Keywords influence consumer choices


What you read may affect what you eat -- and what choices your clients make for pets.

It's not too early to start thinking about resolutions for 2010. Maybe you're going to try to take better care of yourself by working out and eating right, especially by avoiding unhealthy snacks in the clinic break room. But the act of choosing your break time nosh might not be as subject to free will as you think. A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research demonstrates the effect of timing on the choices we make.

University of Miami researcher Juliano Laran conducted tests designed to determine the effect of specific words and concepts upon the actions of consumers. His methodology involved subjects solving word-scrambles which suggested either self-control or indulgence. Those who unscrambled phrases implying self-control tended to select healthier foods for immediate consumption, but more sinful snacks for later. Conversely, participants solving sentences suggesting indulgence were more likely to pick an indulgent snack for the moment and a healthy snack for later.

When Laran repeated the test with suggestive phrases devoted not to food, but to either saving or spending money, he got the same results. If a test solution involved saving, participants indicated that they pictured themselves shopping cautiously in the near term while spending more later. As before, when the scrambled prompt message was reversed, so was the result.

The fact that the most recent or "active" message has such an impact on choices is something that can be seized upon by both consumers and marketers, Laran concludes.

So, pay attention to how things are being presented to you and how you are presenting ideas and products to others. Awareness of this phenomenon could help you both in your personal and professional life.

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