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Marketing Department's Lecture


TOPIC: Involved but Inaccurate: When High Involvement Leads to Anecdotal Bias
SPEAKER: Zhiyong Yang(the University of Texas at Arlington)
TIME: 14:00 May 23, 2016
PLACE: Room 1008, Mingde Business Building

Consumers often eschew accurate statistical information in decision making, relying instead on inferior anecdotal evidence—an anecdotal bias that can lead to sub-optimal decisions. We examine the role of perceived vulnerability, and demonstrate that when consumers are more vulnerable to a negative outcome, they display greater anecdotal bias. This goes against the grain of conventional thinking that higher stakes make us more efficient decision makers. Using people’s reaction to a contemporary threat perception, the Ebola crisis, study 1 establishes that greater perceived vulnerability is associated with enhanced reliance on anecdotal information. In Study 2 we replicate this effect and show that negative emotional arousal evoked by high vulnerability causes cognitive disruption, which in turn, enhances the anecdotal bias. Consistent with this theorizing, when high vulnerability is decoupled from negative emotional arousal, the anecdotal bias subsides. Studies 3 and 4 reconcile these findings with the elaboration-likelihood model, demonstrating that high involvement can decrease or increase this bias, depending on whether it is accompanied by high vulnerability. Study 5 demonstrates that inducing mindfulness can be a debiasing tool to shield consumers from making sub-optimal decisions under high vulnerability. Findings provide implications for marketing practitioners and policy makers in healthcare and high-risk domains.

Zhiyong Yang is Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Texas at Arlington. His research focuses primarily on how situationally activated mindsets (independent/interdependent self-construal, feelings of powerful/powerless, holistic/analytic thinking, and low/high power distance) and social influence (e.g., word-of-mouth from experts versus consumers, parental influence) independently or jointly affect individuals’ new product adoption, price-quality bias, prosocial behavior (donation, saving), and antisocial behavior (smoking, music piracy). His work has appeared in the Journal of Marketing, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Journal of Retailing, Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, Journal of Business Research, Journal of Service Research, Journal of Macromarketing, and Risk Analysis, as well as a number of peer-reviewed proceedings. His research has been funded by Statistics Canada, Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la société et la culture (FQRSC) of Canada, the National Science Foundation of China, and the University of Texas at Arlington. He currently serves on the editorial review boards of the Journal of Business Research (2010-present), the Journal of Macromarketing (2016-present), and the Journal of Consumer Marketing (2014-present).