Research Interests: Consumer and Societal Wellbeing, Judgment and Decision Making, Culture

Methodological Interests: Lab Experiments, Field Experiments, Text Analysis

Job Market Paper

Chae, Rebecca and Katherine Burson, “Leaps and Bounds: Temporal Influences on Persistence”

I examine how perceived closeness of time shapes consumers’ precommitment to initiate or complete goals. The goal gradient effect suggests that it is difficult to initiate progress towards goals, but goals become more motivating as we near completion. This phenomenon has been explained by the curvature in the value function, which is more S-shaped for affect-rich (vs. affect-poor) decisions. When we are near goal completion, making progress delivers a much more psychological payoff than making the equivalent amount of progress near initiation. Historically, this phenomenon has been observed for scenarios in which goal progress will imminently occur. In real life, however, we often plan our goal progress ahead of time, and marketers must ask us for precommitment to future action on our goal progress (e.g., requiring sign-ups for volunteering at a soup kitchen prior to the volunteering date). In my paper, I test the robustness of the goal gradient effect when consumers precommit to making progress and explore the impact of “bounding” time on consumers’ decisions to precommit to progress toward a goal.

First, I find that the traditional goal gradient effect is reduced in precommitment contexts (e.g., decisions to make volunteering progress that occurs in the future). This is because when individuals decide whether to initiate or complete a goal ahead of time, they feel that the future time point at which they will take action on goal progress is temporally distant from the current time point at which they make the precommitment decision. Such a time lag between precommitment and action on goal progress makes individuals feel farther away from and feel reduced affect about the future goal progress. I propose that a time lag alters the curvature of the value function because diminished affect reduces the curvature of the value function. Thus, the farther in the future that goal progress seems to be, the weaker the goal gradient effect. This has a deleterious effect on precommitment to progress near the completion of a goal. Next, I show that reduced precommitment for goal completion is not inevitable when consumers plan their future goal progress. Perceptions of time between a commitment decision and goal progress are subjective and can be subtly manipulated to reduce the perceived time until progress will occur. Specifically, a bounded time lag has a more salient end than an unbounded time lag does, making the bounded time lag feel closer in time. For example, a time lag followed by a month rollover makes the preceding dates seem to be ending more quickly. In five studies, I demonstrate that bounding the time between precommitment and subsequent goal progress can reduce the perceived time until the opportunity to make goal progress and thus increase participants’ persistence near goal completion. I use subtle cues to bound time, such as a month rollover, and show that this is sufficient to contract the perceived length of a time lag, restoring the goal gradient effect. This work not only reveals an important boundary to a robust phenomenon, but also uncovers a simple and powerful way to restore the beneficial characteristics of the goal gradient effect in prosocial advocacy and other contexts.

Chae, Rebecca and Carolyn Yoon, “Cultural Orientation Moderates the Effects of Descriptive Norm Appeals on Prosocial Behavior”

Persuasive communications to increase socially conscious behavior commonly contain normative appeals. We present how independents and interdependents differ in the way they identify with and conform to socially versus situationally relevant reference groups. Six lab and field studies across different domains (e.g., actual condom usage, pro-environmental behavior, helping behavior, time donations, monetary donation amounts) provide convergent evidence that in relatively private decision contexts, interdependents are more persuaded by socially (vs. situationally) salient reference groups. Interdependents identify more closely with a socially than situationally relevant reference group, and stronger identification with the group is what drives their prosocial behavior. Independents, however, are more likely to follow situationally (vs. socially) relevant reference groups, and their conformity is less influenced by their identification with the group.

Chae, Rebecca, Katherine Burson, and Richard Larrick, “Expertise, Numeracy, and Discriminability”

People tend to perceive bigger differences between values expressed on expanded than contracted scales. Previous research has shown mixed effects of numeracy on this “discriminability effect,” some showing that numeracy decreases the bias and others showing that it increases the bias. We reconcile these mixed findings by examining the role of not only numeracy but also expertise. We suggest that the discriminability effect is less likely to occur if judges are equipped with both domain expertise and numeracy. We show general discriminability effects in participants’ snack bar preferences and baseball ERA predictions. However, we demonstrate reduced discriminability effects among numerate domain experts. Participants with only domain expertise or numeracy exhibited the bias, however, which shows that neither is sufficient on its own to reduce the discriminability effect.

Chae, Rebecca, Yong H. Kim, and Julia Lee, “Tainted by Association: How Culture Shapes the Contagion of Moral Blame in Mega-Corporations”

Consumers’ negative reaction to a moral transgression committed by one organization may spill over to another organization that is loosely associated with it but not morally implicated in its wrongdoing. Given the growing trend of corporate consolidation and mega-corporations in the global economy, we studied whether ethical violations can trigger a contagion of moral blame, and whether such contagion is culturally variable. Across four studies (N = 46,571) in which we conducted a text analysis on social media data and ran experiments, we show that moral contagion between the guilty and an associated organization (e.g., between two subbrands) is more likely to occur among holistic thinkers than among analytic thinkers. Results from studies 3 and 4 further show that differences in moral contagion are due to holistic thinkers’ greater perceived proximity between organizations and are likely to persist unless differences between the two organizations are made salient. Our research demonstrates how culturally varied cognitive styles shape the extent to which individuals assign moral blame to organizaions.