New research suggests that, rather than scaring consumers away, these warnings can improve consumers' opinions and increase product sales when there is a delay between seeing the ad and deciding to buy or consume the product.
"Messages that warn consumers about potentially harmful side effects — presumably with the intent to nudge them to act more cautiously — can ironically backfire," says psychological scientist Ziv Carmon of INSEAD in Singapore.
Working with Yael Steinhart of Tel Aviv University and Yaacov Trope at New York University, Carmon has been exploring how adding a warning of potential side effects affects consumer decision making. Their new findings are published in the September 2013 issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
"We were struck by just how detailed, clear, and scary many warnings had become with regard to potential negative side-effects of products," says Carmon. "It then occurred to us that such warnings might perversely boost rather than detract from the appeal of the risky product."
Carmon and colleagues tested their hypothesis in four experiments. In one experiment, for example, smokers saw an ad for a brand of cigarettes: one version of the ad included a warning that smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema, while another version did not include the warning.
Predictably, participants who had the opportunity to purchase the cigarettes soon after seeing the ad bought less if the ad they saw included the warning.
In contrast, participants who were given the opportunity to purchase the cigarettes a few days later bought more if the ad included the warning. The same outcome emerged when the researchers ran a similar experiment with ads for artificial sweeteners.
According to Carmon and his colleagues, the warnings backfired because the psychological distance created by the delay between exposure to the ad and the customer decision made the side effects seem abstract—participants came to see the warning as an indication of the firm's honesty and trustworthiness.
In fact, participants evaluated drugs for erectile dysfunction and hair loss that had potentially serious side effects more favorably, and as more trustworthy, when they were told the products weren't on the shelves yet.
While conventional wisdom suggests that explicit warnings about dangerous side effect will make people think twice before taking medical risks, these findings suggests otherwise. The researchers believe that their findings are important because these kinds of warnings are so ubiquitous, accompanying many different products or services beyond medications, including medical procedures, financial investments, and sporting activities.
Given how frequently we are exposed to such warnings, Carmon hopes to bring greater attention to their potential to backfire.
"This effect may fly under the radar since people who try to protect the public — regulatory agencies, for example — tend to test the impact of a warning shortly after consumers are exposed to it," says Carmon. "By doing so, they miss out on this worrisome delayed outcome."
For more information about this study, please contact: Ziv Carmon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The article abstract is available online at http://pss.sagepub.com/content/24/9/1842.abstract
The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article "Warnings of Adverse Side Effects Can Backfire Over Time" and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 or email@example.com.
Anna Mikulak | EurekAlert!
New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.04.2017 | Life Sciences