Nav: Home

Opposites attract and, together, they can make surprisingly gratifying decisions

May 09, 2019

Chestnut Hill, MA (5/9/2019) - Opposites may attract and drive each other a little crazy, but, together, they can make satisfactory decisions despite their divergent attitudes, according to a Boston College researcher who led a study that explored how selfish and altruistic consumers join in decision making.

Consumers routinely make joint decisions with others - which restaurant to eat in, what movie to watch, or where to go on vacation. Researchers from Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Washington State University wanted to see if people with opposite attitudes could come to satisfactory decisions together.

The studies found that when paired with a selfish partner, it is better to behave altruistically rather than selfishly. Similarly, when paired with an altruistic partner, it is better to behave selfishly to achieve a desired outcome, according to the findings, reported recently in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.

In both scenarios, the paired respondents were able to come to decisions that best reflected their individual preferences, or what both partners personally liked - if they took the opposite attitude as that of their partner, said Boston College Carroll School of Management Coughlin Sesquicentennial Assistant Professor of Marketing Hristina Nikolova.

"When you see that your partner is acting selfishly, it is better to let it go and act altruistically instead; let them make the decision because this will ultimately ensure a better outcome for you than if you act selfishly too," said Nikolova, a co-author of the article "Ceding and Succeeding: How the Altruistic Can Benefit from the Selfish in Joint Decisions."

"In the joint decision-making of an altruistic and selfish consumer, the selfish partner would willingly express her desired preference, while the altruistic partner will likely accept these suggestions," Nikolova continued. "Since consumers' preferences are more similar than they recognize, an altruistic individual will likely get an option that she somewhat prefers even when a selfish partner drives the decision. Thus, regardless of who drives the decision, both partners are likely to reach a joint decision that is relatively preferred by both of them."

Conventional wisdom suggests that standing one's ground is associated with positive outcomes, Nikolova said. But that's not necessarily the case.

"In the context of joint choices, however, we find that two selfish heads do worse than one altruistic and one selfish head; two selfish consumers jointly choose options that neither of them prefers. This happens because both partners are likely to be rigidly self-oriented when negotiating with others," she said.

For those who are selfish in nature, conceding runs counter to their nature. The study found that selfish individuals are likely to meet suggestions with counteroffers even when the suggestions somewhat coincide with their own preferences, Nikolova said. And that might actually be a bad thing.

"This propensity to counteroffer rather than concede inadvertently leads to negotiation," she said. "The two selfish partners trade rejected offers until they land on an option that is further down both of their preference lists but is deemed acceptable by both partners."

There is limited research on joint decision-making in the fields of marketing and consumer behavior. Nikolova sees future studies further investigating how interpersonal orientations influence decision making. While the study examined decision outcomes among pairs of individuals, it didn't focus on how the pairs went about making their specific decisions.

She said she hopes to look at whether pairs with similar outlooks - two selfish persons, or two altruistic persons - use the same decision tactics as paired opposites. That would require a closer look at the decision process, rather than the outcome.
-end-


Boston College

Related Consumers Articles:

Is less more? How consumers view sustainability claims
Communicating a product's reduced negative attribute might have unintended consequences if consumers approach it with the wrong mindset.
In the sharing economy, consumers see themselves as helpers
Whether you use a taxi or a rideshare app like Uber, you're still going to get a driver who will take you to your destination.
Helping consumers in a crisis
A new study shows that the central bank tool known as quantitative easing helped consumers substantially during the last big economic downturn -- a finding with clear relevance for today's pandemic-hit economy.
'Locally grown' broccoli looks, tastes better to consumers
In tests, consumers in upstate New York were willing to pay more for broccoli grown in New York when they knew where it came from, Cornell University researchers found.
Should patients be considered consumers?
No, and doing so can undermine efforts to promote patient-centered health care, write three Hastings Center scholars in the March issue of Health Affairs.
Consumers choose smartphones mostly because of their appearance
The more attractive the image and design of the telephone, the stronger the emotional relationship that consumers are going to have with the product, which is a clear influence on their purchasing decision.
When consumers don't want to talk about what they bought
One of the joys of shopping for many people is the opportunity to brag about their purchases to friends and others.
As consumers, how do we decide what's 'best' when it's not clear?
Imagine you are choosing between two resorts for your island vacation.
Effects of ethnocentrism on consumers
Aitor Calvo-Turrientes, winner of the prize for End-of-Degree Project in Sustainability in 2015 awarded by the Faculty of Economics and Business of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country in Vitoria-Gasteiz, is the author of the paper 'The valuation and purchase of food products that combine local, regional and traditional features: The influence of consumer ethnocentrism,' published recently by the prestigious journal Food Quality and Preference.
Organic consumers mean business
Groundbreaking research from Aarhus BSS shows that organic consumers are standing fast and are buying more and more organic products following an increasingly predictable pattern.
More Consumers News and Consumers Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Debbie Millman: Designing Our Lives
From prehistoric cave art to today's social media feeds, to design is to be human. This hour, designer Debbie Millman guides us through a world made and remade–and helps us design our own paths.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Insomnia Line
Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about. So what'd Radiolab decide to do?  Open up the phone lines and talk to you. We created an insomnia hotline and on this week's experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek through.   This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens. Want more Radiolab in your life? Sign up for our newsletter! We share our latest favorites: articles, tv shows, funny Youtube videos, chocolate chip cookie recipes, and more. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.