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Consumer Response to False Information: Is Believability Necessary for Persuasion? Claudiu V. Dimofte Georgetown University Richard F. Yalch University.

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Presentation on theme: "Consumer Response to False Information: Is Believability Necessary for Persuasion? Claudiu V. Dimofte Georgetown University Richard F. Yalch University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Consumer Response to False Information: Is Believability Necessary for Persuasion? Claudiu V. Dimofte Georgetown University Richard F. Yalch University of Washington May 7, 2005 Vancouver, BC

2 Outline Crisis Management Damage Control (Study 5) False Marketplace Information Negative Rumors about Company/Brand Overselling of Product/Brand Features The Implicit Account Rumors Information Processing (Studies 1, 2, 3) Infomercials Curious Disbelief (sic) (Study 4) Discussion/Conclusions

3 PRODUCT INFORMATION TRUE +- FALSE +- ADS/WOM DECEPTIVE SALES RUMORS CRISES

4 PRODUCT INFORMATION TRUE +- FALSE +- ADS/WOM DECEPTIVE SALES RUMORS CRISES

5 Coping with Crises Examples Celebrities Bill O’Reilly – sexual harassment Michael Jackson – being weird Pat O’Brien – alcoholic leaving obscene messages Martha Stewart – prison time for lying Janet Jackson – Superbowl Paul Abdul – misbehavior with contestant

6 Damage Control 1.Do Nothing – Bill O’Reilly 2.Refutation – Michael Jackson 3.Apologize and Go On – Pat O’Brien 4.Retrieval – Martha Stewart “ Apprentice spinoff” 5.Storage – Janet Jackson “Equipment malfunction” 6.Counterattack – Paula Abdul

7 Study 5: Damage Control Goals: Look at all damage control strategies in one experiment Participants: 133 undergrads from introductory GT Marketing class Method: Participants are exposed to news coverage on Bank of America losing customer data Participants take IAT and provide explicit truth ratings

8 Study 5 - Stimuli Explicit Procedure Stimuli: Participants read web news story on Bank of America’s losing data After short delay, they are given 6-item questionnaire about problem gravity, responsibility, BA evaluation, BA data safety, importance of apology, safety of BA vs. WF Conditions: apology, do nothing, deny, counterattack, storage, retrieval Implicit Procedure Stimuli: IAT Bank of America/Wells Fargo, safe/unsafe

9 CRISIS

10 APOLOGY

11 REFUTE

12 STORAGE

13 ATTACK RETRIEVAL

14 ATTACK

15 Study 5 - Gravity

16 Study 5 – BofA’s Responsibility

17 Study 5 – Data Safe & vs Wells Fargo?

18 Study 5 – Overall Evaluation of BofA

19 Study 5 – Implicit Associations

20 Study 5 – Conclusions Explicit Results: Apologize: Admitting fault was generally worst strategy. Ignore: left doubt and did not help. Second worst strategy. Refute: slight help with most issues. Storage: lowered perceived severity & BofA concerns. Best strategy. Retrieval: only lowered severity but aided overall evaluation. Counterattack: Minimized severity but kept low safety ratings. Similar but not as good as retrieval for overall evaluations.

21 Study 5 – Conclusions Implicit Results: –Bank of America is strongly automatically associated with ‘unsafe’ in all cases except: apology (only time better thanWells Fargo) storage (equal to Wells Fargo) Overall Insights: –Storage works at both levels, by turning – into + –Apology –– for explicits but + for implicits –Explicit judgments, think about why they apologized –Implicit judgments, think about BofA not the apology or safety

22 PRODUCT INFORMATION TRUE +- FALSE +- ADS/WOM DECEPTIVE SALES RUMORS CRISES

23 False Negative Information Rumors about Company/Brand Rumors: specific propositions or beliefs passed along from person to person without any secure standards of evidence (Allport and Postman 1947) Originate in unconscious desires that are transformed to become conscious (Rossignol 1973) “[…] the rumor could exist at various levels of consciousness and could lead one to get a pizza or a taco without being aware of why one did so” (Koenig 1985)

24 Unfounded Rumor Examples Corona Mountain Dew Procter & Gamble

25 Failing to Combat Rumors can have Severe Consequences

26 Rumor Quelling Strategies Tybout et al. (1981): refutation does not work, use storage or retrieval strategies Iyer and Debevec (1991): rumors are less credible when propagated by someone that can gain out of its dissemination Koller (1992): the best way to fight rumors is to explain their rumor and lack of veracity via positive advertising Kamins et al. (1997): rumors are generally more easily spread when they are personally relevant and favorable Bordia et. al (2000): best way to fight rumors is via honest denial

27 Information Processing Insights Tybout et al. (1981) Directly refuting rumors is the least effective way to deal with them; offered two alternative strategies: 1.STORAGE STRATEGY: expose consumers to a secondary stimulus during encoding of rumor information, making the brand more likely to be associated with that stimulus rather than the rumor 2.RETRIEVAL STRATEGY: expose consumers to a secondary stimulus during retrieval of brand information, thus lessening the chance of the joint retrieval of brand and rumor

28 Information Processing Insights (cont’d) Tybout et al. (1981) design: employed rumor of McDonald’s’ use of red worm meat in their burgers 1.STORAGE STRATEGY: during encoding of worm rumor information, consumers were exposed to a secondary stimulus (confederate claiming a famous, pricey local French restaurant uses tasty worm sauces) GOAL: make worm meat more desirable or more associated with French restaurants than McDonalds.

29 2.RETRIEVAL STRATEGY: during retrieval of McDonald’s information, consumers were exposed to a secondary stimulus (questionnaire about the McDonald’s location they frequent the most) GOAL: lessen likelihood of joint retrieval of McDonald’s and worm meat rumor 3.REFUTATION STRATEGY: after exposure to worm rumor, consumers were exposed to McDonald’s’ claim that red worm meat is too expensive to use. GOAL: alter believability of the worm rumor Information Processing Insights (cont’d)

30 Tybout (1981) results

31 Problem: no clear understanding of what the processing mechanisms behind these effects are STORAGE : did it disrupt the McDonald’s – worms association or did it make eating worms more positive by relating it to French food? RETRIEVAL : did it block the activation of the McDonald’s – worm association or inhibited its retrieval in relation to other McDonald’s thoughts? REFUTATION : after study, subjects in all conditions showed strong disbelief in the rumor’s veracity so why were they still affected by it? Information Processing Insights (cont’d)

32 "Are you aware of the unconscious hostility you are exhibiting to us right now?“ Doctor X, Psychiatrist ”How could I be aware if it's unconscious?” Leonard, Mental Hospital patient in the movie The Awakening Explicit vs. Implicit Processing

33 Explicit (implicit) processing: those aspects of cognition which are (un)available to the individual's conscious awareness. The methods used to test for each differ: explicit processing is typically examined directly, by asking individuals to evaluate their own thought processes; implicit processing is typically examined indirectly by evaluating performance on tests that depend on thought processes that are not subject to introspection.

34 Explicit vs. Implicit Processing Fazio et al. (1986): attitudes characterized by a strong association between the attitude object (AO) and its evaluation are capable of being activated from memory automatically upon mere presentation of AO. Devine (1989): dissociation of automatic and controlled processes involved in prejudice social stereotype is automatically activated in the presence of a member of stereotyped group and that low-prejudice responses require controlled inhibition thereof

35 Explicit vs. Implicit Processing Bargh et al. (1996): stereotypes become active automatically in the presence of relevant behavior or stereotyped-group features participants for whom an elderly stereotype was primed walked more slowly down the hallway when leaving experiment Greenwald et al. (1998): measured individual differences in implicit cognition with implicit association test (IAT) Bottom line: automatic cognition occurs and is driven by associations that we generally cannot control.

36 Rumor Processing: The Implicit Account False information persuades via an unconscious route by building automatic associations between brands and the information cues in the message. While explicitly rejecting the veracity of outlandish brand rumors, consumers lack control over the implicit associations occurring at exposure and being practiced during subsequent evaluations.

37 Study 1 - Storage Goal: Replicate Tybout et al. (1981) storage strategy results Disentangle processing mechanisms behind strategy Participants: 229 undergrads from introductory Marketing class Method: Participants are exposed to rumor and secondary stimulus Filler task for 5 minutes Participants take IAT, then provide explicit brand ratings

38 Study 1 - Stimuli Explicit Procedure Stimuli: Participants read series of supposed New York Times news stories on politics, business (McDonald’s worm rumor troubles in Asia), sports, and leisure. Half read about gourmet worm food from Asia Half read about house decorating. Implicit Measures: IAT McDonald’s/Burger-King, food-related/worm-related IAT food-related/worm-related, pleasant/unpleasant

39 Study 1 – Stimuli (cont’d) press “d” for press “k” for Worm-related Food-related OR OR McDonald’s Burger King

40 Study 1 – Stimuli (cont’d) press “d” for press “k” for Worm-related Food-related OR OR McDonald’s Burger King larva

41 Study 1 – Stimuli (cont’d) press “d” for press “k” for Worm-related Food-related OR OR McDonald’s Burger King beef

42 Study 1 – Stimuli (cont’d) press “d” for press “k” for Worm-related Food-related OR OR McDonald’s Burger King

43 Study 1 – Stimuli (cont’d) press “d” for press “k” for Worm-related Food-related OR OR Pleasant Unpleasant beef

44 Study 1 – Stimuli (cont’d) press “d” for press “k” for Worm-related Food-related OR OR Pleasant Unpleasant rainbow

45 Study 1 – Stimuli (cont’d) press “d” for press “k” for Worm-related Food-related OR OR Pleasant Unpleasant hurricane

46 Study 1 – Explicit Results Tybout et al. (1981) results replicate: consumers in the storage condition have higher evaluations of McDonald’s than those in the rumor-only condition: t(228) = -2.20, p <.03

47 Study 1 – IAT Results McDonald’s is equally (and weakly) associated with worms in both conditions: t(117) < 1, ns Worms are associated with unpleasant in both conditions, but less so in storage: t(110) = 2.34, p <.03 McDonald’s - Worms McDonald’s - Food Worms - Unpleasant Worms - Pleasant

48 Study 1 – Conclusion & Unresolved Issue Conclusion: the storage strategy works by minimizing the negative feelings associated with the rumor via the positive secondary stimulus Problem: the McDonald’s – Worms IAT showed little association, even in the control condition Stronger rumor induction may be needed (vivid images or repetition).

49 Study 2 – Retrieval vs Refutation Goal: compare two strategies in terms of implementation delay following rumor exposure. Method: 113 participants exposed to rumor Followed by secondary stimulus Retrieval – questions unrelated to rumor Refutation – statement why the rumor is false Filler task for 5 or 30 minutes Participants take IAT, then provide explicit brand ratings

50 Study 2 - Stimuli Explicit Procedure Stimuli: Participants read series of supposed New York Times news stories on politics, business (McDonald’s worm rumor troubles in Asia), sports, and leisure. After short/long delay, they are given 4-item questionnaire about the McDonald’s/Circuit City they frequent, or read McDonald’s press release refuting rumor. Implicit Measures: IAT McDonald’s/Burger-King, food-related/worm- related

51 Study 2 – Explicit Results Tybout et al. (1981) results do not replicate: – interaction Condition x Delay: F(2, 96) = 3.14, p <.05 Retrieval strategy does not work, fast refutation does * * * p <.05

52 Study 2 – IAT Results Main effect of Delay: F(2, 104) = 3.34, p =.07 Retrieval does work implicitly if positive thoughts elicited fast enough Rumors are difficult to fight after delay McDonald’s - Worms McDonald’s - Food * * * p <.05

53 Study 3 Automatic associations quickly established with initial exposures and explicit and implicit – but is this limited to novel stimuli? If so, we are truly not as susceptible to undue influence If not, can anything be done to prevent undue associations from emerging? Test: employ strong pre-existing association, try to change it[s strength] via rumor

54 Study 3 Goals: Look at strong, universally prevalent association: Females and caring Participants: 133 undergrads from introductory GT Marketing class Method: Participants are exposed to male pregnancy rumor or message on home decoration Participants take IAT and provide explicit truth ratings

55 Study 3 - Stimuli Explicit Procedure Stimuli: Participants read supposed CNN story on Asian hospital and its male pregnancy program (house decoration in control) After short delay, they are given 4-item questionnaire about the likelihood of this story’s being true, etc. All asked about possibility of male pregnancy Implicit Procedure Stimuli: IAT female/male names, caring/uncaring

56 Study 1 – Stimuli (cont’d) press “d” for press “k” for Male Female OR OR caring uncaring John

57 Study 1 – Stimuli (cont’d) press “d” for press “k” for Male Female OR OR caring uncaring nurturing

58 Study 3 - Results Explicit Results: Rumor elicits more curiosity: t(132) = , p <.001 Rumor is not credible: t(132) = , p <.001 Male pregnancy is possible: t(132) = , p <.001 Implicit Results: Both conditions associate female names more with ‘caring’ Slightly less so in rumor condition, ns

59 Studies 1 – 3 Conclusions Rumors are difficult to manage because explicit beliefs are often not a consideration Worm rumor not believed but  McDonalds attitudes Male pregnancy believed but  males no more caring Believability does not appear to be a major consideration in using information to make judgments.

60 Studies 1 – 3 Explanations Cartesian view on comprehension and acceptance of assertions: messages are at once comprehended and rejected if assessed to be unbelievable Spinozan view: all information is first accepted during comprehension, and only subsequently rejected upon believability assessment (Gilbert et al. 1990). Support for the latter: all information is automatically awarded bona fide status upon encounter, unless strong prior associations of different valence exist.

61 False Positive Information Overselling of Product/Brand Features “Too-good-to-be-true” commercial/infomercial claims Pragmatic Implications Consumers drawing unwarranted inferences (Kardes 1988) due to processing or production deficits (Gaeth and Heath 1987) Richards (1990) lists 14 types of deceptive advertising (preemptive – Wonder Bread builds Strong Bodies 12 ways)

62 False Positive Information The “Curious Disbelief” Phenomenon “Hard to Believe” Advertising Claims may motivate trial more than believable claims Maloney (1962)

63 Infomercial Persuasion: The Implicit Account False information persuades via an unconscious route by building automatic associations between brands and the novel information cues in the message. While explicitly rejecting the veracity of outlandish infomercial claims, consumers lack control over the implicit associations occurring at exposure and being practiced during subsequent evaluations.

64 Study 4: Power of Infomercials Goals: Replicate Maloney (1962) explicit results Disentangle processing mechanisms behind curious disbelief Method: 62 participants are exposed to Ultimate Chopper infomercial: alone, preceded or followed by discounting cue (video or text) Explicit dependent measures collected Participants take two IATs: interesting/believable

65 Study 4 - Stimuli Explicit Procedure Stimuli: Participants watch about 90 seconds-worth of edited Ultimate Chopper infomercial or read equivalent text Discounting cue: about 90 seconds-worth of edited 20/20 footage on infomercial scams Implicit Procedure Stimuli: IAT Ultimate Chopper/Henckels knives, boring/interesting IAT Ultimate Chopper/Henckels, believable/unbelievable

66 Infomercial

67 Infomercial - Expose

68 Study 4 – Explicit Results There is something special about (video) infomercials: Explicit Rating main effect: F(3, 61) = 2.40, p =.09; a,b: p <.03 ba a,b

69 Study 4 – Explicit Results Infomercials are generally not credible: all conditions show disbelief: text info best (slightly above.5 – range: -3 to 3) F(3, 61) = 2.3, p =.08; a,b: p <.05 Check via suspicion ab a,b

70 Study 4 – Explicit Results Supports believability results and shows that cue instills suspicion: F(3, 64) = 4.6, p <.006; a,b: p <.05; c,d: p <.005 Again, we have explicit disbelief a,c b,d a,b c,d

71 Not a lot of explicit curiosity elicited: irrelevant category? F(3, 61) =.2, ns Study 4 – Explicit Results

72 Similar shape/results for several claims (e.g., crushes ice, will never dull) Peanut Butter main effect: F(3, 63) = 5.1, p <.003 a,c: p <.03; b,d: p <.003 Nonbelief drives evaluations a,b a,c b,d c,d Study 4 – Explicit Results

73 Chopper- Interesting Chopper- Boring Chopper- Believable Chopper- Unbelievable Study 4 – IAT Results

74 Interesting IAT: F(3, 58) = 3.3, p <.03 (we have some implicit curiosity for all infomercial conditions, text quite boring: an issue of delivery?) Believable IAT: F(3, 58) = 1.9, p =.14 (no implicit disbelief, infomercial seems to build instant automatic believability: an issue of testimonials?) It appears the “curious nonbelief” phenomenon translates into “curious implicit belief” Study 4 – IAT Results

75 Support for The Implicit Account False information may persuade via an automatic route by building automatic associations between brands and the novel information cues in the message. While explicitly rejecting the veracity of outlandish infomercial claims or brand rumors, consumers lack control over the implicit associations occurring at exposure and being practiced during subsequent evaluations. Is believability really important? The response is automatic…


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