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Emotionally Numb: Expertise Dulls Consumer Experience

Matthew D Rocklage, Derek D Rucker, Loran F Nordgren, J Jeffrey Inman and Chris Janiszewski

Journal of Consumer Research, 2021, vol. 48, issue 3, 355-373

Abstract: Expertise provides numerous benefits. Experts process information more efficiently, remember information better, and often make better decisions. Consumers pursue expertise in domains they love and chase experiences that make them feel something. Yet, might becoming an expert carry a cost for these very feelings? Across more than 700,000 consumers and 6 million observations, developing expertise in a hedonic domain predicts consumers becoming more emotionally numb—that is, having less intense emotion in response to their experiences. This numbness occurs across a range of domains—movies, photography, wine, and beer—and across diverse measures of emotion and expertise. It occurs in cross-sectional real-world data with certified experts, and in longitudinal real-world data that follows consumers over time and traces their emotional trajectories as they accrue expertise. Furthermore, this numbness can be explained by the cognitive structure experts develop and apply within a domain. Experimentally inducing cognitive structure led novice consumers to experience greater numbness. However, shifting experts away from using their cognitive structure restored their experience of emotion. Thus, although consumers actively pursue expertise in domains that bring them pleasure, the present work is the first to show that this pursuit can come with a hedonic cost.

Keywords: expertise; emotion; hedonic; consumer knowledge; language; attitudes (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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