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Brigden, N. & Häubl, G. (2020) Inaction Traps in Consumer Response to Product Malfunctions. Journal of Marketing Research.


The authors develop and test a theory of consumer inaction traps in the domain of decisions to either address or endure product malfunctions. According to this theory, the magnitude of product malfunctions can have a paradoxical effect on consumption experience. In particular, the less severe a product malfunction is, the more inclined consumers are to defer the initial decision about whether to take corrective action. Subsequent opportunities for corrective action are devalued relative to previously forgone ones. This dynamic tends to trap consumers in a state of inaction, resulting in their enduring smaller malfunctions longer than larger ones. A consequence of these inaction traps is that minor product malfunctions may result in less enjoyable overall consumption experiences than more severe defects. Evidence from eight experiments and a survey provides support for this theorizing by demonstrating the inaction-trap phenomenon, examining its downstream consequences, shedding light on the psychological dynamics of inaction, and identifying boundary conditions that suggest interventions for counteracting consumers’ vulnerability to suffering disproportionately from relatively minor product malfunctions.

DelVecchio, D., Wang, J., & Brigden, N. (2020). All at Once or One at a Time? The Effect of Simultaneous Versus Sequential Discount Presentation on Store Patronage Intentions. Psychology and Marketing.


Retailers often employ store flyers, be they in print or digital form, to drive store traffic. A fundamental difference in the presentation of multicomponent information, such as the multiple discounts presented in flyers, is whether the components are displayed simultaneously (all at once) of sequentially (one at a time). Yet a little extant research examines how these different presentations affect individuals' responses to retailer price promotions. Three experiments demonstrate that a sequential display of price discounts is associated with more positive store patronage intentions. Evidence, gleaned by both measuring and manipulating the process by which the discounts are evaluated, implicates a greater sense of accumulating benefit with each successive discount when presented sequentially as the driver of the cross‐format difference in patronage intentions.

Ge, X., Brigden, N., & Häubl, G. (2015). The Preference-Signaling Effect of Search. Journal of Consumer Psychology.


Consumers often make choices in settings where some alternatives are known and additional alternatives can be unveiled through search. When making a choice from a set of alternatives, the manner in which each of these was discovered should be irrelevant from a normative standpoint. By contrast, we propose that consumers infer from their own decisions to search for additional alternatives that previously known alternatives are comparatively less attractive, and that this results in an increase in preference for an alternative precisely because it was initially out of sight (rather than known). Evidence from four experiments provides support for this theorizing, demonstrating that — paradoxically placing an alternative out of sight (while providing the consumer with the opportunity to unveil it) can render that alternative more likely to be chosen. Moreover, the findings indicate that this shift in preferences is driven specifically by a devaluation of alternatives that were known prior to the decision to search. Finally, the preference-signaling effect of search is shown to be persistent in that it systematically influences a consumer's subsequent choices among new alternatives.

Swait, J., Brigden, N., & Johnson, R. D. (2014). Categories shape preferences: A model of taste heterogeneity arising from categorization of alternatives. Journal of Choice Modelling.


We propose a random utility model in which attribute importance weights used to evaluate a good is determined by the category to which that alternative is assigned. Although the weights associated with different categories may be stable, context effects can greatly influence categorization decisions. As a result, preferences may appear to be constructed when, in fact, they are driven by a finite number of category schemas. We present an experimental test of the model and demonstrate that it detects and describes explicit manipulations of product categorizations. Finally, we employ the model to analyze data from a discrete choice experiment and show that the results provide rich behavioral insights into the categorization mechanism. A key advantage of this approach is its ability to generate novel insights based on stated preference data of a form that is commonly available to decision researchers.