January 27, 2009

Shaken self-confidence restored by product

Someone who has momentarily lost confidence in their intelligence is more likely to purchase an apple than a candy bar, U.S. and Chinese researchers said.

Study authors Leilei Gao of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and S. Christian Wheeler and Baba Shiv of Stanford University, examined how subtle manipulations such as having someone write with his or her non-dominant hand can measurably reduce a person's self-confidence.

The authors call this the shaken self, and believe it persists until the person is able to do, acquire, or think about something that restores the self-confidence.

The researchers asked participants to write about health-conscious behaviors with their dominant or non-dominant hands. Then some of the participants wrote essays about the most important value in their lives -- an activity designed to restore confidence.

All participants assessed their moods and self-esteem levels and then chose between a healthy snack such as an apple and an unhealthy snack such as a candy bar.

The study, published in the the Journal of Consumer Research, found the participants whose confidence was shaken -- by not using their dominant hand -- who didn't get to self-affirm with the essay were more likely to choose the healthy snack -- to restore their health-conscious confidence.