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Last-minute decisions are not objective
Consumers are more likely to make emotional decisions at the last minute, rather than be objective about their choices. This is according to a new study by Hannah Chang of Singapore Management University and Michel Tuan Pham of Columbia University published in the Journal of Consumer Research, which found when outcomes are closer to the present time, people tend to follow their heart and not their head when using their judgement.
Researchers conducted a series of experiments involving between 60 and more than 100 people.
In one study, college students were asked to imagine they were about to graduate, had a good job lined up and were looking to rent an apartment. They were given the choice of deciding between a dwelling that appeals more to their feelings and an option that is objectively better.
Compared to those a year or more from graduating, college seniors tended to go for the former option.
The authors concluded: "When they will be deciding well in advance, companies should focus less on emotional appeals and instead emphasise messages that appeal to objective assessments."
Chartered Psychologist Tom Stewart comments:
"This finding is reminiscent of the wartime finding that people tend to revert to instinctive behaviour under stress. Pre-war, bad design in military equipment had been hidden by 'over training' professionals, but when conscripts were recruited and trained for a few weeks there were lots of incidents where the conscripts reverted to instinctive reactions and these proved catastrophic.
"It may be that our emotions are like our instinctive behaviour and come to the fore when decisions are urgent, displacing our normal rational decision processes."
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