Talk is cheap: New study finds words speak louder than actions

June 29, 2015

When it comes to the art of persuasion, you can attract more followers if you turn conventional wisdom on its head and stress what you like, not what you do.

A new study, to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, finds that people are more likely to conform to others' preferences than conform to others' actions. In other words, people want to like what others like, but they want to have or do what others don't have or don't do.

In the study, "Words Speak Louder: Conforming to Preferences More Than Actions," by University of Chicago Booth School of Business Professor Ayelet Fishbach and former Chicago Booth PhD student Yanping Tu, researchers designed a series of six experiments involving everyday activities such as choosing a type of chewing gum, shopping for groceries, picking a favorite mug design and watching a pet video on YouTube.

"The tendency to conform is pervasive and rooted in human psychology," said Fishbach. "When people conform, they conform to what others like and to others' attitudes. But in terms of what they do, they want to be different. So if you want to persuade people, you should talk about liking, not about having."

The researchers found that people conform to others' preferences at last partially because they adopt others' judgments as their own. They further found that when people behave as if they are not conforming, their motivation could be to coordinate or complement their actions with others' actions.

For example, when people mentally share an action, such as watching a friend eat a bowl of oatmeal over breakfast, they feel in a way that they ate the oatmeal too, so they seek to enrich their own experience by choosing something that is different, such as an omelet. But when people mentally share another person's preference, such as liking oatmeal more than omelets, they adopt the others' preference as their own and say they like oatmeal more than omelets.

Even when information about others' preferences and actions are available at the same time--such as an online shopping site that lists both its bestselling products and its most liked products--people are more likely to follow what others like, rather than what others buy.

The research has implications for online shopping, social media marketing and political campaigns. Marketers, for example, could collect "likes" from Facebook users, rather than collecting information on what users buy, eat or own. Likewise, they could present products as "everyone likes it," rather than "everyone buys it."
-end-
Contact: Professor Fishbach is available for comment at Ayelet.Fishbach@chicagobooth.edu or 773-834-8673.

From: Susan Guibert, Chicago Booth Office of Media Relations, 773-702-9232 or 574-286-4839, Susan.Guibert@chicagobooth.edu.

University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Related Shopping Articles from Brightsurf:

Augmented reality can improve online shopping, study finds
A recent survey found that online shoppers return 70% of the clothing they order, more than any other category of purchase.

Comparing greenhouse gas footprints of online versus traditional shopping
When consumers are trying to decide between traditional and online shopping, many factors come into play, such as price, quality, convenience and timeframe.

Online shopping interventions may help customers buy healthier foods
Altering the default order in which foods are shown on the screen, or offering substitutes lower in saturated fat could help customers make healthier choices when shopping for food online, according to a study published in the open access International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Using a mobile while browsing the shelves may make shoppers buy more
In-store mobile phone use that is unrelated to shopping may be associated with an increase in unplanned purchases, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.

Biodegradable bags can hold a full load of shopping after 3 years in the environment
Researchers from the University of Plymouth's International Marine Litter Research Unit examined the degradation of five plastic bag materials widely available from high street retailers in the UK.

Tweeting while viewing doesn't diminish TV advertising's reach and often leads to shopping
People watching 'social shows' like 'Dancing with the Stars' or 'The Bachelor' on television and simultaneously sharing their views on Twitter are more likely to be committed to the program and shop online, according to new research from Indiana University's Kelley School of Business.

Ancient Caribbean children helped with grocery shopping in AD 400
Researchers have long thought that snail and clam shells found at Caribbean archaeological sites were evidence of 'starvation food' eaten in times when other resources were lacking.

Daylight savings sees 'sleepy consumers' with a wider variety in their shopping carts
A recent study from the UBC Sauder School of Business found that sleepier consumers reach for more variety at their local stores to help them stay awake, including those impacted by loss of sleep due to daylight saving time.

Possible link found between cases of high blood pressure and 'unhealthy' shopping centers
A new study using Pop-Up health check stations found a possible link between 'unhealthy' shopping centers and the number of cases of suspected or diagnosed high blood pressure recorded for people who volunteered for checks.

The future of grocery shopping: Faster, cheaper, smaller
Walmart was once considered the future of grocery shopping, offering consumers a slew of discounted choices, compared to the competition.

Read More: Shopping News and Shopping Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.