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Publications and Manuscripts in the Review Process

My work exploring how consumers evaluate products and experiences

Mehr, Katie S., and Joseph P. Simmons (2024), “How Does Rating Specific Features of an Experience Alter Consumers’ Overall Evaluation of That Experience?” forthcoming at the Journal of Consumer Research. (Click here for a copy of the paper)

Abstract: How does the way companies elicit ratings from consumers affect the ratings that they receive? In 10 pre- registered experiments, we find that consumers rate subpar experiences more positively overall when they are also asked to rate specific aspects of those experiences (e.g., a restaurant’s food, service, and ambiance). Studies 1-4 established the basic effect across different scenarios and experiences. Study 5 found that the effect is limited to being asked to rate specific features of an experience, rather than providing open-ended comments about those features. Studies 6-9 provided evidence that the effect does not emerge because rating positive aspects of a subpar experience reminds consumers that their experiences had some good features. Rather, it emerges because consumers want to avoid incorporating negative information into both the overall and the attribute ratings. Lastly, study 10 found that asking consumers to rate attributes of a subpar experience reduces the predictive validity of their overall rating. We discuss implications of this work and reconcile it with conflicting findings in the literature.

Mehr, Katie S., and Joshua Lewis, “The Role of Rating Credibility in Explaining Consumers' Perception of Rater Disagreement,” reject and resubmit at the Journal of Marketing Research.

Abstract: Do consumers prefer products on which raters agree (e.g., two 3-star ratings) or disagree (e.g., a 1-star and a 5-star rating)? Eight preregistered studies show that when there are few ratings, which are on average mediocre, consumers prefer products with rater disagreement (controlling for average rating). This effect occurs because rater disagreement affects consumers’ attributions. When raters agree, consumers find the ratings credible and attribute them to the product itself. Thus, consumers rely on those mediocre ratings to evaluate the product. But when the few raters disagree, consumers attribute those ratings to unreliable raters and assume the product conforms to their (typically high) expectations. Consistent with this mechanism, perceived rating credibility mediates the preference for products with rater disagreement (Study 5). There is further evidence that consumers assume that products about which raters disagree will conform to their prior expectations. First, consumers judge products whose raters disagree similarly to products without any ratings (Study 6). Second, manipulating expectations only affects consumers’ judgments of products whose raters disagree (Study 7). Lastly, the preference for products whose raters disagree reverses when there are many ratings (Study 8). With many ratings, consumers cannot attribute rater disagreement to a few, unreliable raters.

Park, Alexander B.*,  Katie S. Mehr*, and Amirreza Faghihinia, “When Do New Ratings Hurt (or Help) Product Evaluations?” under review.

Abstract: Some online reviewers experience a product once and subsequently write a review (i.e., new rater). Others have multiple experiences with the same product (e.g., revisiting restaurants) and provide a new, updated rating for each experience (i.e., returning rater). This manuscript explores how viewing a new rating from a returning or new rater affects consumers’ product perceptions across seven preregistered studies (N = 8,671). It establishes the returning rater penalty: when a returning rater adds a new, lower rating (e.g., 4 stars) after initially giving a high rating (e.g., 5 stars), consumers judge the product less favorably compared to if a new rater adds the lower rating. This is because consumers are more likely to infer that the quality of the product has changed if the new, lower rating is given by a returning (versus new) rater. Finally, four boundaries of the returning rater penalty are identified: 1) when the new rating indicates an improvement (vs. decline) in quality, 2) when inferences about quality change are controlled for via detailed written reviews, 3) when the new and initial ratings are the same, and 4) when both the new and initial ratings are categorically low (e.g., 1 or 2 stars).

My work exploring interventions to help consumers achieve their goals

Mehr, Katie S., Amanda E. Geiser, Katherine L. Milkman, and Angela L. Duckworth (2020), “Copy

Paste Prompts: A New Nudge to Promote Goal Achievement,” Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 5(3), 329-334. (Click here for a copy of this paper)

Abstract: Consumers often struggle to achieve self-set, life-improving goals. We introduce a novel, psychologically wise nudge - the copy-paste prompt - that encourages consumers to seek out and mimic a goal-achievement strategy used by an acquaintance. In a large (N = 1,028) preregistered, longitudinal study, participants randomly assigned to receive a copy-paste prompt spent more time exercising the following week than participants assigned to either a quasi-yoked or simple control condition. The benefits of copy-paste prompts are mediated by the usefulness of the adopted exercise strategy, commitment to using it, effort put into finding it, and the frequency of social interaction with people who exercise regularly. These findings suggest that further research on the potential of this virtually costless nudge is warranted.

Mehr, Katie S., Jackie Silverman, Marissa A. Sharif, Alixandra Barasch, and Katherine L. Milkman,

“The Motivating Power of Streaks: Increasing Persistence Is As Easy As 1, 2, 3,” revising for fourth-round review at Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

Abstract: Financial incentives are one of the most frequently used and effective tools for motivating employee persistence. We build on a growing literature showing that the efficacy of incentive schemes can be enhanced when insights from behavioral science are incorporated into their design. Specifically, we introduce and test the value of a psychologically-motivated incentive scheme: “streak incentives,” or rewards that offer people increasing payouts for completing multiple consecutive desired activities. We theorize that such incentives motivate persistence by increasing commitment to a goal of maximizing rewards. Across six pre-registered studies, we show that, contrary to standard economic models suggesting that people will opt into more task completion the larger the associated rewards, people actually opt into more work when compensated with streak incentives than when rewarded with larger, stable incentives. This effect is not driven by the increasing nature of streak incentives; rather, people’s goal commitment and motivation are boosted by the requirement that they complete work tasks consecutively to earn escalating payments. Taken together, our results suggest that designing incentives to encourage streaks of work is a low-cost way to increase goal commitment and therefore persistence in organizations and other contexts.

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