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Hiding from the Truth: When and How Cover Enables Information Avoidance

Kaitlin Woolley, Jane L Risen, Linda L Price and Rebecca Walker Reczek

Journal of Consumer Research, 2021, vol. 47, issue 5, 675-697

Abstract: More information is available today than ever before, yet at times consumers choose to avoid it. Even with useful information (I should find out), people may prefer ignorance (But I don’t want to). Seven studies (N = 4,271) and five supplemental studies (N = 3,013) apply the concept of “cover” to information avoidance for consumer choices with real financial consequences. More consumers avoid information with cover—that is, when they can attribute their decision to another feature of a product or decision context rather than to information they want to avoid. Cover increases avoidance when consumers face intrapersonal conflict—when consumers want to avoid information that they believe they should receive (e.g., calorie information). As such, the effect of cover is reduced by decreasing want–should conflict, whether by reducing the should preference to receive information or the want preference to avoid it. Furthermore, cover increases avoidance by helping consumers justify a decision to themselves: avoidance increases only when people can attribute their decision to a relevant (vs. irrelevant) product feature and operates in public and private settings. Together, this research offers theoretical insights into consumers’ information avoidance and how cover itself operates, with practical implications for marketers.

Keywords: information avoidance; consumer motivation; want/should conflict; cover (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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