From inherent value to incentive value: When and why pointless effort enhances consumer preference, Journal of Consumer Research
We present a framework that explains when and why non-instrumental effort, objective or subjective, can enhance rather than reduce preference toward an outcome. Across five studies, we show when people's assessment focus is on outcome superiority for instance, because of a message frame or decision context, because of a chronic assessment tendency to want the best outcomes, or because situational cues alter a person's assessment focus non-instrumental effort is (mis)construed as a signal of higher level of outcome superiority and that enhances outcome value. Reduced preference only results when people's assessment focus is on outcome attainability and people construe effort as a high cost of attaining benefit from an outcome. We discuss the importance of our findings for understanding everyday social and consumption decisions and argue for a widespread tendency among individuals to infer value from pointless complication.
Sara Kim, Aparna Labroo
Kim, Sara, and Aparna Labroo. 2011. From inherent value to incentive value: When and why pointless effort enhances consumer preference. Journal of Consumer Research. 38(4): 712-742.