My research broadly focuses on the potential of seemingly small changes in framing or perspective to significantly impact judgments and decisions that consumers make in their everyday lives. I examine framing in three related streams of research: (a) consumer sentiment metrics, (b) perspectives, and (c) decisions and choices.
Consumer sentiment metrics:
When and why do measures of preference diverge under uncertainty? Market research firms need to forecast consumer product interest and frequently use willingness-to-pay as a measure. I study when that measure insufficiently captures how much a consumer values a product. Past research has assumed that pricing measures (e.g., willingness-to-pay) and rating measures (e.g., enjoyment) are interchangeable in determining value. Contrary to this traditional assumption, I find that consumers are willing to pay less for an uncertain prospect than the worst possible outcome (replicating the uncertainty effect by Gneezy, List, & Wu, 2006), while simultaneously expecting to enjoy the same uncertain prospect often as much as the best possible outcome.
(Moon & Nelson, 2016, invited revision at Journal of Marketing Research)
When and why do consumers overestimate how extremely they will be judged by others? Consumers are interested in and concerned with how they are viewed by others, but are they accurate in their predictions of how others view them? I examine how actors and observers differ in the way they incorporate events into general impressions. For example, if you make an insightful or an unintelligent comment during a work meeting, how competent do you think your co-workers now view you, and does this differ from how they actually view you? Across multiple elaborate laboratory studies, I find that actors expect observers to judge them more harshly (or positively) based on a negative (or positive) focal event than observers actually judge them. I provide evidence that this occurs because viewing the event through an evaluative lens causes meta-perceptions to be more narrowly focused on that event than observers’ perceptions are.
(Moon, Gan, & Critcher, under review at Journal of Personality and Social Psychology)
Does power make consumers feel like they have more time? Time, because of its unrenewable nature, has often been called an “equalizing resource.” Though objectively, time is identical for everyone, time perception has been found to be a subjective experience that can be distorted by psychological cues; however, little research had examined individual and situational factors that influence perceptions of time availability. I examine how social power (i.e., having control over others’ and one’s own outcomes) influences judgments of time availability. Building on the power and illusory control literature, I show that powerful individuals (compared to powerless individuals) perceive having more available time as a consequence of their perceived control over time. (Moon & Chen , published at Journal of Experimental Social Psychology)
Decisions and choices:
When and why do consumers depend on categories to allocate choices? The partition dependence literature (e.g., Fox, Ratner, and Lieb, 2005) illustrates that the way items are grouped influences consumer’s allocations of choices. In a line of studies started during my postdoctoral position (completed 8 studies), I demonstrate that varying the number of healthy categories (e.g., low cholesterol, vegetarian) versus unhealthy categories (e.g., fried, burgers) influences choices from a restaurant menu. I also find that partitions do not need to cohere (i.e., make sense) for them to influence choices. Contradicting some explanations of partition dependence, I also provide evidence that consumers diversify among different categories even within a negative domain (i.e., chores) and even when rejecting rather than choosing options. Finally, I offer one method that attenuates the effect of partition dependence.
Can we create choices for consumer products that feel more customized? Consumers enjoy customization. However, customizing products can be costly for companies. As a solution, many companies have opted for mass customization (mass producing different versions of a product to suit individual wants and needs), which allows consumers to personalize their product while still keeping production costs low. Is mass customization a successful strategy? Namely, can mass produced products feel customized? In a series of studies started at my postdoctoral position (completed 9 studies), I find that the way mass customization is executed influences perceived customization. In particular, the same product decision can be framed in different ways that make the consumer feel as though their option is customized.