May 14, 2009

Consumer anger can pay off, or backfire

Displaying emotions to try to get a better deal might work, but going too far can backfire, U.S. researchers suggest.

Eduardo B. Andrade and Teck-Hua Ho of University of California, Berkeley, say an example of emotion gaming would be exaggerating anger while negotiating with a car dealer.

In one experiment, participants, who were told their payment was contingent on the outcome of playing two games involving interactive decision-making. In the Dictator Game, a proposer was endowed with a pot of money to be split with the receiver. The proposers were led to make unfair offers to manipulate anger.

After recording their anger levels from the Dictator Game, participants played the Ultimatum Game meant to simulate a retail situation where a proposer offered a division of money and a receiver had to accept or reject it. However, a rejected offer meant that both players earned nothing.

Half of the receivers were informed that their last anger report would be shown to proposers before proposers made offers.

The results, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, shows that receivers inflate their anger levels when they know that proposers will see their display.

Receivers do get a better offer from proposers as long as proposers have reason to believe that their partners' feelings are genuine, the researchers say in a statement.