February 23, 2009

People ignore the simple if seeking a goal

People tend to think that if something is difficult it must be important in helping them achieve goals, U.S. researchers said.

University of Chicago psychologists Aparna A. Labroo and Sara Kim investigated the extent to which subjective feelings of difficulty are associated with an increased appeal toward a product.

A group of students received assignments, with the goals of feeling good or being kind. The group that had the goal of feeling good was presented with ads for chocolate, while they group that had the goal of being kind was presented with an ad for a children's charity.

The volunteers were shown one of two versions of the ads, either a clear, easy to read ad or a blurry, difficult to read ad -- although the content in both of the ads was identical. The students then completed questionnaires about how much they desired the chocolates and their thoughts about the charity. The volunteers who were shown the charity advertisement were also given the option of donating money to the charity.

The study, published in Psychological Science, found the students who viewed the ads for chocolate were more likely to desire the chocolates in the blurry ad than the ones in the clear, easy-to-read ad. In addition, the volunteers who watched the charity advertisement donated more money to the charity, but only after seeing the blurry, difficult to read ad.