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Restraint That Blinds: Attention Narrowing and Consumers’ Response to Numerosity in Self-Control Decisions

Keith Wilcox, Sonja Prokopec, Vicki G Morwitz, Amna Kirmani and Rajesh Bagchi

Journal of Consumer Research, 2019, vol. 46, issue 2, 371-387

Abstract: A significant amount of research on numerosity demonstrates that product perceptions are often influenced by the scale on which numerical attribute information is presented. However, fewer studies have examined how self-control is influenced by the numerosity of cost information (e.g., price, nutritional content) in situations that may violate a personal goal. The present research demonstrates that, in such situations, the numerosity of cost information has a stronger influence on self-control when consumers are highly focused on restraint. Because restrained consumers regulate their behavior by anticipating the negative emotions from violating their goals, they experience a narrowing of attention during self-control decisions that makes them more reliant on numerosity as a cue for judgment. The results of eight experiments demonstrate that consumers who are primed or predisposed to be high in restraint display less self-control when cost information is presented on a contracted scale with small numbers compared to an expanded scale with large numbers. When consumers are less focused on restraint, numerosity has less of an effect on self-control because unrestrained consumers do not experience an analogous narrowing of attention.

Keywords: numerosity; self-control; attention narrowing; anticipated emotions (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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