The Price of Popularity: Lower Ratings

In the two years after books win splashy awards such as the Man Booker Prize, their average ratings on decline by about a quarter-point on a 1-to-5 scale, whereas those that were runners-up maintain their high ratings, say Balázs Kovács of the University of Lugano and Amanda J. Sharkey of the University of Chicago. A big award draws a larger audience, which includes a greater proportion of people whose tastes aren’t aligned with the book’s style or subject. Also, readers sometimes react negatively to popularity and are thus more inclined to give lower evaluations to popular books, the researchers say.


SOURCE: The Paradox of Publicity: How Awards Can Negatively Affect the Evaluation of Quality

Your Belief That the World Is “Just” Can Make You Cruel

eople’s wish to see the world as just and orderly sometimes leads them to harm those who have already suffered injustice, according to Daniel P. Skarlicki and R. Anthony Turner of the University of British Columbia. In an experiment, managers with self-reported hiring experience provided lower ratings for fictitious job applicants whose only difference was that they had been mistreated by their former employers, such as by being laid off without notice. People derogate victims in this way to avoid the cognitive dissonance that comes from trying to understand how individuals can suffer injustice in a just world, the researchers say.

SOURCE: Unfairness begets unfairness: Victim derogation bias in employee ratings

Feeling Fear in the Presence of a Brand Makes You More Attached to It

People who were scared by clips from the movies The Ring and Salem’s Lot felt more emotionally attached to a brand of sparkling water that had been placed on their desks than did others who watched clips from exciting or sad movies or happiness-inducing scenes from the series Friends (3.70 versus 2.11, 2.54, and 2.28, respectively, on a 7-point emotional-attachment scale), say Lea Dunn of the University of Washington and JoAndrea Hoegg of the University of British Columbia. Fear makes people want to share their experience with others, and if a brand is present it can satisfy this desire, almost as though it were a person, the researchers say.

fear in marketing
SOURCE: The Impact of Fear on Emotional Brand Attachment

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Do You Need to Hear a Musical Group to Judge Its Quality?

Research participants who watched silent videos of chamber-music ensembles were 26% more accurate at guessing which ones had been winners of past musical contests (such as the Saint Paul String Quartet Competition) than people who had watched both audio and video of the groups, says Chia-Jung Tsay of University College London. Participants who listened to audio without video were the worst at guessing the competition winners. In evaluating the groups without sound, the viewers were apparently responding to what they perceived as strong leadership and indications of group unity, such as the players’ proximity and similarity of appearance—probably the same factors that had influenced the judges of the competitions, Tsay says.


SOURCE: The vision heuristic: Judging music ensembles by sight alone

Children’s Feelings About Brands Persist into Adulthood

I know this is true for me

Consumer-brand companies’ investments in child-oriented advertising provide brand benefits long after the audience has grown up, says a team led by Paul M. Connell of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. For example, people in the UK who had been exposed to the Kellogg’s Frosties character Tony the Tiger as children and the Cocoa Pops character Coco the Monkey as adults rated Frosties as more healthful than Cocoa Pops (3.84 versus 3.24 on a 7–point scale), suggesting that the participants retained warm feelings about Tony from childhood. The findings raise concerns about child-oriented ad campaigns for products with potentially adverse health consequences, the researchers say.

Teenager girl makes chewing gum's bubble

SOURCE: How Childhood Advertising Exposure Can Create Biased Product Evaluations That Persist into Adulthood

High-Status People Perform Poorly After Being Humbled

When high-status people suffer a humbling loss, their performance tends to decline dramatically, because they’ve become dependent on their rank to maintain a positive view of themselves, say Jennifer Carson Marr of Georgia Institute of Technology and Stefan Thau of London Business School. For example, a study of Major League baseball players shows that in the 58% of salary arbitrations where players lost, the higher a player’s status, the greater the fall-off in performance the following year. If you’re a high-status person, sometimes the best way to cope with a work-related humiliation is to get a job with a new employer where you feel respected, say the researchers, whose study appears in the Academy of Management Journal.

SOURCE: High status is a liability when careers sputter, study finds

It Matters Which Avatar You Choose When Gaming

Research participants who had played a 5-minute computer game using a Superman avatar were subsequently kinder to other people, and those who had played as the evil Voldemort were less kind, say Gunwoo Yoon and Patrick T. Vargas of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After the computer game, the participants were instructed to provide an unspecified amount of chocolate and hot chili sauce to other people who they believed would be required to eat it all (untrue); those who had been “Superman” provided about twice as much chocolate as chili sauce, while those who had been “Voldemort” did the reverse.

SOURCE: Know Thy Avatar: The Unintended Effect of Virtual-Self Representation on Behavior

A Messy Environment Makes It Harder for You to Focus on a Task

In an experiment, people who sat by a messy desk that was scattered with papers felt more frustrated and weary and took nearly 10% longer to answer questions in a color-and-word-matching task, in comparison with those who were seated by a neatly arranged desk, say doctoral candidate Boyoun (Grace) Chae of the University of British Columbia and Rui (Juliet) Zhu of the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in China. A disorganized environment appears to threaten people’s sense of personal control, and the threat depletes their ability to regulate themselves, the researchers say.

SOURCE: Environmental Disorder Leads to Self-Regulatory Failure

You Might Give a Wrong Answer Just to Demonstrate Your Truthfulness

When research participants were asked to publicly identify words shown on a screen, those whose vision had been blocked nevertheless sometimes disagreed with those who had been able to see the screen–in fact, they disagreed at least 27% of the time, says a team led by Bert H. Hodges of Gordon College and the University of Connecticut. Why did they intentionally make statements that everyone knew to be wrong? Out of a desire to honestly communicate their own ignorance, the researchers say. The findings demonstrate that human interactions aren’t always guided by simplistic parameters such as accuracy or even conformity; sometimes, people make surprising choices in order to convey such internal values as truthfulness.

SOURCE: Speaking From Ignorance: Not Agreeing With Others We Believe Are Correct