Word of mouth is even more powerful than we thought, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. In fact, when we truly understand our experiences they impact our emotions less, writes Meredith Melnick in Time Healthland.The study’s author explains:
“Understanding negative events, such as romantic breakups, job losses or disturbing video clips leads individuals to feel less intense negative emotions about these events and to recover from them more quickly. Similarly, understanding positive events, such as graduating from high school, leads individuals to feel less intense positive emotions about these events.”
So for example, if you visited an empty mall and reviewed it on Yelp, you might blindly write off the place as dull and unkempt. But as Time describes, if you were to explain the experience and the reasons for why it was empty—you visited on a Monday evening; the location was bad—you may feel less turned off by the mall and be inclined to visit again if something had caught your interest.
“Hedonic” experiences, or those that hold an “emotional or sensory” component, reveal this phenomenon more so than “utilitarian” events, like using a printer or hairdryer, found the study. That’s because the latter events are tied to the item’s functionality rather than how the item made you feel while using it.
With this in mind, understanding why Hale & Hearty serves excellent soup or Bank of America is fee-happy enables us to step outside the picture and adjust our feelings according to the facts. And knowing the facts and how they relate to our money values could free us to move beyond our emotions to make smarter decisions about money, whether that means forgoing a decent restaurant where the gracious waiter makes you overspend, or holding back on a spending spree because you know the way the store arranges its merchandise makes you want to try everything on.
Of course, not all of us are able to think this rationally. As we’ve reported, many consumers don’t come wired with a “money brain,” or the willpower needed to choose a day of window shopping (saving) over charging up the card (spending).
Still, it might be useful to try deciphering what you enjoy or dislike about a purchase to determine whether it’s worth it to you in the long run. You might just find you’d be happier without it.