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Publications, Manuscripts in the Review Process, and Working Papers

My work exploring how consumers evaluate products and experiences

Mehr, Katie S., and Joseph P. Simmons, “How Does Rating Specific Features of an Experience Alter Consumers’ Overall Evaluation of That Experience?” under third-round review at the Journal of Consumer Research.

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, “Risky or Typical? How Perceived Diagnosticity Affects Consumers' Responses to Rater Disagreement,” working paper.

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)? Five preregistered studies show that when there are only very few ratings, consumers prefer products with rater disagreement (controlling for average rating). This disagreement benefit occurs in attribute ratings (studies 1, 3, & 4), word-of-mouth (study 2), and one-dimensional overall ratings (study 5). This article proposes a diagnosticity-based account: consumers usually rely on the product ratings, but when there are few ratings and those ratings disagree, consumers perceive them as non-diagnostic and rely more on their (typically high) prior expectations. Accordingly, the disagreement benefit attenuates when we induce low expectations (study 3). Risk-seeking preferences could explain this inclination towards disagreed-upon products (which seem riskier). However, the disagreement benefit arises even when participants are risk-averse, contradicting this explanation (study 4). Indeed, consistent with the diagnosticity account and consumer risk-aversion, in study 5 we observe a disagreement penalty for products with many ratings, because in this case consumers think that the ratings are diagnostic and so they infer risk from rater disagreement (and they don’t like risk). These findings challenge the dominant risk-based account of how consumers perceive rater agreement and presents an alternative diagnosticity framework for reconciling mixed findings in the ratings dispersion literature.

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 third-round resubmission to 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 structure: “streak incentives,” or rewards that offer people increasing payouts for completing multiple consecutive desired behaviors. We theorize that such incentives motivate persistence by conveying a social norm, encouraging goal setting, and boosting self-efficacy. Across five pre-registered studies, we show that, contrary to the predictions of the “rational actor” model of standard economic theory, people show greater persistence when rewarded with streak incentives than when they are rewarded with larger, flat incentives. This effect is not driven by the increasing nature of streak incentives; rather, people are motivated by the requirement that they complete work tasks consecutively to earn higher payment amounts. Moreover, mediation analyses provide some evidence for all three theorized mechanisms: social norms, goal setting, and self-efficacy. Taken together, our results suggest that encouraging streaks is an easy, low-cost way to increase persistence in organizations and other contexts.

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