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What Was I Doing? Interruptions Can Change Purchase Decisions

Date:
September 18, 2008
Source:
University of Chicago Press Journals
Summary:
You're on your computer, about to buy a vacation package when the phone rings. According to a new study, when you return to the computer after the interruption, you may have a completely different mindset -- and make a different decision.

You're on your computer, about to buy a vacation package when the phone rings. According to a new study, when you return to the computer after the interruption, you may have a completely different mindset—and make a different decision.

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The study's author, Wendy Liu of UCLA, examined the effects of interruption on purchase decisions and the preferences of decision-makers. She found that even brief interruptions caused startling changes.

"This body of work forwards the view that people's decisions are often a result of cognitions and information processing made on the spot, rather than simply reflecting their innate likes and dislikes. Thus seemingly innocuous events such as an interruption may affect decisions by changing the thought process," Liu explains.

Liu conducted four different studies where participants made purchase choices for high-priced luxuries, high-risk investments, or hikes. She discovered that people who are interrupted in a decision-making process shift their focus from a bottom-up, detail-oriented, and price-conscious process to one that is more top-down, goal-oriented, and price-insensitive. After interruptions, people focus more on quality, satisfaction, and desirability than on feasibility and price.

"By taking a break from processing a decision, when the person resumes he/she is able to attend to information in a more selective and organized manner. Consequently, the person focuses on his/her primary goals in the decision," writes Liu.

In today's low-attention-span world, interruptions are a way of life. Liu's study has implications for consumers and the companies that market to them. "Whether you choose to have an exotic vacation, invest in high-risk stocks, or buy that big plasma TV may depend on whether you were interrupted when making the decision," writes Liu.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Liu et al. Focusing on Desirability: The Effect of Decision Interruption and Suspension on Preferences. Journal of Consumer Research, December 2008; 080829092440743 DOI: 10.1086/592126

Cite This Page:

University of Chicago Press Journals. "What Was I Doing? Interruptions Can Change Purchase Decisions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 September 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080915170747.htm>.
University of Chicago Press Journals. (2008, September 18). What Was I Doing? Interruptions Can Change Purchase Decisions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080915170747.htm
University of Chicago Press Journals. "What Was I Doing? Interruptions Can Change Purchase Decisions." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080915170747.htm (accessed January 29, 2015).

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