April 20, 2009

Fear, romance affect decision making

Being afraid leads people to go along with the crowd, activating a safety-in-numbers psychology, but lust motivates people to go alone, U.S. researchers say.

Vladas Griskevicius of the University of Minnesota and colleagues suggest that the effectiveness of such common persuasion tactics -- advertisers often tout that specific products are best-sellers or are particularly popular -- can be dramatically altered by two primal emotions, fear and romantic desire.

Feeling scared or amorous can greatly change the way people make decisions, Griskevicius said in a statement.

The researchers had people watch a short clip from a frightening or a romantic film and then view ads for Las Vegas that contained commonly used persuasive appeals either rooted in conformity -- over a million sold -- or rooted in uniqueness -- stand out from the crowd.

The study, published in the Journal of Marketing Research, found that after watching a scary film, people were especially persuaded by conformity-based appeals that presented the trip as a popular option.

In contrast, after people watched a romantic film clip, they were not only less persuaded by the same conformity-based appeal, but such appeals were counter-persuasive. People in a romantic state were much more persuaded by appeals that presented the trip as a unique, unusual or exotic choice that others might not make.