Social Psychology

Episode 10: Cognitive Dissonance Strikes Again! What your search on Amazon says about you

Here’s a unique example of cognitive dissonance theory: the information you pay attention to (and ignore) as you search around on How? Cognitive dissonance strikes again.




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    Michael Britt

    April 12, 2007

    Now I get what you’re talking about. Michael

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    April 12, 2007

    Dr. Britt,

    Thanks for the reply!

    I was thinking of “bust” in the slang sense of a police arrest: “What’d you get busted for?”

    I imagine that for some people who are big fans of Cops, it’s satisfying to see someone they think deserves it get really busted. I mean, not just arrested, but chased taken down and clubbed a couple of times. When the person is pulled up from the pavement, she has road rash on her face, a face that is also covered in a mysterious white powder.

    I guess that’s what I think of as “an excellent bust.”

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    Michael Britt

    April 12, 2007


    Interesting point about how people often do tell stories about their bad choices. I’m sure I’ve done that. I assume it’s because the story is a bit funny (and as you say, a common scenario) since everyone can relate to having made a bad purchase decision, so perhaps we do this to make conversation, get a laugh, be a source of good advice, etc.

    You know, I’m not sure now where I got that info about how we tell between 3 and 11 people about our bad purchases. Must have come from somewhere. I’ll poke around in my notes to see where that came from.

    By the way, what’s “an excellent bust”? There’s an expression I haven’t heard before.

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    April 12, 2007

    I can’t help but think that there is dissonance between the idea that people tend to dismiss information that indicates they made a bad decision and the idea that consumers tell more people about bad purchases than good ones.

    By telling others about your bad purchase, aren’t you publicly broadcasting what bad buying skills you have?

    Wouldn’t these two tendencies neutralize one another to some degree?

    Or, maybe this is a common scenario you’re describing: A guy buys a Sony TV over a comparable Hitachi. He then reads reviews about the Sony and dismisses the bad ones. He goes to work and tells three friends, “I got my new TV finally. Cops, my favorite show, has never looked better.” After work, he’s watching an excellent bust when his TV explodes. The next day at work, he tells eleven people what happened.

    Does that sound right?

    Was there an actual study done at some point to arrive at the numbers three and eleven for the number of people that satisfied and dissatisfied consumers tell about their purchases? I’ve poked around the ‘Net and can’t find the source of those figures.

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