When faced with default choices, consumers are forced to make quick use of their knowledge base of the market. Called marketplace metacognition, consumers tap into what they know about marketplace behavior before making tough decisions about what to buy and in what form to buy it.
In an article published in the December 2004 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, Christina Brown and Aradha Krishna of the University of Michigan present two studies that examine marketplace cognition and how consumers deal with default choices. The authors explain that the nature of these choices "depends on whether this social intelligence is invoked and how it changes the interpretation of the default."
For example, if consumers are lured into a $2.99 car wash, only to be presented with a dizzying array of more expensive add-ons, they are forced to make a certain decision. In addition, if a new car comes loaded with all of the extras, consumers are faced with the decision to remove the extras they don't want or need. In either case, "defaults affect choice because consumers are unintentionally manipulated towards the marketer's choice of default. In other words, defaults cause consumer choices to deviate from their true preferences," the authors note.
The study seeks to demonstrate that when put in these situations of dealing with default choices, consumers actually regard "defaults as though they say something about the intentions of marketers themselves." In this regard, note the authors, consumers are actually trying to decipher, by employing marketplace metacognition, the option that the marketer is trying to force them towards.
From: The Skeptical Shopper: A Metacognitive Account for the Effects of Default Options on Choice (CHRISTINA L. BROWN and ARADHNA KRISHNA).
Source: Eurekalert & othersLast reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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