Marketers Project Their Personal Preferences onto Consumers: Overcoming the Threat of Egocentric Decision Making

Walter Herzog*, Johannes Hattula*, Darren W. Dahl*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

This research explores how marketers can avoid the so-called “false consensus effect”—the egocentric tendency to project personal preferences onto consumers. Two pilot studies show that most marketers have a surprisingly strong lay intuition about the existence of this inference bias, admit that they are frequently affected by it, and try to avoid it when predicting consumer preferences. Moreover, the pilot studies indicate that most marketers use a very natural and straightforward approach to avoid the false consensus effect in practice, that is, they simply try to “suppress” (i.e., ignore) their personal preferences when predicting consumer preferences. Ironically, four subsequent studies show that this frequently used tactic can backfire and increase marketers’ susceptibility to the false consensus effect. Specifically, the results suggest that these backfire effects are most likely to occur for marketers with a low level of preference certainty. In contrast, the results imply that preference suppression does not backfire but instead decreases the false consensus effect for marketers with a high level of preference certainty. Finally, the studies explore the mechanism behind these results and show how marketers can ultimately avoid the false consensus effect—regardless of their level of preference certainty and without risking backfire effects.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Marketing Research
Volume58
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)456-475
Number of pages20
ISSN0022-2437
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Attitude certainty
  • Customer certricity
  • Customer insights
  • Debiasing
  • False consensus effect
  • Managerial decision making
  • New product development
  • Thought suppression

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