioritize physical togetherness with relationship partners over opportunities that would improve an experience in real time. For instance, a couple in a movie theater would choose to sit together in the front row, craning their necks, rather than take two non-adjacent seats in rows with better views for both. A desire to “create shared memories” drives this behavior, according to a pilot study and five experiments conducted by the team. This dynamic is more pronounced when a consumer and their partner are offered “asymmetrical” or different experience qualities – with one person receiving a better quality option than the other. In contrast, the authors found that people are less likely to sacrifice experience quality when they are with someone to whom they do not feel close.
In one experiment conducted in a university behavioral lab, the authors discovered that students chose to eat two chocolates together with a friend rather than four chocolates they each could consume apart. In another study, more participants chose two adjacent seats very far from the stage over two non-adjacent seats close to the stage when asked to imagine attending a Cirque du Soleil performance with a close friend as opposed to a casual acquaintance.
In marketing-based experiment, the team found that framing an activity as functional rather than pleasurable increased the likelihood that close partners would choose a higher-quality experience over togetherness. Specifically, to some participants, researchers described a train ride as a fun part of an excursion. To others, they positioned it as a utilitarian part of an excursion that would get them to their destination.
“More participants accepted a free upgrade – even though it would require sitting apart from their companion — when they perceived the activity as utilitarian, because they cared less about creating shared memories during the train ride,” the authors said.
These findings convey important insights for marketers seeking to fill airplanes, concert halls, amusement parks and other consumer experiences.
Additionally, the authors suggest “marketers can increase uptake by reassuring consumers that they can create shared memories even if apart.”
Full article and author contact information available at: https://myscp.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jcpy.1352
About the Journal of Consumer Psychology
The Journal of Consumer Psychology publishes top-quality research articles that contribute both theoretically and empirically to our understanding of the psychology of consumer behavior. The Journal is intended for researchers in consumer psychology, social and cognitive psychology, judgment and decision making, and related disciplines. It is also relevant to professionals in advertising and public relations, marketing and branding, consumer and market research, and public policy. Published by the Society for Consumer Psychology since its founding in 1992, JCP has played a significant role in shaping the content and boundaries of the consumer psychology discipline. Dr. Lauren Block (Lippert Professor of Marketing at the Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College) serves as the current Editor-in-Chief.
About the Society for Consumer Psychology (SCP)
The Society for Consumer Psychology is the premier voice to further the advancement of the discipline of consumer psychology in a global society. Building upon the Society’s excellence in mentoring young behavioral scientists, the SCP facilitates the generation and dissemination of intellectual contributions and promotes professional development and research opportunities for its members around the globe. Dr. Tiffany White, Associate Professor of Business Administration and Bruce and Anne Strohm Faculty Fellow at Gies College of Business, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, currently serves as its President.
Journal of Consumer Psychology
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A desire to create shared memories increases consumers’ willingness to sacrifice experience quality for togetherness
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